Clarity is urgently needed instead of tumbleweed blowing across the website’s alerts page
Bar Council officials confirmed last weekend — after a bit of prodding — that the Pupillage Gateway timetable will be brought forward in 2016.
In recent years, the Gateway has opened and closed in April, but it is now set to open in mid-January. Pupillage offers will be made at the beginning of May.
The Bar Council is doing this for admirable reasons: to avoid clashes between interviews and exams/dissertation deadlines; to allow pre-vocational course candidates to know the outcome of the pupillage round before they commit money to the Bar Professional Training Course; and to bring the timetable closer in to line with the non-Gateway sets, who mainly use January deadlines already.
But there remains no word of the date of the crucial new deadline. So far, the Bar Council just isn’t telling.
However, it seems fair to speculate that the deadline will fall in late January or early February — in other words, perhaps not even six months away.
The consensus seems to be that an earlier Gateway deadline — and the earlier offers that it will bring about — is a positive move. However, it is worth noting that future Graduate Diploma in Law students will be just weeks into their studies before having to turn their attention to pupillage applications.
But whatever the merits of an earlier deadline, a lack of communication around the change risks putting this year’s applicants at a serious disadvantage — with less well-connected students likely to be hardest hit.
Therefore, bar officials urgently need to clarify: the deadline for closure of the Gateway; how that information will be communicated to law schools and chambers; and the steps the Bar Council will take to communicate with would-be applicants not currently at law school.
The Bar Council currently offers no information beyond Monday’s statement. Tumbleweed was recently spotted on the Pupillage Gateway’s ‘news and alerts’ page; there were no updates at all.
Applicants need to start planning their submissions now, and the communication from the Bar Council so far has simply not been good enough.
Bar leaders should seriously consider delaying the changes to 2017 so they can have another go at getting the message out.
Amy Woolfson is an LLM student at Harvard Law School who will be applying for pupillage in the 2016 application round.