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Killjoy bar leaders aim to phase out dining requirement for qualification as a barrister

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Age-old tradition of drunken bread roll fights looks set to be pensioned off as it’s not sufficiently educational

inns-dinner

Another tradition of the English bar seems destined to be thrown on the scrap heap of history as the age-old practice of dining before call is being phased out.

Legal Cheek understands from sources close to both the bar’s regulator and the Inns of Court that student dining is viewed as elitist and non-productive as a qualifying process for a modern profession.

Inner Temple is thought to be at the forefront of plans to ditch dinners-only pre-call qualifying sessions.

Generations of barristers will have fond memories of chucking bread rolls at each other and chugging low-grade port straight from the bottle at events that may have been short on modern networking ideals, but were long on drunken fun.

The Bar Standards Board is understood to have an unofficial policy of encouraging the inns to implement a range of more advanced qualifying sessions designed to give wannabe barristers a taste of practical experience at the bar. They are also meant to offer future lawyers an opportunity to rub shoulders with prospective future colleagues.

Qualifying sessions are currently split into roughly five categories, including full weekend seminars at an inn or at Cumberland Lodge, a 17th century castle in Berkshire, and education days generally held for students based outside London.

Then there are the dinners. However, these events have gradually evolved away from the old-fashioned bread roll and port affairs. Education dinners include lectures, while domus dinners — named after the homes of ancient wealthy Romans — involve students and senior barristers dining together.

So-called social dinners — such as “Grand Night” or student guest nights — which involve no educational or direct networking elements, still exist. However, this is the category that has fallen out of favour with the professional regulator and at least one of the inns and appears to be soon for the chop.

The BSB dictates that the weekend events count as three units, educational days count as two units and dinners and call night count as one unit.

37 Comments

Kris

I despair.

I was a mature part time BVC student & meeting other students in this way really helped me get over feeling “special & different”. It was great to belong.

I also got some great tips.

In what other context could I have dinner and a chat with Ross Cranston or Peter Rook.

Quangocrats are killing the profession.

(34)(2)

Kris

Ps

Would I have attended Grand Night without it being a QS?

I doubt it.

Strip it away and it will be elitist.

I was apprehensive about Grand Night. It turned out to be a hilarious evening out which I remember fondly 8 years later.

(16)(1)

Grant

This is a good idea. The problem is identified by Kris, it makes people feel special, but they are not special- any more than plumbers or electricians or bus drivers. It also encourages “people” who attend non Oxbridge universities to put on airs and graces and pretend that they are gentlemen.

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Anonymous

oh dear- chip much

didnt go to oxbridge so your not a gentleman?

(13)(0)

Grant

I did go to Oxbridge. You need to re read the posting.

(1)(10)

Anonymous

your comment was

it also encourages “people” who attend non Oxbridge universities to put on airs and graces and pretend that they are gentlemen

the implication being that to be a gentleman one must attend oxbridge. if you did not, you have to fake it.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

He meant “one is not a gentleman”, old bean.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Boorish fool our Grant

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Anonymous

It doesn’t seem to have done you much good.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Think Grant may have slightly missed the point I was attempting to make. I was definitely not an elite.

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Anonymous

“People” who didn’t go to Oxbridge putting on airs and graces and pretend that they are gentlemen…

You stuck up Oxbridge tw.t. It’s elitist, born to rule people like you Grant who drag our profession down. Happily, me and most other junior barristers who don’t have silver spoons lodged firmly up our bottoms spend our lives eating “people” like you for breakfast.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

How very disappointing to read. Presumably then those said killjoys are going to arrange full refunds for those of us who paid for the full dining experience then: what with it now being viewed as irrelevant?

(4)(0)

Not Amused

Why are we run by rebellious teenagers from the 1960s? This is exactly the same problem identified by David Neuberger when he talked about political judges going loopy.

Utterly pointless ‘reform’ entirely motivated by political views people acquired decades ago. The misuse of the term ‘elitist’ again. Almost every single member of this generation’s establishment is determined to act like Edina Monsoon.

Utterly pathetic. Fortunately these views will die out (and future generations who are not entirely composed of spoilt baby boomers trying to ‘stick it to the man’ will restore the traditions); but this is all utterly childish in the meantime.

(21)(0)

Anonymous

Great points well made ‘Not Amused’.

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Anonymous

Thanks Anonymous (NA)

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Anonymous

If the BSB starts stripping out the bits of the BPTC that aren’t relevant for pupillage and private practice, there’s not going to be much left!

(23)(0)

SB

Firstly, Cumberland Lodge is not a castle. It’s near Windsor Castle but perhaps you should have read Wikipedia a bit more closely.

I wasn’t aware that there were any QS that didn’t have any educational content to them. There certainly isn’t at my Inn. And isn’t that a prerequisite of a QS outlined by the BSB?

Losing dinners as QS will make it even more difficult for students to finish their 12 qualifying sessions as the Inns will need to do more interactive sessions which can not be done on a large scale like dinners (which include talks) and this will strain the Inn’s resources. However I do agree that the actual benefit of more interactive sessions will far surpass that of the dinners.

It also brings everyone on a level playing field. A student can currently get all their QS from dining and will be just as ‘qualified’ as a student who has attended a residential weekend, mooting competitions and numerous advocacy sessions.

The residential weekends should be at least 5 QS as well. The students listen to 2/3 lectures do 2 advocacy seminars and dine together about 5 times in all. Maths doesn’t really add up.

Anyway what do I know

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Firstly is not a word.

(0)(1)

Ollie Trumpington

But what about all that spare port going to waste? Tragic

(5)(1)

Gladiatrix

I don’t know who these sources close to the Inns of Court are but as a committee member at one of the Inns I can state the BSB’s view of qualifying sessions is not shared by my Inn, and that has been made clear to the BSB more than once. The BSB has a bad case of mission creep, is aware that it is hated by Bar as a whole, and is merely seeking to justify its entirely unjustifiable existence.

COIC should tell the BSB in terms that qualifying sessions, as with Call to the Bar, are none of the BSB’s business, do not fall within the BSB’s statutory remit and the BSB is mind its own business.

(27)(0)

Not Amused

Just posting to say keep up the good work. Committee members like you are very much appreciated.

We need to convince Osborne to cut the BSB …

(17)(0)

Gladiatrix

Sigh, is ‘to’ mind its own business. Can we have an edit function please?

On a more important note, I am surprised that Legal Cheek has not commented on the letter in today’s edition of the Guardian from Nick Hayes which contains serious criticisms of, if not outright allegations against, Cooke J’s conduct of his son’s trial.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Yes it’s interesting. 14 years is ridiculous.

(1)(0)

Victoria Burgess

I attended a state school and was first in my family to go to university. Dining gave me a chance to make contacts that wouldn’t have been open to me.

Without dinning I would have never been able to spend an evening with a Judge and QC chatting about a high profile case they’d both been involved in. I wouldn’t have had the beneft of their advice. I wouldn’t have gained the confidence that came with being told by them that a career at the bar wasn’t a ridiculous ambition for someone like me.

But yes. Let’s get rid of dining & do NOTHING about the rip off bar course fees which does NOTHING to prepare your for life at the bar.

(21)(0)

Anonymous

I echo your sentiments exactly. Stayed attending QSs early in the GDL (so just pre-minis) and otherwise wouldn’t have met a single barrister in my life until I was sat with one for a full week at my first mini. Helped me to get acquainted, on the whole benchers etc who give up their evenings to attend are kind and encouraging and only a few are there to touch up young women. Luckily they’re old, and therefore easy to escape.

(0)(0)

Dr Bonham

I’m starting the BPTC in September 2015 and the qualifying sessions were the one aspect of this process I’m not dreading.

(5)(0)

Dude likes dinner

It offers “no direct networking elements”…really! People still engage with each other and are likely to share experiences of a broader nature as the setting predisposes them to exchange more than just views on legal matters.

It allows you to peek behind the veil of professional status and see the PEOPLE, not the lawyers. To learn more about their ambitions, motivations and character. These social dinners present a land on which the seed of friendship can be sown.

P.S. I have often expressed my dislike of rigid traditions, especially in a fast-developing technological society, but there is some benefit in organising events like the one at hand. Perhaps, the environment should be slightly more modern, which could prompt less histrionics from the participants.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

I went to a regional BVC provider and found the dining sessions to be excellent. By meeting those who had already been through the process I received lots of good advice. It will be a shame for future students if they miss out on this.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Dining is different at each inn but it has some key feature which are universal: it is formal and attended by juniors, QCs and judges; it favours those who can hold a conversation; it requires rules to be followed some of which feel quite arbitrary; there is an opportunity to get pissed with like minded people.

Sounds like my career at the bar really.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

‘it favours those who can hold a conversation’

Classic

(0)(0)

Anonymous

It was the only good bloody thing in the whole shambolic BPTC experience. Bastards

(7)(0)

mdg

Yeah, because dinners are the real fucking issue… Stupid thing to ban.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

As an added bonus, people with eating disorders (and many barristers have them) won’t be so limited in their qualifying session choices..

(2)(0)

Anonymous

This is a double-edged sword for me. As a BPTC student t’up North slaving away at civil litigation revision and with minimal side funds, I definitely would have welcomed the abolishment, or at least reduction, of qualifying sessions that involve shedding a small fortune to hop on an overpriced train to London.

Yet, despite the financial penalty, dining at the Inns was a great experience. The networking opportunities were invaluable, and even though they would not have led to an offer of pupillage, the hints and tips were useful. And, you know what? They were great fun, especially for a non-Oxbridge, non-public school BPTC student; it was my only opportunity to experience that type of grand, educational dining.

(5)(1)

Grant

Ah well, now you can put the kettle on and enjoy a pot noodle

(1)(3)

Anonymous

Those who enjoy dining can still engage in it should the requirement be abolished. It being compulsory is unjustifiable and potentially unlawful.

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Anonymous

You vill eat

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