Bar Should Be Restricted To Russell Group Graduates

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By OccupyTheInns on

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…

1. Contrary to what many seem to have misguidedly concluded, the BPTC is a difficult course on which to gain a place. Each year approaching 3,000 students apply, and each year around a 1,000 of those students are disappointed. So to all intents and purposes there is already an aptitude test!

2. It is commonly assumed by some that a BPTC aptitude test could somehow be plucked out of the air. However, the logistics of implementing a test would be a nightmare. Where would law schools begin? Would they include an advocacy test? Would they interview all 3,000 students applying? Would they demand that the many overseas students wishing to take the course simply “fly in”? And maybe most importantly, who would pay for it?

3. The concept of an aptitude test gloriously fails to take into account the great progress many students make during the BPTC. I can say personally that my advocacy skills developed tremendously during the course thanks to some brilliant tutors and the fine additional advocacy training provided by the Inns of Court. While I feel confident I would pass any aptitude test that was implemented, I certainly would achieve a higher mark now that I have benefitted from this training. A test could mean the Bar loses the valuable talent of some impressive late-developers.

4. My political sympathies are located firmly on the Left, but it cannot be ignored that the aptitude test breaches fundamental principles of free market thinking and the very laws of supply and demand. In a profession like the Bar, where as many practitioners specialise in commercial work as legal aid, can it be right to bring in a system of externally imposed regulation to decide who can become a barrister?

Advocates of an aptitude test are not only wrong, but they ignore a simple solution to the problem: restricting BPTC entry to graduates of Russell Group universities (or universities with equivalent status) who boast at least a 2.1, or if necessary a high 2.1. Many of the students on my BPTC lacked these credentials and as a result struggled to keep the pace of a demanding course. Preventing their entry, unless they had exceptional mitigating circumstances, would in an instant reduce the numbers of barristers seeking pupillage without incurring the cost and difficulties of an aptitude test. Sometimes the most obvious solutions are positioned right beneath one’s nose.

*On a separate matter, I considered long and hard the case for and against responding to the accusations that I am a “troll”, and I have decided not to dignify those accusations with a response. If, however, I struck a note that offended people with my previous post about the provinces then I can only express my regret at this.*

OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC last summer, and was called to the Bar in July 2011. There’s more from OccupyTheInns here.