Pupil barristers to be guaranteed living wage

Pupil barristers will be guaranteed the minimum living wage in future, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has decreed.

Previously, the minimum allowed pupillage award was £12,000, a figure which has been static since 2011. The BSB has published now a policy statement which says that “the minimum award paid to those undertaking pupillage or another form of work-based learning will be set in line with the wages recommended by the Living Wage Foundation, and will increase annually in line with that figure.” If the award were to have been made on this basis in 2018, it says, it would have increased from £12,000pa to £17,212.50pa in London, and £14,765.63pa outside London.

Guy Fetherstonhaugh QC, the chair of the Bar Council’s Education and Training Committee, said: “We support, in principle, the decision to bring pupillage awards in line with the Living Wage to improve access to the Bar irrespective of background. However, the impact of this on the number of pupillages on offer must be monitored (35 per cent of pupillage awards are less than £20,000 and many chambers offering the minimum pupillage award are in areas of publicly funded law, like crime, where the affordability of any increased award may be an issue and lead to the withdrawal of pupillages).

The news comes a week after the Bar Council revealed that two thirds of criminal barristers work the equivalent of one day a week for free.

Other details in the policy statement related to the Bar Proferssional Training Course. Law schools will be given greater freedom over how they teach the course, while the Civil Litigation exam will be split into two: a closed book Civil Litigation and Evidence exam and an open book Civil Dispute Resolution exam. The Professional Ethics assessment will also be broken up, into one test set by law schools and and another centrally set by the BSB during pupillage.