Degree of Barrister–at–Law
Page last updated: Tuesday, March 14, 2023
What is the Degree of Barrister–at–Law?
The degree of Barrister–at–Law is a professional vocational course leading to:
- A highly–skilled professional qualification that bridges the gap between the academic study of law and its practise;
- Becoming a barrister member of The Honorable Society of King’s Inns, entering the Register of Members of the Society; and
- Eligibility to be called to the Bar in order to practise as a barrister in Ireland;
- Eligibility to be entered on the Roll of Practising Barristers, maintained by the Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA); and
- Eligibility to become a subscribing barrister member of King’s Inns, joining a lifelong community of barristers and access to many benefits that enhance your career prospects.
The degree of Barrister–at–Law is a professional vocational course, aimed at enabling students to acquire the skills, knowledge and values required in order to be fit to practise as a barrister.
Practising barristers play a key role in the administration of justice, a role that requires appropriate legal knowledge, legal skills, professional competencies, and personal attributes. Clients are entitled to expect newly qualified barristers to embody these attributes and to possess the relevant competencies. The degree of Barrister–at–Law course is structured to reflect that imperative.
Those interested in becoming a barrister are encouraged to read the Statement of Competencies of a Barrister. This statement outlines the knowledge, professional skills, and personal attributes required to be a competent practising barrister.
Becoming a Barrister
Admission to the degree of Barrister–at–Law professional course is by Entrance Examination, which usually takes place in August in each year. To be eligible to apply to sit this examination, an applicant must hold either an approved law degree/approved postgraduate diploma or the Diploma in Legal Studies from King’s Inns. List of approved qualifications and other information relating to the Entrance Examination can be found here.
A student who successfully completes the degree of Barrister–at–Law course at King’s Inns is eligible to be admitted to the degree of Barrister–at–Law by The Honorable Society of King’s Inns and added to the Register of Member of the Society. They are also entitled to be called to the Bar by the Chief Justice of Ireland with a full right of audience before all courts in the State and to practise as a barrister independently. As a result, King’s Inns teaches and examines the degree of Barrister–at–Law course to a “fit to practise” standard. (Note: candidates must also submit satisfactory declarations.)
Prospective students are encouraged to read the Education Rules and the Professional Code of Conduct of the Society.
Lawyers from other jurisdictions and solicitors on the Roll of Solicitors in Ireland, that wish to apply to transfer to the degree of Barrister–at–Law, please visit our Specially Qualified Applicants page.
Admission and Call to the Bar
Usually, there are two admission ceremonies during the year: mid–July and mid–October. Both ceremonies take place in King’s Inns.
If you intend to be called to the Bar by the Chief Justice of Ireland, this ceremony usually take place a few days after your Admission. This event usually takes places in the Four Courts in Dublin.
Practising at The Bar of Ireland / Law Library
If you intend to practise as a barrister in Ireland, many join The Bar of Ireland and continue on their journey as a barrister practising as a member of the independent referral bar there. Information on pupillage (historically known as devilling), finding a Master and how to join the Law Library can be found on The Bar of Ireland website.
King’s Inns plays no formal role in assisting students to secure pupillages. However, students can avail of informal support from coordinators and tutors in relation to the process of identifying and approaching a Master. Pupillage is also discussed in practice management sessions on the course. Throughout the year, King’s Inns organises events, including Dining, where students meet Benchers and invited barristers (who practise within and outside the Law Library) and have informal opportunity to discuss career development, including pupillage.
Practising outside The Bar of Ireland / Law Library
Many graduates choose not to practise at the Bar and continue their journey of being a barrister outside the Law Library, in different legal professions and other industries such as education, policy and communications. The degree of Barrister–at–Law is a highly–sought after qualification.
Read the alumni stories interviews with our member relations officer, which showcases the different professions our members work in.
Who is the Course For?
While most graduates go on to practise as barristers in Ireland or other jurisdictions, it should be noted that many choose to follow other career paths outside independent legal practice. The skills acquired and honed during the professional course are not only relevant to practise as a barrister within The Bar of Ireland (also known as the Law Library) or in other legal roles. The skills are also transferrable to a range of sectors including communications, politics, the public sector, education, and policy.
You will be expected to learn in a way that may be very different from your educational experience to date. You will be asked to take control of your learning, engage, participate, and prepare thoroughly. This is a professional course designed and delivered by an expert teaching team with experience in the learning outcomes you will be required to achieve. You will work hard and be held to high standards. In exchange, you will develop skills that will benefit you in your future career – whether you intend to practice as a barrister or in one of the many other exciting and rewarding roles occupied by graduates of this course. You will be required to attend class. This course is comprised of building blocks and is not suitable for self–study. The course involves a high level of teaching hours.
“I learnt a great deal from talking with and listening to the people I met at the part–time course at King’s Inns. There were people undertaking the course from all walks of life – banking, trade unions, government, etc. I gained great insights from them. We still communicate regularly as a group and it’s truly invaluable to have such a diverse group of comrades to be able to confer with.”
Hazel Smyth BL, Legal Counsel at SurveyMonkey’s European Headquarters in Dublin. Read Hazel’s alumni interview with our member relations officer here.
The course enables students to acquire and develop the skills, knowledge and values to become an effective member of the Bar. It is practical, interactive and bridges the gap between the academic study of law and practise at the Bar.
Students who undertake this course are expected to have very good IT knowledge and skills with good typing abilities. You must have access to a high–performing laptop with inbuilt webcam and microphone, and a reliable internet connection. Please note, some classes take place online via Zoom and some assessments are carried out using a laptop. See further details below.
Each year, the course attracts a range of mature students and professionals across Ireland and even further afield. Some examples of the skills you will develop on the course include communications skills, advanced research and analytical skills, problem–solving and time management.
What Subjects are Covered on the Course?
The syllabus covers the following subject areas:
- Foundation Course
- Civil Practice Course
- Criminal Practice Course
- Ethics, Professional Responsibility and Practice Management
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Irish Legal Terminology
- Intensive advocacy
- Advanced Study of Specialised Areas of Practice – students have a choice of subjects from which they must choose one
During the course, students will develop an in–depth knowledge of practice and procedure in relation to civil and criminal matters. Students will develop skills and will be assessed in amongst other areas):
- Advocacy (including contested advocacy and witness handling)
- Legal Research
- Opinion Writing
- Practice and Procedure
Students have the option to do this course as two years modular part–time or one year full–time. The course is run through a hybrid model where modules are delivered in–person at King’s Inns, with some modules taking place online. A higher percentage of the modular course takes place via online delivery, taking account of the fact that modular students are more likely to live further afield and to have additional professional commitments.
King’s Inns has identified modules suitable for online delivery and only those sessions will be delivered online. If classes take place in–person, these classes cannot be offered online to those who cannot attend. Classes in–person are designed to be interactive and the same level of preparation and participation is regardless of whether a class is taking place in–person or online.
Classes are broken into three terms that coincide with the legal year: Michaelmas, Hilary, and Easter. Course timetables will be shared with applicants during the summer for the first term.
All teaching material is shared with students via our Virtual Learning Environment (Moodle). Students are given access to an Office account, King’s Inns Library and a variety of online legal databases. Online tutorials and IT support are available to help students navigate their way through our Library and legal resource databases.
When do Classes Take Place?
Modular (part–time) two–year course
Course Introduction Session: Late September – Date to be confirmed
- This course takes place over two academic years, each of which begins in October and runs over three terms ending in late May or early June.
- Classes occur between 9 am and 5.15 pm on approximately 16 weekends during the academic year – on average, every second weekend.
- The final assessments take place in year two (13 assessments). The formative assessments (4 assessments) in four subjects are held in year one. Assessments are held primarily on weekdays, as are mock trials.
- Students who do the part–time course usually maintain full–time positions.
Full–time one year course
Course Introduction Session: Late September – Date to be confirmed
- The full–time course takes place over one academic year beginning in early October, and runs over three terms ending in late May or early June.
- Court visits and classes are timetabled on Mondays. It is compulsory to attend these.
- Classes in civil and criminal practice occur between 9 am and 5.15 pm every day from Tuesday to Friday during term time.
- On occasion, speakers and other events may be organised after classes or on Saturdays.
- The final assessments take place in terms two and three (13 assessments). The formative assessments (4 assessments) in four subjects are held in December. Assessments are held primarily on weekdays, as are mock trials.
- This course is a full–time commitment, It is strongly discouraged to try to combine this course with employment amounting to a substantial time commitment. Full–time work is not compatible with the course load, and part–time work would need to be chosen carefully around the timetable and other course commitments.
What Happens in Class?
It is essential that all barristers are able to work effectively and independently. The teaching and learning methods on the degree of Barrister–at–Law professional course are designed to encourage and assist you in developing the skills that you will need in order to enter professional practice.
“Being a student in King’s Inns was something I would never have dreamt about. But, seeing my family look on as I was called to the Bar of Ireland by the then Chief Justice of Ireland, The Hon. Ms Justice Susan Denham, I just cannot put it into words. That day I walked into the Supreme Court of Ireland as a dad. That evening I was a dad with an education.”
DARREN LALOR BL, A PRACTISING BARRISTER BASED AT THE BAR OF IRELAND. READ DARREN’S ALUMNI INTERVIEW WITH OUR MEMBER RELATIONS OFFICER HERE.
Throughout the course, teaching and learning focus on what happens in practice. The programme is demanding with extensive preparation required in advance of each class. Classes are taught almost exclusively in small groups of sixteen with the emphasis on student exercises and group work based on realistic case papers. Some sessions, such as intensive advocacy, are taught in even smaller groups to ensure that students have time to practise the skills required.
All classes are interactive and you will be expected to undertake a number of different types of exercises including advocacy, negotiation, opinion writing, drafting and consultation.
To prepare students fully for practice, King’s Inns focuses on providing high levels of face–to–face tuition. Nothing is a substitute for personal guidance from professionals. We ensure that students put the knowledge gained regularly into practice under expert supervision. Students are given numerous opportunities to practise and receive feedback. During the course all students take part in civil and criminal mock trials. These trials are heard in the Four Courts with members of the judiciary or senior practitioners acting as judges.
As the aim of the course is to enable students to acquire the skills, knowledge and values required in order to be fit to practise at the Bar. It is imperative that students, upon graduating, have the requisite competence. Students are expected to attend 100% of the classes.
How are Students Assessed?
The types of assessment you will undertake on the professional course will be different from those undertaken during the previous, academic phase of your education. Assessments on the course are designed to test students in the core competencies of a barrister. The mode of assessment depends on the skills or knowledge component being assessed.
Assessment methods are carefully tailored to the skill / outcome required of a student; for example, for the skill of witness handling, a student is required to take a witness (played by an actor) through their evidence in either examination–in–chief or cross–examination, and the assessment is filmed. By contrast, drafting is assessed by way of a timed, open book written examination in which students must type their answer, as they would if drafting in practice.
Member Relations at King’s Inns
All students undertaking the degree of Barrister–at–Law professional course automatically become a subscribing Student Member at King’s Inns, on the condition that your tuition fees are paid in full at the time specified upon enrolment.
The Benchers of King’s Inns gift this subscription to students to help them at the beginning stages of becoming a barrister. You are encouraged to participate in as many benefits and extra–curricular activities as possible.
This membership gives you a number of benefits:
- Student Member Access to the King’s Inns Library
- A gift of 10 nights of Dining during your studies from the Benchers of King’s Inns*
- Access to member social events, talks and conferences
- 10% discount on renting a car park space at King’s Inns
- 10% discount on the use of King’s Inns as a venue
- 10% discount on professional development courses (Advanced Diplomas)
*Whether you decide to go and practise at The Bar of Ireland or in other Jurisdictions or decide to use your skills as a barrister as in–house counsel, in academia, communications or policy, forming allies with your peers is key. Dining at King’s Inns helps student members to make connections and break bread with your mentors and future colleagues. Dining for students is deemed compulsory to qualify as a barrister. This requirement is set by the Benchers as they see this custom one of the richest experiences available at King’s Inns.
Once you qualify as a barrister, you are entitled to an 80% discount on our usual ‘practising’ membership rate in your first full year as a barrister. Barristers who go on to practise at The Bar of Ireland are automatically a subscribing member, as a subvention to King’s Inns is included in your subscription fees to The Bar of Ireland.
Visit our membership page for further information.
Extra Curricular Activities
Students can also attend optional court visits and take part in mooting and debating competitions inside the School of Law and at national and international level. Both modular and full–time students are invited to participate in competitions. Training sessions are scheduled in the evening time or weekends. Please see our Mooting and Debating page for further information.
LSDSI is King’s Inns student society. Degree students are welcome to participate in its yearly activities and help organise events throughout the year.
Students can also take part in sporting events and other activities like our online book club, AND BREATHE wellness activities, and a fun ON THE MOVE fitness challenge we run during the first term of the academic year.
The Teaching Team
All lecturers and tutors have impressive qualifications, including LLMs and PhDs from reputable universities.
As coordinators and tutors are also qualified barristers, they have a keen understanding of how the law works in the real world. All members of the teaching team have extensive teaching experience.
Learn more about our teaching team here.
Admission as a student to the degree of Barrister–at–Law course is by an entrance examination, which usually takes place in August each year. To be eligible to apply to sit this examination, an applicant must hold either an approved law degree/approved postgraduate diploma or the Diploma in Legal Studies from King’s Inns.
All details about the entrance examination requirements and process can be found here.
Grants, Fellowships and Bursaries
Fellowship and Bursary information along with application forms can be viewed here.
Our degree of Barrister–at–Law professional course qualifies for postgraduate funding under Student Universal Support Ireland (SUSI). Only students interested in doing the course full–time can receive SUSI support. This requirement is set by SUSI, not King’s Inns. View SUSI details here.
There is a non–refundable application fee of €600, which includes the Entrance Examination fee. See further details here.
Payment of the total tuition fee is over one or two years depending on enrolment. Payment options for the course are set out below. The part–payment options incurs a facilitation fee. If you choose the part–payment option, the facilitation fee is automatically added to your fee–payment schedule on the Application Portal.
Modular (part–time) two–year course
- Tuition Fee Option 1 (Payment in Full): €6,280 a year (total tuition fee – €12,560)
- Tuition Fee Option 2 (Part Payments): €3,500 and €3,000 a year (total tuition fee – €13,000)
Full–time one year course
- Tuition Fee Option 1 (Payment in Full): €12,560 – one payment at the start of the course
- Tuition Fee Option 2 (Part Payments): €6,500 and €6,280 paid over the course of the year (total tuition fee – €12,780)
You should view the fee structure, payment terms, and other charges here.
If you have any questions about the Entrance Examination or the degree of Barrister–at–Law professional course, contact the Office of the Registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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