Considering a career at the Bar - What you need to know
Updated: Apr 6
John Brannigan Advocate at the Scottish Bar shares his experience of devilling during lock down and his personal journey to the Bar. He demystifies the cost element of becoming an Advocate and provides detailed insight into the funding and scholarships available. He also provides a breakdown of the admission process and procedure for admission as an Intrant, and the Faculty exams. John completed a period of devilling between October - June 2021 and called to the Bar in June 2021.
A precis of the route to Admission The rules and regulations regarding admission to the Faculty are set out in the ‘Regulations as to Intrants’ guide which can be found on the Faculty’s website. I will provide a precis here of some of the main steps which have to be undertaken in order to be admitted as a Member of Faculty. Firstly, an applicant must apply to matriculate by mid-October of the year prior to that in which they hope to devil. In the same year as applying to matriculate, notice must be given to sit the Faculty exams. The exam period will then take place in February of the following year and there is a resit diet in May. Notice to resit, if required, must be given by 31 March. Once all exams are passed, by 30 June notice must be given that you intend to commence devilling (the Scottish equivalent of a pupillage in England and Wales) that year. There is one intake of ‘devils’ each year which begins in late September/early October.
Procedure for Admission as an Intrant
Let’s take a closer look at the steps which you require to take to become an Intrant.
The first step is to Petition the Court. This is purely a formal procedure and the
Petition will be presented to the Court through the Clerk of Faculty. The Court will
then remit the application to the Faculty of Advocates and an Intrant can then begin
to matriculate. Before matriculating, a prospective Intrant must present a certificate
of good character and provide references from two persons of standing in the
The Faculty Exams
This can be the most anxious step in the process, not least because it involves going
back to the days of hitting the books like a student.
As a student at University I elected to study Roman Law, Jurisprudence and
International Private Law. Some of my contemporaries did not and were required to
pass these exams in addition to the Faculty Exams.
There are four Faculty exams which are: (i) criminal practice and procedure; (ii)
criminal evidence; (iii) civil practice and procedure; (iv) civil evidence. The exams
require a degree of memory skills because it involves a demonstration of one’s ability
to identify and apply legal rules as well as demonstrating a command of case law.
One of the most common questions I am asked is, how much does it cost? There are
several costs involved at various stages along the route to being admitted as a
Member of Faculty. These are:-
(i) A Court Fee of £300 is payable on the Petition to the Court to be admitted
as an Intrant;
(ii) A fee of £150 is payable as the Fee for Matriculation;
(iii) Entry money of £850 is payable immediately before admission and
represents the Intrant’s capital contribution to the corporate facilities
provided by the Faculty for its members. This is also payable in
(iv) A fee of £150 + VAT is charged for every examination paper of which there
are four exam papers, as we looked at briefly, above.
On one view the biggest hurdle is that the 9-month period of devilling is unpaid. This
involves a substantial financial commitment, often requiring that the devil has behind
them some savings to tide them over during these 9 months. It can of course be a
struggle if one adds in commitments such as household bills etc.
However, the Faculty is conscious that lack of means during devilling may constitute
an obstacle to individuals who wish to practise as advocates. As a result, four
scholarships schemes are available to prospective devils: the Lord Reid Scholarship, the Faculty Scholarship, the Lord Hope Scholarships, and the new SCLR scholarship.
The Lord Hope Scholarship was launched at a conference of the Scottish Ethnic
Minorities Lawyers Association (SEMLA) in November 2018 and is funded by
contributions made by existing members of Faculty. In addition, one or more Faculty
Scholarships may be awarded each year.
The Lord Reid Scholarship is awarded in honour of the late Lord Reid of Drem, who
generously bequeathed sums to the Faculty with the intention that they be used for
educational scholarships. One Lord Reid Scholarship is usually awarded annually, to
the outstanding applicant.
The Scottish Council of Law Reporting (SCLR) is providing £5,000 for a scholarship
to support devilling (pupillage), which will be administered by the Faculty in tandem
with its own programmes.
The Lord Hope, Faculty and SCLR Scholarships have as their aim improving
accessibility to the Bar. Applicants must demonstrate sufficient ability to merit the
award, but greater weighting is given to those in financial need or to those from
groups currently under-represented at the Scottish bar.
The upshot is that there is financial support available and I would urge anyone
considering a career at the Bar to consider applying for a scholarship.
A little bit about my own journey to the Bar
It might be useful to finish off with a little personal insight from me of what I found the
process to be like. The period leading up to the Bar Exams was a period of study;
waking up earlier to study in the morning before work and then studying late at night
after work. It really felt like being a law student again! The matriculation process was
simply a series of formal, straightforward steps.
After all of these steps are completed and the devilling process begins, that is when the
feeling sinks in that you are about to join such an ancient, esteemed membership.
My devilling period was affected because of Covid-19. The majority of our course
was online but it didn’t affect the quality of the teaching and we were able to catch up
on all the missed opportunities to socialise once restrictions were lifted. It was a
fantastically rewarding period and one which both strengthened and honed by legal
skills, written and oral.
My first year as an Advocate has been more than I could ever have hoped for. Not
only have I quickly established a very busy practice but I have had the opportunity to
work with some of the country’s finest QC's in some high profile cases.
For anyone considering a career at the Bar, do it.
By John Brannigan, Advocate at Faculty of Advocates, Black Chambers
You can find more information about how to become an Advocate on the Faculty of Advocates website.
Views expressed in guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of The Scottish Lawyer.