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Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC): An Overview

Bar Professional Training Courses studentFinal enrolment on Bar Professional Training Courses (BPTC) took place in September 2019, and in September 2020 the BPTC was replaced by new Bar courses. These have been designed to make up the vocational element of Bar training. During the time it will take those already on a BPTC to complete it, transitional arrangements are in place, giving these students until 2022 to complete the BPTC. The new Bar courses qualification route have been designed to make training to become a barrister more flexible and affordable. It is also hoped that this new accessible route will give students the opportunity to choose between different routes to qualification and provide the Bar with a more diverse pool of talent.

Since September 2020 in order to qualify as a barrister new students need to complete one of the new Bar courses, these have different names depending on the provider. For example they could be referred to as Bar Course, Bar Training Course (BTC), Bar Practice Course (BPC), Bar Vocational Course (BVC) and Bar Vocational Studies (BVS). Bar course providers include, The City Law School, City, University of London, Manchester Metropolitan University, Nottingham Trent University and The University of Law

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Bar Professional Training CourseThe Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), formerly known as the Bar Vocational Course (BVC), was renamed following the Wood Review of 2008. The BPTC is a mandatory course for those vying to become barristers in England and Wales.

The academic stage precedes the BPTC, and usually students study for an undergraduate degree in law. This can last three years full time and can take longer if studying part time. To qualify to study for the BPTC the minimum entry requirement is a good law degree not lower than a 2:2 (lower second class). Students with non-law degrees can still study for the BPTC by taking a law conversion course also known as the Graduate Diploma of Law (GDL).

On completion of the LLB or GDL, the prospective barrister can take the vocational training:  The Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). It is imperative that all trainee barristers are admitted to an Inn of Court before registration on the Bar Professional Training Course. The Inns of Court are: The honourable societies of Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn, Middle Temple and Inner Temple; the Inns of Court are referred to as Bar School.

In the UK, prospective lawyers can study the BPTC course at institutions validated to run the BPTC, these include: BPP Law School – London; BPP Law School – Leeds; BPP Law School – Manchester; The University of Law – London; The University of Law – Birmingham; The City Law School (formerly Inns of Court School of Law); Kaplan Law School; Manchester Metropolitan University; Nottingham Law School; The University of Northumbria at Newcastle; University of the West of England at Bristol; and Cardiff Law School.

On the successful completion of the vocational stage (BPTC), the trainee barrister will proceed to the third stage of being called to the bar: pupillage. This stage the trainee barrister ‘shadows’ an experienced barrister assigned to him/her. The trainee barrister spends a year as a pupil in a barristers' chamber or in an organisation approved by the Bar Standards Board as a Pupillage Training Organisation (PTO).

Reasons to study a BPTC

Studying a BPTC will develop the crucial skills and knowledge needed for your legal career as a barrister. Students go through a year of full-time intense training; acquiring skills, knowledge of procedure and evidence. These vital skills are not limited to your career alone, they will also come in handy in your day-to-day life. The main areas of knowledge taught on the BPTC include: civil litigation and remedies; evidence; professional ethics; criminal litigation; and sentencing.

Studying for the BPTC is rewarding albeit laborious, students should prepare to go through a rigorous process of assessments and examinations. The assessments you take may differ from institution to institution; some of the assessments are multiple choice tests. The written skills are assessed through written papers, while advocacy, ReDOC and conference skills may be appraised by videoed performance of practical exercises.

Subjects covered in a BPTC

Civil Litigation, Evidence and Remedies
Criminal Litigation, Evidence and Sentencing
Professional Ethics

Exam process

Students at all BPTC institutions will take the examinations in the knowledge subjects on the same day at the same time. On successful completion of the BPTC, students can progress to take their pupillage, which gives the students a ‘hands on’ practical experience of what the work of a barrister entails, during the pupillage the student puts all the skills and knowledge gathered from the academic and vocational stage (BPTC) into practice.

After the pupillage training, the last step to qualify as a barrister is to obtain tenancy in a set of barristers' chambers as a self-employed barrister, or to go into practice as an employed barrister.

BPTC or LLM?

The Master of Laws program and the Bar Professional Training Course are both postgraduate legal courses which enable the student to specialise or choose a specific legal path. They both open a world of prospects career wise, which means that the academic path you wish to follow or what type of career you intend on having will determine whether to pursue a BPTC or an LLM.

As a result, if you have chosen to become a barrister then it is wise to follow the BPTC route. However, if you want to gain in-depth knowledge about an area of law eg Maritime Law, or wish to work in that field then it is wise to go for an LLM. Having said that it doesn’t mean that those who desire to become barristers can’t do an LLM, in fact the added knowledge an LLM bestows is desirable whatever route you take.

In the light of the above, it is possible to do both the BPTC and the LLM, however make sure you find out what each costs financially and that you can afford them. Costs do vary from institution to institution – so do your research and make sure you are financially and mentally prepared as they are costly and intensive courses.

Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is being phased in during 2021 as the new centralised way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. It will replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC), which is the former route to practicing law, and once the transitional phase is over law schools in England and Wales will stop offering the LPC. The SQE is a new system of exams divided into two stages – SQE1 and SQE2 – that will be introduced from September 2021, and all prospective candidates will have to pass both stages of exams to qualify as a solicitor. As well as passing both stages of the SQE, prospective candidates must complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) and demonstrate that they have suitable character to work in this field.

Put simply, to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales through the new SQE route you need to:

1. Have a university degree in ANY subject.

2. Pass SQE1 and SQE2 exams.

3. Complete two years’ Qualifying Work Experience (QWE).

4. Demonstrate suitable character.

The SQE differs from the LPC in that it is a series of exams rather than an actual course, as a result of this the SQE does not involve any direct education or training. New law conversion course options will be launched alongside the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to offer students a range of options to prepare for the SQE.

Read our article on the Solicitors Qualifying Examination for the complete lowdown.

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