25 November 2017

Frequently asked questions

General

What is "Future Bar Training"?

The Future Bar Training (FBT) programme is our programme for change, focusing on the future of education and training for the Bar.

The programme was initiated to reflect our adoption of a new, less prescriptive approach to regulation, and also in light of recommendations made in the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR, published in June 2013).

In March 2017, we made a decision to authorise a limited number of alternative training routes for prospective students to qualify as barristers. The aim of the new approach, once the changes have been made, is to encourage an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession both now and in future.

For more information on our new approach, please see our 'Future ways to qualify as a barrister' page.

 

Which elements of education and training are you looking at?

We are reviewing all of the current elements of education and training for the Bar.

This comprises:

  • academic requirements;
  • vocational (BPTC) requirements;
  • pupillage requirments;

Why are you making changes to education and training for the Bar?

We are making changes to education and training for the Bar in order to:

a)  Adopt a less prescriptive approach to regulation, focusing on risk and outcomes.

Risk - in the future, we will focus our attention on addressing matters that present the greatest regulatory risk.

Outcomes - We will focus on what barristers require to practise effectively. This will involve careful reassessment of the knowledge, skills and experience that a barrister needs in order to offer a proficient service to the clients they will serve on first entering practice, whilst responding effectively to the core duties of their profession.

b)  Implement the recommendations of the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR).

The LETR presented a view that, in general terms, training for the Bar is currently effective in delivering the knowledge, skills and other attributes required for current practice. However, it identified a number of aspects that might be improved, and expressed a particular concern that the anticipated rapid changes in legal service delivery were at risk from a system of training that was not equipped to adapt.

c)  Improve access to the Bar

Encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession is one of our regulatory objectives, set by the Legal Services Board (LSB). We are determined to make sure our regulations do not prevent candidates from the widest range of backgrounds from training to be a barrister.

d)  Meet the requirements of the LSB

We have designed the outcomes of our Future Bar Training programme to meet the requirements of the Legal Services Board (LSB), as laid out in their Statutory Guidance. These requirements recommend that:

  • education and training requirements must focus on what an individual must know, understand and be able to do at the point of authorisation;
  • providers of education and training have the flexibility to determine how to deliver training, education and experience that meets the outcomes required;
  • standards are set which find the right balance between what is required at the point of authorisation and what can be fulfilled through ongoing competency requirements;
  • regulators should strive to balance obligations for education and training between the individual and the entity, both at the point of entry and ongoing;
  • regulators should not place inappropriate direct or indirect restrictions on the numbers entering the profession.

What is the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR)?

The LETR was commissioned to identify challenges in ensuring that England and Wales has a legal education and training system that advances the regulatory objectives contained in the Legal Services Act 2007, in particular the need to protect and promote the interests of consumers and to ensure an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession.

The review examined regulated and non-regulated legal services.

The LETR was jointly commissioned by:

  • the Bar Standards Board (BSB);
  • the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA);
  • the Institute of Legal Executives Professional Standards (IPS).

For more information,  read the LETR report.

How will Future Bar Training improve access to a career at the Bar?

We want to remove unnecessary regulations and facilitate alternative pathways to qualification.

As part of our review of education and training for the Bar, we are paying particular attention to access issues which may prevent or restrict prospective learners from starting or completing the academic, vocational and pupillage requirements of training.

In addition to equality and diversity issues, we are assessing other potential risks to equal access, which may include the structure, cost and delivery methods of current arrangements.

Once we fully understand the risks relating to access, we will be able to implement regulatory changes which address them.

When will the changes take place?

We have already begun making changes to training at the Bar in order to implement the recommendations of the LETR and the requirements of the LSB. For example, the following changes have already been implemented:

  • in September 2015, we introduced our Professional Statement setting out the knowledge skills and attributes that all barristers must possess to be a practising and competent barrister;
  • in September 2016, we published the Threshold Standard and competences, which support the Professional Statement;
  • in January 2017, we introduced new CPD requirements for all experienced practising barristers; and
  • in March 2017, we decided that from 2018, we will authorise a limited number of alternative routes for prospective students to qualify as barristers. For more details see our 'Future ways to qualify as a barrister' page.

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Professional Statement

What is the Professional Statement?

The Professional Statement describes the knowledge, skills and attributes that all barristers should have on 'day one' of practice (i.e. upon the issue of a full qualification certificate, on which basis they may apply for their first full practising certificate).

It is being used to inform the review of all current elements of education and training for the Bar. 

The Professional Statement is supported by Threshold Standard and barrister competences. You can read the full Professional Statement Professional Statement for Barristers Incorporating the Threshold Standard and Competences on our website.

What are the competences?

Competences have been defined for each knowledge, skill and attribute. Barristers must demonstrate all of the competences in order to evidence that they have the knowledge, skills and attributes specified in the Professional Statement.

The competences are sufficiently comprehensive to encapsulate the breadth of the requirements of barristers on 'day one' of practice. They have been written to be concise, assessable and suitable to act as an umbrella for training pathways and learning outcomes to be developed and used by educators, training organisations and pupil supervisors.

What is the threshold standard?

The threshold standard is the minimum standard to which the competences must be performed on 'day one' of practice. Newly qualified barristers will aspire to higher standards but must meet the minimum standard.  Standards are also incorporated within the competences, and therefore the threshold standard and the competences must be read together.

It is important that the threshold standard is set at the right level for barristers on "day one" of practice. The threshold standard must protect clients, preserve the trust and confidence which the public places in the profession and facilitate the administration of justice, whilst recognising that a newly-authorised barrister cannot be expected to work at the same level as one who has practised for some years. The LSB's Statutory Guidance on Education and Training requires that regulators set standards that "find the right balance between what is required at the point of authorisation and what can be fulfilled through ongoing competency requirements".

Who are the Professional Statement, threshold standard and competences for?

The Bar Standards Board: They will assist us in maintaining standards of both those entering practice and those providing education and training. We are using them to inform the development of alternative pathways to qualifications and the assessments that we control.

Those involved in the design and delivery of education and training for the Bar: They will be used to inform the development of education and training materials and pathways.

Aspiring barristers: Clearly understanding the competences that must be achieved in order to be authorised will help aspiring barristers make informed decisions about their future development.

Practising barristers: The Professional Statement, threshold standard and competences describe the essential knowledge, skills and attributes that they should expect of themselves and their peers and the minimum standard that they must adhere to. They do not replace the Code of Conduct, and all barristers must continue to comply with the regulations set out in the BSB Handbook, which will remain the sole reference point for disciplinary matters.

Consumers: The Professional Statement, threshold standard and competences may be used to inform an understanding of the barrister's role and the service a consumer can expect to receive. Complaints will continue to be dealt with under the Code of Conduct or the Legal Ombudsman.

 

Continuing Professional Development

Please note that we have a full list of FAQs relating to barristers' CPD requirements within the CPD section of our website.

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Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)

What changes might be made to the BPTC?

For the immediate future the current BPTC will continue in its current form, at least in the short term, to provide training until new arrangements are in place.

For more information please see our 'Future ways to qualify as a barrister' page.

I have just completed the BPTC. What does this mean for me?

If you have already completed the BPTC, your qualification remains valid.

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Pupillage

What changes might be made to pupillage?

We have been consulting extensively about whether or not to change the requirements for pupillage. In 2015, our consultation looked broadly at current professional requirements (currently fulfilled by pupillage). It considered:

  • the way in which current professional requirements may or may not contribute to the achievement of the Professional Statement requirements;
  • the perceived strengths and weaknesses of pupillage, including recruitment and selection of pupils and the structure of pupillage;
  • the role of the regulator with regards professional requirements.

The current pupillage arrangements will not see substantive change. We are currently looking at ways to improve oversight of pupillage training organisations and strengthening linkages between training and the Professional Statement.

I have just completed pupillage. What does this mean for me?

If you have already completed pupillage you will not be affected by these changes. Your qualification to apply for a Full Practising Certificate will remain valid.

I am considering pursuing a career at the Bar. Should I wait until the new BPTC and pupillage regulations are rolled out?

No. The current system provides education and training which is effective in delivering the knowledge, skills and other attributes required for current practice.

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Academic Stage

How might the academic requirements change?

The Bar will remain a graduate profession. Just as they do now, students in future will normally need to have a degree graded as 2:2 or above. If that is not a qualifying law degree, they must do a postgraduate qualification that will provide them with requisite legal knowledge (currently usually known as the Graduate Diploma in Law - GDL).

For more information please see our 'Future ways to qualify as a barrister' page.

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Interested in helping us?

To find out if there are any current opportunities to help us with this development, or any other Future Bar Training initiative, visit our Get involved page.

 

Contact us

If you have any further questions email futurebartraining@barstandardsboard.org.uk

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For the immediate future the current BPTC will continue in its current form, at least in the short term, to provide training until new arrangements are in place.