Jan 28, 2023

Written By Zara Arif

Can you apply for pupillage before BPTC?

Jan 28, 2023

Written By Zara Arif

On the path to qualification as a barrister, it can seem that there are a lot of years of study to complete before you get to undertake any practical experience. Many students wonder if they can undertake or apply for a pupillage before taking the Bar Practice Training Course (BPTC) and this article will aim to clear up any confusion.

What is BPTC? 

The Bar Practice Training Course (BPTC) was the postgraduate qualification which is required to practise as a barrister in England and Wales. The last cohort began the BPTC in 2019. Now, the route to qualification makes becoming a barrister more flexible, accessible and affordable. The new bar courses have a range of different names depending on the provider, such as the Bar Training Course (BTC) and  Bar Practice Course (BPC).

Regardless of the name, it’s a vocational training that must be completed before the practical training that takes the form of a pupillage. Normally, the course takes one academic year to complete but some providers teach on a part-time basis and in this case, it can take up to two years.

There are a variety of institutions which offer the course, including the University of Law, The Inns of Court College of Advocacy and Northumbria University to name just a few.

Why is pupillage important?

Pupillage is the last step required before you finally qualify as a barrister. It usually involves working under the supervision of more senior barristers within chambers. You can apply for a pupillage through the Pupillage Gateway or by directly contacting a chamber which interests you.

Pupillage lasts one year and is split into the ‘first six’ (non-practising) and the ‘second six’ (practising). Pupillage is important not just because it is the last stage before full qualification, but also because it allows you to put the theoretical and vocational knowledge which you have gained into practice in real life situations.

It is a formative stage in the process which allows you to develop and refine the skills you have and instil confidence.

Can you apply for pupillage before the vocational course?

Put simply, in order to be considered for a pupillage, you must have completed a qualifying law degree (or a PGDL) and the vocational course. This means you could apply to start a pupillage whilst doing the vocational course, within the knowledge that you will have gained the relevant qualification by the time you start your shadowing within a chambers.

Another important thing to note is that you must find a pupillage within five years of completing your vocational training, unless you have extenuating circumstances. If you’re struggling to secure a pupillage, a valuable way for students to get advocacy experience is by completing mini-pupillages.

This is a type of work experience that allows law students and aspiring barristers to shadow the daily work in a chambers in order to gain an understanding of the type of work which they do, without having any requirement for a certified qualification or training.