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 oral 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

When does the Readers’ Course run?

The readers’ course runs for nine to ten weeks commencing around March and September each year. 
The March 2020 Readers' Course commences on Thursday 5 March 2020 and the September 2020 course commences on 20 August 2020.  

How much does the course cost?

The readers’ course fee for 2020 is $7,000.

When do I have to pay by?

Payment is due within three weeks after you have been offered a place in the course.

What can I expect during the course?

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 experts
  • Court and justice facilities, including visits to correction centres, and the courts

Is there assessment during the course that I have to pass?

The readers’ course is assessed through several moots & written work which take place throughout the course. Participation is mandatory. Assessment is on a pass or fail basis.

What if I don’t pass the assessment?

You will not be eligible to sign the Bar Roll. However, the readers’ course sub-committee may consider seeking a personal undertaking from you to do additional training during your reading period.

Is there anything I have to do before the readers’ course starts?

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.

 For further instructions, please refer to the September 2020 Preparation Checklist.

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) can defer their offer to the following course. Otherwise you may defer if the executive or chair of the readers’ course committee considers that the individual’s personal circumstances warrant a deferral.
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.

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 $500 administration fee. You will not get a refund after the course commences.

Do you allocate spaces to Indigenous lawyers?

Two free spaces will be reserved in the course each year for Indigenous candidates.


General Reading Period Information

All readers must have a mentor during their 9 month reading period (including 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.

What is a mentor?

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.

How do I get a mentor?

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 readers' course co-ordinator may be able to assist you. However, we strongly recommend you conduct your own inquiries before turning to us.

What should I look for in a mentor?

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!

When do I need to find a mentor?

You should begin thinking about a mentor around the same time you decide you will 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 reader’s course you should seek a commitment from your potential mentor as soon as you can.

What can I expect from my mentor?

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.

What happens at the end of the reading period?

You will need to move into your own chambers, or alternatively share chambers with another barrister. The bar offers chambers to barristers on a monthly tenancy basis and will assist you, through Barristers Chambers Ltd, (BCL) to find appropriate accommodation.

What is a senior mentor?

In 2000, the Bar introduced a senior mentoring scheme. A senior mentor is a barrister who is Queens Counsel (QC) or Senior Counsel (SC) who offers additional support and opportunities for the reader to expand their contacts at the bar.

How do I get a senior mentor?

By the end of the reader’s course all readers must have a senior mentor. If a reader is unable to arrange a senior mentor themselves the bar readers course co-ordinator, can assist you.

What can I expect from my senior mentor?

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.

How do I apply to a clerk list?

After you have received an offer of a place in the readers' course, you may apply to a clerk list. See guidelines for due dates and further information.