The Criminal Bar Association has added its voice to concerns over the Bar Standards Board proposals for training reform, suggesting vocational aspects should be given more 'flexibility'.
In its response to the BSB’s Future Training to the Bar consultation, the CBA said it agrees ‘broadly’ with the Bar Council’s position. Last month, the council submitted its own response claiming that the proposals miss a ‘long-awaited opportunity for reform’.
The CBA said: ‘What rightly underlies that response is that the current model of necessary vocational training for intended practising barristers is not fit for purpose.’
Currently, trainees undergo three training stages: academic education, vocational training and work-based training, in a 30-week course.
However instead of one course, the Bar Council/Council of the Inns of Court suggest splitting the existing syllabus of the bar professional training course (BPTC) into two parts.
Part 1 would be knowledge-based, and would include the option for private study, while part 2 would cover skill-based work including advocacy. The council said by splitting the course into two stages the current high costs of training would be alleviated.
Candidates, according to the council, could use part 1 as an early signal of aptitude before they incur greater fees and expenses by moving onto the second ‘more expensive’ part.
The CBA broadly agrees with those proposals but added that the flexibility of the vocational stage of training should also be assessed.
It said vocational training is accessible without the need for students to have any relevant and accredited experience of delivering legal services.
‘We submit it would be invaluable for intending bar students to access such work-based practical opportunities prior to commencing the formal path of the BPTC,’ it said.
The CBA’s response appeared in a weekly note published on its website by chair Francis FitzGibbon. FitzGibbon also echoed concerns he aired in an article for The Times last week in which he described the bar as ‘withering from the bottom up’.