Bar course under threat as US company closes

WEST Bar Review, the US company which oversees one of only two London-based training courses for lawyers who want to sit the New York Bar exams, is being closed down by its owner, West Group.

But Central Law Training (CLT), which runs the course under contract from West Bar Review, insists that its September and January courses will go ahead.

The claim is at odds with a statement issued on 21 August by the Minneapolis-based West Group that all West Bar Review operations would cease as the training division was no longer a long-term strategic fit for the company.

A spokeswoman for West Group said last week that letters were going out to students on all the courses informing them of the arrangements for the immediate closure of all the West Bar Review courses.

She said she was unaware of any special arrangements for the London course allowing them to stay open longer.

Fifty students – many of them UK-qualified lawyers who are seeking openings in the US – have signed up to the course later this month at London's New Connaught Rooms.

CLT acknowledged that after January it may have to seek a new partner or run the course on its own if it wants it to continue.

CLT director Paul Whitehouse said he was in contact with West Bar Review last week and that the training body was still very much open.

“It is still early days, we have a contract to run the course and we have a current licence. The material for the course is created 12 months at a time,” said Whitehouse.

“If, ultimately, we are unable to continue our relationship with West Bar Review, we could work with other people or we might wish to run our own training course,” he said.

Professor Cedrick Bell of Holborn Law Tutors, a private law school which runs London's other US Bar training courses, refused to comment directly on CLT's situation.

However, he said that 30 students, which is more than usual, had signed up to its next course, which is due to begin in the middle of October.

“We're just concentrating on getting our own course right,” said Professor Bell.