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Becoming a Criminal Barrister

There are various stages to qualifying and practising as a criminal barrister. This is the same as for any professionals. The route into the profession will depend upon whether you have read law at university or whether you have obtained another non legal degree.

However you generally need to obtain an undergraduate degree to become a barrister.

There are generally three stages to qualifying as a barrister:

  • Obtaining an undergraduate degree
  • The vocational training stage – learning the core skills of a barrister
  • Pupillage

If you study a subject other than law, you can still train and become a successful criminal barrister. But you would have to complete an additional year after your undergraduate degree, and study a Graduate Diploma in Law before completing the vocational training stage.

Training to become a barrister is a lengthy process, with each stage having it’s own challenges. Many trainee barristers break up the process, often working part time to help fund the cost of the training and obtaining relevant work experience to enable them to decide whether the Criminal Bar is the right choice for them.

Because of the commitment and cost involved in training you should always think very carefully before starting on the journey, and progressing through each stage. Find out as much as you can about the work and life of a criminal barrister. Consider gaining work experience with a criminal barrister in chambers. Consider speaking to a criminal barrister for advice and to answer your questions about what it is like to work in the criminal courts. Really research the job, the criminal justice system, the work and skills of a criminal barrister – when deciding whether it is for you.

As with all professional jobs, the competition is great. More people qualify than can go on to get pupillage. The statistics can be very off putting.

However, if you are determined to succeed and have the right skills and ability, this should not put you off from considering the Criminal Bar. A considerable amount of financial assistance and scholarships are available for suitable candidates from all backgrounds, to help them meet the costs of training and reaching their goal. The Criminal Bar is very active to promote equal opportunities and access to the profession and to help you decide if it right for you. You do not have to be from a particular background and do not have to have been to particular  schools or universities to succeed at the Criminal Bar. The Criminal Bar is a diverse profession representing the public and working within the public arena.

But it would be reckless to train as a criminal barrister and not have considered and evaluated the some of the realities and challenges facing the profession. The Bar Council publish results and statistics which should be considered:

Other faces continue to challenge the Criminal Bar including the future funding of Legal Aid work. But the Criminal Bar is a massively rewarding, challenging and exciting job. Criminal barristers are determined individuals, and if you think you have or may have the skills to success at the Criminal Bar then you can find about a great deal more about the job before making the career choice decisions.

You can learn further about the profession and some of the good things and bad things about training as a barrister: