More about the Reading Programme

Reading Programme

A lawyer must complete the Bar exams before taking out a (reader's) practising certificate.

On taking out a practising certificate with conditions, the legal practitioner is termed a 'reader'. The reader embarks on the Reading Programme, which has as a major element, the Bar Practice Course.

The period of reading commences on the issuance of the practising certificate with conditions attached, and continues for at least 12 months.

During the 12 month period, the reader remains under the supervision of at least one experienced barrister, who is called a tutor. Depending on the reader's progress, the conditions on the practicing certificate are lifted during the 12 month reading period.

Legislative and administrative framework

A New South Wales lawyer who takes out an initial barrister's practising certificate is called a reader.

Legislation and rules of particular relevance to readers are the following:

Legal Profession Act 2004

New South Wales Barristers' Rules (particularly Rules 112 and 113)

Prior to the commencement of reading and the Bar Practice Course, the lawyer must have been issued with a practising certificate. Conditions will attach to this certificate.

Conditions imposed by Bar Council on the reader's practice

The Legal Profession Act 2004 empowers the Bar Council to attach conditions to practising certificates. 

Readers must comply with all the conditions attached to the certificate.

Period of the initial (reader's) practising certificate

In most cases, the initial reader's restricted practising certificate will not cover a full twelve month period. Accordingly, before 30 June of the current practice year, most readers will be applying for a further readers' practising certificate.

Certificate of fitness to practise under an unrestricted practising certificate

For most readers, at the end of their twelve month reading period, the tutors will have completed and returned to the Professional Development Department the 'Satisfactory completion of reading' form so that the reader will be entitled to a practising certificate that does not have readers conditions attached to it.

With the 'Satisfactory completion of reading' form in hand, the Director of Professional Development will be able to advise the Bar Association's Certification Officer that a practising certificate may be issued. There is no additional fee for this practising certificate. This practising certificate runs for the remainder of the current practice year. At the end of that practice year, the former reader is then in a position to apply for a further practising certificate, provided that CPD and relevant statutory requirements have been met.

Failure to complete all requirements within 12 months

Readers who have not completed all of the requirements within 12 months from the issuance of their initial practising certificate constitute a special case. These barristers may be entitled to a further conditional practising certificate. They should write a detailed letter of explanation to the Director of the Professional Development Department explaining why such a further conditional practising certificate should be issued in their case.

Where a reader is considered by The Bar Council to need further particular assistance, the conditions may be extended at the discretion of The Bar Council.


Applications for exemption from the Reading Programme, or any part thereof. should be directed to the Executive Director, in writing, detailing grounds for exemption supported by a curriculum vitae and two professional references.

Specific guidelines for application are not provided.  All applications are judged on their merits.

Full or partial exemptions are more likely to be given to an applicant who has practised as a barrister, for more than two years, in another state or country, than in other cases.

Full exemptions are seldom given.  It is the view of the Bar Association that the roles of solicitor and barrister differ to the extent that even experienced solicitors will benefit from all aspects of the Reading Programme.  In addition, the Bar Practice Course is a major part of the induction to the Bar and is not simply a skills course.