Bar Council chair warns of escalating cost to enter profession
Aspiring barristers may have to fork out as much as £127,000 in order to qualify, according to a Bar Council big-wig.
Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC (pictured below) — speaking to The Guardian earlier today — suggested that the huge costs of training severely hamper efforts to improve diversity and social mobility at the bar.
The recently installed Bar Council chair has based her hefty estimate on a student living in London and opting to complete a non-law undergraduate degree first.
With the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) still to go, a wannabe barrister in this category could be saddled with as much as £27,000 of tuition fee debt before they’ve even begun their legal training.
With this latest figure higher than previous estimates, Doerries QC told the newspaper:
“I hear from the junior bar that practising barristers paying off debts of between £40,000 to £60,000 is by no means uncommon [but] those figures are for individuals who completed their undergraduate degrees before higher tuition fees were introduced.”
London providers can charge students as much as £10,000 for the GDL and £19,000 for the BPTC. Factor in these additional training fees, plus the cost of living in London over a 5 year period, and Doerries QC’s £127,000 estimate doesn’t seem too far off.
Doerries QC — who is a commercial barrister at London’s Atkin Chambers — believes this latest cost estimate creates a “huge social mobility challenge” for the bar.
Despite the Inns of Court stumping up almost £5m in bursaries and scholarships each year, the bar chair claims the majority of students are forced to juggle study with part-time work, unless they come from a “wealthy background”.
And for those thinking of studying outside London the news isn’t much better. According Bar Council estimates, would-be barristers outside the capital will still have to find around £111,000.
The figures are all the more worrying when set against the chances of obtaining pupillage.
In 2013-2014 there were just 397 first-six places offered, which was down nearly 23% from the previous year. With BPTC student numbers remaining steady, a large percentage of wannabe barristers are being lumbered with high levels of debt – with little chance of securing a pupillage.
It’s not much cheaper to opt for the solicitor route either. With some London providers commanding as much as £15,000 to secure a place on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) the costs to qualify can still be in excess of £120,000.