The ICCA Bar Course applications window for course start dates commencing September 2022 and January 2023 has now closed. The applications portal will open on 17 October 2022 until 7 January 2023 for course cycles commencing in September 2023 and January 2024. Click here to register your interest.
The four Inns of Court have come together to fund, support and develop a new, not-for-profit, two-part bar course. The course offering – which, for a London operation, is competitively priced at £13,990 for 2022/2023 — has been established by The Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA), an education and training organisation made up of judges, lawyers and lecturers from across all four Inns. The inaugural cohort started in September 2020, with a second cohort commencing their studies in January 2021. So far, 80% of the 2021 graduates have pupillage.
Part One of the course is run entirely online over a 12-16 week period, with students independently working their way through their virtual learning environment which prepares them to undertake the centralised assessments in civil and criminal litigation. Part One can be completed from any location and at any time of the day, permitting flexibility around any working or care commitments. Several students Legal Cheek spoke to said they were able to comfortably balance work with their studies, although anyone considering doing the same should be aware “you have to be disciplined”.
The ICCA provides students with a recommended study plan featuring, among other things, suggested work schedules, however the pace in which Part One can be completed is ultimately up to each individual student. With an online ‘tile’ for each class, detailing resources and tasks requiring completion, students can “follow things in a very clear order and see their progress as they go through the course”, one source reports. We are told Part One includes “amazing resources” such as quizzes, mock assessments with single best answer and multiple-choice questions, knowledge checks, revision webinars, as well as a substantial question bank featuring over 500 practice questions. Videos featuring actors to reflect real courtroom procedure are also provided, which “brings the course to life” and “makes it much more memorable”, we are told. Tutors are also on hand to provide assistance through a tutor reviewed forum and designated revision support email service. See ICCA’s results in our report here.
For September starters, there is a three-month gap between Part One and Part Two, running from January through to March. Insiders say that for those without pupillage, this is a great opportunity to work on those all-important applications. “I found this very helpful for pupillage applications as I was able to do a massive amount of applications, and make sure they were as good as I could possibly make them as I had the time to do it”, one aspiring barrister explains. For those lucky enough to have already secured a coveted training spot, you may wish to take well deserved holiday after those tricky centralised exams.
Once students have successfully completed Part One, they are able to move onto Part Two. This is taught face-to-face in London within the precinct of the historic Inns of Court and is full-time, four days a week, and runs for roughly 20-22 weeks. This of course means you will need to factor in the additional costs of accommodation in or around London.
Part Two focuses on the practical skills of a barrister including advocacy, conferencing, legal research, opinion writing and drafting, alongside an online professional ethics module. There is also vulnerable witness training and mock trials “which really bring everything together”, a former student reports. Advocacy performances (where you must wear court attire) are recorded and are conducted in small groups of six, which can run for up to three hours when peer performance reviews and particularised tutor feedback are factored in. One student tells us there was a great variety of tasks including appellate advocacy, cross examining experts and dealing with litigants in person, which meant they “really got the feeling ICCA were trying to train us to be barristers and not to just pass exams”. Feedback is “no holds barred: the good, the bad and the ugly”, according to insiders, but is provided “in a way that means you don’t feel crushed” if it hasn’t gone to plan.
The mock exams “are as close as possible” to the real deal and feature professional actors. “I felt like I learned a lot, I have done an undergraduate, masters, GDL and bar course, and this is the one I enjoyed the most, it was so fulfilling!”, one former ICCAer tells us. All Part Two assessments are conducted over July and August which is said to be “pretty hard going” although “well spaced out” to help ease the burden. Revision wise, with the practical nature of the bar course, there is no formal syllabus as such, so “you need to be on the ball in making notes in class”.
The standard of teaching is described as “top quality” with “different characters between the different teachers”. One student tells us: “It is brilliant how prepared I feel before I start pupillage, knowing I had the best quality teaching”, while another insider explains that students are “very much treated as adults”. Tutors are described as “very responsive” and “always there if you needed any extra assistance and are always very prompt”. The academic staff as “dedicated and genuinely interested in the course and our progress”, one student adds.
The administrative support is described as “top class”, with students “extremely supported and informed”. Studying during the pandemic was tough, but one ICCA student tells us they “were always made aware of what changes might have to be made, even before they were made… nothing was ever sprung on us and we were never in the dark”.
ICCA seeks to strengthen student bonds with Whatsapp groups — which we are told create a “nice sense of community” — as well as a garden party before term starts and an induction get together ahead of Part Two of the course. One student tells us: “I feel like I know everyone from the course, if I haven’t met them in person, I’ve spoken to them on Zoom or Whataspp”. Support is also provided by designated personal tutors, with meetings scheduled into student’s timetables.
ICCA provides a career service too, including a “fantastic” and “very accessible” practising barrister to assist with pupillage applications and interview prep. Further support is provided through the provision of an interview technique specialist who helps students with body language. Regular in-person and pre-recorded extra-curricular talks are also provided, with previous guests including former Supreme Court President Lady Hale and Court of Appeal Judge Justice Singh. There is also an advocacy committee, volunteering opportunities with pro bono charity Advocate, as well as mooting and legal journalism competitions. One student tells us they feel the ICCA is “very focused towards getting you pupillage, and getting you ready for pupillage”.
Shortlisted applicants are invited to attend a selection day which involves an in-person interview, written exercises and an advocacy tasks — a more intense process compared to other providers. International students are welcome and are charged the same fees as domestic students, but should note that ICCA is not a student visa sponsoring institution. Check out ICCA’s Youtube channel here.