Entry and training for barristers in the Republic of Ireland

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

Qualification as a barrister takes place in three stages: the academic stage, the vocational stage and the training contract stage.

The academic stage

This refers to the primary degree that the barrister holds.

The vocational stage

The Honorable Society of King’s Inns is the body that provides education and training for those wishing to become barristers. It runs the Barrister-at-Law degree, the only professional practice course for barristers in the Republic of Ireland. The course is full time and lasts one year.

Law graduates with an approved degree are entitled to apply for a place on the Barrister-at-Law degree course. Law graduates must have studied several compulsory subjects. If they do not have this experience, they must pass an examination in the omitted subjects in the Society’s Diploma in Legal Studies course.

Law graduates must also sit an entrance examination, which covers various aspects of law. More information is available from the King’s Inns office.

Non-law graduates with an approved third-level degree are eligible to apply for a place on the Diploma in Legal Studies (two years part time). Graduates of the Diploma can then apply to sit the entrance examination for the Barrister-at-Law degree.

Some places are allocated to mature applicants (over 25 years old) who have a level of experience and/or education which is deemed acceptable to King’s Inns. They first need to sit an examination.

To be eligible to be called to the Bar, students need to:

  • Pass the Barrister-at-Law degree
  • Comply with the provisions of the Legal Qualifications Act (1929)
  • The Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Act 2008 requires attendance on a course in Irish language, but there is no subsequent examination
  • Submit a declaration to the benchers.

Training contract

Newly qualified barristers have to train with an experienced Dublin-based barrister (Master) for a minimum of one year following their call to the Bar. This is commonly known as ‘devilling’. The work is unpaid and forms the essential learning period where they have an opportunity to apply their knowledge in a practical setting. Masters usually allocate a lot of background research, and much of the training period is spent drafting documents. The barrister accompanies their Master to court and observes the skills applied in the courtroom.

Many newly qualified barristers train with a different Master for a second year. If they plan to attach themselves to a circuit outside Dublin, a second year of devilling in their chosen circuit is essential. A longer traineeship not only enables them to consolidate their learning but it also expands their network of solicitors.