BSB moots super-exam for barristers

Aspiring barristers could have to take a new exam before they qualify depending on the outcome of a new consultation into how the profession is trained.

barrister bar bptc

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has proposed three new options for qualifying as a barrister in its Future Bar Training Consultation.

It describes the first option as an “evolutionary” approach – essentially keeping current system of academic study followed by vocational training followed by pupillage, but with tweaks.

The second option is a “managed pathways approach” where there would be a range of different ways to qualify, a similar proposition to what the SRA is currently mooting for the solicitors profession.

These various pathways could include the current system with no changes, but could also potentially allow the law degree and BPTC to be fused before pupillage; or for the BPTC and pupillage to be combined; or for a modular apprenticeship type route to qualification as a barrister.

The third option is what the BSB calls the ‘specialist Bar’ option. In this scenario, students would pass a degree and the Bar Course Aptitude Test before taking a new qualifying examination – the Bar Entrance Exam (BEE).

“This examination would cover knowledge and understanding of academic and vocational learning,” the BSB says. “Students may prepare for this exam in any way they choose.”

Unlike the proposed super-exam for solicitors, the BEE would not be taken at the point of qualification. Upon passing the exam, a three month approved skills course would then need to be taken, followed by, or possibly combined with, a period of work-based learning such as pupillage.

The skills course “might attract a fee of as much as £12,000 at a London location,” the BSB estimates, which it says would be a reduction of £7,000 from the maximum £19,000 cost of current nine-month BPTC.

The BSB makes it clear that the second, ‘managed pathways’, option is its favoured one. It says: “We think that this would be the best approach for ensuring that education and training providers can develop and offer more flexible modes of study so that that students are able to train in a way that suits them best.”

The consultation lasts until 23 December 2016 and can be found here.