By introducing an assessment day for entry onto its BPTC in 2015, ULaw has upped the standard of its students to the extent that over half of full-timers are completing the course with offers of pupillage. That might not sound huge to the uninitiated, but in the cut throat world of barrister training — where approximately 1,500 bar graduates battle for around 400 pupillages each year — these are good numbers.
The atmosphere on the Bloomsbury bar course, which is ULaw’s largest BPTC, is very much set by that assessment day sift. If you get in and manage to raise the £18,150 course fees, you’ll find yourself rubbing shoulders with serious candidates whose decent track records have already landed them Inns of Court scholarships. The presence of a decent proportion of high achievers in classes means tutors can pitch their instructions quite high. One recent Bloomsbury BPTC graduate reports: “Excellent tutors who gave brutal feedback that meant each time was I was better than the last.” Another adds: “Our class was of a good standard and therefore sessions were useful.”
As it has focused on getting those pupillage numbers up, ULaw has poured considerable resources into its bar careers service, which is described by one BPTCer as “genuinely excellent”. He adds: “Their Bar specialist supported me throughout my time at ULaw and in the year after I left in face to face and email contact (during which year I got pupillage).” The specialist bar careers consultant, Anna Williams, received a number of name checks in the Legal Cheek BPTC survey as one of the best aspects of ULaw Bloomsbury.
The pro bono also comes recommended, with students encouraged to get as much practical experience as possible. Alongside collaborations with the likes of the Free Representation Unit, the “well-resourced” clinic offers a number of opportunities to get involved in quirkier projects like teaching debating in prisons.
Where the Bloomsbury BPTC elicits most criticism is for the physical surroundings. Though well located for the Inns, the building is seen as not as fancy as ULaw’s swish Moorgate campus for LPC students on the other side of town. “Trying to find a free computer” is apparently “quite difficult” while occasional “technical issues” with online course materials proved “annoying”. But thumbs ups are given to the BPTC-only library, which is “a good study space”, even if it is “absolutely freezing in the winter and boiling in the summer”.
A lively social scene rounds off what, as far as the BPTC goes, is one of the better experiences. One 2016-17 BPTCer fondly recalls “getting pissed in the College Arms on a Friday afternoon”. But be warned: while such japes are “good fun”, “the BPTC is a lot of hard work” so don’t expect to enjoy yourself too much if you want to secure a good grade and bag that pupillage.