Inspectors to probe chambers training

CHAMBERS may be subjected to regular inspections to check up on how they are treating their pupils as part of an overhaul of the pupillage system designed to boost its credibility.

A working party of The Bar Council and the Inns of Courts has released a consultation document which outlines a series of options for the monitoring of the pupillages.

The group's most radical proposal would see a team of inspectors visit sets which undertake the training of pupils every three years to check up on them.

It is suggested that monitoring teams, established by the Inns of Court, should interview pupils about their experiences in the set, as well as inspecting training documents held by chambers.

The report also suggests that chambers which reach the highest standards should be awarded a Kite mark in recognition of the quality of training on offer at the set.

The inspection proposal is one of three alternative systems for monitoring pupillages outlined by the working party, headed by Peter Gross QC.

The other two alternatives would require the filing of regular reports on the progress of pupillages by chambers and their pupils. However, the working group warns that the schemes could create a mountain of paperwork.

The working group was set up following the recommendations of an earlier working party on pupillages, set up by Mr Justice Hooper, which criticised the lack of any effective monitoring of pupillages.

Bar Council head of education and training Nigel Bastin, a member of the working party, stressed no particular scheme was being favoured in the consultation exercise.

“The Bar Council is committed to monitoring pupillages,” he said. “There are three alternatives and we are seeking the views of the profession. When we have received them we will draw up our proposals.”

Christine Kings, practice manager at Doughty Street Chambers and chair of the Legal Practice Management Group, had not yet been set the consultation document.

But she said: “I think inspection teams sound like a good idea as long as they are practicable and pupils feel they can speak freely.”

She added that some kind of pupillage monitoring was essential given the “horror stories” she regularly heard about pupillages.