Bringing order to the scramble for places

As the brainchild of Michael Spencer QC and Christopher Purchas QC, Compas was the long-awaited pupillage clearing house scheme, devised to prevent the huge duplication of work chambers and students face during pupillage selection.

The 11 chambers eventually involved in the scheme were also saved the arduous task of sifting through a large number of applications from unsuitable candidates. The scheme provided a computer printout of the brief details of each candidate from which chambers could request further details of those applicants in whom they had an interest. This was thought to be an "excellent idea" and assisted them enormously by cutting their workload by at least half. Other chambers have said their workload was also cut substantially.

It was also hoped a scheme such as Compas would prevent the unhealthy competition which arises with chambers interviewing earlier each year to "bag" the best students. To prevent this Compas worked under strict rules and to a strict timetable for both the applicants and chambers.

There were over 950 requests for application forms with 655 completed forms returned by the closing date of 1 September; Compas secretary Martin Spencer was "staggered by the response" as the interest was far more intense than had been imagined at the outset.

It was feared that perhaps the best 10 applicants would be interviewed by all chambers and that the scheme would appear unfair in this respect but these fears were unfounded as more than 100 applicants were interviewed with over 60 appearing on the list of choices submitted by the chambers participating in Compas. Four Paper Buildings said "that without any doubt the applicants they had seen this year were of a higher standard than they had interviewed in the past".

It was evident during the selection process that the power of the chambers involved in Compas fended off some of the competition as many candidates who had been offered pupillage with a chambers outside the scheme waited to hear whether or not they had been successful with Compas before making their decisions.

Applicants, successful or not, have praised the scheme not only for reducing the workload but also because they believed they were had a fairer chance at securing pupillage.

Compas is now closed as all the pupillage places have been filled. The scheme has worked amazingly well in almost all aspects and it has been gratifying to have such a positive response from both the applicants and chambers involved.

This year Compas selected 12 prominent chambers in the civil field. The Bar Council is proposing a scheme next year to cover all chambers regardless of their speciality. This may not be practical. Even with only 11 chambers, the Compas administration was enormous. With the inclusion of the whole Bar this administration would need an army to produce the results sought by the Bar Council.

Compas' success is also due to the attention which Martin Spencer devoted to it during the selection process; this would not be possible with a scheme as large as the Bar proposes.

Also an applicant who has been unsuccessful with Compas has a "safety net" of chambers outside the scheme they can apply to. If all chambers are involved, an unsuccessful applicant has nowhere else to go.