22 September 2019

Put barristers back in charge of pupillage, says bar training regulator

20 February 2015

Chambers and employers should be put back in charge of designing the pupillage experience for aspiring barristers, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has said.

In a new pamphlet published today the barrister's regulator says that chambers and employers are best placed to decide how to plan and provide pupillages, and that the BSB should focus instead on ensuring that barristers have the right knowledge and skills at the end of the educational process.

The BSB is keen to shift responsibility for the way in which pupillages should be structured away from the regulator and back to pupillage training organisations (PTOs), which have a better understanding of what works and what does not.

The pamphlet also suggests that the regulator wants to make it easier for PTOs that are unable to provide certain aspects of pupillage to offer to pupils alternative arrangements - such as secondments.

The proposals, which are due to be consulted on this summer, mark a significant move from the current system in which the BSB must approve any pupillages that deviate from the standard format. The BSB is also eager to explore how pupils - most of whom are self-employed - can be protected in the same way as employees or other trainees.

Director of Education and Training for the BSB, Dr Simon Thornton Wood, said: "Pupillage is incredibly important in providing the next generation of the Bar with the exposure and expert advice they need to become barristers. At a time of great change across the profession who better to design and deliver the pupillage experience to aspiring barristers than professionals themselves? Of course, we must safeguard standards, but we're not convinced that means we can't introduce more freedom and flexibility into the system so that it continues to provide vital preparation for practise. And if this greater flexibility means that there can be more pupillages on offer that is also a good move."

The pamphlet outlines in greater detail the regulator's vision for reforming legal education and training as part of its Future Bar Training programme. The key idea animating the pamphlet is that of establishing a Professional Statement that clearly sets out what a barrister needs to be able to do at the point of being authorised to practise.

It is hoped that providing a clear point of reference for the capabilities a barrister needs to be able to demonstrate before authorisation, and ensuring there are the right safeguards in place to guarantee quality, will then allow for much more flexibility in terms of how the Bar course and pupillage are delivered.

On the Bar Professional Training Course, the pamphlet suggests that the regulator might not need to determine the delivery of the course to the extent that it does, when others should be in a better position to anticipate what is needed. Rather, agreeing a Professional Statement will help the BSB direct its focus on setting the standards to be achieved.

Thornton-Wood continued: "We know from our frequent conversations with barristers, pupils, and students that the increasing costs in training and education is a serious concern. Inevitably, high quality training comes at a price, but we don't want this to be prohibitive and a deterrent to those who have the aptitude and determination to become successful barristers. By clearly defining the end point of qualification - in terms of the skills and ability a barrister needs - we think routes to qualification will become more flexible, more innovative, and more creative."

The full pamphlet is available here.


Notes to editors

About Pupillage
Pupillage is the final stage of the route to qualification at the Bar, in which the pupil gains practical training under the supervision of an experienced barrister. Pupillage is divided into two parts: the non-practising six months (also known as the first six) and the practising six months (also known as the second six).

About Future Bar Training
Future Bar Training is the BSB's programme of review and reform that will bring training regulation up-to-date and assure high standards in barristers' services for the future. It was launched on October 31 2014.

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. Our responsibilities include setting the education and training requirements for becoming a barrister. 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.