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MORE than 300 pupillages have been left unfilled by the Bar Council's pupillage clearing house system Pach, leading to fears among students that the scheme has dramatically reduced the number of places that are on offer.
The Pach scheme was designed to bring order to the annual pupillage free-for-all, but its failure to allocate 320 pupillages has led to claims that it has made things worse.
Some chambers have already decided to pull out of the scheme this year, including the leading commercial set One Hare Court, headed by Sir Patrick Neill QC and Richard Southwell QC.
But the Bar Council will be lobbying furiously to persuade most of the 243 chambers in the scheme to stay on board.
A working party, headed by Stephen Kramer QC, has already circulated an interim report to chambers with suggestions on how to improve Pach. They include the allocation of more resources to cope with the "higher than expected level of applications".
At the Inns of Court School of Law (ICSL), students are terrified that chambers which have taken part in Pach will have expended their resources on the scheme and will not offer any unfilled pupillages.
John Taylor, secretary at the ICSL, added: "We are concerned that the number of pupillages on offer this year does not fall and want to encourage chambers which have places to continue interviewing."
Nigel Bastin, head of the Bar Council's education unit, said it was difficult to assess how many pupillages were still available and suggested some chambers were unhappy with the quality of applicants.