Inspectors to probe chambers training

CHAMBERS will for the first time be exposed to Bar Council inspection visits as part of a new scheme to improve the quality of pupillage training.

Under the scheme, approved at a Bar Council meeting on 26 July, Bar Council inspection teams, headed by senior members of the Bar, will monitor the quality of the pupillages conducted by all sets of chambers.

The teams will examine pupillage documentation, conduct regular reviews of chambers and send them reports on the quality of the training they offer.

If training is not up to scratch, it is hoped an informal approach to the head of chambers will resolve the problem – but as a last resort members of errant chambers can be disciplined for breaching the Bar's code of conduct.

The Bar's move to toughen up the monitoring of pupillages coincides with a damning Law Society report into legal training which shows alarming levels of discrimination in both branches of the profession.

The survey, which has followed the progress of 4,000 law students through their training since 1993, has found that 28 per cent of those students who had opted to become barristers say they have experienced discrimination or harassment during their pupillages.

The figure is twice as high as that for trainee solicitors – one in 10 believe they have suffered from discrimination – and Bar Council head of training Nigel Bastin said that he hoped the new scheme would help stamp out discrimination.

But he added that it was an extremely difficult problem to put right.

He said: “We get people contacting us at the moment, but they will not give their name and they will not give the name of their chambers for fear it may jeopardise their career.”