Different Routes To The Bar

April 6, 2022

Training to become a barrister is increasingly becoming more accessible for aspiring barristers in a variety of ways. This includes the different routes which candidates may opt for in pursuit of the Bar.

THE TRADITIONAL ROUTE: Students are no longer restricted to undertaking a law degree, which can take around 3-4 years, and whilst the traditional method of completing a law degree is a popular route, a great number of students are opting to pursue the Bar by later applying for the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

Options will typically include either:

  1. completing a law degree; or
  2. completing a non-law degree, followed by applying for the GDL.

GDL: The GDL is a law conversion course, which aims to place non-law graduates on an equal footing with those who studied a law degree. Candidates can either undertake the GDL one year full-time or two years part-time. The GLD will provide students with a foundation of legal theory covering areas including criminal and public law.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: After completing either the law degree or the GDL, the following steps to becoming a barrister are the same for both law graduates and non-law graduates. During the final year of the law degree, or throughout the GDL, candidates will need to apply for the Bar Course, become a member of one of the four Inns of Courts (Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple and Lincoln’s Inn) from which they may also apply for a Bar course scholarship (see this article on Inn of Court’s scholarships).

Students will have the option of completing the Bar course part-time or full time, during which they may continue to apply for work experience including marshalling or mini-pupillages, and even begin to apply for Pupillage.

BAR TRANSFER TEST (LEGAL PROFESSIONALS – ENGLAND AND WALES): There are also opportunities for legal professionals, such as Solicitors to apply to the Bar Standards Board to become a barrister. Following an application, they must complete the Bar Transfer Test and become a member of an Inn to subsequently be called to the Bar.

FOREIGN QUALIFIED LAWYERS: Foreign Qualified Lawyers are also able to transfer from other jurisdictions if they wish to practice as a barrister in England and Wales. Depending on your qualifications and experience, you may be exempt from some requirements for training for the Bar. However, in some instances completing the Bar Transfer Test may be required. You may also be required to complete a period of pupillage prior to practicing as a barrister. More information for Transferring lawyers can be obtained online from the Bar Standards Board.

The different qualification rules have made training to be a barrister more flexible and accessible, and no longer restrict access to only those who opt to take the traditional route.

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