Entry and training for barristers in Northern Ireland

The steps you must take before you are called to the Bar in Northern Ireland.

Qualification in Northern Ireland takes the structure of the academic, professional/vocational and traineeship stages.

Academic stage

This refers to the primary degree that the barrister holds.

Vocational stage

The Honorable Society of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland is the professional body which governs the education, training and admittance of barristers in NI. This responsibility is partly delegated to the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, a part of Queen’s University Belfast.

The Institute of Professional Legal Studies is responsible for training barristers and solicitors in Northern Ireland. The Institute offers a one-year, full-time postgraduate vocational training course for trainee barristers. Bar trainees must spend four weeks working in a citizens’ advice bureau or law centre and one week shadowing a barrister prior to starting their certificate course.

The Institute admits 25 Bar trainees each year. Pressure for places is intense and competitive. Unsuccessful applicants often successfully re-apply the following year. Applicants must hold a recognised law degree. Core subjects must include: constitutional law, criminal law, contract, tort, land law, equity, evidence and European law.

Applicants must sit a written admissions test in mid-December. Students must apply to sit this test by 15 November of the previous year. Late applications are not accepted.

Students may apply for the Bar and solicitor trainee courses at the same time but must indicate their order of preference. Bar and solicitor trainees largely receive the same training, with some small modifications.

It is essential for Bar trainees to apply for admittance to the Inn of Court before starting the course.

To be called to the Bar students must:

  • Have a law degree of 2.1 honours standard or higher, or equivalent.
  • Have graduated from a recognised Bar vocational training course.
  • Complete and sign a Memorial and Undertaking.
  • Submit two certificates of good character.

Pupillage (traineeship)

All newly qualified barristers must spend a minimum of twelve months training with an experienced barrister. The new barrister must complete at least six months of pupillage before taking a brief on their own. The barrister assists and learns from their Master in the same way as in the Republic of Ireland.