23 September 2019

Blog: what our new Bar qualification rules could mean for you

By Dr Vanessa Davies, Director General

Having spent several years working in a university and managing training for professionals before being called to the Bar in 2007, I know first-hand the importance of high-quality education and training. The organisation I lead, the Bar Standards Board, has for the past few years been reviewing how barristers qualify in England and Wales, and I'm delighted that our new Bar qualification rules have now been launched.

We believe that training for the Bar should be more accessible, affordable and flexible, while sustaining the high standards rightly expected of barristers. Not only should students be able to exercise more choice between courses and providers, but they should be able to choose between different routes to qualification too.

So after a period of public consultation, our new Bar qualification rules are now beginning to take effect. Naturally, students and aspiring barristers will be thinking 'what do these new rules mean for me'?

Well, the big difference is that there will be four routes to qualification instead of just one.

You will still need to be a graduate with at least a 2:2. If your degree isn't in law, you will still have to do a course in law that covers the foundations of legal knowledge (often called a Graduate Diploma in Law).

To qualify as a barrister, you will still have to complete the three components of training: academic (a degree), vocational (post-graduate training), and work-based learning (typically known as pupillage).

What's new is that providers, such as universities, will be able to choose whether to offer the vocational training in one part or split it into two parts that can be taken separately. Providers will also be able to combine the academic and vocational components into one integrated course, like an integrated Master's programme. We will also allow for apprenticeship routes to becoming a barrister.

Our new rules make it possible for providers of education and training to offer these four pathways to qualification, subject to authorisation by us. We have already begun receiving applications from providers and we expect new courses to begin from September 2020.

And if you've already begun training for the Bar, there's no need to worry - there are transitional arrangements in place so that nobody loses out.

These new qualification rules will, I hope, provide the Bar with a more diverse pool of talent and put more power in the hands of students. The next generation of barristers will, I believe, enjoy training which will be more flexible, accessible and affordable than before.