How to get a job as a barrister

Law is a highly competitive career path and the Bar is no exception. Aspiring barristers number more than a thousand each year, but there are fewer than 450 pupillages (year-long training spots) available. Academic achievement is key to the profession and excellent GCSE, A level and degree grades are required, followed by a professional qualification and one year spent in pupillage.

Top skills to get a job at the Bar

Different areas of the Bar require different specialities, but commonly required skills are:

  • Exceptional attention to detail
  • Strong public speaking skills
  • A high level of academic achievement
  • An analytical mind
  • The ability to analyse complex material

What is it like to work as a barrister?

Barristers are self-employed so, once training is complete, the onus is on you to make your practice a success. Criminal lawyers may need to travel around the country to different courts and work irregular hours, while commercial lawyers may have a steadier routine working from chambers in London. Workloads are normally quite high, but so are the rewards.

Other degrees welcome or not?

Absolutely any degree subject can be used to start your career as a barrister, but you will require a conversion course or GDL if you have not studied law. You will also need to pass the professional qualification: the Bar professional training course (BPTC). Around half of working barristers have a law degree and around half do not. Some chambers may find your other expertise and interests a boon to their particular niche of law.


Most applications for pupillage now take place from early January to early February, although some commercial sets like to select their own dates throughout the year. Many sets choose to use the Bar Council’s online application system the Pupillage Gateway. Competition is fierce, so you’ll need to answer challenging questions and undertake a lot of preparation for each application.