Barrister apprenticeships could be available by spring 2024

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By Thomas Connelly on


Exclusive: Plans gathering pace

Barrister apprenticeships could be available as early as April next year, Legal Cheek can reveal.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) features a listing on its website for a Level 7 barrister apprenticeship similar to that already available to would-be solicitors.

Legal Cheek understands the barrister apprenticeship will be considered for approval from next Friday (28 October) and could be live by April 2024, although this fully depends on the uptake of training providers and employers.

A spokesperson for the IfATE told Legal Cheek:

“IfATE welcomes this proposal for a barrister apprenticeship which could be game changing for opening out the profession to people from more diverse backgrounds. We look forward to working with expert employers, including barristers’ chambers across England, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Bar Standards Board, and Bar Council, on developing this further.”

The 2024 Legal Cheek Chambers Most List

The trailblazer group of employers who are designing the apprenticeship, including setting out what knowledge, skills and behaviours apprentices will have to learn, includes representatives from the likes of Trinity Chambers, St Philips Chambers, Cornwall Street Chambers, Clerksroom, and 33 Bedford Row as well as the Crown Prosecution Service, Government Legal Department and Ministry of Justice.

The idea of bringing apprenticeships to the bar has been floated for a number of years now. In 2021, lawyer Michaela Hardwick argued the path remained a “viable option” but barriers would need to be overcome, and this would require collaboration between the bar, the regulator and training providers.

By comparsion, solicitor apprenticeships have been available since 2016 and see candidates complete a six-year mix of legal work and classroom studying. Their popularity has rocketed in recent years with a number of big firms, including Magic Circle and elite US players, now offering the TC alternative.



Sounds awful.

Helen Dalton

Hi, I am a Senior Product Manager at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and I am working with the legal sector to develop the barrister apprenticeship. If you would like to share your thoughts and concerns with me in more detail I would be interested in your perspective. You can reach me at

Recruitment committee member

I’m responsible for pupil recruitment in a major set and I think it sounds very interesting.

Apprentice Barrister

What a Barrister’s Apprenticeship? It’s called a pupillage.

Genuinely Interested

In what way? What are you unable to do now as a set that the creation of this system will provide to you?


If these are “graduate apprenticeships” aimed at those who already have a level 6 (degree) qualification and bundle together the Bar Course and Pupillage then these are a great idea and will help remove some of the cost and uncertainty barriers in the route to qualification.

Graduate Solicitor Apprenticeships seem to work quite well on the other side of the profession, bundling together SQE prep and the QWE for those who have already graduated.

I’m less sure how well they would work if they are the longer school leaver apprenticeship model – picking who will be the future successful barristers at 17/18 doesn’t seem an easy task.


I think if you could recreate some of the bar course elements, it would be useful. Much as well all poo-poo it, it is the first time a lot of people will have anything approaching the type of stuff they are actually going to do in their professional life. Mooting is not quite the same thing, and learning from and seeing other people in the same boat as you tackling a similar problem can give you some good pointers. It doesn’t prepare you for practice, but the idea of class based practical skills (including here drafting) would be something that would be a shame to lose completely. Folding that into a apprenticeship could be workable though,


A colleague the other day pointed out to me that at the Family Bar, plenty (possibly the majority) of pupils have done the GDL, which obviously doesn’t cover family law (for some bizarre reason). So many Family Barristers essentially start practice having never studied any family law at all. This did make me think whether or not the law part of the studies was even really necessary. Having said that – we already have one of the least academically intensive routes into the legal profession in the world. I am not saying our system is currently inadequate, but most jurisdictions require 6-7 years of study in total. Here, you can do a law degree and be at the bar by 21-22. It’s already so streamlined – I am pretty sure England and Wales is also one of the only jurisdictions where you can do 9 months of legal study (GDL) and become a trial advocate. There are limits in my opinion to just how streamlined learning at least something about law in some form of academic setting can be. I don’t support the most-of-the-rest-of-the world system of Degree plus 3 year Law Qualification , but we already skimp enough. At what point does it stop becoming any sort of specialist profession? The solicitor apprenticeship model works because of how long it takes and how it can be integrated longer term into how Firms operate (eg six years experience etc). That is incapable of being replicated at the Bar. It would make more sense to just allow people to study the GDL on their own without a course if they want to, because it’s the expense and “full time attendance” nature of the course that provides 90% off of the hurdle to jump – not the inability to perform well in a law exam per se.



Spiders Are Everywhere

Hopefully the proposal to realign the use of the term “barrister” to someone who has completed pupillage will go through. That was one of the few sensible suggestions I’ve heard from the Bar Council in years.

Junior Barrister

I have read the speech that Nick Vineall KC gave recently, and I think he made the case pretty persuasively. It had never dawned on me that our practising certificate fees could be lower if the BSB didn’t have to spend so much of its funding on disciplinary proceedings that involve never-barristers: “…17,000 or so practising barristers pay for the regulation of 70,000 or so people. It is striking I think that unregistered barristers who have never been entitled to practise account for over a quarter of cases that get to the Bar Tribunal.”

What a ludicrous situation.


Totally agree. The number of BSB cases that you read that involve an “unregistered barrister” are astonishing.

Aspiring Apprentice Barrister

An Apprenticeship? For Barristers? What a novel idea. The apprentices could spend six months following a practicing barrister to see what the job involves. Then they could do another second six month stint doing their own smaller cases under supervision. Perhaps barristers could club together and hire these apprentices , pool resources and pay them an apprentice bursary – it could even be competitive with some groups of barristers offering a higher apprentice bursary than others. The only sticking point I can see is coming up with a name for this apprenticeship, or the groups of barristers that offer them.

Old school innit

We appear to be returning to pre-degree solicitors’ articles and a proper pupillage… Not necessarily a bad thing when we look at some of the degree route professionals in the SRA and BSB pages for disciplinary hearings.

Junior Leachman

This is a great idea. If this apprenticeship program is managed properly, the apprentice barristers can help to minimise and reduce the backlog of cases currently in the system. It also another way of the soon to barristers to gain hands, working knowledge and working experience.


I fail to understand why the BSB/Bar Council continues with pointless gimmicks rather than addressing the core problem.

(I) Fix the Bar Course by cutting out “no hopers” (both because it’s cruel to them and because it drags good prospects down) and removing it from all providers save for ICCA. Even better, require candidates either to have pupillage or to show a probability of attaining pupillage within two years; it should be the role of the Inns to certify (or otherwise) this requirement.

(II) Remove all “Inns of Court” training during pupillage, which is pointless and badly run, as well as CPD.

(III) The term “barrister” (including stupid terms like “barrister-at-law” or “unregistered barrister”) should only apply to those with full practising certificates. A grace period of 1 month should be permitted once this change is made, after which the BSB should begin mercilessly pursuing those who continue to hold themselves out as barristers.

But how?

How would you guage “a probability of attaining pupillage within two years”? What criteria would you include?

You can't.

I agree with this; accurately assessing “a probability of attaining pupillage within two years” is very challenging in practice.

Everything to do with recruitment to the Bar is tinkering around the edges until we resolve the twin problems that (a) far too many people who won’t get pupillages are doing the bar course; and (b) those people can then call themselves ‘barristers’ when they’re nothing of the sort. Cut the numbers down, introduce a proper entrance exam, and make the title ‘barrister’ contingent on having started pupillage (during which time you’re a ‘pupil barrister’) or a practicing certificate (‘barrister’).

DQ cont

DQ cont.

The Inns implicitly do this in my view by giving scholarships – it is their policy not to award scholarships to those with no realistic prospect of pupillage. Criteria include: (1) University grades; and (2) evidence of prior advocacy experience.

I am not averse to replacing this requirement with an entrance exam for the Bar Course (as ICCA presently do quite effectively by requiring passage of crim/civ lit before embarking on other elements), but the present entrance exam (the BCAT) is pathetic.

It’s hard to envisage a properly selective and non-arbitrary entrance examination other than passage of civ/com lit.


A proper entrance exam and entrance requirements would be key, but the trend has been the other way, allowing 2:2 applicants to sit vocational courses being an example, in the name of “diversity”. There are also far too many places to study the course, again another “diversity” result. The Inns of Court School of Law model worked better than anything we have now.


If this is introduced it will just create a two tier system which those in the bottom tier can hardly ever get out of. It will predominantly be sets that have volumes of small scale personal injury, RTA, small mags work, insurance backed small claims etc (you can see which type sets are picking up the idea at the start of the article). It will just subsume an LPC style class of junior barrister who will then have very little chance of any progression. You are not going to see any highly ranked chambers or specialist sets (across any specialism imo) taking this up. Why would they? What problem does this apprenticeship solve? If it is social mobility and removing barristers to access – this is the worst most terrible way to go about it. The only advantages to some apprenticeship (assuming it is supposed to be different from pupillage recruitment in some way) could be removing some expensive part of the process like the BPTC or GDL – so instead of just very easily and obviously addressing that issue (more below), you want to cement and partly bake the social mobility issue in in by creating this route that will probably -even if very successful- Channel at least some of those people into some second tier of a pupillage? Anyone who is gifted enough to escape the RTA small claims and stage 3 hearings to later move to a respectable set is probably also gifted enough to have just done it the normal way in the first place. Just do what everyone pretty much everywhere at the bar is saying – (a) limit a new Bar Course to those that have a pupillage, (b) reform the Scholarship system at the inns so that the meritocratic element remains in terms of selection (keeping the hierarchy of the scholarships like the “Major”, “Exhibition” etc…) but the value should be tied to what is needed financially or some other means testing, (c) have some level of discretion exercised by the Inns about non pupillage holders who still want to do the course anyway where a small portion of extra places based on availability can go to individuals without pupillage (e.g difficult or marginal cases, those who just want to be called to the bar to go back and train in their home jurisdiction.


Excellent idea. This is a serious opportunity to fundamentally enhance the quality of justice in England and Wales. It will challenge the stereotypical role playing and performatives, where for fledgling barristers to feel they belong to the cohort demands a sense of entitlement or the appearance of such. This often disguises an underlying imposter syndrome that infects the profession and adds to the ungrounded sense of unreality around courts, when justice demands feet firmly on the ground rather than theatrical poseurs.

Uncharitable fellow

Who let the sociology student in here?


Erm…sorry, what?


If you asked an AI chat bot “Please generate a response as parody of the vapid pseudo-psychology of wokery”, it would produce Advocate’s response.

Lord Sugar

I’ve no idea who these apprenticeships are intended for. The trend in recent years has been that pupils are in their mid-late 20s when they come to the Bar, having done a degree, often a masters, their bar exams and some paralegalling. How is it going to be in chambers’ interests to take on apprentices for several years’ training before they can actually contribute anything?

I can see that it might work in employed Bar situations e.g. GLD or CPS, but most barristers are self-employed and effectively run their own businesses via chambers. Pupils are an investment in the future but are picked with a view to their becoming productive members of chambers in the near future. Unlike the solicitors’ profession, where a trainee can be very useful in doing the lower-end work before they qualify, pupils’ training is mainly about their own education and getting them ready for practice in 6 or 12 months’ time. I just can’t see how having a trainee who can’t meaningfully assist or do anything for years, in the hope that they eventually become a barrister themselves, can possibly work.

Ruby Doo

In a modern economy, answers weigh heavier than just more questions. Multi-disciplinary solutions to field and address client needs simply weigh heavier than just pink cord on papers the night before. Clients want answers not more and more admin and structure to hurdle. Multi-disciplinary fusion is not just required – it is inevitable given market forces. There may be a strategic answer to the 5% of clients but for everyone else it’s very tactical. They just want answers on law and process. So, to the newcomer, expect change and you will not be disappointed. There are cynics out there but let’s face it the iPhone kicked blackberry into touch.

I wanna be like yooo hooo hooo

I miss my Blackberry

Scouser of Counsel

I like the idea of this very much.

I knew from about the age of 14 (work experience) that I wanted to be a Barrister. A scheme like this would have enabled me to focus on becoming one much earlier.

What’s more, some of the finest trial advocates I have ever seen in action were called in the 60s and 70s and didn’t go to university but learned on the job.


Could this replace the GDL or … ?

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