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Pupillage Gateway will be moved to January from 2017

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After previous false start the Bar Council finally gives date change the go-ahead

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The Bar Council has revealed that the Pupillage Gateway timetable will be moved to January from 2017 onwards.

The move — that has finally been given the green light after a previous false start — means students will know if they have secured a pupillage before committing to the costly Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

The vocational element of bar training — that all aspiring barristers must complete prior to pupillage — can cost as much as £18,500 at some London providers.

As it stands, wannabe barristers have from 4 April to 4 May 2016 to fire off their pupillage applications via the Gateway, with offers being made any time after 1 August. They must accept a place on the BPTC in early April.

Today the Bar Council has today confirmed that this timetable will be ditched in 2017. However for those with a strange feeling of déjà vu — yes we have been here before.

Back in July 2015 a clearly over-excited Bar Council employee took to the representative body’s official Twitter account to reveal the move would take place as of January 2016.

After what Legal Cheek understands was stinging criticism from several disgruntled chambers for being left out of the loop regarding the date switch, the Bar Council was forced to perform an embarrassing U-turn.

Taking to its social media account only one month later, the Bar Council placed the move “on hold” claiming that further “consultation” with the bar was needed.

Having launched the consultation in November, the Bar Council has today revealed that it received 126 responses, including 45 from chambers. The feedback appears to be — on whole — in favour of change, with “the majority of chambers” supporting the move, while an “overwhelming” number of students were “positive” about the January switch.

In one of her first announcements since taking up the role, chairman of the bar Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said:

This is a common-sense decision by the Bar and students. Given the high costs associated with the BPTC, the new Pupillage Gateway timetable, which will run from January to April as of 2017, means that at least students applying through the Gateway will know if they have pupillage before committing to the BPTC.

Acknowledging that not all the feedback was positive, with many chambers having already opted out of the Gateway all together, she continued:

We intend to learn from the experience of those chambers who are already recruiting earlier in the year and will work with our members to make the move work for them.

Previously:

Bar Council confirms Pupillage Gateway date change U-turn with consultation launch [Legal Cheek]

Pupillage Gateway might not move to January after all [Legal Cheek]

35 Comments

Quo Vadis

It is pleasing to see the Bar Council taking an interest in the welfare of students, but I fear that moving the Gateway to January will do precious little good. The main beneficiary of the change will be those securing pupillage before the start of the BPTC. If the timetable for applications is brought forward, these people will at least have their offer ‘in their hand’ before signing up for the BPTC. However, people who are talented enough to win a pupillage during their undergraduate education incur little additional risk by signing up without an offer. Almost all will have a full scholarship, so no liability for fees, and their educational record is usually such to guarantee a pupillage offer (if not this year, the next). This change will do nothing for the two-thirds of students who gain a pupillage offer whilst on the BPTC, and, of course, for those who recieve no offer at all.

(I should add that there is nothing under the current system to stop any person signing up for the BPTC, waiting until the August offer day, and then cancelling or deferring the course if they are unsuccessful. At worst, they would lose is the deposit, but losing £500 or so is nothing compared to the full cost of the course.)

The suggestions I would make are as follows:

1.) I would like Chambers to be more explicit in encouraging applications from undergraduate students, and in particular, reassuring them that students who choose to defer their BPTC will be under no disadvantage in the applications process (and may even be commended for their good sense!)
2.) If we are open to moving the timetable for applications, why not have the cycle of applications, interviews and offers entirely within the summer vacation? This would avoid any potential conflict with undergraduate and graduate exams, but would require close co-ordination with the providers.

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Anonymous

Finally. This is such a welcome move, particularly to help social mobility at the Bar.

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Anonymous

How does this benefit social mobility in any way? It’s social mobility neutral, at best.

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Anonymous

“This change will do nothing for the two-thirds of students who gain a pupillage offer whilst on the BPTC, and, of course, for those who recieve [sic] no offer at all.”

Is not the entire point that this change is intended to reduce the number of individuals undertaking the BPTC who have not received (and have no prospect of obtaining) a pupillage offer?

As to 1) the last thing most chambers need (as a matter of generality) are more applications- we had approximately 300 for 4 positions last year!

As to 2) this would be sensible, although the problem remains of the significant number of sets that operate outside the Gateway, putting the better candidates in the difficult position of choosing between an offer in hand at a less-preferred (by practice area or quality) chambers or running the risk of no offer at all.

Finally I’m not sure how realistic it is to suggest that many people would be able to sign up to the BPTC and then just cancel at the 11th hour – presumably they’ve planned their year on the basis that they will be studying in London or wherever such that the cost would greatly exceed the lost deposit!

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Quo Vadis

The point is that you will not reduce the number of people taking the BPTC by telling the small subset of applicants who are most likely to secure a pupillage that they have, in fact, secured a pupillage. You reduce numbers on the BPTC by targeting those people who are most likely to finish the course without a pupillage and hence waste their money. The impending changes to the Gateway will make no difference in achieving this aim.

Deferring the BPTC is inconvenient and certainly wastes money but is a far preferable option to completing the course, spending £30,000, and finding yourself without a job at the end of it.

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Anonymous

I don’t understand you. This is helping everyone. Each applicant will find out whether he or she has pupillage before having to sign up for the BPTC (moving interviews to summer vacation as you suggest would completely undo the whole point of this change). Anyone who signs up for the BPTC without pupillage, especially after this change, will be extremely foolish and will have only his or herself to blame.

Chambers definitely do not think more highly of someone because they’ve done the BPTC. No chambers has ever suggested otherwise. It’s people trying to justify their own foolishness in doing the BPTC without pupillage who spread this idea around.

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Anonymous

That’s simply not true. I was rejected by one set on the ground that I had not yet completed the BPTC (and so they couldn’t guarantee that I would be available to start when they wanted) and am certain that my greater success the following year was attributable in part to what I had learnt on the BPTC.

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Anonymous

LOL. Sounds completely tripe to me.

Anonymous

The starting dates of pupillages need to be addressed in conjunction with the gateway date, I accept that, but most of them do start long enough after pupillage interviews to allow the BPTC to be taken, and I do still think it’s insane to do the BPTC without pupillage (or at the very least very significant success at interviews). The BPTC sure as hell does not turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Obviously interviews are random and one might touch on something you happened to see in a BPTC problem question, but that’s not the same as chambers giving weight to the BPTC. You could get the same effect by going quickly over your tort/contract/criminal principles. Similarly (and as happened in my case) the interviews may touch more on the stuff you are studying when you apply pre-BPTC. It’s luck, not a better standard of education.

Anonymous

Most sets ask you questions or to do advocacy based on the BPTC, and many sets do not make allowances if you have not done the BPTC yet. Most who get criminal pupillages do so after BPTC year.

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A. Baristah

Bah humbug.

For those of us who got pupillage during the BPTC with applications flying out during the busy April exam period, well done you.

For those who will have the ability to twiddle their thumbs until January, you don’t know how fortunate you are.

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Anonymous

There is something ironic about designing a pupillage system on the preferences of applicants, the majority of whom will not be offered a pupillage in any event (some because they don’t make the grade, others due to simple maths). The problem here is the BPTC providers charging an extortionate amount for a sub-standard service and knowingly encouraging students to do the course without any real prospect of getting a pupillage at the end of it. Instead of sorting out that issue, the Bar Council rearranges the furniture and places a considerable amount of inconvenience on chambers.

The idea that this will help diversity is fanciful. You now have a situation where all chambers will have to make pupillage offers without the benefit of final year results. Realistically, we will see poorer and/or non-Oxbridge students disadvantaged because we have lost certainty (because final year results will not be available) and important a far greater element of projection (which favours traditional applicants as they will be seen to be less of a gamble). It also widens the gap between undergrad and postgrad applicants – who are you going to pick over a 3rd year undergrad with only a few results behind them and predicted grades or a post-grad student who has achieved a First? And who is more likely to a post-grad – a poorer student or a richer student?

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Notwom

Two points, which are based upon some experience of the system:
First, the advance of the Gateway date was not “about designing a pupillage system on the preferences of applicants”: it was a carefully considered project, which sought to recognise and balance the interests of a number of competing interests. The result is not perfect, but it is better than the current system.
Secondly, this step has not been taken in preference to reforming the BPTC: that is an ongoing project that is treated as a matter of the highest priority by the Bar Council and the Inns of Court. The ultimate problem is that it is the regulators (the BSB and the LSB) who control reform. The LSB, in particular, has no problem with the market being flooded with qualified but broke lawyers who cannot get pupillage. So please allocate blame where it is deserved, and not at the Bar Council’s door.

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Anonymous

In response:

(1) It was not carefully considered in any real sense. It was announced without proper consultation the first time around and having been forced to re-consult the Bar Council has announced the same conclusion without any engagement whatsoever with the various concerns raised in changing the timetable in this way.

(2) Of course it has been done in preference to reforming the BPTC because the main reason is to do this stop students being committed to BPTC fees without knowing whether they have a pupillage. By definition, you either move the timetable or stop the BPTC from committing students in that way.

I should say that they only other express reason given in the announcement is that it will avoid the risk of interviews clashing with exams. I don’t believe people genuinely think that is a problem worth moving the timetable for given that chambers are very accommodating in arranging interviews around students’ other commitments.

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Tittle Tattle

But seriously – how can you fairly assess an application before you have their final year results? It seems that the chambers that decide to that (i.e. what are the current non-Gateway sets) only do that in order to have the competitive advantage of making offers before the Gateway sets become involved (who comprise the “Magic Circle” commercial sets). So they trade off that uncertainty against the chance of getting first pick. But what’s the point if everyone is in the same boat?

I agree with the comment above that the change could adversely impact non-traditional students. Surely, someone how is at a university such as Kent, or Liverpool, or wherever, will stand a much better chance if he or she can say to a chambers: “Look, I’ve got the top First in my year”. The sad reality, is that students from outside the “elite” universities have to show that they have excelled in their own university and I don’t see how they can do that without being able to point to their results.

You might have a similar problem where someone has an average 2nd year, but a truly exceptional 3rd year. They will be assessed on the 2nd year performance (say, a 2:1) compared with the overall performance (say, a First). That seems to me to point a disadvantage to those who perhaps develop later, or cannot afford a post-graduate education.

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Whoozey

Exactly – well said,Tittle Tattle. It is all focused on students knowing the outcome of a pupillage application before paying for the BPTC. But isn’t the fundamental issue here how do you maximise the chances of a non-traditional student getting not only a pupillage, but a pupillage at a top set? If the best way of getting people to achieve their potential then design the system around that; don’t set a timetable which could negatively impact on it just because you have a greedy course provider. Thoughts?

Anonymous

If the Bar Council decides that, in the round, this is for the best, then fair enough. But describing it as a “common-sense decision” is pretty galling for all the non-law graduates whom this will dramatically penalise, by making it much more difficult for them to get pupillage during their GDL year and *increasing* the likelihood that they will have to shell out for the BPTC before they’ve had a proper run at the applications process.

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Anonymous

Based on many previous years, it’s fairly certain that the gateway will always crash on deadline day, whenever that is.

Get your applications in early!

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Pantman

I do not believe that this change will make any difference at all. The simple fact is that the BPTC providers have an excess of capacity and will accept sign-ups for courses up to the day the course starts. So any chambers using the 30 April deadline should be able to confirm pupillage to an applicant in advance of that applicant having to confirm a BPTC place.

I know that the BPTC providers are pushing students to sign up far in advance of this period, but that’s just their commercial incentive, rather than it being essential for students to do so.

The real problem is that many chambers recruit pupils outside the gateway scheme deadlines, where it is more or less essential for the applicant to have enrolled on, or even completed the BPTC before they can be considered for the pupillage. Nearly 30% of all pupillages have application deadlines within 15 months of the start date, 20% have a deadline within six months of the start date. Moving the gateway deadline is unlikely to affect those chambers who are recruiting outside the gateway, except for those recruiting early, who will just move their deadlines further forward (around 60% of pupillages are offered with gateway deadlines, around 50% of all pupillages are offered through the gateway system).

http://www.indx.co.uk/pupilbase/?mode=stats&rtype=delay

http://www.indx.co.uk/pupilbase/?mode=stats&rtype=gwapps

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Not Amused

“The idea that this will help diversity is fanciful. You now have a situation where all chambers will have to make pupillage offers without the benefit of final year results.”

Is this true?

Because if it is it will seriously disadvantage state school kids. We *know* that on average state school kids do worse at a-level then private school kids and better at degree. So state school kids need to be able to rely on their degree grade when making a job application.

This sounds like a ham-fisted way to fix a problem. I note the problem in question has existed for nearly 20 years. I note that in that time not one of the spineless and incompetent regulators has achieved anything to solve it – indeed it has grown worse on an annual basis. Accordingly I note with some scorn the suggestion above by some bar council loving crony that it is all the LSB’s fault. All the legal regulators are incompetent – the blood is spread evenly across all hands.

For young people I say again: Do Not Do the BPTC Without Securing Pupillage First.

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Anonymous

Absolutely true (if we are talking about those applying for pupillage as a 3rd year undergraduate) because offers will have to be made in April before exam results have been released (indeed, before some exams are even taken). This is a serious problem for diversity and it is astonishing that the Bar Council has not engaged with this issue at all.

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Not Amused

Nothing about the incompetence of the Bar Council should ever be described as ‘astonishing’. But otherwise I concur.

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Barwoman

I don’t think it’s realistic to say that this will destroy poorer students’ prospects. Only one person out of our bottom half of tenants (20 barristers) got pupillage straight out of undergrad.

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Leontes

Barwoman – your comment seems to be that this won’t destroy prospects, because those prospects are already very slim. The point made above is that it will be even harder for poorer/non-traditional students and to the point where there won’t be anyone in your chambers or elsewhere getting a pupillage straight out of undergrad. Undergrad applicants and poor applicants are not necessarily one and the same, any reasonable person can see that poorer students are more likely to be undergrad applicants because of the costs involved in being in full time education for another year (at least). Moreover, those from less traditional universities are robbed of the opportunity to demonstrate excellence in their final results, which is in reality the one way they will jump ahead of an Oxbridge student (at least in terms of the top commercial sets).

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Barwoman

The point I’m making is that this change will benefit all of the people who want to be barristers but will never get pupillage (over 1000 annually). You are talking about a handful of people at best and nobody at all at worst. You are talking about students who:

i. Are about to get first class results in circumstances where their academic record does not suggest that that is obviously going to happen, and

ii. Are so good that they would be snapped up if they had just finished their undergrad (I’d like to see the stats but as I say at my chambers there’s a 5% rate of this happening), and

iii. Are so good that chambers would be willing to accept them over the hundreds with firsts from traditional unis and likely better extra-curriculars (poor applicants are less likely to have good extra-curriculars), and

iii. Are poor, but

iv. Can nonetheless afford the living costs of doing the BPTC (I don’t believe any scholarship covers all of tuition and living costs) immediately after undergrad, and

v. Have applied to appropriate sets (there is simply zero chance of anyone with a first from an ex-poly getting into a top commercial set. I wouldn’t expect him or her to get an interview).

I imagine I could (at most) count the number of the people fitting all of these criteria on one hand. I would rather they took a step that disadvantaged 3 people (who can work for a year and then apply) than continuing to disadvantage £1,000+ people who will never make it, many of them equally poor and completely misinformed.

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Not Amused

“I don’t think it’s realistic to say that this will destroy poorer students’ prospects. Only one person out of our bottom half of tenants (20 barristers) got pupillage straight out of undergrad.”

Which is itself extremely troubling.

Post graduate degrees in arts and humanities are not government funded. So if your pupils are routinely people who hold post graduate degrees in those subjects then you are (consciously or unconsciously) already discriminating against poor born kids.

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Anonymous

Nope, we are extremely diverse. Most of us worked after undergrad. Most “poor born kids” can’t afford not to.

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Barwoman

Nope – vast majority got work experience after undergrad or BPTC. Most “poor born kids” can’t afford not to.

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Not Amused

I think you need to think discrimination through. I’m not sure that being flippant really helps matters.

Poor born kids at uni are more likely to take a full paying graduate job than to get what you call ‘work experience’. Generally, only kids with family money can afford the financial risk of taking low paid ‘experience’ jobs in law (most of which are paralegal or clerk roles – all of which are phenomenally badly paid). This is particularly true given unprecedented levels of debt.

If we don’t keep our thinking focused it is actually quite easy to accidentally end up with a discriminatory system. It is one of the reasons that journalism and the media in general have sleep walked in to discrimination against poor born kids.

Barwoman

I am thinking discrimination, but I’m mostly thinking numbers – see my comment above.

I just don’t agree re only young people with family money taking legal jobs. It just is not the case for at least 50% of the juniors at my chambers. Of course they’re not highly paid but they pay the bills – at the age of 21/22 I was perfectly happy in a box room in an awful area eating beans on toast. And in any event I never said legal experience. Some of us have had non-legal graduate jobs. It’s life experience, and seems to give rise to a maturity/gravitas that comes across well at interview.

Jamie

I think that there is already some inevitable bias in offering pupillages to undergraduates. The few students who obtain pupillage before their degree results will have very strong undergraduate exam results, together with excellent references and something impressive in terms of mooting. This gives an obvious advantage to Oxbridge students, partly because of the greater opportunity for strong references created by 2:1 tutorial groups with the same tutor for several years and college exams every term. That seems to me to be a slightly unfair Oxbridge bias, because it is not just based on the quality of the candidates but also on the way in which the college tutorial system works.

Even then, however, it is rare for students to be so impressive that a Chambers will risk one of their few pupillage places on somebody who has not yet shown what they can do in finals. Law firms can take much more of a risk because they have many more training contracts.

For around 50% of applicants this is irrelevant in any case, because they have done non-law degrees so will always be applying during the GDL at the earliest, with their degree results behind them.

There are lots of things that law graduates can do for a year before starting the BPTC, even if they can’t obtain funding for a postgraduate course. In fact, I think that the extra maturity gained by working for a year (even in a non-legal field) can only be a good thing. However, I think that many of the realistic pupillage candidates who studied law at undergraduate level probably would obtain funding for postgraduate study.

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Anonymous

My problem with this change is that it makes both the application and interview process for those students that are on the BPTC infinitely more difficult. Full-time and part-time BPTC students will be studying for their exams, most of which take place between January and April, which means that they’ll not perhaps be able to put in the time that they would like to towards drafting their applications. They may also have to weigh up whether it’s more important to attend an interview or abide by the BPTC’s arbitrary attendance rules; or even whether it’s more important to attend an interview or be sufficiently prepared for an exam. I’m aware that several Chambers try to be accommodating when it comes to timetabling but many are not and there will now be multiple factors for them to take in to consideration.

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Anonymous

The *hardest* exams (emphasis deliberately added as they purely consist or regurgitating the White Book and Archbold/Blackstone’s) are in April/May, meaning that the new gate way deadline would not effect a a reasonably competent student, and to be honest… if you can’t copy and paste your answers into 12 different forms, tailoring a few choice answers for those chambers who require them, whilst you do some semblance of revision (bearing in mind at this stage you will not have covered roughly 30-40% of the course at this point), then perhaps the Bar is not for you.

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Anonymous

Likewise if you don’t know the difference between effect and affect ..

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Anonymous

Someone call the burn unit….

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Comments are closed.