Education and training of barristers
The centre for the education of barrister in Ireland is the Honorable Society of King’s Inns, founded in 1541 during the reign of Henry VIII. It is the oldest institution of legal education in Ireland and was modelled on the four Inns of Court in London. Unlike the UK, there is only one Inn of Court in Ireland, and so the overwhelming majority of barristers in Ireland are products of King’s Inns.
Other members of the Irish Bar have also trained abroad, either at an Inn of Court in London, or in other jurisdictions, or previously practised as solicitors and converted to practise at the Irish Bar. Completion of the King’s Inns training gives rise to what is known as the Barrister-at-Law degree, usually depicted by the abbreviation BL.
Upon qualification, a newly qualified barrister must work for a period of at least one year with an established barrister, commonly referred to as a ‘Master’, to become acquainted with court work, preparation of cases, legal documents and so on. This is commonly known as ‘devilling’, and the devil, or pupil, does not receive any fee for this work. Further information on education and training to become a barrister is available at www.kingsinns.ie
1. Academic stage
Students must undertake and pass an approved law degree or the King’s Inns Diploma in Legal Studies.
Full details of approved courses for the purposes of direct access to the Degree of Barrister-at-Law at King’s Inns can be viewed here.
Full details of the Kings Inns’ Diploma in Legal Studies can be viewed here
2. Vocational stage
Students must undertake the one-year full-time, or the two year-modular (part-time), Degree of Barrister-at-Law at King’s Inns. You can only be admitted to this professional course after you have completed an approved law qualification and satisfied the entry requirements for King’s Inns, which include passing an entrance examination.
Read more about the Barrister-at-Law Degree here.
Historically termed ‘devilling’, Pupillage is the final stage of training to qualify as a practicing barrister, in which practical training is supervised by an experienced member of the Bar who is listed on the Register of Masters maintained by The Bar of Ireland.
The aims of pupillage are:
• to prepare pupils (who have been called to the Bar) for practice at The Bar of Ireland,
• to develop further the knowledge, skills, and experience gained at the vocational stage of training,
• to develop further proficiency as an advocate,
• to develop the pupil’s professional and ethical approach to practice as a barrister, in accordance with the Code of Conduct.
• to establish the skills of professional practice as an independent barrister;
• to give experience in matters in which pupils are likely to be briefed during the early years of practice, and
• to build skills and experience that will enable them to handle more complex matters in the future
• to prepare pupils to take responsibility for their own professional development and practice.
All members must complete a minimum of 12 months continuous pupillage.
More information on the requirements of Pupillage is available in the Master-Pupil Guidelines.
When you have completed these three stages you will be admitted to practice by the Chief Justice of Ireland and will be eligible to become a member of the Law Library.
The first year of your practice must be spent as a pupil (also known as a one-year ‘pupillage’) with an approved Dublin-based practitioner. You must complete a New Practitioners Programme provided by The Bar of Ireland during this year, in tandem with your work with your Master. Undertakings must also be given in respect of certain areas of practice. You must also have professional indemnity insurance.
During the year of pupillage (also known as “devilling”) the pupil or devil must carry out their master’s instructions and learn about the nature of professional practice. During this year, the pupil is not paid.
You must apply to The Bar of Ireland to become a member of the Law Library before the 30th June of the year in which you intend to begin your practice. Once a barrister becomes a member of the Law Library they are free to take up work in their own right, and to start to build up a practice.
For further details in respect of applying to The Bar of Ireland and finding a Master, see our First Time Applicants section.
Specially qualified applicants
Qualified lawyers from outside Ireland and Irish solicitors who wish to practise at the Bar in Ireland (be a member of the Law Library and The Bar of Ireland and work as a barrister) should consult the King’s Inns website here.