Guest blog: How to become a barrister

Lawyer holding document and speaking to jury in courtroom

The Bar is an infamously difficult and competitive career choice. The Bar Council, the industry’s regulatory body, even goes so far as to post a ‘Health Warning’ prominently on its website in an attempt to deter potential future barristers from wasting money on the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course). This is no standard career path.

However, though difficult, this is a phenomenally rewarding career. If you have confidence in yourself, and are willing to put in the long hours work required, then there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t find yourself fighting for a client in front of a judge at some point in the near future.

The Lawyer Portal, in official partnership with the Bar Council and CILEx, has three things in particular that you, as a student, can start preparing now to give yourself the best possible shot at the Bar! 

  • Academic Credentials

A barrister’s life can be essentially distilled down to reading, writing, and arguing. Barristers therefore have to be intellectually robust, able to construct their own persuasive arguments and point out the flaws in that of their opponent.

The best way to demonstrate that you have this vital intellectual quality is to do as well as possible in your undergraduate (and postgraduate) degree, no matter what subject you may currently be studying. The Bar is a place where your degree classification counts. The better you do, the better your chance of success in pupillage application season. At the two biggest BPTC providers in the country, BPP London and City Law School London, typically 50% of graduates who commence pupillage have First Class undergraduate degrees.

Work hard, get a First or a high Upper Second, and you will set yourself up brilliantly.

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Getting into teaching – new routes in and subject options available


Applications are now open for teaching courses for next academic year. Find out more about the different training options and funding available, as well as that you might be able to teach more subjects that you had thought.

What are the different ways to become a teacher?

There are two different routes to qualifying to teach – university led training and school led training.

University led training has traditionally been the most common route. This is where graduates take a one-year postgraduate course (PGCE), which is a combination of university study and practical school based placements.

There are now a number of options for School led training, including a new Postgraduate Teaching Apprenticeship. These offer the opportunity to start your training ‘on the job’ in a school from day one, and some routes offer a salary. These are particularly ideal if you have some experience of teaching already or have some years of work experience.

The image below provides an overview into how the options differ. For find out more about each of them see:

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Graduate story: from QMUL to the Civil Service

fullsizerenderNiva Thiruchelvam, Law graduate

Niva Thiruchelvam (NT), graduated from QMUL with a law degree in 2003 and began her career with the Civil Service Fast Stream in 2007. Since then she’s had a variety of interesting and exciting jobs, from running Oliver Letwin’s office in the Cabinet Office to negotiating EU-level changes to Free Movement policy.

She spoke to Yasmine Hafiz (YH) about her career journey.

YH: How did you become interested in the Civil Service?

NT: I fell into a career in the Civil Service. I’d read law at QMUL, and the natural next step would have been to go to law school, and then to become a barrister or a solicitor, but that didn’t hit the spot for me.

While I thought about what I wanted to do, I took various jobs, including one in the then Department for Constitutional Affairs. It was an excellent introduction to the world of policy in the Civil Service, and I loved it. I’d never really thought about the huge amount of work that went on behind the scenes to make things happen – from the conception of an idea, through to legislation in Parliament, and so on.

I discovered that the Civil Service offered a wide range of roles within each department, and that really appealed to someone like me. It’s an ideal path for someone who’s interested in everything, so I applied for the Fast Stream and my Civil Service career began there.

YH: What kind of jobs have you had within the Fast Stream?

NT: My first Fast Stream role was in the Department for Constitutional Affairs (now Ministry of Justice), getting stuck into Scottish devolution and how Scotland’sconstitutional arrangements might be strengthened.  I helped to set up and support a cross-party, independent Commission reviewing Scotland’s devolution settlement.  As part of this, I led work on communications – this ranged from running town hall events in the most remote parts of Scotland to developing a media strategy that encompassed print, broadcast and social media and involved liaising with the political editors of the major Scottish newspapers.

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Guest blog: Practical advice on gaining medical work experience

Beginning the journey of applying to medical school is daunting. One of the most important things on your journey is arranging medical work experience – but where to start?

The Medic Portal engages with over 500,000 aspiring medical students each year – and here they provide some top tips on how to gain medical work experience!

  1. Work experience programmes

Find out if your local hospital has a work experience programme; if this is the case then it will be much easier to apply. Examples include Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital work experience programmeSome programmes have entry requirements, so make sure you read the instructions on the application forms carefully.

The programmes may allow you to choose a department, or allocate you to one that is suitable. They usually provide a structured timetable too, which can be very reassuring as you know what to expect.

  1. Hospitals, GP surgeries and beyond

Hospitals and GP surgeries can be notoriously difficult for securing placements. If there are no programmes available, you can try to contact them directly. The NHS recommends that you contact “human resources, voluntary services or education and training departments”, so have a look on the internet for the contact details for your local hospital. For a GP placement, you should address a letter or email to the Practice Manager.

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5 top tips for landing a training contract

  • Meet the law firms. Use firm open days and careers fairs to build a relationship with your potential future employer. It is important to introduce yourself to recruiters and ask educated questions. This will help you to stand out in the application process as well as gain a better understanding of the firm and what they are looking for in their candidates.
  • Make your motivations clear. Be able to explain why you want to pursue a career is law. Training contracts require an investment of both time and money from the employer. The firm will want to see that you have reflected on your career choice and have the drive and motivation to work hard and complete the traineeship.
  • Sit in on a court case. Internships, vacation schemes and job shadowing are great ways to gain legal experience and understanding. However, you can witness the law in action by simply observing cases in your local court. These observations can also give you interesting stories to talk about on application forms and in interviews.
  • Keep up to date with the news. Recruiters commonly ask candidates to talk about current events that relate to the legal areas in which they want to work (i.e. banking or corporate law). Pick at least two stories and follow them in the news. One trainee kept a notebook with clippings from her chosen news stories as they progressed. Another suggested reading articles from various sources to help your understanding of the story. For example, start reading short articles on the BBC news website. When you feel that you have a basic understanding of the issue read the more in-depth reports in the Financial Times.
  • Come to your interview with questions. Generally recruiters will give you the opportunity to ask questions at the end of an interview. Always bring a few thoughtful and well-informed questions to your interview. This shows your genuine interest in the firm and traineeship.

For more information about locating and applying for training contracts, we offer 1-2-1 appointments with a Law Careers Consultant. Call 020 7882 8533 to book yours.

Guest blog: Is project management the career for you?

4666Projects are performed by organisations in every industry and sector around the world. They enable organisations to change, grow, make better products or be more efficient. Project managers are vital to the success of such projects as they ensure the project is delivered on time, within budget and meets the expected objectives. 

Although a top tier role in terms of salary, it is surprisingly easy to get into and there is plenty of demand for project managers. However, competition can be fierce. Read on to get the facts about this exciting and challenging career!

What would I be doing?

Projects normally aim to increase growth, bring about change or increase efficiency. They can be performed not only to drive sales and deliver customer satisfaction, but also to improve the inner workings of an organisation. Projects also commonly take place in non-profit organisations, where the objectives will be humanitarian in nature.

Here are some examples of projects from different industries:

  • Building new social or private housing
  • Developing a piece of software
  • Creating an advertising campaign
  • A clean water project in a developing country
  • Organising a fundraising event or wedding

Project managers are responsible for the day-to-day management of such projects. Much like an admiral on a ship, they lead the project team through bad times and good, ensuring the project stays within budget and gets delivered on time. A project manager must also ensure the project meets its objectives and there would be administrative tasks to perform, such as risk and quality assessments.

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Student story: Louisa – Advertising Unlocked

Mother gives students a whole new definition of creativity

Louisa Dorothea Loehrig, MSc Marketing

Think BIG, thing TV, think attention-grabbing adverts that you can’t zap away. If you’ve lived in the UK (and not in a cave) you would’ve felt EPIC when seeing moneysupermarket’s Dave thrust his bubble butt whilst strutting in fabulous high heels,  unconsciously sang along to Boot’s iconic “here come the giiiiiiirls”, and/or thought about how you could become your own interior designer after falling in love with IKEA’s homey solutions. Meet the company responsible for all this: meet Mother.

Along with around 20 other students, I had the amazing opportunity to meet Mother in person – or in the many persons this company is. This was my chance to find out all about how exactly these masterpieces are created. Nothing, not even the miserable rain on the day, could dampen my excitement, and let me tell you – I was not disappointed!


After receiving a warm welcome, coffee and snacks, and taking in the impressive space, we sat down on the big concrete staircase, eager to learn what was to come. Katie Mackay, Mother’s joint head of strategy I was über eager to meet (not just to see her choice of outfit), kick started the event by giving an overview of the company. Pictures of employees’ proud mothers adorned the presentation and the walls next to us – a reminder, not only of the company’s mission to take care of projects as a mother would, but also to make their own mothers proud of their work.

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