Split the BPTC in half, Bar Council suggests

The Bar Council and the Council of the Inns of Court (COIC) have proposed splitting the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) into two parts, with attendance at law school not compulsory for the first part.

Their proposal, an addendum to the BSB’s consultation on how future barristers should be trained, suggests keeping the current system of degree, followed by law school, followed by pupillage, but suggests splitting the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) into two separate parts.

Part 1 would consist of the knowledge-based parts of the course – Civil and Criminal Procedure and Evidence. However, going to law school before taking the exams for this part of the BPTC would not be compulsory. Under the new proposals, candidates would “be entitled to prepare [for the Part 1 exams] by any method they think fit or can afford, including by private study, having the choice but without the requirement of attendance at any particular provider’s course.”

Part 1 of the BPTC would need to be passed before Part 2 could be started. This would require formal attendance at law school, and would consist of the remaining skills-based elements of the BPTC, “including advocacy, drafting in all its forms and ethics, and conferencing skills.”

The Bar Council and COIC says its proposals would cut the expense of law school, as Part 1 candidates could choose not to pay for for formal tuition, and weed out weaker candidates before the second part of the BPTC started.

They added: “Providers of Part 2 would be able to concentrate on a cohort of students who had the comfort and confidence of knowing that they had already attained the standards set by the BSB in a key part of the course.”

In October, the BSB proposed three new options for qualifying as a barrister in its Future Bar Training Consultation.

The first option is 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).