Bar School set to lose monopoly on training

ASPIRING solicitors and barristers may be sitting side by side in the same lecture room in less then three years' time, according to the consultation paper on the ending of the Bar School's training monopoly.

The paper goes on to acknowledge that the future of separate vocational courses for solicitors and barristers may be limited in the light of an

"increasing demand" for common training.

It is also candid on the likely effects of the Bar Council's decision in principal to delay call to the Bar until after completion of the first six months pupillage.

It says this, together with the cost of training, will "discourage those who only wish to achieve the nominal qualification and have no real determination to enter independent practice at the Bar".

Council of Legal Education secretary John Taylor says several institutions have already expressed interest in running the vocational course and says he envisages a handful across the country taking it up.

But he adds: "We are concerned that the number of institutions coming forward must be appropriate to the student demand. We don't want to see too many coming forward and then discovering they can't sustain the courses."

The consultation paper on validation produced by the Bar Council and the Council of Legal Education calls for the ending of the Bar School's monopoly in 1997.

It expects colleges already running the Legal Practice Courses to be interested in training aspiring barristers and does not rule out joint classes.

Although the paper predicts training will only rarely overlap, it adds: "Where they exist, the two courses can certainly be taught in common, provided the aims of the Bar Vocational Course are met, and the interests of students from both sides of the legal profession are safeguarded."

The committee, chaired by Peter Goldsmith QC and Mr Justice Latham, makes no bones about the tight deadline for the ending of the Bar School's monopoly. It puts the urgency of the review down to the problems posed by the Inns of Court School of Law's policy of limiting the number of successful applicants which was given only limited approval by the Lord Chancellor.

Last year the school faced judicial reviews from frustrated candidates when it tried to limit the number of places to 800.

The redesigned system is expected to be effective but will cost u500,000, the paper says.

The committee wants new validated courses to be running by September 1997 and admits such a short timetable means a brief period of consultation. It is due to close on 16 June.