Pach no solution to bar troubles

Write to: The Editor, The Lawyer, 50 Poland Street, London W1V 4AX, fax 0171 970 4640, e-mail, DX44700 Soho Square.

Jonathan Hirst identifies a number of problems with the bar's Pupillage Applications Clearing House (Pach) scheme (The Lawyer, 17 January). But he omits to mention the most important problem of all – that the great majority of Pach applicants do not get a pupillage. In 1998-99 there were 1,981 applicants chasing 442 pupillages – the average applicant had a 22 per cent chance of obtaining a pupillage. Mature applicants (those over 25) found their chances were even smaller.

Jonathan's suggestion that the employed bar should provide an additional 65 pupillages would make very little difference to the overall picture, raising the average applicant's chances from 22 per cent to 25 per cent.

It might even be counter-productive, creating a new bottleneck further down the line, as more fully-qualified barristers compete for the same number of career posts. As with other Bar Council schemes, this one has not been thought through.

The logical solution would be to restrict the number of barristers being trained to those who are actually needed. But this is resisted by the Bar Council on the grounds that it is "inappropriate to express a view as to whether the situation (over-production of barristers) is desirable or not". Until a rational solution is found, potential entrants to the bar should seriously consider becoming solicitors.

Dr Peter Gray, barrister