Bar Readers' Course
The Victorian Bar Readers' Course is recognised for its comprehensive approach to introduction to life as a barrister. Beyond world-class oral & written advocacy and legal practice, readers are taught ethics, forensic skills, how to run a sole practice, 'soft skills', marketing and practice development.
The Bar Readers’ Course runs for a total of 9-10 weeks. The objective of the Bar Readers’ Course is to enable readers to effect a successful transition to life at the Bar. All readers have successfully completed law degrees as well as the Bar’s entrance exam. Some will have previously practised extensively as solicitors, while others will have had limited experience of legal practice.
The course assumes knowledge of core legal principles, including the subject matter that was tested in the entrance exam. It aims to build on this existing base of knowledge with an intense and challenging focus upon the particular skills demanded of specialist advocates.
A Comprehensive Course
During the course, readers are exposed to the entire anatomy of court and trial practice, including out-of-court preparation, interlocutory appearances, opening and closing addresses, the examination and cross-examination of witnesses, legal argument and submissions. Emphasis is placed upon the importance of forensic and strategic thinking, the development of coherent case theories, the anticipation and resolution of evidentiary issues, and effective and persuasive communication both orally and in writing.
A major part of the course comprises oral exercises, moots and mock hearings, giving participants the opportunity to develop, practise and hone oral advocacy skills, observe different styles of advocacy, and receive feedback from experienced judges and advocates. The oral advocacy component of the course is assessed twice. Successful completion of the final assessment is a precondition to signing the Roll of Counsel.
Another significant component of the course is dedicated to the development of written skills, including pleadings, affidavits and submissions. Participants are required to submit a number of written exercises, which are reviewed by experienced members of the Bar giving detailed feedback.
Rules of ethics and principles of good conduct are central to the work of barristers. The importance of adherence to those rules and principles in practice, and learning how to deal with ethical issues when they arise, are recurrent themes in the course.
Barristers are sole practitioners, responsible for running their own businesses. The course assists in preparing participants to conduct their own practice, from emphasising the importance of independence and excellence when providing legal services, to the nuts and bolts of relationships with clients, solicitors, clerks, colleagues, the Bar and the wider community.
The course is comprised of a mix of lectures, workshops, interactive sessions and exercises, led by judges, magistrates, and experienced counsel who generously volunteer their time and expertise to provide the best possible introduction to life at the Bar. The course is a fine example of the excellent working relationship between Bench and Bar, and showcases the collegiality of our Bar.
The readers’ course provides a unique opportunity to develop the skills to come to the Bar, make mistakes, receive constructive feedback, and make lifelong friendships.
Frequently Asked Questions
The March 2020 Readers' Course commencement date is Thursday 5 March 2020.
Students can expect intensive training in:
- Oral advocacy, including interactive workshops and mock trials held in real court rooms
- Written advocacy, including drafting exercises for pleadings, affidavits and outlines of submissions
- Effective communication, including workshops from trained actors and sessions with the Bar’s most entertaining and engaging advocates
- Forensic decision making, including lectures and workshops on exercising good judgment, reasoning to avoid bad judgment and a session on detecting deception.
- Ethics and conduct, including sessions from community organisations and senior barristers who approach topical issues such as direct briefs, risk management and dealing with difficult clients
- Practice development, including advice from expert marketers, clerks, and one-on-one sessions with a business coach
- Court and justice facilities, including visits to correction centres, and the courts
If you are currently a practising lawyer you must undertake before the date of commencement of the readers’ course to:
- remove your name from the letterhead and business name of your former practice; and
- surrender your current practising certificate.
Preparation Checklist for Readers - September 2019
Candidates can make an application to defer no further than to the next readers’ course. If the candidate seeks deferral beyond this date they will need to re-sit the exam.
All readers must have a mentor during their reading period.
For the seven months following the readers’ course, your primary place of business will be in your mentor’s chambers, which you shall occupy rent free while you receive briefs and build your practice.
General Reading Period Information
According to the reading regulations, a mentor must:
- not be a Queen’s Counsel or senior counsel at the commencement of the reading period;
- must be in active practice and a member of the Victorian Bar; and
- must have no less than 10 years standing on the Bar Roll by the end of the reading period.
Some barristers and clerks we have spoken to suggest the following:
- Choose a mentor who works primarily in the practice area that you are interested in practising in
- Choose someone you have briefed and enjoyed working with, or who comes recommended by other solicitors or barristers
- Find out whether the potential mentor will be available to oversee your reading period
- Choose someone who has a compatible personality with yours – you will be seeing a lot of each other!
Your mentor is responsible for setting you up with an appropriate workspace in their chambers, for showing you around the facilities and introducing you to other barristers. Operating in an “open door” environment, your mentor is your first point for advice on your briefs, no matter how basic that advice is or how silly your questions feel, your mentor will attempt to assist you.
Your mentor will likely introduce you to other barristers and solicitors in your chosen field. Depending on your work load, they may also involve you in their work – perhaps you will read some of their briefs or undertake preparatory work in some of their matters. This work should not interfere with your own briefs and should not take place until you have completed the reader’s course (which is your top priority for your first two months at the Bar).
You should not perform administrative work or run errands for your mentor.