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Don’t ditch dining! Inns of Court give wannabe barristers opportunity to mingle, says Bar Council

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But BSB proposals could call time on compulsory qualifying sessions

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The Bar Council has come to the defence of compulsory Inns of Court dining sessions, arguing that the historic custom provides wannabe barristers with an opportunity to mingle.

Responding to Bar Standard Board (BSB) proposals which could see the dinners ditched, the Bar Council argues that Inns’ membership should remain “mandatory” and there should be “no reduction” in the number of qualifying sessions. Current rules stipulate that pupillage hunters must complete 12 sessions, made up of formal dinners, guest lectures, advocacy workshops and debate nights.

The Bar Council, justifying its stance, says these obligatory sessions provide students with an opportunity to “mingle with practising barristers, judges and their contemporaries”. Moreover, it’s concerned poorer students may suffer if these sessions were made optional. The response paper continues:

“If the element of compulsion is removed, the opportunity to take advantage of the Inns’ facility will remain, but particularly in the case of students who are less inclined to participate in activities at the Inn for socio-economic reasons, or for other reasons that cause them to believe they would not fit in, it is unlikely to be taken up to the same extent.”

The Bar Council has also rushed to the defence of the standardised 12-month pupillage. The BSB had suggested that the year-long mandatory training could be scrapped, allowing chambers to develop their own training plans for rookie barristers. However, the Bar Council has stressed it’s “very firmly of the view that there should be no change to the minimum prescribed length of pupillage”.

The 2018 BPTC Most List

But the Bar Council and regulator have had a meeting of the minds on some issues, particularly pupil pay. The Bar Council paper states the minimum pupillage award (currently £12,000) should be raised to match the Living Wage Foundation’s £10.20 per hour in London. It notes:

“Payment below this level increases the risk of students who are not from wealthy backgrounds not being able to afford pupillage and may ultimately be a factor potentially decreasing access to the bar. Anecdotally, many pupils receiving the minimum or low pupillage awards struggle to afford accommodation, particularly in London.”

Last year the Bar Council threw its support behind a new cheaper Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) operated by the Inns of Court.

The course — which Legal Cheek understands will be taught by the the Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA) — will be spilt into two parts. Part one will consist of the knowledge-based sections of the course, such as civil and criminal procedure, while part two will feature “skills-based elements” including advocacy, drafting and ethics.

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32 Comments

Anonymous

The Bar Council’s response was submitted back in early January and reported on (e.g. by Law Gazette) within an appropriate time-frame. Six weeks later, the Daily Sport of legal journalism decides to report on the issue in typically lazy fashion, using filler phrases such as “rushed to the defence of…”, when the response was not rushed, but submitted in accordance with the consultation timeline, and carefully drafted by a number of stakeholders.

The “journalist” also neglects to mention (or even read) the response from COIC, on behalf of the four Inns, despite basing the majority of his article on the role of the Inns and the potential for a future course offering from COIC.

…insightful stuff.

Anonymous

Proper journalism ➡️

You must be new, you’ve come to the wrong place if you expect good articles.

Anonymous

The sooner they get rid of this archaic nonsense (and the worthless pupillage advocacy course as well) the better.

Anonymous

I found the idea that anyone could “suffer” by not being required to pay and attend something they dont want to pay and attend particularly laughable.

Anonymous

Assume Inn membership is made optional, and that students from well connected backgrounds join an Inn and continue to attend dinners, lectures, advocacy weekends , pupillage mentoring schemes and the like. Every time they do so, they meet with practising barristers, judges and their contemporaries.

Now assume that a student without connections to the professional world or the legal profession decides not to join an Inn because it intimidates them (perfectly understandable, I had no idea what an Inn was when I started training and would have thought twice about it had it not been mandatory. The training and support I received was invaluable, and far more helpful than that I received from my BPTC provider). These students miss out on the above opportunities.

Now do you see the potential for the latter students to suffer? The role of the Inns cannot be reduced to one of cost. I sense from your comment that you have not read the Bar Council’s response to the consultation. Should you deign to do so, you’ll find that the Inns contribute 29,823 hours per year to pro bono training activity. I challenge you to suggest any alternative model that could match the quality of service and support offered by the Inns, for the same or less cost.

The Inns are not perfect, but most barristers are grateful to their Inns for the extremely valuable support that they offer. You are either bitter, ignorant, or both.

Anonymous

This response was really good until your last sentence….

….then it became great – boom!

Not Amused

Make them voluntary and only rick kids will do them and only rich kids will benefit.

Instead why not instigate some austerity cuts at the BSB (sack the people proposing this) and use the saved money to offer to pay the costs of dinning for poor kids.

Anonymous

I’m (relatively) rich and I certainly wouldn’t have done them if I had the choice not to and still be called to the bar.

I absolutely agree that it would be a very good idea to find a way to make the sessions free for those that cannot easily afford them. I would support such a proposal whether they remain compulsory (as seems overwhelmingly likely) or not.

I accept that I am in a smallish minority. Of the other students in my year at my inn, most that I have talked to want to keep QSs (though several want to change the overall emphasis from dining and socialising to training).

Anonymous

I think children not named Richard may do them.

Anonymous

I imagine the cost of very fancy venues, canapes, wine and professional film crews at the BSB’s events on Future Bar Training, diversity in the profession and the like would cover the cost of a few dinners…

Anonymous

How about carving out part of an awarded scholarship to cover QS costs and/or have additional means-based scholarships for QSs? Maybe some Inns do this (I’m only familiar with Gray’s—which also needs to sort out its QS online booking system so that people can register more easily), but intuition suggests this would help considerably.

Anonymous

Lincoln’s already has a separate scholarship called the Hardwicke, which covers the cost of admission to the Inn and the cost of all the qualifying sessions as ordinary dining. For domus dinners and other special occasions, the tickets are deeply discounted. I think the scholarship also covers post-call dining, but I didn’t take that up.

As with other scholarships, it’s not means tested, so that perhaps it’s benefits don’t quite reach the right people.

Anonymous

Welcome to Lincoln’s…

Anonymous

Lincoln’s for the gentleman …

Anonymous

Oh, BSB, of all the things to bother with when examining the path to the Bar!

Some formal dinners with like-minded people, and the opportunity to meet some real barristers and real judges – who were in my experience (and as I have tried to be in turn) only encouraging and helpful – is not a bad thing. This is the world the vast majority of student members wish to join, after all.

If you don’t like wearing scrubs, opening doors with your elbows or sharps bins with your feet, don’t become a doctor. If you don’t like wood-pannelling, debate over dinner or wearing a gown, don’t become a barrister.

Anonymous

The Inn’s have to maintain the fig-leaf that dining has any education benefit at all, so their response in unsurprising. The truth is that it’s done that way because it’s has been done that way in the past, which strikes me as a pretty bad reason for doing anything.

The idea that dining sessions make any material difference to students at all is just unrealistic.

Anonymous

Breathing?

Eating?

Sleeping?

Anonymous

Is it still a sausage fest of randy old barristers as it was in my day or has that all stopped post-weinerstein?

Anonymous

The problem is that if you take somebody from a council estate to a nice restaurant they are not going to know how to use a lobster pick. Is that the sort of person you would want to work with?

Anonymous

I know your joking but this is true, I’ve had clients ask for us to not send guy X to said meeting. Because the client cant connect with him in general conversation. He’s paying millions so we kinda have to just sideline the guy X.

Anonymous

That’s Guy X’s fault for not bettering himself.

Anonymous

Send him to the Russian clients they have the manners of feral animals

Frankly

The BSB wants barristers to be more like Solicitors – and we call all run around with chips on our shoulders!

Northerner of Counsel

I eat chips, not carry them on me shoulder!

Anonymous

I can see and agree the benefits of QS, but it is worth pointing out that attending them from regional BPTC providers was an utter shag (and added to the expense).

Big Barry

The benefits or disbenefits of formal dining are small and can be argued either way. This is about tradition. The BSB wants to destroy the Bar’s traditions where it can, for no other reason than to spoil the fun and make their power felt.

Consider what sort of people get jobs at the BSB: bitter third-rate lawyers and bossy little losers with a “background in haitch arr”.

Lardner of Counsel

“They may take our dinners, but they’ll never take our wigs!!!!!!!”

Anonymous

£50 a ticket. bun dat.

Anonymous

BSB should focus on abolishing the £19k BPTC which is by almost unanimous consensus at the Bar an utter waste of time.

As the above commentator noted, what sort of person works at the BSB? Will they have the bar’s best interests at heart

Anonymous

Hmm so the BSB think kids who can afford £19k fees plus at least £10k living expenses for the BPTC can not afford £50 for a dining session?

BPTC costs a minimum of £30k (in London it would be around £35k). We are talking eye watering sums of money.

The Inns are giving £4m in scholarships annually. This is going directly into the pockets of private equity firms. This is directly as a consequence of BSB regulations. Abolish the BPTC and the Inns save £4m per year. Then maybe the dining sessions could be free?

Anonymous

Well, indirectly into the pockets of private equity firms. That’s kind of the point of private equity firms’ structures.

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