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

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Bar Council chair warns of escalating cost to enter profession

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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.

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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.