Jonathan Hirst QC, chairman of the Bar Council of England and Wales, said in a letter (The Lawyer, 20 March,) that “the profession has always taken the wellbeing of its pupils seriously”.
Has it? Or has the profession always put the wellbeing of barristers in independent practice before those seeking pupillage and tenancy.
Examine the evidence. The independent bar controls who becomes a pupil and who becomes a tenant. Success in the BVC can founder at either the pupillage or tenancy hurdle. As one of my uncles says from his days in the Navy: “Pull up the ladder I’m on board.”
There needs to be some semblance of equal access to the independent bar.
This can be done in two simple steps. Firstly, BVC providers and the bar should ensure that all successful BVC students have guaranteed access to vocational training.
Secondly, upon the successful completion of that training the barrister with his or her final practising certificate should have the option to practise as a self-employed barrister without the current obligatory need to practise from a set of chambers for three years following the conclusion of pupillage.
Gary Norton, Barrister-at-Law