News

Aspiring barrister targeted in ‘cash for pupillage’ scam

By on
22

‘Don’t fall into a similar TRAP’, ULaw undergrad warns in LinkedIn post

An aspiring barrister who was the unwitting target of a ‘cash for pupillage’ scam has gone public with her “traumatising” ordeal.

Amirah Ali, an undergraduate law student at the University of Law, says she was approached recently by an individual who suggested that he could secure her a precious pupillage spot in exchange for money.

“He promised that if I put £1,145 down as a deposit he could guarantee me a chair at a certain chambers,” Ali writes in a post that has since gone viral on LinkedIn. “He has also claimed to know some people but I have verified this with those individuals and it’s not true. He claims they are his colleagues.”

Ali goes on to warn other bar hopefuls about falling victim to similar scams. “PLEASE don’t fall into a similar TRAP like this. No pupillage can be offered in return of money,” she says.

Ali refrains from naming the scammer but does reveal she’s reported the incident to the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the police and Action Fraud.

Her post, which has received over 50 responses, also calls for other individuals to come forward who have been put in similar situations. “PLEASE message me so we can report it together!” she writes.

Secure your place: The Legal Cheek Virtual Pupillage Fairs 2020

Responding to Ali’s post, Mary Prior QC, a criminal barrister at The 36 Group, said: “I am so sorry that you have been exposed to this awful conduct… You are extremely courageous to share this information with your LinkedIn connections.”

“What a terrible experience, and a hard lesson,” fellow law student Tanya Beck commented. “[H]ave faith that you can get where you need to be on your own merits. I wish you all the best!”

In a subsequent post, the law student says the alleged scammer has apologised for his actions.

A spokesperson for the BSB declined to comment on Ali’s post specifically but did stress that “all organisations seeking to offer pupillage must be authorised to do so by us and all pupillages must be advertised on the Pupillage Gateway”.

“We would urge aspiring barristers to remain vigilant against scams that suggest otherwise,” they added.

The incident comes as the number of aspiring barristers enrolling on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) has soared to record highs, meaning the tough competition for pupillage is fiercer than ever. As reported by Legal Cheek, the year’s recruitment round saw 2,142 people submit at least one application via the Bar Council’s Pupillage Gateway. There were just 206 pupillage places available.

Earlier this year, the BSB announced that all chambers in England and Wales will need to bring their recruitment processes in line with the Pupillage Gateway timetable, in an effort to make recruitment “fairer and more consistent”.

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

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub

22 Comments

Anonymous

Did she pay the money? I can’t work out from her post whether she did.

(22)(0)

Adz

Nah she never

(4)(0)

Anonymous

No she didn’t

(4)(0)

Anonymous

“In a subsequent post, the law student says the alleged scammer has apologised for his actions.”

Apologised for getting caught, you mean.

Name and shame this scumbag.

(31)(0)

Anon

The message should not be “don’t pay this one person, it’s a scam”. It should be “don’t pay for pupillage”. Any prospective barrister who thinks it is appropriate to pay money for a pupillage does not have my sympathy. That’s criminal bribery and at 21 you should be old enough to understand that.

(67)(2)

Anonymous

I think she did understand that as those who have contacted her individually have heard her full story. She mentions that she realised immediately it was not appropriate which is why she got it double checked and cross-referenced from other people. She just posted that on her LinkedIn to ensure every prospective pupil was aware as people can easily fall into the trap especially when there is A LOT of competition.

(8)(2)

Anon

Which is good for her, clearly she has good ethical sense. But the way this story is framed, it seems like the problem is the fraud and not the bribery. Not paying bribes should be a basic understanding of a 21+ year old, especially a law grad.

The message from the BSB should be clearer – it should not be that “only BSB registered entities can give pupillage, be wary of scams” it should be to remind people “you should NEVER pay to obtain pupillage, whether or not real offer upon investigation”.

(14)(1)

Anonymous

Totally agree. It reads as if she is the victim of a scam. I get scam emails daily but I would only class myself as a victim if I actually fell for it. I don’t think her post is worded very well because it gives the impression that the problem is that the person in question can’t give out any pupillages.

As you and others have said, any person who considers paying someone to get pupillage is deeply unethical and shouldn’t be anywhere near the profession.

(11)(2)

Anonymous

She doesn’t say that.

On LinkedIn, she says: “An individual lead [sic] me to believe that he could offer me pupillage in return of [sic] money.

PLEASE don’t fall into a similar TRAP like this….”

In my opinion, the most natural interpretation of these passages is that she initially did fall into his trap. She did not transfer any money, but she initially believed that this was, or could be, a genuine offer of pupillage in return for money.

This is supported by her claim to be traumatised. If she also knew this was fraudulent or otherwise illegitimate, then there’s patently no reason to be so upset. Angry perhaps, insulted perhaps, but not traumatised. The latter implies that she thought she had pupillage secured, and the trauma resulted from her realisation that she did not…

(24)(1)

Anonymous

This isn’t a nice thing to happen, but is being offered a fake opportunity to bribe someone ‘traumatising’. This doesn’t sound like blackmail or extortion which I could well understand would lead to long term trauma. It sounds as if she was offered a straightforward quid pro quo, which would have been illegal and come to no good whether it was fraudulent or not.

(23)(4)

Barrister at the Chamber of Secrets, Hogwarts

Anyone that does fall for this conclusively demonstrates they are unable to think critically. Good job that she didn’t. Falling for this would be a reason not to offer a pupilage.

(16)(1)

Larry

Incorrectly spelling pupillage being the other one presumably?

(17)(1)

Barrister at the Chamber of Secrets, Hogwarts

Yes sadly

(2)(0)

Horace

My father paid 100 guineas to my pupil master.
That was the rule at the time

(13)(0)

Me

Yes, although I suspect we’re both showing our age now.

You’ll be telling us next that you were paid a case of claret for devilling when you were a junior!

(0)(1)

Juvenal

Those were the days. Upon getting tenancy my pupil master took me to his London club for a massive bender and then a rutting session in the club’s rooms with some professional ladies. But those were very different days. We are not in 2015 any more.

(15)(0)

Rubyshire

‘he could guarantee me a chair at a certain chambers’

…that nonsense should immediately ring alarm bells.

(9)(0)

Jake

Cheaper than having your parents engage in a bit of financial doping to get you into a good job via paying for your school fees, paying your living costs for internships, etc, paying for your GDL/LPC and so on

(6)(12)

Domini

What the hell was she thinking

(1)(1)

Anonymous

What the hell are you thinking? She did not pay!

(2)(1)

Nick McArdle

A grand does rather devalue the opportunity-perhaps if the fee had been £20.000 it would sound more credible 😉

(0)(2)

N

Lucky escape!!!

(1)(0)

Comments are closed.

Related Stories