Bar figures highlight dismal prospects for trainees

Topics: Regulation and compliance,The Bar

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Statistics released by the Bar Standards Board have highlighted the dismal prospects for students hoping to obtain a bar pupillage, with the top providers failing to get even a third of their students into chambers.

BPP’s London branch had the best record between 2011 and 2013 of students getting pupillages. However despite this, the figures show that 72% of its students starting the course in 2011, 2012 or 2013 are still yet to begin a pupillage.


And of those who began the course in 2013, only 17% have started in chambers.


The University of Northumbria was revealed as the worst at getting students to pupillage, with just 3% of students from those three years having started a pupillage. And out of those starting the course in 2013, none of its 48 students had commenced a pupillage yet.

Meanwhile at Cardiff University just 6% of students had obtained a pupillage, with just one of 51 students in 2013 starting their final level of training before becoming a barrister. 

The University of Law’s London branch and City Law School came joint second with 22% of their students starting a pupillage.

The statistics come as the bar regulator consults on changes to the bar training course, after barristers, pupils and students condemned the course as too expensive and poor value for money when responding to a review on training at the bar.

One of the changes the regulator has proposed is preventing candidates with a 2:2 degree from being accepted onto the bar training course.

The statistics published today showed that 26% of students starting a course in 2011, 2012 or 2013 had a lower second-class degree.

The University of Northumbria told the Gazette that six of its 2013 intake had obtained pupillages, but this had not been recorded by the BSB as the regulator’s figures were based on those starting pupillages before 24 July 2015.

Its students started their pupillages in September/October this year. 

Anna Banfield, director of bar professional training course (BPTC) programmes at BPP University Law School, said: ‘We are pleased that BPP University Law School London has come out top in the comparison of students with pupillage.

‘However, the pupillage statistics have to be read in context. In particular, it is important to take account of the number of international students who study the BPTC with the intention of returning to their home jurisdiction who do not seek pupillage in England or Wales. Across all providers the proportion of international students is variable year on year but is typically about 50%.

‘This means that the pool of students competing for pupillage is significantly smaller than it may first appear.’

Readers' comments (10)

  • I think this is a nettle that has long needed grasping.

    I know how many complain about the competition for judicial appointments but the stats show for many it is much harder to get a first step on the career ladder.

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  • These are horrendous figures.

    Why on earth would anyone want to take the chances nowadays of becoming a Barrister...?

    And even if you get pupillage at least half will be doing very poorly paid crimbo and family work.

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  • Why would anyone consider a legal career full stop . Universities paint a very very different pictures than the reality of day to day practise . Family law gone , crime just took a kicking and PI about to be wiped out . There will not be any jobs full stop never mind graduates !!

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  • I agree with everything written above. Over the years, when I have been asked to give advice to prospective lawyers, that advice has shifted from 'Be prepared for lots of hard graft and the very real possibility of disappointment' to 'Abandon the aspiration entirely; it really isn't worth it and besides, the chances are that you will never enter the profession.'

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  • Sorry to be boring, but I too agree with all above postings.
    We need to get the message out there before decent, aspiring young people make a huge investment in a sector which is dead on its feet.
    We can start with the greedy "providers" who peddle their expensive courses displaying wilful blindness to the realities of oversupply of which they are well aware. They should be forced to explain the real likelihood of disappointment before taking the money.

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  • For some time I have advised anybody asking me about a career in law to train as an accountant in stead.

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  • And this was BEFORE George Osborne and his Insurance Industry financed cronies announced an increase in the small claims limit was once again back on the agenda. Little does this government realise how much tax they are kai-boshing to protect their overseas, tax avoiding insurance buddies. Would the last lawyer please turn off the light...

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  • Why don't law graduates instead apply for a job on the tills at Tesco and then seek internal promotion when it takes over the provision of legal services to consumers?

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  • I went to Northumbria. I think their abysmal statistics can be easily explained. Virtually no-one on their BVC stand alone course intended to practice in the UK. The vast majority on the course when I went in 2005 barely spoke English. In the year I was there there was only two people that had a good standard of English and when I questioned this (we instructed them for an advice - so we had a full response from their full BVC course) I was told that the BVC abroad can add huge gravitas to a career, and as such because it was the cheapest their BVC was predominantly (98%+) filled with overseas students that never intended to stay in the UK. I do not think it reflects on the school.

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  • The full data release showed the absolute and relative numbers of BPTC applicants and students from overseas, but there appears to be no data on students who sit the BPTC in order to return to their home jurisdictions to practise? I believe Hong Kong, Singapore, and maybe Malaysia recognise call to the English bar as qualification to practise, which makes me wonder how many BPTC graduates are not intending to practise in England and Wales.

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