Bar chief: Move ‘call’ post-pupillage to clear up confusion around barrister title

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By Rhys Duncan on


‘Problem is readily fixable’, says Nick Vineall KC

Chair of the bar, Nick Vineall KC, has called for the title ‘barrister’ to be reserved only for those who have completed both their academic qualifications and pupillage.

In his speech, The Bar of 2043: Thoughts for the future, Vineall KC noted the separation between being called to the bar, when the title of barrister is conferred, and being given a practising certificate in order to act as a barrister. Within the current system, he says, “there is no connection between the title and what you can do”.

This, he argued, is not only confusing for clients, with “unregistered barristers who have never been entitled to practise account[ing] for over a quarter of cases that get to the Bar Tribunal”, but is also financially challenging, “17,000 or so practising barristers pay[ing] for the regulation of 70,000 or so people”.

On the scale of the issue, the 4 Pump Court barrister said: “for every barrister with a practising certificate there are two who have never been entitled to a practising certificate. And of all the people in the world who are entitled to tell you they are barrister called to the bar of England and Wales, only one in four has a practising certificate.”

Speaking of his, and the Bar Council’s, intentions, Vineall KC went on to say:

“My own view is that we should call people to the bar only when they have satisfactorily completed pupillage, with some sort of provisional call or provisional practising certificate to cover the second six. The Bar Council strongly supports such a change… We have this obvious anomaly of conferring the title barrister before the qualification process is complete. I fear that if we do nothing the problem will get worse, that it will become increasingly difficult to resolve, and that it poses a long-term risk to the profession. The problem is readily fixable, and it should be fixed now. We must all rise to the challenge.”

It is, however, unclear what the timeline for such a change is, the bulk of the speech dedicated to changes to the bar over the next 20 years.

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Elsewhere in last night’s speech at Inner Temple, the KC gave his thoughts on social mobility, headlining with an announcement that the Bar Council is partnering with Rare Recruitment to integrate a contextual system into the Pupillage Gateway from 2024-25.

He said: “… the bar and the Inns can be very daunting, very off-putting, for those who come from what are sometimes called non-traditional backgrounds (although I don’t much like that expression) and … what we ought to be interested in when we recruit to pupillage is potential – how good a barrister you can soon become — and that may not be exactly the same as what grades and extracurricular activities you can put on your CV.”


Barrister from "non-traditional background"

Imagine acknowledging that “for every barrister with a practising certificate there are two who have never been entitled to a practising certificate” and then, in the SAME SPEECH, suggesting yet more (!) needs to be done to recruit people from “non-traditional backgrounds”.

How about dropping the obsession with gender and race, restricting bar school entry to those with realistic prospects, and using the money currently being spent on diversity initiatives to support poor-but-talented kids (of whatever race and gender) who can’t afford the exorbitant fees.


lol good job shoehorning a random rant about women and ethnic minorities when this article is about the title of a barrister.

Barrister from "non-traditional background"

1. It’s not a “rant about women and ethnic minorities”. Rather, it’s a rant about those who rant about women and ethnic minorities.

2. It’s not “random”. At the surface, the article might look like it’s “about the title of a barrister”. However, at a deeper level it is about the glut of bar course graduates who never get pupillage. This is a problem which is heavily exacerbated by diversity initiatives.


There’s logic to your point but when you spew it with such vitriol, people cease to care. Maybe chill out a little.


Unfortunately that won’t happen. When the majority of Bar Schools are cash cows and don’t really care about pupillages, why would they tighten entry requirements if it means less but more able people? It would be a completely different story if providers (somehow) got some commission for each student that recieves pupillage within X years- which sounds quite cool, I’d like to see that. However, zoomimg in to the point of traditionalism, I can see diversification of the Bar being quite a long term thing! There’s already steps to try and tackle it (e.g. university blind applications), but even then, this can be bypassed. But I do agree, the current bar school system (with the exception of the ICCA) kinda sucks!

Barrister from "non-traditional background"

You are correct that bar schools have no commercial incentive to raise entry standards. However, there is also the regulator to consider.

For years and years the regulator has toyed with the idea of raising the entry standards. It even came up with an entry test known as the BCAT which – somewhat miraculously – had very strong predictive value when assessing candidates’ prospects of obtaining pupillage.

However, they found that whenever they raised the pass mark to a meaningful level, this “disproportionately affected” applicants from BME backgrounds. The regulator therefore kept the pass mark so low that it made no difference to who was admitted to the course. Instead, the BCAT simply served as yet another financial impediment to those from low income backgrounds.

Chambers Recruitment committee member

The answer is to do the bar course after pupillage. Then no wasted BPC fees.


It is obvious why the regulator and private equity owner bar course providers don’t want to move call to post-pupillage: they will lose revenue from all the hopeless candidates who do the bar course with no chance of pupillage.


No, this isn’t correct. Whilst it is true that the bar course is filled to the brim with hopeless candidates, the candidates don’t realise they are hopeless. Moving call to after pupillage would make no difference. The candidates would just keep on coming.


Fair point. But I have come across a lot of candidates who do the bar course so they can call themselves barrister. They think doing the bar course must mean something because you are allowed to call yourself a barrister after doing it. Moving call to post-pupillage should give a clearer message that doing the bar course means absolutely nothing.


Wild isn’t it that you might never have had the right to practise yet have the title of a barrister.


A substantial proportion of those on the BPTC have either no need or intention to see or complete pupillage in EW, as they don’t need to do so to practice in other jurisdictions where the BPTC is full or part-qualifying, they just need a ‘call’ / completion of the BPTC. Similarly, a substantial proportion of those on the BPTC have no intention to practice or seek pupillage.


Well done to him for having the guts to say what too many have been too scared to say!


There are around 50k “barristers” who haven’t done pupillage. If call is moved to post pupillage this should apply retrospectively, otherwise we will still have these 50k “barristers” knocking about.



David Phillips

In the United States you do not require a pupillage . Once you pass the bar exam you can open up a law office immediately. Are there lessons to be learnt here




hard to argue with the reasoning of this latter day clarence darrow


So rather than ensuring that people can get pupillage, the intention is to making getting to the bar harder

The reason a large number of people haven’t gotten the practice certificate is because of how insane it is to get a pupilage. But at least they can console ourselves that while waiting for the gods of pupilage to ope their gates to you, you are are a barrister. Ignoring the fact that you have to put (unregistered) beside the title.

Other countries you don’t need a pupilage to get your certification,once you successfully pass law school you get it. But of course make the bar an Elite community yet claim there are efforts to make it inclusive. Smh

Citizen Bane

Bad take, the vast majority of applicants aren’t up to getting pupillage which is why they don’t get it. It is a good thing for the legal profession that standards are high.

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