The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published a report on the impact that Covid-19 is having on pupillages. The report finds that, while chambers and other organisations have shown a commendable commitment to sustaining pupillages in difficult circumstances, there is likely to be some pressure on the supply of pupillages available from 2020 to 2022.
The report is based on engagement between April and September 2020 with 157 out of the 260 chambers and other organisations that are authorised to provide pupillage.
The research shows that all pupillages that had already started when lockdown began in March have been able to proceed, with many pupillage providers overcoming considerable challenges.
Although the vast majority of chambers and other organisations have said that they remain committed to offering pupillage - only one chambers has said that it has decided to permanently reduce the number of pupillages they intend to offer – the report expects that there is likely to be an impact on the number of future pupillages available between 2020 to 2022 as the knock-on effects of the health emergency will affect future pupillage recruitment decisions.
The emerging evidence from the continuing engagement suggests that the biggest impact will be on pupillages that are in areas of law most affected by court closures, especially Criminal and Family. The BSB is conscious that barristers with protected characteristics are more strongly represented in these publicly funded areas of practice and will carefully monitor the effect of Covid-19 on pupillage and any implications for diversity at the Bar.
The BSB has strongly urged chambers and other organisations to support pupillages as much as they can, and has already issued a waiver enabling those who are due to begin pupillage in Autumn 2020 to do so even if they have not yet been confirmed as having passed their Bar Professional Training Course or Bar Transfer Test, subject to their pupillage provider being content. To date, 44 organisations have either confirmed in writing, or have verbally indicated, that they will use the waiver meaning that a total of at least 60 pupillages can start as planned either this month or in October.
BSB Director of Regulatory Operations, Oliver Hanmer, said: “While we are pleased that chambers and other organisations demonstrated a laudable commitment to sustaining pupillages, we are very conscious that many face continued financial pressure due to the consequences of the health emergency. We are doing our best to encourage and facilitate chambers to support as many pupillages as possible”.
The BSB’s full report on the impact of Covid-19 on pupillage is available on its website.
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