Legal Education Review Chief Slams ‘Gross Inability’ Of BPTC Students

Senior members of the legal profession have a tendency to shy away from telling it like it really is.

But every now and again their true feelings emerge.

Last week at a College of Law debate on diversity at the Bar, a student asked a question about whether the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) proposal to bring in an aptitude test was fair.

Cue the usual bland responses from the panel of assembled experts, who included Helena Kennedy QC.

But something about the question hit a nerve in Sir Mark Potter, the former president of the family division and co-chair of the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR), who was sitting incognito in the audience. Rising unexpectedly from his seat, Potter requested a microphone…

Sir Mark Potter: Telling it like it is

On his booming baritone, first Potter slammed the “gross inability” of students on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

Then, he claimed the BSB’s pilot of the aptitude test had produced “some quite remarkable examples which demonstrate by any standards a gross inability on the part of the candidate in reasoning powers and the other qualities which the test is designed to address.”

Potter added: “One can’t think, simply looking at it from outside, that it’s anything but kindness to relieve those particular candidates of their willingness to spend their money.”

Continuing, he said wannabe barristers needed to be made aware of “precisely what is involved, not simply in relation to a profession about which they are likely to have romantic notions but the realities, the hard slog and the possibilities of failure”.

To date, the LETR panel have been careful not to speak about issues that are still the subject of public consultation and research.

Having published its first research paper last month, which discussed some potentially radical reforms, the body has now begun the second phase of its research, which will continue until October.

2 Responses to “Legal Education Review Chief Slams ‘Gross Inability’ Of BPTC Students”

  1. Richard Moorhead

    Interesting post Alex.

    The problem with Potter LJ’s position is two fold.

    One is that aptitude tests will probably make very little difference. A similar effect can be achieved by tightening up existing recruitment criteria. (See here for some of my more detailed thoughts in this regard, http://lawyerwatch.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/bar-barometers-aptitude-tests-and-those-numbers/)

    The second is the more finely balanced question of whether it is right to paternalise law students in this way. I have had experience of counselling students against trying to go to the Bar. Some simply insist on their right to try. Whether it is right or wrong to stop them, I think is rather a moot point.

    Perhaps the Bar need to be as forthright in their own publicity about teh difficulties of getting pupillage as they are when criticising the law schools for this problem. When the Bar Council set up a website promoting the Bar as a career, the highly produced videos had but a sliver of inaccurate information about the odds of gaining entry into the profession. Only after a fuss was kicked up did they put stats up on the site. (See here for a reminder of this debate: http://lawyerwatch.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/neither-posh-nor-white-try-the-x-factor/ and here http://lawyerwatch.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/has-the-bar-shot-itself-in-the-foot/)).

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