It’s becoming even harder to get a pupillage

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By Rhys Duncan on


Number of aspiring barristers on the rise; the number of pupillages not so much

This year has seen the greatest number of students ever enrol on Bar training courses, a new study by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) reveals.

The Annual Report on Bar Training 2023 states that 2,360 students have commenced Bar courses this year, compared to 2,308 last year and 1,976 in 2021. This figure is nearly 500 higher than the pre-Covid record in 2018/19.

The number of pupillage positions has, however, remained pretty flat, with 544 available in 2023 (registered up to 3 November), compared to 538 last year. Leaving aside Covid-related fluctuations in 2020 and 2021, the figure from 2018 was only marginally lower at 522.

Taking this together, while pupillage numbers have risen by 4% in the last five years, student numbers are up over 20%.

Highlighting the extent of the challenge faced by new grads, the reports zeros in on the 2020/21 cohort. Of the 2,075 who commenced training, 658 never completed the course. For those that did, 362 had gained pupillage by 2023, with over 1,000 passing the course and not subsequently obtaining a pupillage.

But there is some comfort for aspiring England and Wales barristers in the high number of international students who do Bar courses before returning home to practise. 42% of UK domiciled students who completed the Bar Course in 2020/21 have gained pupillage, compared to only 3% of passers who are domiciled overseas. The report notes that this “may reflect the fact that some overseas domiciled students have no intention of practising at the Bar of England and Wales.”

The Legal Cheek Virtual Pupillage Fair takes place NEXT WEEK on Tuesday 12 December —  SECURE YOUR PLACE NOW

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