Mar 11, 2023

Written By Lawrence Topley

Can you become a barrister through an apprenticeship?

Mar 11, 2023

Written By Lawrence Topley

A barrister is a legal representative who advocates in court on behalf of their client. They are instructed by either clients or client’s solicitors to argue their case in court. Unfortunately, there is currently no apprenticeship programme which will allow you to qualify as a barrister. However, this is currently a topic under debate in the industry and there are several calls for this route to be made viable.

How do you become a barrister?

The journey to become a barrister is highly competitive and can be broken down into four different stages. You will need to pass each stage before moving onto the next one. The first is completing a law degree or law conversion course, the PGDL, if you are a non-law student. The second is the completion of a Bar Course, the vocational aspect of qualification.

Thirdly, you must then obtain a pupillage. This is a 12-month vocational training period at a barristers chambers. If you are successful during this period, you may be offered a tenancy in the barrister’s chambers. This allows you to become a self-employed barrister in a chamber, with other barristers to share resources and costs with.

What qualifications do I need to become a barrister?

In order to begin your journey to complete the bar course, you will need to have obtained either a qualifying law degree or completed the PGDL.

Once you have qualified for and passed the bar course, the next step is to obtain a pupillage, as discussed earlier. Whilst there are no more formal qualifications to become a barrister once you have passed the bar course, completing some relevant work experience is vital.

What is a Mini-Pupilage?

Before applying for a pupillage, you should have completed a mini-pupilage. This is thought to be a vital part of your application and it is quite difficult to obtain a 12-month pupilage without a mini one. Some chambers may even require a mini-pupilage in order to apply for a pupilage, or include assessed mini-pupillages as part of their application process.

A mini-pupilage is a short period of work experience (usually about a week and unpaid) in a barristers chambers. Often, you will shadow a barrister and help them with their work by completing research or taking notes in meetings. Mini-pupillages provide a crucial insight into the work of a barrister.

How do I get a Mini-Pupilage?

In order to apply for a mini pupilage, you must be studying (or already completed) a qualifying law degree or the law conversion course.Whilst each chamber may have their own application process, they usually require sending your CV and a cover letter. If successful you may be expected to partake in an interview, before securing the role.

It should be no surprise to find out these mini-pupillages are also highly competitive and so you will need to build up your CV to stand out. Therefore, you should look to gain as much experience as possible in roles which demonstrate the skills required to become a barrister. If you can show a commitment to improve your public speaking skills (debating, mooting) then this will provide a solid foundation to any application.


Will an apprenticeship route become viable?

Currently, there is no apprenticeship route to become a barrister. However, this was heavily discussed in 2017 and the route was made possible, however only from a regulatory standpoint. This included both a pre and post degree paid apprenticeship. Unfortunately, since then, here has been no further effort to make this route viable that has been published. Therefore, whilst this route may become available in the future, it appears to currently be on pause.

However, with the benefits of access to government funds, an increased retention rate and the promise of highly skilled workers, this route may become viable in the future. Plus, solicitor apprenticeships were introduced in 2016, showing that successful legal apprenticeships are possible.


At the moment there are currently no apprenticeship routes to become a barrister. Despite discussions in 2017, they have not developed any further.

To become a barrister you will need to complete a law degree or conversion course. After this you must then pass the vocational bar course, and complete mini-pupillages, before obtaining a full pupillage. If you are successful over this 12 month training period you may be offered a tenancy in the chambers to practise as a barrister.


Legal Apprenticeships