Bar Council scheme overhauls 'haphazard' selection process

THE BAR Council this week unveiled its long-awaited proposals for revamping the system for processing pupillage applications to chambers.

Modelled on the UCAS system for awarding university places, the Pupillage Applications Clearing House (PACH), aims to link candidates and their prospective employers with a single application.

PACH would remove uncertainty from the process by ensuring that students have a full list of options, and their prospective employers a list of candidates, by a deadline.

The Bar Council also believes the system, intended to run on a voluntary basis from next year, would provide fairer selection by ensuring that chambers choose trainees according to information contained on the form.

Council chair Peter Goldsmith QC says: "An open clearing house scheme that enables chambers to compare a field of applicants at one time on an equal basis would end haphazard selection procedures and encourage the perception of

selection on merit."

The proposals were set out in a 28-page consultation paper, drawn up by a working party chaired by Michael Beloff QC. Key features of PACH include:

– A single application form.

– Rigid timetables setting deadlines for applications, interviews and offers.

– A "pool" system in which

rejected applicants can be

selected at a second attempt.

– A limit on the number of chambers to which students can apply.

– Selection criteria remain a matter for chambers.

– Allowance for deferred applications.

The news follows widespread debate about what the working party called the "haphazard and unhelpful nature of the status quo in selection".

Goldsmith announced last December that a clearing scheme would be used, and earlier this year, a group of chambers pre-empted the Bar Council by setting up the Common Law Chambers' Pupillage Application Scheme (Compas).

Michael Spencer QC, who masterminded Compas, welcomed Pach, and said the two systems could work in tandem.

Cyril Dixon