Training revamp could place Chambers under microscope

CHAMBERS may be subjected to regular inspection visits in order to check up on how they are treating their pupils as part of an overhaul of the pupillage system in a bid to boost its flagging credibility.

A working party of The Bar Council and the Inns of Courts has released a consultation document which outlines a series of options for the monitoring of the pupillages.

The group's most radical proposal would see a team of inspectors visit sets that undertake the training of pupils every three years to check up on their training methods.

It is suggested that monitoring teams, established by the Inns of Court, should interview pupils about their experiences, as well as inspecting training documents held by chambers.

The report also recommends that those chambers that reach the highest standards should be awarded a kite mark in recognition of the quality of training on offer at the set.

The inspection proposal is one of three alternative systems for monitoring pupillages outlined by the working party, headed by Peter Gross QC.

The other two proposals both involve the filing of regular reports on the progress of pupillages by chambers and their pupils, but the group warns the schemes could create a mountain of paperwork.

The working party was set up following the recommendations of an earlier group on pupillages put together by Mr Justice Hooper, which criticised the lack of effective monitoring of pupillages.

Bar Council head of education and training Nigel Bastin, a working party member, stressed no particular scheme was being favoured in the consultation exercise. “The Bar Council is committed to monitoring pupillages. There are three alternatives and we are seeking the views of the profession. When we have received them, we will draw up our proposals,” he said.

Christine Kings, practice manager of Doughty Street Chambers and chair of the Practice Managers Group, who had not yet received the consultation document, said: “I think inspection teams sound like a good idea as long as they are practicable and pupils feel they can speak freely.” She said some kind of monitoring was essential given the “horror stories” which abounded about pupillages.