COVID-19: Regulator predicts drop in pupillage numbers

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Knock-on effects of pandemic likely felt by students seeking training spots over next two years, according to new BSB impact report

The bar regulator has warned there will likely be a drop in pupillage numbers over the next two years in response to the global pandemic.

In what won’t come as a surprise to many of our readers, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) anticipates there is likely to be an impact on the number of pupillage spots up for grabs in 2020 to 2022, as chambers adjust to the economic disruption resulting from COVID-19.

Again, unsurprisingly, the report predicts the biggest impact will be on pupillages that are in areas of law most affected by court closures, particularly criminal and family.

Securing a coveted pupillage spot is no mean feat, even without a global pandemic to contend with. This 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 spots up for grabs.

The BSB report goes on to flag a number of “potential risks”, including whether the bar will remain an attractive career prospect to students, the continuing viability of the range of vocational bar training courses on offer, and the impact on the efforts to improve diversity at the bar. The regulator does, however, “stress that these risks have not materialised so far”.

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The report, released this week, is based on the BSB’s engagement with 157 chambers, 133 of which currently have pupils.

BSB director of regulatory operations, Oliver Hanmer, said:

“While we are pleased that chambers and other organisations demonstrated a laudable commitment to sustaining pupillages, we are very conscious that many face continued financial pressure due to the consequences of the health emergency. We are doing our best to encourage and facilitate chambers to support as many pupillages as possible.”

The report follows research published by the Bar Council in April that suggested a third of chambers were considering ditching their recruitment plans in response to the pandemic.

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In other news, the pope shits in the woods. Thank god our regulator has got time to make this astonishing finding – I’m glad nothing else important is going on that they could be looking at.



Scrap or fundamentally change pupillage.



So, if getting a pupillage wasn’t impossible before, it certainly is now. Increasing the number of BVC places 20 years ago was a disaster, flood the pupillage market with all these students (having paid their £10k+ of course) knowing there aren’t enough pupillage to go around. Very lucrative racket



It’s always seemed like a weird system where you’re expected to cough up at least some of your fees (Inn scholarships aside), complete your studies then search for pupillage in an insanely competitive field. Obviously many choose to do this with the LPC if they can’t find a training contract but the odds are better and it seems more of an option rather than a necessity, whereas post-grad bar studies being paid for prior to obtaining pupilage seems more of a norm (correct me if I’m wrong!).



Getting a pupilage is no harder than it was (COVID aside). It is just more people with no hope pursue their doomed aspirations to the bitter end than before. It is a case of more rejection letters. Blame the social justice warriors who moaned about restrictions on numbers at the vocational education stage.



So. Many. Straw. Men.

Resist. Urge. To. Engage.


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