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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.”

8 Comments

john

very sensible, although should probably go even further – seems daft the inns fund people to do the bptc; education weekends; internships, but until now haven’t actually provided financial support to become a barrister… even if most people don’t get tenancy, they will still be qualified, so can become solicitors, go to other countries, and just generally have a taste of what they’ve actually been training for…

I suppose the resistance will be that the more qualified barristers there are, the greater the numbers willing to work for low pay …

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Dan Bunting

This is welcome. I think.

The argument that it moves the bottleneck down ignores the fact that after a pupillage the person will actually have a practising certificate, which should help.

I haven’t got the latest stats, but I think that the rate of decline in tenancies is slower than those of pupillages, which may mean that the chambers that are recruiting pupils are doing more so with a view to tenancy – which would be a good thing in my view.

On the other hand, the bigger point is whether the reduction in pupillages is a sign that the publicly funded bar (particularly crime) is on its last legs. For example, Charter chambers has 54 members. A pupil works out at £2.14 per week per tenant (less actually as it’s tax deductible). It’s not just the immediate cost of a pupil, but the cuts in pupillage (across the board, just picked Charter because you mentioned them) come about because there doesn’t seem to be much of a future for barristers in chambers.

Maybe it’s time for the Bar Council (and law schools) to be honest and introduce a ‘finance test’ for the BPTC if you want to do crime? No entry unless you have a sufficient trust fund to survive the cuts?

That’s all a bit jumbled, but I guess that it’s good to see the Inns doing something.

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Andrew

If anyone wants to do a pupillage for £6,000 (in the first 6 months) then be my guest. You cannot survive on that.

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Seriously?

You can, just with great difficulty, and extreme budgeting. That is, if your chambers are willing to pay things like transports fees, compulsory course fees and allow you not to pay rent or clerks fees, which many do.

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Bedraggled Barrister

@DanBunting – changing the number of pupillages doesn’t change the basic economic fact of how much work there is at the junior Bar. If the Bar is going through a (necessary?) contraction in overall numbers, then it might not be a good idea to be swelling the number of pupillages out there.

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Not Amused

This is no doubt well intentioned.

BUT it does seem to be utterly counter productive. Part of the problem with criminal law now is that barrister numbers rose far too high (step forward Mr Mansfield et al). That meant that supply and demand economics allowed the gov to force down prices – which I understand they’ve done continuously since, errr, the number of barrister started rising. Now instead of re-balancing the market we’re taking Inn money which could frankly be used for other things and subsidising poor business decisions.

The only winner here is Grayling. This is really very very silly and a waste of cash.

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FuturePupil

Is this the same James Wakefield who runs the BPTC at Kaplan? Conflict of interest? These stats (https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/media-centre/research-and-statistics/statistics/pupillage-statistics/), albeit a few years old now, show that there’s a massive oversupply of BPTC grads, and a still sizeable oversupply of pupils at tenancy selection. Even with the contraction of pupillages at the criminal bar, there must still be far more pupillages than tenancies available.

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CurrentPupil

*ran the BPTC at Kaplan

He left at the end of last year to run the Council of the Inns of Court instead. The impression I know a few people got was that he was looking forward to the idea of looking after the interests of the people he had been teaching, rather than the conglomerate he had been teaching them for.

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