Super regulator sides with pupillage seekers in row over rejection by silence

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By Thomas Connelly on

Follows letter from wannabe barrister first reported by Legal Cheek

The legal industry’s super regulator, the Legal Services Board (LSB), appears to have sided with pupillage seekers in the growing row over the common practice of chambers rejecting applicants by silence.

In a letter to the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the LSB’s chief executive, Matthew Hill, warns that the policy of failing to let candidates know when they’ve been unsuccessful risks undermining the bar’s efforts to create a more diverse and inclusive profession.

The LSB’s involvement comes after aspiring barrister Noah Gifford called on bar leaders to “create a regulatory requirement for chambers to always notify candidates, at the earliest practicable date, of the outcomes of their applications”.

In a separate letter to both the LSB and BSB, and first reported by Legal Cheek, the Bristol law student said the lack of communication by some chambers was “shameful and damaging to the integrity of the profession”.

And it would appear the LSB, to a certain extent, agrees. “On the face of it Mr Gifford appears to make a strong and fair point,” Hill said. “[O]ne indeed that might go beyond the immediate concerns of courtesy and integrity that he describes, and raise questions about how diversity and inclusion in the pupillage process can be properly demonstrated.”

The LSB goes on to request that “replying by silence … become a specific area of focus for future [chambers] performance assessments”.

In response, a spokesperson for the BSB told Legal Cheek it is firmly committed to ensuring pupillage recruitment is fair and that it believes applicants “should not only be told whether or not they have been successful but should also be given feedback”.

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They continued:

“Both our Authorisation Framework for those offering pupillage and our Bar Qualification Manual strongly encourage the giving of feedback to candidates for pupillage as an example of best practice. Our commitment to fair recruitment is also why we have introduced a mandatory recruitment timetable this year so that applicants are better placed to make informed decisions about any offers they have received.”

The practice of ignoring prospective pupils if they don’t made the cut divided opinion in our comments section.

At the time of reporting Gifford’s letter, one student said they “don’t buy the excuse that barristers don’t have ‘time’ to reply”, while another argued that “chambers should have the courtesy to let rejected candidates know that they have been rejected”. Taking a slightly different view on the issue, another commenter wrote: “Why on earth do sets need to give feedback? It is just more work and paves the way for complaints galore from snowflakes.”

One LC reader even offered up this handy solution: “The entire rejection process could be automated in Mailchimp with less than five minutes work. Stop being so bloody arrogant and churlish. It’s about time the bar pulled itself into the 21st century and started acting with a bit of common courtesy.”

It’s worth noting not all chambers reject by silence. Many do inform candidates in writing if they’ve been unsuccessful, with some even offering candidates feedback as and when requested.

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