Now that I have finished palpitating I am not working, so that I can update you. I am finding that regular blogging is difficult to reconcile with an awful lot of work, some domestic heavy-lifting and the need to find something new to say.
Now, however, there is something. The BSB has begun a root and branch review of the way in which the profession educates its entrants. The academic element (Universities in other words – with the best will in the world the Law A Level is not worth doing in terms of teaching you what you need to know to be able to practice) is being left largely to get on with this itself – if you have anything to say about how you are taught law in terms of balance between exams/assesment and the content of the courses then the point of contact is your Student Union.
But the BSB is reviewing the BVC, Pupillage and Continuing Professional Development and they are doing it seriously and properly. That is to say that the review is being conducted by people qualified to do so and they are obtaining and utilising access to current providers.
I don’t think that this will simply be a re-jig, unless that is a genuine recommendation. All issues are open and (almost) all suggestions will be considered (not, I fear, the option of allowing anyone to declare themselves a barrister. Sorry about that). The process is already underway and I gather that Neuberger (publication 27th November) Report on Access to the Profession will have something to say about pupillage and the BVC in that context. So, if you believe that everyone should qualify as a solicitor first, or that Pupillage should come before the BVC, or that we should return to unfunded pupillage, or anything else that can sensibly be proposed, let me know. I will feed back every comment to the Education and Training Committee, I will post the ones that I think may spark further debate (please let me know if you don’t want this to happen to your comment) and I will add my own views as well.
You will appreciate that I must respect the confidentiality of the Committee, so sadly there will be no kiss and tell. On the other hand, I do not have to clear what I write. I can safely (I think) say that the methodology of the review of the BVC is already established and we are currently discussing how Pupillage and CPD fits into that. I would welcome views – on the same basis as that set out above. CPD is important to you because the first 3 years of CPD comprise the New Practitioners Programme, where the requirements are more onerous and where you need to do it in order to get your practising certificate renewed. Default later in your career leads to a financial penalty only – at least in the first instance for first time offenders.
- Do you finish the BVC ready for pupillage? If not, why not? If so, then is anything you are taught on your BVC course extraneous? Please note, this is not a question about the competence of your tutors.
- Do you finish pupillage ready for practice? I don’t know how many pupils read this blog, but your comments are welcome.
- Is the balance between the ‘black letter’ academic subjects and the practical ‘skills based’ subjects right from your perspective? This question includes what you have learned at University or on the CPE.
- Rate your BVC. Please note – I will pay more attention to non-anonymous comments or comments that provide me with an email address to reply to. You can email me directly on this – address on the left and I will post your comment anonymised if you ask me to. I will also pay more attention to reasoned comments. That you find your tutors’ clothes offensive or wish that they had a beard, or that they had classed you as very competent on every piece of work is not reasoned.
I am also interested in your experiences of ratios of students to instructors, both in pupillage and on the BVC, especially in advocacy exercises. If your BVC provider is over-subscribed you should now know about it. If you hadn’t been told, would you have noticed?
Then there is the students’ side of it. From the Profession’s point of view we want competent barristers who adhere to what it still the best Code of Conduct of any profession in my view, with the least defaults and with (more importantly from my perspective) a positive sense of wanting to do the job honestly and in the interests of justice. That is why I am proud to be a barrister. That inevitably means some over-supply (unless only people with offers of pupillage get to do the BVC).
From the students’ point of view, is the qualification (non-practising as it now is, of course) worth the aggro, the money, the disappointment and the time? Assume for a moment that you either do not want pupillage (at least in the UK) or do not get it. What is it that would make you think that your time was not wasted? Is there anything? How much aggro, money, disappointment and time is justified by your hopes and dreams, assuming they come to nothing?
I know that this is special pleading because I am on the damn thing after all, but I had not met any of the Education and Training Committee before the meeting we had on Tuesday night and I was impressed (whether they were is another matter). I was also asked specifically what I was hearing on the blog, by the Chairman. So I believe I can honestly say that people are listening.
Lastly, the BVC visits include one to Leeds and if Chambers can spare me I am going to go. So, if you read the blog and want to say hello I will try and fit in some time for that on the same day (currently proposed to be the 4th March 2008 I think). I will keep you posted – let me know.