14 October 2019

BSB reviews pupillage recruitment practice at the Bar

New research published today presents the Bar Standards Board's (BSB's) review of the way in which pupillages were advertised in 2018 and in the selection criteria used by barristers' chambers.

The regulator undertook the review to gain a better understanding of which stages of the advertising and recruitment process for pupils might give rise to potential barriers to entry to the Bar, particularly for those from underrepresented groups, and to inform work to improve accessibility to the profession.

The report contains statistics on the recruitment and advertisement of pupillages, including the proportion of pupillage positions that can be applied for through the Bar Council's Pupillage Gateway, specification of degree classification requirements in pupillage advertisements, and the percentage of pupillage places requiring and/or strongly preferring candidates to have undertaken a "mini-pupillage" with the recruiting pupillage training organisation.

Findings from the review include:

  • almost half of pupillages advertised as part of the study cited support for equality and diversity in some way, including; specifically encouraging applicants from range of backgrounds; mentioning specific Equality and Diversity policies (including in recruitment); or highlighting some commitment to equality and diversity;
  • generally, there were relatively few practices detailed in the advertisements that could potentially actively discourage greater participation in the profession from the perspective of an applicant, as long as the applicant met criteria regarding degree classification and/or legal experience;
  • where pupillage training organisations specify that applicants must have undertaken an unpaid "mini-pupillage", this could indirectly discriminate against applicants from lower income backgrounds, as could the cost of attending interviews in London for those based outside the capital; and
  • intellectual ability and academic history were found to be the most important selection criteria across chambers when sifting applications for pupillage, whilst advocacy and communication skills were found to be the most important selection criteria at the interview stage.

BSB Director of Strategy and Policy, Ewen MacLeod, said: "When, subject to Legal Services Board approval, the new Bar training rules are introduced the current rule prescribing precisely what organisations must include in a pupillage recruitment advert will no longer apply. Removing this rule is designed to provide those recruiting pupils with more flexibility, but we want to make sure that we guide the Bar with regard to best practice. This review has helped us understand what currently happens and we expect to issue our guidance on recruitment advertising and selection criteria soon."

The full review can be found here on our website.


Notes to editors

About the Bar Standards Board

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