AN ADVERT placed in the Pupillage Handbook by a leading set of chambers criticising the Bar's controversial pupillage clearing house scheme has infuriated the Bar Council.

In the advert, 2 Hare Court says it is not taking part in the Pach scheme because it is concerned that, in its current form, “it does not serve the best interests of applicants”.

Bar Council chair Robert Owen, in a letter circulated to members of the Commercial Bar Association, describes the advert as “offensive and wholly inappropriate”.

In the letter, he says he summoned the publisher of the handbook, GTI, to an urgent meeting as soon as he heard about the advert. GTI offered to remove it, but the head of chambers at Hare Court, Colin Ross-Munro QC, contacted Owen by fax warning him to leave the advert alone.

According to Owen's letter, Ross-Munro invited Owen to consider “whether the Bar Council would wish to commit the tort of inducing such a breach of contract”.

A showdown was only avoided when the Bar's General Management Committee met on 19 June and decided that, because the booklet had already been circulated to chambers and to some pupils, it would be impractical to remove the sheet.

However, the committee voted unanimously that similar adverts should not be allowed in the future.

The Bar is particularly sensitive to criticism of its Pach system, which is now in its second year and has been plagued with problems throughout.

Hare Court practice manager Julia Hornor said that the set thought Pach was unfair to mature students.

She said the advert was intended to make students aware that a profile of the set was in the section of the handbook which gave details of the sets of chambers that were not participating in the Pach scheme. Hornor added that said thought the Bar had overreacted to the advert.

A Bar spokeswoman said the advert contradicted “the consensus view” about the scheme and the handbook had been the “wrong forum” for the attack.