Seven new social welfare law pupillages to be created
Only a couple of days ago, the Legal Education Foundation announced the funding of seven training contracts at law centres and charities throughout the UK aimed at Legal Practice Course (LPC) graduates. Now the charity’s boss has unveiled plans for a similar scheme pitched at prospective barristers.
Foundation chief executive Matthew Smerdon revealed exclusively to Legal Cheek that the charity — which emerged from last year’s sale of what is now the University of Law — wants to extend the programme to graduates of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
“We in early discussions with people at the bar,” said Smerdon, “to design a programme to attract young, bright, committed people who want to go into social welfare and public law but are finding it difficult to get a pupillage.”
He said the scheme would be conducted on similar lines to that targeting prospective solicitors, but will instead be designed for BPTC graduates. Smerdon has already had exploratory discussions with the Bar Council, the Bar Pro Bono Unit and the Inns of Court’s Advocacy Training Council. It is understood that the pro bono unit will recommend suitable chambers for the scheme.
According to Smerdon, the foundation hopes to launch the bar pupillage scholarships formally by the middle of next year, with the first graduates starting the programme by the end of 2015.
It is anticipated that there will be a similar number of places available to the seven on the training contract scheme. However, Smerdon warned that financial constraints might dictate that fewer pupillage places will be on offer from the start of the scheme.
Smerdon also acknowledged the initial limitations of the schemes, with both currently focused exclusively on LPC and BPTC graduates. However, he said the foundation was keen to expand the scheme to those entering the profession from alternative routes such as paralegals. The foundation will also aim to make some places available at chambers outside of London.
The foundation is also alert to possible clashes with an existing bar scholarship programme, the pupillage matched funding scheme. It was launched by the Council of the Inns of Court at the end of last year with the intention of creating “dozens” of pupillage scholarships. That scheme is also aimed at chambers working primarily in publicly-funded spheres of practice.
Smerdon told Legal Cheek that the foundation and the inns were liaising to ensure there was no overlap or conflict between the two scholarship programmes.
Dozens of extra 2014 pupillages could be created by the new Inns of Court subsidy scheme [Legal Cheek]