The Bar Standard Board’s (BSB) has announced a modest increase in the minimum funding for would-be barristers doing their pupillage. The new minimum wage for pupils will be set at £12,000 as of September 2011 – up from the current £10,000.
The funding increase, recommended in a report chaired by Derek Wood QC of Falcon Chambers, is intended to be rolled out as part of wider BSB plans, which will see the Bar Vocational Course replaced by the Bar Professional Training Course this autumn.
Wood said: “There had been a question over whether pupillages should be funded at all. But that would be very bad in terms of recruitment and would close the profession off to those who couldn’t afford it.”
The pupillage report, which forms the second part of a three-step review of all stages of education for practice at the bar, also concluded that the profession is “far more meritocraticthan it’s perceived to be”.
It found that the numbers of men and women undertaking pupillage are nearly equal and more than 22 per cent of pupils are from ethnic minority backgrounds.
A large proportion of pupils (40 per cent) also come from non-Russell Group universities. On average 26 per cent of pupils had first class degrees, just over 60 per cent had upper second class and 10 per cent had lower second class degrees.
Other recommendations included the introduction of a handbook that would clearly set out a framework that should be followed to ensure consistency across every pupillage.
“It’s essential that the bar modernises its approach to pupillage. While there’s a lot to be commended in the present system, it also presents challenges in the extent to which it meets modern expectations for a properly supervised system of vocational training and preparation for practice,” insisted Wood.