The Apprentice: Lawyers round on ‘law firm’ owner who described himself as a ‘qualified barrister’

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By Thomas Connelly on

Use of professional title called into question during TV show

Image via Twitter (@elliotve)

A contestant vying to be Lord Sugar’s business partner has drawn criticism from lawyers after he described himself as a barrister.

Nottingham University graduate Elliot Van Emden, appearing on the new series of hit BBC show The Apprentice, introduced himself to his fellow participants as a “qualified barrister” who owned a “law firm”. He also claimed to earn £175,000 a year, but said he wanted to earn far more.

Continuing, the 32-year-old explained how his firm assists landlords in removing “problem tenants”. A Companies House search shows Van Emden is registered with Bridgewood Legal Limited, a company that appears to trade under the name QuickEvictions.

Unfortunately, at least one lawyer took issue with Van Emden’s impressive introduction.

Taking to Twitter, housing law specialist and legal blogger Nearly Legal (aka Giles Peaker) suggested that The Apprentice star’s barrister claim was “naughty”:

At least one other lawyer appeared to agree:

Continuing to question Van Emden’s phraseology, Peaker drew Van Emden’s attention to Bar Standards Board (BSB) rules regarding the use of the term barrister.

However, Van Emdem — whose name draws a blank on the regulator’s ‘Barristers’ Register’ — has told Legal Cheek he completed the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and was called to the bar by Middle Temple in 2011. The BSB have confirmed this, however there is no record of Van Emdem having completed pupillage. The Apprentice contestant continued:

My occupation on published content shows as either ‘lawyer’ or ‘owner of legal firm’ — both of which are not restricted terms. Finally, any services my firm offers are unreserved activities. At no point in my work do I hold myself out as a barrister. I hope this clarifies the position.

So what’s the deal with using the term barrister? Well, a spokesperson for the BSB told us this:

Unregistered barristers are entitled to refer to themselves as barristers, but our rules prevent them from using that title in connection with offering or providing legal services.

This isn’t the first time the use of the term barrister has been called into question. Back in 2015, Legal Cheek reported that a spokesperson for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) was referring to himself as “barrister at law” despite having never completed pupillage.

Like today, the BSB told us at the time that Andrew Charalambous was free to use the title provided it was not in connection with the supply or offer of legal services.

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