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 and written advocacy and legal practice skills, Readers are taught ethics, forensic skills, how to run a sole practice, marketing and analytical skills, practice building and development.

The purpose of the Bar Readers’ Course is to enable Readers to successfully transition to life at the Bar. Before starting the Course, Readers must be admitted to practice and have passed 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.

 

About the Course

Overview

The Course is an example of the excellent working relationship between Bench and Bar, showcasing the collegiality of our Bar and the enormous contribution that members of the judiciary make to the education of members of the Bar.

It 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.

During the Course, Readers are exposed to the 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, developing coherent case theories, anticipating and resolving 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, and observe different styles of advocacy.

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.

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 manage their practice, from emphasising the importance of independence and excellence when providing legal services, to the nuts and bolts of building and maintaining relationships with clients, solicitors, clerks, colleagues, the Bar and the wider community.

The Readers’ Course provides a unique opportunity to develop the skills to come to the Bar, make mistakes in a supportive environment, receive constructive feedback, and make lifelong friendships.

Readers 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 specialists and sessions with some of the Bar’s most entertaining and engaging advocates
  • Forensic decision making, including lectures and workshops on exercising good judgment, and reasoning to avoid bad judgment
  • Ethics and conduct, including sessions from leaders of community organisations and senior barristers who approach topical issues such as direct briefs, risk management and dealing with difficult clients
  • Practice building and development
  • Understanding the culture of the Bar, the expectations of conduct and what to do when things go wrong, and
  • Court and justice facilities, including visits to correction centres and the courts.
     

Assessment and Feedback

The Readers’ Course is assessed through several moots and written work which take place throughout the Course. Individual feedback from experienced judges and barristers is provided in the form of verbal and written advice for each assessment task and during practice exercises. Oral advocacy is assessed twice and six written tasks are to be submitted.

Participation is mandatory and all assessment is on a pass or fail basis. Successful completion of assessment is a precondition to signing the Roll of Counsel.

Preparing for the Course

If you are currently a practising lawyer you must undertake that, before the date of commencement of the Readers’ Course, you will:

  • remove your name from the letterhead and business name of your former practice, and
  • surrender your current practising certificate.


Documents Required

As part of your application, you will need to provide all of the following:

  • National Police Record Check (certified copy) issued within the last three months by Victoria Police
  • Certified copy of Disclosure Affidavits (or equivalent document) you have provided to the relevant regulatory authorities in the State in which you practice or relevant overseas jurisdictions for the purpose of being admitted
  • Certified copy of your Admission Certificate
  • Certificate of Fitness (or equivalent document) from any State or Territory of Australia, or overseas jurisdiction that you have been admitted to practice and/or have practiced in
  • Written Statement setting out any facts or matters you wish to be considered in light of disclosures you are making that will support your application to sign the Bar Roll, and
  • Any other materials that will support your written statement.

As these may take some time to retrieve and certify, it is recommended you apply for these with the relevant bodies as soon as possible to avoid delays.

Please refer to the September 2020 Preparation Checklist (updated approximately 12 weeks prior to each Course).


Applying to the Lists of Barristers’ Clerks

To ensure equity, Barristers’ Clerk guidelines have been adopted by agreement between all the Victorian Barristers’ Clerk Lists and the Victorian Bar Inc.  After you receive an invitation to register your place in the Readers' Course, you may apply to a Barristers’ Clerk List in accordance with the guidelines.

For more information, visit the Barristers’ Clerks webpage and refer to the guidelines for timelines and due dates.

Applications for places on Lists at the Victorian Bar September 2020

Clerking Regulations 2020

Duration and Costs

Two Readers’ Courses are held each year and run for approximately nine weeks each. 

 

Important Dates

2020

2020 September Readers’ Course

20 August – 22 October 2020

 

2021

2021 March Readers’ Course

4 March – 6 May 2021

2021 September Readers’ Course

19 August – 21 October 2021

 

Course Fee

The fee for 2020 is $7,000 inc GST.  The fee for 2021 is yet to be finalised.

Candidates who receive an offer can expect to be invited to register for their Course about 12 weeks prior to the commencement.  Payment in full is due within three weeks after Course registration has opened for each intake.

Reading Period

All Readers must have a mentor during their nine-month reading period (commencing from the start of the Readers’ Course).

During the reading period, 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.

It is up to you to approach the barrister who you would like to be your mentor. If you have difficulty in securing a mentor, the Course co-ordinator may be able to assist you. However, we strongly recommend you conduct your own inquiries before turning to us.

You should begin thinking about a mentor around the same time that you decide to sit the Readers’ Course Exam. Some mentors are very popular and will need to be approached early. Once you are offered a place into the Readers’ Course you should seek a commitment from your potential mentor as soon as you can.


What to look for in a mentor

When seeking a mentor, consider the following:

  • Choose a mentor who works primarily in the practice area in which you are interested in practising.
  • 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!
Mentoring

Mentors

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.


Mentors’ responsibilities

Your mentor is responsible for setting you up with an appropriate workspace in their chambers, for showing you around the Bar, 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 obvious your questions feel. Your mentor is your first point of call to assist you.

Your mentor will likely introduce you to other barristers and solicitors in your chosen field. Depending on your and their workload, 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 Readers’ 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.


Senior mentors

In 2000, the Bar introduced a senior mentoring scheme. A senior mentor is a barrister who is a Queens Counsel or Senior Counsel who can offer additional support and opportunities for the Reader to expand their networks at the Bar.

By the end of the Reader’s Course, all Readers are expected to have a senior mentor. If a reader is unable to arrange a senior mentor themselves the Bar Readers’ Course co-ordinator can assist.


Senior mentors’ responsibilities

A senior mentor will provide another source of advice and networking opportunities for the Reader. They do not take over any of the functions of the primary mentor. Senior mentors and Readers are encouraged to keep in regular informal contact.

Frequently Asked Questions

I have passed the Exam and been offered a place in the Readers’ Course. Can I defer the date I’m due to start the Readers’ Course?

Applications for deferral may be made to the Bar Readers’ Course co-ordinator.

People who have contractual notice periods in excess of nine weeks (for example partners at law firms and university professors) or have personal circumstances that may warrant a deferral may apply to defer their offer to the following Course.

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 register and re-sit the Exam.

 

I am a very experienced solicitor advocate. Is it possible to be exempted from some aspects of the Readers’ Course?

No. The whole Course is compulsory. Even solicitor advocates face a steep learning curve over this time.

 

What if circumstances arise during the Readers’ Course that prevents me from completing the Course?

Seek advice from the Bar Readers’ Course coordinator as soon as you are able. The Readers’ Course committee or its executive will need to agree on an outcome related to your personal circumstances.

 

I have paid for the Readers’ Course but now I want to withdraw from the Course. Can I get a refund?

If you withdraw before the commencement of the Course, your fees will be refunded, less a $600 administration fee. No refunds are available after the Course commences.

 

Do you allocate spaces to Indigenous lawyers?

The Bar is committed to increasing the representation of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islanders at the Bar. Two complementary places are reserved in the Course each year for Indigenous and Torres Strait candidates. Eligible applicants should contact the Bar Readers' Course coordinator.