Many students think that collecting their books and signing on the dotted line is all they need to do to prepare to do the BPTC. However, to give yourself the space to succeed on the course, you need to have made some preparations and put certain systems in place. Let me explain…
The BPTC Wheelie Case
Barristers used to carry big shoulder bags full of their books and briefs. Rucksacks were always frowned upon, as it was somehow “heroic” to strain the back on the way to and from court. Thankfully times have changed, and the advent of cabin compliant luggage has meant that the wheelie bag has become the portage of choice for many barristers.
Why should it be any different on the BPTC? You are going to get given lots of big, heavy books (Newsflash: the White Book is actually 2 huge hardback books and a paperback supplement!) and a stack of case papers (briefs for baby barristers). So you can either struggle during the first days of the course, trying to carry them all, or you can bring a wheelie bag. I leave the choice to you. But don’t hold me responsible for any backache or loss of height so caused; 100% contributory negligence!
A Student Oyster card
Public transport in London without an Oyster card can become very expensive. A regular Oyster card will save you money. If you are a student at a UK university, you can get a student Oyster card which will save you even more money on fares. You need your student registration number. You can find out more about the student scheme here: https://tfl.gov.uk/fares-and-
payments/adult-discounts-and- concessions/18-student Applications can be made online.
Plan out your journey to law school and have a plan B. Trains are delayed or cancelled, traffic can slow down buses, and even the Tube can go wrong. You need to have another route to get to law school when things go wrong.
Register at a GP practice
You may be in good health, but this is a worthwhile step to take. The Autumn term is a time when colds and flu get spread around the faculty. Attendance is compulsory, and you may need to get evidence from a doctor if you fall in and are in danger of missing lots of classes. Take the precaution of being registered from day one and you don’t have to worry should you get taken ill.
Get accommodation sorted for the duration of the course
You need to be able to devote your time to the hectic workload of the BPTC. You do not want to have a room or flat sorted for a month or so, only to find you have to move later on. It will be disruptive, you might end up missing classes, causing attendance problems. You might also lose books or notes when moving, which will be a disaster when you come to revision and consolidation. So make sure you have accommodation where you can bed down for the duration of the course.
Warn your family and friends the BPTC needs your full commitment
It is genuinely lovely that your family and friends want to spend time with you. You’re lucky. Mine… well, let’s not go there!
The BPTC has a very hectic workload. Also, the three big exams (the centrally set papers in civil litigation, criminal litigation and ethics) are demanding to prepare for; they are truly not exams you can cram for at the last minute.
So what I am advising is harsh, but necessary. Commit to the BPTC from September to June. Do not be tempted to go home over the holidays or study leave if you know that you will not be able to work when you go back. Family and friends often do not understand how much time and work you will need to put in. Or try to manage their expectations before you go home. Think about how susceptible to distractions you are.
You will need to organise the many books, manuals and case papers you receive from us. You should be thinking of making notes in your classes, too. It all adds up to a big pile of stuff. You need to organise it all, or you will lose things. You also need a coherent idea of what is going on day by day and week by week on the course. I will be addressing the issue of getting organised in a future blog post.
Those are my thoughts on the necessary preparations to make for registration day and the first week. I hope you find it helpful.
Good luck – and I look forward to meeting you all very soon!