Location is a crucial factor to bear in mind when you are considering where to apply for your Bar professional training course, or BPTC (formerly known as the Bar vocational course, or BVC). You may wish to commute from home, or you may choose to study in the area where you hope to practise once you have qualified as a barrister, particularly as law schools are likely to have good links with the Bar in their area. It’s also worth bearing in mind that living costs will vary around the country.
Look ahead to where you want to work as a lawyer
Former BPTC student Lisa Wright was keen to study in London, as she felt it would increase her employability with London-based chambers, and chose BPP Law School. Monica Stevenson made the same choice of provider for her BPTC, having already worked in London for a few years after graduation. Monica adds, ‘Being so close to the Inns of Court was a real incentive to stay there.’
Another former BPTC student, Will Byrne, chose Northumbria University so he could commute from his family home in Darlington. ‘I also intended to practise in the north east after completing the course and was attracted by Northumbria University’s strong links with the local Bar,’ he says.
David Outterside, who took his BPTC at Nottingham Law School, had already grown fond of Nottingham as an undergraduate. He adds, ‘Coming from the north east, I dreamed of working on the local circuit and considered that Nottingham would be most in tune with provincial needs.’
Wherever you study, it is likely that you will have the opportunity to forge links with the local Bar. Victoria Hillier, who studied for the BPTC at Cardiff Law School, says, ‘Cardiff arranges two placements on circuit, one as a mini-pupil and one marshalling a judge. This allows students to meet members of the local Bar and observe what they learn being put into practice.’ Marianne Bennett, who studied with the same provider, says, ‘I was persuaded by the close links to the local Bar, as it was my desire to obtain pupillage with local chambers.’
Consider the reputation of your BPTC provider
If you have any contacts who can give you some insights into the quality of training at different institutions, do bear their views in mind. You could also look into whether any well-known barristers have graduated from the law school you are considering. Marianne Bennett says, ‘I was initially attracted to Cardiff because of the Law School’s excellent reputation.’
Consider the group size and tutor-to-student ratio
Group size will affect how much individual attention you receive. Monica Stevenson, who chose BPP Law School in London, says, ‘The intake on the course was smaller compared to other institutions and I thought this would be a great advantage in getting to grips with the nature of the course. Advocacy was taught in groups of six students, which enabled me to get constant feedback on my performance.’ Victoria Hillier says she was initially attracted to Cardiff Law School by the high tutor-to-student ratio. ‘This created a friendly support network inclusive of both tutors and students throughout the year.’
How is the course structured?
When Lisa Wright was studying part-time for her BPTC at BPP Law School in London, she travelled in for monthly study weekends of 14 taught hours, and was able to fit her preparation for tutorials round working three days a week. Chris Jeyes, who also chose a part-time BPTC course at BPP Law School and combined it with full-time work, says, ‘I chose the course mainly because the weekend study sessions allowed me to continue working while studying.’