As you probably know, the BSB has announced that deferral of call is a non-starter. The issue was whether pupillage had to be completed first. The answer is ‘no’.
The reasons are that deferring call would deter non-UK students and would make the question, ‘who/what is a barrister?’ less than clear. Instead there is to be an online register of barristers holding a current practising certificate.
I don’t myself favour excluding all those without a pupillage from the profession. Not only do I accept the point about overseas students, but to do so would essentially amount to declaring the BVC only a half-way house (it would be interesting to see any submissions the BVC made on this issue).
The risk would be that good applicants were lost to the profession if you had to have a pupillage before getting a BVC place. If it were possible to have the open competition before the BVC then I would be in favour of doing it that way and simply admitting those with pupillage plus those signing a declaration that they had no intention of practising in this country plus those signing a declaration saying that they intended to seek pupillage later but understood that they could not call themselves a barrister even if they passed the BVC with distinction. But this would put Chambers in the position of acting like a clearing house for all those who failed to achieve a 2.2 – and perhaps any higher offer Chambers demanded – and seems impractical. There is also the question of whether the BVC providers would be prepared to continue on those terms. The economics would appear against them.
There is to be a formal statement issued by the BSB ‘shortly’. Whilst the new system will clearly differentiate between practising and non-practising barristers. I don’t know how it is going to discriminate between non-practising (never had a pupillage) and non-practising (taking a career break). Perhaps it doesn’t matter.
None of this is as good as a sift in my view. The poll currently has the sift at 29% and a 2.1 only qualification at 46%. I think this is a real mistake – we are already screening people on the basis of how they buckle down aged 17-18. Now we want to do it again when they are aged 18/19-21/22. Then they practice (all being well) for 40 years plus – or about 8 times the total combined period of the studying on which they are thereafter judged forever. Are we seriously saying that no one develops intellectually or in terms of effort between the ages of 22 and 65ish?
I am familiar with the argument that such a cut-off allows for certainty. But it doesn’t. Not everyone with a 2.1 will get a pupillage. Nor does a 2.1 (which may be all of 1% removed from a 2.2) actually focus on, still less decide, the question of who will be a good barrister. In my view it is a lazy way of sorting out the problem of over-supply. This is an opportunity to try and work out what makes a person a good barrister. We should take it.
Vote now. 🙂