Spilt vocational offering could reduce risks and costs associated with pursuing a career at the bar
A new two-part version of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) could be available as early as next year after the regulator approved a series of new training rules in a bid to make the route to qualification as a barrister more flexible and affordable.
The Bar Standards Boards has agreed a revised set of rules on Friday to govern the process by which prospective barristers will train and qualify in England and Wales. As part of this, the regulator confirmed there will now be four approved training pathways.
One of the more radical options could see students complete a two-part version of the BPTC. Described by the BSB as the ‘four-step pathway’, wannabe barristers will still have to complete a law degree, or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), and pupillage, but will have the option to tackle the vocational course in two stages.
Legal Cheek understands that stage one will consist of the knowledge-based parts of the BPTC, such as civil and criminal procedure and evidence, while stage two will see aspiring barristers tackle the more practical elements such as advocacy and conferencing.
The thinking behind the two-part approach is that stage one will be much cheaper than stage two, and will allow aspiring barrister to make a more informed decision (based on their assessment results and pupillage application feedback) as to whether they wish to proceed to stage two. Legal Cheek’s BPTC Most List shows it can cost a London-based student northwards of £19,000 to secure a place on the vocational course.
But bar hopefuls take note. The revised rules simply give law schools the option to offer a split version of the course (they may say ‘thanks, but no thanks’) and are still subject to Legal Services Board (LSB) approval.
Commenting on the new bar training rules, BSB Director of strategy and policy Ewen Macleod said:
“Having finalised the new bar training rules, subject to Legal Services Board approval, is a significant moment in our Future Bar Training programme. We are confident that the new arrangements for training and qualification to become a barrister deliver on our aims to make the system more accessible, affordable and flexible whilst at the same time sustaining high standards. We look forward to working with the profession and education and training providers to implement these new arrangements.”
Under the new rules, students will still be able to undertake the standard BPTC as well as an integrated law degree-BPTC already on offer at a number of law schools. The fourth and final option is what the BSB describes as the ‘apprenticeship pathway’ and sees student complete an apprenticeship, alongside a qualifying law, before undertaking the BPTC and pupillage.
Elsewhere, the BSB said the bar will “remain a graduate profession” and students will still need to complete a law degree (or degree in another subject followed by a GDL) which covers the seven legal foundation subjects and legal research skills will still be necessary to become a barrister As reported by Legal Cheek earlier this year, the regulator confirmed aspiring barristers will still need to hold a student membership of an Inn and complete compulsory professional development activities known as qualifying sessions.
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