Proposed reforms to barristers' training would 'unacceptably dilute’ the bar’s standards by giving solicitors an easy route to entry, the Bar Council has said. In its response to proposals for reforming the education and training requirements for barristers, the representative body says that exempting solicitor advocates from parts of the qualification process would 'be attractive to solicitors who regard admission to the bar as a badge of achievement, and who will recognise that this route to that badge is fundamentally less arduous than the route barristers currently take'.

The result would be to 'swell the ranks of the bar with those who will not have faced the same testing regime, and without giving the undiscerning public any means of distinguishing between the two at the point of instruction'.

Proposals to create a fast track for academics are also fraught with peril, the Bar Council maintains. 'No doubt there will be many distinguished academics with a good broad grounding in English law who already have the skills taught on the vocational stage; but it seems to us perfectly possible that there may be some teachers of law (for instance perhaps very specialised academic lawyers) who will not. Given the imprecise definition of those who fall within this rule it is particularly important to avoid passporting people through two of the three stages of bar training.' 

Overall the Future Bar Training proposals, drawn up by the Bar Standards Board to create more diverse routes to qualification, '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', the Bar Council states. 

Consultation on the proposals has now closed. The new rules are expected to be finalised this autumn and, subject to approval by the Legal Services Board, come into effect next year.