On Sunday BPP Law School chief executive Peter Crisp became the latest – and most unlikely – person to (indirectly) lend his voice to the growing chorus of warnings against doing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
Speaking to The Sunday Times(£), Crisp said that he does "not advise going into criminal practice at the bar".
Now, wannabe lawyers, when a man who does very well out of the hundreds of students doing the BPTC each year at his venerable institution says don’t go to the criminal bar – which, of course, supplies a substantial proportion of the 450 annual available pupillages – it means there is REALLY SOMETHING VERY, VERY WRONG at the criminal Bar.
From that, you can draw the conclusion that even if you do get a pupillage at a criminal set, you’re probably still shafted: another very good reason not to do the BPTC unless you want to practise civil law (and are clever and good at advocacy).
Don’t believe me?
OccupyTheInns cautions against a "knee-jerk" reaction to a study that found ethnic minority students are at a disadvantage in the pupillage application process.
As somebody who abhors discrimination in all its forms, I was extremely disappointed to read of the recent Bar Standards Board (BSB) study that suggests there is prejudice against students from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds in the pupillage application process. By all accounts great strides have been made at the Bar to rid it of the scourge of discrimination. Clearly there is more work to be done.
Before I proceed, I must say that I have never witnessed prejudice on racial grounds at the Bar. Indeed, my experience is that chambers are sometimes more disposed to the charms of a strong applicant with an exotic surname than a good old John Smith. However, I am not BME myself, and I am aware that racism works in subtle ways.
Consequently, the question turns to what we must do to fight discrimination. Complicated questions require complex answers. It is my submission that in this case we must refrain from the knee-jerk reaction of simply rushing more BME candidates into pupillage. This could cause a considerable culture clash for which I do not believe chambers would be ready.
Orwell prize short-listed blogger Amanda Bancroft, a former barrister, on what differentiates the wannabes from those who make it into practice at the Bar
What is it that determines that some people get pupillage, and some don’t?
I said a couple of weeks ago on the Legal Cheek podcast that I found of the five or six people who fall into the have-pupillage group I know, they all shared attributes; similarly so, of the don’t-have-pupillage group, they have shared attributes which are distinct from the have group.
Having been asked to elucidate, I have to admit I am struggling. What gets you pupillage really is a personality X factor – indeed, leaving aside those few barristers that you can’t help but look at in utter bewilderment and wonder how on earth they got to the Bar, you will find that most barristers are similar people, and those who fall into the have-pupillage group share a commonality with them.
So, cutting through the waffle, what is it?
There is widespread shock among Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students today after the Pupillage Portal website kept working in the run up to this morning's 11am deadline for pupillage applications.
“If you had someone trained as a barrister, you wouldn’t have them running round making coffee all day – it’s demeaning,” Apprentice winner (and former banker) Stella English told the Daily Mail on Monday, having quit her new role because she wasn’t given enough responsibility.
Au contraire, Stella. Rookie barristers make lots of coffee – and they read the Daily Mail, too...
OccupyTheInns ponders the merits of a high risk, yet potentially high reward, plan B
This week I have turned once more to the business of pupillage application as Pupillage Portal opened for its Spring season. There again were the familiar questions: “Why do you wish to become a barrister?”, “What areas of practice are you interested in and why?”, “Why do you believe you will make a good barrister?”
I know it is boxes such as these that even leading barristers like Tony Blair who have gone onto become household names have had to tick, but I query why Bar students are required to explain ad infinitum our motivations for a career that implicitly we have demonstrated commitment to by pursuing this high-risk path in the first place!
Some say the pressure is on for people like myself who completed the BPTC last year, and that this is the round that we must obtain our goal or otherwise remain forever upon the trash heap. At the bad times, when reading a pupillage rejection letter or reflecting on an interview performance that could have gone better, it would be easy to believe this view. However, it is of course nonsense.
Like many Bar graduates, John Iteshi couldn’t get a pupillage – or even an interview for a pupillage.
Having completed the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in 2007, Iteshi made about 150 pupillage applications but did not receive a single interview.
Pupillage Portal, the Bar's state-of-the-art interweb application system
In common with the thousands of pupillage and training contract seekers out there, he found the competition for other law-related jobs intense, too.
Since 2008, Iteshi has made over 200 applications for legal case worker and administrative roles, but only received about 5 interviews, and has not been successful in finding employment in the legal field...
Pupillage-less prospective barrister Jack Smith is wary of forking out yet more cash on a masters, but daunted by the challenge of landing quality interim legal employment in a difficult market
With only a few exams and assessments before the end of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), thoughts have turned recently to what the devil we're all going to do next year. A small handful of my friends have managed to secure pupillages commencing in October 2012, however many – like me – are still on the hunt, leaving at least one year of uncertainty. So what can a Bar graduate usefully do in that year?
It was Aristotle who said: “Education is the best provision for old age”, and at times it's easy to fall into thinking that old age might, in fact, arrive before an offer of pupillage. But is there merit in doing a masters?
While researching my article about sitting the Kaplan BPTC aptitude test for the Guardian this week, I was surprised to find that 10% of pupil barristers have a 2:2 or a third.
Lord Justice Andrew McFarlane QC is the only member of the Court of Appeal with a third class degree
In the most recent year for which figures are available (2010), that translates to 39 pupils with a 2:2, and two pupils with a third, out of a total of 392 pupils who provided data on their UK degree undergraduate qualifications. Looking back over previous years, that 10% ratio is roughly constant – jarring somewhat with what we're constantly told about only the best being admitted to practise at the Bar.
Did these 2:2/third students do amazingly on their BPTCs? Were they victims of horrendous mitigating circumstances that undermined their ability to perform well during their degrees? Were some especially well-connected?
Unfortunately, the Bar statistics, while pretty detailed, don’t give us this sort of information. So I asked three leading up-and-coming barristers for their views on what it takes to bag a pupillage with a 2:2 or a third...
Why incur the cost and hassle of an aptitude test to limit entry onto the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) when there is a far easier solution, asks OccupyTheInns
This week the Law Society warned the Bar off introducing an aptitude test to restrict entry onto the BPTC. You may not expect this from a barrister who has completed the BPTC but is still without pupillage, but I agree with the Law Society on this point. In my opinion, an aptitude test is wrong for four reasons...