Bar considers aid for BVC students

The Bar Council has launched a new inquiry into student debt and its impact on access to the Bar.

David Calvert-Smith QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, has been appointed as chair of the committee, which is due to report back in July.

The committee will examine a wide range of proposals, which could include a re-evaluation of plans to tax rich lawyers in order to help support poorer students, a suggestion that was ditched by the Bar Council late last year.
Another option is to allow students to apply for pupillages before they embark on the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) – a move that makes it easier for students to borrow money.

Nigel Bastin, head of the Bar Council’s education and training committee, said: “Chambers can already recruit early, and many do – particularly the commercial sets. The suggestion is that we should encourage more to do so.
“However, those that don’t recruit early will require some persuasion. They like to interview students when they’ve had some experience of the BVC. One thing is clear: it would be very difficult for us as a regulatory body to tell chambers when they should recruit so that failure to comply would be a breach of professional conduct.”

Michael Brindle, chair of the Commercial Bar Association, said another proposal is to redirect funding into the Inns of Court to supplement existing scholarship and bursary schemes.

Both Bastin and Brindle stressed that the ideas are only being considered and would be subject to full consultation with chambers and the Inns.
Brindle added: “There is a case for funding BVC students, but it’s a difficult one.”