14 October 2019

Do you have a view on the future of Bar training? If so, the BSB would like to hear from you

3 October 2016

In a consultation paper launched today, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) outlines three possible approaches for the future training of barristers.

The regulator would like to hear your views on these approaches by 23 December. It aims to make a final decision in Spring 2017, in time for possible new training pathways to begin in 2018.

The three approaches are:

  • An "evolutionary" approach which would retain the three sequential stages in the current system: academic legal education (law degree or Graduate Diploma in Law), vocational training (Bar Professional Training Course) and work-based learning (pupillage);
  • A "managed pathways" approach under which several routes may be authorised, including:
    • follow the current three stage approach (as in Option A);
    • combine academic and vocational learning;
    • combine vocational and work-based learning; and
    • complete all learning separately over time in a modular way;
  • A "Bar specialist" approach which would create a new exam combining academic and professional learning followed by a short skills course and then pupillage.

The purpose of reforming the current system of training is to address the following concerns:

  • Flexibility;
  • Accessibility;
  • Affordability; and
  • Sustaining high standards.

These criteria have led the BSB to favour the "managed pathways" approach. The BSB believes that this approach would give students more choice in how they study and gain the necessary experience to practise at the Bar and would best ensure that education and training providers can develop and offer more flexible and affordable modes of study.

The regulator is keen to stress that all options remain firmly on the table and that a final decision has yet to be made. Indeed, the BSB also invites people to submit alternative approaches.

BSB Director of Regulatory Policy Ewen MacLeod said: "Whichever option is implemented, it will have far reaching consequences for the future of the Bar. We want to ensure that the next generation of barristers are fully equipped to meet their future clients' needs through a more flexible training framework."

The BSB is holding a series of meetings at different universities around the country to enable current students and other interested parties to learn more about the different approaches and to have their say. Details of these meetings are available here.

The Future Bar Training consultation paper is here.


Notes to editors

About Option A - "Evolutionary" approach

This approach would retain the three sequential stages in the current system: the academic legal education (law degree or Graduate Diploma in Law), the vocational training (Bar Professional Training Course) and work-based learning.

The changes already being undertaken to improve the current system would continue. These are explained fully in the consultation paper.

About Option B - "Managed Pathways" approach

This approach would introduce new routes by which students could qualify rather than requiring them to complete the academic, vocational and professional / pupillage stages of learning in a fixed sequence as is the case at the moment.

This would allow providers to offer courses that are more flexible and fit with the requirements of students.

Option B provides for several routes which the BSB might authorise, including:

  • Option B (i): Academic legal education followed by the vocational training, followed by work-based learning (as in Option A above);
  • Option B (ii): Combined academic and vocational learning followed by work-based learning;
  • Option B (iii): Academic legal education followed by combined vocational and work-based learning requirements; and
  • Option B (iv): Modular format, in which components of qualification can be acquired separately over time (may also include an apprenticeship pathway).

About Option C - "Bar Specialist" approach

Students would be required to pass a new qualifying examination - the Bar Entrance Exam (BEE). This examination would cover knowledge and understanding of academic and vocational learning.

A three month approved skills course would need to be taken which would be followed by a period of work-based training. It is possible that this might be made more flexible and potentially integrated with the short skills course

About the SRA's "Training for Tomorrow" consultation

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has issued a similar consultation paper about the future of training to become a solicitor. We have discussed our approaches for Future Bar Training with them but any differences in our approaches reflect our views on the specific training needs of each of the professions that we regulate.

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate the Bar so as to promote high standards of practice and safeguard clients and the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t

Contact: For all media enquiries call: 0207 611 1452 or email press@barstandardsboard.org.uk.