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

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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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15 Comments

BWJ

I’ve had the same treatment from law firms and insurance companies. Perhaps coincidentally, although I suspect not, it’s always been after disclosing health conditions.

(4)(0)

Just Anonymous

I do agree that Chambers should not reject by silence, and I argued as such in the last article.

However, I find Matthew Hill’s remarks to be bordering on the hysterial (and thus are completely unhelpful). Not every issue has to be about ‘diversity’. If every rejected candidate, regardless of their protected characteristics, is being rejected by silence, then everyone is being treated in the same – rubbish – way, and no-one is being discriminated against.

Chambers should tell candidates where they stand, not because such notification will in itself promote ‘diversity’ (it won’t), but simply because it’s the decent, polite and humane thing to do.

(45)(1)

Large Agree

I strongly agree with your comment. Rejection by silence could be linked to diversity in terms of transparency (and therein theroetically highlighting blind spots in hiring practice), however arbitrarily attaching diversity to an issue largely with pupillage navigation is hardly helping either cause.

(13)(0)

Anonymous

The references to “diversity” and “inclusion” are incongruous. Simple courtesy and good manners dictate a response (but not necessarily feedback) to all who have been rejected. Had no idea that not all chambers did so.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

God! Why on earth is this possibly a “diversity and inclusion issue”?

(21)(1)

Barry

Because it has to be, unless everyone is constantly talking about D&I it will fade into the obscurity it belongs, as would all forms of identity politics. Wokism can only thrive under massive propaganda combined with absurd censorship.

(4)(2)

grr

Pro tip to the LSB and BSB: not everything has to be D&I/BLM related. You could ask chambers to provide feedback for the simple reason that it’s the right thing to do and will help candidates address their weaknesses.

(15)(1)

Anonymous

Fine in practice but very labour intensive and in the current climate it just begs a flood of complaints from snowflakes who can’t handle rejection. Just think about the application/rejection ratios and numbers and it immediately becomes clear that it would be a nightmare.

(6)(1)

Chancery Barrister

It is quite remarkable how rude some applicants can be following a rejection.

You might get feeback but it will be completely banal and not worth the toilet paper it will be written on. No one is going to stick necks out in the present climate.

(3)(0)

Hmmmmm

It’s nothing compared to how rude some barristers are when women dare to reject them.

(4)(2)

Bob

Yes, that is relevant and on point.

Touker

Although I agree that rejection by silence should not be allowed, this point is tainted by yet another instancing of shoehorning ‘diversity and inclusion’ issues into a topic where it’s not relevant. Every applicant of every race, gender and religion has experienced this issue. This level of shoehorning is precisely why words like ‘diversity and inclusion’ are absolutely empty buzzwords.

Rejection by silence should be banned by law firms too. HR and grad recruitment personnel do little to no work as it is, they have the time to do their jobs.

(9)(0)

Likes Men Who Lift

If you were to ghost a barrister on Tinder, there would be :

– 15 tweets complaining about a lack of ‘manners today’ from the barrister concerned

– 3,000 retweets from the sad sycophants hanging on their coattails

– a few Daily Mail articles

– one Guardian opinion piece by the barrister

And all within the time it would take to Mail Merge a rejection to the 3,000 candidates who applied to his set.

(8)(2)

Montaner

Agree, sadly. I consider it bad manners not to reply to applications.

(1)(0)

❄️ 💦 🛏 🧸 💤

Generation DryNites is at it again!

(3)(2)

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