This blog represents my views and opinions. They are not necessarily those of any other member of my Chambers, none of whom contribute to the blog, or assist me with it.


Now moved to http://pupillageandhowtogetit.wordpress.com/ for reasons of convenience and ease. Come and see.

Thursday, 11 October 2007


Ask and ye shall receive. Anon left what appears below as a comment on the previous post. But given that s/he has responded quickly, bravely and comprehensively, I post it so it can be given proper prominence.

"I think your post raises a number of issues; I can't hope to cover all of them in 1 reply, so I'll deal with the principal ones for the time being. I'll nail my colours to the mast and admit that I'm linked to one Provider (a very good one at that) and that I've posted a number of times on your Blog. Apologies, therefore, if I repeat points I've already made.

1). The idea that (all?) BVC Providers are engaged in extortion is, in my view, offensive. As I've said before, the level of fees is driven by the demands of the Bar Council in terms of resources, the fact that the Course is a true cost course (not "subsidised" by HEFCE) and the fact that, like it or not, Tutors with real practical experience (and we have some who sit as Deputy DJ's etc.) don't come cheap.
The figures in respect of BVC places versus pupillages aren't hidden and anyone with a genuine commitment to the profession should be able to carry out their own research. No Provider forces students onto its Course - in fact we turn away more than three quarters of those who apply.

2). The idea that you can spot an Outstanding student on day 1 is, in my view, outlandish and smacks of a colouring of judgment or a self-fulfilling prophecy. There are 13 Assessment points on the BVC, the overall grade of Outstanding requiring 8 awards of Oustanding in individual assessments or an aggregate of 85%. Given that many students will have no experience of the vast majority of skills / subjects taught, it would be impossible to identify an "all-rounder" at this early stage.

3). Some Providers hand out awards of Outstanding and Very Competent like Smarties, potentially undermining other Providers' efforts. Fortunately we can rely on our reputation but it does make one wonder whether some students simply look for the "easy" Course.

4). We should ask ourselves why the BSB doesn't police Providers' validated numbers more rigorously / at all. Allowing certain Providers to routinely exceed their numbers distorts the market and may very well have consequences in respect of student quality / satisfaction.

5). We score every application in respect of A levels, degree expected / attained, mini pupillages undertaken, experience of contested advocacy / public speaking etc. Convince me that an admissions test would better this and please explain your barrister sift to a barrister of >15 years' call - is it an interview, is it by committee or by 1 individual, what criteria would be employed etc.

Does this kickstart your debate?"

To answer the last question: Yes. Thank you.

I shall deal with the sift when I'm not doing an opening in a particularly unpleasant cruelty case, whilst simultaneously preparing to cross-examine 4 medical experts in a second case and trying to sort out a strike-out application in a third. Of course, like all barristers, when I'm not that busy I panic that no one wants me. Chambers is used to it.


Anonymous said...

In regard to -

Point 1)

"No Provider forces students onto its Course - in fact we turn away more than three quarters of those who apply."

I would say that around 50% of people who want to take the BVC end up getting a place. There are some BVC providers who regularly let people on with a 2.2. Whilst this may not be extortion it may serve to convince them that they have a chance of a job when the reality is that they have none.

Point 3)

This basically confirms what we already know, which is that almost everyone gets a VC.

Point 4)

This actually contradicts point one as it shows that providers are forcing students on to courses. The provider is offering the course to someone who should not be offered a place.

Point 5)

BVC providers obviously have a vested interest keeping the high number of BVC places. A new BVC has opened up at Birmingham - why??? It is not like the system needs another 50 pupillage applicants. The reason is that the providers know they can make more money out of it.

Anonymous said...

I took the BVC at Northumbria in 2005 - 2006. I knew what I was up against from the beginning. It was made clear through my own pre-course research and by tutors that it was a long, hard road to pupillage and that the odds suggested, that being from a Middlesbrough working-class family, it is unlikely that I will gain pupillage.

I kept my head down, worked hard and obtained a 2:1 and a VC. My experience includes a mini pupillage, marshalling (a few times), time spent with solicitors, lots of time spent with a local prosecutor (Mags), an advocacy exercise before a circuit judge (praised for advocacy here), mooting and just about to start volunteering in a Brisbane based community legal centre.

Yeah, it will be hard, but I would rather that than be handed something on a plate. I'm living in Brisbane now getting some life/legal/different experience which will hopefully stand me in good stead with the next round of applications. And most importantly I'm having a great time.

I for one will not give up, this is definitely the career for me. I'm just taking the scenic route, that's all!

Lighten up everyone. I don't have what I want but I'm not going to sit here and blame everyone else, I'm trying to do something about it! Oh, and Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

In response to the above comment -

I admire your dedication and commitment. If you carry on working hard one day you may get where you want to go.

Interesting that you are in Queensland, by any chance are you looking to take the Bar over there and then return to the UK and get a pupillage exemption (believe me, I considered it myself)?

Sadly some of us do not have the luxury of spending years chasing pupillage, either because we are slightly older or need to earn some money.

Paralgaling is badly paid, almost to the point of exploitation because there are so many BVCers / LPCers who can’t get a pupillage / training contract and are willing to paralegal for little more then expenses just to make the contacts.

As a LLM student I have given up on the Bar for the time being and am looking to join a graduate recruitment scheme. Some of them are very well paid, almost to the point that you would earn more then you would practising criminal law. I might carry on applying for pupillage then take the BVC if and when I get an offer. It seems far more logical then forking out £12,000 on a chance card.

Amanda said...


In reply to anonymous above...

I considered taking the Bar here when I first came; it took a while to get information regarding the status of my qualifications - they really are very laid back when it comes to paperwork. It was going to cost around $18,000 without books etc and take 1 1/2 years so I decided to work. If you come on a study visa it will be more as you are required to take more modules to fill your timetable.

If we decide to stay permanently then I definitely will take that route, but for now I'm happy working for Qld Parliament, in a legal committee - with the added bonus that I have paid off my BVC loan in full with my wages. I was talking to a barrister who said he would take me on as a pupil if my qualifications were accepted, and he had only just met me - so yes, it can be easier to get a pupillage here.

The BVC teaches many skills that can be utilised in many jobs and situations. I don't think it was a waste of time or money - and it's not as hard as many people make out either! If you do decide to undertake the BVC, just make sure you enjoy it or it will seem much harder.

Get some mini-pupillages etc in now and make contacts before you start, you may even get some funding towards it.

By the way Simon, thanks for the blog it's great - a bit miserable of late though. Maybe we could get some happiness coursing through the blogs from now on, hey?

Anonymous said...

A serious question for anyone who has taken the BVC but not got pupillage:

Do you ever worry that you will be forever tagged as someone who couldn't make it at the Bar?

If I was an employer and a non-practising barrister came for an interview my first question would be to ask them why they aren't practising.

Anonymous said...

In response to the last comment..is the answer to your question never to take the BVC because you might not get pupillage?

There are people out there (and I know of at least three) who passed their BVC with flying colours but just can't find pupillage. There's always the chance it won't happen for you.

Legal Lass said...

Based purely on anecdotal evidence, I have heard that if you don't get pupillage, lots of firms will pay you handsomely (£60k in the city) for your services...

I also heard recently, of a girl who got pupillage on her fifth year of applying to the same sets because she had taken their feedback seriously every year and worked really hard to mitigate each of the criticisms... Eventually one of the sets said they would reward her tenacity...and she had a 2:2 and really dodgy A-levels...

Food for thought... however rare that situation must be.

I also agree with Amanda in that this blog has been a little cold and vaguely depressing recently... is it just because winter is settling in?

(Although I confess my blog has hardly been a barrel of laughs over the last month...)


ICSL grad said...

Re the BVC - it's odd that the provider that "Anon" (whose comment is posted) represents has a different criterion for Outstanding than did mine (8 Outstandings v. 6 Outstandings at ICSL) as well as the stats from Simon's acquaintance's provider being pretty inconsistent with mine (89% VC or Outstanding v. about 50% in mine, followed by about 25% Competents and 25% Fails) - is there room for any moderation among the providers? 4-5% got Outstanding at ICSL so I certainly wouldn't consider that being handed out "like Smarties", even if the criterion is easier to satisfy than that at Anon's provider.

Legal Lass I reeeeeeally doubt that every failed BVC graduate has a 60K city job waiting for them - it is so easy to get onto the BVC, so those sorts of jobs can only await the very bright ones I would have thought.

Anonymous said...

Yes, my post should have read 6 "Outstandings," as per every Provider. (Darkened room, I'm no touch typist and I have fingers like Homer Simpson)!