Introduction

1) The Bar Standards Board (“BSB”) is the regulator of barristers in England and Wales. We are responsible for setting the education and training requirements for those who wish to practise as barristers in England and Wales.

2) Following a programme of reform known as “Future Bar Training”, new Bar Qualification Rules came into force in April 2019. The new rules are designed to ensure that training to become a barrister is more accessible, affordable and flexible whilst maintaining the high standards of entry expected at the Bar. With the introduction of the new rules, we have developed a new regulatory framework which captures all the relevant information for those interested in the qualification process and to explain the requirements of becoming a barrister. This new framework comprises:

3) The diagram above sets out the relationship between the high-level qualification rules within the BSB Handbook and the three supporting documents, including this Bar Qualification Manual.

4) This Bar Qualification Manual is intended for use by students, pupils, transferring lawyers, Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs), the BSB (as the regulatory body), and any members of the public who are interested to know how barristers are trained. It has been designed, in part, to provide further information relating to the new Qualification Rules (Part 4 of the BSB Handbook) and bring together information held in the other documents mentioned above. It is also intended to provide greater clarity about what is and is not changing as we phase-in the new system of education and training for the Bar.

How this Manual interacts with other documents

5) The Part 4 Qualification Rules in the BSB Handbook do not contain all the mandatory training requirements for individuals seeking to qualify or for AETOs wanting to become authorised by the BSB to provide Bar training. These detailed requirements may be found in the Authorisation Framework, the MOU with the Inns and this Bar Qualification Manual. Compliance with the requirements specified in this Manual, therefore, is not optional.

The BSB Handbook

6) The new Part 4 Qualification Rules in the BSB Handbook set out, at a high-level:

  • the requirements for individuals to qualify as a barrister and receive a practising certificate;
  • the requirements for prospective Bar training providers to become AETOs in line with the BSB’s Authorisation Framework; and
  • the minimum requirements for the Inns in admitting student members, carrying out fit and proper person checks and delivering Qualifying Sessions.

The Authorisation Framework

7) All organisations that offer the vocational and/or pupillage / work-based learning components of Bar training (including where combined with another component such as the academic component) will be subject to the Authorisation Framework.

8) The Authorisation Framework is used by the BSB to set out all mandatory requirements for an organisation to become an AETO, including adherence to the four FBT principles identified in our 2016 consultation. These are:

  • Encouraging greater flexibility – so that the training system enables innovation in how education and training is delivered;
  • Improving accessibility – so that the best candidates can train as barristers and that the Bar better reflects the communities it serves;
  • Improving affordability – to bring down the cost of studying to students; and
  • Maintaining high standards – to ensure that any new training pathways sustain current standards.

9) Both the vocational and the pupillage / work-based learning component of all pathways will have to adhere to the new Curriculum and Assessment Strategy and any additional guidance published by the BSB as part of  this Bar Qualification Manual.

10) The Authorisation Framework also helps the BSB to assess training programmes/courses against the above criteria. It sets out the requirements for each mandatory component of Bar training in order to ensure that everyone who successfully completes one of the permitted pathways meets the requirements set out in the Professional Statement for Barristers and is therefore able to demonstrate that they have met the minimum standard to be allowed to start practising as a barrister. 

11) Once authorised, AETOs will be expected to follow any requirements set out in supporting documents and will be subject to ongoing supervision by the BSB.

The Memorandum of Understanding with the Inns

12) The Bar Qualification Rules require the BSB to set out a number of minimum requirements in relation to the activities of the Inns of Court. These, and any other activities undertaken by the Inns, are detailed in an MOU between the BSB, COIC and the four Inns of Court. In particular, the MOU addresses:

  • Student membership of an Inn, including fit and proper person checks on admission;
  • Ongoing student conduct prior to Call to the Bar;
  • Fit and proper person checks at the point of Call to the Bar; and
  • The minimum requirements for the delivery of Qualifying Sessions.