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Criminal Bar Association backs proposals for two-stage BPTC and OPTIONAL attendance at law school

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Bar Council’s radical plans gain further support

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The Criminal Bar Association (CBA) has thrown its support behind proposals that could see the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) separated into two parts, with law school attendance compulsory for only the second half.

This idea was originally put forward by the Bar Council and the Council of the Inns of Court (COIC) in December. The proposed part one of the course will consist of its “knowledge-based parts” such as civil and criminal procedure, while part two will address the remaining “skills-based elements” of the BPTC like advocacy and drafting. Perhaps more controversially, only part two will require wannabe barristers to attend law school.

Now, the CBA — which represents criminal barristers across England and Wales and has over 4,000 members — has said it “broadly” agrees with the plans. Giving these proposals the thumbs up, the CBA said:

The reasons given by the Bar Council in its 111-paragraph response are, we think, cogent. What rightly underlies that response is that the current model of necessary vocational training for intended practising barristers is not fit for purpose.

The CBA has also thrown its own ideas into the mix. It suggests that students should undertake “work-based” opportunities prior to starting the BPTC. According to the CBA, this will give young bar hopefuls — who under the current model can start the vocational course without any prior legal experience — “an informed and realistic understanding of the financial and competitive conditions in which barristers” operate.

The CBA’s three-page report is a response to the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) ‘Future of Training for the Bar’ consultation, which closed last week.

Launched back in October, the consultation unveiled several new training options for barristers. These ideas included the ‘managed pathways’ approach, which promotes new bar-focused law degrees, and the ‘bar specialist’ approach, which will introduce a new super-exam “open to any candidate”.

As can be seen above, the BSB’s proposals have not gone down well with certain sections of the profession. Last week over 500 barristers signed an open letter to the BSB slamming its training reform proposals. Supporting the plans put forward by the Bar Council, the letter — which included the signature of ex-Lord Chief Justice and Blackstone Chambers barrister Lord Woolfe — said that the regulator’s suggestions had not been “guided by a proper understanding” of its statutory objectives.

Read the Criminal Bar Association’s response in full below:

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