How Never Having Done a Pupillage Needn’t Stop You Appearing On The Telly As a ‘Barrister’

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Over the weekend, David Neita, a self-styled ‘People’s Lawyer and People’s Poet’, was interviewed on BBC Breakfast News, where he was billed as a ‘barrister’. Neita – a Bar Vocational Course (BVC) graduate who the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has no record of doing a pupillage – explained how he’s trying to stop racism in football, adding on behalf of the Society of Black Lawyers that “we are lending our support” to a breakaway union for black players.

It’s not against the rules, of course, for Bar graduates who’ve never done a pupillage to describe themselves as ‘barristers’. BSB regulations state that anyone who has completed the BVC, or its successor, the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), can call themselves a ‘barrister’ – provided it is not in connection with the supply of legal services (a right reserved only for those who have completed pupillage)…

Indeed, there are even exceptions to this rule. For example, honorary legal advisers to charities who have been called to the Bar but not done pupillage are allowed to use the term ‘barrister’ in connection with their work. As are law lecturers, legal writers and mediators.

However, as contributors to this thread argued earlier this year, the relaxed rules in relation to the use of the title of ‘barrister’ can lead to confusion. Certainly, any TV viewer without a detailed knowledge of the legal profession could be forgiven for misunderstanding the level of legal expertise of somebody who, despite not practising law, is publicly billed as a ‘barrister’.



Another daft quirk of the Bar. Few will mourn its passing.


Barbara Davies

He’s not offering to work as a barrister. He’s only saying that he is qualified and he is very open about the fact that he didn’t get a pupillage and explains, in a hysterical fashion, why that didn’t happen for him. I’m a T.V. viewer with next to no legal knowledge but I know the difference. I learned the difference when checking out the Nigerian Bar Association after an episode of Come Dine With Me. I think we should applaud the fact that he came to a new country and did the best he could when up against a very elitist bunch who first told him to be himself then told him not to be himself.


james crawford

Here’s the link where he explains why he didn’t get his pupillage. It’s a long clip so forward it to 44.30 (44 and a half minutes) to get his whole story or skip to 47.30 to hear about the pupillage. I don’t know why you’re concerned about telly viewers knowing what his level of qualification is. He wasn’t really speaking about legal matters. Should an axe murderer, either yet to be caught or on remand, who watches B.B.C. news at 7.38 in the morning want to engage Mr Neita then their solicitor will put them right. As you say, he did pass the bar exams though he doesn’t describe himself as a barrister. He has practised law as a lawyer, the title he gives himself.



How many BBC Breakfast viewers will go through to find such information about him though? It’s a bit sly saying you’re a Barrister on national television when you don’t practice as one. The average television viewer won’t be aware he doesn’t practice and whether you like it or not calling yourself a Barrister gives you a hell of a lot more clout on issues than calling yourself a people’s poet.


james crawford

It doesn’t matter whether viewers would know the difference or not. A member of the public can’t employ a barrister. They have to go through a solicitor. Your solicitor would call a chambers and be told who is available and who might specialise in certain cases. If he doesn’t work in a chambers he can’t work as a barrister. Having passed the exams he is allowed to use the title and he is as clever as a barrister but doesn’t have the experience. As a solicitor, though, he will be keeping up to date with changes in the law and will have experience in that field – so whoever gets him as their solicitor is getting quite a bargain! He says in the Youtube clip that he got a job but I don’t know what he’s doing right now. This article is really splitting hairs. It’s like carping at a Dr who has retired. They retain that title because they earned it with their degree and they do still know about medicine. I’m no expert in etiquette but I think it’s polite to respect the highest qualification a person has earned.

If you want to have a pop at people mis-representing themselves what about Freddie Starr and Jim Davidson who have been on telly recently calling themselves comedians…



Not true – Barristers can be instructed by members of the public directly, so long as they are entitled to do Direct Access work. What’s more, members of the public are not often aware of the fact that barristers usually need instructing through an intermediary, so this specific point isn’t going to stop the public being misled.


Ems A

Constantly creating barriers does not result in quality representation due to prohibitive cost and the public are increasingly forced to self-represent or seek advice from professionals who have not received formal training and education. Why not make it a requirement of a practising certificate to have trained at least one person within the last 3 years – not excessive!

And you do not need to have the perfect resume. If non-legally qualified personnel have to take on cases because of the prohibitive expense of the legal profession, virtually any educated lawyer with the same energy and charisma would be suitable?


Peter Savage

The only reason to claim to be a Barrister when you’re not one is to pretend you are.


Barbara Davies

Why would anyone pretend to be a barrister?



The Bar needs to get rid of the “non-practising barrister” titles for those without pupillage. The title should only be used when fully-qualified. Quite simple really.

Anyone else cringe a little when they see BPTC/BVC grads prouldly proclaim that they’re a “Barrister (non-practising)” on their Twitter profiles? Well done them for spending £15k on an otherwise useless course and passing a few exams! It seems so strange that people believe they deserve a professional title even when they have little to no practical experience in the field.



There’s a decent argument that he is in breach of the rules though. The rule is that you can’t hold yourself out as a barrister in connection with the supply of legal services.

Now look at his website. Front page is a photo of him in a wig and gown. He may describe himself as a “lawyer” rather than a barrister, but the wearing of the garb is enough to count as “holding out”. That’s why pupils on their First Six cannot wear the robes (despite the attempts of many to do so).

Then, if you go to “Make an Offer”, it says “Dave Neita offers Legal Services in the area of Education Law”.

He’s probably crossed the line there, or is otherwise very very close to it.



I never called myself a barrister when I was merely a non-practising graduate.

People doing this on their Twitter profiles should have a word with themselves, as should the people’s lawyer and poet.

You’re not qualified and you’re just stroking your own egos. Get some substance, and get back to us when you have a practising certificate.

What concerns me is how the BBC came across the people’s lawyer and poet as an expert to be interviewed – when they’re putting out twitter broadcasts for women experts to make themselves known as their journalists can’t find qualified women to speak to.

They can only find charlatans, evidently.


Barbie Doll

You would be an expert in racism in football?



This interview is just excellent! I do have an immense respect for the work of David Neita and for all his hard work to fight racism in this country and beyond.


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