A Year On – The Bar Professional Training Course

Last year we published an article about celebrating the scholarship one of our students, Jake Edwards, won in order to complete the Bar Professional Training Course at Nottingham Trent University. We caught up with him to see how the course was and to tell us a little bit more about what it entails. 

I started the Bar Professional Training Course in September 2018 at Nottingham Trent University after receiving one of the Middle Temple Inn of Court Scholarships and the Nottingham Law School Dean’s BPTC Scholarship for Academic Excellence.

Before I enrolled on the BPTC I had to complete the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT). This test will not assess your legal knowledge, instead, it will test your ability to use reason and logic. The questions will test your ability to evaluate arguments, recognise assumptions and draw inferences.

On the BPTC I had to complete twelve exams, each assessing a different discipline necessary for legal practice as a barrister. These areas are criminal litigation (evidence and sentencing), civil litigation and remedies, professional ethics, drafting, opinion writing, resolution of disputes out of court (RDOC), conferencing, criminal advocacy (comprising of two assessments examination in chief and cross examination) and civil advocacy. You must then choose two optional modules, I took advanced criminal litigation and family law practice.

The course is very different from any undergraduate law course, the emphasis shifts away from academic research and legal theory. Instead, the focus is on practical skills. The assumption is that you now know the law, or at the very least you will inform yourself of what the law is. The sorts of issues you will face on a day to day basis will largely relate to evidence, procedure and advice.

During the BPTC, I attended twelve qualifying sessions at the Middle Temple, as this is required before you are eligible to be called to the bar. There are a wide range of sessions available including but not expressly limited to advocacy weekends at the Cumberland Lodge, mooting competitions, dining nights, music nights and lectures.

Whilst studying on the BPTC I worked as a County Court Advocate. In this role I have represented clients in court before District Judges across the Midlands on a range of issues including personal injury claims, RTA claims, infant approval hearings, debt recovery hearings, fitness to work cases, mortgage possession hearings and deposit protection hearings. In this capacity you are subject to the same code of ethics that governs barristers and you will frequently find yourself up against opponents who are themselves practicing barristers usually up to five years call.

The BPTC assesses your level of competency with the grading ranging from not competent to outstanding. In July, I received my BPTC results in which I was graded an outstanding overall. I am now waiting to be called to the bar at the Middle Temple in November (Michaelmas call). To be eligible for call you must have obtained at least a competent overall on the BPTC along with twelve qualifying sessions.

Congratulations for all of your hard work Jake!

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