Why I am in favour of unpaid pupillages

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The regulator needs to update its approach

Long ago, the recruitment of pupils saw aspiring barristers ask directly for pupillage and, if lucky, offered one on the spot. Today it is all about regulation, regulation, regulation, much courtesy of the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

One key area of regulation is the remuneration of pupils. The BSB makes it very clear that all pupillages should be paid, unless a chambers has applied for a waiver from funding (which is rare). The BSB seem to suggest that these rules protect those who are economically disadvantaged, as those who are deemed privileged would gain an unfair advantage. However, this is a myth.

At a time where the hot topic is ‘social mobility’, where individuals from ‘disadvantaged’ backgrounds are encouraged to pursue a career at the bar, the disadvantaged may find that access is still not possible. Pupillage spots are highly competitive, postgraduate barrister education is extortionate and there are limited work experience placements out there. I think the regulator is, in fact, obstructing access by imposing a ban on unpaid pupillages, halting aspiring barristers from gaining a vital practising certificate which can open so many doors for them.

I have noticed of late a trend of individuals using their extra, sometimes unpaid, experience to fast track their career. One chambers a few years ago advertised for pupils who could complete a reduced pupillage. This would only be available to a select few, who could demonstrate they have the requisite experience. By way of further example, another barrister was called to the English bar but undertook further study and was called to the Irish bar and subsequently devilled in Ireland (devilling in Ireland is unpaid). After only a few years in Ireland, she recently returned and is now a tenant at a West Midlands set.

These examples demonstrate that having the economic means to fund the ‘right’ experience or pursue opportunities abroad can allow access to the bar via the back door. This is the authorised form of the unpaid pupillage for those who have the financial means and opportunities. Surely the BSB, by allowing such exemptions, flies in the face of protecting the economically disadvantaged.

The 2018 Chambers Most List

So, if the BSB is allowing people to qualify in England and Wales on the back of unpaid experience sometimes gained abroad, why not introduce unpaid pupillages here?

The costs, clearly, would be far lower for chambers, and therefore encourage them to take on more pupils. Chambers do not have to offer me tenancy at the end of it, but having my practising certificate could open so many doors beyond just having fancy-sounding titles but with no professional qualifications.

The BSB finds it acceptable for individuals such as myself, who have ‘spent’ £48,000 on obtaining qualifications and who are capable of succeeding at the bar, to accumulate debt or spend this level of money to even be eligible for pupillage, but deem it unacceptable for me to have to pay a fraction more to support myself through an unpaid pupillage. It seems illogical to me. I hope the BSB will consider my points and can appreciate the positive arguments supporting unpaid pupillages, articulated by someone who ticks all of their ‘socially disadvantaged’ boxes.

I don’t believe, however, that funded pupillages should cease. Instead, I think they should still exist and to eradicate them would be unwise. Chambers could even offer paid pupillages as well as unpaid pupillages. There would be a bigger pool of candidates to choose from at the end of the pupillage, and if they decide to keep an unpaid pupil perhaps they could choose to pay them the level of pupillage award they would have been paid to reward their efforts.

Let me be clear. I was aware, even before embarking on the bar course, of the challenges and the odds associated with obtaining pupillage.

I began the LLB as a mature student and fall within the BSB’s label of ‘disadvantaged’, coming from a working class, first-generation immigrant Indian family, with no connection to the legal community and having been educated at inner city state schools. Yet, I have always been determined to make it as a barrister. I gained some fantastic experience and was able to network well, meeting some very kind barristers and judges who helped me along the way.

Just to get myself this far has involved considerable expense. A student loan of £20,000 to fund my law degree, a bank loan for the bar course of £20,000 including interest and £8,000 for my LLM, which was funded by part-time employment stacking shelves in a supermarket. I was fortunate to have secured a couple of scholarships along the way but nonetheless it has been an expensive journey. But I’d rather it be a slightly more expensive journey and have a practising certificate in hand.

Bar Hopeful has completed the Bar Professional Training Course and is currently working in a non-legal role.

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Correct me if wrong, but back in the “good old days” didn’t sets just take on hordes of pupils as unpaid labour and then end up giving none of them tenancies? Tenancy being the real major sift point, as opposed to pupillage sounds like literally the worst thing imaginable.


I think the point is probably that once you’ve completed pupillage, you can at least practise, whereas without a pupillage you’ve got an expensive vocational qualification without any genuine value. After pupillage, you might not get taken on at a set that values it reputation or is protective of junior tenants’ interests, but there are plenty of sets that just want bums on seats and are willing to take anyone on if they think they can pay the rent.


That’s absolutely right.

If you force sets to invest in trainees, they have the incentive to open up their practices to new members.

Going back to unpaid pupillages sounds appalling.


I agree. I am fortunate to be starting pupillage at a commercial/chancery set in London next year. I have a similar background to the OP and, even though I have worked as a solicitor beforehand, I couldn’t contemplate doing pupillage if it was unpaid. In reality, the OPs idea would favour the wealthy and disincentivize chambers from retaining pupils.


No, they didn’t take hoards of people. There were about 800 to 900 hundred pupillages, a mix of paid – unpaid ones for about 2000 people. There were only 4 or so BVC providers and the whole thing was much more humane, you actually had a chance to qualify. The increased number of BVC providers, now called BTCP? Is the biggest scam of all. This year apparently 15000 people applied for 224 places!

That idiot who went to court to make paid pupillaged compulsary ruined us all. Find her give her a piece of your mind.


I can imagine a large and varied number of things worse than tenancy being the major sift point.


Your figures are deceptive. You say that you need to spend £48,000 to be eligible for pupillage. You break that figure down into £20,000 for a law degree, £20,000 for the bar course, and £8,000 for an LLM. You do not need an LLM to do a pupillage. You do need to do the bar course before pupillage, but there is no reason to start the bar course without having already secured a pupillage in advance, or a substantial Inn scholarship.

I started my LLB as a mature student as well, from a working-class background and having studied at state schools. I had no connection with the ‘legal community’. I never felt remotely disadvantaged in any way whatsoever in the pupillage application process and am now halfway through a commercial chancery pupillage. I certainly wouldn’t have gambled £20k of my own money on the BPTC without a pupillage in hand.

I think your suggestion is misconceived. A pupillage without a tenancy at the end of it is not particularly valuable. If the BSB permits unfunded pupillage then the pupillage numbers will increase dramatically without any commensurate (or any at all) increase in the number of tenancies. If you are unable to obtain pupillage now, I suggest that you are unlikely to obtain tenancy under your proposed system, and the end result will be that you have wasted another year’s living expenses with no end result, and instead of being £48k in the hole you are £70k in the hole (or whatever it is).


“I started my LLB as a mature student as well, from a working-class background and having studied at state schools. I had no connection with the ‘legal community’. I never felt remotely disadvantaged in any way whatsoever in the pupillage application process and am now halfway through a commercial chancery pupillage.”

One of my current LLB students has a similar background and also has ambitions towards commercial Chancery practice. Would you be willing to have a conversation with him? If so, please email me at Thank you.


Wow well good for you(!)


Typical example of someone ‘trying’ and using a connection. Why doesn’t your student get off his a*** and go to events and start networking!

bundle of authorities

I am sceptical towards your comment that ‘a pupillage without a tenancy at the end of it is not particularly valuable.’

It implies that rights of audience stem from tenancy and not from completion of the BPTC and pupillage. Similarly, it would imply that completion of a training contract without retention is not particularly valuable, which I think you would agree is not the case. My understanding of the author’s point is that, following an unpaid pupillage, one would be able to tap into the ‘PQE’ sphere of opportunities which could be very rewarding for one’s professional development; if not by securing tenancy then through some other route.

Would it be harmful for the profession if some of the barriers to entry (by which I mean qualification) were lowered? That is perhaps a topic for another article.


I accept that I have forgotten most of what I learned in the BSB handbook already. I thought it was the case that a barrister of less than three years’ standing could not exercise rights of audience unless they were either (a) an employed barrister, or (b) their principal place of practice was from a chambers where there were more experienced barrister able to provide guidance to them.

I also recall that you cannot accept direct access instructions or conduct litigation if you are a barrister of less than three years’ standing unless, again, you practice from chambers or are an employed barrister. I don’t see that any solicitor is likely to instruct a tenancy-less junior barrister who is attempting to practice from home.

So, I think I stick by my earlier comment that a pupillage without a tenancy is virtually useless but I am happy to be corrected about what the Handbook says if I have misremembered.


rS20 IF you are a barrister of less than three years’ standing, you MAY only supply legal services to the public/exercise rights of audience OR conduct litigation by virtue of authorisation by the BSB, IF your principal place of practice is either: chambers or relevant organisation where a qualified person is readily available to provide guidance to you.


The figures are not deceptive, it is actually what has been spent. The whole point is on investing in a career. Not many who start the BPTC have pupillage and it is just that a gamble. You are correct you do not have to complete a LLM but for many chambers you do get marks for having this extra qualification. I think perhaps read the article properly and you may understand the point.


That’s not true. Once you complete your pupillage you can actually get a job. Pupillage is the real barrier. complete a pupillage then you are qualified and can get on with your life, either try your luck in independent practice or get a job, which you can with your qualification. Without the pupillage you are nobody with a lot of dept. That’s the reality.

As for the smugg person at the commercial set, unfortunately not all of us come from white rich families and oxbridge. There are many subjected to racism, ethnic discrimination and even sexism.

I still remember the CA judge who put his hand on my knee as if nothing….

Get real the present system is rigged to scam hopefuls at the Bar Course level, keep access to the profession to minimum. Nothing is really done for women, or ethnic minorities.

For those of you who shun the unpaid pupillages, I would like to see you a few years down the line, when you end up as a barrista instead of a barrister because you couldn’t qualify.


While it may well be true that, under the current rules, your chances of securing tenancy elsewhere after completing your pupillage are high, this applies to the biased sample of peoplewho convinced someone to pay them for a pupillage. Under the proposed rules, the average ability of people securing a pupillage would drop, so this would no longer hold true. The selection process may be flawed, but then you need to try and fix this, rather than just postponing until after the pupillage.


You are wrong, a pupillage is a pupillage and it qualifies you. That is the key. Tenancy is another matter. In the 80’s you only did pupillage to get a tenancy. In 2018 few people care about tenancy, they care about getting a job that pays the student dept and pays the bills.

There are many places a qualified barrister can work. No vacancies for un qualified Bar Course Graduates.

I spent years studying, doing mini pupillages, living in court rooms… result nothing. You get one big nothing because you are not qualified.


That is not the whole picture, a pupillage is a pupillage and it qualifies you. That is the key. Tenancy is another matter. In the 80’s you only did pupillage to get a tenancy. In 2018 few people care about tenancy, they care about getting a job that pays the student dept and pays the bills.

There are many places a qualified barrister can work. No vacancies for un qualified Bar Course Graduates.

I spent years studying, doing mini pupillages, living in court rooms… result nothing. You get one big nothing because you are not qualified.


i doubled my salary safely into the 100s just by being a bptc student and with no expectation of pupillage. so this post is rubbish. Call is sufficient to unlock many doors.


You hold the same opinion as my neighbour’s wheelie bin. It hasn’t been emptied in weeks.


“Bar Hopeful has completed the Bar Professional Training Course and is currently working in a non-legal role.”

Man with an opinion

Good spot. I wonder whether the “hopeful” works for the MoJ.


And you work where exactly?


Plenty of BPTC grads working in non legal roles. Its that or life on the dole. What a flippant comment.


But the BPTC, like the LPC, makes candidates for paralegal positions far more attractive, for example. This Bar Hopeful would be advised to try and gain some kind of paralegal position to keep his/her experience and trajectory coherent and relevant, if s/he’s in a position to do so.

Of course, some time working outside of the law is never a bad thing in itself, as long as the candidate’s CV still has coherence.


The only sets that would be interested in offering unpaid pupillages would be those that don’t have the resources to offer paid pupillages. Unpaid pupillages would likely only be offered by sets doing publicly funded work. The reason that those sets do not have the resources to offer the number of pupillages that they would like to offer (if that is in fact the case, I have no idea) is that there is not enough publicly funded work around. Allowing more students to qualify into these areas will not increase the amount of work available.


I’d say the problem is more the unpaid internships rather than the payment during pupilages, no?

By creating a competetive system that is built on rewarding the accumulation of unpaid experience, this in itself is the barrier.

Perhaps requiring firms to pay for this work, or at least having to indicate on an application the experience that was paid and that which was not, would go some way to removing these barriers.


This is true madness


“One chambers a few years ago advertised for pupils who could complete a reduced pupillage. This would only be available to a select few, who could demonstrate they have the requisite experience.”

I may be misunderstanding this comment, but coming as it does immediately after the sentence “I have noticed of late a trend of individuals using their extra, sometimes unpaid, experience to fast track their career,” I take it that you are implying that reduced pupillages are available for people who have done (for example) unpaid internships. They are not. The “experience” required to justify a reduction in pupillage is extensive. I transferred to the Bar having qualified as a solicitor and completed three years PQE in a relatively niche field that I have continued in. By recollection, I was entitled to reduce pupillage by three months (I confess I cannot recall the exact detail, the chambers I trained at insisted that I complete a full pupillage regardless – something I agreed to and, in hindsight, was absolutely the right thing to do – so the reduction was never actually relevant to me). In that context, I cannot imagine that a pupil would be granted even a day of reduction in return for some unpaid interning. The example you give of someone devilling in Ireland is both extremely niche and suggests that she too had extensive experience. You don’t mention it, but was she allowed to practice immediately in England, or did she have to complete some form of reduced pupillage when she transferred?

The only real, direct effect that abolishing the requirement pupillages to be paid will have is that the amount paid to pupils in some less-well-remunerated areas of law will dramatically fall – well below minimum, much less living wage. The knock on effect, of course, will be that pupillage will then become available only to those with the private means to live, work, travel and survive for a year without relying on their working income. In London, that will mean only the very richest students will be able to take on certain pupillages. Nothing could be worse for social mobility.


At this point after years of trying I would give my right arm to qualify. Don’t ever think you are different, that you’ll make it. You are better than those of us before you. You are not. Each year less and less chance of qualifying. The number of pupillages went down and the number of people applying goes up every year.

Those 15000 people who applied this year should be in front of the Parliament protesting…

Under the present system it is easier to become an MP than a barrister.


Sometimes people just have to accept that they have been unsuccessful. I think this is the fall out from a society were people are given awards for participation rather than results.
Unfortunately a number of people are just not prepared or cut out for the harsh reality of the real world.


Or the harsh realities of practising law at the top end, in a major jurisdiction!

The Voice of the People (Returned)

Short version – I’ve gambled on my own success and (currently) fallen short. I could have been sensible and only taken the gamble at somebody else’s expense, with the odds in my favour – but I chose not to. I now want to continue throwing good money after bad in the hope I get a return in my original bet, and in doing so basically further inhibit those trying to access the profession from the same or similar backgrounds to me (who perhaps are not in a situation where they can go unpaid / stupid enough to be in a position where they have too). Long and short of it – don’t create a scramble to the bottom as it is ironically the people from the background you appear to champion which will lose out the most!

Mr. Charles

As a mature student I think maybe you have a point. But you are some one, presumably who has a job, life experience, perhaps a partner who can help support you. It may mean a year of unpaid work isn’t that bad to get what you want.

However, for the many who aren’t in that position, who are students straight out pf university with thousands of pounds worth of debt, it is not feasible. If you come from a non-traditional background it can’t be done. A re-itntroduction of unfunded pupillage, in the format suggested, would just to those with wealth and privellege, retaining their advantage. The idea is anti-freedom and anti-fairness.

Employed barrister

What you describe as non-feasible is in fact the lot in life of many Arts graduates, who, like law graduates, emerge from University with heavy debt and have to face the prospect of maybe a couple of years of precarious internships before getting a job that pays anything meaningful. Incurring debt for University seems to be accepted now as a fact of life, so why is an unpaid pupillage any worse? I think reasonable people can have different views on this, but to describe making unpaid pupillages available as “anti-freedom” is absurd – what you really mean is that the freedom to offer and accept unpaid pupillages should, in your view, be denied. Do please read a few books by Hayek before abusing that word again.

It might be that the commercial Bar has no need to return to the old days of unpaid pupillages and the publicly funded Bar has no need to bring in more hungry mouths to feed from the thin pickings currently available there, but there is a wider point that the Bar Council ought to take into account, which is replenishing the pool of employed barristers. The unpaid pupillage system produced a flow of barristers available to work in companies and Government, now there are very few coming through, which makes the guff about One Bar hard to take seriously.


Excellent points made. There was an article last week about the shortage of criminal practitioners and fears for the future. Those who genuinely want to practice in this area and are fully aware of earning perhaps below minimum wage why cant they if that’s what they want and choose to do.


Because they can’t do it. They are too much in debt to go through the early years of practice where you earn no money. This is not anything new. I qualified 20 years ago and spent my first three years in practise earning fuck all running round the Magistrates Court. It took me about 4 years to develop a Crown Court practice, at which point I started earning decent money. But I didn’t have to pay tuition fees and my Bar School fees were £4,000.

The CPS and SFO offer secondments paying £200 a day. Baby barristers sit there going through disclosure, but are not in Court are not developing their skills and are not building a practice because the can’t afford to spend the inevitable early years earning fuck all due to their debts. They then join the CPS or SFO rather than doing criminal legal aid work, which is why their is a massive shortage of new people doing defence work. We are all really old!


With BPTC fees at £19k and living costs (in London) at around £15k, students need to spend around £35k before they even start pupillage – that’s not even including LLB/GDL.

How the BSB think £35k for a pointless course enables social mobility more than in the past where the BVC cost £5k and pupillage was unfunded is beyond me.

Also don’t forget, in second six you keep what you earn. So we are really talking about 6 months unpaid.


Good point. I find it bizarre that those who continue to say unpaid pupillage is devastating for socially disadvantaged is basing it on what??? At what point does a socially disadvantaged person say ” I cannot pursue this because I cannot afford it?” The reality is you pay for your degree via student loan- why go to university? Truth is everything has a price. If you cannot afford to do the Bar or take the risk in taking a loan then that’s your choice. If someone wants to spend another £6000 either by taking another loan or through savings so what? if it means getting a practice certificate other than just a qualification.


If pupillages were unfunded then there would be many more pupillages offered and therefore many more junior barristers. This could be detrimental to the junior Bar because work would be spread more thinly and fees would drop.


What about the poor clerk who is ringing around chambers trying to find counsel to cover a case but then has to send it out of chambers? It happens everywhere and there may be individuals who would be happy taking on bits and pieces.


Follow the Scottish system, that way at least the barristers understand a solicitors practice.


The problem with that would mean that richer people still compete for the paid pupillages and people from working class backgrounds will get into more debt. That’s why the BSB won’t allow it – it’s about promoting equality as best they can.

Not to mention the difficulty getting tenancy if you have 10 juniors competing for it – it will create a very unpleasantly competitive bar, and a lot of people would just end up having spent more money ‘training’ without a job to go to.

To add to this, if you have 300 more juniors, it’s going to become more likely that work gets undercut. Juniors will be fighting for cases and be receiving significantly less (Working for a lot less than they are now) and finding it hard to progress


Are working class students already in debt compared to their wealthier classmates at uni and on the BPTC?


No. Just no.


I’d be more inclined to consider the arguments in this article if the points made had been well written and/or persuasive. You want to be an advocate? Then try making an argument that is persuasive, backed up by facts, takes into consideration the wider picture, addresses the inevitable criticisms and doesn’t just focus on you.

Criminal Solicitor 1 year PQE

Your LLM was a complete waste of time and money. More fool you.
Don’t bemoan your finances when you have wasted 8k on a worthless degree that does nothing for your competitive edge.


I feel sorry for your clients do you read their files like you read this article. You have totally missed the point.


In my view, the answer is:

1. The entry requirement for the BPTC is that you have secured pupillage (or sign a waiver that you don’t wish to practice at the Bar of E&W, for those who wish to practise abroad.)

2. Inns Scholarships are then awarded only to those that have secured pupillage, and are undertaking the BPTC. This will allow for scholarships of a greater value, which cover the full cost of the fees, and living allowances in London.

This means that the system is purely meritocratic and removes significant risk. If you are good enough to secure pupillage, you will have your fees covered when you undertake the BPTC. Get rid of small scholarships (below £15k) and award £25k+ to all those with pupillage secured to cover BPTC fees and living costs.

Currently, many undertake the BPTC without pupillage, on the basis that they feel that they will be better candidates by the end of it, or that if they haven’t completed it, disadvantaged against those who have. In reality, this means that those who can afford it, take a punt on doing the BPTC, in the hope that they can get pupillage down the line. Even with a scholarship of £15k, someone without family support or significant savings will have very little to live on, once fees are paid.

The very obvious risk of allowing unpaid pupillages is that it wildly favours those who can afford to complete them. The issue is that too many people do the BPTC who are simply not good enough to achieve pupillage. Allowing unpaid pupillages wont solve any issues, it will simply move the bottle neck from pupillage to tenancy, and mean that the richest people can afford to do pupillage, not the best.

Also, I cant imagine many (decent) sets are going to want to offer unpaid pupillages. All sets are putting up their pupillages awards to attract the best talent; none are lowering them because they are attracting too many good people and but financially cant afford to take them on.

Commercial barrister

Spot on.


Brilliant idea! I could get my practice certificate and if I am not offered tenancy it doesn’t matter I could then use it to qualify as a solicitor or even abroad. Its a good idea and I’m all for it.


Just what we need, more people competing to be solicitors…

Bob the goat

There are loads of rubbishy chambers where it’s easy to get a pupillage.

If you can’t get a pupillage, your not good enough to be a barrister. Period.

And being a good advocate or wanting to save the world are stupid approachs to securing pupillage.

Barristers care about work. That’s what we talk about. The quality of work. The quantity of work.

Go figure…




Name these “rubbish” chambers if you dare.


Personal experience is that as someone who didn’t have financial or other family support for university; I wouldn’t have picked law as a degree course if I knew at the time most places offered unpaid pupillages; choosing law was risky enough because of how competitive the bar but the idea that I could get a good pupillage award made the expense/risk worth it. I think unpaid pupillages would drag awards down overall and lead to some places replacing £12k awards with unpaid pupillages.
Also as a paid pupil at a great set and after working my ass off over the years by financially supporting myself through work while studying and volunteering to get the right experience, the idea that I may be competing for tenancy with an unpaid pupil would make me mad because they only got the unpaid one because they could afford to apply to both paid and unpaid positions. How would paid/unpaid issue factor into expectations of each of us; how would the savings to chambers bias a person unconsciously?


How on earth did you get a pupillage with your comments so badly written?


I’m not sure that introducing unpaid pupillages would vastly increase the total number of pupillages. Do many sets have so much surplus low end work that they need loads of extra pupils?
Isn’t it more likely that many sets would offer the same number of pupillages but just make them unpaid?

Bar Humbug

Bringing back unpaid pupillage would potentially increase the number of places available in my view. Afterall when chambers were required to pay pupils the number of places dropped dramatically.

Getting pupillage is essential in order to practice at the Bar, and so only sycophants and those with the right contacts get pupillages these days. Despite being top of my year on the BVC I was not offered pupillage.

At least let those not fortunate enough to secure pupillage have rights of audience in the minor courts such as Maga and County. Being a closed shop, the Bar would reaist this opportunity.



The fact that you think your grade on the BVC matters says it all. Often those who do well on the BVC/BPTC are weak students with too much time on their hands. Most decent students work, teach, research alongside the bar course – no one cares about the grade (unless you get below VC).

I would worry if everyone who passed the bar course was given rights of audience in the lower courts. Some of the students on the bar course are so dreadful, I wouldn’t want them anywhere near any court or client.


Yes and that is the problem. Before you had to be super good to get a place at the Bar Course. Now they are like the corner shops every village has one.


I know of some people who might do a little part-time work/research/teaching during the BPTC, but I think it’s a little too flippant to say that most decent candidates do it to the detriment of their BPTC studies. The BPTC workload can be demanding in its own right, even if nowhere near as demanding as the substantive legal work for an LLB or Master’s. Additional activities like mooting, pro bono, FRU can also definitely eat away at the time, good candidate or no!


“Only sycophants and those with the right contacts…”

This comment demonstrates your total ignorance of what the bar is actually like.


If the bar is a “closed shop”, then so is every other profession with an on the job training requirement (i.e. all of them). Further, unlike most professions there is nothing that a barrister can do that others cannot do as well. If you want rights of audience you can become a barrister, solicitor or a legal executive.

Instructing Solicitor

Given I have to act in the client’s best interests, why would I instruct you when I can instruct a pupil for £50 for a Mags Remand?

You really don’t seem to get it. A pupil in a chambers has completed 6 months of intensive training and as a 2nd Six Pupil has a supervisor providing advice and help as well as insurance. So why would I want to instruct a failed barrister practising from his bedroom who has not completed their training and has no supervision or insurance for say £40?

There isn’t a market for failed lawyers.


What is your response to? You don’t make any sense. I think I would want to keep your clients away from you!


Its a response to Bar Humbug’s idea that he should be allowed to represent clients in the Mags as its a minor court even though he isn’t qualified. You do have to read the post before to understand the reply. Do learn to read before posting.


The system did work better when people with private incomes chose the bar as a way of life as well as a career.

May be un-PC these days but it is a question of fact not diversity.


You have the wrong daddy – that’s your problem.


at least i have one (and am one)


If they kept the number of places down at the Bar Course and it was free to offer unpaid pupillages at least you wouldn’t be conned into paying 20 -30 K for that course, and the chambers would be happy to give more pupillages.


This article is genuinely entertaining in how colossally stupid it is.

1) The Bar Council introduced mandatory pupillage funding in 2010 (before the Bar Standards Board existed), partly in response to Edmonds v Lawson [2000] EWCA 69, and partly in recognition of the fact that the Bar is otherwise completely closed to those of lower means.

2) Since pupillage funding became mandatory the number of pupillages has gone down, but the number of tenancies has remained roughly consistent – a clear example that actual entry to the profession hasn’t been harmed by the introduction of mandatory pupillage funding.

3) You set out a somewhat confused description of “back door” routes into the Bar, and characterise them as unfair because they are only available to the wealthy… apparently oblivious to the irony that you this forms the introduction to an article advocating something that would also only be available for the wealthy (and so presumably just as unfair).

4) You completely fail to appreciate the effect this would have on people who are truly financially disadvantaged. This has nothing to do with race or background or whether someone is working class. Some people cannot afford to live without an income for a year. They may be financially supporting their parents, they may have children, or maybe they simply don’t have any money at all and think, quite sensibly, that a roof and some food might help them get through pupillage.

5) You are genuinely advocating for a system that makes it easier to enter the Bar if you are wealthy. Given the disproportionately high percentage of low income families that are BAME, that would almost certainly constitute indirect discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 – and without any legitimate justification.

Finally I just have to ask. Did you bother responding to the BSB’s latest consultation on this very issue? Or did you just think, rather than actually bring your opinion to their attention, it would be better to write a winging and baffling stupid article on Legal Cheek instead?


6) If you did a pupillage, and then failed to get tenancy, you wouldn’t be allowed to practice anyway. You can’t finish pupillage and then go practice on your own, you need 3 years as a tenant before you can start your own chambers.


It doesn’t need to be tenancy. Three years of practice at the employed Bar is also fine, subject to submitting a change of status form.

Bar Hopeful

Dear Anonymous 11.47pm,

I read your comments with interest. I note that it has seemed to evoke a great deal of emotion.

In response I am curious what your interpretation of ‘truly financially disadvantage’ is? Further I find amusing that you find that this would potentially be indirect discrimination- when has a low income been a protected characteristic?

The point of my article is that an unpaid pupillage does not have to be something you start immediately after the BPTC. How about working for a few years saving and then be in a position to fund yourself. Technically it would be for six months as the 2nd six is your earning element.

Further I am simply highlighting the BSB’s policy which is laughable. I wish you read the article but what it is.

Lets take someone for example who has no family, lives in rented accommodated and supported by the state and they wanted to pursue a career at the Bar. I presume they would have to apply for a student loan and support themselves- so already they are in debt. How would this person then go and fund the BPTC- scholarship? bank loan? working full or part time? The point is decisions have to be made early on and the risk is also taken early on. Having risked so much money what is an extra £6,000. It is unfortunate that sometimes personal commitments be it childcare or family may not allow us but those are exactly what they are personal commitments and nothing to do with wealth- have these personal commitments prevented you from pursuing a law degree or BPTC? People will have lived without a proper income in all of the 4 years. Why is it suddenly an issue having completed the LLB and BPTC? It doesn’t matter what you’re background is (apart from those who fall into the category of being wealthy) most of us will start off in debt from starting the LLB.

I find it amusing you call the article stupid. You are entitled to your opinion. I wish you read it properly and actually addressed the issue that the BSB sign off experience when people are struggling to get just that when really it is an ‘unpaid pupillage’ so why cant the BSB just be open and allow it.

PS I have addressed this with my Inn and it is my choice where I submit an article- its something called free speech.


Again, I am afraid to say, you are demonstrating a blinkered view of this issue.

Student loans only cover the cost of tuition fees. Maintenance loans are rarely anywhere near enough for more than rent. And maintenance grants have been dismantled. A person with literally zero family financing and zero savings is likely to have to work during their degree. A person who also supports others financially is likely to need to work full-time and study their degree part-time.

That is someone who is truly financially disadvantaged.

Under your suggested model that person can never become a barrister. With funded pupillages, it is difficult, but it is at least possible.

I find it genuinely concerning that you think my identification of indirect discrimination is “amusing”. The protected characteristic engaged in this case is race (although low income also tends to disproportionately affect disabled people too). Section 19 of the Equality Act 2010 might be worth a few minutes of your time.

The BSB is obliged, by law, to encourage equality of access to the profession. For the reasons I explained in paragraph 5) what you suggests would likely constitute indirect discrimination. That means that if the BSB followed your idea it would be open up to legal challenge, likely through judicial review.

In the example in your reply you fail to distinguish between a student loan, and the personal loan that would presumably be required to undertake a pupillage without funding. Student loans only need to be repaid once the debtor earns over a certain level. Personal loans are repayable at a time decided by the creditor. Again, you have failed to actually consider someone who CANNOT take on a personal loan that would require immediate repayment.

So to dismantle your example step by step:

1) Someone who has no family is not as financially disadvantaged as someone who has to support their, for example, disabled parent. Some people have more outgoings than just rent and food.

2) Yes, perhaps they have a scholarship, or have worked throughout a part-time BPTC, or even both. Their having gone through that is actually evidence that they cannot afford an unfunded pupillage, not evidence that ‘a little more debt won’t matter’.

3) You cannot separate personal commitments from wealth. Having dependants is expensive, but it is rarely, if ever, a choice. It is certainly not a justification to say ‘oh well, you can never become a barrister then’.

I did read your article. I also read the BSB’s latest consultation, and responded to it regarding this very issue. I am baffled that you think Legal Cheek or your Inn were the right organisations to speak to try and promote change, given that you are clearly aware that it is the BSB that makes these decisions.

Once again you have failed to realise the hypocrisy in your argument. You assert that allowing experienced lawyers to transfer is advantaging the wealthy – I actually agree with your description of that as “unfair”. But if that part of the system is unfair, how on earth is it better to make it so that the entire system of pupillage advantages the wealthy? Surely that would be even more unfair according to the exact criteria that you have used.

Sleepy lawyer

“I think the regulator is, in fact, obstructing access by imposing a ban on unpaid pupillages, halting aspiring barristers from gaining a vital practising certificate which can open so many doors for them.”

Sorry, but who from disadvantaged background can afford a year of unpaid work? Hell, with law school debt only the people who can are the exceedingly wealthy could.

E. S.

I feel for you – it must be very disheartening being unable to secure a job you feel eminently qualified for. I agree that giving YOU an unpaid pupillage may well prove valuable to you. But this is mainly because the prohibition of unpaid pupillages reduces the supply (and, undoubtedly, increases the average ability) of people seeking tenancy. Changing the rule would change that, too, and having completed a pupillage would become as useless as having competed the BPTC for most people. Would you then argue for the ability to get unpaid post-pupillage work experience in chambers?


I think the op makes some sense. If chambers offered a mix of paid/unpaid pupillages or had a means tested pupillage fund that those gaining pupillage could apply for there would be opportunity for more pupils.

Chambers cannot support HR departments and the barristers conducting interviews are unpaid and juggling diaries. As a result interview processes are short. The system as it is, I suggest, forces chambers to have to take more Oxbridge, 1st class, exotic internships. People who are safe bets and a likely return on their investment. The reality is that those from less advantaged backgrounds will usually look worse on paper and be less polished in person. Public school and oxbridge universities undoubtedly instill confidence, self belief and assurance in the formal situations.

I suggest that this method of choosing pupils doesn’t necessarily produce the best barristers. Many barristers from previous generations had terrible qualifications but the connections, finances to survive the learning process of Pupillage allowed them to flourish. With means tested pupillage funds perhaps this can provide the opportunity to replace this advantage.

Without offering £65,000 awards, would top chambers attract the cream they seek? I suggest with the earning potential of a tenancy at a top set, the answer is still yes. Chambers work profile and client base would replace the huge pupillage award as the attraction. Ambitious and driven potential lawyers would still apply. Chambers could be less risk averse in their pupillage selection and would have a better pool of potential tenants. It’s just a matter of changing the culture.

With all the talk of restricting the qualifying process, raising the grades for entry, limiting places – I think this further skews entry to the advantaged.


Oh. And I accept that this moves the choke point from pupillage to tenancy but I think performance in pupillage is a better test of who will make a good barrister and pupils nurtured over a year have a better ability to overcome social disadvantage than the present funnelling in the Pupillage application process.

Rt Hon. WasteManingham

U’ll probably get more advocacy experience if you got caught with nuff rocks, ya get meh?

Fund da BPTC by shottin n u cud gain bare experience of client skillz

Da ansa is get latched with a keg of coke n u can learn about no comment interviews and da right 2 silence.

Mek ur own set of Chamberz and erytingz kl.


Everyone seems to be automatically thinking about commercial pupillages. Yes they can attract the best talent and can pay whatever they want. How about thinking about the criminal/ common law sets who have either reduced or offer no pupillages at all?

If the BSB board changed the rule tomorrow and allowed unpaid pupillages I would be curious to know how many of those who have posted against them would actually go for one. Its easier to see the negative but if that carrot was dangling you would take it!

If they did then you have the choice and don’t need to apply- simple!

Its a conspiracy! The BSB want you all to think its about equality- you’re all fools. You cannot think through your blinkered small pea brain minds- and you call yourselves lawyers. I think you’re scared of the working class taking over and even dominating a posh profession!


You, sir, are an idiot.


Perhaps make it a rule that if any chambers wants to offer an unfunded pupillage, that they can only do so if they offer a funded one as well. This ensures the amount of funded pupillages does not decrease, but the overall amount of pupillages will increase.

Whether an applicant gets a funded/unfunded pupillage is determined at the end of the application process when the 2 successful applicants are asked to provide details of their finances, similar to scholarship applications.


I think the point as to why there are not enough pupillages is being missed. It isn’t because Chambers have to fund them. Funding is paid out of Chambers Rent (which is tax deductable). In a chambers of 50 members, the cost of funding a pupil is £144 per member per year. Going back to unfunded pupillages would not make a difference.

Whether a Chambers funds a pupil or not is not the real cost of providing a pupillage. The cost of providing pupillage is the time jumping through all the regulatory hoops the BSB has imposed and a member of chambers providing training unpaid for 12 months.

People seem to forget that a Chambers taking a pupil is not like a firm taking on a trainee. A trainee is deployed to do billable hours and the partners of the firm make a profit from the trainee. A first six pupil does not bill a penny in fees and in second six the pupil keeps all fees they earn.

The only point in offering a pupillage is on the basis that someone did it for you and if they had not, you would not be in practise. But there is no gain to the Chambers or the Supervisor to offering pupillage in the same way there is to a firm offering a training contract.

Over the last 10 years the number of Bar School places has trebbled, but the work available to the Bar has not. In crime, the volume of cases going to the Crown Court has gone down by 40%. The fees paid are another issue. General civil work volume has gone down due to the pressure to settle and family work has fallen off a cliff due to the removal of legal aid.

It is not that there are too few pupillages. There are the right number of pupillages for the work available for newly qualified barristers to do. The problem is that there are far too many places at Bar School being offered.


more bptc places are needed.


There are too many students who want to be barristers, and not enough work for them to do. It’s as simple as that. Moving the placing of the bottleneck fixes nothing. We seem to have accepted as a profession that law school is not going to have the regulation on places that medicine does and have allowed post-graduate vocational legal training to be run for profit. There are clearly significant numbers of people studying for the BPTC (and GDL and LPC) who will not end up in the roles those courses are designed for. If you have the time and money and want to take the gamble then fine, but a lot of the students I’ve met and talked to don’t seem to be realistic about their chances (which even for many of the decent ones aren’t too great when it comes to getting pupillage), or are trying to fill up another year before they accept it isn’t going to happen for them and haven’t really thought about the stats.

Rather than creating more jobs where there isn’t the demand in the profession for them (nonsensical in any sector), it would be better to stress to wannabe barristers (and solicitors) that the world of work isn’t a finishing school for their aspirations, that the jobs in law mostly reflect the demand available (with an exception for those who go on and create their own niche market here and there) and not the dreams of those who want to get into them, and that “wanting” something badly enough doesn’t always get you it. Jobs aren’t there to suit you, you have to adapt yourself to what the working world wants from you. For many (thousands of) people, that means accepting you won’t be a barrister, even if it’s been your dream since age X, blah blah, however hard it is to hear that. I feel the pain as I wasn’t a strong enough candidate to be a barrister myself, but at least I accepted this before spending however many thousands on the BPTC.

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