Bar Standards Board chief: ‘There are too many people at the Bar’ and BPTC entry threshold ‘has to be higher’

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By Thomas Connelly on

The head of the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has suggested that the Bar is too big and that access to the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) should be further restricted.

Baroness Ruth Deech’s comments — made on the Radio 4 show Law in Action yesterday — come just months after the BSB introduced the Bar Course Aptitude Test for entry onto the BPTC. The test has attracted widespread criticism for being too easy.

Speaking to the show’s host, journalist Joshua Rozenberg, Deech said that the number of pupillages “has decreased and will decrease”. She highlighted criminal law — which provides far more pupillages than any other area of law — as facing “a tremendous shrinkage”.

Deech added: “It is almost universally admitted that there are too many people at the Bar and the market doesn’t look very good in the future.”

Turning her focus to barrister training, the BSB chief said: “There has to be a higher threshold for entry onto the BPTC”. She proceeded to suggest that EU law had prevented the BSB from implementing as thorough a test as she had hoped in respect of examining candidates’ English language ability.

Meanwhile, another guest on the show, University of Law president Nigel Savage, suggested that wannabe barristers should do the Legal Practice Course (LPC) rather than the BPTC, and work as solicitors first before potentially switching to the Bar at a later stage.

Responding to Rozenberg’s question as to what advice he would give to the students listening, Savage answered: “Qualify as a solicitor: there are far more opportunities,” before citing Law Society statistics predicting growth in the number of solicitors of 26% between 2011-2020.

He continued: “Do the LPC and you can go into a [law firm’s] litigation department — litigation is booming in general both domestically and globally — and then if you are passionate about the Bar you can transfer over. That’s a much safer bet.”

The podcast version of yesterday’s Law in Action — which also features contributions from two recent law graduates who haven’t obtained a pupillage or a training contract — is here.