Chambers that fail to respond to unsuccessful applicants for pupillage - the great majority - have been urged to mend their ways, after a student claimed the practice  ‘damages the integrity of the profession’.

In a letter to the Bar Standards Board, law student Noah Gifford said many barristers’ chambers do not inform pupillage candidates that they have been unsuccessful, instead leaving them to find out via internet forums or fellow applicants. Gifford argued it should be a regulatory requirement for chambers to notify candidates in order to ‘uphold the integrity of the profession’.

‘Aspiring barristers pour their heart and soul, as well as lots of time, into each and every application. Thus, I believe that it is insulting to that effort when a chambers does not make the effort to notify an aspiring barrister that they have been unsuccessful. An easy and proportionate solution to this issue would be to send a simple generic email to all unsuccessful candidates, which, while never pleasant to receive, will always be appreciated,’ Gifford said.

His call for action was taken up by members of the profession. The Secret Barrister, an anonymous blogger and author, posted on Twitter: ‘I’m astonished and embarrassed to learn that this is still going on. It was common when I was applying 15 years ago, and I rather hoped that we were now better than this. Any chambers which doesn’t give unsuccessful applicants the courtesy of a response needs to mend its ways.’

In response to Gifford’s letter, the BSB said it ‘appreciates how frustrating this is and are very sympathetic to this issue’. The regulator did not agree to make it a regulatory requirement for chambers to contact unsuccessful applicants. However, it said the Bar Council is currently updating the its recruitment guidance.

‘We have asked it to make a stronger statement about the importance of telling candidates that they have not been selected for interview, either directly or through the status function on the Gateway platform,' the BSB said. 

According to figures published by the Bar Council, less than 7% of applicants secured pupillages via the central recruitment system in 2020.