Becoming a barrister will soon cost law graduates up to £127,000, according to new calculations by one of the UK’s most high profile lawyers. Will this huge price tag put off poorer students from pursing a legal career?

Chantal-Aimee Doerries, the new chair of the Bar Council, has warned that the sky-rocketing cost of qualifying as a barrister “creates a huge social mobility challenge” for the legal profession. She voiced concerns that the huge cost of training could put off talented wannabe lawyers from poorer backgrounds, reversing progress on diversity and social mobility. In an interview with the Guardian, Doerries added:

“For students starting at university this year, the cost of qualifying as a barrister could approach £127,000. I hear from the junior bar that practising barristers paying off debts of between £40,000 to £60,000 is by no means uncommon [but] those figures are for individuals who completed their undergraduate degrees before higher tuition fees were introduced.”

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Graduate Fog has written before about the plight of the UK’s law graduates, as the number of training contracts has dwindled, leaving young people with large debts and little chance of finding a paid job that fits their qualifications. This problem has been brewing for some time. As far back as 2012, top barrister Michael Todd warned that “Law schools are not giving students an accurate picture of their chances,” adding: 

“It remains a great concern that law schools continue to produce far more graduates than there are pupillages available. This will do nothing to help the diversity and social mobility vital to ensuring our profession represents the society is serves.”

Doerries’ calculation of £127,000 is higher than previous estimates. It is based on an undergraduate who, as many do, initially takes a non-law degree from a London university then goes on to a graduate diploma in law conversion course followed by a bar professional training course (BPTC) qualification, also in London. BPTC courses can cost up to £19,000. 

The overall figures include costs for accommodation, subsistence and tuition fees over five years. Annual living costs in the capital, based on National Union of Students calculations, are about £13,000.

The equivalent for those studying outside London is likely to be only slightly lower, the Bar Council estimates, at about £111,000. How much of that total expenditure will have been converted into debt will depend on each individual student’s funding. 

How worried are you about your student debt? Are you struggling to make your degree pay off? What are the biggest problems that law graduates face when joining the job market?

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