Christine Kings, senior clerk at Geoffrey Robertson's Doughty Street Chambers, advocates a common educational programme for both solicitors and barristers owing to the shortage of tenancies.
Kings says: “Many people come through and don't get a tenancy, and other people start out as solicitors because they have more prospect of a steady income, then go on to become barristers later.
“There is no doubt that people without a family income are struggling to get through the courses and the Bar still has a tendency to recruit well-educated upper middle class people irrespective of their merits.”
She says: “While I have no direct experience of BVCs, I have had feedback that the courses are really average and not terribly exciting or demanding.”
Doughty Street specialises in civil liberties and defending freedoms, as well as undertaking a wide range of work including contract, medical negligence and defamation.
Until the Bar Council introduced the Pach system (Pupillage Applications Clearing House), whereby students apply to up to 12 chambers on one form, Doughty Street purposely excluded the place of study from the candidate's application form since that may have been affected by some factors other than merit.
Kings says: “Candidates may have a 2:2 or a first class degree, but the most important thing is that they can show evidence that they have done something for other people, such as trade union work or community work, and not been totally dedicated to furthering their own career.”