Encourage those who come to the bar as a second career.
It was disappointing to read the Bar Council’s submissions regarding the broadening of current pathways for solicitors to join the bar. In particular these words stood out: ‘It will unacceptably dilute the high standards rightly required of practising barristers; and it will provide an easy parallel route to the bar for those practitioners who have failed the bar’s entry and training requirements.’
I am a practising barrister. I am also a former solicitor. Not a day goes by without the training I received and experiences of working as a solicitor informing my practice as a barrister.
While I did not undertake the Bar Professional Training Course, I took part in rigorous advocacy training, provided by my chambers during pupillage. I am also lucky that my colleagues are patient and supportive; helping with any questions of law and strategy that I have about my cases.
In the crime team at One Pump Court, we have members who came to the bar after working as journalists, or in local government, or as legal advisers, as well as solicitors. We think our diversity makes us better barristers and helps to build a stronger team, and when it comes to recruitment we look for people like us. We work to accommodate defence advocates with an existing practice but who are finding that traditional patterns of working are no longer a fit for them.
The Bar Council’s submission states its concern that the changes to entry pathways to the bar will ‘swell the ranks of the bar’ with those who have not been through the current ‘testing regime’. But I see opportunities here too to encourage those who have come to the bar as a second career, or as solicitors looking to specialise in advocacy – or who prefer the flexibility of self-employment.
Sophie Walker One Pump Court, London EC4