The qualification all barristers need: the Bar professional training course (BPTC)
The Bar professional training course (BPTC) is the vocational stage of training for aspiring barristers and equips them with all the skills they need to succeed. It comes after the academic stage (either a law degree or, for non-law graduates, the conversion course also known as the CPE or GDL) and before the year of on-the-job training known as pupillage.
The one-year BPTC course (two years part time) is designed to bridge the gap between the academic study of the law in the classroom and its practical application in the courtroom. Courses are accredited by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).
The newly introduced Bar course aptitude test (BCAT) requires aspiring barristers to meet a minimum standard of entry to the BPTC. You can only take the test between November 2015 and August 2016 – it costs £150 to take the BCAT.
How is the BPTC structured?
The BPTC puts a greater focus on professional ethics and conduct, case work skills, legal research and interpersonal skills than its predecessor, the Bar Vocational Course or BVC. There is also further emphasis placed upon opinion writing (giving written advice).
You will be taught the core skills on the BPTC:
- case work skills
- legal research
- general written skills
- interpersonal skills
- opinion writing
- conference skills
- resolution of disputes out of court (ReDOC).
These skills are taught within a framework of knowledge areas, which are:
- civil litigation and remedies
- criminal litigation and sentencing
- professional ethics
In addition students select two elective modules (known as options), from a choice of at least six, in which to specialise. The courses on offer vary between institutions. See TARGETjobs Law paper publication and individual course prospectuses for more information.
What are the teaching methods like?
During the course you will spend time developing, practising and receiving feedback on the core skills through a variety of exercises. 'These include cross-examining actors, running cases against your peers, writing statements of case, multiple choice exams and making submissions to judges,' explains James Wakefield, Kaplan Law School's former Bar course director. Advocacy is key, so it’s important to ensure that the thought of standing up in court, handling witnesses and thinking on your feet doesn’t fill you with dread. 'Bar students thrive with lots of face-to-face coaching, so small Bar classes are the norm and this year courses are even more interactive, practical and client-focused than ever,' James states. 'Extensive use is made of audiovisual equipment such as netbooks, presentation software and mock court facilities to help students build up their confidence and develop their skills, with recordings likely to form part of your assessment,' he adds.
How should I apply?
Getting on the BPTC is competitive: around 3,000 candidates apply for approximately 1,800 places each year. Applications should be made online at www.barsas.com from November. When you submit your online application you will need to pay a one-off fee of £58 by credit or debit card. The website includes guidance notes to help you make an effective application. You do not have to complete your application in one sitting – once you have registered you can work on your application as many times as you like before submitting. Once you have submitted it you will only be able to amend your contact details.
In the first instance candidates can apply to three institutions and you are required to give your reasons for choosing each course. In the event that you do not secure a place with one of your first three choices your application will go into clearing. For the purposes of the clearing pool you are invited to rank the remaining courses in descending order. You do not have to give reasons for applying to these. If you want to apply for a BPTC starting in 2016, you should submit your application between 9 November 2015 and 11 January 2016. The clearing round follows in the spring: check the Bar Standards Board website for deadlines.