These are questions often asked by students who are considering doing the BPTC.
Q: Does it matter if I have bad A-Level grades?
In general, not especially – providing you have strong grades at degree level to make up for them. Pupillage applications are assessed holistically and most sets will not hone in too much on bad A-Levels. Please remember that ‘bad’ is relative – if you’ve got a bunch of C’s, you might have to think again. If you are a mature candidate with a solid background in a different career, then A-levels are much less important.
For top ranked chambers and most chancery/commercial sets, A-Level grades do matter.
Q: Should I do the BPTC LLM?
This depends on why you want to do the course. Do it because you can get a student loan for it. Don’t do it because you think this means that you will now have a ‘masters’ in the traditional sense of the word – you won’t. There is a world of difference between the BPTC LLM (usually just an additional module or two to get the LLM) and someone who did an LLM proper.
Q: What should I study before the BPTC starts?
NONE AT ALL!
Go have fun. The BPTC is a long year.
Q: Should I go straight onto the BPTC after my LLB?
It depends, frankly, on what your CV looks like by the time you’ve finished your degree/GDL conversion course. If you check the knowledge page and the competencies page and find that you have quite a lot of material on your CV *and* that material ticks all the relevant boxes, then go ahead and plow on with your training.
Many students, however, haven’t got a lot on their CV by the end of their degree. This can be for multiple reasons and this website does not criticise them for that. In those cases, we generally caution students against going straight onto the BPTC without sufficient experience and/or if they’re very young. This is because you need time to build up your CV and once you complete the BPTC, you only have five years to get pupillage (with some exceptions). The other reason we advise students to wait is because going for the Bar is an extremely strenuous process and takes every ounce of energy, time and money you have. It’s not something to be entered into lightly!
In a perfect world, no one would do the BPTC without having already secured a pupillage, because it costs a fortune and gives you nothing except the eligibility to be a barrister. Chambers would select pupils before they began the BPTC. Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect, so you’ll probably have to take a giant leap, do the BPTC first and face uncertainty. If so, then go for it but do it for the right reason – that you have objectively assessed your prospects, believe you have a real chance of obtaining pupillage and want to get going. There are some daft reasons to do the BPTC. Here are some:
Advocacy – “you should do the BPTC to get more advocacy experience”. Yes, you need advocacy experience, but the best way to get this is by mooting, debating, and volunteering in real-life contexts (e.g. the Free Representation Unit [FRU]). Doing the BPTC because it gives you “advocacy experience” is like playing doctors and nurses because you want to be a brain surgeon. The BPTC sort of teaches you examination-in-chief and cross examination – skills you need but which are best acquired during pupillage, where the teaching is more focussed and tailored to you (it is a myth of advocacy that what suits one person suits another). What you’d be really be doing in starting the BPTC for the advocacy is buying yourself more time to debate and moot. If that’s what you want to do, fair enough, but it’s not going to improve your prospects.
Pupillage Chances – just having a good CV won’t guarantee you a first round interview; neither will doing a mini-pupillage at your chosen set, nor a scholarship, nor real advocacy. You are assessed as a complete package – that means your written style, quality of presentation, and (later) your interview presentation are all taken into consideration. This site unpacks those different components in various places, but before you get to interview there are several stages you must go through as a candidate to be ‘ready’. This process of acquiring skills takes time, so really it matters less when you begin to apply for pupillage and more when you started getting yourself into a position to be a strong candidate.
Cost of BPTC – it is an outrageously expensive course. Whether or not the fees are fair is not a discussion for this page – although do see the Blog for your opportunity to comment on that. But the reality is that for those students who don’t get an Inn or other scholarship to cover the costs, it is a hefty amount to spend. It’s an enormous undertaking, which often involves negotiating with parents for the money (don’t forget you also need a year’s living costs!) and/or taking out a loan through one of the private providers etc. Neither of those options, particularly the latter, should be done without both serious consideration and, we suggest, at least a year out before starting the BPTC.
Above are some of the things to consider when deciding whether to go straight onto the BPTC. We suggest that the points above fall more in favour of waiting than not. If you remain unconvinced, this site wants you to ask yourself “what’s the rush?”
Our final point is that many young people think they need to complete all of their studies at once: they don’t. Take your time.