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Boost pupillage numbers by building a WeWork-style co-working space on one of the Inn’s ‘grand gardens’, says aspiring barrister

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She accepts it may be difficult to execute

An aspiring barrister has suggested the Inns of Court build a WeWork-style co-working space on one of their “grand gardens” to boost pupillage numbers.

Camila Ferraro’s proposed solution comes as the number of students enrolling on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) hit record highs.

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) report revealed yesterday that 1,753 students enrolled on the BPTC for the academic year 2018-19 — the highest figure for enrolment since the course began in 2011. The uptick in numbers, however, only adds to the stiff competition to secure a pupillage, and this year over 2,142 applications were submitted via the pupillage portal for just 206 places.

Ferraro, the president of the Middle Temple Students’ Association, said she would like to see the Inns and BSB start “a new conversation” around pupillage. “A detailed review of this matter may highlight some potential solutions,” she writes in a personal capacity for the Bar Council’s Counsel Magazine and not on behalf of her Association nor Middle Temple.

This stems from what she describes as the ‘revitalisation’ of the Inns of Court. The re-introduction of bar training via the Inns of Court College of Advocacy brings to the Inns “a renewed raison d’être,” she said. The Inns are set to provide a bar course on their premises from September 2020.

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Ferraro goes on to cite, according to some barristers, that current limitations include “a lack of space or resources in chambers”, while many agree that “the industry also faces a physical expansion problem”. This is fair to say since the majority of sets are housed in listed buildings making it difficult but not impossible to renovate.

“In my opinion, one solution could be the creation of a large co-working space with built-in collaborating environments — following the models of Regus or WeWork,” Ferraro suggested, adding: “This may be difficult to execute, but a conversion of one of the grand gardens to such an infrastructure may help chambers to expand their practice.”

Ferraro, who is understood to be completing the BPTC this summer, added “a lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic could be that a large percentage of work may be conducted from home… [c]hambers might be able to increase their intake without necessarily requiring additional space.”

“It is disheartening to see that the constraints faced by chambers are slowing down the industry growth that the profession may benefit from,” she continues. The Inns — Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple, Middle Temple and Gray’s Inn — could step in and collaborate with one another to provide a direct co-working space, she concludes. “It could ease the pupillage queue as well as catalysing industry growth.”

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54 Comments

XR

Won’t somebody PLEASE think of the environment?

Anon

Surely the main factor limiting pupillage numbers is the fairly flatline growth of the legal services industry? Increasing the number of pupil barristers isn’t going to fix this – it would merely move the problem down the line, to the tenancy stage.

Anonymous

Would be interesting to see how low the tenancy rate is, as it surely would be very low. I do think BSB should figure out what the 2k unsuccessful people are meant to do with their life though… they can’t all be not good enough!

It seems like its heading down the path: don’t start the bar course in the first place, because we can’t accommodate for you. Murky discriminatory territory to follow

Aspiring barrister

Has anyone ever asked: why are tenancy spaces so low?
– Scared of too many qualified barristers driving down hourly rate (ie monopoly power in a so-called ‘self-employed’ sector)
– We don’t have enough cases. Really? record high backlog of cases (albeit not in crime)
– We are only a few people. we have limited resources and space. If I built another building for you, would you take me then?

Barrister

Any chambers that is having to turn away work will want to take more tenants. It’s bad for everyone’s practice if the chambers as a whole is seen as not having sufficient capacity. And a supply of people at the junior end is good for more senior people in chambers (because the continued reputation of chambers as high-performing at all levels is important, and because QCs/senior juniors need juniors). But there’s no point taking on too many new tenants if that’s going to result in a situation where none of them will be making enough money.

aspiring commercial lawyer

this doesn’t seem to make any sense.

how exactly is there scope for pupillage numbers to increase when the number of tenancies ultimately awarded is far lower than the number of pupillages????

if anything, they should be reducing pupillage numbers to avoid disappointing more people at the last hurdle.

Anon

I’m a solicitor so maybe I’m off base with this, but surely it is better to have completed pupillage and “fail at the last hurdle” than to have paid for the BPTC and never get pupillage.

If you at least complete pupillage you have the option of going to GLD or to the employed bar if you don’t get tenancy. It is also easier to cross-qualify as a solicitor

Anon

Really good point. They should increase pupillage and have more competition for tenancy. Those who don’t make it can do a 3rd 6 or qualify as suggested.

However, if they were to increase pupillage numbers sets will be screaming about funding these. I think they should reconsider unpaid pupillage. You’ve invested so much already whats another £6000.00 to fund the first 6as you’re on your feet earning for the second.

Anon

Any pupillage hopefuls who suggest unpaid first sixes clearly haven’t met enough barristers.

Believe me, the exploitation would be unreal. Some chambers try to get away with it for second and third sixes too – believe me. Like starving people is some sort of right of passage, show of strength or something.

People need to wise up and forget the idea that senior barristers really care about the grass roots of the profession. Some do, but the majority are self-focused people which to some extent is a natural consequence of having a self-employed, individualistic profession. There is also a disproportionately high number of far right Tories in the senior reaches of the profession, and even the champagne socialist sets pay lip service to the junior end to an extent.

Pupil

‘far right Tories’ – I’m still yet to meet any. Tory seems to be a badge of shame and my right leaning tendencies are kept under wraps around my tory-bashing colleagues.

Anon

3:56 is right. The Tories abandoned traditional voters under Boris and now just count on poorly educated racists.

Anon

3:56 is right. The Tories abandoned traditional voters under Boris and now just count on poorly educated rac ists.

eses

Tory tory hallelujah! The seats came marching in!

Barrister

Aside from the fact that I severely doubt that there’d be capacity in the employed bar and GLD to absorb a big increase in newly qualified barristers (who can’t practice except under the supervision of a qualified person, ie a barrister with PC), wouldn’t it make more sense for employers to shoulder the costs of training their future employees? I don’t see why it makes sense for people destined for the employed bar or GLD to be trained at the self-employed bar — different skill-set and it also just doesn’t make sense to make chambers bear this cost to the benefit of these other employers and to its own detriment.

Barristers put time into training pupils because they see them as future colleagues and an investment in the future of chambers. Why on earth would they invest their time in training people who are not actually going to practice as barristers? The quality of training would go down if there were lots of pupils. Not to mention the atmosphere in chambers (the pupil experience at those sets where they are in competition for tenancies seems horrid).

Non-paying pupillages have rightly been consigned to the dustbin – the ability to fund your own training should not be a prerequisite to qualification.

The answer is and always has been obvious. No one should be allowed to take the BPTC unless they have pupillage (or a convincingly documented plan to practice elsewhere in the commonwealth).

Law students: don’t do the BPTC unless you have pupillage. If you don’t get pupillage it will be a very, very costly waste of time. There is literally no reason to do the BPTC without pupillage – the recruitment cycle is designed to give you time to take it after you get a pupillage offer.

MCR grad

generally agree with this comment however disagree about not starting the bar course until you have pupillage. If you just look at the stats from BPP Manchester 2018/19 cohort 3 domestic students had pupillage before starting. Around 20 had pupillage by the end of the year. (a few more have gained pupillage this year). Clearly students were either taught something of use on the course which made them better candidates or they were apply to places that only recruited a year in advance.

lots of chambers currently only recruit 1 year in advance because as we have seen in recent times its difficult to predict chambers abilities to take on.

Anon

Agree with this. Limiting the BPTC to those who already have a pupillage would only serve to reduce pupillage numbers further.

UNLESS it was combined with a complete reworking of the BPTC to something shorter, more focused, with some modules done alongside the first six for example.

Barrister

Ah – I wasn’t aware that some sets are recruiting a year in advance. That is unethical in my opinion and should be prohibited. I strongly think the BSB should step in and prevent people without pupillages from taking the BPTC. There are so many disappointed BPTC grands who don’t end up getting pupillage, having wasted upwards of £25k and taken on significant debt for a course that has no value except as a stepping stone to the bar. It’s completely wrong in my view.

Anon

99% of chambers recruit 1 year or more in advance.

Silk Cutting Down

The issue is indeed at which point the filter should be applied. The present approach, which leaves many with a useless BTPC qualification and unable to call themseves aqualified barrister, is pointless and cruel.

Pupillages used to be widely available, becasue they were unfunded, or attracted modest grants, but the virtue-signalling dismissal of that system becasue “the ability to fund your own training should not be a prerequisite to qualification” shows how out of touch many lawyers are – for arts graduates, unpaid internships offering far fewer prospects than the Bar are all too common. Which is worse; an unpaid pupillage or being condemned for eternity to having the mark of Cain of “non-practising” on your CV ? The main concern is with the quality of training; would a chambers with six pupils not two offer the same standard of training? Possibly not, but in the days of abundant but unpaid pupillages, for those who did become tenants, it was a slower start, so gaps in training could be filled during the early days of practice.

Barrister

I’d be really surprised if physical space is a major factor in giving out pupillages for many chambers. Particularly after the pandemic when everyone is used to WFH — several chambers are looking at downsizing their physical premises and introducing a hot desk system. Anyway there’s plenty of office space round the Strand and Holborn (again, with dirt cheap rent after covid no doubt) — no need to concrete over Lincolns Inn ffs.

Anon

The main factor in low pupillage numbers is a similar answer to many of society’s ills – boomers ruining it for everyone.

The generation that took the most and gave the least, coming right after the generation that was the opposite. How ironic.

Dave Barrister

This is hilarious and on point.

Anonymous publicly funded barrister

Who will supervise these pupils? Pupillage is learning. The issue is not ruining the Inns’ gardens with Regus modular offices.

Anon

They should follow Ireland where barristers are individuals and not part of a set so you could contact them directly and ask them for pupillage.

A A

Ireland followed us, actually. It was done away with here of because of the huge potential for nepotism. In the good old days, some very respected barristers used to live off the money they charged pupils for doing pupillage supervisions. Patrick Hastings KC was one.

family barrister

In that case maybe BSB could take a role here and regulate. Have one pool of candidates and annually select pupils for the whole industry. Then assign them to a pool of barristers. If there aren’t enough barristers, perhaps require barrister to do pupillage once every couple of years.

Anon

We do not want an over supply of barristers because then the profession as a whole suffers- Ireland’s system is not one to replicate- a lot of them are not making a worthwhile living and have multiple jobs in addition to their respective prcatices at the bar.

Barrister

Just read the wiki page for Patrick Hastings – what a career. A different world.

Cessle

Take a look at Norman Birkett’s career at the Bar.

“If it had ever been my lot to decide to cut up a lady in small pieces and put her in an unwanted suitcase I should without hesitation have placed my future in Norman Birkett’s hands.

He would have satisfied the jury that (a) I was not there (b) that I had not cut up the lady; and (c) that if I had she thoroughly deserved it anyway” Sir Patrick Hastings.

Old Timer

Forty five years’ ago, people could read for the Bar direct, and study grants and pupillage were readily available. Chambers were not so large and it was not uncommon for a set of twenty-five to have four to six pupils. Those pupils would have varying chances of being taken on but the experience was excellent for the CV. Scroll forward to 2020 and the days of reading for the Bar with no guarantees of a pupillage, an over-engineered pupillage application system, and paid pupillage (available only to a tiny few, the vast majority white, public school, Oxbridge) and we see that the Bar is a closed shop. So much for diversity and accessibility to which the great and good pay lip service. This idea has no chance.

A A

Tell us, how good was the Bar 45 years ago at attracting those other than “a tiny few, the vast majority white, public school, [and] Oxbridge”?

L

The Bar is dying, chambers are already in discussion with the Inns to reduce space. Work is not really flooding in, firms are keeping much of it now, going to barristers as an absolute last resort- and it will get worse now with firms struggling.

Anon

Mostly because lay clients are pretty clueless and place too much trust in solicitors.

DustyWig

I disagree. The volume of direct access work is increasing and would increase yet further if the Bar Council promoted it with any enthusiasm.

Anon

Yeah, but do you really want to be dealing with all the day to day stuff with the client? I don’t.

John Curran

Shared working spaces sounds somewhat similar to the sytem that operates in both jurisdictions in Ireland, where devils operate from a shared library.

Anon

This is an interesting idea. I must admit I initially groaned at it (oh no, another pupillage hopefully desperately seeking a solution) but I’ve warmed to it.

It is correct that the current system of pupillage is broken.

It is correct that the current chambers gatekeeper type system isn’t ideal and serves to squash pupillage numbers down.

I think there is merit in the argument that it is better to give people a shot at pupillage and see if they can convert it into tenancy, as opposed to seeing if they are able to get a stupidly competitive pupillage in the first place. As a tenant of 10 years call I’d rather be assessing a tenancy candidate on the basis of their real work than assessing pupillage candidates and being urged by more senior practitioners to recommend the Oxbridge clone who reminds them of themselves as a young whipper-snapper (either that or the outrageously attractive blonde female candidate).

Frankly something radical needs to be done. I’d support the mechanics of an idea like this being seriously looked at. It could result in a generation of practitioners getting general experience at the bar and eventually working their way into a niche. It could also result in us getting the best people in the right places.

You’d have to think about how this would be funded. I wouldn’t be against some sort of pupillage tax being added to our annual registration fee. I’d rather my money went to that than the status quo of me paying for Bar Council representatives to have jollies to Mexico and the like.

You’d also have to think about how this would translate to the regional bar – people still need to be able to do pupillage in Manchester, Birmingham, etc. Maybe a similar set up in Manc, Brum, Leeds, and Cardiff only? Don’t @ me suggesting nonentities of cities like Sheffield and Bristol.

family barrister

I agree with you. It seemed like an outrages idea at this first, but I see some point in the article.

The idea is bold and provocative, but the reality is belonging to a set is not particularly coherent with the idea of a self-employed bar.

I also think it is better to have a larger pool of tenancy applicants as the selection could be anchored more towards achievement.

How does pupilage work in Ireland? I assume individual barristers choose for themselves who to take on board. That could lead into some trouble, so should be thought through a bit more.

What if you had the BSB selecting the pupils and assigning them to individual barristers? They could regulate and prevent barristers from abusing this process to make gains. Or even so, making it compulsory for barristers above X years of experience to do pupillage once every 2 years.

Kane

Christ, what is this “See who can come up with the stupidest idea of the day” competition? Chambers do not pay top rate awards to have second or third rate pupils foisted on them.

Anon

Funny then that so many are, in fact, second rate. Unless you genuinely think that privately educated southerners with Oxbridge degrees have a monopoly on quality?

If I see one more smug chambers website profile of some balding Oxbridge clone who looks like they’ve a stick shoved up their backside, I’ll scream.

Anonymous

Still smarting from that Oxbridge rejection letter?

Anon

I never applied. Still regularly make a fool of them in court, once I get over their uniform plummy accents which many of them didn’t have prior to the age of 18.

Anonymous

But are there any real “winners” in hearing in the magistrates’ court?

I love the ones that never applied, as it is just a defensive mechanism against their likely rejection.

Anonymous

Is this April 1? The gardens win every time.

Anon

Or better still, limit the number of people doing the BPTC to those with a hope of getting a pupillage.

Anonymous

When will these moaners get it? Getting a law degree is easy, and the BPTC is basically a glorified GCSE. Pupillage is the first real filter, and many who get past that fail to get tenancy. If you can’t get a pupillage, taken the freakin’ hint. Your mother may be said you could be barrister and you should follow your dreams, but your mother knows bugger all.

Jake

It seems like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed to make this statement at 9am on a Friday.

The point of the article is there is a 2k backlog of people waiting for a pupilage. Lets say we can trim 30% due to poor quality (whatever that means, as the job is not really rocket science itself). You still have 1.4k to park somewhere. What are they meant to do? 27k + 17k debt excluding rent, only to end up not able to even call yourself a registered barrister (assuming you didnt even have to do the GDL which would be another 10k).

The job is not hard to get because it requires a high level of IQ. The job is hard to get because there isn’t enough supply.

Barrister

I think people need to realise that you cannot just have everyone who completes the BPTC gaining pupillage and tenancy. Why not? Because it would result in vast over supply and downward pressure on incomes. There is already downward pressures generally for a myriad of reasons and quite simply there is not enough demand to support the numbers which are being churned out every year combined with the structural glut which exists from previous years.

The rules of the game and dire statistics are known from the outset to those embarking on the BPTC and as someone has pointed out within these comments, BPTC candidates expectations are being distorted by sentiments like “you can achieve anything”. I would add that such distorted expectations are fortified by ubiquitous Polly-Annaesque platitudes which are encountered on Linkedin with worrying frequency from certain quarters.

Anonymous

Re pupillage being the first real filter, give me a break. The pupillage competition is an arbitrary assessment of someone’s quality, with the assessors (in London at least) being overwhelmingly from a certain background.

It isn’t fair. Many aspects of life aren’t fair, but to pretend pupillage competitions are fair either spectacularly misses the point or is delberately misleading.

As a tenant at a London civil set can I put on record that the only real test of someone’s quality is their work. People also need to stop being so up themselves in pretending barristers are any more superior to a range of other professions – we are just a bunch of mostly posh self-regarding people with privileged education.

I can count a range of teachers, business people, techies and trade union officials who I consider brighter than many colleagues at the Bar, and that’s before getting into professions with a higher qualification bar.

Miner

minus the ‘trade union officials’ – I agree with every word.

Juicy QC

Literally this.

We have a generation that have been told that they can do what they want and achieve what they want, but the reality is that this just isn’t the case. I think the work for counsel is reducing as firms keep hold of what used to be a junior barristers day to day work.

With the introduction of technology and AI at some point in the future there is going to be a further overhaul of the sector and I think it is inevitable that there will be a reduced need for lawyers.

Uh-uh

Let’s not ruin the Inns’ historic beauty and tranquillity, please.

dfdf

Green space is really important! If you want to do this sort of thing rent and office on High Holborn. Shocking.

anon

Why this won’t work.

1. Significant building costs;

2. The need to still fund the pupilage when chambers are struggling with income. this will not be, nor could be funded an Inn.

3. There is no commercial incentive to expand the bar at the moment in a drastic manner. It is well populated and work is not as plentiful as this post suggests. the size of the Bar will naturally fluctuate with commercial forces and the availability and remuneration of work.

Space has little to do with taking on pupils, I am sorry but it doesn’t. The bar focus on recruitment and obstacles to it are straightforward;

1. The incurred costs of training a Pupil;

2. Being able to to ensure that a Pupil will have work that Chambers needs to service.

3. The bar is a business and expands and recruits in line with this. You will struggle to manipulate a market due to your desire to complete a pupillage;

4. Recruitment is based on merit. The current system reflects this and doesn’t need to change.

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