BSB unveils radical training proposals that could spell end of 12-month pupillages

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By Thomas Connelly on

Compulsory Inns dinners may be thing of the past too, says new consultation paper

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has presented a number of radical new training proposals that could, among other things, introduce a more flexible approach to pupillage and put an end to compulsory Inns of Court dining sessions.

The regulator, in a consultation paper released this week, has suggested that the standardised 12-month pupillage could be scrapped, allowing chambers to develop their own training plans for rookie barristers.

However, the BSB — which is seeking the opinions of barristers, students and other interested parties — does acknowledge that the fresh approach could create a number of issues. It says:

There is, however, a risk that by enabling organisations to determine the length of pupillage, some may reduce the length of pupillages so that pupils can start earning fees earlier. Equally, there is a risk that pupillages may be unnecessarily extended to enable chambers to utilise pupils for extended periods without offering them tenancy.

Elsewhere in the report, the BSB proposes doing away with Inns of Court qualifying sessions. Current rules stipulate that aspiring barristers must complete 12 qualifying sessions, made up of formal dinners, guest lectures, advocacy workshops and debate nights.

The BSB notes:

Some students with less knowledge of the profession, particularly for those from BME [black and minority ethnic] and lower socio-economic backgrounds, may be more likely to feel intimidated by the environment as they may perceive the majority of the barristers attending are white, male and educated at elite institutions.

The BSB also addressed the contentious topic of pupillage pay.

As things stand, the current minimum financial support for baby barristers in England and Wales is set at just £12,000. The national living wage currently sits at £13,650 and London living wage at £17,745.

According to the BSB: “Unless a pupil has built up substantial savings, or can rely on financial assistance from their family or spouse, pupillages funded at the current minimum level are not financially viable, especially those offered in London.” It continues:

Given the level of debt that most students build up in order to qualify for pupillage, the requirement to add further to that debt during their work-based component may be enough to prevent many from even applying for minimum funded pupillages.

The consultation will close on 8 January 2018.

Read the BSB consultation report in full below:

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