...but it would put pressure on chambers to fund the course – and could lead to it getting scrapped altogether, writes Lancaster University's Angus MacCulloch
The plight of thousands of aspiring barristers who invest large sums of money to undertake the BPTC, but are increasingly unlikely to secure pupillage, has encouraged a lively debate in and around the profession (see, for instance, contributions from The Law Horse, Alex Aldridge and BPP Law School CEO Peter Crisp).
In this debate competition law looms like a spectre; often being referred to but rarely being discussed.
It is also worth remembering that any question regarding access to the Bar is equally applicable to all other branches of the legal, and other, professions.
The Bar isn’t being singled out for attention, it just happens to be in the cross hairs at the moment.
The competition law issue is essentially very simple. The Bar Standards Board (BSB), as a professional body and regulator, controls the entry requirements for the profession. The competition authorities become concerned when it appears that the rules put in place by the regulator appear to favour the interests of the profession over that of others. The Competition Authority’s task is to ensure that the market for legal services operates in a manner which best serves the interests of the consumer.
When deciding who can practice at the Bar the rules should ensure the quality of legal services and, by facilitating healthy competition, ensure low prices and increased accessibility, by means of direct access or otherwise.
I’ll take a look at a few of the suggestions made for reform and tease out the competition problems before I pitch in my own thoughts.