But BSB proposals could call time on compulsory qualifying sessions
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”.
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.”
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.