Criminal barristers have an interesting, challenging and rewarding job. They advise and represent people who are being faced with criminal charges and they spend a lot of time in the courtroom compared to people who are working as barristers in other specialisations. Criminal barristers usually work as part of a chambers, but some are self-employed. Legal directories such as the Legal 500 list particularly noteworthy barristers, like Michael Wolkind QC: http://www.legal500.com/firms/9410/offices/9410/lawyers/45489
Anyone can become a criminal barrister. The career is open to people who have a degree in any subject, but someone without a law degree would have to do a law conversion course before they started their professional training.
The first thing that someone would need would be either a law degree, or, if their undergraduate degree was in another subject then they would need to get the Graduate Diploma in Law (which is also known as the Common Professional Exam). Because Bar courses are so competitive, in most cases a 2:1 degree is a requirement.
After the academic qualifications, the student will need to complete the Bar Professional Training Course. This takes a year if it is done full time, but it can be spread over two years as a part time course. The final stage of qualification is a year of practice, or pupillage, which sees the trainee work under the supervision of an already qualified barrister.
There are many institutions which offer the Graduate Diploma in Law. This course covers legal methods and research skills, and offers students the opportunity to focus on a specialist legal topic. The Bar Professional Training Course is an intensive course. There are some scholarships available from Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, the Middle Temple and Inner Temple but these scholarships are highly competitive.
The pupillage is paid, but the rates of pay are fairly low, with the minimum required salary being just £12,000 per year. The pupillage is divided into two six months periods, with the first six months being non-practicing while the student learns and observes the experienced barrister. Students are advised to apply for a pupillage before they begin their BPTC, and they are allowed to apply to up to 12 organisations. After the application window ends, interview offers are sent out, and final offers will be made a few months later. Competition for pupillage placements is fierce, and there are usually three applicants per place, so it is a good idea to apply during the first round, and to spend a lot of time honing the application to highlight both academic ability and personal strengths.