1. What is pupillage or work-based learning?

This section explains what pupillage or work-based learning is and where it fits into the authorised pathways to becoming a practising barrister.

Overview

1.1) Pupillage provides work-based training in legal work under supervision. Pupils build on prior learning and experience, as set out in the BSB’s Curriculum and Assessment Strategy, in order to demonstrate (as a minimum) the competences to the threshold standard in the Professional Statement.

1.2) Pupillage is an essential component of training for the Bar. All who wish to practise as a barrister will, as before, have to complete this component of training in order to be authorised to practise.

BSB Handbook

The routes to qualification are set out in Part 4, section B2 of the BSB Handbook:

Rule Q3 To be called to the Bar by an Inn an individual must have successfully completed the following:

.1 academic legal training;

.2 vocational training;

.3 the number of qualifying sessions as a student member of an Inn as prescribed from time to time by the BSB; and

.4 pay such fee or fees as may be prescribed.

Rule Q4 To obtain a provisional practising certificate a barrister must:

.1 have successfully completed a period of pupillage satisfactory to the BSB;

.2 pay such fee or fees as may be prescribed.

Rule Q5 To obtain a full practising certificate a barrister must:

.1 have successfully completed a further period of pupillage satisfactory to the BSB;

.2 pay such fee or fees as may be prescribed.

1.3) Whilst we expect that the vast majority of barristers will continue to obtain this component of learning via a traditional "pupillage", this component may also be called “work-based learning” with a view to encouraging a wider range of AETOs to offer this component of training. "Work-based learning" might, for example, be offered by employers offering training to future members of the employed Bar (as is currently the case).  

1.4) The component can be attained via one of four approved training pathways:

  • the academic component, followed by the vocational component, followed by the work-based learning/pupillage component;
  • the academic component followed by the vocational component split into two parts, followed by the work-based learning/pupillage component;
  • a combined academic and vocational component, followed by the work-based learning/pupillage component; or
  • a modular or apprenticeship model encompassing the academic, vocational and work-based learning/pupillage components.

1.5) Further information about the four pathways can be found in the Authorisation Framework.

1.6) More information about the distinction between a practising barrister and an unregistered barrister can be found in Part 2C (C6) of the Bar Qualification Manual.

2. Structure and duration of pupillage

This section explains the two periods of pupillage, the non-practising period and the practising period. It also explains what is sometimes referred to as the “third six”, which has no regulatory status.

Overview

2.1) The primary purpose of pupillage is for pupils to develop and build on the knowledge, skills and experience previously acquired and to gain first-hand experience in a work-based environment.

2.2) Pupillage is divided into a non-practising period and a practising period.

2.3) The normal duration of pupillage is 12 months (or part-time equivalent). This is the minimum, so AETOs should not advertise non-practising-only/practising-only pupillages.

Authorisation Framework

23 Only those offering all parts of a component will be considered for authorisation as an AETO.

2.4) The duration of pupillage may be extended to up to 24 months if an application is made to and approved by the BSB under the Authorisation Framework. The AETO will need to demonstrate, when seeking authorisation, why the proposed arrangement is appropriate.          

2.5) The normal duration of the non-practising period of pupillage will continue to be six months for full-time 12-month pupillages. A Provisional Practising Certificate can be applied for after this time. An AETO may exceptionally apply for a variation to this norm as part of the authorisation process.

Some examples of where alternative arrangements may be appropriate include:

  • In the employed Bar, where additional time may be needed to enable pupils to attain certain competences to the threshold standard, for example through secondment arrangements.
  • In certain areas of practice where pupils do not routinely have exposure to advocacy experience at an early stage of their training.
  • To align training programmes where AETOs provide training to both barristers and solicitors.

2.6) Any change in the duration of the training programme or change in timing for applying for the Provisional Practising Certificate that was previously authorised by the BSB must be notified to the BSB as a material change.

2.7) The BSB no longer issues a Provisional Qualification Certificate for the practising period of pupillage.

The non-practising period

Curriculum and Assessment Strategy

A person may not start pupillage more than five years after completing the vocational component of training except with the permission of the BSB.

Authorisation Framework

Pupils will normally have been Called to the Bar before commencing the non-practising period of pupillage.

2.8) Since the purpose of pupillage is to enable the pupil to gain the skills and experience to meet the requirements of the Professional Statement, pupils in the non-practising period may not accept any client instructions, except for noting briefs where they have the permission of their pupil supervisor or head of chambers, or equivalent.

2.9) At the end of the non-practising period, pupils must submit a certificate from their pupil supervisor to the BSB certifying that the non-practising period has been satisfactorily completed.

2.10) Provided that the pupil has completed the compulsory training specified by the BSB, the BSB will then grant a Provisional Practising Certificate. The compulsory training during pupillage is set out in Part 2C (C5) of the Bar Qualification Manual. The process of applying for a Provisional Practising Certificate is explained further in Part 2C (C6) of the Bar Qualification Manual.

BSB Handbook

Rule Q4 To obtain a provisional practising certificate a barrister must:

.1 have successfully completed a period of pupillage satisfactory to the BSB;

.2 pay such fee or fees as may be prescribed.

The practising period

2.11) All pupils must be Called to the Bar before they can undertake the practising period of pupillage.

2.12) A pupil is entitled to supply legal services and exercise rights of audience as a pupil barrister during the practising period, provided that they have the permission of their AETO and have been issued with a Provisional Practising Certificate by the BSB.

2.13) Provided that the pupil has satisfactorily completed pupillage, which includes completing the compulsory training specified by the BSB, the BSB will confirm eligibility for a full Practising Certificate. The compulsory training during pupillage is set out in Part 2C (C5) of the Bar Qualification Manual.

BSB Handbook

Rule Q5 To obtain a full practising certificate a barrister must:

.1 have completed a further period of pupillage satisfactory to the BSB;

.2 pay such fee or fees as may be prescribed.

2.14) Upon completion of pupillage, pupils are required to apply for a Full Practising Certificate to commence practice as a barrister. The process of applying for a Full Practising Certificate is explained further in Part 2C (C6) of the Bar Qualification Manual. There is no regulatory obligation for an AETO to provide tenancy or employment following pupillage.

“Third six” pupillages

2.15) Some AETOs offer, or indeed require barristers to complete, so-called “Third six pupillages” prior to tenancy. These are not part of the regulated period of pupillage and the term “Third six” has no status in the BSB’s regulations. For this reason, we discourage use of the term. The term is commonly used to cover various arrangements that are effectively probationary periods prior to tenancy.

AETOs should be clear when advertising and offering pupillage whether they expect pupils to complete an additional period of training, assessment or probation on completion of pupillage before tenancy or employment is decided.

Arrangements should be set out in a written agreement or policy detailing what is expected of both parties after pupillage, and during and after the additional probationary period, including:

  • Training requirements during the period.
  • Assessment criteria for tenancy/employment.
  • Supervision or mentoring arrangements.
  • Whether or not there are guaranteed earnings.
  • Whether or not the individual has voting rights in chambers.
  • Reference to any other relevant policies.

To avoid confusion with the regulated status of pupillage, the term “Third six pupillage” should not be used.

2.16) The Bar Council’s Ethics & Practice Hub offers Best Practice Guidelines on “Third six” arrangements

2.17) The duration of pupillage may be extended to up to 24 months if an application is made to and approved by the BSB under the Authorisation Framework. AETOs will need to consider whether their “Third six” arrangements amount to a probationary period of tenancy/employment or whether they form part of the regulated period of training, for which they need to apply for authorisation.

Is it a probationary period of tenancy/employment or an 18 to 24-month pupillage – what is the difference?

Pupillage must enable the pupil to meet the regulatory requirements of pupillage.

From 1 September 2019 this means meeting the competences in the Professional Statement to the threshold standard, so that they are ready to apply for a Full Practising Certificate.

The new rules provide flexibility, recognising that there may be some areas of practice where it may take longer to do that. Examples are provided above.

It is important to distinguish this from a probationary period for tenancy. Eg:

  • You may need new barristers to acquire some of the specialist skills relevant to chambers’ practice area. That would be addressed through CPD.
  • You may want time to determine whether the applicant is going be suitable as a tenant of your chambers, ie. a probationary period during which they will be assessed on certain criteria.

If in doubt, you can speak to the Authorisations Team at the BSB about your particular scenario.

3. Mini pupillages

Mini pupillage is the term commonly used for a short period of work experience (usually one to five days) in a set of chambers, a BSB authorised body or another type of AETO.

Mini pupillages are not regulated by the BSB but “assessed” mini pupillages that form part of the recruitment process are regulated for the purposes of the Equality and Diversity Rules.

Overview

3.1) Undertaking at least one mini pupillage can provide students with an invaluable insight into life at the Bar. They may also prove a useful source of advice to assist in finding pupillage.

3.2) As a mini pupillage is often the first experience a person will have of the Bar, we encourage AETOs to ensure that opportunities to undertake a mini pupillage are made available as widely as possible to support equality of opportunity.

Good practice

The BSB encourages AETOs to consider taking positive action to make mini pupillage opportunities available to groups that are under-represented at the Bar.

 

3.3) Some AETOs require applicants to undertake an “assessed” mini pupillage as part of the recruitment process and use it as one of their selection criteria. Assessed mini pupillages are subject to the Equality and Diversity Rules in the Handbook because they fall within the definition of “workforce” in the Handbook.

BSB Handbook

Mini pupillages are not regulated by the BSB, but Rule C110.3 of the BSB Handbook requires:

b. & c. fair recruitment training for selection panels responsible for recruitment

d. recruitment and selection processes must use objective and fair criteria

e. to h. equality monitoring of assessed mini-pupillages (which fall within the definition of “workforce”)

3.4) To ensure that recruitment and selection processes use objective and fair criteria, if the completion of an assessed mini pupillage is made a condition for obtaining pupillage itself (effectively the first part of the selection and recruitment process), AETOs must advertise mini-pupillages on the website designated by the BSB in the Bar Qualification Manual (currently the Pupillage Gateway). They must comply with the Equality & Diversity Rules of the Code of Conduct in the BSB Handbook (Rule C110) when selecting individuals for a mini pupillage. A list of mini pupillages offered, and details of the recruitment process should be maintained and made available to the BSB on request.