Can 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.