The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is the independent regulator for barristers, including for Bar training, and it breaks Bar training down into three stages – in summary, these are:
1. The Academic Stage – your undergraduate degree and, for non-law graduates, a law conversion course (such as the Graduate Diploma in Law), leading to:
2. The Vocational Stage – your Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) Bar Training Course where you learn the procedural rules for criminal and civil practice and many of the practical skills for the Bar, including advocacy, conference skills, opinion writing and drafting – allowing you to be called to the Bar of England & Wales and to move on to:
3. The Professional Stage – Pupillage/Work-Based Learning often broken down into two six-month periods – during your ‘first six’ you gain work experience with experienced barristers allowing you to obtain a Provisional Practising Certificate; during your ‘second six’ you continue your work experience but may also attend court and represent your own clients. During this stage you also carry out additional training in professional ethics and advocacy. Successful completion of this final stage allows you to apply for and obtain a Full Practising Certificate, authorising you to exercise a right of audience in every court in England & Wales in all proceedings.
These three components are set out in detail in the BSB’s Bar Qualification Manual.
After completing these three stages of Bar training you can begin self-employed practice as a barrister once you have been granted a tenancy by chambers (at which stage you become a member of chambers), or you may commence employed practice as a barrister if you are employed in that capacity (such as by the Crown Prosecution Service or the Government Legal Department).
What follows in this first section is a more detailed account of what is involved in these three stages of training to become a barrister: