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North west set Exchange Chambers is ditching traditional methods of choosing pupils in favour of designing its own, customised recruitment programme.
Next year the set will withdraw from the Bar Council's online application system Olpas, instead offering an application process specifically structured for Exchange. The set has turned to Manchester recruiters Ashley Hoyle to whittle down more than 600 applications for pupillage in 2006.
"There are lots of benefits with Olpas but, for a chambers like ours, designing our own application form is a bonus," said chambers director Tom Handley.
Handley said the move came in response to rising numbers of applications, which cause administrative and logistical headaches. Exchange receives upwards of 600 applications for pupillage each year through Olpas, which allows potential pupils to apply to up to 12 chambers. However, individual sets must sort through applications themselves in order to whittle them down to a manageable shortlist.
Exchange asked Ashley Hoye to examine applications for academic achievement as well as qualities such as intellect, integrity, enthusiasm and clarity of thought and expression. Applicants were trimmed down to 30, before Exchange's pupillage committee produced a shortlist of 12, who were then interviewed. The set plans to offer two or three pupillages with a view to tenancy at the end of the year.
Handley said: "They have shortlisted probably the best quality candidates that we have ever had."