Nottingham Trent University (Barristers Training Course)

The Legal Cheek View

Nottingham Law School (NLS) is good for a lot of things, such as location, sociability and size, and course leader Ian Fox is a great guy, say recent BPTC graduates.

NLS’s smaller cohort creates “close-knit” groups and a “great” social life. As one BPTC graduate puts it: “Wonderful course mates, had a great time socially and we organised a lot outside the course; a cohort of 40 seems a good size”. Another tells us that, “you will bond well with the wonderful, down-to-earth people there (especially by comparison to the London lot)”.

Perhaps because of its smaller size, the quality of teaching appears patchy, however. One student doesn’t think “it can really be called teaching when they just give you something to do and then afterwards tell you all the things you did were wrong”. Others agree: “No real guidance and support”. Recalling their ethics class, a BPTCer tells us “I asked ‘which rule would be more suitable then?’ And the reply I got was ‘I can’t answer that I don’t know myself, you just gotta use your gut feeling’”. But don’t fret too much – there is also “some absolutely excellent (10-rated) teaching” to be lapped up.

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Advocacy training varies “massively from tutor to tutor”. According to one Nottingham student, the civil advocacy training is “helpful” but the criminal advocacy is “fairly useless and also very subjectively assessed”. Some advocacy teachers “were dreadful, [gave] scant feedback and what you did get was vague and repetitive, often from a crib sheet”. Others have had a better experience: “The tutors I had were exceptional”. As one BPTCer tells us: “I’d say I’m a step closer to practical work, I’ve learnt some valuable skills, I know how to draft and prep bundles”.

As you’d expect from a BPTC, it’s “more vocational than academic”. There’s a broad spread of electives, including advanced criminal, advanced civil (judicial review), family, employment, landlord and tenant, and commercial. If it feels “very dull” and like a “waste of time”, you could follow what other BPTCers do and “chose [electives] based on who was teaching and assessment method rather than interest”.

The “excellent” pro bono opportunities may spark your interest. BPTCers like the fact that Nottingham is “the only place that offers the Free Representation Unit (FRU) outside of London”. Through FRU, students can represent REAL clients in employment and social security tribunals to gain court experience early on. There is of course a Legal Advice Centre that you can get involved in. But the highlight has to be the option to do marshalling: BPTC students there can shadow a judge, a massive opportunity.

Course materials get mixed reviews from “mediocre”, to plain “dreadful. Old. Error ridden. Lazy”. On the upside, the study spaces are “pretty alright”. BPTCers like to have their own space: “We have our own swipe access room in the library with a computer area and a separate study area,” one tells us. The “private access” library room has “a lot of computers and plugs, good air con too”. There’s only one gripe: “Needs a coffee machine for 15k each though”. Someone should really start a petition.

Despite the lack of caffeine on campus, the BPTC at Nottingham does the job – its pupillage rate is above the national average. But be warned: a recent graduate tells us that “if you are not prepared to work hard, drop the course”. Or aut disce aut discede, as a tutor might say.

Key Info

Full time fees £11,750
Entry requirements 2:2
Full time places 120
Part time places n/a
Contact time 12 hours/wk

Entry onto the BPTC is subject to candidates passing the Bar Aptitude Test.