Alumna: Sophie Cole

Journey to the Bar

  • Undergraduate Law degree   |   University of Southampton   |   2020
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Bar Practice   |   The Inns of Court College of Advocacy   |   2022
  • Call to the Bar   |   Middle Temple   |   2022
  • Pupillage   |   Trinity Chambers   |   2022

Choosing the ICCA Bar Course

When it came to choosing where to study the Bar Training Course, the ICCA was a brand-new option. What I liked about the ICCA was that Part 1 would give me the flexibility to live and work from home (saving a LOT of time and money on commuting) and that I could fit the study around my part-time work and volunteering commitments.

I had always been self-motivated and able to work independently so was not put off by the lack of face-to-face teaching in Part 1. I also liked the prospect of completing Part 2 within the precincts of the Inns of Court in London.

Part 1 of the ICCA Bar Course

Whilst there are no classes, timetable or teaching in Part 1, the materials provided are very interactive and engaging. Civil Litigation and Criminal Litigation are split into a number of units and then sub split into lessons. Each lesson has a set amount of reading and then a variety of videos, podcasts, quizzes and activities to test your knowledge. There are also forums available for every topic so that you can ask questions if there is anything you do not understand. These will be answered promptly by the tutors, and your peers also have the option to comment their views.

I think the most important thing to do when studying Part 1 is to set yourself targets/goals and to hold yourself to account. This will look different for different people. For me personally, I had a target in mind each week of how many lessons I wanted to complete. I tried to treat the course like a full-time job, studying 9-5 each day, occasionally doing some extra hours in evenings and weekends if I felt it was required. The content is not too challenging but is very volume heavy so you want to make sure you give yourself enough time to cover it all and factor in some revision time at the end!

The ICCA put the people on my cohort in touch with each other and we made a WhatsApp group. This was a good way of starting to get to know each other and also provided a means for us to discuss any issues we were having and to arrange revision groups.

Whilst the ICCA does offer you the flexibility to take your exams at your choice of sitting, I would say that if you plan to take them at the first opportunity, then be strict with yourself and try to aim for that goal.

I then had a 4 month break before starting Part 2. This is a good time to think about any applications for pupillage you might be making and think about any experiences you might still need to gain. You might also want to read up on some of the Part 1 content before starting, particularly Criminal Litigation, as a lot of it is used in conferences in Part 2. However, the main thing to do in this time is find some time to relax!

Part 2 of the ICCA Bar Course

Part 2 is entirely different to anything I had studied before. It is a very hands-on course and is quite demanding, but manageable if you work consistently. The way Part 2 was run meant that you would have in-person classes 3-4 days a week. There was a combination of Advocacy classes (focusing on Witness Handling and Submissions) and written skills-based classes (focusing on Drafting and Opinion Writing). Classes themselves would always take place between 9:30 and 4:30 (which from a commuter’s perspective was ideal). Each class would require some preparatory work to be completed. All materials were made available on the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), the same software that is used during Part 1. I would recommend trying to stay ahead of the game and prepping work the week before if possible.

The feedback provided by the tutors is very thorough, and at times did feel a bit brutal, but I could definitely see myself develop as an advocate in a really short space of time. All advocacy classes were also recorded so, as painful as it was, I could watch them back and see where I needed to improve. Right from the very first day we were tasked with presenting and speaking in front of the class which was daunting to start with but definitely helped my confidence to grow.

“The benefit of Part 2 being in-person is that you are able to form relationships with your tutors and peers. You study all subjects within the same class group and so are able to help each other.  Everyone in my group was really friendly and social and would often go out for dinner and drinks together after class.”

Pupillage Applications and Interviews

I was fortunate enough to be offered pupillage in May 2021, this was just after I had completed Part 1 of the Bar Course. This was my second year of applying. On my first round, whilst in my final year of university, I sent off two non-gateway applications and was invited to one first round interview. At the time, I remember coming out of the interview and wanting the ground to swallow me up as it had not gone well at all. However, in hindsight this experience was invaluable as it meant that by the following year I was more prepared and had a better understanding of the application process. In between that application cycle and the next one, I worked on filling any gaps in my CV. I signed up via my Inn to receive one-on-one application advice which was extremely helpful and I also had appointments with the ICCA Careers Adviser, who read over my CV and was able to provide a further insight into what chambers might be looking for.

Armed with the advice I had been given and my own experiences from the year before, I sent off 8 applications. I was invited to 3 first round interviews and one second round, from which my pupillage offer came.

“I would say that my biggest piece of advice when it comes to pupillage applications is that it is never too early to start thinking about it.”

Thanks to the growth I experienced during the ICCA Bar Course and my own hard work and determination, I have been able to get to where I am now, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds!