The last post attracted a lot of comments. LawMinx makes a fair point when she writes:
Having got down, last year, the nitty gritty at one particular chambers where I was one of the last four bieng considered for three pupillages, only to be rejected at that stage, I must say I feel pretty damned, and found it a tremendous confidence knocker. While the whole process is pretty soul destroying, from BVC to Portal and back again, one ultimately rises and falls on one’s own merits. Thats Life – but when wounded by it even the most stalwart and philosophical are never going to think it fair, unfortunately………..
I accept that, and I understand that complacent comments from those already there aren’t welcome.
On the other hand, I have repeatedly stressed the need for change and fairness as well.
What I have discerned from the comments on the post below is an unhappy willingness to focus on the demerits of the system rather than the merits of the individual. There is a reluctant acceptance that even in a perfect system there will be those who do not succeed but the emphasis is on the proposition that failure is the fault of the Bar. There is also an unhappy whiff of those prepared to agree with any change – providing it is not one which adversely affects their own chances.
I have difficulties with that approach. Firstly, I don’t think it makes a good barrister – this is a job which puts a heavy emphasis on personal responsibility. Secondly, it fails to acknowledge that the majority of barristers are bothered about applicants – people can perfectly properly take the view that the professional and public interest is served by maximal competition and the only ones who suffer under that system do so voluntarily. They can also take the view that wholesale change is not required, without that meaning that they are uncaring. Thirdly, it fails to appreciate tthat no system is going to be entirely fair – particularly when it must embody strenuous competition, vocational training, strict selection and the means to pay for it. Fourthly, it fails to acknowledge that some pretty outstanding people have emerged in the last few years – even from the shambles that the unreformed BVC can be said to have become at one stage.
No one makes a BVC student become a BVC student. It is striking how few of the comments suggest that, had the author only realised what being a barrister involved and how tough it was, they would not have paid their money. That suggests that the profession is conveying a realistic idea of the challenges involved in obtaining a pupillage.
I think the focus must be on getting the very best people. Because access to the profession is perceived as privileged that necessarily involves diversity issues. Otherwise we don’t get the best people – we only get the best people who have thought that the Bar may be for them. That’s why, in my firm view, we should measure distance travelled and that’s why an applicant whose parents have already succeeded off their own bat hasn’t travelled the distance. This is about how far you have walked – not how far you were driven. It involves competition because competition widens the pool and challenges the applicants. It involves fairness and transparency because that is how we retain the public’s confidence and create the pool from which we want to chose in 20 years’ time. Fairness includes not taking advantage of those who have no realistic chance. That cannot mean preventing them trying, which is to treat them like 3 year-olds, but rather to make sure that they understand they cannot expect to succeed. It also involves making the training element something of genuine worth – whilst remembering that it is training for the Bar and not for anything else.
The profession is actively engaged in this discussion and a large number of people give up a large amount of their time – largely for free – to deal with it. It is wrong to confuse results you don’t like, and outcomes unfavourable to an individual, with a lack of effort or willingness to make changes.