Life at the Bar · No Pupillage · The Future · Which Chambers?

Caution – Handle With Care

symbolbombmanCan I just put in a plea for you to help each other, as you go about the painful, frightening and competitive process that is pupillage selection ?

The rules for all Chambers – whether in OLPAS or not – are clear. No offers can be made before 930am on 30th July and every offer must stay open for 14 days. Chambers not complying with those rules are cheating. In doing so they prevent the level playing field to which you are entitled. Particularly, early offers can often pressurise applicants into accepting the place. There is no way of knowing whether every interviewee has even had their interview and the successful candidate will often cancel interviews elsewhere, which is not only unfair to the other Chambers (I suspect most of you aren’t overly concerned about that – and neither would I be if I were you) but also means that an interview slot has been wasted.

Offers that stay open for less than 14 days (known as exploding offers) obviously distort the competition, place applicants under undue pressure because they may not yet have heard from everyone before they must decide and simply encourage more Chambers to behave in that unacceptable way.

If this happens to you, or you know of it: or if you know of something else which is obviously in breach of any equality and diversity standard that applies then please ring the BSB. If you can’t face that, then please tell me. You can report it to me anonymously if you like but I would prefer not. I will honour anonymity requests even if I know who you are and I will not ‘out’ you to anyone without your express permission. However, eliminating these practices (and the Bar does know they go on) is the easiest way to ensure that the system operates as fairly as it possibly can, for everyone. The profession owes you that and you owe it to yourselves. So, please let me know and I will talk to you about it and – if you agree (but only then) – steer you to the right people to whom to make a report. The report itself can also be confidential – you will not be putting your career on the line.

Ultimately the BSB can prevent a pupillage offered in breach of the rules from being registered. That is a blunt weapon however, because it adversely affects the person who is least responsible (although you would, plainly, be complicit if you know the rules). My preferred solution is to compel Chambers in breach to offer double the number of pupillages the next year, all remunerated at the highest pupillage award offered in the last 3 years by those Chambers. That would, as the Mikado says, make the punishment fit the crime.

Let me know. Don’t keep cheating a secret.

8 thoughts on “Caution – Handle With Care

  1. Surely this is not happening? I refuse to believe the people on the student room. I have to believe that its a fair competition or what it the point?

    That being said the BBC programme last year showed us one student who couldn’t get pupillage being taken on by a set where she seemed to be on close terms with her mentor, yet did the bar council investigate the 400 people that applied to chambers that year to ensure it was genuinely the best candidate that was chosen? I think not.

  2. I agree with Legally Ginge, I thought that Keating thing on the Barristers was more than a little suspicious and made the Bar look disappointingly nepotistic.

    What I would add though Simon is that although people do have the 14 days to decide, it is in my view selfish of someone to take those 14 days to decide between/among offers if they could decide in less time. I am aware of people doing this, i.e. taking 14 days to hum and haw over offers, only for the set they ultimately reject to find that all of those on their reserve list have already accepted offers, such that 1. the rejected set ends up with no pupils or fewer pupils than they have places; 2. someone on the reserve list who would have given his/her eye teeth to be at the rejected set ends up somewhere he/she likes less instead; 3. ultimately, as a knock-on effect, someone who would have killed for a pupillage ends up with none.

  3. I’m hating this years application season. I had hopes that the new style version of OLPAS would prove a fairer and better means of competition for pupillage but on the basis of this post and the above comments I dont think it has done or perhaps ever will do. This is very disheartening.

  4. Lawminx I do think it is generally as fair as it possibly can be – I certainly haven’t come across any sets offering pupillages other than at the allowed time, let alone without interview. The Keating thing really surprised me, it is certainly not the norm. I just don’t really know what more they could do to make it objectively “fair”… the fact that many really good applicants don’t get pupillage doesn’t make it unfair, it is just a symptom of a situation in which there are far too many qualified applicants relative to the number of pupillages…

  5. (though that said it does seem that the Portal has been procedurally speaking a bit of a shambles this year…)

  6. Anya, it was the proceedual shambles that I was referring to – the moving of deadline goalposts, some applications apparently never reaching chambers, or going to the wrong chambers to begin with, and the constant need to keep checking the site for updates in the absence of emails. All VERY stressful……

  7. lawminx, I agree. An utter shambles.

    Mr Myerson, your post is refreshing. I have not heard of it happening but we were warned about it earlier in the year at a careers workshop. However, we were informed of the rules and more-or-less told that what we did in the event of an early offer was up to us. It seems to me that we ought to have someone at college we can go to if we’re concerned. No one will whistleblow if they fear they’ll never get a pupillage anywhere as a result.

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