"I went to law school. And I became a prosecutor. I took on a speciality that very few choose to pursue. I prosecuted child abuse and child homicide cases. Cases that were truly gut-wrenching. But standing up for those kids, being their voice of justice was the honour of a lifetime." -Susana Martinez
Many attend law school and aspire to become lawyers in order to change the crooked way things are done. Those who love true justice fight for those whose voices are inaudible in the crowd. They want to make a change and see the world become a better place.
Before taking on complicated civil rights cases and defending innocent ones in court, there are certain educational requirements that need to be met in order to ensure that the future lawyer understands the legal system.
In many countries, such as the United States, the bar exam is a two-day test taken after graduating from law school. The bar exam requires recent law graduates to write essay answers and poses questions that test the knowledge of general legal principles. For those who have successfully passed the bar exam, a license to practice law is issued.
In America, those with the best bar exam results clench a job at the best law firms in the country.
However, in the United Kingdom, the rules are different and the bar exam is more of a vocational course taken after completion of three years in law school. Superprof is here to show interested ones what the bar exam equivalent is in England and Wales.
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Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)
After successfully attaining a Bachelor's of Law (LLB) diploma, from any qualified university, aspiring barristers are required to complete vocational training to move onto the next stage of learning.
The Bar Council and The Law Society requires students to qualify as barristers through examinations by undertaking the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) to ensure professional responsibility from the law student.
Just as in any vocational training course, there are certain entry requirements for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
Here are the basic prerequisites to be accepted:
- Before applying and being admitted to study the BPTC at an accredited school, it is essential to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) which is a performance test to examine critical thinking and reasoning.
- The Bar Standards Board (BSB) demands a minimum 2:2 law degree with honours such as a Bachelor's of Law (LLB) from a recognized university.
- Students need to apply to join one of the four Inns of Court before the 31 of May of the year they wish to start the BPTC programme.
- Previous academic excellence is highly recommended along with an impressive amount of extracurricular activities.
- While studying to attain the LLB diploma, students should select subjects such as Criminal law, European law, Civil law and Common law in order to be selected as serious candidates who strongly support the English Bar.
The Bar Professional Training Course vocational programme is offered by many universities as a year of full-time studies, however, in certain schools, there is a part-time two-year option available for those who want to take things slow and work at the same time to pay off student loans.
If students opt for the more popular one year option, they should expect 10-16 hours per week in the classroom. The beauty of the BPTC is the emphasis put on practical work. Students learn how to perform the tasks of barristers right away. Many learning institutions leave students with one day per week to work on pro bono cases, visits to the courthouse and other useful practice.
Throughout the duration of this course, aspiring barristers are taught to examine briefs and cases that they will most likely work on at the start of their career.
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Compulsory subjects studying during the programme include advocacy, conference skills, drafting, resolution of disputes out of court, professional ethics and criminal litigation, evidence and sentencing.
Through the learning of these necessary course subjects, aspiring barristers learn the skills required to fight for justice in the court of law.
Students are tested through written examinations during class time to ensure that they are meeting the high standards of The Bar Council.
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Schools Offering the BPTC
The Bar Professional Training Course is a specialized vocational programme and is not just offered anywhere. Nevertheless, have no fear because there are eight professional schools across England and Wales that offer this course:
- BPP Law School,
- Cardiff Law School,
- The City Law School (University of London),
- Manchester Metropolitan University,
- Northumbria University in Newcastle,
- Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University,
- The University of Law (with schools in Birmingham, Leeds and London),
- The University of the West of England.
The aforementioned options are the most commonly available in the United Kingdom, however, there may be other convenient options discovered through further investigation.
Let's start by saying that the BPTC is not cheap! The prices are outrageous for a programme that only lasts a year. Nevertheless, there is no way to skip this step and it is necessary to pass through this stage in order to become a qualified barrister. Fees depend on the school you have decided to attend:
- Most Expensive: The University of Law and BPP University, both located in London, are the priciest options costing £19,400 and £19,070 respectively.
- Least Expensive: Nottingham Trent University, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of the West of England are the cheapest options on the list with approximate course fees being £14,800, £14,550 and £14,000 respectively.
After successfully passing all the written examinations required during this course, students successfully move onto pupillage. The BPTC programme is a bar exam equivalent that truly prepares future barristers for the challenges ahead.
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Legal Practice Course (LPC)
Just as future barristers are required to take the Bar Professional Training Course, The Bar Association expects solicitors to take a bar exam equivalent training programme as well. In order for aspiring solicitors to advance professionally in the United Kingdom, they must complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
The entry requirements for the LPC are quite basic and not very demanding. Applicants for the programme need to demonstrate good grades, excellent variety of extracurricular activities and a Bachelor's of Law (LLB) or a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to convert an unrelated undergraduate degree into a law one.
To apply for full-time courses at a recognized school, an applicant needs to submit an application through the Central Applications Board (CAB) where you can rank your three choices of law school before the deadline. No interviews are required so all your success depends on the application form, personal statement and past grades.
Starting in 2020 the way that solicitors qualify in the UK will change with the introduction of a new "super exam" called the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) which will better mimic the famous bar exam used in other countries.
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The Legal Practice Course is designed to help students transition from academic study to training at a law firm. Future solicitors are taught the basics of the practice of law. They learn how to conduct client meetings, make contracts and understand the inner workings of the legal system.
This postgraduate course is one year of full-time studies or two years of part-time studies. It is divided into two stages or sections. The first stage covers the essential practice areas of:
- Business law and the practices of it,
- litigation, including civil and criminal,
- property law and its practices.
Throughout this stage, young students perfect their skills of advising and advocacy, writing and drafting case files, interviewing and conducting legal research in order to win cases.
Stage two is a little bit different with students having to take three vocational subjects. Some of the potential course options to choose from include:
- private acquisitions,
- public companies,
Both of these stages and practical work help young solicitors become qualified and ready to deal with all of their potential client's needs.
Students may be assessed differently depending on the law school. Nevertheless, most students are tested in the same ways across the country, for example, through open and closed book knowledge assessments, written assignments, essay questions and oral presentations in front of teachers or classmates and coursework.
Schools Offering the LPC
After receiving their diploma of Bachelor's of Law (LLB) some begin a training contract with a law firm shortly after graduation day. If this is the case, the lawyers supervising your studies may have already suggested a place to study. However, if this is not the case, do not worry because you are spoiled for choice!
There are over 30 recognized schools across the UK offering various forms of the Legal Practice Course. The choice is up to you to choose one that is suited for you. Some recommended schools include:
- Anglia Ruskin University,
- Birmingham City University,
- Cardiff Law School,
- Liverpool John Moores University,
- Nottingham Law School,
- The University of Law (Bristol, London, Leeds, Manchester),
- University of Plymouth,
- University of Westminster.
These are just some of the many schools offering the Legal Practice Course in the United Kingdom. There are many more options to choose from.
Studying to become a qualified lawyer is not cheap. Course fees are extremely expensive and often leave many with student loans. Prices range from £15,740 to £7,700 all depending on the law school's location and reputation. Here are some of the most expensive and least expensive options:
- Priciest schools: if you are a very rich student and don't know what else to do with your money choose BPP, University of Law and City Law School all located in London with courses being priced at £15,740, £15,670 and £14,500 respectively.
- Most affordable options: if you are have always gotten good grades but do not have the financial means to attend the most prestigious schools there are cheaper options available such as the Leeds Beckett University, Birmingham City and Liverpool John Moores. These three schools are all more affordably priced at £7,700, £8,900 and £9,200 for both stages of the LPC.
The Legal Practice Course is a popular programme of legal education so there are a lot more options to choose from that suit everyone's needs.
Is Funding Available?
With the costs of the Bar Professional Training Course and Legal Practice Course rising each year, many students need loans and government funding to pass through this vocational stage of education.
Bar Professional Training Course
Those who are studying to become barristers have the support of the Inns of Court. These prestigious barrister clubs offer over £4 million of funding each year to those who are taking the BPTC. Show chambers that aspiring barrister will work for later on sometimes offer financial support.
Student loans are available for those who do not have the privilege of receiving private funding. A great option is the Professional Career and Development Loan (PCDL). Students can borrow from the bank £300 to £10,000 which needs to be repaid at the end of studies.
Once your training done, you will have to choose amongst the many possibilities offered to you as a new lawyer.
Legal Practice Course
The law firm where you are doing your training may decide to pay for all the fees of your Legal Practice Course (LPC). However, be aware that there may be some obligations to stay with the firm for a few extra years.
If the law firm does not offer to pay for the fees, there are student loans available. The aforementioned Professional Career and Development Loan (PCDL) is available for those taking the Legal Practice Course also. It is important to note that the banks may require a valid reason and proof for borrowing money.
If the idea of borrowing money keeps you up at night it would be wise to complete the part-time option of these courses. This would allow you to work, save money and pay for the course while studying.
Lawyers earn a decent salary and once qualified it should be easy to reimburse your student loan.
After reading this article, you are better aware of how the "bar examination" is conducted in the United Kingdom. It is important to remember that it is not so much a test as it a vocational training period to perfect skills.
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