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Pupillage Gateway might not move to January after all

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Bar Council in possible U-turn over centralised application switch

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The Bar Council has today revealed that it will seek “further consultation” over confirmed plans to move the centralised pupillage application system from April to January.

The planned switch — that was announced last month — would mean that aspiring barristers would know if they have secured a pupillage before committing to the costly Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

However, today’s news would suggest that the Bar Council is getting cold feet, with the bar’s representative body wishing to undertake a consultation this autumn to explore the practical implications of the move.

Legal Cheek understands that the Bar Council has been subject to criticism from several chambers for leaving them in the dark over what was a well-intentioned move, with one insider suggesting that it was “sprung upon us out of the blue”.

Addressing concerns, a spokesperson for the Bar Council said:

The Bar Council is a truly representative body in that it listens to its members. We are sensitive to the fact that for some chambers, moving the Pupillage Gateway opening to January for 2016 is too soon and that there will be logistical problems for chambers already in the process of recruiting pupils for next year. Equally, some students have expressed a desire for us to hold off changing the date. Rather than turn a blind eye to what chambers and students are telling us, we are keen to take on board all concerns. It is therefore vital that we consult further on this matter.

Previously:

Pupillage Gateway moved to January so students know if they have chambers place before committing to BPTC [Legal Cheek]

38 Comments

Anonymous

Bar Council in not-knowing-arse-from-elbow shocker…

(15)(1)

Am I missing something?

Those chambers who have already recruited/begun recruiting for the 2017 intake could just not be a part of the gateway until they can align with its dates.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Has anyone begun recruiting for 2017 intake?!

(0)(0)

Pantman

Yes, there are always sets offering deferred pupillages.

(0)(0)

Not Amused

Legal Regulators – never knowingly competent.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Oh ffs, just move it to January and do us students a favour for once

(11)(0)

VTESI

Good idea, poor execution. Move it to January in 1-2 years, giving students and chambers enough time to get their papers/activities in order. Doing it now is ridiculous and will unfairly penalise some students.

(5)(4)

LegalStudent

A move to help students should be welcomed, whole heartedly. Any consultion, which may lead to the timetable change not taking place, will not help students.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

I don’t understand the intention of moving dates just to help aspiring barristers know if they have secured pupillage before committing to the BPTC.

It seems to me that it is extremely rare to gain pupillage pre-BPTC, which is probably because chambers want to know you’re definitely enrolled (and therefore committed to the Bar) and that you will not flop the course.

I received no interviews applying pre-BPTC, but then was invited to a handful before being offered pupillage after the BPTC. I do not think applications pre-BPTC
are an adequate gauge of whether you should enrol on the BPTC or not.

(6)(5)

Anonymous

It’s not ‘extremely rare’. Most half-decent candidates are likely to get an interview or two pre-BPTC, even with a mediocre application form.

Top candidates, particularly those studying the GDL and with access to pupillage application support, are likely to get pupillage pre-BPTC.

(4)(6)

Anonymous

Yet, the change appears to be based on the premise that students should consider not committing to the BPTC if they fail to obtain pupillage beforehand. My view is that it would be foolish for someone with a good CV, which they have compared against recent pupils and tenants, to abort commencing the BPTC because they have had no success with applications. I maintain that, apart from exceptional candidates, chambers generally prefer to offer pupillage to candidates who have their BPTC results.

(4)(1)

Simon Myerson QC

No. We don’t.

(6)(0)

Quo Vadis

Most sets ask applicants to cover BPTC material during second round interviews. This poses a colossal disadvantage to people applying before the BPTC and effectively forces applicants to take the BPTC to have a reasonable shot at pupillage. If your set does things differently, I commend you for it – but you are in the minority.

(2)(0)

Not Amused

No it doesn’t. The BPTC offers no benefits to a pupillage applicant and you are mad if you engage upon the course without pupillage.

I simply can’t imagine how the ‘training’ received on the joke of a course could actively assist a candidate. I see someone raises plea in mitigation. Well I’m not a criminal barrister but I’d be pretty confident having a go at one. It’s the staple of every single court room TV show ever made. I can’t for the life of me see why a kid would need to blow 18.5k to have a 1.5 hour session learning what one is in order to get pupillage.

The majority (9 out of 10) of my Chamber’s successful pupils in the last decade have all interviewed straight from a law degree or the GDL. There is absolutely no need to engage on this ridiculous course if you can’t get pupillage – it will not help, it is a waste of money.

Simon is right and I applaud him for saying so. You would all do well to listen to him.

(2)(3)

Pantman

At the very least interviewees feel less confident about second interviews, when they know they are likely to face a formal advocacy test. You may well be right that this is a skill easily achieved, but it’s probably easier for a BPTC graduate to assess the scope of the test than for someone yet to start their GDL.

(0)(0)

Quo Vadis

For the top commercial chambers, it’s a buyer’s market. There aren’t many top candidates (Oxbridge 1st, BCL, you know the type), and they tend to get multiple offers, so the chambers have to work hard to attract them. That means big awards, but also a pupillage application process which does not disadvantage early applicants. (I suspect this describes your chambers, Not Amused.) However, away from the commercial elite, it is most definitely a seller’s market – oceans of very similar candidates, applying before and after the BPTC. There is nowhere near the pressure on such chambers to make their application process fair. If a pre-BPTC candidate is asked to write an Opinion, give a Plea in Mitigation, or comment extensively on court procedure (all of which I was asked to do this year) they will underperform relative to what they would be capable of doing upon completion of the BPTC. The margins at second interview are likely so slight that this underperformance may prevent their success altogether.

(2)(0)

Not Amused

You are talking to someone who is on record as saying that, for young people without private wealth, only about 100 out of the 400 pupillages is really worth having.

It just seems mad to me that you would advise a kid to undertake a course that costs £18,500 + living expenses in order to gain a hypothetical tiny advantage in obtaining a job that won’t pay enough to live on. That sort of advice leads to bankruptcy. If the sorts of sets that pay absolute minimum pupillages and take half a dozen pupils need you to have done the BPTC in order to get their pupillage then you are obviously better off not doing the BPTC and getting a properly paying job.

Our quest to be eternally kind to young people should not lead us to blindly recommend that ‘any pupillage is a good thing’ when they demonstrably aren’t. The market is broken. The Bar is contracting. But it doesn’t behave in a rational way – just look at those sets who advertise pupillages right up until they go bust.

Kids need to be xareful. This is dangerous stuff. One test of whether a pupillage is worth having is does it pay you enough to live on. Another seems to me ‘does it require me to spend £18,500 to get it’. My advice is not going to change – kids without private wealth should not do the BPTC until they have secured pupillage. Your advice seems expensive and extremely risky to me.

Quo Vadis

I agree that the pupillage award is an indication of likely future earnings and therefore a pupillage with an award of £12k will likely be unsustainable for people without private wealth. I would even say anything less than £20k will not give the pupil barrister a standard of living commensurate with the stress and effort of pupillage. Pupilbase tells me that the top 100 pupillages by award pay over £40,000. However, the next 100 chambers still pay their pupils between £20,000 and £40,000. Are those really unsustainable?

Not Amused

It’s a question of degree of risk. Most people in that bracket could get a far better TC or even out of law job like management consultancy, accountancy, banking, hedge funds or private equity.

My ‘100’ are convenient as a round number I grant. So the question is where you draw the line. £35,000 was what another commentator once used. I can understand that but mine is probably £40,000. Kids are paying *a lot* of money to get to that stage when a better paying job (and life) await them outside law.

I love my job but I refuse to pretend that I would do it for free. Part of the problem with the over attractiveness of law is appalling maths teaching in state schools combined with a useless careers advice service that only recognises jobs from 1952.

VTESI

Getting a criminal pupillage before BPTC is really rare.

(3)(0)

Quo Vadis

Because every criminal chambers will ask applicants to do a plea in mitigation/bail application, which is not covered on the GDL or LLB. Some of them even spring it upon you on the day of the interview. Trust me, I’ve been there.

(1)(0)

Viscount Dilhorne

Not Amused – please, please, please put a sock in it.

Your pathetic fawning over anything Myerson QC says on here is quite nauseating.

Are you that pathetic each time you come up, on those rare occasions that you get inside a court-room, against a Silk that you stand there fawning to them…?

(1)(2)

Another View

I’m one of those young, poor, and possibly bright, kids at whom Not Amused directs many of his comments. I would hope he does not ‘put a sock in it’, as I find his insights most helpful. And I do not find it remotely surprising that two barristers – Not Amused and SMQC – happen to have similar views on occasion.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

The Bar Barometer survey shows 30% of candidates have pupillage offers pre-BPTC commencement.

(1)(1)

Raging

How can it supposedly help students by just continually exacerbating uncertainty. I thought i was going to be able to apply for the Gateway sets in January and now I’m not going to be able to and i’m not going to be able to until after a consultation in the Autumn. How am I in a better position now considering I have absolutely no clue what is going on. One girl writes an article complaining about the date and that prompts a change while hundreds of people who welcomed the change but didn’t feel the need to take to the internet to jump for joy are forgotten. Absolutely ridiculous

(2)(2)

Anonymous

“The planned switch…would mean that aspiring barristers would know if they have secured a pupillage before committing to the costly Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)”

No it doesn’t. Come on Legal Cheek, I pointed this out to you before.

It means that the TINY MINORITY of applicants who secure pupillage before the BPTC will now know before committing to the said BPTC. Everyone else would simply be applying again next January.

During the BPTC.

(5)(0)

Quo Vadis

Around a third of successful applicants secure pupillage before the BPTC.

(3)(5)

Anon

Given the calibre of people offered pupillage, it wouldn’t surprise me if those ‘exceptional students’, i.e. Oxbridge academics and internships in Europe, make up at least a third of new pupils. So, the point probably remains that it’s still rare for most ‘normal’ aspiring barristers to gain pupillage pre-BPTC.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Meaning (if true) that the clear majority of people do not secure pupillage before the BPTC and so this change will not affect them in the way Legal Cheek keeps claiming.

Thank you for making my point for me.

(5)(0)

Quo Vadis

A third =/ ‘A tiny minority’

(1)(2)

Anon

Yes, but I wonder if this third have 2:1s from Manchester or Firsts from Oxbridge and internships in The Hague… I doubt they are reflective of the average pupillage applicant. Anecdotal, yes, but all of those I know who gained pupillage before the BPTC were exceptional Oxbridge graduates.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

So what! it remains true that the clear majority of people do not secure pupillage before the BPTC and so this change will not affect them in the way Legal Cheek keeps claiming.

Do you have anything to say about that? Or are your arguments restricted to nit-picking over words?

(2)(0)

VTESI

Doesn’t say how many are in commercial/chancery sets, which would be far more interesting to know, and I’m making an educated guess that almost all of the 1/3 who get pupillage before BPTC are in this category.

(2)(0)

Quo Vadis

Most – but ‘almost all’? Nope.

(0)(1)

Anon

At least with the current setup most interviews are scheduled just after people have finished the BPTC. I would not have enjoyed the prospect of having to attend interviews during revision for the centralised assessments.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Good. We had to endure the gateway doing centralised assessments on the BPTC. Next year’s cohort should too.

(2)(1)

Bb

One of the problems regarding moving to January is that the outcome of the scholarships from the Inns of Court are not known until the end of March as things stand. If an aspiring Barrister gets one of these, then surely that needs to go on the application form? It is such a big deal to get one, so how could the application form be amended to reflect this or would interviews be held before the outcome of the scholarships is known. Chambers can, and do, ask BPTC questions at interviews to people who have yet to do the BPTC and these applicants are clearly disadvantaged.

(2)(0)

Quo Vadis

You are right – some Inns (e.g. Middle?) only notify applicants about scholarship decisions until after the deadline for submitting Gateway applications. This is bad for LLB students, who haven’t had the chance to apply for a scholarship before, and for GDL students who were unsuccessful in the previous year. Of course, you can let the chambers know before the interview if you have been successful – but it isn’t ideal.

(0)(0)

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