Everything You Need to Know about the Changes to Future Bar Training
Written By - Hassan Ditta - September 16,2019
The next two years will see a major overhaul of the established routes to legal qualification in England and Wales. For prospective solicitors, the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE) will replace the LPC and for barristers, the current form of the BPTC will be replaced by new pathways to passing the bar.
The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has a dedicated page on its website, containing the latest updates to Future Bar Training. This article contains highlights some of the most important changes which students thinking about the bar or who have already started the BPTC should be aware of right now (July 2019). The Student Lawyer will keep you updated on future changes as they are announced, particularly when the BSB starts to approve the training courses that will be offered in place of the BPTC.
New Courses Will be Available from September 2020
From April 2019, organisations wanting to offer barrister training have been applying to become Authorised Education Training Organisations (AETOs). The Student Lawyer recently reported on the ICCA’s application to offer a new bar course, although this will be one of several such applications.
The BSB has set certain guidelines for these new training options. The three components of bar training will remain:
academic learning (gaining knowledge of the law itself);
vocational learning (acquiring barristers’ core skills such as advocacy); and
pupillage or work-based learning (learning to be a barrister “on the job”).
However, the three components may now be attained by means of four approved training pathways:
Three-step pathway: academic, followed by vocational, followed by pupillage/work-based component (This is the same as the current mandatory pathway.);
Four-step pathway: academic component, followed by vocational component in two parts, followed by pupillage or work-based component;
Integrated academic and vocational pathway – combined academic and vocational components followed by pupillage or work-based component; and
Apprenticeship pathway: combined academic, vocational and pupillage or work-based components.
All new training routes must be centred around the Professional Statement, a set of standards which all barristers are expected to be able to meet on “day one” of practice.
New pathways should be approved imminently, after which AETOs will start taking applications for courses starting in September 2020.
There will be a Transitional Period for Students Who Have Already Started the BPTC
Students who are on the BPTC or who are due to start in September 2019 (i.e. the last year before the newly approved courses are implemented) will be able to complete their course, with three attempts at each assessment as set out in the BPTC Handbook. However, students who have not passed by Spring 2022 may need to take the newly approved courses/assessments instead.
Pupillage Will Still be an Important Element of Qualification
While the majority of barristers will continue to obtain the work-based component of learning via a traditional “pupillage”, the new rules introduce greater flexibility with a view to encouraging a wider range of AETOs to offer this component. For example, employers offering training to future members of the employed Bar, may be approved to offer this component, rather than just barristers’ chambers.
From September 2019, the BSB will also increase the minimum funding award for pupillage to £18,436 per annum for pupillages in London and £15,728 per annum for pupillages outside London. This reflects the Living Wage Foundation’s calculations of £9.00 per hour outside London and £10.55 per hour within London.
There will be Changes to the Curriculum and the way Assessments are Handled
Although the exact curriculum will be a matter for the AETOs in their approved courses, the BSB has made some overarching changes, which include:
Splitting the assessment of Professional Ethics between an assessment set by AETOs during the vocational component and a BSB centrally set and marked examination during pupillage or work-based learning. The centralised component, which will be rolled out in December 2021, will be open-book.
The civil litigation assessment will also be split into an open and closed-book exam, reflecting the realities of practice more accurately.
Removing the need to complete courses in Forensic Accountancy and Practice Management during pupillage or another form of work-based learning, and introducing a new mandatory Negotiation Skills course to be completed during this component of training. The advocacy course will be maintained during pupillage/work-based training.
These new rules have the potential to make major changes to the bar training process, although until the BSB announces which AETOs have been approved, it remains to be seen how far law schools and chambers will veer from the traditional pathway. The ICCA’s application suggests that there is some impetus to make bar training more flexible and affordable.