Bar finalises pupillage system

BAR Council chair Peter Goldsmith has urged chambers to support a new pupillage clearing house system to put an end to the current “chaotic” free-for-all selection system.

The Bar Council unanimously approved the proposed Pupillage Applications Clearing House system (PACH) at its meeting on Saturday 8 July.

The system, which is to be based on the long-established clearing scheme for universities, will be set up next year on a voluntary basis.

The Lawyer understands that the Bar Council ruled out a compulsory system at an early stage because of limits to its powers to impose such a system on chambers.

One leading London set, which supports the proposals, has voiced concerns that many might refuse to join the scheme, effectively neutering it.

Doughty Street Chambers practice manager Christine Kings says: “I'm not terribly optimistic. The meetings that I've been to suggest that a number of chambers might value their independence more than the needs of pupils.”

The scheme, one of Goldsmith's key initiatives for his year at the head of the Bar Council, was developed by Michael Beloff QC.

He says the sets which had responded to the consultation document prepared by the Bar Council were all in favour of the scheme and is confident it will receive wide support.

“I think it is one of the most important issues which faces the Bar,” he says.

Goldsmith adds: “This system will put an end to chaotic selection procedures, burdensome to students and chambers alike, and help the Bar choose – on merit alone – the best and brightest to be the barristers of the 21st century.”

The PACH scheme would feature a standard application form with a unified timetable for applications and interviews. There would also be a pool for unsuccessful candidates.

The initiative will be similar to the Compas scheme set up this year by a group of London common law sets.