Bars plan to delay call receives cold shoulder

Law schools have attacked the Bar Councils decision to defer call, warning that the move will lead to a drop in BVC applicants and a loss of talent.

Currently, BVC students are called to the bar once they have successfully completed their course, but from 2008, only those who have completed the first six months of a pupillage will be called and be allowed to call themselves a barrister.

College of Law chief executive Nigel Savage called the decision a disgrace, saying it had pulled the rug from under loads of hard-working kids.

In some overseas jurisdictions, BVC students are able to practise in their home countries once they have been called. Inns of Court School of Law dean Adrian Keane called for special provisions to be made to enable them to be called without completing pupillage here.

Savage predicted these students particularly would think twice before undertaking the course, and this is borne out by a survey of its BVC students conducted by BPP Law School. Although 9 per cent of students overall said they would not do the BVC if they did not get the title, for overseas students that figure was 16 per cent.

BPP chief executive Peter Crisp said it could affect the diversity of the profession as the expensive course fees and loss of call could deter those from disadvantaged backgrounds. He added: If 10 per cent of applicants are put off then its a smaller pool of talent available and the bar will lose these people to the solicitor profession.

Not all institutions are against the move. Nottingham Law School BVC director James Wakefield said the present situation, with the barrister title conferred after the BVC, was an anomaly. He said: I dont think students should choose to do a bar course simply to get a title. They need to have more strongly-held and deep-seated ambitions.

Bar Council head of education and training Nigel Bastin said it was in the public interest that people who are able to call themselves barristers are able to do all the things that barristers can do.

He swept aside concerns about accessibility to the profession, branding them absolute nonsense. On the issue of making special provisions for overseas students, Bastin said such a move could contravene EU and discrimination laws.