I simply do not accept the fake hand-wringing about pupillage pay. "I wish we could pay our pupils more – they certainly deserve it!" is the typical barristers’ response when this issue is raised. There is, however, a straightforward way the Bar Council could end the situation it has created.
1. Every pupil to be paid a minimum of the average graduate salary. For the sake of mathematics, let us call this £25,000.
2. For every 25 full tenants, a chambers must take on one pupil to be funded in full by chambers at that salary (in other words, a chambers cannot say part of this funding is to come from case fees undertaken by the pupil during second six).
This means that for a set of 50-60 barristers (not uncommon in London these days), the set is required to take on two pupils every year. The figures on the above are equally clear – each tenant would spend £1,000 a year – the equivalent of under £3 per day.
At those prices, a pupil would cost less than two cups of coffee a day. I suggest prospective pupils only have to visit the pubs and wine bars around chambers to see barristers drinking heartily as to why they 'cannot afford to pay pupils more'.
When I last proposed the above salary I was told by the then chairman of the Bar that if pupillage pay was mandatory at that amount even more chambers would fail to offer pupillage.
Of course, if the second part of the proposal was adopted this argument would be negated.
I still have had no clear answer as to why this uncomplicated idea cannot be brought in.
For more on minimum pupillage awards, check out this thread on the Inner Temple LinkedIn page