Pupillages nosedive by 20 per cent since 2000

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  • Reducing the number of BVC places would widen access to the Bar

    The most logical explanation is that the decrease in the percentage of BVC graduates obtaining pupillage is caused by rather than despite the increased matriculation rate.

    Whilst I am sure the providers wish nothing but the best for their students, it seems clear that the present admissions policy and in particular the number of BVC places available are contrary to the interests of many of those undertaking the course. For the majority who seek but do not obtain pupillage, the benefit of fifteen minutes of advocacy training per week plus a miscellany of non-transferrable knowledge and skills is far outweighed by cost of time and money that they incur.

    If admissions criteria were made more stringent and the difficulty of the course increased, then not only would a larger percentage of graduates obtain pupillage, but as importantly, chambers might come to view a strong performance on the BVC as sufficient proof in itself of a candidate's ability, thus enabling those coming to the Bar as a second career and those with less strong undergraduate degrees to prove their ability. The somewhat counterintuitive conclusion to be drawn is that a significant reduction in the number of BVC places would actually further the important aim of widening access to the Bar.

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  • Bar pupillages

    I didn't understand quite how the BVC providers can encourage latecomers to the profession or those with less good degrees as surely these are the very groups who would be discriminated against as most likely to have difficulties obtaining pupillage.

    Why not encourage students to acquire pupillage before the BVC? This happens to a large extent with the LPC. I agree that there will still be a number of BVC grads with little or no hope of getting pupillage but there must be other jobs that they can enter. The transferability of the training is another and more difficult issue.

    One benefit of the shortfall in pupillages seems to be that those who obtain pupillage will be more likely to get tenancy. This was not the case years ago. It has been a dubious benefit of having chambers paying pupils. They are no longer free labour.

    I wonder if it would have been more honest to say that the title barrister was conferred only after pupillage, as only those who obtain contracts will become solicitors. Neither the Inns nor the Neuberger Report grasped that nettle but it would seem more honest and more realistic. Perhaps the slight increase in employed barristers could also help as pupillages could be completed there. I suggest that quite different shifts in attitude and approach towards practice are acquired in the academic stage, the vocational stage at BVC, and in the course of practical training, and then in practice itself. It's almost like different stages of initiation.

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  • The BVC Back Door

    Perhaps most BVC students do aspire to become practicing barristers, but plainly many who undertake the course recognise they have almost no prospect gaining one. So why would someone spend a year of their life and a considerable amount of money undertaking the BVC?

    A large part of the explanation may lie in the fact that the BVC provides a back door route to qualification as a solicitor that bypasses the need to overcome the greatest hurdle for an aspiring solicitor – completing a training contract. Once a student has completed the BVC he or she need only gain two years experience as a paralegal and then sit the QLTT to become a qualified solicitor (see Reg. 6 Qualified Lawyers Transfer Regulations 1990).

    A 2007 BVC graduate can qualify as a solicitor by the end of 2009. A 2007 LPC graduate (who did not secure a training contract while a student) will currently be applying for training contracts starting in 2010 knowing that it will be 2012 before he or she can qualify. Frankly, if you have completed your first degree, have not secured a training contract and face the prospect of another year of study and yet more expense you may be better advised to undertake the BVC than waste your time with the LPC which is an almost meaningless qualification if you can not find a training contract.

    This raises the issue of whether the BVC back door makes a mockery of the system that is intended to ensure the quality of solicitors by offering a way on to the roll without completing either the LPC or a training contract…

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