Barrister - England and Wales

Barristers train and qualify in different ways to solicitors… explore the demanding and highly rewarding role of a barrister.


Barristers are specialists in legal advocacy, representing individuals or organisations in court, under instruction from a solicitor or another designated professional. They also give advice to their professional clients. Barristers generally specialise in a particular area of law such as criminal law, commercial law or environmental law. 

Note: In Scotland, advocates perform similar roles as barristers in England and Wales but undertake a rather different training process. See our webpage on how to become an advocate:

Advocate - Scotland

Although most barristers work on a self-employed basis from chambers, others work in government departments or agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and charities. 

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is responsible for regulating practising barristers and setting the training requirements for those who wish to qualify and practise as a barrister in England and Wales. According to the BSB, there are approximately 17,500 practising barristers in England and Wales:

Bar Standards Board - Statistics on practising barristers

How do I become a barrister?

There are three components:

1. Academic

Visit the BSB website, for an overview of the academic component:

Bar Standards Board - Academic component of Bar training

2. Vocational

  • Pass a Bar Training Course approved by the BSB.
  • View a list of Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) delivering the vocational component of Bar Training:

Bar Standards Board - Authorised Education and Training Organisations

Apply directly to each AETO – there is not a centralised application system.

Entry requirements

You must also meet the following entry requirements in order to start the vocational component:

  • Be fluent in English.
  • Join an Inn of Court by 31st May in the year in which you start your vocational training.
  • The Inns of Court are the professional associations for barristers in England and Wales. There are four Inns, all based in London: Gray’s Inn,  Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Middle Temple. All provide similar services such as educational activities, networking opportunities and scholarships for legal training. You can only be a member of one Inn so your decision will be down to personal preference. To find out more about the Inns, visit their websites:

Gray's Inn

Inner Temple

Lincoln's Inn

Middle Temple

3. Pupillage

Once you have successfully completed the vocational component, you are “Called to the Bar” in order to complete the pupillage, the work-based component of training.

Pupillage is a one-year practical training period under the supervision of an experienced barrister; securing a pupillage is very competitive.

Pupillage is split into two parts:

  • A non-practising period, usually of six months
  • A practising period, usually of six months

Pupillages are advertised through the Bar Council’s Pupillage Gateway. The Pupillage Gateway platform is free to use for aspiring barristers. For more details on how to register an account and key dates for applicants, visit the Pupillage Gateway:

Pupillage Gateway - For Applicants

The BSB stipulates pupils must receive a minimum award.

2023 is £20,703 per annum for pupillages in London and £18,884 per annum for pupillages outside London...

How do I become a practising barrister?

On successful completion of pupillage:

  • Apply to the BSB, for your first practising certificate, which is required for practising as a registered barrister in England and Wales.
  • Apply for “tenancy” within a chambers; this is typically at the set where you completed pupillage but if you do not secure tenancy via this option, you may apply for a “third six” which is a fixed term period of practice at another chambers.

How can I get work experience?

Relevant work experience is essential. Although relevant legal and non-legal experience is valuable, a mini-pupillage (short work experience placements up to one week) in chambers is highly sought after by recruiters.

Use our suggestions to help you get started:


Undertake three to four mini-pupillages to stand out as an informed candidate. Mini-pupillages provide a valuable insight into life at the Bar so it is advisable to do at least one in the area that interests you. Gaining experience in different sets of chambers can help you to explore the culture and different areas of practice.

This excellent article from targetjobs on mini-pupillages provides further information on the application criteria and an overview of assessed mini-pupillages:

targetjobs - Mini-pupillages

Dates and deadlines for mini-pupillages vary, but you can search for vacancies via Chambers Student:

Chambers Student Guide - Mini -pupillage vacancies


This involves taking part in a mock hearing in front of a judge(s) and can provide evidence of your public speaking skills, research ability and presentation of a legal argument.

For example, join the University of Edinburgh Mooting Society. Check out their Facebook page for details of how to become a member and key mooting dates:

Facebook - University of Edinburgh Mooting Society


This entails shadowing a judge for a set period (ranging from one day to one week).

Ways to gain marshalling experience:

  • If you are already a member of an Inn of Court, contact them, as they offer marshalling schemes.
  • If you are not a member of an Inn yet, contact your local Crown or county court. Use the following His Majesty's (HM) Courts & Tribunals Service in England and Wales, to contact the court manager or listing officer to find whether marshalling is offered:

GOV.UK - Find a court or tribunal

Pro bono work

Consider pro bono work: the provision of free legal advice to those who are not eligible for legal aid. LawCareers.Net has compiled a comprehensive list of pro bono initiatives and volunteering opportunities:

LawCareers.Net - Pro bono initiatives