New Route to Becoming Barrister in England and Wales

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is considering significant changes to the requirements for students pursuing bar vocational courses in the UK. The proposed changes aim to eliminate the current requirement for students to have obtained a lower second class degree before starting bar vocational training.

Under the new proposals, law schools would be allowed to admit students with lower degrees or those without a degree at all. The decision on whether an aspiring barrister is ready to start vocational training would be made by individual training providers, considering a holistic view of the student's training, experience, and academic record.

The proposed modifications are planned to take effect from September 2025, subject to approval from the Legal Services Board. The BSB acknowledges the risk of training providers being either too stringent or not stringent enough in their approach to admissions, and measures may be taken to ensure a balanced process.

The changes would not compromise the principle of maintaining high standards, as a threshold of competence would still need to be met. The move is driven by a desire to simplify and modernise the approach to academic legal training and remove unnecessary barriers to entry into the legal profession.

Additionally, the proposed reforms suggest removing the existing time limits for completing a law degree within six years and commencing vocational training within five years of graduating. The aim is to create a more flexible system.

Potential benefits of the reforms include a positive impact on applicants from Black and Asian backgrounds, as research indicates that graduates more likely to achieve a lower degree classification are often from these backgrounds. The changes may also simplify the process for overseas graduates and remove barriers for women, carers, and individuals with long-term medical conditions who may currently need to apply for time limit exemptions.
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