“The Bar Course is difficult. Choose a provider near a lot of pubs,” advises a BPP graduate. Fortunately, for anyone brave enough to take on the course, BPP’s centrally-located Holborn campus does match that essential criteria. It also sits inside the heart of legal London, with the Royal Courts of Justice just a stroll away.
BPP’s strongest card is its tutors – they have “a lot of practical experience” which enlightens Bar Course students with “how things would be applied in practice”. While most teachers are “brilliant”, it’s a “lucky dip!” As one student puts it: “If your class was lucky you would get the brilliant teachers. If you were unlucky you would get a teacher who would eat food and be on their phone during your submissions”. For the most part, expect “passionate, experienced teachers”. They give “excellent feedback and, being practitioners themselves, certainly gave the impression they knew that they were talking about”. Insiders tell us that there’s “very good teachers for civil, crime and ethics”, and students rave about the Opinion Writing module leader: “She is amazing”. The quality of advocacy tuition itself can also be “really high”, although there’s some variation.
Class sizes are an undisputed plus: “Small classes meant that every week you would practice advocacy and be a witness”. The “groups of four for advocacy is unique to BPP and more tutors than not are excellent. Nothing like what I hear about other providers”.
Unique also to BPP is its international criminal elective, which is hard to come by. BPP has one of the largest selections of electives that “cover a broad range of areas”. Apparently there’s “everything to choose from”. Students mostly get their first choice of electives.
The textbooks are mostly good. “One couldn’t reasonably ask for more,” says one student. There is some variation in quality – “high marks for criminal manual, the lowest marks for the ethics manual,” another reports. The big complaint is the “laughable” volume of typos that let the course materials down.
Online resources are “very good” and for the most part students “can’t complain”. One recent graduate tells us that “everything was accessible”. Indeed, if BPP wanted to “they could have gone paperless,” suggests another.
BPP is seen as doing a decent job at preparing its students for practice. As one student puts it: “Let’s be honest, it’s overpriced but the idea that you learn nothing is a perpetuated myth to allow people to bathe in the idea that their brilliance is self-taught and created”. Tutors are “very helpful when it comes to pupillage applications”. And “whatever grumpy new tenants might say, the fact is that without the Bar Course, or some equivalent, a pupil or new practitioner would be lost”. Indeed, one BPP graduate says: “I am now a pupil (almost a tenant) and I think that the course definitely helped refine my skills”.
Beware, though, that some view the BPP careers service as “much more geared towards commercial solicitors” and those doing the LPC. BPP does however advertise “practice interviews and application workshops for those still searching for pupillage”. Worth a try! The pro bono is another good way to gain experience. There are “plenty of selection for projects. Enough for everyone to take a project,” we are told. But get there early to bag a place on a pro bono initiative you feel passionate about.
Study spaces are “perfectly good”, but facilities can get “busy”. The common room is “very comfortable and relatively pleasant”, but the library is reportedly “a disaster zone”. Due to the high volume of students at BPP, the library is often “cramped” and the computers are “always freezing”, reports one student. The printers often run out of ink and sometimes it’s “impossible to find a stapler to staple over 30 pages”. Bar Course students do have “their own common room and study area, which is good”. Some would describe it as “very small”, but as one graduate puts it: “I was mostly in the pub”.
Every Bar Course student at BPP will (at least once) complain about its “woeful” cost. One graduate thinks that “a pretentious wine bar is a far better investment. So is a pint to be honest”. But although it is expensive, “anyone trying for the bar should be intelligent enough to weigh up the cost and risk. Providing private tuition to a professional standard is not cheap, especially in central London”. Indeed, another student tells us: “It helped me get pupillage – so I’d say it’s excellent value”. Indeed, it depends what price you’re willing to pay for that golden pupillage. It’s worth noting that BPP offers a host of scholarships (see below), and there is also nearly £5 million a year in scholarships available from the Inns of Court.
The BPP social life is, however, a “silver lining”. As one student recollects: “The people were great and that made the year more bearable”. Another adds that, “BPP attracts most fun people. Social life was great”. Many are “lucky enough to have a brilliant year group and an even better tutor group”. You will “constantly meet and connect with new students, as there are over 200 students in the year group”. We hear that “regular drinks are organised by the law school as well as the students”. Tutor groups of 12 become “friends very quick”. They do “everything together including pub trips, lunch and qualifying sessions”. If you don’t leave with a pupillage, you will at least have fellow shoulders to cry on.