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Pupillage spots plummet amid COVID uncertainty

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475 to 354

The number of pupillage spots plummeted last year as chambers grappled with the uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

New stats published as part of the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) annual diversity report show that bar training spots tumbled from 475 to 354 in the 12 months to December 2020 — a reduction of 121 places. This is “substantially lower” than the five year average of 473 pupillage positions between 2015 and 2019, the regulator notes.

The data comes just months after the BSB warned there would likely be a drop in pupillage numbers over the next two years in response to the pandemic. It went on to predict the biggest drop would be in opportunities in areas of law most affected by COVID-enforced court closures, particularly criminal and family.

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A number of leading commercial sets have since stepped in to provide emergency funding for pupillages that have been postponed or cancelled.

The drop in numbers only adds to the intense competition to secure pupillage. Last year’s recruitment round saw a whopping 2,142 barrister hopefuls submit at least one application via the Pupillage Gateway.

Are you in the process of applying for pupillage? Be sure to check out Legal Cheek‘s 2021 Chambers Most List for the lowdown on everything from the size of pupillage awards to the most Oxbridge-educated new tenants.

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