Bar Council attempts to clear up confusion after telling chambers to disregard the ‘skills section’ on Gateway pupillage applications

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By Thomas Connelly on


Bar body apologises for ‘issues’ with new platform

Pupillage seekers who applied through the Gateway this year have been told chambers will not take into account information they have included under the ‘skills section’ of their application forms.

Anger broke out on social media this morning when barrister Jamie Jenkins tweeted that his chambers had been asked by the Pupillage Gateway, the centralised application portal run by the Bar Council, to “disregard the Summary and Skills sections as not all candidates had a chance to complete them”.

“This isn’t good enough,” Jenkins wrote. “Candidates sacrifice a lot for this process. They are entitled to expect at least a functional application system.”

The tweet sparked confusion among aspiring barristers on Twitter.

One pointed to the Bar Council’s user guide that states on page nine that applicants can use this section to create a list of the skills that they have acquired relevant to the job, but that this information will not be made available to chambers.

Muddying the waters further the guidance appears to have been tweaked at some point. In another version, a screenshot of which was posted to Twitter, it states the skills section will be available to chambers but that they have been told to “disregard” it.

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The Bar Council told Legal Cheek that it’s using a new platform this year and although it has been tested extensively throughout the process, “inevitably some issues have come up along the way”. It said it had contacted chambers and candidates as soon as these arose.

“At the start of the process we understood that the skills part of the standard application form would not be made visible to the Authorised Pupillage Training Organisations (AETOs),” the Bar Council said. “[W]e therefore told candidates that it would not be made available, although they were welcome to update it as part of their profile in the system.”

Addressing the amended guidance, the Bar Council said that “during the process we were informed that the skills section would be visible when AETOs downloaded the applications. We updated the applicant user guide to explain that although chambers/AETOs would see this section they would be asked to disregard it.”

One bar hopeful told Legal Cheek that they had been left really disappointed by the experience and said they would have hoped that the new platform would have addressed the problems of the past. They also noted that “some candidates would have likely included information in the skills section, thinking that chambers would see it. What if they haven’t mentioned some of these skills elsewhere to avoid repetition?”

A similar issue also seems to have occurred with the ‘Summary’ section of the application.

On this the Bar Council said that it understood this section would not be available to candidates and so no reference was made to it in the guidance for applicants. Unfortunately, at the end of the process, it then became aware that some pupillage seekers had completed the summary section and that this would also be visible to chambers. “We contacted AETOs/chambers to request that this section, and the skills section, be disregarded,” it said.

“While we endeavoured to make sure that the information provided in the user guide was clear that the skills section would not be considered as part of the application and made no reference to the summary section as part of the application, we do apologise to any candidates who did spend time on these sections,” the statement continued.

The Bar Council stressed “candidates who did not complete these sections or who made notes/incomplete comments should be confident that this will not form part of their application and will not be considered”.

The Gateway has run into problems in the past, with the Bar Council being forced to twice extend the application deadline in 2019 following a wave of complaints concerning its crippling slow operating speed.

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