Barrister timeline

The route to qualifying as a barrister can be broken down into three parts. The academic stage covers your degree. For non-law graduates this also includes the conversion course. This is followed by the vocational stage, which covers the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). The final stage is known as a pupillage

Step 1

School/sixth form college

  • Aim to get A grades in at least three academic A-levels. Try to get some work experience in the legal sector – for example at a high street solicitors’ firm or your local branch of the Crown Prosecution Service.
  • Apply to university. Sign up for the’s free email alerts (Weekly Bulletin and Legal Brief) for careers advice and all the latest news and features on the events shaping the legal market.

Step 2

University: first-year law students

  • Join your university student law society, as it will be a valuable source of careers-related information. Get involved in mooting and debating. Participate in pro bono activities (it is becoming increasingly common for universities to run pro bono clinics, but if your university doesn’t have one, why not set up one?). Look into other useful law and non-law-related work experience.
  • Keep visiting and read Lawyer 2B (you can pick up copies from your law school or careers library).

Step 3

University: second-year law students/final-year non-law students

In the autumn term:

  • Research what type of chambers you want to apply to for pupillage. Attend law fairs and other events hosted by your university careers department.

During Christmas vacation and spring term:

  • Research funding and scholarship opportunities. A few chambers support pupils through the BPTC year, as do the Inns of Court. Fees can add up to around £16,000. The Bar Council estimates that with living expenses the BPTC can cost upto £30,000.
  • Apply for mini-pupillages and other work experience. You can even apply for a vacation scheme at a law firm, so you can compare the two professions. If relevant, apply for the Graduate Diploma in Law or Common Professional Exam by February closing date. Non-law students should apply for Inns of Court GDL/CPE scholarships by 30 April.

In the summer:

  • Complete mini-pupillages. Doing more than one shows you have tested the market to see which type of set would suit you best.
  • Enquire about applications for pupillages and BPTC.
  • If a you are a law undergraduate, join an Inn for advice and networking opportunities.

Step 4

University: final year law students/conversion year students

  • Apply for the BPTC.
  • Research funding possibilities – Inns’ BPTC scholarships deadline is in November.

In the spring:

  • Apply for pupillage via the Pupillage Portal. First round applications should be made in March/April.
  • Attend the National Pupillage Fair.

In the summer:

  • Join an Inn by 31 May (this is a compulsory requirement prior to starting the BPTC).
  • Check progress of your pupillage applications, and if successful attend pupillage interviews.

Step 5

BPTC year

  • Complete compulsory courses, including advocacy, negotiation and civil procedure. The BPTC can be completed either full- or part-time. In September/October apply for pupillage through Pupillage Portal clearing system (if unsuccessful at the first round you can apply through the clearing pools).
  • Attend the ‘12 qualifying’ sessions.
  • Get called to the bar.

Step 6


  • Undertake your first six (that is, the first six months of your pupillage). During this six you will primarily be working on your pupil master’s cases.
  • Undertake your second six. During these six months you can start earning in your own right and so appear in court.
  • Apply for tenancy, or alternatively undertake a third six. The latter option is slightly more unusual.