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‘Dozens’ of extra 2014 pupillages could be created by new Inns of Court subsidy scheme

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The Inns of Court are to cover 50% of the cost of some pupillage awards at publicly funded chambers in a bid to encourage them to offer more pupillages — and boost the number of Bar graduates becoming practising barristers.

The radical scheme will be in place for the next round of Pupillage Gateway applications in the spring, with Council of the Inns of Court chief James Wakefield hopeful that it will create “dozens” of new pupillages…

Under the arrangement — dubbed the “Pupillage Matched Funding Scheme” — the Inns will match the amount of first six pupillage funding provided by a chambers with a grant to cover the cost of an additional first six pupillage. If the set offers two pupillages which it funds itself, it can get a grant to enable it to offer two more pupillages, and so on.

Where a chambers offers no pupillages, it can apply for a smaller grant of £3,000 towards taking on a pupil.

The scheme is only open to chambers whose work is predominantly publicly funded, with applications to be made here by 5pm on Monday 2 December 2013.

According to the Inns, decisions will be communicated “either just before or just after the Christmas break so that chambers can advertise pupillage on the Pupillage Gateway in the usual way.”

Wakefield told Legal Cheek: “We are really pleased to announce a scheme which will hopefully help more people advance their careers”, adding that it is the first time the Bar has tried such a measure to help wannabe barristers.

Declining to specify the amount which has been set aside to fund the subsidies, Wakefield stated that “the substantial but not unlimited fund we are devoting to this will hopefully create dozens rather than hundreds of pupillages”.

One of the catalysts for the scheme is believed to be the decision earlier this year by three major publicly funded sets — Charter Chambers, Guildhall Chambers and the now-defunct Tooks — to cancel their 2014 pupillages. At the time, Charter director Ian Payn warned that the government’s legal aid reforms could “destroy the whole notion of pupillage.”

With criminal pupillages accounting for a disproportionately high number of the approximately 450 pupillages offered annually (see graph below), it is believed that the Inns felt they had to act.

Pupillage-Practice-Area5

How far, though, they are simply transferring the bottleneck of wannabe barristers from the post-Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) stage to the post-pupillage stage remains to be seen. Indeed, Wakefield concedes that this is “a risk”. But, he continues: “Nevertheless this is a way of encouraging BPTC graduates to obtain their full qualification.”