The Legal Cheek View
The Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA) was established by the Council of the Inns of Court to train the barristers of the future via the ICCA Bar Course, a Bar Vocational Training Course.
Funded by the Inns of Court, the ICCA is a not-for-profit bar training provider, meaning that its first priority is the education and training of its students to the highest standards at the lowest sustainable cost. Competitively priced as £15,735 (inclusive of all BSB fees, textbooks and legal research resources) for the 2024/5 academic year, it is one of the lower priced courses available.
A further advantage is that the course has a small cohort. There are stricter entry criteria than at some other providers. One student tells us: “ICCA offers elite training without being elitist. It makes a difference going to a selective bar school where you train alongside students who are working equally as hard as you”.
The ICCA took its first cohort of students in September 2020 and the results since then have been highly impressive. When it comes to the centralised exams set and marked by the Bar Standards Board (i.e., civil and criminal litigation exams), the ICCA’s students have by far the highest pass rates compared to students at other providers. You can see our report on the range of results here. This may, in part, be due to the unique way in which the ICCA structures its course.
The ICCA divides their Bar Course into two parts. 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 and save money by living at home. That said, 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.
Once they have passed part one of the course, students move on to part two. Part two of the course is taught in-person in London, within the precincts of the historic Inns of Court. Part Two lasts just 17-19 weeks. With the civil and criminal litigation exams out of the way, students can focus on the skills subjects (such as drafting and conference) thus removing the additional burden of simultaneously working through the White Book and Blackstone’s. Advocacy and conference classes take place in small groups, allowing each student to receive detailed feedback on their performances. Meanwhile, students are provided with ample opportunity to practice their drafting and opinion writing, receiving samples to assist them with revision. The professional ethics course which students must complete is studied online, in a similar format to part one of the course, but there is also a revision session for students to attend.
We are told by students that after several months of online study, they are keen to meet the rest of their cohort when part two begins. We hear that “friendships form quickly” amongst the cohort, especially as many are sharing the experience of going through pupillage applications. A much smaller cohort than at the large providers, there is less on offer in terms of societies but students soon start arranging activities amongst themselves and the WhatsApp groups are always active. “There are often trips to the pub after class”, one student tells us. There is also an annual summer party which gives students a chance to unwind post-exams and also sees alumni return.
With the course being shorter than at other providers, there’s no doubt that there can be moments when the workload is particularly high. Tutors are on hand to provide assistance, with each student being allocated a personal tutor for academic matters. There is also plenty of pastoral support. Indeed, the ICCA’s focus on student wellbeing has been recognised by the award of a Certificate of Recognition by the Bar Council for our commitment to the wellbeing of their students. Bespoke materials are also embedded into the ICCA Bar Course, and all ICCA students have access to 24/7 counselling services. One student tells us “we were treated like individuals and I felt fully supported throughout the course”.
Upon competition of the ICCA Bar Course, students will be awarded a Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) by King’s College London (the ICCA’s validating academic partner) and are eligible to be called to the Bar (subject to the Inns’ fit and proper person checks and attending the required Qualifying Sessions). ICCA alumni have been particularly successful when it comes to the hunt for pupillage. In fact, 97% of the 2021 cohort have succeeded into pupillage – an astonishingly high statistic!
The course is split into two parts. The upcoming start dates are:
Part One September 2024
Part One January 2025
Part Two March 2025
Part Two September 2025
The ICCA Bar Course fees for 2024/2025 are £15,735 inclusive of all BSB fees, textbooks and legal research resources. This is the cost for both Parts One and Two. The breakdown for Part One and Part Two is:
– Total Part One fee: £3,934 (inc. BSB levy)
– Total Part Two fee: £11,801 (inc. BSB levy) – not payable until Part One of the course has been passed (adding extra financial security for students)
The entry requirements for the ICCA Bar Course are: an acceptable law degree awarded at a minimum level of Upper Second Class (2:1); or a degree in any other subject awarded at a minimum level of Lower Second Class (2:2) together with a Graduate Diploma in Law (or equivalent law conversion course) with a Commendation or a Distinction.
Students will have to make an application with shortlisted students being invited to attend a selection day at which they will complete an advocacy exercise and an interview.
Part One of the course is online
Part Two of the course takes place in London at the Inns of Court
As a not-for-profit Bar training provider, the ICCA does not have a scholarship fund and does not offer scholarships to individual students, preferring instead to keep the cost to all students at the lowest sustainable level.
The ICCA does have a Bursary Scheme sponsored by the Chancery Bary Association. Eligible candidates can receive up to one-third off ICCA fees where they can demonstrate a demonstrable commitment to the work of The Chancery Bar Association, significant financial difficulty taking up a place on the ICCA Bar Course without a bursary; and a background that is under-represented at the Bar generally, or at The Chancery Bar Association particularly.
The ICCA is working with other Specialist Bar Associations to extend this bursary scheme.
Separately from the ICCA, the Inns of Court also provide over £5m in scholarships to GDL and Bar Course students, irrespective of where they choose to do their Bar training.