Chris's story

January 21, 2000

Five years after embarking on a law degree at University College London and spending tens of thousands of pounds on the way, Chris will next year begin the final year of training on the road to becoming a barrister. Last year, after successfully completing his Pounds 7,000 Bar vocational course, he fell at the final hurdle. Twenty applications to chambers, to take him on for a one-year pupillage, were unsuccessful.

A few thousand pounds more in debt, he is now sitting an MPhil in criminology at Cambridge, which appears to have given him the edge: he has secured a pupillage for next year.

"Only about 40 per cent of people on the Bar vocational course get a pupillage," he says. "I wasn't aware of how difficult it would be. It's the equivalent of one year on-the-job work experience, and most are unpaid. You wouldn't think after completing a degree and the Bar vocational course you would have any problems, but the competition is incredible."

The expense is huge. "Debts ofPounds 20,000-Pounds 30,000 are not uncommon," he says. "And if you do not get a salary with your pupillage, as many don't, it's a massive financial risk."

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