Pupillage system must evolve

I fully endorse Susan Ward's viewpoint (The Lawyer, 29 September) on the outdated practices of the legal profession – and the Bar in particular.

One restrictive practice is the requirement for barristers to undertake a pupillage before being allowed to exercise rights of audience.

Fewer than half of those called to the Bar are able to obtain a pupillage. According to Bar Council figures, in 1998 there were 1,826 applications for 747 pupillages available through the Pupillage Applications Clearing House system. The remaining barristers were discarded, having spent thousands of pounds on training.

In our response to the Lord Chancellor's consultation paper on rights of audience, we propose a change in the rules to allow a practical legal "apprenticeship" to be served in ways other than a pupillage, e.g at a law centre, in a government department or with a private employer.

We also propose that it should be made easier for newly-qualified barristers to set up their own chambers. This would improve competition and flexibility in the legal services market – while the public would benefit from greater choice and lower prices.

Dr Peter Gray, Secretary, Employed and Non-Practicing Barristers' Association, pgray@gn.apc.org