Aspiring barristers anger as Pupillage Gateway glitch means applications are missing GDL and BPTC grades

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Exclusive: Gateway’s copy-and-paste feature reproduces everything BUT vital grades on pupillage applications


A number of wannabe barristers have expressed their anger over an apparent Pupillage Gateway glitch that resulted in applications being sent with key academic results missing.

A copy and paste design feature permits certain pieces of information to be automatically replicated onto each application saving already stressed out law students and pupillage-hopefuls precious time. However, according to a number of Gateway users Legal Cheek has spoken to, there is a problem with the Bar Council-backed system.

The Gateway appears to copy across everything but applicants’ Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) grades. This has resulted in applications being sent without vital marks, potentially harming students’ chances of landing an interview.


Legal Cheek understands that some pupillage hunters were alerted to the problem when they were asked by chambers for their GDL and BPTC grades despite the fact the students had already submitted applications.

Speaking to Legal Cheek, one bar hopeful — wishing to remain anonymous — explained that while it was his job to review the application, it would be very difficult to spot the missing grades “in a 3000-word document”. He added:

If they [Bar Council] had just said ‘by the way, the grades for the GDL and the BPTC don’t get copied and pasted’ this problem wouldn’t have occurred. Every application I sent out was identical after the first one except for these specific grades which the Gateway deleted.

A Bar Council spokesperson said:

The current system part populates academic results for each application and a very small number of students have contacted us to make this point. We are looking at how this function can be made to operate more consistently, and at the different ways in which we can reinforce the point that applicants must check their forms thoroughly before submission. The Bar Council has contacted Chambers to explain that this is an issue which has affected a small number of applicants.

A large number of chambers advertise pupillage vacancies via the Bar Council-operated Pupillage Gateway. This allows wannabe barristers to apply for up to 12 trainee positions when the Gateway operates between 7 March and 1 August. Earlier this year the Bar Council confirmed that the Gateway would be open from January as of 2017.



And the answer to this problem? Check your application, and check your application, and once you’ve done that, check it again.

No eye for detail? One for the reject pile I’m afraid.


Hear Hear

Attention to detail is king. These people either simply didn’t check or didn’t see it. Neither is acceptable.

Good luck spotting the crucial detail in a company’s accounts, or the important mistake in an embargoed judgment.


Sympathetic realist

I have sympathy for these candidates but blaming the application form for your oversight isn’t the way to go.


Edward Bayliss

I disagree – we were all acting on the premise that the software would duplicate information on grades as it did for all other information. That is part of the point of the web-based system, to make it easier and more efficient to manage multiple applications.

If you take your company’s accounts example, then having checked all the information is correct, when you send the accounts to the printers to produce copies for publication, you expect the printers to print identical copies.

Frankly, it is not good enough from the Bar Council. This is a technical glitch in their software system. After it was brought to their attention, all students should have been contacted by the Bar Council to make us aware of this technical glitch so we are able to inform Chambers ourselves of our actual grades. Instead we are left to find out from Legal Cheek. It is not the first time the Bar Council has had problems with its gateway system.

Thank you to the eagle-eyed students who noticed this, though given this has only come to light now (6 weeks after the gateway closed) I suspect they only found out after being quizzed at interview as to what their actual grade was.


Just Anonymous

Well said. I agree.



I’m sorry Your Honour, I was acting on the premise that the CCDCS software was working properly, so I failed to check that we had uploaded all of our documents correctly.

Please go easy on me!



Quite so. And I don’t know a single judge that would disagree apart from the ones that still think we should use paper. We expect the system to work. If it appears to and does not, then it is not the fault of practitioners.



Of course all applications must be checked thoroughly but if you’re working with a system that automatically copies and pastes every section for following applications, it should do exactly that OR at least alert users that specific one line grades will be deleted. A simple explanation or note pointing this out isn’t asking too much.


Crawl to the Bar

Let’s be honest — pupillage committees care far more about about your (real) degree results. Oh, you got an outstanding in ‘Opinion Writing’ on the BPTC? Nobody gives a shit. You’ll have to learn how to do it properly when you’re a barrister anyway.


Edward Bayliss

It might make a difference though at the application stage, vis-à-vis other applicants.



Obviously didn’t get an outstanding in your opinion writing with use of vis-a vis. Unacceptable use of florid language



Rule of thumb: If David Brent said it, don’t write it.



It’s certainly true most chambers couldn’t care less about your BPTC grade. However, a number of sets put great store by one’s GDL grade for obvious reasons.

LC, could you please find out which sets contacted their candidates asking for the grades. It would be beneficial for candidates to know which sets care about their GDL/BPTC grade and which sets do not.



Getting a good GDL grade is harder than getting a good grade in your undergraduate degree.



All sets care about your GDL grade. And I would have thought all sets care about your BTPC grade in the sense of it being relevant information. All else being equal, a candidate with an Outstanding is likely to make the cut over a candidate with a Competent.



A fair few people are reporting the problem is that the form DID copy across these grades last year. This has now changed for this round.


Edward Bayliss

This is not a purposeful change in the system.

I have just check all six of my applications submitted in one day March 2016 and for some applications it failed to copy across only the BPTC grade. Applications I submitted later in the day, both the GDL and BPTC grades failed to copy across. This is clearly a bug in the software, which has clearly progressed. And was not intentional



Presumably you did not check your applications before submitting them? And before you make any assumptions, yes I did do applications this year, yes I did it last year as well and yes I checked my applications rather than making the assumption that everything worked. The bottom line is the system should not fail but at the same time you failed to check each application before submitting it based on an erroneous assumption and then rather than accepting some fault you are directing your ire at the other party which is partly at fault. I would be far more empathetic to your cause if you simply said yes I should have checked the applications, I made an assumption mea culpa, but the system should not fail, rather than the attitude you have thus far displayed.




“The bottom line is the system should not fail” – Correct

I accept that I assumed all the information populated to the next application. It is a perfectly reasonable assumption. For all we know, the information did populate, and it was in the submission process that it went missing, meaning that no amount of checking would have stopped this occurring.

The system is at fault. It is devised to allow for population of information that is common to all applications (name, contact details, educational background), which is what it has done, save for one, or in other instances, two pieces of information which is clearly a technical fault. It is reasonable for anyone to conclude that where 99% of the information has transposed, then it all has, from a cursory look at the application before submitting. I have no problem with the software not working. These things happen.

If I have any ‘ire’ (i call it frustration), it is directed at the response of the Bar Council. The Bar Council learned of the fault and brushed it aside as the applicants fault for not checking, when we do not even know if checking would have resolved it (as I said, the information could have been lost during submission). The Bar Council, on learning there was a fault (which they barely bring themselves to acknowledge), could have notified all applicants. This would have been reasonable. Instead, it appears they were unwilling to take any responsibility for it.

I wonder if another body should be in charge of the pupillage application system. I have raised the issue with the Bar Council that some chambers do not advertise vacant pupillages through the Gateway, despite being required to, and my enquiries as to what they are doing about it have fallen on deaf ears. The Bar Council really doesn’t seem to be concerned about the interests of those wishing to join the profession.



The full sentence was: “The bottom line is the system should not fail but at the same time you failed to check each application before submitting it based on an erroneous assumption and then rather than accepting some fault you are directing your ire at the other party which is partly at fault.”

I agree you have a right to be annoyed at the BSB and a system which appears to have gone wrong, but I also think that accepting you MIGHT be partly at fault for not checking the applications thus compounding the software mistake would go a long way to showing a sign or humility.

In any event I wish you all the best for your pursuit of pupillage.


Why call yourself a lawyer if still applying for pupillage?



I am qualified in New York


In addition, the word lawyer is a generic one and can include: “a person who practises or studies law”, thus it could include paralegals, solicitors, barristers, attorney’s, judges, legal executives and, by virtue of the fact it includes studies law, even law students.


Has Niteowl returned??


Oh bloody hell, I hope not.


And are you this Edward Bayliss by any chance? If so you have had 4 years to understand the need to check applications presumably got somewhat jaded by the 4th year and assumed what had worked before would work again. It is that kind of lazy thinking that leads to needless mistakes as here.


Edward Bayliss

Yes that is me. Thanks for the personal attack. Appreciated.

We can agree to disagree.



ALawyer – that is mean-spirited and somewhat stalkery. Nonetheless, I have little sympathy for someone who thinks it’s sensible to use their real name on comments like the above.



4 years of applying?

If there was ever a sign that the universe didn’t want you to be a barrister, there is is.

An LLM in this instance strikes me as attempting to polish a turd… or at least rolling it around in glitter.


As someone for whom it took 30 applications and a year of my life before I finally got lucky, I can emphasise with the struggle. I say good on him for his perseverance, and good luck with future applications.


This is gratuitously unkind, ALawyer.



If it is only GDL and BPTC grades missing, then the indication is that Undergraduate, Postgraduate, GCSE and A Level marks were all copied over. There does seem to be an inconsistency with that system.



Bar Council comment deliberately opaque as to whether this was by design or is a fault. Pathetic.



Before you hit submit you are asked to review all of your details. You even have to tick a little box to confirm you’ve done so. If you don’t do this because you wrongly assume a feature of the form, and there is a mistake in your form, I’m confused why that means that there is a fault with the system. Would you expect the application form to similarly point out typos or spelling mistakes because you’ve overlooked them?



You need to update your internet browser.


Quo Vadis

The Bar Council are silly for using a system which is not fit for purpose. The applicants in question are silly for not reading their applications through before sending them off. But the worst people of all are those who are indulging in personal attacks against a commentator who has had the courage to write under his real name. Is it funny to watch a young Englishman struggle for six years to secure decent employment? Does it make your little hearts glow with pride to tell him that his CV is a “turd rolled in glitter”? Such crudities are a disgrace to our profession.


bruised and confused

This has happened to one of my applications. I’d already had a rejection and feedback.

Feedback suggested this exact point – I’d “omitted” my grades for the gdl and the bptc, therefore they assumed the worst. Until I read this article, I assumed I had just made a mistake.

Where do I stand with this I wonder – no one will care.


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