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Number of BPTC students soars unexpectedly

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Up by 14% after years of decline

The number of students enrolling on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) has jumped by 14% after years of decline.

Statistics released by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) show 1,624 budding advocates enrolled on the BPTC in 2017, the highest figure since 2012 (1,803). In the years in between, the report traces a drop to 1,619 in 2013, followed by further drops to 1,505, 1,409 and 1,423 in respective years. These dips may be the result of the BSB’s introduction of the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), a 55-minute assessment taken by aspiring BPTC students as a sifting tool. The test consists of 60 multiple choice questions and costs £150 to sit.

Enrolled BPTC students, 2011-17

The BCAT is still compulsory for incoming BPTC-ers so why the latest increase?

The BSB reckons this can be partly explained by changes to BPTC provider sites. Cardiff and BPP have both upped their bar course places, while the latter has just recently opened a new bar course in Bristol. However, do note that of the 108 new places made available this year, fewer than half (52) were taken up.

The Legal Cheek 2018 BPTC Most List

Enrolling on the BPTC is a vital hurdle to barrister success, the next is finding a chambers to train you. The number of pupillages has increased very slightly over the years and currently sits at around the 470 mark. A crude equation dividing this by the number of budding barristers graduating each year would give you a ‘success rate’ of about 30% — but there are other factors to consider.

For starters, these figures look at BPTCs sat in the UK and pupillages on offer in the UK. About 40% of BPTC students are from overseas, meaning they may not choose to take part in the UK pupillage game. But, given that far from all BPTC graduates secure training positions straight away, aspiring barristers will find themselves tussling with applicants from years gone by, too.

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53 Comments

Anonymous

I wish there would be two years of no admissions onto the BPTC to assist clearing the backlog of BPTC graduates still applying for the few pupillages available. That is completely absurd and of course never going to happen, but the problem essentially is that not only are you competing against your peer group, you are also competing against those who have completed the BPTC years ago.
It is not unusual to have to wait a few years post BPTC to obtain a pupillage.
It is just incredibly frustrating, but everyone knew (or should have known) what they were signing up for.

Anonymous

What a ridiculously stupid comment. Why should the best candidates wait two years to do the course so mediocre candidates can have more of a shot of achieving their goal, reducing the quality of the baby bar?

Anonymous

That isn’t what happens though. I’m sure all of us in practise can point to examples of amazing applications failing to secure pupilage or not gaining tenancy while others who you frankly have to wonder how they ever got through the BPTC move swiftly from Bar School to tenancy.

Anonymous

Exceptions rather than the rule.

Anonymous

Honestly I can’t think of an example of either an “amazing” applicant not getting pupillage first time round, or a bad applicant getting pupillage and tenancy. If you’re really outstanding you’ll be snapped up (most excellent candidates have multiple pupillage offers) and if you’re terrible you won’t get anywhere.

Anonymous

It’s very true that some appalling candidates get pupillage, often at predictable sets.

It’s equally true that many above average candidates don’t get pupillage.

I myself would grade myself average on paper, excellent at interview. I got a civil pupillage second time round.

Anonymous

I doubt you’re ‘in practise’ when you can’t spell practice or pupillage.

Anonymous

It is quite right that the system weeds out weak candidates. The Bar should not be open to people simply on the basis of career aspiration. There is much more at stake: the administration of justice. The public deserve the best representation. Which means that, whilst someone who went to Warwick or Sheffield might fancy being a barrister, the public need to be protected from such people, who lack the intellect and education to operate effectively in a profession which requires a top class mind.

Sir Esquire Esq. LLB Hons (Warwick)

“whilst someone who went to Warwick or Sheffield might fancy being a barrister, the public need to be protected from such people, who lack the intellect and education to operate effectively in a profession which requires a top class mind.”

LOL incredible bants

Anonymous

Guess what? You are also competing with everyone who got their degrees years ago, and they almost certainly have more experience than you too.

Troll Hunter

Not heard of the BPTC LLM? Seems to have caused a large uptake in admissions at some course providers…

Anonymous

Exactly – this enables students to take out a student loan of £10k. Most of these are probably shite students with no Inn scholarship.

Troll Hunter

Or good working class students unfairly denied scholarships by a stuffy archaic panel who got pupillage anyway (like my good self) 🙂

Anonymous

You are the exception (and there will be will be a small number of others too). We both know that the overwhelming majority who fail to get a scholarship have no real hope of securing pupillage.

I’m not saying the Inns scholarship is entirely meritocratic, but they do award a total of 400 between them – if you can’t make it into the 400, then the chances of securing pupillage aren’t great.

These hopeless students can now take out a student loan of £10k for the BPTC LLM – so they’ll end up with two useless qualifications with a shit load of debt.

Scouser of Counsel

I disagree. I think you’ll find that the scholarships tend to go to diversity cases more than you think, and I speak as a beneficiary of a top scholarship who almost certainly achieved it because I “ticked all the right boxes”.

Troll Hunter

As a mature student I did three consecutive years of scholarship interviews with two Inns. I have experience working for the Civil Service and international NGO’s in prominent, high profile jobs, strong academics, and enough pro bono to make your eyes water. Did enough to get 3 offers from 3 applications at my first time of trying for pupillage – all at prominent sets – but apparently I’m not good enough for even a minor scholarship (even in the same year I got pupillage). I also tick all those ‘diversity’ boxes. Go figure.

Everyone’s experience will be different, but there’s something wrong with the system in my humble experience. Scholarships might be considered a good barometer of future success, but they are not the be all and end all. Students should not be discouraged JUST because they didn’t get one. Having said that, there’s no way I’d do the BPTC without pupillage – not worth the risk.

Anonymous

Your experience is very similar to my own. Mature student, obtained pupillage at a commercial set pre-BPTC, but no Inn Scholarship.

Anonymous

lol diversity cases? Just google the top scholarship holders at all the Inns recently (they are published online) – you’ll find privately educated are vastly over-represented (considering 10% of the population attend private school, far greater than 10% of Inns scholarships end up in the pockets of the privately educated).

I say either scholarship or pupillage pre-BPTC. If you have neither, you are taking a gamble – why not reapply for scholarship or pupillage the following year without starting BPTC?

Of course, it is entirely possible for a very strong candidate to have a bad interview, or just not click with the interviewers. In which case you can apply again the folllwing year.

Anonymous

Although it isn’t *entirely* unheard of for people with no Inn scholarship to get pupillage. If it happens, it’s likely they applied for pupillage before doing the BPTC; although I’ve heard of two people getting pupillage at commercial sets in their BPTC-year without any scholarship on their application.

Anonymous

Success rate of 30% ?! I don’t think so. What about those applying pre BPTC for pupillage. It’s dangerous statistics like that which make people sign up to the God awful course.

Anonymous

My maths is awful but presuming you apply to 12 chambers, each with say 400 candidates applying for 2 pupillages (assuming all candidates are equal – which of course they are not) doesn’t that give odds of 2/400 which is something like 0.005% chance of gaining pupillage at a set in a given year (presuming the other 400 candidates applying to each set are different) – which feels like a very long way from a 33.3% recurring chance of gaining pupillage. Happy to be corrected on my maths. But its awful that the advertising standards agency are not on the the providers.

Anonymous

You are right, your maths is bad, that’s a 0.5% chance.

Anonymous

Oooo the BPTC lecturers have claws!

Anonymous

“presuming the other 400 candidates applying to each set are different”

Lol why would you presume that?! It is mostly the same students applying to the same sort of sets.

Anonymous

Errr because otherwise it’s hard to come up with a figure to calculate probability and we all know my maths is bad 🙂 But please, if you can come up with a better calculation do share.

Anonymous

It’s not your maths that is flawed. If each chambers had 400 different applicants- that would mean total applicants would be 400 x however many chambers offering pupillage. That obviously is not the case. E.g those applying to say Essex Court are almost certainly also applying to 20 Essex. It is not 400 different applicants for each 2/3 pupillages per chambers.

Anonymous

Yes so what is the calculation you are putting forward

Anonymous

Oh I’m not putting forward any calculaton. Just pointing out the flaw in yours.

Anonymous

Then why post? The assumption was obvious enough and the whole point of the post was to come up with a calculation. Keep trollin’

Anonymous

Why thank you, I shall keep trolling

Not even a mathematician

Yes, your maths is awful. More importantly, so is your logic. The chances of a random person, stripped of any individual characteristics, are probably more in the region of 16-25% based on a simple back of the envelope calculation. Your fallacy is to equate the chances of getting into a specific set as being directly comparable to getting pupillage overall.

First, most sets do not have 400 people applying for 2 places. See e.g. the Chambers Student Bar Reports – there’s usually 100-200 applications for 2-4 places.

So, already instead of 0.5% (not 0.005%! – howler alert) you already have 2-4% for each set assuming all people apply independently.

Secondly, many if not all of these sets give reserve offers given the fact that similar chambers are often fishing from a similar pool of candidates. That is, even if they have 4 pupils, they will actually give offers (or reserve offers) to 6-8 people. So your chances of actually getting an offer at an individual set are actually more like 3-8%.

Thirdly and obviously, lots of people are applying to the same sets of chambers. So your independence assumption is obviously flawed. While there’s no definitive way to work out what would happen if the independence assumption is relaxed, that does not make your calculation roughly right but precisely wrong.

A tenable assumption is that It is likely that most people who apply to particular practice areas apply to the same sorts of sets. The answer is therefore much likely to be closer to a total non-independence assumption, i.e. the same 200 people apply to the same 12 chambers.

Now, suppose that means a total of 36 pupillages (taking an average of the 2-4 offered). In reality, there might be as many as 50-70 offers + reserve actually made. That gives you a figure of 25-35%.

In reality, that is too high, because there isn’t a perfect correlation between people applying to different sets. The best way to look at it is globally. How many pupillages are there – roughly 470. How many people apply – approximately 2500-3000. That gives a figure of around 16%-25%. Clearly that differs between different practice areas.

Anonymous

Anyone else seen this website?

http://www.bptcstudents.co.uk

The website is written in nonsensical pigeon English but the sample pages from each of the ‘notes’ is not.

When I did the course, people had materials from all of the other providers and it went round by email. Looks like someone has decided to monetise that by selling an amalgam of the course provider notes.

Anonymous

This course still exists? I did mine in 2009, what a waste of time.

And I hear that those who went on to pupillage say the same.

Anonymous

“These dips may be the result of the BSB’s introduction of the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT)”

LOL NO! Definitely not because of BCAT. I have never heard of anyone failing the BCAT. We all suspect the pass rate is close to 100%. Why don’t Legal Cheek ask the BSB for stats on how many pass the BCAT? They scam students out of £250 for a test which is impossible to fail.

Anonymous

The Bar is all nonesense. Time to scrap it and fuse professions.

Anonymous

Nah I’m afraid you’ll have to stay a solicitor, pal!

Anonymous

Already a tenant in commercial chambers, mate.

Anonymous

Suuure you are

Anonymous

I AM!

I AM!

I AM!

Anonymous

Nevermind pupillage some Chambers are basically ponzi schemes…

Anonymous

Isn’t that the basis on which the Tories are trying to run the economy?

Anonymous

Genuinely interested – could you elaborate please?

Anonymous

If pupils are investors in the structure, they are taken on, given high pupillage awards on the expectation and in some cases promise of lucrative careers during tenancy. Pupils as investors invest their time and as tenants money on the promise that the set is well run and will return sufficient rewards over time to justify ongoing investment of time (as a member) and money (chambers fees). However, the self imposed pressure on chambers to look successful and keep growing and recruiting means that once you’re locked in for a few years, there’s not enough work to go around as chambers then start moving work to new investors (pupils and tenants) in order to get them to lock into the structure. Then you’re stuck in a position of diminishing returns and junior tenants for a while earning more than more senior tenants. Very flawed business structure.

Anonymous

In those situations the regulator should be intervening. Such a scenario works counter to the public interest because what you end up with is senior practitioners with not the experience the public would expect them to have.

Anonymous

The system works best when it employs financially independent and highly cultured amateurs (in the true sense of the word – lovers of the sport)

Anonymous

That’s just a pile of crap.

Anonymous

There are a few sets that are infamous for recruiting people at all levels for their contacts, real or perceived, sucking their contacts in and then doing fu(k all for the new member/s.

Anonymous

That and recruiting at the junior level and putting pressure on the juniors to do unpaid work.

Anonymous

Name and shame.

Anonymous

And have LC be hit with a super injunction? Not a chance.

Anonymous

I know of one senior junior whose wife’s wealthy parents basically financially support him and his family.

Anonymous

Private wealth enables the practitioner to be truly independent and focus on the work

Anonymous

That’s also crap, I have never met a barrister that is not motivated by money and winning a case. The days of people disinterestedly dispensing legal advice are long gone.

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