Core sections of the form

Golden Rule

Get straight to the point. NO WAFFLING!

Legal & non-legal work experience

Do not make stuff up! You will get caught out

Having gone through your competencies for each work experience activity, drafting these sections should not be too difficult. The number of activities you can list for each will often be restricted (for non-Gateway sets), so be sure to pick the ones which demonstrate the most competencies.

For each activity, describe the actions you took and the results achieved

Don’t overcomplicate this.

Make sure you sell both your achievements and any ‘soft skills’ picked up along the way. Particularly for non-legal work experience, think about the transferable skills you’ve learned that would be valuable in a legal environment. Feel free to use bullet points.

Separately, a note on writing up mini-pupillages: these are important but keep the sections short. Focus on what you saw and what you learned. This may well come up at interview.

If you struggle to say something about an experience (say, a really early mini) either decide not to include the example or say what you observed and how it informed/confirmed your decision to become a barrister etc.

“Unless you tell me what you’ve learned from the experience, I’m not interested.” – Barrister, Call 2009

Each answer should subconsciously tell the assessor that you would make a great barrister.

Positions of responsibility

Don’t exaggerate your role(s)! You will get caught out

Start by writing out literally every position of responsibility that you’ve ever had since primary school. This will help jog your memory in case you have done things that are not listed on your CV or that you had previously forgotten about.

Then, it’s time to delete most of your list. The older you are, the more you remove. And if you’re several years post-BPTC, then your undergraduate activities are unlikely to be as relevant today as they might have been.

For each activity, describe the actions you took and the results achieved

If you only have one position to put in here, that is fine.

Each answer should subconsciously tell the assessor that you would make a great barrister.

Extra-curricular activities / hobbies

Don’t list ‘reading’, ‘walking’ or ‘movies’ as your hobbies unless you are a certified specialist in these activities!

Having hobbies is important. Barristers aren’t looking to hire drones; they want to hire well-rounded and/or interesting people who are able to balance their work/studies alongside other activities.

In this section people normally include: sports, travel, other unusual activities/groups that they’ve participated in. Please note that if you have climbed Kilimanjaro or run a marathon or done something else that is impressive but not unusual, you have to make it sound interesting. If you do or have done something unusual e.g. unicycling, definitely put it in; this will make you memorable and may be a jumping-off point for a question at interview.

It is important to word your answer so as to show indirectly that you are able to juggle multiple commitments, that you are resilient and that you have other interests outside work – all are important skills necessary for building a successful practice at the Bar.

Activities chosen must be recent ones (e.g. if you haven’t done any drama for three years, you might think it’s not worth putting down). Similarly, use your common sense; stamp collecting is probably not going to endear you to chambers!

Each answer should subconsciously tell the assessor that you would make a great barrister.

Awards and prizes

This section is where you detail any financial awards you’ve received, such as an Inn of Court or university scholarship and other awards from your university. There is no need to write down the financial amount given. If you’ve won a non-legal academic prize, that also goes in this section. A brief explanation may be necessary in order to contextualise and properly present the award.

Mitigating circumstances

Mitigating circumstances are for really bad stuff that happened in your life. Said bad stuff must have affected your academic grades and/or life trajectory in a way that was relevant to your journey to the Bar and therefore bears explaining.

These things must have been (largely) unavoidable, and much have been very serious.

When using this box, be straightforward about what happened. Don’t exaggerate and don’t tell your life story. Most importantly, make sure that most of this box describes how you bounced back and how your resilience in the face of adversity makes you a stronger candidate than ever before.

Please recognise that if you abuse this section, you will ruin the chances that other candidates will be believed in future.

Barristers know that shit happens. How you present it is what matters.


You need two referees for your gateway form. Some sets ask for three. So, have three referees lined up from the start. These must be people who can speak to your skills and qualities as an advocate and as a person. They can’t be someone who taught you for a term and who wouldn’t be able to pick you out of a line-up.

Always, always, always ask for your referee’s permission to use their name before you apply. Ask this way ahead of time.

Most will want an up-to-date CV and/or an update on what you are doing right now. Attach this to your email request in order to speed things up. Unless the situation is otherwise, explain in your request that references will only be required if you are successful.

Please also read this excellent blog post by BPP’s Deputy Dean (Education Services) & Principal Lecturer, Ishan Kolhatkar:

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