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White Book envy: ULaw students aghast as they get online version while BPP kids receive print edition

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Exclusive: Part-time BPTC students want practitioner texts they can lug around

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Wannabe barristers studying part-time at the University of Law are up in arms after they returned for the second year of their courses and received online versions of the new editions of two key practitioners’ texts.

Their peers at bitter rival BPP were given hard copies.

To make matters worse, full-time students at both institutions are supplied with paper versions of The White Book and Blackstone’s Criminal Practice, which are often dubbed in legal circles as the “barrister bibles”.

The books form the basis of the bar hopefuls’ centrally assessed exams next April.

The White Book, that contains the rules relating to civil procedure, is produced by legal publishers Sweet & Maxwell. The 2015 edition — released earlier this year — would set students back a hefty £515, or £615 if they fancied grabbing both volumes.

Meanwhile, students would have to cough up a further £380 for the latest copy of Blackstone’s Criminal Practice. The book, which is the go-to-reference for criminal barristers, contains all the rules relating to criminal procedure, law and evidence.

Both books are available in print and online format, with the pricing broadly similar — although many print packages include free eBooks.

What seems to be bugging the ULaw part-time second years — who received hard copies of the key texts last year — is a sense that their rivals for pupillage are receiving something which they are not. Speaking anonymously, one told Legal Cheek:

This has massively pissed us all off mainly because BPP give their part time students new books.

With fees costing aspiring barristers £18,500 at ULaw’s Bloomsbury branch, its students are paying £30 less than their counterparts over at BPP’s Holborn centre. Some wonder if this could be behind the different book policies.

While BPP confirmed that their second year cohort had received the latest copies of the textbooks, a spokesperson for the University of Law told Legal Cheek:

Our experience at ULaw is that many students in their first year annotate and highlight their books for revision purposes so we have found it is not helpful to them to provide new copies the following year when changes are minimal. We consult with the BSB (Bar Standards Board) before making any decision and also provide full electronic versions of the current Whitebook and Blackstone’s to our students via our online student portal.

The anxiety over the textbooks gives an insight into the huge amount of pressure BPTC students find themselves under having forked out large amounts of cash on a course that offers limited job opportunities. Last year, pupillages fell below the 400 mark, with just 397 first-six places offered. Between 1,500 and 1,800 students complete the BPTC each year.