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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’.