BPTC grads more likely to get pupillage if they’re white

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Ethnic minorities with same marks as white peers find it harder to get a place at chambers, figures show

Skin colour still makes a big difference to the career prospects of bar school graduates, the latest stats suggest.

White Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) graduates are much more likely to get pupillage than those from an ethnic minority with the same grades, according to the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

For example, white BPTC grads with a first in their undergraduate degree and an ‘Outstanding’ grade in the BPTC had pupillage in 84% of cases. The figure for ethnic minorities who had pulled off the same feat was just 72%.

The same pattern holds across all grade levels covered in the report. Candidates with a 2.2 in their degree but managing a ‘Very Competent’ in the BPTC were three times more likely to get pupillage if they were white.

A lot of BPTC graduates are from Asia, and may not necessarily want pupillage in the UK, but these numbers allow for that by only looking at British and European graduates. The figures cover those graduating between 2013 and 2017.

The 2019 Legal Cheek BPTC Most List

In general, black and minority ethnic students were also more likely to fail or drop out of the BPTC than their white counterparts.

The dizzying array of data published yesterday also includes information on the pupillage rate by BPTC provider. BPP Manchester and City Law School came out on top, with over half of their barrister training graduates nabbing a spot at chambers over the last few years.

Overall though, as Legal Cheek has reported previously, well under half of BPTC graduates will ever get pupillage. Of the BPTC grads churned out between 2013 and 2016, only 45% had become a pupil barrister by March 2019.

The figures show that limited pupillage opportunities, whopping course fees and a high dropout rate are no deterrent to would-be barristers. BPTC application numbers have held steady and enrolment leapt by 14% in 2017, from 1,423 students to 1,619.



As if the BPTC results affect anyone’s application for pupillage!



I think the thing to take away from the Statistics is how important having a 1st is, if you are going to gamble £19k plus living costs on the Course.

• Regardless of race, gender or class 72% to 80% of those with a first will get pupillage. If you have a 1st but have no work experience, mooting or anything else interesting on your CV then think carefully before taking the risk as you may be one of the 20% to 28% with a first who does not get pupillage. If you do though then you are taking a sensible decision to part with your Course Fees as the odds that you will get pupillage are pretty high.

• If you do not have a 1st then 75% of you will not get pupillage regardless of your race, gender or class. If you have a 2.2 then forget it. Your chances are virtually nil. Even if you have a 2.1 then it is a 50 / 50 chance on getting pupillage. You are taking a massive risk and if you have not got decent work experience, prizes, mooting etc then you are going to lose out to others who have similar academics to you but do have some or all of the above.

The thing that actually determines your success is in the main your degree class, not your race, class or background. Also think very carefully even if you assess your chances as good whether you really want to (or can afford to) spend your first few years in practice earning very little.

Do not believe the Legal Cheek hype that everyone is a commercial barrister on £100k as a 23 year old. There are some, but not many. The chancery and commercial bar are about 10% of the Bar. There just are not that many shipping companies who need getting out of scrapes or feuding Russian oligarchs. Median income at the Bar is £67k (of all calls). Less than 10% of barristers (of all calls) make more than £250k.

70% of you will never get pupillage at all and of those who do 90% of you will be in common law / crime / family sets. So less than 0.7% of you will become commercial barristers. You will need an Oxbridge First. Even if you have an Oxbridge First, remember that it is of no advantage to you as at the tiny number of sets that require an Oxbridge First all the people you are up against will also have them.

If your plan is that you want to get pupillage and earn heaps of money, then as only less than 1% of you will actually do that this really is not a good bet to be betting £19k plus living costs on that. You’d be better off buying some lottery tickets. 16% of the Bar is BAME and saying “oh but they are all in non-chancery sets” is rather missing the point that 90% of the Bar regardless of race are in non-chancery sets.

The article is dangerously misleading as it implies if you are white you’ll sail through and if you are black you have no chance. The truth is, regardless of your race you have little chance without a 1st. Even if you do have a first the odds are that you will not be practising in an area which will make you pots of cash and are you prepared to be very poor for the first few years when your income will be low as you are building a practice and a cash flow?

It is much easier and generally better paid to be a solicitor.


A drink at the bar

The Bar will always come from Oxbridge and Russell Group Unis/top 30 i is to the end of time. Reality is it requires acumen and a 2:1 or 1st from said unis. The aim for inclusion and diversity purposes is to assist those from lower income/diverse backgrounds to achieve their fullest to get into said universities in the first place and then the support required to fund the BPTC. The reality is the 50 plus universities are not of the rigour for the job. There will be exceptions of course but by and large the bar will be an exclusive profession from an educational standpoint.


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