The Council of the Inns of Court has also thrown its weight behind the radical new plan
The Bar Council and the Council of the Inns of Court (COIC) have proposed splitting the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) into two parts, with law school attendance compulsory for only the second half.
According to an addendum added to the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) ‘Future of Training for the Bar’ consultation earlier today, the councils suggest dividing the vocational course into two separate sections.
Part one “will consist of the knowledge-based parts” of the BPTC, such as civil and criminal procedure and evidence. According to the paper, these will continue to be “centrally examined by the BSB”. Perhaps more controversially, both the Bar Council and COIC suggest at this stage law school attendance should be optional:
Candidates will be entitled to prepare separately for part one by any method they think fit or can afford, including by private study, having the choice but without the requirement of attendance at any particular provider’s course.
Part two will then see wannabe barristers tackle “the remaining skills-based elements of the BPTC”, which will include modules such as advocacy, drafting, ethics and conferencing skills. It is at this point that students will have to attend law school. The addendum stresses that progression to part two is dependent on students successfully completing part one.
With law school attendance optional for the first half of the course, the Bar Council and COIC believe the move will help reduce the cost of pursuing a career at the bar. Currently, students hand over in excess of £19,000 to secure a place on the BPTC at a London provider.
Furthermore, the councils hope that part one of the course will be a filter for weaker students. They suggest “part one would act as an effective early signal to some candidates, before they incurred greater fees and expenses.” Continuing, the addendum said:
Providers of part two would be able to concentrate on a cohort of students who had the comfort and confidence of knowing that they had already attained the standards set by the BSB in a key part of the course.
Under the proposals, students will still have to have obtained a law degree or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) prior to attempting the BPTC, and will still need to complete pupillage before they can practise as a barrister.
The development comes just weeks after the BSB’s director of strategy and regulatory policy, Ewen Macleod, suggested that the BPTC and pupillage could be rolled into one. Speaking to Legal Cheek, Macleod confirmed that the potential new super-BPTC “is an option [the BSB] would consider providing if it met the professional standards”.
Other options in the BSB’s consultation, which closes on 31 January 2017, include keeping things as they are or rolling the BPTC into a bar-focused law degree.