Mini pupillage becomes work experience in private school auction row

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has requested that Westminster School change the name of its mini-pupillage auction to work experience amid controversy over the sale of a work placement.

The bar regulator contacted the £30,000-a -year school earlier this week after it launched a mini-pupillage auction to raise money for a new building (15 May 2013).

After meeting with the school the BSB said the mini-pupillage was in fact a work experience placement, however it is not clear how the two placements differ.

A BSB spokesperson said: “We have looked into this issue and are satisfied that the auction offers work experience, which is distinct from a mini-pupillage that could be used as part of the formal recruitment process to becoming a barrister. As such, this falls outside of our regulatory remit.”

The school has complied with the request but the description of the placement on its site remains the same. It reads: “The lucky winner will have the opportunity to gain an insight into the working life of a criminal defence barrister, attending court and observing a criminal trial. They will also have the opportunity to meet the barrister beforehand and read the case papers so that they can be fully au fait with the issues before the trial starts.”

Social Mobility Foundation chief executive David Johnston slammed the concept of an auction, commenting that it illustrated nepotism in the profession.

“A lot of people say it’s only a week of experience so it doesn’t matter, but in that week you can get insider knowledge and key contacts that will help hugely to how you approach a job application,” he said. “Just a short amount of time with an organisation can get you these key tips and connections.”