Bar Council urges sets to hire pupils early

Wannabe barristers may be able to apply for pupillages before they embark on the Bar Vocational Course, under new proposals to improve student funding being considered by the Bar Council

As revealed on www. on 20 November, the Bar Council announced it was scrapping Sir Robin Mountfield’s plan to impose a levy on the wealthiest members of the profession, after it was roundly rejected by barristers.

However, Bar chairman David Bean QC has said a new set of proposals to decrease student debt will be presented within four months. Michael Brindle QC, chair of the Commercial Bar Association, said a scheme to bring the recruitment process forward by a year was among the ideas being considered.

Under the current system, graduates embark on the BVC course without having first secured a pupillage. As a result, many would-be barristers are deterred from joining the profession by the prospect of enormous debts. The majority of law firms have sidestepped this issue by recruiting trainees two years in advance and offering to pay their course fees and some living expenses.

Nigel Bastin, head of the Bar Council’s education and training committee, said: “Chambers can already recruit early and many do – particularly the commercial sets. The suggestion is that we should encourage more to do so. However, those that don’t recruit early will require some persuasion. They like to interview students when they’ve had some experience of the BVC. One thing is clear – it would be very difficult for us, as a regulatory body, to tell chambers when they should recruit so that failure to comply would be a breach of professional conduct.”

Both Bastin and Brindle stressed that the ideas are only being considered and will be subject to full consultation with chambers. “There are all sorts of practical difficulties associated with recruiting earlier,” said Brindle. “But the solicitors have managed it so I don’t see why we shouldn’t.”