3 Feb 2021

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published an updated report on the impact of COVID-19 on pupillage places at the Bar of England and Wales.

The report shows that there were 386 pupillages registered with the BSB in 2020. This compares with 592 pupillages registered in 2019: a fall of 35%. The impact of the pandemic on the profession also looks set to affect pupillage numbers in 2021, although recruitment levels are picking up. As of 19 January 2021, 172 organisations were advertising pupillages on the Pupillage Gateway. By way of contrast, 159 organisations had new pupils starting with them during 2020.

The report suggests that the waiver scheme introduced by the BSB in May 2020 has had a positive effect, allowing 95 pupillages to go ahead which might not otherwise have done so. The scheme allows the first part of pupillage to start before a candidate has completed the vocational component of Bar training.

The impact of delayed start dates is now starting to show in the statistics for 2021, as January registrations were higher than usual. There were 51 pupillages registered in January 2021, compared with 15 in January 2020.

Much of the information in the report comes from the regulator’s ongoing engagement with the pupillage organisations it authorises about the effects of the pandemic on the supply of pupillages.

Commenting on the availability of pupillages, Mark Neale, BSB Director-General said: “Pupils represent the future of the Bar and provide assurance that consumers will have access to high quality legal representation into the future. We shall therefore want to work closely with the Bar Council and with the rest of the profession to see how we can maintain pupillage numbers in these challenging times.

We are pleased that our waiver scheme seems to be helping and that the figures suggest that many pupillages have been delayed, not cancelled. We also welcome the initiative by some leading commercial chambers to support criminal pupillages which have been affected by the health emergency. But these initiatives, welcome though they are, may not be enough on their own and we want to consider with the Bar Council and the profession other options for supporting pupillages.”

The BSB will soon publish its wider findings on the impact of COVID-19 on the profession (ie the impacts beyond pupillages). This will follow the completion of the first part of the 2020-21 Regulatory Return which was issued to a selection of around 350 chambers, BSB entities and sole practitioners in September. The first part of the Return focused only on the impact of the health emergency and responses were due back to the BSB on 4 January 2021. (The rest of the Regulatory Return does not need to be completed until 31 March.)

The full report on the impact of COVID-19 on pupillages is available on the BSB website.



Notes to editors

About the Bar Standards Board

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