BPP Law School CEO Says Avoid Criminal Bar; Bar Council Chief Voices ‘Great Concern’ At Number Of Barrister Wannabes – Yet Still Students Keep Flocking To The BPTC

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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?

Well, read Bar Council chairman Michael Todd QC’s comments in the Evening Standard yesterday about the “great concern” he feels that the number of students recruited to the BPTC is “far more” than the number of pupillages available.

As head of a professional body like the Bar Council, Todd has a lot of people to keep sweet and has to couch his language in diplomatic terms so as not to offend. Reading between the lines, what he is really saying is “WHY THE FUCK HAS NOBODY BOTHERED LIMITING ENTRY TO THE BPTC?!”

It’s a good question. Because the situation has been going on for a good while – and just keeps getting worse and worse amid buck-passing, fake “diversity” excuses and outdated arguments about competition law.

For reasons that it’s hard to comprehend at times, the wannabe barristers keep coming. We have to accept that. Time then, finally, for the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to wake from its slumber and do something.


Chris Connollt

What makes you think the OFT have changed their stance on competition?


Tom Laidlaw

Well up to a point, the BSB tried to limit entry via the Aptitude test that Peter Woods QC advocated in his report. However the Office of Fair Trading then got involved and said that it would have ‘…the potential to have a significant effect on competition through unnecessary restriction of entry into the profession. ‘ This was only 3 years ago and while it might be considered ‘outdated’ I suspect that the OFT would come to the same conclusion again if the BSB tried again.


Tom Laidlaw

Sorry, that should have been Derek WoodQC


Mr Fantastic

The aptitude test is only going to make a difference is if it only selects the best candidates. When I took part in the pilot scheme, I completed the test in under 25 minutes and put very little effort into it. I scored “Above average”. Could someone smart enough to get at a 2.1 at uni do as well or better if they spent the full 60 minutes on it and paid attention rather than trying to complete it as fast as possible? Please.

“Your performance on the test is given in relation to that of other students who also completed the Aptitude Test.
Scores have been grouped into five score bands:
Low Average
Above Average
Well Above Average

Your score indicates that you would fall into the Above Average band.”



Surely the most obvious way of restricting entry is to have an entry requirement of 2.1 and above considering most pupillages require such?


Angus MacCulloch

I have some ‘updated’ competition law arguments that the OFT would no doubt be very happy to make should some of flawed plans to limit entry to the profession come back around.

Purely quantitative restrictions in the academic phase are always going to be difficult to argue when imposed top down. Qualitative restrictions would fare better.

The problems of oversupply need to be dealt with by the profession during the paid phase of training – as you then have a market solution. But that would mean that the profession would probably have to shoulder some of the cost.



Are there no Northern Ireland OFT regs?

I hate to bang on about it, but the NI Law Society has no difficulty limiting access to the professional course to those with training contracts.

And funnily enough, the accountants here have the same rule as the NI solicitors.

Why is the OFT trotted out for lawyers only?


Conrad Eoin

The second part of your article does not support the first half. The fact that there are a lot disappointed BPTC grads who are in a large amount of dept doesn’t affect whether or not it is possible to make a living with just a criminal practice. The number of unemployed grads is also irrelevent to diversity or social mobility unless it can be demonstrated that posh boys and girls are being hired despite there being a better qualified commoner in the running. It is the nature of the choice that is important not the ratio of the successful and unsuccessful candidates. If people are put off by the cost, which they are, then that is an issue about the cost, not the number of people taking and passing the course or the number of available pupillages.

I apologize if I missed something present in the times article as their website would not let me read it or anything else so I could only go by your quotations.


[…] Legal Cheek ran with the story: BPP Law School CEO Says Avoid Criminal Bar; Bar Council Chief Voices ‘Great Concern’ At Number O… […]


[…] Restricting The BPTC To Students Who’ve Already Bagged a Pupillage Wouldn’t Breach Competition Law… 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). […]


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