The University of Law, London
Number of places: 240 FT, 48 PT
The University of Law (until 2013 known as the College of Law) is validated to offer the BPTC at its London (Bloomsbury) and Birmingham branches. Students can also opt to study for a top-up LLM after the course.
The Bloomsbury branch is less flashy and imposing than its Moorgate sibling, where many LPC students head; it nevertheless houses recently refurbished IT rooms and a revamped cybercafé. Its location near the courts is also desirable. Sources at the branch described its “buzzy atmosphere – it's bang in centre of the west end, and we now run all of the courses here, so there's lots of inter-program mixing.” Full-time and part-time weekend study options are offered and teaching is delivered via small-group sessions of no more more than 12 students, each of which last three and a half hours.
Key at UoL is the integration of skills and knowledge, with classes following the litigation process. In criminal litigation, for example, students begin by learning about an offender’s rights in the police station and how to make a bail application. Later, they can unleash their inner QC in a mock trial at the Inner London Crown Court or Blackfriars Crown Court. Practitioners play the judges, while trainee police officers make the experience even more realistic. Although the BSB no longer requires compulsory court visits, UoL has retained them and expects its students to report back on their experiences. It has also introduced more multimedia resources such as podcasts and video recordings. These online resources supplement learning and cover niche aspects of procedure such as appearing in youth courts. It is UoL's aim to “go above and beyond what the BSB require,” and so students here receive 34 hours of advocacy training, and the ethics component of the course is taught as a discrete module, in order to “really get those essential qualities which make up a barrister across. It's not like being a solicitor where you can rely on a firm more for guidance – as a barrister you are an individual.”
Students come from a variety of universities, and the most successful go on to a variety of pupillages. Prospective students should note that UoL expects applicants to demonstrate a commitment to studying at its institutions in addition to looking at academics and relevant work experience. This means it’s important to rank it first if it’s your top pick. Its careers service – one of the largest in the country – orchestrates an 'employability program,' which offers the usual CV and application advice plus mock interviews, career workshops, a mentoring scheme with practitioners and a speaker programme. Panel discussions with practitioner have, in the past, been streamed as an interactive ‘webinar’ so absent students can participate. Students can consult a database of mini-pupillages and also seek help from staff. Tutors are all qualified lawyers – one is a QC – and maintain their links with the profession by returning to practice over the summer months. With one day off a week, full-timers can take advantage of a “huge number” of pro bono opportunities include FRU and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; this can also be practised as an option on the BPTC (there are nine options in total). There are several mooting and mock trial sessions and competitions, while those on the mediation elective can contend in the ‘Plea and Mediation Competition’. If students have any time left, UoL is known for its array of sports and social events.
The University of Law, Birmingham
Number of places: 134 FT, 36 PT
Located in the historic Jewellery Quarter, UoL Birmingham welcomes a small set of students onto its BPTC course. UoL is the only BPTC provider in the West Midlands, and since its opening in 2007, the centre has gone from strength to strength. A new wing was added and the library extended in 2010. In 2011 a part-time course was made available at this centre in addition to the full-time study option, and has “been going really well” so far. The course itself is taught in exactly the same way as it is in London, and there are great extracurriculars on offer as well, including assisting with the Birmingham Employment Rights Advice Line, The Refugee Council, the Trades Union Congress and Leasehold Valuation Tribunal service. A representative of UoL added that “even if students are based in Birmingham, they will still have access to all of our national resources; our employability and careers programmes, our databases etc...” The law school organises a series of talks from barristers and judges where students can pose questions on their practice and network at drinks events afterwards.
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