Atkin Chambers raises pupillage award to £72,500 — the highest at the bar by far

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Commercial set ups pupil money by 20%


Atkin Chambers has leapfrogged a host of top sets to become the highest payer of pupil barristers in the country — increasing its pupil award from £60,000 to a whopping £72,500.

The previous top-payer was 2 Temple Gardens, which offers its pupils £67,500, with several other chambers paying £65,000.

As part of the rise, construction-geared commercial set Atkin will offer students it has recruited the opportunity to “drawdown” £25,000 in advance funding for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) — which is also a new bar record.

It is worth noting that the first six months of pupillage awards are usually tax fee, while pupils often go on to pull in substantial additional earnings during their second six on top of their award. So the lucky three pupils taken on by Atkin stand to earn considerably in excess of the £72,500 figure.

Certainly they will make way more than the highest UK first year trainee solicitor salary of £50,000 offered by the London offices of US pair Davis Polk and Sullivan & Cromwell.

But wannabe barristers who want to join Atkin better get moving: the set has announced that it is quitting the centralised Pupillage Gateway system, where applications are made in April, to go on its own with a new pupillage application deadline of 18 December 2015.

Elsewhere at the bar, One Essex Court and Essex Court Chambers have also chosen to up their pupillage awards — but by a more modest proportion, going from £60,000 to £65,000. With Atkins’ big raise, this movement could be just the beginning of flood of pupillage award increases at commercial sets as chambers battle to stay competitive in their bid to land crème de la crème graduates.

The last such pay war took place in 2011 when tops sets’ pupillage awards rose from around the £45,000 mark to the £60,000-£65,000 level. Expect £70k plus to become the norm over the coming years.

It’s all a far cry from the publicly funded bar, where sets are so broke that they are relying on Inns of Court subsidies to help them fund pupillage awards of a mere £12,000 via the ‘Pupillage Matched Funding Scheme’, which opened earlier this week.


Quo Vadis

Good for them. But the Inns should seriously consider means-testing all scholarship awards. Pupils at such chambers are invariably in possession of a top Inns Scholarship, worth about £20k+. Most are from wealthy and successful families, and are able to draw down considerable sums from their pupillage award; the scholarship money makes little difference as to whether they are able to progress their career. Pupils at more mainstream sets, however, having already accumulated up to £40-50k in student loans, may receive a scholarship which will (if they are lucky) pay for their fees – leaving another £10k or so in BPTC living expenses wholly unaccounted for.



Absolutely. Tarquin doesn’t need a £20k scholarship, after his Eton schooling followed by Oxford degree funded for by daddy. It’s common sense and the Inns cannot pretend to take access to the profession seriously so long as they maintain this status quo.



Whilst I agree with the basic premise of your statement and also the OP, your chippy and insecure means of expression make me think you are a twat.



I don’t think that expecting adult graduates (most in their mid 20s and beyond) to draw on their parents’ money is a workable idea. My family could have afforded to pay my BPTC fees, but would have been astonished if I’d asked them to (which I would not have). Regarding scholarships, I think all the Inns already ask you to make a statement of your finances and take this into account. I got one of the top scholarships from my Inn. Even though it is not one of the Inns that promotes its scholarships as means-tested, they did take into account the fact I had a pupillage which allowed me to draw down money in determining the size of my BPTC award, and told me as much. I think that awarding scholarships first on merit only, then determining size of award after pupillage offers in the summer would be a sensible idea though.



I agree that it is unfortunate for people with wealthy parents who refuse to help them. University loans are the same if course – you have access to far less funding if you have wealthy parents, and if they do not give you anything then you are at a major disadvantage.

However, much as I have heard numerous complaints from people in that position, I have never actually seen anyone’s career genuinely hampered because of it.

If we consider that there is a limited pot of money, then we should ask what the goals are for that money. Do we want to use it to help excellent people who otherwise could not become lawyers, pursuing an agenda of social mobility? Or do we want to hand it out on a purely ‘meritocratic’ basis, to whoever performs best in the assessments, regardless of whether they need it or not?

I think that the first option is better, but both views are valid. If we have a pot of money to hand out, on the basis that if we do not give money to children of rich parents, the damage suffered by them is far less than the damage suffered by children of poor parents who come second place to the child of rich parents who doesn’t really need the money.

Of course, we should still primarily be awarding scholarships on merit, but the quantities should be assigned based purely upon need, I think. It would be unfair to refuse the label of excellence that a scholarship entails to a child of rich parents, merely for their family wealth, but it is equally unjust, I think, to hand large quantities of money to people with ample other resources.

I suppose that what I am saying is that for your parents to be able to pay, but expect you not to ask, is a huge luxury that most people don’t have. In my experience, with my friends with poorer parents, most of their families would move heaven and earth to help them achieve their professional goals, but simply don’t have the resources to do anything about it. Individuals should of course be based on merit, but if your parents have large enough amounts to afford the BPTC for you, you are still in a relatively privileged position. My own parents offered, but I knew they couldn’t really afford it and so I chose to become a sol instead.



But I’m 30! It’s not the case of me having ‘wealthy parents who refuse to help me’ – it’s that it would be completely mad for any 30 year old to be considered a financial dependent of their parents. Everyone doing a professional course is going to be at least 21. It’s not the same as an 18 year old going to university.



To be clear, if people are able to draw on financial support from any source, including from their parents, then this should be declared and taken into account. But the idea that scholarship decisions should be based upon the income of parents is as crazy as the idea that mortgage applications should be.


Quo Vadis

I agree that parental income should not be relevant. But if we ignore it, we will end up giving enormous sums to people whose parents could quite happily bear the cost of tuition. (One only has to look at the number of people bringing shiny new £1600 laptops to BPTC lectures to know that many students are from seriously wealthy families!) I would prefer parental income to be taken into account – but with a forensic inspection of the candidate’s accounts over the past 12 months, to see whether they do in practice have any financial dependency with their parents.



I’m not suggesting that there aren’t arguments on both sides, and probably got a little off track in that lengthy post. I just think that there is a limited pool of money, and it is better to target it towards social mobility. If someone *can* ask their parents for a loan or gift, then they are in a better position than someone who cannot possibly do those things, so I would rather be using the money for excellent candidates who have no other options whatsoever, and let the people from wealthy families go unfunded on the basis that they are likely to be fine either way.

All of this is just a sticking plaster over the whole corrupt, broken system though. I am suggesting a minor approach that the Inns can take to target limited funding as well as possible. The underlying issue is that the course costs so much in the first place, and that so many people take it. That needs fixing so as to make the same opportunity available for everyone.



The £12,000 minimum award is – sadly – not true. Chambers are only obliged to make sure pupils’ receipts equal £12,000, but not their net income (rc114 and rc118(7)(b)). Deduct travel expenses in the second six and it’s more like £700-£800 per month.


Quo Vadis

Incredible. I didn’t know that.


The Bar Necessities

while pupils often go on to pull in substantial additional earnings during their second six on top of their award. So the lucky three pupils taken on by Atkin stand to earn considerably in excess of the £72,500 figure

Er, no, they don’t. Often pupils at the big commercial/chancery sets don’t get any of their own work during second six. In respect of Atkin, you could refer to their own pupillage policy: “Due to the specialist nature of the work in chambers it is extremely rare for pupils to undertake any paid work during the course of their pupillage”…


Commercial Pupil

You are correct, as far as the assessed period of the pupillage is concerned (i.e. the time before the tenancy decision). However, following a favourable tenancy decision, commercial pupils tend to be touted out pretty sharpish and tend to earn (though not necessarily receive) a tidy additional sum in their last three months or so of pupillage.


Lord Harley of Council, Fifteenh Earl Blacker, Inventor of the Hedgehog, Philanthropist, Genius, 13in cock (verified), Saviour of Humanity and the LAW, LLB, LLM, MPhil, MBA, DaFUQ, UCnt, ROFL

Bah, those snooty weak peons, I make that in a day!


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