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‘A common sense decision’: Bar Council moves Pupilage Gateway timetable

Following calls from students and chambers, the Bar Council is moving its Pupillage Gateway timetable so applicants know the outcome of their applications before committing to the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). The course can cost up to £18,000 in London.

Starting in January next year, the changes also mean pupillage interviews will no longer risk clashing with exams. Announced today (18 January), the move follows consultation conducted by the Bar Council, which amassed 126 responses, with 45 of those from chambers. The majority of chambers supported the move while the response from students was ‘overwhelmingly positive’, the Bar Council said. 

Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, chairman of the Bar, said the move was ‘a common sense decision’ by the Bar and students and that given ‘the high costs associated with the BPTC, the new Pupillage Gateway timetable, which will run from January to April as of 2017, means that at least students applying through the Gateway will know if they have pupillage before committing to the BPTC.’

‘However, this was never going to be about simply changing the date of Gateway. The Bar Council has an ongoing and crucial role to play in supporting students and pupillage providers,’ she added.

Doerries said that next year the Bar Council will attempt to raise awareness about mini-pupillages and provide support through the body’s pupillage fair, while ‘continuing to equip students with the knowledge they need before they commit to the BPTC.’

Doerries added: ‘We intend to learn from the experience of those chambers who are already recruiting earlier in the year and will work with our members to make the move work for them.’

Hardwicke Chambers barrister and chair of pupillage Stephen Lennard tells Legal Business: ‘It’s a distinct improvement to assist students who are otherwise going to be committed to considerable financial exposure without any clear understanding of whether or not they will get through the exams. It makes an enormous change to them and is eminently sensible because of the very high costs of the professional training course.’

He added: ‘Not every chambers is committed to the gateway timetable – we’re not part of the Gateway but have always complied with the timetable. Other chambers have operated differently and wanted to be able to make their own decisions. There are suggestions for bringing in mandatory compliance to the gateway timetable.’

As a requirement of the Bar Standards Board and BPTC providers, students are also required to apply to join an Inn of Court by the end of May in the year that the BPTC commences, as students are not allowed to start the BPTC without joining an Inn. Admission fees vary between the Inns, and cost about £100.

In February last year the Bar Standards Board had suggested chambers and employers should be put back in charge of planning pupillages, as it became concerned by increasing costs throughout Bar training.