For whom the dinner bell tolls

THE AGE-old tradition requiring would-be barristers to attend term dinners is in line for a major shake-up which could even herald its demise.

An Inns of Court working party report on plans to deregulate training and defer call to the Bar recommends a reduction in the number of dinners students have to have from 18 to 12. It also suggests that training sessions could provide a useful substitute for dinners.

The Bar plans to allow colleges outside London to run the vocational course.

Although keen to preserve the Bar's “collegiate” traditions, the committee fears provincial students would resent the expense of travelling to the capital too often for dinners.

“Those who seek rights of audience as barristers must accept the obligation to participate…in the life of an Inn in London. Nevertheless, it must be recognised that the Inns need to demonstrate to those student members who are out of London that the keeping of terms is a valuable element of their collegiate life.”

The report says students should not have to join an Inn until after the first six months of pupillage, when they would be called to the Bar under the deferral proposals.

It addresses employed barristers' fears that deferral plans would disenfranchise them by requiring them to serve six months in chambers before they could be employed as barristers. Six-month in-house pupillage should qualify them for call, the report says.

Brigadier Charles Wright of Middle Temple said: “If deferral goes ahead, then the committee has proposed some very sensible recommendations.”