Part-time Bar work on offer

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Ronald Thwaites QC suggested in "Stemming the Bar Tide" (The Lawyer, 3 November) that a return to the Bar correspondence course would go some way to producing barristers that had "business and commercial maturity". The Inns of Court School of Law (ICSL) feels that a return to the correspondence course would be a huge backward step and our own experience leads us to believe that, contrary to Mr Thwaites' opinion, the Bar has generally welcomed the practical content of the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) – indeed it was the Bar that wanted it.

There is, however, another way of combining work and study which meets the objectives of providing experience of the real world while spreading the cost. That is through the part-time BVC developed by the ICSL. Taught in the evening, with some weekend sessions, it allows students to fund their studies without abandoning their existing employment. It has also been revolutionary in opening up the Bar to high quality candidates who hitherto thought a career at the Bar completely out of their reach. That is good news, not just for the individuals concerned, but for the whole profession.

The proving ground for this new course will be just how many students get pupillages. Early indications are encouraging. But are chambers ready for this new breed of barrister? Or is support for wider access merely window-dressing?

Professor Richard Stone, principal, Inns of Court School of Law