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‘When it goes to sh*t your law school doesn’t want to know’: Anonymous wannabe barrister reflects on life having failed the BPTC

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Not Competent

An anonymous wannabe barrister is charting her life post-failing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) on a new blog, and tells Legal Cheek she still hopes to make it to the bar one day.

Writing on Life After Failed BPTC, the bar hopeful says the first few weeks following the receipt of her Not Competent result were “pretty savage”. Drawing on a somewhat extreme comparison to a death, she writes:

“[W]hen someone dies you pay your respects and express your condolences. Here, with the BPTC, no one even knows how to react! You were supposed to be their ‘lawyer’ after all, and now what?!”

Elsewhere in the blog, the graduate sheds light on how her law school responded to the news. Be prepared to be “entirely on your own as far as your provider is concerned” if you fail, she says: “You paid them 20k for the course and not for ‘support’ when it all eventually goes to s*it. It was your responsibility to pass! You didn’t so that’s on you.”

The 2018 BPTC Most List

One of the more painful consequences of failing the BPTC, she found, was removing references to the course from her LinkedIn and informing pre-arranged work placements that she hadn’t made the grade. “This part is actually worse than failing the course”, she says, “because you have to face your potential future or current employers, your mentors and other people who you just have to tell”. The former BPTC-er writes:

“There is no subtle way of doing it, I don’t think. You cannot hide it either because it is a significant change in circumstances and it is unethical to identify oneself as a BPTC graduate when in fact one is not! People who gave you a scholarship would be particularly interested to know as well.”

Our law grad goes on to consider how to handle the Not Competent-shaped elephant in the room during social introductions. Having ruled out some rather tongue-in-cheek examples like “failed graduate” and “unemployed former student with no professional qualification”, she settles on “undergraduate… with an ambition to become a barrister in England eventually”. Our brave bar blogger continues:

“In my introductions [I] do not openly broadcast the fact I already attempted the course once unless asked point blank, which has not happened yet!”

Speaking to Legal Cheek about what compelled her to write about her BPTC failure, the wannabe barrister explains that she hopes to raise awareness about the realities and misconceptions of the vocational course. She says:

“I want the voices of those people who unfortunately failed to be heard, at the moment no one cares about those who ‘didn’t make it’.”

Moving away from personal failure, she hopes to add more “motivational content” in the coming months, while continuing to offer “insights into various aspects of the legal profession”. And as for her career goals, she tells us: “I want to be called to the bar and I will not stop until I get there!”

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55 Comments

JOHNNY

‘Not Component’? Seriously…

(23)(6)

Anonymous

So she’s not going to be a barrister either, like you then Tom?

(27)(9)

Big Dolla

Hijacking comment, but…

This blogger is completely off the rails.

Read some of the actual blog posts, and you’ll be treated to Suits quotations, incoherent ramblings, and the grammar of someone who is obviously not fit for the bar. Neither Thomas nor any of the other Legal Cheek writers are that bad.

It’s funny, but also incredibly sad.

(30)(0)

Anonymous

I’m with you. She writes that she failed her ethics essay several times. I think while the BPTC may seem like the intellectual free space to decide re: arguments for and against particular ethical standards, it serves a different purpose: to prepare students for the bar.

(0)(0)

BPP Shareholder

££££££££££

(39)(0)

Anonymous

All very interesting but not much disclosure about why they did not pass, what steps they took on feedback (I may be wrong but don’t you get more than one go at the exams?) which presumably the provider did supply (if not, justifiable complaint). The support thing for unsuccessful candidates is noteworthy but ultimately they cannot actually get you the position if you haven’t passed so it is a bit unclear what support other than that unrealistic expectation was being sought. The number of typos here and there might be a bit of a giveaway, but there might be all sorts of reasons for that. What was it, from within the diet of exams, that the blogger couldn’t pass?

(52)(0)

Anonymous

Stop asking LC to be proper journalists!

(32)(1)

Anonymous

Fair point, it might be a hopeless set of questions but there isn’t a huge amount of reflection on what the person themselves may simply have been doing wrong, or not quite well enough, and the steps they themselves took to ameliorate their approach (and any support sought and given in doing that).

(17)(0)

Anonymous

and also do you not get to do the exams twice before you officially fail.

I think this story is incomplete

(6)(1)

Anonymous

Seems like she just didnt make the grade and it ackowledging it. Like obviously they’re not gonna help you after the course is over but that doesnt make it easier to deal with.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

While I admire her tenacity, she has to consider whether she can meet the grades second time round to obtain pupillage. If not, she could end up bankrupt.

(19)(0)

Anonymous

Do people really fail the BPTC???

(28)(8)

Anonymous

Plenty of people fail.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I think it is a shame she failed. It looks like she found being new to the City without a ticket already was intimidating, and she thought the ones who had tickets already behaved like arrogant ars**.

I can sympathise with that. I think it is worthy of her to advertise the pitfalls.

I also think that she only needs one person to give her a break and why not. She has a unique selling point.

Hopefully she can arrange to take the whole suite of module exams, or the ones she failed, for a modest sum without the tuition fees.

I think she should aim for that. If bptc demand that she shuts up about the negatives as quid pro quo, she has done enough in public to make people think twice , so she should look after herself.

If bptc are unpleasant about helping her, there is an argument for continuing with the blog provided there are no terms and conditions preventing her. But there might be.

She needs to be wary that someone may be jumping to complain to the bar council about her to earn some brownie points for themselves and to release the sort of ruthless regulatory lawyers who pursue these young solicitors on disciplinary charges that we read about.

Proceed with caution if you are reading this. The bptc will not want to look unattractive or incompetent or ruthless. If you haven’t come across why some classes of lawyers are described as sharks before, it will shock you when you find out how quickly a sniff of blood will lead to the most violent frenzy that you ever heard of short of armed warfare.

(6)(21)

Anonymous

One word for this girl, and it’s an abbreviation:

CILEX.

(34)(1)

Anonymous

She might get an exemption from some cilex modules. If all else fails that is a point actually. Bid a retreat from London.

Also, there is such a thing as a blessing in disguise. Perhaps this is it. Lots of barristers are unhappy.

A friend of mine worked very hard and got a 59 pc 2.2. In law.

I remember thinking, well you tried your best and now you are out of the rat race. You are lucky.

(9)(18)

Anonymous

Let’s be honest: everyone thinks they “worked hard”. The question is, did they work “well”?

(24)(0)

Anonymous

My oh my what a connoisseur you are 😊

He did his best. Perhaps no one told him how to work well, for I take your point. Nevertheless it does seem to have been a blessing in disguise for him.

(2)(2)

Concerned

People failing a course is a fact of life, no matter how regrettable. It’s a chance you take when you sign up for any non-compulsory academic course.

The real issue is the people who pass the course, having paid up to £20k, with a less than 1 in 8 chance of getting a pupillage.

(24)(0)

BPTC student

I call bullshit.

The blogger talks of getting her results and realising she’d “failed the BPTC”. But you don’t just “fail the BPTC” when you get your results, we get two attempts at each exam. If you fail any module, you’ll just have to re-sit it over the summer, and get called in the autumn.

(57)(0)

Anonymous

you get 3 attempts

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Her blog is surprisingly well written – I expected pretty crap spelling and punctuation, not going to lie. How did failing the BPTC come as such a surprise to her, considering that (as highlighted by BPTC Student, above) you get more than one go at an exam?

Was she overwhelmed by taking on too much extra-curric? Illness? Sheer laziness? London can be intimidating for new-comers, but plenty come to the capital each year an excel. Bizarre.

(7)(2)

Anonymous

Err, the blog is absolutely RIDDLED with grammatical errors.

eg:

‘The thing is about all generations is that each one is different from the other and the previous one has impact on the next.’

(28)(0)

Anonymous

Is that a direct quote? Wow.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Afraid so, here’s a bit more just for the lols (also taken from the ‘snowflake generation’ blogpost). The whole blog is like this.

‘Is that to say that by the definition we are all collectively overdramatising bunch of instable, fragile and dependant people, yet full of themselves individuals wanting privileges to come their way who also are boring and sensible?’

If English is her second language then I guess it’s forgivable but imagine writing a pupillage application in this style…

(21)(1)

Anonymous

To be fair, she may have blogged from her phone. She gets her views across.

Do you want an applause for your pathological quest to find corroborating support for the bptc’s decision to fail her ?

(4)(24)

Anonymous

Possibly didn’t do enough homework before signing up.

Possibly didn’t do enough homework once signed up.

Blog doesn’t give much if any insight into why the writer failed and, as others have observed, these aren’t one-shot-and-done exams. Perhaps the writer doesn’t want to dwell, which is fair enough, but something’s not complete with this picture. Presumably if the writer passed, they would be happy to take the “sham” qualification?

And even if the writer passed – chances of pupillage?

(9)(0)

Anonymous

…And as for her career goals, she tells us: “I want to be called to the bar and I will not stop until I get there!”…

And then she will… stop? Seems a strange thing to want to do: qualify and then stop? Probably looking at the wrong career if that’s the ambition.

(16)(1)

Anonymous

Being Called to the Bar does not make you a qualified barrister.

(14)(0)

Anonymous

Well done, splitting hairs.

(11)(7)

Bar Humbug

As Concerned correctly noted above, the shortage of pupillage is a barrier to progression at the Bar. I say bring back unpaid pupillages if necessary to faiĺitate progression. As ‘intern-like’ positions they should be exempt from the minimum wage as if effectively the completion of one’s training. I successfully completed my BVC but didn’t have the right connections to get pupillage. It’s a closed shop reserved for sycophants!

(7)(28)

Bar Humbug

Bar Humbug appreciates that there are some typos due to the hurried posting. However, we will no doubt read some pedants’ comments about that and not the content! Typical old school

(1)(6)

Some Pedant

What is “faiĺitate”?

(6)(0)

Bar Humbug

Old school pedant – go back to sleep!

(1)(2)

Anonymous

The danger of unpaid pupilages is that they would give you the skill and confidence to practice and , I suspect, permit you to apply to get insurance and set up on your own.

It would not be in the interests of the profession for a phalanx of cheap barristers to appear at court waiting for briefs without chambers in tow because punters would use them.

It would be like crafting the bullet with which to shoot yourself.

(9)(5)

Anonymous

If you bring back unpaid pupillages, just being back the rule that you cannot set up your own Chambers until after x years in practice. It is ironic that as unpaid internships proliferate, due to the oversupply of Arts graduates, the Bar has abolished them. The results to date do not suggest that the obligation to pay pupils has done anything for social mobility at the Bar.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

No. You have misunderstood the rules. Whether a pupillage is funded or unfunded the pupil still has to be supervised by a supervisor in a Chambers. At the end of pupillage the barrister is qualified. Whether their pupillage was paid or not they cannot practise except as a member of a Chambers until they are 3 years PQE.

It makes no difference whether the pupillage is funded or unfunded. All pupils must obtain a tenancy to continue in practice at the end of pupillage.

(7)(1)

BPTC student

You DO NOT need connections to get pupillage. You just need to be one of the two (or three, or whatever) best candidates.

Your post is an insult to those many pupils who went to state comprehensives, are immigrants, disabled, black, LGBT, or otherwise not “white posh public school boys whose parents are lawyers”, and yet successfully got pupillage. It’s easy to blame external factors for one’s own failures, and cry discrimination or nepotism when things don’t work out.

(40)(5)

Anonymous

Agreed, this kind of attitude just scares off suitable candidates from different backgrounds. I recently got pupillage, a few years after coming to England to attend university here. English is my second language. No one in my family does anything law-related. I’m not sure what my magical connections were…

(22)(2)

ANONYMOUS

Fees not really for education. But more to assist in further education empire building, in reality. Almost certainly wouldn’t have secured a pupillage either. Just another of the 000s misled.

(1)(0)

Bar Humbug

‘Right of audience’ rules should be reformed in order to allow greater freedom and choice of representaion.

Those who have successfully completed the BVC or BPTC should allowed to represent defendants at Mags Court and represent claimants & defendants at the civil small claims court.Otherwise the closed shop mentality will be perpetuated.

However, parliament is unlikely to change the status quo as there are so many lawyers in the damned place and the profession’s lobbyists would stive to block any reforming measure of this nature.

The reason often given for retaining the outdated ‘right of audience’ – i.e that lawyer should undertake the advocacy, is because there are strict rules to be followed (the implication being that unpupilled Bar trained individuals would be unable to cope). However the rules allow people to self-represent, often those with absolutely zero knowledge of the law. So where’s the logic in that? Ah! I hear you say ….it’s to maintain the closed shop. Yes, correct.

What a shame, given that legal aid has all but disappeared – so much for access to justice by all!

How about the ‘unpupilled’ Barrister, yes Barrister! standing up and being counted and given a role in the justice system?

(1)(23)

Bar Humbug

Come on pedants – comment on the typos of a hurridly written post and ignore the content.

(8)(7)

Some Pedant

Nah, can’t be arsed.

(9)(2)

Anonymous

Great idea – set professional standards but then allow in those who fail to meet those standards provided their clients will only get 6 months porridge.

Why stop at lawyers – shall we let failed brain surgeons take off a few toes?

(16)(0)

Anonymous

You have any idea what representing a Defendant in the Magistates involves as you have not done pupillage and are not a solicitor.

It’s not a closed shop, but you have to actually qualify, not fail to qualify as you have done. Doctors who have not done their F1 are not permitted to treat people in A & E. Nor are doctors who fail their F1 year. Even those who pass are not permitted to set up their own hospital and charge people for A & E treatment and perform surgery completley unsupervised. They have to operate under supervision.

You haven’t even completed pupillage and yet you feel you should be allow to practise with no supervision, which even those who qualified are not permitted to do!

(14)(0)

Anonymous

Reflects on life… yes.

Reflects on how they failed… no.

No particular guidance to other BPTC candidates on how to improve if they are not doing well, which might be of some wider value. Firmly puts the “me” in “meh”.

(10)(0)

Lord Elpuss

“I want the voices of those people who unfortunately failed to be heard, at the moment no one cares about those who ‘didn’t make it’.”

Not to sound a prat, but I really don’t get the entitlement of some of my generation. Reading this, you’d think it referred to a public inquiry, not someone who failed their exams.

(23)(0)

Anonymous

When it all goes to sh*t the truth is that barely anyone wants to know. Welcome to life….

(10)(0)

Anonymous

The courses provider won’t card as another intake of people offering £15k+ are their priority.

Welcome to life. Pastoral care is for primary school.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

I think this is reflective of a real problem and people here are being too dismissive. I know of multiple people who seemed to have started the BPTC with the impression that getting on the course meant they’d all but made it as a barrister. As if getting on the course was somehow the tricky step. People who somehow only found out after sinking a few thousand pounds of their own money in fees, that getting pupillage is actually hard, and that there are these things called “mini-pupillage” that are probably good to do.

Now you can say “oh my god what idiots” and mock them, but that misses the real issue. The course providers are effectively scamming these fools out of £18,000, and nothing is being done to stop them.

(3)(0)

BPTC student

Sorry, but I don’t buy it. We are not some gullible vulnerable old ladies for heavens’ sake. We are educated adults, making our own conscious choices. Some of us are being scammed; but that is not by the providers, but rather by their own delusions.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Well, I guess it’d depend on the guidance you get before starting the course? I had no connections to the Bar but did law at Oxford, which means I was surrounded by at least some people hoping to become barristers. I also went to events at the Inns and basically any talk/ lecture on the Bar that I could find. This in turn meant that I knew that 1.) BPTC providers let everyone do the course, 2.) your mark on it isn’t important, 3.) the hard bit is getting pupillage, and finally 4.) you shouldn’t start the course without either a large scholarship or a pupillage.

Now, if I’d gone to Exeter or somewhere, where I hear everything is more geared to a career as a solicitor, I wouldn’t have had the peers with similar ambitions, nor the easily available lectures. I’m Facebook friends with someone who got a 2.1 from London Met and bragged about getting a place on the course. It’s easy to laugh at these people, but if your uni doesn’t provide much information and you ignore some of the internet comments out of wishful thinking, I suppose this really can happen.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I’m laughing and cringing in equal measure reading the original blog. Three ‘gems’ do stand out though:

1. Her suggestion that BPTC providers should provide a refund for students failing the course? Do I get a partial refund for my undergraduate degree after attempts at completing a LexisNexis certification ended in failure? No, I just had no idea what I was doing. How does anyone fail such a pretend course?!

2. She seems hugely surprised by the fact that tuition fees for the BPTC are so high. I’m sure she wasn’t just presented with an invoice after she failed.

3. She mentions a few times how the failure is not a reflection on her abilities. I am probably missing the point entirely. I struggle to see the external factors affecting her performance if she (as claimed) is so interested in professional ethics but yet failed that exam.

(11)(0)

LC staff

She could always join legalcheek

(24)(0)

Anonymous

You can work as hard as you want at these things, like the BPTC and the LPC. I have colleagues and friends who used to brag about the hours they put in and complain about the outcome of their results being below par.

The fact of the matter was they weren’t treating their work carefully. Attention to detail, synthesis of case study problems and commercial awareness were all not there. Typically those who were shit were the ones used to GCSE type examinations – the sort that just regurgitate information to page/paper and apply no relevant content or context to their examination answers.

(1)(0)

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