Time For Barristers To Put Hands in Their Pockets

Avatar photo

By OccupyTheInns on

Pupillage should be the test for Bar wannabes, not interviews – and wealthy barristers should pay, argues OccupyTheInns

Rarely have I found myself nodding as fiercely in agreement as yesterday when I read Andrew Jackson’s proposal to raise the minimum pupillage award by having barristers effectively compelled to pay £3 a day towards the training of pupils.

Jackson’s proposal would, of course, also have extremely positive repercussions for the outrageous situation with regard to lack of pupillages at the Bar. Force barristers to pay a contribution towards pupils’ training and more pupillages would undoubtedly flow from the wider availability of funding. I rather like Mr. Jackson’s style, which echoes what I myself have argued for in the past.

My own words, which appeared in Legal Cheek in November, read as follows: “Senior lawyers often earn easily in excess of £1 million – and this year Linklaters’ top earning partner took home £2.2 million. Would it truly be asking that much for them to sacrifice a small portion of these sums to fund between them pupillages and training contracts for the jobless graduates who have the strongest CVs?”

At this point I would like to clarify that I am no longer advocating the occupation of the Inns of Court – a campaign I brought to an end last year. However, it seems that my pen name has proved rather popular, notwithstanding some rather disappointing and unconstructive comments on some of my previous posts. As I remain committed to the spirit rather than the letter of the sentiment behind OccupyTheInns, I have decided to continue with the moniker. Indeed, it is my submission that some of the debate which both the Occupy the Inns and the Occupy Movement have encouraged is behind the changing attitudes we are seeing among senior practitioners like the aforementioned Andrew Jackson.

As somebody who has reached numerous second round pupillage interviews, having completed the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) with a ‘Very Competent’ last year following consistently high previous educational performance, I am very keen to see the current pupillage system reformed. Some minor changes would be transformative for people in my position. In addition, they would benefit the Bar as a whole as they would allow a new generation of highly able and motivated people to repopulate a profession that is being buffeted by the winds of change from the Legal Services Act (LSA) and technology.

A system where more pupillages were available would be a great improvement on the current selection process that determines entry to the Bar. A year-long opportunity to showcase one’s skills in front of barristers and judges should be the true job interview for barristers, not a few questions in front of an interview panel. If I were to be deemed unfit for the profession after a year on my feet, I would be content to plough other professional furrows. However, if I, or the many in my position, were to succeed at this stage, then the Bar would be stronger for it.

Members of the Bar, what is stopping you, other than a fear of change itself, from reforming a system that is holding the profession back?

OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC last summer, and was called to the Bar in July 2011.