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Legal aid wannabe barristers offered chance to double their pupillage award

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Charity to help boost measly £12k bar pay packets

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Those seeking a career at the publicly funded bar have been given an opportunity to double their pupillage award thanks to a charity backed bursary.

Funded by the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR), £12,000 will be up for grabs when applications open on 1 March.

In a unique scheme, one lucky wannabe barrister working at the publicly-funded bar will receive a much-needed cash boost during their first 12 months of pupillage.

In order to be eligible for the bursary, hopefuls must have a confirmed pupillage offer at a chambers “whose work is predominantly publicly funded”. Furthermore, the pupillage award offered by chambers cannot exceed £14,000, including guaranteed earnings.

Candidates — who will be judged on both their “merit” and “financial need” — could see their pupillage award increase to £26,000, thanks to the ICLR-backed cash injection. However, with legal aid work notoriously underpaid, the lucky winner could see a sharp drop their earnings when the financial assistance stops post-pupillage.

A shortlist of successful applicants will be invited to complete the practical assessment in May. Tasked with drafting a law report headnote, a winner will be selected and revealed in July.

Daniel Hoadley, research and development manager at ICLR, said:

As a charity, ICLR is always looking for new ways to support law students and those embarking on a career at the Bar. We are therefore excited to open applications for our first Pupillage Award, which will provide a generous £12,000 bursary. The majority of ICLR’s staff are barristers, so we’re acutely aware of how challenging pupillage can be and how this has been exacerbated in some areas of the profession by cuts to legal aid.

Earlier this week, Bar Council chair, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, claimed it can cost an aspiring barrister as much as £127,000 in order to qualify. Recognising the huge financial strain on young barristers, especially those operating in less affluent areas of the law, Hoadley continued:

The reality is that by the time a student commences pupillage, their finances have been depleted by university fees and the BPTC — not to mention living costs. The purpose of the ICLR Pupillage Award is to provide a pupil deserving of financial assistance the help they need so that they can give more of their focus to the challenges of pupillage.