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As One Door Closes – It Shuts In Your Face. UPDATED.

May 26, 2010

People send me interesting information. Personal details redacted. Hat-tip on request. I have added hyperlinks to make tracking the argument easier.

Dear Mr Myerson,

Below is the text of an email which I have sent to my BVC group today, regarding a change to the law which will affect out-of-work BVC graduates. As far as I am aware, many students go onto the BVC with the mindset “I’ll give it a shot, but if it doesn’t work out, I can always transfer to being a solicitor”. As of 1st September 2010, the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority will no longer provide Certificates of Eligibility to barristers who have not completed pupillage. This will mean that they cannot sit the new “Qualified Lawyers’ Transfer Scheme” test. I suspect this will affect a large proportion of students on the BVC, who will never secure pupillage in any case.

In my honest opinion, the (now) BPTC providers and careers services at law schools should alert students to this risk, as the changes have not yet been well publicised. I would also be grateful if you could post this on your blog, seeing as many of the current BVC graduates who read it may benefit from realising that they have approximately 14 weeks left in which to secure their transfer, and avoid stumping up staggeringly high LPC fees to become solicitors on top of those fees they have already paid for the privilege of becoming ‘barristers-at-law.

The email reads:

This won’t concern those with pupillages, but read on for interest in any case.

For a number of years, a scheme has run which enables certain lawyers to transfer to becoming solicitors in the UK. The Solicitor’s Regulation Authority would grant them a ‘Certificate of Eligibility’ to sit the QLTT. This would specify the ‘Heads’ they needed to be tested on in the QLTT and any other experience they were required to gain before they could become a full solicitor. Essentially, they sat the exam, then did their ‘experience’. Once they had fulfilled the conditions of the Certificate, they could apply for admission to the solicitor’s profession – without the need for a training contract.

To be considered for transfer, applicants only had to show they could ‘practice under their professional title in their home jurisdiction without the need to complete additional education, training or assessments’. Barristers-at-law were an exception to this. Students who had passed the BVC were exempt from this criterion even if they had not completed a pupillage.

However, as of 1 September 2010 (i.e. this September), the QLTT is being replaced by the QLTS (“Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme”) [The proposed Regulations are here].

Barristers will not, any longer, be exempt from the standard eligibility criterion; all barristers will now have had to complete their full training (*including pupillage*) to be eligible to apply for transfer on the QLTS.

However! All is not lost yet. All of you who want this back-up option must apply for the Certificate of Eligibility now – before 1st September 2010. After this date, the SRA will only consider applications for the QLTS. I’m not sure when you would have to sit the actual QLTT (I imagine within a reasonable time after this), but you could finish your experience in your own time after that – as it would require on your certificate. When you finish the experience, you can then apply for admission as a solicitor.

The effects of this sea-change will be that we are left with a heightened problem of out-of-work barristers-at-law, who are thereby pushed out of a legal career altogether by the immense cost of attempting to fund the LPC themselves at a latter date and locate a training contract.

My money is on the fact that the scrapping of the QLTS scheme has not been well advertised by the BPTC providers, who are eagerly awaiting their new golden geese as of 1st September this year, many of whom had a plan along the lines of ‘I’ll give it a shot and if not, I can always transfer’.

Think hard.

UPDATE.

On your collective behalf I took this up with the BSB. Obviously as a Regulator they are supposed to be the big bad Woolf (geddit?), constantly keeping an eye on you and checking for defaulters. In fact, they are cuddly and helpful. I was given the information within 24 hours. I have summarised it for your convenience below – apologies if some of it is already well known, but it seemed sensible to include everything in the one Post.

There are two routes to qualify as a lawyer in England and Wales.  To qualify as a barrister, individuals have to complete the BVC (Bar Vocational Course) and a 12 months pupillage.  To qualify as a solicitor, individuals have to complete the LPC (Legal Practice Course)  and a 2-year training contract.   On completion of pupillage or a training contract, individuals are then deemed qualified as barristers or solicitors, respectively.

Both professions have schemes in place whereby qualified lawyers are able to transfer to become either barristers or solicitors.

Qualified lawyers transferring to become solicitors in England and Wales have to undertake the QLTT (Qualifying Lawyers Transfer Test).  The Law Society (now the SRA) have had a provision in place whereby an exception was made for the BVC graduates in this respect: they were considered to be ‘qualified lawyers’ and therefore eligible to undertake the QLTT and transfer to become solicitors.

In November 2008 the SRA carried out a consultation process in relation to qualified lawyers transferring to become solicitors.  The closing date was February 2009. The BSB was consulted on their proposal to omit the exception made for BVC graduates to permit them to undertake the QLTT.  The BSB had no objection to the SRA’s proposal.  The BSB accepted that BVC graduates were not qualified lawyers and therefore should not be deemed eligible to undertake the QLTT. It is now, of course, necessary to complete pupillage in order to describe yourself as a Barrister.

The SRA’s proposal was based on the proposition that the new scheme should ensure parity with the domestic route to qualification.  It should be noted that LPC graduates were never eligible to apply for the equivalent transfer to become barristers as they were never considered to be qualified solicitors.   If LPC graduates decided to become barristers, then they were required to undertake the BVC.

The LSB (Legal Service Board) approved changes to the QLTT scheme in March 2010.  The new QLTT regulations come into effect in September 2010.  As of this date, BVC graduates will no longer be able to apply for a certificate of eligibility: as stated above, they are not considered to be qualified lawyers.  Only BVC graduates who have completed pupillage will be eligible to apply to transfer to become solicitors under the SRA’s qualified lawyers transferring scheme.

Therefore, BVC graduates who wish to transfer to become solicitors will first need to complete the LPC.  The SRA is in the process of considering whether any exemptions should be granted to BVC graduates from the LPC, and if so, from which aspects of the course.

It has been brought to the BSB’s attention that some BVC students were considering transfer under the pre-September 2010 rule, and that the new rule (put in place by the SRA) now makes it impossible for them to do so.  It was said that the change was not widely publicised by either the SRA or the BSB.  In addition, students were critical of the BVC providers who did not make them aware of the forthcoming changes.

Because this is an SRA decision, it is a matter on which the SRA should be contacted.  Further information about the new scheme can be found on the SRA website  http://www.sra.org.uk/sra/news/press/LSB-approves-new-qualified-lawyers-transfer-scheme-regulations.page

Thus, the straightforward answer is that there isn’t much  that can be done: the rule was changed, approved by the LSB, and the BSB supported the change.    As of 1st September it will be in operation.  Get your application in before that date if you are thinking of transferring is perhaps a piece of advice that could be given to those who qualify. As to the BVC Providers: it can properly be said that they are entitled to assume that you aren’t doing the BVC so that you can qualify as solicitors and they aren’t obliged to commit commercial hari-kari by giving you information which may be irrelevant but which may damage their own interests. On the other hand, morally they ought to make clear that the qualification they offer is not now a route into the solicitors’ profession, particularly as that represents a change to the previous position.  In my view you can properly ask them to do so and I cannot conceive that they would refuse.

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44 Comments leave one →
  1. Anon permalink
    May 26, 2010 8:42 pm

    I think the joys of the QLTT have long been overstated.

    Surely one can still apply post (or pre or during if one is organised) BVC for a training contract in the normal way. If this TC is with a decent city firm they’ll pay for your LPC and away you go.

    [Of course, this is of little value if you can, for example, only see yourself in criminal law]

    The above is certainly my plan.

  2. May 26, 2010 9:42 pm

    Good point… Not many people know about the changing rules.

    Anon, that’s ridiculous. Why would you want to do the LPC, when you’ve already covered everything on the BVC? Plus if you are doing the LPC and a TC at the same time, it will take you almost twice as long.

    It’ll be interesting to see the new provisions for cross-qualifying… (if any)

  3. Anonymous permalink
    May 26, 2010 10:32 pm

    My understanding us that even if you apply for the qltt now you are too late. The way I read it was that any applications recieved now would be dealt with after September. Anyone know different?

    • May 27, 2010 8:49 pm

      BSB info is different – see update.

    • Anon101 permalink
      June 9, 2010 10:20 pm

      I applied for my certifcate of eligibility back in March when I first heard of the changes. To date I have still not received it due to the back log.For obvious reasons there has been a massive surge of applications.

      My understanding is that as long as you apply before the September deadline you have three years to complete the requirements including the 2 years experience and sitting the solicitors conduct and account exams.

  4. Anon (again) permalink
    May 26, 2010 10:40 pm

    I don’t think it’s ridiculous. It effectively means one has ‘wasted’ a year compared to the normal path to a training contract.

    I don’t want to do the LPC, but it may prove to be a means to a, lucrative, ends, and as such I can live with it, especially if costs me nothing.

    I also get the feeling, from those who have attempted to get work with their QLTT qualification that it isn’t the easiest thing in the world. In contrast solicitors firms will gobble you up if you appear to fit the mould of their normal recruits and can thus slot into their training system. I don’t believe that the Linklaters of this world (I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea to say the least) take on that many QLTTers.

    My two pennorth.

  5. May 27, 2010 12:19 am

    Agree with anon (again) to a degree. If say you have Bvc paralegal/in house experience, is a firm going to take you in if the choice is between you and a person who has completed a structured training contract. I know which one I would choose!

    Notwithstanding the above, it is still an option that allows you to forge a legal career of some sort. I know from my perspective I want to be in a proffesion! Some sort at least!

    Anyone know how to get a certificate of good standing? How long does it take?

  6. May 27, 2010 12:14 pm

    From the SRA website:

    “The QLTR scheme closes on 31 August 2010. The SRA will accept complete applications received by post at the Redditch office up to the close of business on 31 August. Please note that certificates of eligibility for QLTT will have a start date no later than 31 August 2010 and an end date no later than 31 August 2013 regardless of when the application is processed by the SRA.”

    I’m in the process of cross-qualifying myself and I’ve got some detailed information on QLTT on my blog, if anyone’s interested (http://accedas-ad-curiam.blogspot.com/search/label/QLTT). The cert. of good standing are available from the Bar Standards Board; I got mine within 1 week.

    One of the benefits of the QLTT route from a firm’s point of view – they don’t have to get approval from the SRA (which they need before they can offer a TC); they don’t have to pay you the trainees’ minimum wage; don’t have to fund your Prof. Development Courses; etc etc.

  7. Anya permalink
    May 27, 2010 4:20 pm

    I see why people would not want to have to do a TC, but I’m not sure I see why they shouldn’t have to. From what I have seen of my LPC friends’ coursework etc, there is very limited crossover between BVC and LPC. It would be more appropriate to have an exemption for the 10-20% of the course that has some overlap. Also I don’t really see how 1 year barrister training + 2 years paralegalling = 3 years’ solicitor training!

    To beat my old drum, the problem is not the difficulty of cross-qualifying – it is permitting hundreds of people a year to effectively waste a year of their lives by doing the BVC when they will never get pupillage. MAKE THE BVC FOR PEOPLE WITH PUPILLAGE ONLY!!

  8. Anon (again) permalink
    May 27, 2010 6:56 pm

    Anya, whilst your plan is probably the best solution, it’s not a total solution. With regards the point about ‘wasting a year of their lives’, applicants will just end up having 2, or possibly3 years applying for pupillage. In this period they’re likely to be in some sort of stop gap employment, doing minis and the like to prove their enthusiasm. If it doesn’t go to plan for them they’ll still have wasted time, just not with the expense of the BVC.

  9. anon permalink
    May 27, 2010 9:27 pm

    Anon not every student will be welcomed into a TC, I am cross qualifying. I do everything at our firm which the trainee does. But my principal doesn’t have to register the training and doesn’t have to pay me the minimum. At the end of this I will be a qualified solicitor, I will be kept on as a Solicitor. This suits us both as she is skint in the recession but needs someone when the trainee does seats elsewhere.

    Anon (again) you are wrong about the job prospects, from those i have met most are kept on as fee earners at the firms they paralegal at.

    Anya while you may be correct that not all paralegalling qualifies you mine does and given the bar doesn’t wish me to join them (no obvious education (good uni good degree, VC on BVC with plenty of Os), intellectual or experience gaps) without the BVC there would have been no other way for me to qualify as a lawyer.

  10. Anon (again) permalink
    May 27, 2010 10:44 pm

    With all due respect Anon it sounds like you’re taking the typical QLTT path which I’d like to avoid. Namely paralegalling in a small firm with a view to being kept on as a solicitor.

    I agree that not every student will be welcomed into a TC but if you feel you have a realistic chance of pupillage and have thus done the BVC you should have a better than realistic chance of a TC.

    I know that it is hard (for example) to a) get a paralegal position with the QLTT at a good city firm and b) to then be accepted there as akin to all the other trainees and thus get into the equity stream. From my experience you end up as something of an odd job man. I believe it’s thus better to follow the typical path through their very regimented systems.

  11. May 27, 2010 11:10 pm

    It all depends on how you sell yourself. I was hired because my firm liked the prospects of being able to do their drafting and advocacy in-house.

    I’m not trying to sound cliché, but the BVC graduates have a more in-depth knowledge of the court system, they received better advocacy training, legal research skills etc etc. I witnessed the differences first hand, being surrounded by the LPC grads at work. Yes, they may know more about the procedural matters, but that can be picked up in a month.

    TC lasts 2 years; with pupillage, you get full rights of audience in your 2nd six. If I had a choice now, I’d still do the BVC instead of LPC.

    QLTT is not a free pass to becoming a solicitor. The experience requirement is the same as for trainees, but we don’t have the same rights as trainees!

  12. Aspiring Barrister permalink
    May 27, 2010 11:46 pm

    I think the point here is not whether the QLTT as it is offers comparable career prospects to cross-qualifiers as those with LPC’s. The opportunities (and challenges) of cross-qualifying by the QLTT route have long been known.

    The real impact of these changes is more far more significant; there will be about 1800 students commencing the BPTC this September, of whom about 550 will secure pupillage (or fewer according to the figures on pupillages offered in the last couple of years) and about 1300 will have invested up to £15,000 excluding living and other expenses for a qualification with no value whatsoever to a career in the law away from the Bar. Many people aspire to become barristers and many will fail, the BSB and the BPTC providers they regulate know that. It is my view that the BSB have failed to consider these proposals properly and to protect aspiring barristers from this change. At the very least, BPTC providers should explain in bold type and capital letters on their prospectus literature that the qualification for which their students pay so much money will be worthless without pupillage. These changes surely represent the most significant support yet for the argument that the BVC (or BPTC) should only be available to those who have already secured pupillage. Sadly, there are too many institutions relying on that cash cow for there to be any will for honesty with students.

    I am not suggesting that aspiring barristers should be spoon-fed information, after all we do want to be responsible for ourselves and our own practice at the independent Bar, but these changes are so significant to Bar aspirants yet to commence the BPTC and so poorly publicised that I think the BSB and BPTC providers should be taking steps to further warn of the dangers of gambling on a career at the bar. And it is now a gamble, with very high stakes.

    It is true that the previous system did not require cross-qualifiers to undertake a training contract and that was unfair to LPC graduates. It is absolutely right that cross-qualifiers should be expected to complete a full training contract – as the trainees who took the BVC in my firm are required to do. It is not, however, fair that BPTC graduates who ultimately fail to get a pupillage (we all know there are all sorts of reasons for this, one being bad luck) will have to pay another £10,000 in fees for another qualification (LPC), even though we might have exceptionally good professional experience.

    I am worried about these changes. Very worried. I finished university two years ago with a good 2.1 and, determined to become a barrister but well aware of the odds, went about gaining the right experience to give me the best possible prospects of success. I have worked continuously in top-ranked firms of solicitors in London and also spent many months interning in the Deep South in the USA working on death penalty cases. This year is my first bite of the pupillage cherry – I have already been offered a couple interviews this season – but that coul be where my good fortune stops.

    The difficulty I have been grappling with, in the same week that two of my first ever applications for pupillage resulted in interview invitations, is whether to take such a big risk with such a vast sum of money? I know I have the potential be an outstanding lawyer, I have spent the last two years learning from the best. I am determined to become a barrister, but with no insurance option of cross-qualifying without significantly more expense – inevitably borrowed from the bank (will they give me any more?) – I, and I suggest all other students about the embark on the BPTC, need to consider whether to cut my losses at the £450 deposit for the fees.

    The BSB have let down thousands of would-be lawyers by failing to consider properly the impact of these changes. I think they have been irresponsible in not making proper representations to the SRA in their consultation on these proposals and in failing to limit the increase in BPTC places and informing applicants of this sea-change in their prospects.

    I have read the SRA consultation responses and I will quote the BSB’s pitiful response to the most significant question to thousands of Bar-aspirants:

    “Q4 In order to be eligible to apply to transfer, should applicants need to be entitled to practise under their initial professional title without the need to complete further education, training or assessments?
    ‘…there is no objection to BVC graduates being ineligible to take the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT). They are not ‘Qualified Lawyers’.'(Bar Standards Board Education & Training Committee)”

    With respect, Simon [fantastic blog by the way] “cuddly and helpful” the BSB are not

  13. anon permalink
    May 28, 2010 2:05 pm

    I am with aspiring barrister; this is another instance of the BSB not coming up to scratch. Firstly, one could argue the BSB were under a duty to make this rule change known by all students; all of which are on a BSB database and have paid some £350 for that privilege. Secondly, the BSB are already long since on record with their alternative careers agenda, transferable skills etc., and whilst this may be nothing but the best that can be done to shore up the huge commercial interests underpinning the BPTC, there is only so much insincerity the BSB can get away with until they are exposed for what they are; in my view, a woefully incompetent outfit that would struggle to find its own backside with both hands. To which end, just look at how long it has taken the BSB to respond to the LSA, or the mere 12 years it took for ADR to find its way onto the BPTC syllabus (I acknowledge the BSB was not in existence that long but the BC was responsible previously).

    The QLTT argument was flawed and especially when it came to BVC graduates being excepted from TCs. But, the principal objection from the prospective transferee will be the need to undertake the entirety of the LPC, when having already completed the BVC/BPTC. Not only the cost but, also, the agony of having to undertake another year of pretty ropey and, in many instances, wholly irrelevant, education, will be more than most can sensibly be bothered with.

    The issue should now be the exempting of BVC/BPTC students from as much as possible of the LPC. Neither the BPTC or the LPC are that highly regarded and both are said to include significant amounts of content which are irrelevant moving forward.

    To the extent that BVC/BPTC graduates are insufficiently skilled to be ready for a TC, there would appear to be two obvious ways in which this could be tackled. Firstly, the BPTC is comprised of around 20% elective subjects. The same schools teaching the BPTC do, in the main, also offer the LPC. Why not accommodate the prospect of BPTC students wanting to transfer to the solicitor profession by offering electives which serve that purpose ? Secondly, in London at least, the providers all now offer the bump up from BPTC to a masters degree by offering to take around another £3K from the student in return for giving them another worthless bit of paper. Again, why not, instead or as well, offer a “conversion course”.

    The onus would seem to be on the BSB here to fight their corner. Not much chance of that one fears, although one might just get a discussion forum in 5 years hence with a view to forming a working party in ten.

  14. Anya permalink
    May 28, 2010 3:47 pm

    I think the last two posts, by aspiring barrister and anon, are bang on.

    As to another anon’s comment above that even without the BVC people “waste time” building up their CVs – yes, this is true, but that’s life. Anyone who wants to get into a very competitive job must accept that they may not make it, nothing can be done about this (save that I think there should be a big flashing warning sign sent out to all prospective applicants reminding them that the statistics are also of application to them, and that contrary to popular belief “really wanting it” is not something that makes a pupillage applicant stand out). Taking several years to gain experience is not required of pupils and to my mind doesn’t often make an enormous difference to chances of success unless the experience is really cool/creates excellent contacts.

    People shouldn’t really be doing things solely for the purpose of CV-building, and anything that looks good on the CV is likely to be somewhat useful experience, and if it is a job it should at least mean earning money. It is difficult to say that a year’s legal work is a complete waste of time, whereas the BVC more or less is a waste of time, and an expensive one at that, for those who don’t get pupillage.

    I see so much bitterness from failed applicants, and I can’t help but think that even if they spent years trying, they would feel much less “led on” by the system if they hadn’t done the whole BVC thing. There is a sense in which people are all dressed up with nowhere to go.

  15. Anon permalink
    May 29, 2010 12:14 pm

    In my opinion the BVC (BPTC) Providers should now have the above information in BIG BRIGHT RED LETTERS on correspondence pre-payment.

  16. May 31, 2010 2:16 pm

    I am less sympathetic to these arguments than I (think I) customarily am to students.

    These are different professions and I believe in keeping it that way. To that extent, there should be no presumption of benefit to a solicitors firm in employing a BPTC graduate as a solicitor. There might, it is true, be a temporary benefit in terms of barrister type activity but come on – solicitors are all pretty bright too and they will catch up very quickly. Moreover, barristerial skills atrophy unless constantly practised and discussed.

    So why should the BSB fight to ensure that people who have completed a training course designed for barristers are given an easy time when applying to become solicitors. Apart from naked self-interest, what is it that justifies such discriminatory treatment? The proposition that the BSB – a regulator remember, not a trade union – should argue for the continuation of a patently unfair system is hardly a credit to the profession.

    The point about the teaching organisations not making things clear is fair enough. If they suspect that people sign up and pay for the BPTC in the mistaken belief that it ports them into the solicitors’ profession then they should dispel that belief. But it does rather beg the question of why you are doing a course designed for Barristers.

    The BSB has no role to play in enticing people to become barristers. I think you will find that this is the Bar Council’s role – and they are entitled to do so. Every profession is permitted to advertise the joys of working in that profession. It is not necessary, desirable or even sensible to include within that remit including a phrase such as ‘if you qualify as a barrister you will not be able to demand qualification as a solicitor, accountant, architect or doctor.’ People are deemed to know that already.

    In any event, I have to yet to hear a credible claim that this is what encourages people to try to become barristers. The Bar currently proves the truth of the story (possibly apocryphal) of the new restaurant who simply put up the ‘Full’ sign for its first 4 weeks whilst the staff had a holiday. When they actually opened they were booked up every night.

    I have repeatedly said that I think the BPTC providers take too many people. And I have repeatedly said that too many people refuse to be realistic about their prospects. Both remain true, but ultimately the responsibility is a personal one. No one makes you do this, and you ought not to complain that a tangential and accidental by-product of doing the Bar course has now been removed.

    • anon permalink
      May 31, 2010 6:52 pm

      While I can see your point, I do have to say that when I embarked on the BVC it was after a lengthy, reasoned decision that one way or another I would definitely be able to qualify as a lawyer.

      In the really world I am quite intelligent. Bright enough to get a 2.1 and a VC etc, but also clever enough to be aware this is just scraping the required intelligence in the legal career stakes, so I was not going to get pupillage easily, but I still love the law and wanted to make that my career.

      I dearly want to be a barrister but decided I would alternately become a solicitor in preference to the career I was in. So I swithered over parting with the cash for the BVC on such a small chance (knowing that the LPC has also become some what of a gamble I just couldn’t consider that), but then imagine my excitement when I was assured by a city law school advisor that if the worst came to the worst the BVC was a catch all qualification and I could cross qualify with a simple exam. (Well simplish if you understand double entry book keeping  ) I felt appeased and relieved that there was a catch all position. I may be unique, but in my case it wasn’t really an accidental by-product it was a deliberate choice.

      At least I am in the position of having the certificate now, but if I was currently on the BVC with no chance of this I would not be a happy camper.

      • Beth permalink
        June 1, 2010 9:59 am

        This was my reasoning too. I spoke to a careers advisor on my GDL (useless!) who was amazed that I didn’t have my heart set either way on the solicitor or barrister route. So I took my chance on the BVC, safe in the knowledge that I could become either a solicitor or a barrister at the end of it. It seemed like the best way of hedging my bets.

        I know a lot of my classmates did not feel the same way. When I mentioned qualifying as a solicitor to them, it was as though I had sung the praises of garlic to a vampire! So there are many for whom the Bar is a grail. I would be surprised if many of my classmates ever get pupillage, but maybe they will surprise me. I don’t know what their Plan B is.

        Now I’m part way through a 2 year, part time BVC and I *do* feel like a door has been slammed in my face. I’m not eligible for the certificate before the deadline because I won’t be called until 2011. The realities of the pupillage hunt are sinking in too.

        Have I wasted £15,000 and two years worth of evenings and weekends to what will be a useless degree? Maybe. I may try applying for training contracts and do the LPC if necessary, hoping I can exempt from the parts of it that overlap with the BVC.

        I want to be a lawyer. I grew up in a jurisdiction where the profession is fused, so the whole distinction between solicitors and barristers is still a novelty to me.

      • June 1, 2010 10:24 am

        I entirely accept that there are a group which has had their expectations defeated by this change. However, unless a specific representation which was known to be wrong at the time it was made is involved, neither the BSB nor the providers can be blamed for this, as the timing was not of their making. I suppose that the BSB could have suggested that the system altered only after a year’s grace, but I repeat my primary view that taking the BVC in order to become a solicitor or even to hedge bets is to fail to approach the task correctly.

        I was particularly struck, Beth, by your comment that the realities of the pupillage hunt are sinking in. If this blog persuades people to think about those realities before they part with their cash then I will feel I have achieved something. There are about 3,000 people competing for about 400 pupillages. In my best estimate, half of those people have no chance and are deluding themselves. That makes everyone else’s chance about 1 in 4. That means that 3 out of every 4 decent candidates will not get a pupillage and will have spent the money for nothing.

        That is a reason to think about your career. It is not – however unfair it may seem – a reason for the BSB to ensure that your failure nevertheless ports you into a different profession.

        These are the inexorable laws of supply and demand. It isn’t as if there are huge swathes of legal work being left undone because of a lack of person power. On the contrary, plenty of barristers (and solicitors too) are not working at full capacity. I hope that every reader here gets a place in Chambers and I am always happy when I get an email to say they have. But even those who are well qualified to fulfil their dream of becoming a barrister and who would make a success of it are UNLIKELY to make it.

        I am genuinely sorry about that and regular readers know that I think the balance is overwhelmingly – and too much – with the providers and their commercial enterprises. But you should know what the realities are before you embark on the BPTC. You can do that – all of you. It enables you to make a sensible decision. If you decide to go for it and fail then it may be your own fault (if you overestimate your own abilities and prospects) or no one’s fault (because 3 out of 4 will fail, excluding the no-hopers). But that is your choice and sometimes you just have to swallow hard and move on.

  17. Anya permalink
    June 1, 2010 11:37 am

    Simon,

    I really think you should post your last post as an editorial, or other “must-read” on your site. I just do not think people grasp the reality before they take on the BVC. There is an assumption by people that “if you’re determined, you’ll make it” – much to do with the X-factor society in which we live. All those who ultimately don’t make it are then massively disillusioned and will bitch about the “elitism” of the Bar to anyone who’ll listen.

  18. nonbarred permalink
    June 2, 2010 9:33 am

    Well as long as you get the certificate of eligibility in (for those who have been called and are without pupillage, like me) < Sept 1st, then you have 3 years before it expires to either gain pupillage or decide to head for the QLTT/S. So….get cracking.

    For those who are on the BVC now or have handed over their money and left in limbo, I do feel for you. The bar does seem a ruthless place sometimes. However I think the points Simon make are valid. Everyone should have a realistic grasp of their chances of pupillage, probably even tenancy before going on the BVC. The providers should not misrepresent the true figures out there regarding pupillage places, and in my experience they did not. Prospective barristers should be able to do the maths.

    I will be critical of the providers here as despite having all the figures up on the screen staring us all in the face, in other lectures and/or tutorials they would intersperse sentences with comments like, 'when you are in practice'. It sounded false and forced. Also speaking to students at other providers, there was a common theme running through all of them that their respective careers service was shall we say, less than helpful. This is an area where in my opinion the Inns can be of greater help to their students.

    However going to the bar is a decision which does ultimately rest on the individuals shoulders. Lots of people will not make it. Lots of good to very good potential barristers will not make it. I was and still am well prepared for that possibility. This doesn't mean that if you do genuinely want it (which lots of people do), then you shouldn't give it your best shot. You owe it to yourself. Do everything in your power. But acknowledge that some things won't be in your control. Thinking long and hard before handing over the money is probably the best single piece of advice that could go on this page.

  19. Anon permalink
    June 2, 2010 11:44 am

    Yet again this boils down to the fact that the BVC should be solely for those who have already obtained pupillage.

    • nonbarred permalink
      June 2, 2010 5:21 pm

      Idealistially yes perhaps, as it would make sense to build yourself up and gaining experience before getting pupillage and onto the BVC. Without wasting 15k of course. I can’t see it happening though, 550 prospective pupils spread over 8, or however many it is, BVC providers? They wouldn’t have it.

  20. Anya permalink
    June 2, 2010 5:57 pm

    It really shouldn’t be about what the commercial providers would or wouldn’t have. I genuinely believe this is a serious image issue for the Bar now, quite apart from being an issue for the individuals concerned. If nothing can be done immediately in terms of clamping down on the providers, then something should really be done to influence the individuals themselves, such that it becomes the norm not to do the BVC until a person has pupillage.

    I think a large part of it is that the Bar is trying its best not to discourage excellent candidates from non-conventional backgrounds, but to discourage non-excellent candidates from all backgrounds, and this is a fairly difficult message to get across coherently. Either the BSB or the Bar Council (can’t remember which) have a “health warning” out which basically says “Please realise it is a massive risk for people who are not excellent, but if you think you are excellent then please don’t be discouraged…” ! Many applicants seem to think that “diversity” means preferring mediocrity over excellence, rather than seeking out excellence in all locations.

  21. Aspiring Barrister permalink
    June 2, 2010 6:39 pm

    I agree absolutely with Anya.

  22. Elbow_Room permalink
    June 8, 2010 2:58 pm

    Thanks for the info Mr Myerson. I read you blog regularly and find it a very informative and well written source of news.

    And thank you universe: your talent for cosimc jokes is indomitable.

  23. Barismyter permalink
    June 9, 2010 11:03 pm

    Hi guys

    Can anyone tell me whether you lose your title as a ‘Barrister’ (albeit non-practising) when you cross qualify as a solicitor or can you still call yourself a barrister?

    I am aware of the rules concerning when and when not to call yourself a barrister.

    Thanks.

  24. DSY permalink
    June 14, 2010 10:47 pm

    I am a non-practising barrister who cross-qualified last year as a solicitor advocate.

    Nobody told me about the “option” before I embarked on the BVC – I read it here on this blog a few years ago(?) when I was struggling to find a pupillage – but had a good job with a firm of solicitors.

    If this option went from “those in the know, know” – to people’s careers advisers’ telling them the BVC/QLTT is the back door into being a solicitor if if all goes belly up, it’s no wonder the SRA put a stop to it.

    The SRA is taking central control over qualification because they got sick of incompetents signing off their pals. It’s not just the BVC kids they’re addressing – it’s the overseas “qualifieds” who have arse and elbow issues. The days of open book copying out double-entry book-keeping examples are therefore drawing to a close – along with the Development scheme report on some court visits and have chats with your mentor path to HR if you’ve passed the BVC.

    The SRA had to stop it all because too many people were taking the living piss. I seriously doubt they care if some BVC people miss out on the anomaly they once enjoyed over LPC grads – they’ve got bigger fish to fry (and they are protecting their profession and their own by raising standards).

    The lesson I’ve learned is to take my chances when they come – because they never make anything easier.

  25. nonbarred permalink
    June 26, 2010 2:48 pm

    This is not specifically aimed at the topic in question, but an interestingly related development nonetheless.

    http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/bsb-chair-039merge-solicitors039-and-barristers039-training-courses039

    In summary, the chair of the BSB supports a fused training course for lawyers as lots of students have not decided on the barrister/solicitor avenue and end up wasting a lot of money for gambling one path and not the other – BPTC to pupillage in other words. I can see some advantages in this as broadly speaking, the respective courses aren’t ‘that’ dissimilar, bar the BPTC being more advocacy-intense. In theory advocacy could be taught at a much higher level whilst doing pupillage. This would seem to therefore place more of an onus upon chambers and inns to train the students wanting to go to the bar, which is currently done anyway in the form of CPD.

    However I can see the point of those against this idea about the proposed fused course becoming watered down. The BTPC/BVC is arguably watered down enough as it is without being further diluted.

    I do however feel there needs to be a radical overhaul of practical legal education in this country. Quite how I’m honestly not entirely sure. Save the finer barrister-type education for pupillage and do the professional basics at a fused ‘law school’, a call to the bar occuring upon completion of pupillage, with the period before obtaining pupillage open for students to pursue both pupillage and a TC (or even LSA 2007 type employment, should it arise); or keep things as they are with lots of called but unemployed students?* I’d probably go for the former if pushed…

    *aaannnnd breathe…

  26. Voice of Treason permalink
    June 27, 2010 1:31 pm

    In my view, BPTC providers should have entrance requirements which reflect, much more closely, what chambers require for a first round interview. This is infinitely better than simply being allowed to pack em deep, teach em cheap (but charge loads). I for one favour Kaplan’s example of a half-day selection process, which I found in keeping with pupillage interviews I have had.

    Who can blame BPTC providers for coining it – that’s their raison d’etre. It requires regulation from the BSB to drag standards up -and if that means BPTC places fall by half or more, then good. The application numbers to some chambers are a nonsense – 600 for 80 interviews at 2 BR; 800 at Outer; 500 for 50 at Doughty. I could go on. In my opinion, such numbers are likely to lead to more superficial decision making and shorter interviews.

    Again, don’t blame chambers – they are carrying out the tedious job of reading broadly similar forms (1st/FRU/moots/minis/semi finalist Tamworth Egg & Spoon – just me then?), unpaid, out of hours. I don’t blame them if they decide the only way to cut numbers to a manageable size is, say, on university; or degree grade; or EC’s. We may not like it, but what would you do? Read all 18 pages on 800 forms? Pull the other one, it’s got a brief attached to it.

  27. Chris permalink
    July 6, 2010 2:12 am

    There is a new blog concerning the QLTS and the QLTT
    Seems very interesting

    • July 6, 2010 8:38 am

      Commercial ventures wanting advertising are invited to contact me in the usual way, rather than posting to a blog which exists only to promote their services. Link deleted.

      The site itself doesn’t identify the staff you get for your money, their academic qualifications, the people who take your money or its accreditation. On that basis I would avoid it – like the plague.

  28. Anonymous permalink
    July 7, 2010 7:53 pm

    Mr Myerson,

    I was wondering what your views were on the new ASBs or LDPs that may emerge and whether they would provide any opportunities for non-practising barristers who have failed to find pupillage.

  29. Red Hand permalink
    July 20, 2010 6:54 pm

    The BVC/BPTC and cross qualifying
    Important information for bar students wishing to cross qualify as solicitors

    There has been some concern amongst bar students and applicants about new regulations (in force this September) which affect BVC/BPTC students wishing to cross qualify as solicitors.

    Under the current regulations, any bar graduate can cross qualify by obtaining a certificate of eligibility, sitting a small number of assessments and completing a period of time working for a solicitor.

    From September, new regulations would require bar graduates to complete the “full domestic route” to become a solicitor. In other words, graduates would be required to complete either pupillage or the full LPC, making it much harder to cross qualify.

    However, the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) now suggest that bar graduates would not be required to take the full LPC. Instead BVC/BPTC graduates would only be required to take the LPC assessments, and not the full course. This would provide a more accessible route for bar graduates to become solicitors.

    It is currently unclear as to whether bar students would be exempt from any LPC assessments (for example civil and criminal litigation, advocacy, ETC) but the SRA is currently developing its policy towards this.

    • July 20, 2010 7:23 pm

      As I said on the latest post I have written, you are a commercial organisation which has not had the courtesy to ask me if you can advertise your services here. I have consequently, removed the information about you.

      However, your email address indicates an account at Manchester Metropolitan University. If this is in any sense an official communication – and I shall make enquiries – then you ought to be absolutely ashamed of yourselves.

      • Red Hand permalink
        July 20, 2010 9:53 pm

        Apologies.

        It was a quick cut and paste job before I went out the door of something I found on the net that I thought the readers might want to know about as I did not see it mentioned anywhere on the blog. No offence and certainly no advertisment intended.

        Yes, I did find it on the news website of man met law school incase anyone wants to check i’m telling the truth and thats probably why I kept the link in.

      • July 20, 2010 10:54 pm

        Fair enough.

  30. f lome permalink
    October 11, 2010 4:00 am

    Dont know about the BVC but the following applies to the LPC and what was the CPE (GDL) . I expect it applies to Barristers who do not get Pupillage as well.

    If you don’t get a Training contract within seven years your LPC and CPE (GDL) become invalid. So if you don’t get a TC in this time your are out…..this is not well known and not publicised by the Law Society or ILEX. I know I got caught.

    • Beth permalink
      October 11, 2010 9:56 am

      For the BVC/BPTC it’s 5 years before the degree is invalid. Most BVC grads I have spoken to are aware of this, but by no means are all aware.

  31. Anonymous permalink
    January 1, 2013 11:48 am

    Frankly the rule is: if you haven’t gone to Oxbridge or one of the redbricks, and you haven’t been groomed for the career, it’s extremely difficult to get to be a barrister who makes some money – i.e at the civil bar which doesn’t rely on public money (so not immigration, then). That simple. To back up my point, on a recent Guardian webchat, all four newly qualified or pupil barristers taking part (from civil-commercial sets) were forced to confess they had a degree from Oxbridge/redbrick. Ha! What a crock of lies the profession of the bar is selling you about non-discrimination. Has anyone ever heard a mockney accent in a civil set of chambers which isn’t a clerk’s? No, you have to be posh, you have to have the right background and you have to have been correctly “schooled” to be at the bar which makes private money. I have great academics, have finally cross-qualified from the BVC on the QLTT and will bloat my way back to the bar by means of my recognition as a solicitor-advocate shortly through the pre Sept-2010-loophole. During pre-qualification, I even won a Chancery case (which has been reported in several journals) where I was given exceptional right of audience on behalf of some LIPs by the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) before three heavyweight LJs – and I beat top-tier counsel and commercial solcitors in the process. Not a chance of pupillage as I didn’t go to Oxbridge or a redbrick – that simple. I challenge anyone – anyone – to bring evidence which refutes my contention that the bar and the money to be made there is dominated by old school ties, jolly hockey sticks and Oxbridge/redbrick. That is not to say that the bar should accept mediocrity – but there are candidates out there which didn’t go to Oxbridge or the redbricks which will be just as good if not better than the jolly old school crowd – they are just not even allowed a chance. I am looking forward to seeing the bar disintegrate in my lifetime, having once been proud of its fairness and tradition.

  32. September 27, 2013 10:46 pm

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