Students may have to fork out as much as £127k to chase barrister dream

Bar Council chair warns of escalating cost to enter profession


Aspiring barristers may have to fork out as much as £127,000 in order to qualify, according to a Bar Council big-wig.

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC (pictured below) — speaking to The Guardian earlier today — suggested that the huge costs of training severely hamper efforts to improve diversity and social mobility at the bar.


The recently installed Bar Council chair has based her hefty estimate on a student living in London and opting to complete a non-law undergraduate degree first.

With the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) still to go, a wannabe barrister in this category could be saddled with as much as £27,000 of tuition fee debt before they’ve even begun their legal training.

With this latest figure higher than previous estimates, Doerries QC told the newspaper:

“I hear from the junior bar that practising barristers paying off debts of between £40,000 to £60,000 is by no means uncommon [but] those figures are for individuals who completed their undergraduate degrees before higher tuition fees were introduced.”

London providers can charge students as much as £10,000 for the GDL and £19,000 for the BPTC. Factor in these additional training fees, plus the cost of living in London over a 5 year period, and Doerries QC’s £127,000 estimate doesn’t seem too far off.

Doerries QC — who is a commercial barrister at London’s Atkin Chambers — believes this latest cost estimate creates a “huge social mobility challenge” for the bar.

Despite the Inns of Court stumping up almost £5m in bursaries and scholarships each year, the bar chair claims the majority of students are forced to juggle study with part-time work, unless they come from a “wealthy background”.

And for those thinking of studying outside London the news isn’t much better. According Bar Council estimates, would-be barristers outside the capital will still have to find around £111,000.

The figures are all the more worrying when set against the chances of obtaining pupillage.

In 2013-2014 there were just 397 first-six places offered, which was down nearly 23% from the previous year. With BPTC student numbers remaining steady, a large percentage of wannabe barristers are being lumbered with high levels of debt – with little chance of securing a pupillage.

It’s not much cheaper to opt for the solicitor route either. With some London providers commanding as much as £15,000 to secure a place on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) the costs to qualify can still be in excess of £120,000.



I initially thought the first image was supposed to depict some kind of shadowy, bewigged shark.


Potential barristers who can’t get a major GDL/ BPTC scholarship should be considering very carefully whether they are pursuing the right career path.

Ye of little faith

I didn’t get any scholarship from my Inn and I still got pupillage at an exceptionally good set of chambers in London.

I was, however, 1 of only 10 from my 2013 BPTC year who secured pupillage.


Do people voting this down think that it’s wrong? It’s much easier to get a scholarship than a pupillage, and the same criteria are applied.

The person below who says you shouldn’t undertake the BPTC unless you already have a pupillage is absolutely right. The fact that some people do in fact get pupillage during the BPTC year doesn’t make it a good idea to take the risk.


The solution is to do what is happening with the LPC. Scrap the BPTC and integrate into pupillage and make pupillage 18 months not 12 months. It is not helpful at all and did not help my colleagues in chambers. You learn more on the job.


If all of the Inns had means tested scholarships would that not assist social mobility: give the more prestigious awards out on merit but apportion the award amount based on means?


Oh boo hoo. If you really want something, you can get it.


Nobody in their right mind who dreams about becoming a City solicitor or a barrister with a top London set would do the LPC or BPTC without a training Contract or a pupillage lined up. Why would anybody do that?!

Unless followed by a training contract or a pupillage, these professional vocational courses are essentially very expensive, yet practically worthless qualifications. I do not mean to ruin peoples’ dreams and/or ambitions, but self-funding these courses does not increase one’s chances for making it into a City firm or a top set – contrary to what the LPC/BPTC providers, who essentially just want the money, will tell you.

It is essentially a no-brainier – these places usually pay for you to attend these professional courses and stipulate which institution (and electives) you should take. If you are good enough to make it – it should take you a a dozen applications followed by a few interviews to realise your ambition – all you need is just one successful outcome. NOT thousands of Pounds of your parents’ and a bank’s money that you’re essentially gambling with.

Boh Dear

I gambled and won. Then again I’m not exactly what you’d call risk averse.


Did you by any chance participate in drug trials during your undergraduate days?


I self-funded the LPC and got a magic circle TC mid-way through. The firm doesn’t care that I’m doing the LPC and did the GDL at a different school with different electives. The firm is refunding all my GDL and LPC fees.

I got a lot more interviews with less effort during my LPC year than I did during my GDL year.

You’d be surprised how many people get their TCs later. The average age for being called to the rolls is 28, so most people don’t go straight from uni to LPC to the TC.


I’d still argue it’s a gamble not worth taking. I’ll be 26 on qualification, having spent the intermittent years doing other things whilst waiting for an offer with sponsorship. This was the only method that my financial situation allowed.

If someone, or their parents, can afford to fork out for fees without consequent financial hardship, fine. Sadly, that isn’t the case for most people.

Perhaps the best answer is to enable people to make a better informed decision on what to do. No doubt your credentials were such that you could well have had a good change of securing a training contract pre GDL/LPC, that’s not the case for all applicants.


I agree with you it is better to do something else and then career change once you get a TC offer than it is to self-fund. Unfortunately though a lot of firms only hire trainees from paralegals, and only take LPC graduates on as paralegals. The self-funded route is depressingly common for those unable to get offers earlier.


What about the fact that most criminal chambers are not interested in you until you are, at least, on the BPTC? Crap for students, but that’s the way it is, so either you cough up (scholarshp or not) or you miss out.


I gambled and won too.

People who tell you that you can’t do things, can’t do them themselves.


I gambled and lost. Had my heart set on a career at the criminal bar. Didn’t get pupillage. Now earn 250K tax free. Hohum.

recovering paralegal

£250k tax free!

You might be needing a criminal barrister soon though.

Scouser of Counsel

Fortunately I bagged a pupillage while on the BVC. I was told afterwards that a top scholarship (yes, I had one that paid for everything) was virtually a “ticket to pupillage”.

Come to think of it, I can’t recall meeting anyone on the BVC with a pupillage who did not also have a top scholarship.

Why are people so pessimistic

I didn’t have a scholarship. Got pupillage in top 20 set first time.

Laird Lyle of the Isles

I am a solicitor higher court advocate.
I was paid to become that.
Anyone who pays 127K has been seriously mugged off or corruptly bribed their way into the profession.


I took it in the ass to get into the profession and believe me, it was hard work.


I got a scholarship for the BPTC (not full but still substantial) and got pupillage. No amount of stats would have discouraged me from doing the BPTC, although I am conscious of how that sounds now I’m actually qualified and more than one pupillage rounds down to get there.

I think the scholarships really do make a difference – I know of people who went to the same Uni, same BPTC, same grades and experience who haven’t got pupillage. Also there might be a fair amount of luck!

I also think it inaccurate that the usual route is for people to get pupillage before embarking on the BPTC – some recruit for the same year and you have no practical experience. I don’t think that people coming out of law school (unless those from Oxbridge with a first) can really compare in an application sift to those who have completed the course and have some practical experience.

This is obviously very different with solicitors – many of those do recruit 2-3 years in advance and will pay those fees.

Unfortunately I think it might still be a case of risking it and I don’t see how that will change!


Here is an idea, do the LLB and be a good candidate!:

Student loan for LLB (which isn’t really “proper” debt, is it- if you are at the criminal bar you wont end up making many payments until a couple of years in)
Get a Major BPTC Scholarship- BPTC is FREE! (Plus if you do it out of London you might have enough to live on too with a job)
or* Get a pupillage before you do the BPTC like me and get a drawdown- then you dont have worry about money at all!!
If you get a criminal pupillage, then get a £22,000 scholarship from the Inns and you can cover fees and living expenses for Manchester BPTC very nicely.

bottom line- if you are having to pay all this money you are doing it wrong or arent good enough. Apart from your student loan, if you do it right it should basically be free.


And by the way, you can always get by by doing some sucking and taking it in the rear, like I did! Hope this helps. P.S. this is also how I got my 1st.


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