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What you should or should not wear and do during your BPTC advocacy exam

Leave the 'kinky boots' at home. Source: Shuttestock

Barrister hopefuls in the UK reportedly stand to lose points if they attended their advocacy assessments wearing any of the following: “colourful socks”, “short skirt”, “undone jackets”, “kinky boots”, etc. The list goes on.

The long list of do’s and don’ts issued to Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students also itemises the various conducts deemed as “offences of professional conduct”, according to the highly-descriptive document for students at BPP Law School obtained by law blog Legal Cheek.

Students can lose between one to three points if they are caught “swigging from bottles” (as opposed to only drinking water from the cups provided), having their “hands in their pockets” while addressing the judge or “calling the judge the wrong name”.

“Severity here is determined by how long the hand is in the pocket, and whether it is one or both hands.”

Under the penalty system, male students with their “jackets undone” will lose one point – it further adds that “Ideally, men’s jackets should be DOUBLE BREASTED or 3-PIECE”. Those with “inappropriate shirts” or “inappropriate ties” will lose between one or two points “depending on severity”.

For women, wearing “kinky boots” will dock them two points. However, they are given more sartorial freedom when it comes to footwear compared to men – men are allowed only black shoes but women are allowed navy. Any other “coloured shoes” will lose them two to three points, again “depending on severity”.

“Boots with short skirts” will be penalised three points as “this is an inappropriate combination for court”.

Beyond the clothes and shoes they put on, general appearance can be penalised as well. A “generally poor” appearance (ie. “scruffy” hair or “dirty” clothes) or “inappropriate” jewellery can stand to lose you precious points.

An example of what will not fly for the exam. Source: Shutterstock

The BPTC is a postgraduate course that prepares law graduates to be named and practise as barristers in England and Wales. According to the Bar Professional Training Handbook 2016-17, students have to undertake one advocacy assessment, comprising both oral and written components. This makes up 9 percent of their total BPTC grade.

Two further oral assessments (examination-in-chief; cross-examination) make up 8 percent each of their total BPTC grade. They must pass both assessments in order to be called to the Bar.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, a BPP spokesperson explained that the list was “indicative guidance only to the sort of dress and behaviour which could adversely affect the advocate in court, and could, therefore, be penalised in a BPP assessment”.

He added: “Our students dress conservatively and smartly for their advocacy classes and indeed for the assessment, and this is good preparation for practice.”

“It is exceptionally rare that any student is ever penalised in an assessment for any of the infringements listed. The list has not been revised for a long time, and will be reconsidered before the next publication.”

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