We are concerned about our ability to offer appropriate training opportunities and to provide adequate supervision for our pupils. Can we defer the start of pupillages?

Whilst we recognise the challenging times that AETOs are facing, we would encourage AETOs to do all that they can to ensure that pupillages can continue during this period. AETOs should think hard about what other forms of training opportunities they can offer to help pupils to meet the competences in the Professional Statement. For example:

  • Communicating with pupils regularly remotely by Skype or similar technology;
  • Setting more written exercises;
  • Organising advocacy exercises by video;
  • Making use of any e-learning resources that you have access to; and
  • Working collaboratively and sharing ideas with other AETOs.

We will also permit flexibility if pupil supervisors become unwell and others in the AETO that have not yet attended pupil supervisor training can support pupils. Any change in pupil supervisor should be reported to: pupillagerecords@BarStandardsBoard.org.uk

If the decision to defer is driven by financial challenges facing the AETO then they should look at what financial support they may be able to access. The Bar Council has some general guidance for barristers and chambers in their financial FAQs.

AETOs should also consider their responsibilities to pupils as set out in the Bar Qualification Manual and in particular, if an AETO decides to withdraw pupillage altogether, the expectation that they do all they can to help the pupil to find another AETO where the pupil can complete their training.

Before an AETO takes a decision to defer a pupillage the Head of Chambers should first contact the BSB setting out the circumstances (particularly in relation to attempts to seek financial support from elsewhere and the consideration given to delivering training in other ways) so that we can discuss the options open to you. Emails should be sent to ROD_contingency_planning@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

We have a current pupil(s) and are concerned that we won’t have sufficient training or work opportunities for them during pupillage. Can we postpone or extend their pupillage?

We would encourage AETOs to make every effort to ensure that current pupillages continue as planned. AETOs have an obligation under the BSB Authorisation Framework mandatory criterion 37.2 to have a clear strategy for enabling pupils to achieve the best outcomes they are capable of in their training, as well as demonstrating the Professional Statement Competences to at least the Threshold Standard. In practice, this means that AETOs should be prepared to be flexible in the types of training opportunities for pupils where court appearances become limited or cease to be an option. Where opportunities are limited, we would encourage you to enable pupils to either attend or dial in to those held through online platforms, even if attending with another member of the AETO. Should court attendances become impossible, we would encourage you to think about what other activities could be undertaken, including advocacy workshops or seminars in chambers (or online) as well as written research and advice drafting.

It is for the AETO and the pupil supervisor to decide if the training that pupils have received has enabled them to meet the competences in the Professional Statement to the threshold standard, or whether the pupillage needs to be extended to enable the pupil to do so. Where pupillage is extended, the pupil supervisor must set clear and measurable objectives as to what is expected of the pupil during the extended period. The AETO must notify the BSB of the new date that the pupil will be completing pupillage by completing the Notification of Material Change in Pupillage form.

If AETOs remain of the view that they are not able to meet the expectations of the Authorisation Framework and/or provide training to their pupils that enable them to satisfy the Professional Statement and therefore they feel that they must suspend pupillage, the Head of Chambers should contact the BSB to discuss the situation and the options that might be open to them. They should email  ROD_contingency_planning@barstandardsboard.org.uk setting out what options have been considered.

Where extension or suspension is unavoidable, AETOS are obliged, under mandatory criterion 45.2 of the Authorisation Framework and rules C113-118 of the BSB Handbook to ensure that the pupil receives the minimum level of pupillage funding. We recognise that this may place AETOs in financial difficulty and there is some general guidance for barristers and chambers from the Bar Council in their financial FAQs.

Given the financial challenges that we’re facing, can we reduce the pupillage award that we’ve already advertised?

Yes, as long as the pupillage award does not fall below the minimum pupillage funding level, the level of the award is a matter for each AETO. Part 2 Section C2-3.14 of the Bar Qualification Manual requires that AETOs must make clear, in writing, the funding arrangements at the time an offer for pupillage is made, but AETOs should make the change known as soon as possible.

Our pupils are usually on their feet in Court in the practising period of pupillage and are earning their own income. We are worried about the financial impact on AETOs if we have to top up to the minimum funding level for six months.

We recognise that this may cause financial difficulties for some AETOs. AETOs who are not in a financial position to top up income to the minimum funding level should in the first instance look at the Bar Council’s general guidance for barristers and chambers in their financial FAQs

It has been announced that, where possible, all hearings are to be done remotely in the Courts that we practise in. How will this affect our practising pupils?

It is for the AETO and the pupil supervisor to decide if the pupil has the capability to practise in such circumstances. We would encourage pupil supervisors to do all that they can to support pupils, for example by observing them during cases and offering constructive feedback, even if this is done remotely.

The Courts that we practise in are still open. As long as pupils in their non-practising period are willing, we feel they should go along to observe if they are happy to do so.

Pupils, their pupil supervisors and AETOs should monitor and follow Public Health England advice.

Our pupil is unwell. What are our obligations?

It is for the AETO and pupil supervisor to determine the impact of longer periods of leave due to illness on the training programme and whether the period of pupillage should be extended to enable the pupil to meet the competences in the Professional Statement.

If the pupillage is to be extended, the AETO must notify the BSB of the new date that the pupil will be completing pupillage by completing the Notification of Material Change in Pupillage form.

Where pupillage is extended, the supervisor must set clear and measurable objectives as to what is expected of the pupil during the extended period. Pupils must apply to the BSB for dispensation if they need to take a substantial break from pupillage and extending the pupillage would not be appropriate in the circumstances.

AETOs should continue to meet their obligations to fund pupils during any period of illness. If this causes financial difficulties for them they should in the first instance look at the Bar Council’s general financial FAQs.

Can I run pupillage interviews remotely by Skype or phone so that I don’t have to postpone pupillage recruitment for AETOs?

Yes. We encourage AETOs to do all that they can to enable recruitment to proceed during this period.

We understand that the Bar Council is encouraging AETOs to operate in line with the current recruitment timetable for those that process their applications through the Gateway, which is in the interview phase until 6 May, with offers on 7 May. AETOs should therefore explore alternative methods for interviews (eg Skype).

However, where an AETO is unable to continue with their current recruitment process or timetable either resulting from financial uncertainty or insuperable technological difficulties, they can defer their decision making and the time at which they make offers until after the Pupillage Gateway timetabled date of 09:00 on 7 May 2020. If an AETO intends to do this they should ensure that they have communicated this to all who have applied to them and they should defer the making of any offer until at least 22 May 2020, by which time all candidates will have had an opportunity to accept any offers they received through the Pupillage Gateway.

AETOs should ensure that their recruitment process is completed by close of business on 30 October 2020 at the latest i.e. the day before the new single mandatory recruitment timetable is enforced. More information on the Bar Council position can be found here.

AETOs are encouraged to remember that fair recruitment principles continue to apply in such circumstances and that every effort should be made to enable shortlisted candidates to be interviewed. AETOs will need to consider any reasonable adjustments that may be required by candidates who may have difficulty with accessing technology, communicating by video link or managing caring responsibilities.

What happens if a pupil cannot attend the advocacy training because of being ill or needing to self-isolate?

Pupils, their pupil supervisors or AETOs who find themselves in this position should contact the BSB to discuss their individual circumstances. They should email ROD_contingency_planning@BarStandardsBoard.org.uk in the first instance. Only pupils who have not attended the advocacy course because they are following Public Health England advice will be considered.

The pupil supervisor must explain why they feel able to sign off the pupil from their non-practising period when they have not yet completed the advocacy course. For example, they should set out what other advocacy training the pupil has done, which might include training offered through their AETO. They should also set out what steps they will take to supervise and monitor the advocacy of the pupil until they can attend another course.

In the light of that information we will, on a case-by-case basis, consider whether to give appropriate dispensation to allow pupils to apply for a Provisional Practising Certificate without having completed the advocacy training. Our overriding consideration when making a decision will be the proper protection of the public. Anyone given dispensation will be required to inform the BSB when they have completed their training.

In giving that dispensation, pupils and their pupil supervisors are reminded of the overriding duty in the BSB Handbook not to take on cases for which they are not competent and that they should think carefully about whether they are sufficiently competent to take on cases before they have completed the advocacy training.

If you have any more questions that are not covered here, you can contact us via the email ROD_contingency_planning@barstandardsboard.org.uk. We are also interested to hear of any creative ways you are overcoming the current challenges.