How to become a future barrister: Daniel’s story

Meet Daniel, 30, a future barrister from Manchester. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

What is your job?

I am training to be a barrister on the Bar Professional Training Course*. I have also helped clients who needed free legal advice by volunteering with Hackney Community Law Centre and the Free Representation Unit. I have helped them with things like preparing their case, written arguments and making oral arguments in a tribunal.

I am Chair of the Association of Disabled Lawyers, which aims to raise the profile of lawyers with physical and mental health conditions, and campaigns for more inclusive and supportive legal professions.

*The Bar Professional Training Course has now been replaced by ‘Bar Courses’. Transitional arrangements are in place for people who began studying the BPTC before September 2020.

What does a barrister do?

Barristers are legal professionals who speak on behalf of clients in courtrooms and help with things like written legal advice and the use of evidence. They specialise in a few areas of law, such as serious crime, family, mental health and commercial.

Solicitors are lawyers who work with a client, and they will instruct a barrister on their client’s behalf – in the same way that you go to a GP to get referred to a specialist. Some barristers can have a direct relationship with a client though.

Many barristers are self-employed and work in what are called 'chambers'. Other barristers take part in teaching, politics, campaigning and public policy.

Why do you want to become a barrister?

I want to be a barrister because the job is all about advocacy – developing and putting forward the best argument that will persuade the court in favour of your client. It is important because coherent and persuasive arguments make sure that justice is done. A person representing themselves might lose a case because they do not have the right skills, instead of it being the right outcome. Helping clients put forward their best case is rewarding because a positive outcome can have a massive impact on their lives.

What skills do you use?

Being a confident speaker is an essential skill because barristers often do a lot of courtroom advocacy. You also need to think quickly to be able to answer questions on the spot. This means that you also need to be able to grasp a lot of information in a short period of time. You need to be personable because you will have contact with colleagues, clients and the public.

What subjects did you study?

At college, I studied A-levels in English Language, Law and Psychology. I also obtained an AS-level in English Literature.

At university, I graduated with a Law degree (LLB) and went on to complete a master’s degree (LLM) in Human Rights Law.

What are the job prospects like for becoming a barrister?

After the Bar courses you must do a final year of practical training, called a ‘pupillage’. There is a lot of competition for these placements. I have just secured a pupillage at 39 Essex Chambers. There are always opportunities for hard workers though. Non-practising barristers succeed in a variety of careers, even if they do not secure pupillage.

What top tips would you give to other people wanting to become a barrister?

Plan your journey but be flexible. Knowing the direction in which you want to go is helpful in getting to your destination. A diversion is sometimes necessary and can be a lot of fun.

What to expect if you want to be a barrister

  • Barrister average salary: from £17,000 to £200,000 per year
  • Barrister typical working hours: 36 to 38 hours per week. You could work some evenings and weekends.

What qualifications do you need to be a barrister?

You could get into this role via university course(s) or by starting work at a law firm and gaining qualifications whilst working, with the support of your employer. You'll usually need two to three A-levels, or equivalent, to get a place on an undergraduate course. Alternatives to A-levels include taking a T-level (England-only), which is equivalent to three A-levels. There is a legal T-level available from 2023. Check with your course provider which alternative qualifications they accept.

Sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service, GOV.UK.

This information is a guide and is constantly changing. Please check the National Careers Service website for the latest information and all the qualifications needed and the GOV.UK website for more on T-levels.

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