A-level subjects

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The Bar Council: The route schools

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When choosing A-level subjects, it is important for you to consider the subjects that will provide you with the best foundation to succeed in your university degree and subsequent career training. Being a barrister requires high levels of in-depth analysis, which is often best learned from taking more traditional A-level subjects. The combination of A-levels can be an important aspect of your application. Consider those courses that are both of interest to you and that will challenge you academically.

Subjects that are not considered ‘core’ A-levels for competitive university admission may be considered likewise by Chambers. For example, while many school students take A-level Law because they believe it will add to their law application, this subject does not necessarily add to an application if you do not have the basics in other areas, such as English, which is needed to excel in legal careers. In addition, certain law degrees may require you to have an understanding of specific subject matter. For example, if you are considering a university degree course in combined language and law, it may require an A-level in that specific A-level language for admission.

School grades

You will also, of course, need to work hard to achieve the best grades possible. Aspiring barristers should focus on getting the best grades in challenging subjects that are of interest to them. Your ability in those courses could not only affect your chances of receiving an offer of a place at university, particularly at the most selective universities, but also your professional progression in a range of careers later in life.

The Bar is a competitive profession and you will need to demonstrate that you have excelled academically in your school and at university. Some Chambers and Employed Bar institutions look back to your school grades to assess your application compared to the many other outstanding applicants.

Increasing competition has meant that the majority of pupillage positions are offered to those with at least an upper second class honours in their undergraduate degrees and high A-level grades. Chambers may consider exceptional candidates outside this range but you should remember that you will be competing with those of high academic merit.

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Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram - why I became a judge

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Extra-curricular activities

Demonstrating a passion for the legal profession through extra-curricular activities is important, particularly if you wish to show that you have ability that is not demonstrated in your grades. In school, you should consider voluntary activities that demonstrate your passion in law and advocacy. Chambers will want to see that you are well-rounded and can apply your learning to practical situations. You might like to think about starting up a debating or mock trial team at your school and competing in regional or national events. 

You could also get involved with activities that will build on your presentation and speaking skills, such as drama or public speaking. This will help you to make sure that a career as a barrister is right for you.

For more information, see the Bar National Mock Trial

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