We recently spoke with David Heaton, an Australian graduate studying the BCL at Oxford University and looking to begin a career at the English bar. Following on, we’ve talked to a barrister at a leading London commercial set, whose route into practice shares many similarities with David’s. Below we discuss his experiences of qualification, pupillage and the English bar.
Australia to the BCL
Having gained combined degrees in Law and History in Australia he was accepted to study the BCL (Bachelor of Civil Law) at Oxford University. Choosing practice-focussed modules such as restitution, insolvency and civil procedure, he found that the content of the course did not differ greatly from study in Australia, and as expected, in areas such as contract and tort the overlap was considerable.
Most significantly he notes that while he may not have been familiar with all the cases, studying across two commonwealth jurisdictions the method of common law is the same, with commonalities in the manner of approaching and reading cases.
His route post-graduation has been varied, his qualifying as a solicitor at a magic circle firm before transferring to the bar. Having previously completed qualifying training at an Australian solicitors’ firm, he undertook the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT, now replaced by the QLTS), which enables internationally qualified lawyers to qualify in England. A move to the bar was made easier by becoming a solicitor advocate, gaining higher rights of audience.
Having satisfied the BSB that he had “ticked all the boxes” he was called to the bar. He did not complete a formal pupillage; rather he undertook a shorter pupillage, equivalent to a six-month placement, a requirement imposed by chambers as opposed to the Bar Standards Board (BSB).
While chambers have differing approaches to would-be pupils in this position, many offer a reduced period of pupillage separate from their normal pupillage process.
Having qualified in both Australia and England, what does he plan to do next?
Though family ties link him to Australia, he believes that the environment of chambers and the professional opportunities, in terms of the scope, amount and quality of work offered in London, are unmatched elsewhere.