Inns of Court qualifying dinners to stay after revamp of barrister training

The Inns of Court qualifying sessions will continue to be a part of training to be a barrister, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has announced.

The qualifying sessions at the four Inns (Lincoln’s, Gray’s, Middle Temple and Inner Temple) have been a traditional part of being called to the Bar for hundreds of years.

Students have to complete 12 qualifying sessions before they can be called and become a practising barrister. Most students do these sessions by attending 12 dinners, though they can also go on training weekends where they learn from qualified barristers.

The tradition divides opinion, with some arguing it “can be intimidating and weird for people who aren’t Oxbridge or public schooled” while others praise it for invoking the feeling of “being let into a special club.”

One of the questions the BSB considered in its recent consultation on barrister training and qualification was whether the dinners should be scrapped.

It has now decided not to do so and will “continue to require a minimum number of professional development events provided by the Inns which are known as qualifying sessions”.

A BSB policy statement added that it believed the Inns of Court still has an important role to play in the training of barristers and that students will still be required to be a member of an Inn.

It said: “The BSB believes that the content of qualifying sessions should… focus on public interest matters such as the advocate’s role in the rule of law and integrating trainees into a ‘community of practice’ through interactions with more experienced practitioners and the judiciary. The Inns are uniquely placed to provide this important function and the BSB will consider in more detail how many sessions would be appropriate and the detail of the oversight arrangements to be put in place.”

“More of this activity should be available to prospective barristers outside London, through coherent collaboration between the Inns, circuits and regional training providers.”

The BSB’s director of strategy and policy Ewen MacLeod said: “We would like to thank all those who contributed to our recent consultation. The Inns of Court play an important role throughout a barrister’s career and most of the consultation responses that we received reflect a desire for their continued involvement before prospective barristers are Called to the Bar and while they are still learning.”

“It was felt by most respondents that both student membership of an Inn and participating in a minimum number of qualifying sessions add real value to barrister training. These policy decisions will inform the new training regulations and the BSB will now work with the Inns to clarify roles and responsibilities in more detail.”

The question of how barristers train and qualify in future has been closely examined in the last two years as the BSB seeks reform of the process. It is likely that as with the solicitors profession there will new pathways to qualification, as well as significant changes to Bar Professional Training Course.

Dining your way to the Bar