The first step to becoming a barrister is to get a degree, which must be a minimum of a 2:2 classification. Although you do not need to have a law degree to become a barrister, if your degree is in a subject other than law, you took your law degree more than five years ago, or your law degree did not include each of the seven foundation subjects listed below, you will need to complete a conversion course commonly referred to as a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). See our page on how to apply for the academic component of training for more information.

Your law degree or non-law degree and the GDL make up the academic component of training to become a barrister, which will usually be completed before you start the vocational component of training. However, some Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) may offer an integrated academic and vocational course, which incorporates undergraduate study of law and covers the subjects required for the vocational component of training for the Bar. More information on the types of courses available can be found on our page on AETOs from 2020.

The academic study of the law in England and Wales is a very important part of the knowledge expected of all barristers. Your law degree or GDL must include the seven foundations of legal knowledge which are:

  • Criminal Law;
  • Equity and Trusts;
  • EU Law in Context*;
  • Obligations 1 (Contract);
  • Obligations 2 (Tort):
  • Property/Land Law; and
  • Public Law (Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and Human Rights Law)

In addition to these subjects, your degree or GDL should also cover the skills associated with graduate legal work such as legal research.

*The UK has now left the European Union, but EU Law still has significant relevance to the laws of England and Wales and therefore practise as a barrister. Knowledge of current and developing EU Law may be used to assist in the interpretation and evolution of retained EU Law and as a result, for the purposes of the academic component of Bar training, the Law of the European Union will continue to be a required academic element of a barrister’s training.

There are a number of waivers and exemptions from the requirements of the academic component, which can all be found on our waivers and exemptions page.

More information the rules and requirements relating to the academic component can be found in Part 2 of the Bar Qualification Manual.