Will the BPTC class of 2014 have no ethics?

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By Thomas Connelly on

This year’s wannabe barristers are being taught last year’s superseded Bar code of conduct, it has emerged.

A QC has slammed the providers of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) after discovering that they are teaching an outdated code of conduct to this year’s students.

Writing on his blog, Pupillage And How To Get It, Simon Myerson QC suggested that law schools “should be ashamed of themselves” for basing their 2014 ethics module on last year’s significantly different rules.

The Leeds-based silk became aware of the situation after spending a weekend with Middle Temple students in York. He added: “The BSB should have realised the difficulty and sorted it. Not much point regulating the profession unless you give a stuff about its students.”

The new revised Bar Code of Conduct (contained within the new Bar Handbook) came into force on 6 January this year, having been approved by the Legal Services Board (LSB) in July 2013.

We contacted the BSB to put Myerson’s criticisms to them. Head of education and training Simon Thornton-Wood told us:

“In setting out the 2014 BPTC course, providers asked that the syllabus be agreed early in 2013. The development, review and approval process for course materials in a programme of this scale requires very careful advance planning. It was not until the Legal Services Board approved the new Handbook in July 2013 that there was any real certainty it would be coming into force this year.

“We’ve worked closely with both providers and students to make sure that, by the end of their BPTC, students know about the new Handbook – and the key changes it introduces – which will be fully reflected in next year’s syllabus and exams. That said, it is important to point out that the core principles of the professional ethics to which we expect barristers to adhere remain unchanged from previous years.”

This response is unlikely to pacify Myerson, who is calling on chambers to “cut some slack” to the BPTC class of 2014 by ensuring “that the first 6 months includes the ethics training for which they have already paid but have received no value whatever.” He has also suggested that “the entities making money out of students could provide a percentage of it to offer more pupillages for the beleaguered publicly funded Bar.”