As the cost of doing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) rises another notch to £16,540 following a further round of fee hikes by law schools, cash-strapped Camilla Duchess of Cornwall has been made a barrister for free.
Upon receiving the award in a ceremony last night at Gray’s Inn, the Mon Fertile Finishing School alumnus said: “I think it’s very important to keep everything sort of ticking.”
The Duchess follows in the footsteps of her husband, Prince Charles, and her step son, William Saviour of the Falkland Islands, in attaining elite legal status. Charles was called to the Bar, also at Gray’s Inn, in 1975, while William was made an honorary barrister by Middle Temple in 2009. None will ever practise, although William hilariously quipped that he may pull on a wig to deal with “the odd speeding ticket.”
Now, Inns of Court, I know you love the royals – “The tradition is that there will always be a Royal Bencher ,” said treasurer Sir Michael Burton last night, giddily, after he’d met Camilla – but is it really such a good idea to be conferring barrister status on random Windsors at a time of crisis for social mobility at the Bar?
But, then, I suppose feting royals isn’t the only decadence the Inns have been permitting themselves recently.
Writing in Counsel magazine this month, new Bar Council chair Michael Todd took the rare step of criticising the behaviour of these treasured institutions – which refuse to disclose their financial data – following their decision to cut the subsidy they pay to the body by 50% over the next two years.
Having paid customary tribute to the Inns’ “provision of scholarships”, Todd added: “I have also witnessed some dissatisfaction with the increasing commercialism which the Inns adopt in relation to the other services they provide: the very full commercial rents charged to chambers, the charges levied for room hire for educational events of Specialist Bar Associations.”
Interesting times ahead at the Bar…