Barristers are an essential part of the legal system in England & Wales. Barristers have unique education, training, and career paths. On this page, you will learn all about how to become a barrister in the UK in our step-by-step guide.

What is a Barrister?

A barrister is a type of qualified legal professional who represents clients in court. Barrister’s biggest time commitment is preparing for court hearings, advocating, representing, and defending clients in court. Barristers also often help solicitors in clarifying certain questions of law if a need arises.

Barristers usually take over after solicitors have prepared the groundwork for a case, gathered evidence, and filed necessary court documents. Barristers belong to chambers and are typically self-employed. Learn about key differences between solicitor vs barrister in our guide.

Step-by-Step: How to Become a Barrister in the UK

Below is a detailed explanation of the route to become a barrister.

A graph that educates students about how to become a barrister in the UK (England and Wales)

Barrister Academic Education

The first step to qualifying as a barrister is to complete a qualifying law degree. If you did not go to law school for your undergraduate degree then you will need to complete the law conversion course called Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL). This part of the legal studies is essential for any barrister and for further education and training steps. Whether you have a law degree or a PGDL, you need to have achieved at least a 2:2 to take on the next step of becoming a barrister.

Barrister Training Course (Vocational Training)

After completing the academic part of your education, aspiring barristers must complete a Bar training course. The name of the course varies depending on the provider institution some refer to it as the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) or the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) or other variations. The Bar course is a one-year course consisting of core modules and a selection of elective modules that prepares students for becoming a barrister.

In order to be admitted to a Bar training course, you must:

There are 4 Inns of Court

and only the Inns hold the power to call a student to the Bar. The Inns are associations that also provide support to students throughout their Bar course and often host training opportunities such as mooting competitions and networking events. Although you can be called to the Bar by an Inn, you must complete a pupillage in order to practice law as a barrister.

Barrister Pupillage Work Experience

After successfully completing the Bar course and upon being called to the Bar, you must complete a pupillage. You can search for pupillages on Pupillage Gateway. A pupillage is a period of supervised work-based practical training that usually lasts a year. The pupillage is undertaken at a barrister’s chambers.

On completion of this final step, you can officially be considered a fully qualified barrister and practice law in England & Wales.

Barrister Salary UK

The salary of a barrister depends on factors such as the area of law they practice in, the location, and their experience or reputation. Wages in London are much higher than elsewhere to accommodate for the higher living costs. During their pupillage, it is required that pupils are paid a minimum salary for their training.

The salary differs depending on where the pupillage is taken and again the area of specialism. For commercial law, barristers earn between £45,000 and £70,000. Criminal barristers on the other hand, usually are paid between £12,000 and £20,000.

A qualified barrister with tenancy after their pupillage can see salaries in their second year of £80,000-£200,000 for commercial law, and £16,000-£40,000 for criminal law. There are many other areas of specialism aside from commercial and criminal law which means there are many different fluctuations in a barrister’s salary.

Barrister Career Path

Barristers practicing for a number of years can rise in seniority and achieve higher salaries. After enough experience, there are options such as applying to become a Queen’s Counsel (QC) or a judge.

Many barristers choose to pursue their legal careers indefinitely. The benefit of a career as a barrister, however, is also the many transferable skills of the job. This means that as a qualified barrister, you may also progress to work in other areas such as business, finance, politics, academia, etc.

Work Experience to Help You Become a Barrister

Examples of most common work experience that help students become barristers

There is a wide range of work experience that can allow you to learn more about a career as a barrister:

Court visits: this is the easiest thing you can do to get a glimpse at what a barrister does; there are courts where you can go and watch a trial in progress and get to see a barrister representing a client in action.

Mini-pupillages: a very popular and beneficial form of work experience that involves shadowing a barrister for a short period of time; they can vary from one day to a few weeks. A mini-pupillage allows you to also gain feedback from your work and potentially form a relationship with a chamber that you may want to later apply to for pupillage.

Marshalling: allows the shadowing of a judge in court; you may be given tasks such as reading skeleton arguments and will be given insight into the running of a trial.

Barrister Regulation Bodies

Barristers are considered by the wider society as highly capable professionals. The standards of a practicing barrister are regulated by the representative Bar Council and the independent Bar Standards Board. Both promote fair access to justice, set standards for the profession, and develop opportunities for barristers and the public interest.

Skills for Barristers

It is essential for aspiring barristers to develop and show the following skills:

    • Research skill;
    • Advocacy skills;
    • Attention to detail;
    • Persuasion;
    • Problem-solving;
    • Determination;
    • Excellent communication skills;
    • Project management;
    • Active listening; and
    • Consistently written skills.


Unlike solicitors that are usually employed by law firms, barristers are usually self-employed. They typically belong to a set of chambers where they receive their work tasks. Barristers are very much independent legal practitioners. The majority of barristers’ clients are solicitors who reflect advocacy work to them.

There are over 16,000 active barristers in England & Wales, some of them are employed by the following employers:

    • Government Legal Department (GLD);
    • Crown Prosecutors Services (CPS);
    • Armed forces legal services;
    • Various levels of government; and
    • private companies.

Practising as a Barrister

Employed barristers often specialise in a specific field of law; what they do in a day largely depends on this specialism and their seniority rank. A barrister will typically cover daily activities such as: advising clients and solicitors, researching a case, drafting legal documents; and appearing in court (which can involve cross-examinations, reviewing evidence, or settling sentences). A barrister with higher seniority or experience in their field may also be involved in developing legal policies.

By Stephanie Heringa