Bar is keen on more training

June 7, 1996

The Bar Council was bracing itself for a heated debate this weekend over plans to make law graduates complete six months training in chambers before becoming barristers.

The proposal, due to be discussed at the Bar's annual general meeting tomorrow in London, looks set to be deferred in the face of strong opposition from equal opportunities campaigners and following legal advice that it might be unlawful.

An opinion given to the Bar Council by Michael Beloff QC suggested that deferring the call to the Bar, which currently takes place at the beginning of pupillage, was likely to cause indirect discrimination to people from ethnic minority groups and women.

Research has shown that those from ethnic minority groups find it particularly hard to secure training places. Deferring call to the Bar until completion of pupillage has therefore been seen by some as another obstacle in the way of people from such groups becoming barristers.

But the Bar Council, which is due to publish its own report on pupillage soon, says the move is needed to bring barrister status in line with rules which prevent barristers from working in court until completion of their training.

It has also been seen as a useful way of preventing the profession from becoming flooded with new barristers now the Bar School's monopoly on running the Bar Vocational Course has ended and universities and colleges are bidding to enter the market.

Pressure groups such as the Association of Women Barristers say it will be hard for the Bar Council to pursue its proposal in the light of the legal advice and following on from the Bar's new equality code.

But a Bar Council spokesman said that the Council was likely to stand by the policy even if it chose to defer it. He said: "We are considering very seriously the advice we have received and we are also looking very closely at the statistics upon which the current equal opportunities information is based.

"We expect members of the Bar Council to consider the issue very closely."

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