Vocational stage

The second stage of training is the vocational stage, which trains you in the specific skills you need to become a barrister. This has traditionally taken the form of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), but there will be several changes taking place next year.

From September 2020, the Bar Standards Board will permit training providers to offer several new ways to become a barrister. These changes will be gradual, so it is unlikely that all of these will be available from 2020, or even from 2021. However, if you are a sixth-form or university student, these changes are likely to affect you. Please see below for a more detailed summary of each pathway.

  • Three-step pathway

    Academic, followed by vocational, followed by pupillage or work-based component.This pathway is the same as the current pathway, which would normally consist of a law degree (or non-law degree with the GDL), the new equivalent of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), and pupillage. In previous years, the BPTC has been available as a full-time or part-time qualification, allowing students to work alongside their BPTC and gain valuable  experience. This pathway is likely to be available to students applying for the vocational stage of training for 2020.

  • Four-step pathway

    Academic component, followed by vocational component in two parts, followed by pupillage or work-based component. This pathway consists of a law degree (or non-law degree with the GDL). This is then followed by the vocational stage in two parts and pupillage or work-based component. This pathway will be available to students applying for the vocational stage of training for 2020. One provider of this pathway has been conditionally authorised so far, and you can find out more about this provider's offering here .

  • Integrated academic and vocational pathway

    Combined academic and vocational components followed by pupillage or work-based component. This route will offer a single combined academic and vocational pathway before pupillage (which is the equivalent of a law degree/GDL and the current BPTC). Northumbria University is the only provider (by exception) who has provided the combined route in previous years. This pathway is likely to be available to students applying for the vocational stage of training for 2020.

  • Apprenticeship pathway

    Combined academic, vocational and pupillage or work-based components. As this structure is currently not offered by any Bar Training providers, this pathway will not be available by 2020, and it may take several years or more for apprenticeship/modular models of training to become available.

Please note that candidates will be required to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test before commencing the vocational element of any of these pathways. You can find further information   here.

The vocational stage aims to give students the skills required for a career at the Bar. It is primarily a practical course including plenty of advocacy and role-playing, as well as exercises in drafting legal documents and writing opinions.

As well as completing a law degree or equivalent qualifications, students must successfully pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) and join an Inn of Court before commencing the BPTC.

Bar Course Aptitude Test

Before starting the vocational stage, you must successfully pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT). This tests students' critical thinking and reasoning, the core skills required for the BPTC. The aim of the BCAT is to ensure that those undertaking vocational training have the required skills to succeed. Information is available on the  Bar Standards Board website.

Course Content

The main skills taught during vocational training are:

  • Case work skills:
    • Case preparation, and
    • Legal research
  • Written Skills
    • Opinion-writing (giving written advice on cases), and
    • Drafting (writing various types of documents required for litigation)
  • Interpersonal skills
    • Conference skills (interviewing clients)
    • Negotiation, and
    • Advocacy (court or tribunal appearances)
  • Legal knowledge
    • Civil litigation and remedies
    • Criminal litigation and sentencing
    • Evidence
    • Professional ethics, and
    • Two optional subjects, selected from a choice of at least six.

Assessment

Assessment takes several forms and may differ between institutions. Key areas of knowledge are often assessed through multiple choice tests. Written skills are evaluated by means of written papers, whilst advocacy, negotiation and conference skills may be appraised by video-recorded performances of practical exercises.

How to Apply

Applications for the vocational training take place online, through a centralised system known as the Bar Student Application Service. The service lists approved vocational training providers; prospective students can apply to up to three courses, indicating an order of preference.

Applications should be made early in the academic year before starting the BPTC (i.e. the first term of the GDL or of the final year of a law degree). Students should consider carefully the teaching and assessment methods at each provider when choosing where to study.