BSB asks chambers to provide details on how they pick their pupils

By on

Regulator keen to identify potential ‘unjustified’ barriers to the bar

Image credit: Instagram (@papermail)

Pupillage providers have been asked to divulge details on how they select their pupils in an effort by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to improve access to the profession.

The regulator has requested information from roughly 50 pupillage training organisations across England and Wales on how they select candidates to interview and the marking criteria they use to decide which bar hopefuls receive those sought-after pupillage offers.

The research — which is part of the BSB’s ongoing Future Bar Training programme — will be used to help identify and address any potentially discriminatory recruitment policies. The BSB has also reviewed ads posted by chambers on the Bar Council’s Pupillage Gateway.

Stats published recently by the BSB suggest there may be a problem.

They show that Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) grads from black and ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds are far less likely to land a pupillage compared to their white counterparts with the same grades. The statistics, which consider BPTC graduates from 2011-2016, also highlight differences in pupillage success rates based on gender and education.

Table via the Bar Standards Board

BSB director general Dr Vanessa Davies said: “Our ongoing Future Bar Training programme is a wide-ranging and extensive review of all of the aspects of qualifying and training as a barrister. The programme is designed to improve access to the profession whilst at the same time sustaining standards of entry.”

Find out more about The Bar session of the Future of Legal Education and Training Conference on 23 May

Davies, who will be speaking at the bar session of our Future of Legal Education and Training Conference on 23 May, continued:

“Much of the evidence we have gathered to date indicates that availability of pupillages may be a barrier to increasing diversity at the bar, so reviewing the way in which pupillages are advertised and how pupils are recruited is an important element of our overall programme of work. Seeking input from barristers and chambers’ staff in this review is an example of how we have sought to involve the profession throughout our Future Bar Training programme. We will of course publish the results of our review into recruitment and advertising in due course.”

The pupillage probe comes just weeks after the BSB confirmed the four Inns of Court — Lincoln’s Inn, Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn and Inner Temple — will continue to have an essential role in the training of barristers. In a new policy statement it said that wannabe barristers will still need to hold a “student membership of an Inn” and complete compulsory “professional development activities” known as qualifying sessions.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub



Two words: university attended.

Mystery solved.


Pupillage committe at best commercial sets




The Bar is fast becoming an anachronism, it’s business model no longer works and white Oxbridge middle and upper class males are avoiding it in favour of the magic circle and US firms. Ironically, this is making the bar more diverse than ever before because most new pupils and juniors would never have been entertained 20 years ago when family connections counted for everything.



Good thing about going into MC US firm is that there is no need to suck up to dickhead solicitors to get work as all barristers need to do.



Yes, but at the Chancery and Commercial Bar you will get more interesting work, greater autonomy and, in most cases, more money as well.

MC firms and good US firms recruit 700+ trainees a year but there are probably only 40/45 or so good quality Chancery and Commerical pupillages each year. The vast majority of those trainees wouldn’t get an interview with a good Chancery/Commercial set let alone pupillage.



There’s no work at the commercial chancery bar in the current climate. Chambers overheads keep going up out of all line with earnings. All they do is give free conferences and scramble around looking for work that’s being kept in house or going to the MC sets. Can’t say that about the MC US firms.


I’m not sure people choose the Bar for the money. Most people I know chose it for the intellectual fulfilment. You may charge out £500 pounds an hour for e-disclosure exercises in the City but at the end of the day it’s e-disclosure, bundling or witness statements. All the interesting stuff i.e. the advocacy and advice on complex points of law gets farmed out to the Bar, why, because people want the best and people want an expert. In the early years you might earn slightly less, but most people would rather be fulfilled for the next 40 years than poking their eyes out doing doc review, printing out PLC summaries to advise clients and enduring the megalomaniac partner who thinks they are some kind of a big shot because they over charge clients and reap the profits.


I don’t agree. I know quite a few tenants at top Commercial Chancery sets (the likes of Maitland, Wilberforce, South Square. Erskine) and they are, almost without exception, doing very well.

Yes, the MC sets also do very well, but they tend not to do Chancery work as that remains the preserve of the top Commercial Chancery sets (such as company and insolvency work). For example. my firm instructs South Square and Erskine at least as often as Blackstone or Essex Court. In-house advocacy has not caught on.


Just dickhead solicitors/HR instead



Graduates from the best universities get the best jobs. It’s the same all over the world. As long as the bar retains prestige it will be a ‘best job’ and will be dominated by the best graduates: Oxbridge graduates.

It’s interesting, though, how under-represented Oxford and Cambridge students are in LC comments (and that’s assuming that all those who say they are studying at one or the other are telling the truth).

Oxford students I suspect keep a low profile because of the anti-Oxbridge sentiment (otherwise known as envy and bitterness) that infects this site.

The same goes for Cambridge students; but they are also ashamed of having ended up in a boring wind-swept town in the Fens that has to be tolerated for the cachet of an Oxbridge degree.



Cambridge is OK. I enjoy drinking at the Pitt Club ( Hawks not so much)


Chancery set pupillage committee

1. Did he go to Oxford or Cambridge?

2. Did he go to my college?

3. Did he go to my boarding school?


Pupillage committe at premier chancery & commercial sets

1. Did he or she go to Oxford or Cambridge?
2. Did he or she get a First?

3. If they didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge did they go to an RG university?
4. Did they get a First?
5. Did they go to Oxford or Cambridge for post-grad?
6. Did they get a Distinction?



This focus on academics is bizarre and a hopeless predictor of someone’s ability as a practitioner.



I bet you went somewhere like Warwick or Southampton and are, as a consequence, as insecure and intellectually third rate as all the other people with whom you were “educated”. The simple fact is that a first rate intellect is the most important facet for successful legal practice. If you deny that, you are lying or deluded; in either case, your opinion is worth nothing.



You really don’t need to be a genius to be a great lawyer.

A second rate intellect is all it takes.

If you haven’t realised that yet you are either a) not very far into your legal career or b) a second rate intellect.


Actually, I have a first in law from a top three Norrington college.

Bla bla bla

Did he get bummed in my boarding school by the same vicar?


A trust fund with a trust fund

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


A trust fund with a trust fund

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


The paper pushers at the BSB literally sit there all day thinking of new ways to generate work for themselves to justify their existence.


Hippo Hippo

#ded :’D



In one northern “superset” it’s:

“Are you the son or daughter of a current or former member of Chambers?”


Rowdy Merkin QC

More than one.





Trendy human rights set pupillage committee

1. Is this person a trot?

2. Is this person slightly one eyed when expressing opinions on anything remotely benefits/housing/equality related?

3. How would this hire affect our diversity statistics?

4. Can this person express strong left wing views while being equally at home driving a Ferrari and visiting as a guest to my Tuscan villa?









Don’t forget “is the candidate’s father a judge?”


Not. Guiltay.

White students:
Did he/she (oh, i put ‘he’ first, how terribly sexist of me) go to Oxford or Cambridge? Yes: he/she passes the initial sieve. No: sod the feck off (sorry white WC kids, we do not care about you).

BAME students:
Did he/she go to Oxford or Camrbidge? Yes: he/she passes the initial sieve. No: we will randomly select a few BAME students to improve our diversity stats.



“Did he/she (oh, i put ‘he’ first, how terribly sexist of me)”

May I introduce you to a revolutionary new word. “They”.


The Brown Knight

“They”: used to refer to two or more people or things previously mentioned or easily identified. Grammatically incorrect, the worst kind of incorrect.


Billy Shakespeare

“There’s not a man I meet but doth salute me

As if I were their well-acquainted friend” (A Comedy of Errors, by me)

Singular they is in usage since the 16th Century. Incorrect correction, the worst kind of correction. #ibitemythumbatyousir


Corbyn. Sympathiser

Oh no, it’s the arch enemy of the reactionary, someone who actually knows anything!

‘BAME’ Future Trainee (Jordan Peterson Fanboy)

It’s genuinely getting embarrassing now as a so called ‘BAME’ future trainee at a MC Law firm…many of us are now being labeled as ‘Diversity Hires’…and who can blame people for doing so. I’ve no right to a place if not warranted…

I’d like to think my own competence got me through but this is where we are now, a new level of charity as if we are so fragile and incompetent and need help in the face of ‘unconscious bias’. If it’s unconscious how do you prove it was prevalent in the decision making? Racism does not explain every disparity.

It’s the, “if I succeed I excelled in spite of all odds, whereas if I fail it was systemic racism attitude”. You just can’t have it both ways!



🎼 I wanna live for-ever!🎶



Immediately put half the applications in the bin. We don’t want the unlucky ones.


Not Amused

“The research — which is part of the BSB’s ongoing Future Bar Training programme — will be used to help identify and address any potentially discriminatory recruitment policies. ”

This is now just sinister.

It is legal to discriminate. It is essential that we discriminate.

I hope the Bar goes on to discriminate in favour of the brightest minds and the best advocates – regardless of background.



Stop intentionally misinterpreting things.


Corbyn. Sympathiser

An Amused Person: Oh, I was up late last night. I’m knackered.
Not Amused: I don’t understand, you’re a human speaking English, how can you be worn out livestock ready to be slaughtered?? I don’t understand the world and I blame the EU.


Not Infused

Habits of a lifetime can simply not be broken



The Bar presumably had a hand in the appointment of Baroness Blackstone as head of the BSB, so barristers must have known that they would be in for a period of full SJW campaigning.

The latest issue of Counsel notes that the Bar is almost 50:50 men/women at entry but that the proportion of women drops to 31% after 15 years call. It identifies women having children as a plausible explanation, which a rare glimmer of common sense: the fact that many female barristers doing publicly funded work would prefer to look after their own children should be understood as a compliment to their intelligence rather than a criticism. Why work very hard for little money, pay tax on it and then pay much of what remains to a transient series of au pairs etc. (who would in turn pay a further chunk of that money in tax)? The same article then bemoans that female juniors in Supreme Court cases are under-represented, oblivious to the fact that the proportion of senior juniors who are women tails off at the level where they might expect to be appearing in such cases.

Self-awareness by a profession of its faults is one thing, but the endless negativity is sapping morale.



I’d like to see some evidence that childcare accounts for women leaving the bar before we go ahead and assume that this is the case. It’s not something I personally have seen much sign of: several women have left my set over the years and none of them have given this as a reason.



Found an interesting and honest article from the American Bar Association on research to why women left the legal profession in the States (which have similar, if not identical, statistics for women dropping out):

Much of it seems to relate to big-law culture, but I feel similar attitudes must exist in Chambers.



You’re an idiot. It’s obvious the word is being made to mean “illegally discriminate”, an extremely common usage. And there’s nothing “sinister” about the regulator of a heavily regulated profession demanding information about regulated organisations’ recruitment practices. You might as well suggest that its sinister for the FCA to ask for details about firms money laundering practices on the basis that “theres nothing wrong with doing laundry.”


Granny Grammar

Or even “[to] discriminate illegally.”



I would agree with you if it didn’t mean endorsing the statistics which quite clearly demonstrate that a black woman with a first class degree and an Outstanding is significantly less likely to obtain pupillage than her white male counterpart.

Nobody is talking about being less discerning. It’s not about inviting morons into chambers just because they boost diversity figures. These are people who are, on paper at least, just as competent as their white male colleagues.

There’s more going on than these figures suggest, I admit, but to suggest that this state of affairs is acceptable and should continue brings our profession into disrepute.



No. You’ve deliberately taken that out of context. It’s clear that she is talking only of UNFAIR discriminatory practices.

In any event, the sinister part of her message is where she talks of “barrier[s] to increasing diversity at the bar”. That’s the real problem here. Improving access is commendable, promoting diversity is not.



If that’s what is meant then that is what should have been written. This is the Bar ffs, accuracy in use of language and precision of meaning needs to come as standard.



Can someone lend me £400? There’s this conference I want to go to. Yeah I can’t believe it’s so cheap either!

Said no one. Ever.


Chief Makinde

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.



So many chambers have only white people in them. So tedious and backwards.



Recruit in their own image



And yet they only hire the best! Honest!



They’re delusional cretins. Honestly, the amount of times I’ve seen ‘the best’ take an absolute bollocking from the court for their conduct of a case, you understand that it is all marketing and directory bullshit.



Last time i checked it was solicitors who ‘conducted’ litigation…



It’s barristers who ‘conduct’ the case once it’s before a judge.


And so representative of the majority too. Why should there be a greater representation of a demoographic in a profession when it is unrepresentative of the nation as a whole.

Yet another pointless diversity yawn


Bla bla bla




Why would I recruit someone with fewer useful contacts than their establishment peers?

I want someone who went to the right school and university. Who is a member of the right clubs (and who has been making the right contacts since pre-school)

Get over it



That’s because you must therefore support corruption and nepotism. Please be so kind as to have the balls to identify yourself otherwise just shut up.


Deep State

I simply respect the constitution and true traditional liberal values.

There is nothing corrupt or nepotic in ensuring continuity.

The unusual weather this winter should serve as a reminder to people like you who whinge about anonymity when faced with truth.

Is telling me to shut up the best you can do ?



“Liberal” – LOL

You are deeply conservative you bad bell.



The poster is indeed a liberal in the correct sense. But not in the modern trot sense



This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.



This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.



This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.



This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.



This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.



This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.



I sense much anger in you young skywalker


Comments are closed.

Related Stories