Bar Council calls for BTPC cost reduction as it slams BSB’s training reform proposals

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By Thomas Connelly on

Representative and regulator clash over barristers’ education


The Bar Council has called for a “much less expensive” Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and at the same time lambasted training reforms put forward by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

In a 23-page response to the BSB’s consultation on bar training, the Bar Council — the body that represents barristers across England and Wales — has claimed the proposals would “create confusion amongst students” and “increase regulatory cost”.

Launched last year, the BSB’s paper trumpeted several new training options for aspiring barristers. These included the ‘managed pathways’ approach, which could see new bar-focused law degrees, and the ‘bar specialist’ approach, which included introducing a new super-exam “open to any candidate”.

But the Bar Council seems distinctly unimpressed with the regulator’s radical new ideas. Continuing its attack, the response — which was released yesterday — states that the BSB’s approach will:

[L]ead to there being a preferred model or models and a series of less well-regarded alternatives.

Claiming that the current BPTC “is unsatisfactory, and extremely unpopular with the vast majority of those who take it”, the Bar Council called for a “much less expensive” course which would therefore be “open to a wider segment of society”. The latest figures show that a place on the BPTC can cost in excess of £19,000 for those wishing to study in London.

Back in December the Bar Council and The Council of the Inns of Court (COIC) put forward their own proposal: split the BPTC in two.

Part one would consist of the “knowledge-based parts” of the course, such as civil and criminal procedure and evidence, with law school attendance optional. Part two would then see wannabe barristers tackle the “skills-based elements” including advocacy, drafting, ethics and conferencing skills. It is at this point that students will have to attend law school.

And despite a mixed response from Legal Cheek readers at the time, both the councils appear to be sticking by their radical idea.

In its response yesterday the Bar Council said that the two-stage BPTC is “likely to promote equality and diversity more effectively than the present, very expensive system, and more effectively than any of the alternatives on which the BSB is consulting.” Continuing, it said:

The COIC/Bar Council proposal has the widespread support of the profession, which has no financial vested interest in the subject matter of the present consultation and, indeed, a complete identity of interest with the BSB, students and the general public in promoting training that will be fit for purpose and available to the widest range of able applicants at proportionate cost.

The BSB’s consultation into the ‘Future of Training for the Bar’ closes on 31 January. You can have your say here.

Read the Bar Council’s response in full below:

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