Your questions answered
How can I find out more about training to be a barrister?
There is useful information on the website of the Bar Standards Board, which can be found here.
From 2019 there have been some reforms to the way in which the different components of training (academic, vocational and pupillage/work based learning) may be delivered. More information appears on the BSB website. Fountain Court only provides training in relation to the pupillage/work based component of qualification for the bar.
A detailed breakdown of the specific competences which will be covered during pupillage can be found at pages 30-41 of the BSB’s curriculum and assessment strategy, which can be found here. (marked ‘P’).
Is financial support available to pupils in advance of the start of the pupillage year?
Yes, Chambers is prepared to advance up to £20,000 from a pupillage prior to starting pupillage.
I am currently a solicitor in the UK. How do I go about transferring to the Bar?
Fountain Court welcomes applications from appropriately qualified solicitors who meet our pupillage criteria. A number of members of chambers qualified as solicitors before undertaking a pupillage at Fountain Court.
Fountain Court encourages transferring solicitors to make their applications through the Pupillage Gateway.
In order to transfer to the Bar practising solicitors will need to take the following steps:
- Obtain an original Certificate of Good Standing from the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority which is no more than 3 months old as at the date of the application referred to in (2) below. Obtaining such a certificate may take some time so candidates are advised to do so in advance.
- Submit an application to the Bar Standards Board Qualification Committee together with other supporting documents. The relevant application form and guidance may be obtained from the Bar Standard Board’s webiste.
- Upon considering the application, the Bar Standards Board Qualification Committee will indicate which sections of the Bar Transfer Test the candidate is required to complete prior to being called to the Bar. Transferring solicitors are usually required to complete the Advocacy and Professional Ethics papers.
- The Bar Transfer Test is delivered by BPP Law School on behalf of the Bar Standards Board and the timetable for taking the test is available here.. The test is usually held at least twice a year in April and August/September. A separate application needs to be submitted (usually by July for the August/September sitting) to complete the Bar Transfer Test.
- Once you have received your letter from the Bar Standards Board Qualification Committee, you will also need to make an application to be called to the Bar by one of the four Inns of Court. Details of the application process are contained on the website of each of the Inns. You must be called to the Bar before you begin the practising component of your pupillage (the second six).
Fountain Court is able to provide successful candidates with support throughout the process of transferring to the Bar.
What are my prospects of tenancy at Fountain Court Chambers?
A candidate will only be offered pupillage if we consider that he or she has real potential to be a tenant in these Chambers. We do not operate a quota system and pupils are not placed in competition one with another. We will make offers of tenancy to all pupils who meet the relevant standard, irrespective of space and room arrangements, and in recent times we have taken on all our pupils in a given year. Tenancy offers are usually made in June or July of each year. Where a pupil is not successful in obtaining tenancy but intends to pursue a career at the Bar we recognise our responsibility to them and support them in doing so. A number of our recent former pupils are now practising successfully in other Chambers undertaking high-quality work.
What is life like as a junior tenant?
Junior tenants at Fountain Court Chambers undertake a mixture of led work (working together on a case with a more senior barrister, often also from Fountain Court) and unled work (where the junior barrister is the most senior barrister on the case). This means that a junior tenant’s caseload is very diverse as they are likely to be working on very significant commercial litigation at the same time as handling much smaller, discrete matters on their own. Fountain Court Chambers strongly encourages its junior tenants to undertake as much of their own advocacy work as possible in the first few years of practice, so as to hone their advocacy skills and get experience ‘on their feet’.
It is a distinguishing feature of life as a junior tenant (as opposed to, say, life as a newly qualified solicitor) that the individual barrister has both a great deal of responsibility from a very early stage and the ability to manage their workload and practice in line with their own commitments and preferences. There are no set working hours, no fixed holiday limits and it is often possible to work from home – all of which gives a junior tenant at Fountain Court a flexibility in their working life which is seldom found in the early stages of other professional roles.
Whilst our junior tenants work hard, and their clients will expect them to produce work of the highest standard, this work is carried out within an environment which is friendly and supportive. Fountain Court Chambers operates a mentoring scheme for junior tenants in the early years of practice whereby they are designated a more senior member of chambers who meets with them regularly to discuss how the junior tenant’s practice is developing and to discuss in confidence any concerns that the junior tenant may have.
For further perspectives, see the section on Fountain Court People – some mini-biographies
What financial support does Fountain Court Chambers offer new tenants?
We can offer loans to new tenants to ensure that they receive an income at least equal to the amount of their pupillage award during their first year of tenancy, however in recent memory it has never been necessary to do so.
Also, new tenants are not required to share the expenses of chambers administration. Contributions are proportionate to income so the senior members of chambers pay the greater part of the costs. During their first year of practice, tenants may be asked to undertake a modest amount of pro bono legal work instead, for example, for voluntary or charitable organizations.
Is additional training available to new tenants?
As well as our in-house training programme, and the advocacy programmes run by the Inns of Court for pupils, Fountain Court Chambers encourages and pays for new tenants to attend the week-long Advanced Advocacy course run by the South-Eastern Circuit at Keble College, Oxford.
In summary, what are the equality and diversity policies at Fountain Court Chambers?
We are committed to promoting equality and diversity and recognize the under representation of women, black and ethnic minority and LGBTQ+ people both in Chambers and at the wider commercial bar. We wish to recruit the best people from the widest possible group of talent and we are involved in a number of programmes that seek to widen the pool of applicants at the commercial bar, including the Combar Scholarship Scheme, Pathways to Law, the Sutton Trust and the recently established Women at the Commercial Bar initiative ( see article in The Times about this here). We have robust polices and procedures in place to ensure that there is no discrimination against clients, members, pupils and prospective pupils, or staff on grounds of gender, race, sexual orientation, age, disability and religion or belief. Chambers full equality and diversity policy can be found here.