BSB approves radical reforms that could see BPTC split in two and law school attendance made OPTIONAL

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By Thomas Connelly on

More than 500 barristers signed an open letter in support of the proposals

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has approved plans that could see the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) split into two parts, with law school attendance compulsory for only the second half.

First put forward by the Bar Council and the Council of the Inns of Court (COIC) in December, the proposals would, if approved, see the vocational course — which all barristers must complete prior to pupillage — divided into two.

Stage one “will consist of the knowledge-based parts” of the BPTC, such as civil and criminal procedure and evidence. Stage two will then see aspiring barristers get to grips with “the remaining skills-based elements of the BPTC,” which will include modules such as advocacy, drafting, ethics and conferencing skills. Controversially, both the Bar Council and COIC have suggested that law school attendance should be optional at stage one.

At a board meeting yesterday evening the regulator said it will authorise a limited number of alternative training routes. This, according to the BSB, is likely to include the radical option put forward by Bar Council and COIC. Stressing that this two-part BPTC route to qualification “is reliant on providers coming forward with plans,” the BSB said it hopes to have a formal framework in place by “early autumn 2018”.

Commenting on reforms, BSB chair Sir Andrew Burns said:

Our role as the regulator is not to design the courses themselves, but to set a robust framework for authorising course providers. We have clear criteria for doing so and we will be developing our Authorisation Framework in consultation with the bar, training providers and other groups with an interest in bar training. We look forward to more flexible, accessible and affordable training courses in future which will maintain the high intellectual and professional standards demanded at the bar.

The decision follows the conclusion of the BSB’s ‘Future of Training for the Bar’ consultation. Launched late last year, the regulator put forward a number of ideas including the ‘managed pathways’ approach, which promoted new bar-focused law degrees, and the ‘bar specialist’ approach, which would introduce a new super-exam “open to any candidate.”

Unfortunately, its new routes to qualification didn’t go down too well. Throwing their combined weight behind the Bar Council’s proposals, over 500 barristers — including ex-Lord Chief Justice and Blackstone Chambers barrister Lord Woolfe — signed an open letter slamming the alternatives.

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