Barrister apprenticeships? Quite possibly says pupillage expert

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There are barriers to overcome, but these are not ‘insurmountable’

Apprenticeships are a “viable option” to qualifying as a barrister, a pupillage expert has said, but barriers will need to be overcome and these require collaboration between the bar, the regulator and training providers.

In a recent paper, Michaela Hardwick, solicitor and managing director of Beyond Compliance, argues that the bar has been “stubborn” towards modernisation and innovation in recent times and apprenticeships could propel the “ancient profession” into the 21st century.

While pupillage is hard to come by, Hardwick acknowledges that there is “plenty of work” for those who have completed part or all of the training to become a barrister. They could be acting as caseworkers, paralegals or legal assistants for chambers, self-employed barristers or law firms, and undertaking activities such as researching, case preparation and drafting.

They could work as an advocate, on a self-employed basis, using “the loophole in the Legal Services Act 2007 allowing for individuals who are not authorised themselves but are working for an LSA regulated entity to conduct court hearings being heard ‘in chambers’”.

“All of this work could very easily form the structure for a barrister apprenticeship route; whether that was through some form of collaborative approach or through individual organisations wishing to capitalise upon the potential opportunities which could result,” continued Hardwick, who is the pupillage co-ordinator for national chambers Clerksroom.

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On some of the barriers the profession could face, Hardwick breaks this down by looking at the employed and self-employed bar, as well as training providers, but notes that these are not “insurmountable”.

While the employed bar is in a “strong position” to provide apprenticeships, the reality is that no single organisation is likely to take on a sufficient number of apprentices to make it worthwhile for the individual organisation to create the pathway, she said. “Equally, the lack of collaboration between organisations and also with training providers, in addition to a lack of numbers, means that there is insufficient incentive for training providers to develop the relevant components for the pathway.”

At the self-employed bar, “a lack of numbers from individual chambers and a lack of collaboration are barriers”. However, a larger barrier is the requirement for an apprentice to be employed, she says, which is contrary to the nature of the relationship between chambers and tenants. “In itself, this is not insurmountable but, in the current environment of work opportunities and structure, this is only likely to be feasible if an apprenticeship existed which mirrored pupillage,” said Hardwick. “This does not move matters forward from where we are with the current pupillage issues.”

Another major barrier outlined in the paper is the lack of training providers that are “happy to provide and deliver the educational and vocational aspects of the route”. There are already established solicitor apprentice and other legal apprentice schemes (for chartered legal executives, paralegals, clerking or legal administrators) at a number of providers, and these “could quite easily be adapted to facilitate the barrister qualification”.

In 2017, an apprenticeship pathway for barristers was introduced as an option following the Bar Standards Board (BSB) consultation on the future of bar training. “There has been no further published information from the BSB or noticeable developments in this arena”, according to the paper.

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This is a clerksroom vanity project. There is simply no incentive for any chambers to pool significant resources into someone who may or may not make the cut. Chambers already (quite rightly) pay out huge amounts training pupils that they know are good enough why take a chance on an apprentice?

Just Anonymous


I think I can safely say that my chambers would have absolutely no interest in the views of Clerksroom on this matter.

And I doubt that many chambers would.


I don’t understand your point.

This article — at least to my eye — is suggesting that the candidates who will be eligible for this apprenticeship will be those who are “… acting as caseworkers, paralegals or legal assistants for chambers, self-employed barristers or law firms, and undertaking activities such as researching, case preparation and drafting”.

While I opted for the other route and am not counsel, I understand that pupils are usually selected for pupilage just after they have called to the bar with little to no experience.

So how is it reasonable to assume that “there is simply no incentive for any chambers to pool significant resources into someone who may or may not make the cut”.

Surely with the experience mentioned above there are demonstrably more indicators and, therefore, more incentive.

@‘Realist’, I think you’re a great example of the barriers highlighted in this article.

Realist at the Criminal bar

@observer With all due respect to paralegals and case workers, being competent at their role does not mean they would be a competent barrister. Many bar students now do this kind of work before getting pupillage. it is certainly evidence of commitment to an area of law but in my chambers view it is not a deciding factor when making offers of pupillage as the skills required are so different.


It doesn’t mean they wouldn’t make competent bartisters either.

Just some guy

I don’t really understand the point of this. Surely taking on apprentices on top of pupils (if that’s the idea) won’t magically generate more work and therefore viable tenancies?


It’s a dreadful idea, which panders to the “everything would be great if we could only get more pupils through the system” idea popular among applicants and which ignores the fact that – whatever the system – chambers aren’t going to take on more people than they think they need to cover work. No doubt the people behind this report will dismiss any criticism as being from “a profession afraid of change” but it completely fails to identify who this helps, why it’s needed or why chambers would feel that it’s better than what they have now.


It might make access to lawyers more affordable though.


I did all the traing for the bar, even completed a Maters in English Law, dined, bought the wig but couldn’t secure a place in Chambers due to the snobhy, dinosaur views of others anywhere near me in the North. Aparently as a ‘mature entrant’ I didn’t tick their ‘diversity’ boxes enough. I set up my own ‘paraegal’ law firm, built 450 clients in 34 countries worldwide in 4 years, and have even represented clients in court and chambers via loopholes. The truth is, there are too many Wig-Wanabees and people qualifying and not enough chamber places. I earn around £100k take-home a year, and perform equally as good as any Old Rumpole. So why would I have any regrets now? The Bar needs to wake up, get over itself and make the profession a bit more Rock n’ Roll. In fact abolish all the archsic divisions… Barrister, Solicitor, Notary, Paralegal, and just have one size fits all… Attorney or Lawyer. Or is that too Iggy Pop?


Kudos to you.

The embarrassing snobbery at the Bar against Northerners, working class and BAME candidates is incredibly small-minded considering the international background of the London commercial clients that help many barristers pay their mortgage.

These clients certainly didn’t get to where they are today by only spending time with people from the same schools or countries as themselves.

You can’t control the world, but you took control over what you could change and made a great living for yourself. That’s more than most people do in life.


Frankly if your pupillage applications were as littered with mistakes as your comment I am not surprised you didn’t get anywhere.


could’ve achieved all of this by getting a TC at a shet firm like CC in first year and qualifying into an under-subbed department at the age of 24


“… couldn’t secure a place in Chambers due to the snobhy, dinosaur views of others anywhere near me in the North”

Nothing to do with your own competence, then?

A Bar Filled With MIT Grads

Nope, it is nothing to do with his abilities.

Most middle class barristers would prefer to take on pupils that remind them of themselves or their children.

They are prejudiced against people with Northern accents and BAME applicants, otherwise chambers would look like every other office in the UK.

Capabilities? You seen how many Indians, Chinese, German and Arab people you have working in the offices of London management consultancies and investment banks?

Why can these professions who value education find lots of great applicants who aren’t from the south of England, but somehow the Bar claims they cannot?


I would hope that any viable BAME candidate who is interested in the commercial bar would by now know well enough not to take anything said ‘below the line’ too seriously (if at all) but, as a commercial junior at the Bar, all I would say is take the time to see and compare for yourself. In particular, and in addition to minis, there are a few mentoring schemes out there. For the commercial bar in particular this one been running particularly well I understand (nb. just Essex Court, first link to it on google:)

Northerner of Counsel

Total bollo’.

I’m a Northerner at an excellent London set.

My accent isn’t the strongest but I’m still obviously Northern-sounding.

It didn’t stop me getting where I am.

I suspect the proof-reading may have been the issue, Alan.

Non-native speaker

I think I might have to agree with Northerner of Counsel here. I have a fairly obvious foreign accent because I only moved to England when I started uni. I definitely don’t fit whatever image some people may have of a barrister. I got pupillage within the first year of applying. It did require very hard work beyond just doing my law degree (did a master’s, tons of mooting, tons of mini-pupillages), but it’s certainly possible.

Curious George

There are still a handful of practising barristers who were allied before you needed to have a degree.

What was the method then post-school?


3 years unpaid toil, I believe.

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