The King’s Inns Barrister–at–Law professional vocational degree course is aimed at enabling students to acquire the skills, knowledge and values required in order to be fit to practise at the Bar. Persons undertaking the course not only have a duty to their profession once they commence practice, but to the administration of justice in the state, to society and to their future clients: the course is structured to reflect that imperative. It is important to note that deeming a person fit to practise at the Bar is not solely a question of that person achieving a fixed educational standard. That determination also involves a general assessment of fitness and probity.
The Barrister–at–Law degree is the professional stage of training for the Bar of Ireland. While the majority of graduates go on to practise as barristers it should be noted that many do not choose such a career path. The skills acquired and honed during the degree course are transferable and relevant not only to practice at the Bar but also to broader career development within the public or private sector as well as to life in general. Some examples of such skills include communications skills, advanced research and analytical skills, problem solving and time management.
The degree course can be undertaken either as a full–time one–year course or as a modular two–year course. The aim of the course is to enable students to acquire and develop the skills, knowledge and values in order to become an effective member of the Bar. It is practical and interactive and is intended to bridge the gap between the academic study of law and practice at the Bar.
The syllabus covers the following subjects and activities:
1. Remedies and Quantum
2. Practice and Procedure:
- Civil Practice and Procedure
- Criminal Practice and Procedure
3. Legal Skills:
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
- Opinion Writing
- Legal Research
4. Ethics, Professional Responsibility and Practice Management
5. Participation in Mock Trials
6. Attendance at Courts, Tribunals and Other Specialist Bodies
7. Advanced Study of Specialised Areas of Practice (students have a choice of subjects from which they must choose two)
Options currently available include:
Employment Law; Company Law Litigation; Immigration & Asylum; Family Law; Landlord & Tenant and Conveyancing; Planning & Environmental Law; Advanced Irish; Alternative Dispute Resolution.
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 groups of sixteen with the emphasis on student exercises and group work based on realistic case papers. To prepare students fully for practice, King’s Inns focus on providing high levels of face–to–face tuition. Nothing is a substitute for personal guidance from professionals so we ensure that students put the knowledge gained regularly into practice under expert supervision. During the mock trials all students take part in a civil and criminal trial. These trials are heard in the Four Courts and in the Criminal Courts of Justice with members of the judiciary or senior counsel acting as judges. Students are given numerous opportunities to practise and receive feedback in the workshops and are expected to participate in all classes.
Attendance is compulsory and is strictly monitored. 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 who undertake the course have a duty not only to themselves, but to the justice system as a whole, to their Pupil Masters and to their future clients. In order to successfully complete the course a student must have attended at least 90% of all classes. The course is delivered solely by qualified barristers from practice.
Full–Time one year Course
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. Classes
take place between 09.00 hours and 17.15 hours every day from Tuesday to Friday during term time. Court visits and specialist courses are timetabled on Mondays. On occasion, speakers and other events may be
organised after classes. Assessments take place in terms two and three.
Modular Two–Year Course
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 take place between 09.00 hours and 17.15 hours on approximately 14 weekends during the academic year (on average every second weekend). With regard to
assessments, while the final assessments take place in year two, the formative assessments (and these are only in four subjects) are held in year one.
Further Relevant Information
Admission to the degree of Barrister–at–Law
Upon successful completion of the degree course, a student may be admitted to the degree of Barrister–at–Law. Usually, there are two admission ceremonies during the year: mid–July and mid–October. Both ceremonies take place in King’s Inns.
Call to the Bar
To be eligible to be called to the Bar, a person must have:
- submitted a satisfactory declaration to the Benchers, (form available here).
- been admitted to the degree of Barrister–at–Law
- complied with the provision of the Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Act 2008 by completing a compulsory, but non–examined, course in Irish terminology and the understanding of legal texts.
The call to the Bar by the Chief Justice usually takes place in mid–July and mid–October in the Supreme Court.
Irish: Legal Practitioners (Irish Language) Act 2008
Under the provisions of the legal Practitioners (Irish language) Act 2008, all students on the Barrister–at–Law degree course must undertake a compulsory course in Irish legal terminology and the understanding of legal texts. There is no accompanying examination or assessment to this course but attendance is compulsory.
The wider application of the skills acquired
The degree course is designed to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge for practice at the Bar. However, the skills acquired on the course are relevant to numerous other careers:
The skill of advocacy is readily transferable and applicable to employment outside the Bar and is invaluable for anyone whose work requires communication and presentation skills (whether it is making a speech at a conference, putting forward proposals to prospective clients or presenting an argument at a meeting). Techniques taught on the advocacy course include:
- constructing a logical argument
- pitching an argument at an appropriate level,
- knowing how to combine written argument with oral persuasion,
- using voice and manner to one’s best advantage,
- effective questioning,
- dealing with interruptions and questions.
A consultation is the term used by the Bar for a meeting with clients. The purpose of such consultations is to find out the necessary information, to advise clients on their legal situation and on the decisions they will have to make and then to further advise the clients once they have made their decision as to how they might wish to proceed. During consultations, the skills part of the training comes into play by providing techniques for dealing with diverse people in a range of situations and:
- by extracting information quickly and logically,
- by understanding the merits of different questioning techniques,
- by challenging people without losing their trust,
- by explaining complicated concepts clearly, simply and accurately.
3. Alternative Dispute Resolution
During this module, students will examine the various forms of dispute resolution which are available, before moving on to examine mediation and arbitration in detail. Students will be required to advise clients in problem–based scenarios and must be familiar with legislation and case law in this important area.
4. Opinion Writing
Students are trained to present pertinent and succinct analysis of a case, to extract and distil the core issues, to research as necessary and to advise on the
best course of action and the most likely outcomes. Both opinion writing (written analysis and advice) and consultation (oral analysis and advice) enable students to extract what is relevant from a mass of unstructured information, to assess the situation, to take responsibility for advising on the best course of action and to explain that advice clearly, logically and professionally.
The skills acquired during the drafting part of the course enable students to draft documents that are clear, precise, accurate and succinct.
6. Case Preparation
Case preparation and analysis is a skill that has many applications. It involves the analysis of fact, conclusions, assumptions, inferences or argument. The quality, reliability and the source of information must be identified, separated and deployed to achieve the objective of the exercise. Students learn to cope with volumes of information and to:
- extract and distil the core issues,
- formulate objectives,
- build strategy and argument.
Testimonials from Past Students