L-plate barristers 'deserve better'

June 14, 1996

Trainee barristers deserve more money and better safeguards on the quality of their apprenticeships, according to a Bar Council report published this week.

It recommends a minimum grant of Pounds 5,000 per six months of training, upgraded annually in line with inflation. This compares to the current Pounds 3,000.

The proposals from a working group on pupillage allow sets of chambers to offer some unfunded pupillages on the grounds that compulsory financial support would lead to a reduction in the number of training places.

But the group urges the Bar Council to encourage chambers that offered only unfunded or poorly funded pupillages to raise the amount of the awards.

Bar Council figures for October last year show that 53 per cent of pupillages are either unfunded or funded at or below the recommended minimum. This is despite the fact that many students complete the Bar Vocational Course with debts of over Pounds 10,000.

The group calls for the compilation of a Bar Council list of part-time job opportunities compatible with pupillage for those with unfunded training places.

It also wants tighter regulations on the approval and registration of pupil masters and mistresses in charge of training, and for students to have more channels for making complaints.

Chambers should be able to obtain a kite-mark from the Bar Council to show they have the necessary quality assurance procedures in place to offer students a high standard of training.

The report was published on the heels of a Bar Council decision to drop proposals to defer call to the Bar until the completion of at least six months' training.

Bar chairman David Penry-Davey said the plans had been put on ice for two years in the light of advice from Michael Beloff QC that the move could potentially constitute indirect discrimination against ethnic minorities.

The Bar Council would look at the proposals again in 1999 to gauge the impact of new equal opportunities measures such as the recently adopted equality code for the Bar.

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