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When it comes to training as a barrister is it still a case of who you know rather than what you know?
Barristers chambers will of course argue that securing a pupillage is based entirely on merit and has nothing to do with your family background or where you went to university. However, Im yet to be convinced. Even The Apprentice reject Nicholas De-Lacy Brown, who graduated with a first-class degree from Kings College London struggled to gain a pupillage after 18 interviews, arguing that the bar still favours Oxbridge students.
It seems that unlike the solicitors profession, which is taking noticeable steps to shrug off its elitist image the bar still has a long way to go.
As we report this week the number of Bar Vocation Course (BVC) graduates invited to take pupillage has dropped by a whopping 20 per cent since 2000, with less than a third securing pupillages last year. The alarming trend comes despite a 32 per cent increase in the number of you starting the course, according to Bar Council figures (see story).
The statistics undoubtedly make depressing reading for any aspiring barrister. However, they offer an obvious explanation of why barristers are playing catch-up with their solicitor colleagues on diversity. BVC graduates far outstrip the number of pupillage places available so its not necessary for chambers to cast their graduate recruitment nets very wide. Indeed, some sets would argue that theres absolutely no need for them to participate in any marketing activities as they already receive an overwhelming number of applications.
But surely this goes against the spirit of the report published by Lord Neuberger last November on improving access to the bar for less well-off students? The 220-page report listed 57 proposals for reform including the launch of a preferential loan scheme to help students finance the BVC. But so far theres been little evidence of the recommendations turning into actions. I just hope they arent simply forgotten. Unless the bar acts quickly students will shun the bar as being unreachable. I dont think thats in anyones interests, especially the professions.
If youve got any horror stories about your quest to secure a pupillage why not get in touch?