A NEW pupillage clearing house scheme which started interviews this week has attracted a massive 650 applications.
Compas was set up earlier this year by a group of 12 common law sets who were fed up with the current free-for-all pupillage selection system.
The scheme is spearheaded by Robert Nelson QC's 1 Paper Buildings set, Raymond Kidwell QC's set at 2 Crown Office Row and Harvey McGregor QC's chambers at 4 Paper Buildings.
Compas secretary Martin Spencer, of 4 Paper Buildings, is delighted with the response from law graduates about to embark on vocational training.
"If you think that it represents a very high proportion of the students doing the Bar course it is a very good response," he said.
A three-week interviewing period has now begun, during which time chambers will be busy quizzing applicants who impress them with their details.
At the end of that period a computer system, devised by Spencer, will marry unsuccessful applicants with spare places.
There are around 40 places on offer.
The scheme is the first attempt by any chambers to end the traditional free market pupillage selection which sees potential pupils having to send out dozens of CVs to different sets which will often stop at nothing to poach promising candidates from their rivals.
It is also one step ahead of the Bar Council's own voluntary clearing house scheme due to start next year. Bar Council chair Peter Goldsmith QC is urging all chambers to take part in the Bar's scheme.
But Spencer said the chambers in Compas would only decide whether to join the Bar scheme after this year's interviewing was completed.
He said there was concern among some barristers that the Bar Council scheme was not compulsory and that strong sets who remained outside it would still be able to poach the best candidates.
"We feel we have got protection from that happening as all the chambers in Compas are extremely strong and we are confident we have attracted the best candidates."