Bar Vocational Course
There are three stages for you to traverse before you can take your place as a member of the Bar Council of the UK and practice as a barrister; academic training with the attainment of:
• the LLB (Bachelor of Law degree)
• the vocational Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), and
• one year of pupillage in Chambers
You can then take tenancy in Chambers and practice as a self-employed barrister or enter into employment in a practicing Chambers.
The outlook for those wishing to embark on a legal career is not, currently, looking too encouraging. Even Lady Deech, Chair of the BSB (Bar Standards Board) who are responsible for overseeing the BPTC examination courses said in a recent interview, "We need to give a signal to those who aren't up to it that they're wasting their money".
Statistics show that of the 1,432 candidates who successfully achieved the BPTC (then BVC) qualification in 2009/10, only 460 achieved pupillage. When commenting on those students who attempt the BPTC lacking the necessary skills Lady Deech advised, "If you are tone deaf don't go to music school; if you have two left feet don't go to ballet school!"
These comments demonstrate the importance which you should put into finding the right BPTC providers. An in depth study of the Bar Vocational Course offered by each institution should be evaluated to determine which will deliver the best opportunity for success and further career advancement.
BPTC Course Structure & Syllabus
The one year full-time or two year part-time course incorporates four core skill areas:
1. The preparation and skills in researching case work.
2. Written skills; how to write a range of legal documents and the effective writing of advice for case notes.
3. The interpersonal skills required when interviewing clients, conferencing, undertaking advocacy and negotiation in court.
4. Legal knowledge including; professional ethics, evidence, sentencing and criminal litigation, civil litigation and remedies.
You must also study two additional modules which are selected from at least six choices. One of these topics is International Trade which is currently only available for study through the BPP Law School in London.
The aim of the module is to encourage you to use research and case law, familiarise yourself with international conventions and statutes in order to make commercial decisions to problem solve in practical applications. The assessment of this element is opinion based.
The five elements of the International Trade module comprise;
1. Sale of Goods; the terms and contracts concerning international transactions.
2. Letters of Credit; how to finance sales contracts and the responsibilities of the banks and other parties.
3. Carriage of goods by sea; who can sue the carrier of sea-borne goods, the obligations of the carrier and if they have any right to sue for their losses.
4. Jurisdiction and law; in which countries can a claim be brought and which laws are applicable.
5. Arbitration; the procedural process of arbitration in relation to a claim.
Access to past papers for the International Trade module exam is unavailable as the questions are set by the individual BPTC provider and are not standardised under BSB jurisdiction. You will only have prior information regarding the five core elements of the module and will be expected to study to accommodate the required knowledge.
Who are the Providers of the BPTC Qualification?
There are just nine UK institutions who have been accredited by the Bar Standards Board as BPTC providers. If you are looking for law courses in London the BPP Law School, the London College of Law, the City Law School, and the Kaplan Law School are all included on the approved list.
If you prefer to study away from the Capital, then you have the choice of The BPP Law School in Leeds, The UWE Bristol Institute of Legal Practice, The Cardiff Law School at Cardiff University, The College of Law in Birmingham, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Northumbria and Nottingham Law School.
All of the listed institutions can offer you specific advantages to your study programmes. Some offer a wider choice of electives; some have a lower student to tutor ratio; some offer better networking opportunities for socialising with peers and some have lower fees.
Each student must evaluate which will provide the best possibilities for their successful completion of the BPTC course and subsequent qualification. The road to the Bar is a long and challenging one, needing all the skills, techniques and strategies which the best BPTC providers can deliver.