Whether to do this is just about the number 1 question and, as chance would have it, I have a cunning plan ready to hand. It is NOT mine – it belongs to Barrister2Be who has kindly given his permission for me to publish it.
Now, I do not warrant that this will succeed and it demands dedication. But I can’t detect any obvious flaw. Further reports are welcome. So, thanks B2B and here it is:
“No Pupillage – What next?
If you are reading this then you have no doubt passed the Bar Vocational Course and
have not found that elusive pupillage. Most people I know have been totally
demoralised by the whole pupillage application process and either end up doing ad-hoc para-legal work in the hope it will enhance their c.v. or give up any dream that they once had of becoming a barrister. Lets face it, the system sucks but we knew what the odds were when we started the BVC, the people who make a success of bad situation are the ones who don’t give up at the first hurdle. So stop feeling sorry for yourself and read on.
Do your own research
In life you get out what you put in and I am not therefore going to quote every applicable Law Society / Bar Council regulation in respect of this document. These are available on the relevant web sites. You are trained in legal research, so if there is anything you are not sure about, then you are well qualified to do your own research, lets face it you paid just short of £10000 for the privilege of calling yourself a non practising barrister, almost a bit like cash for honours.
This is not legal or Career advice
This is not meant to be legal advice or otherwise, it is provided in good faith only, it may contain errors, for which I will not be held responsible. You are an adult with a legal mind which is no doubt far superior to mine, so don’t rely on anything I tell you.
The Bar Council / Law Society
After looking at the Bar Council and Law Society Regulations in respect to qualification, it transpires that there is a solution to this problem and that it is possible to become a practising barrister without having to find a pupillage.
The Solution in a nutshell
You become a solicitor wih higher rights
You then have two options
You can then transfer back to the bar and apply for a waiver of pupillage from the bar council and they will more than likely grant it, if you obtain higher rights in both criminal and civil proceedings. You will then need to find a set of chambers to take you on as a probationary tenant.
Continue working as a solicitor advocate and enjoy the same rights of audience as a barrister, although you don’t get to wear a wig, it could be argued that you are saving yourself a couple of hundred quid, however if you are anything like me, I want the bloody wig.
How do you go about it – that’s elementary my dear Watson !
The first thing you need to do is apply to the law society for a certificate of eligibility to sit the Qualified lawyers transfer test. This form is obtainable from the law society. You send the completed form with a certified copy of your degree or GDL certificate, Certificate of admission to your INN and BVC certificate along with a nice fat cheque for £400.00. Don’t moan that you have no money, if you are hungry enough you will find a legal way to obtain it. If you have been a naughty boy in the past and have a police record, then you need to be aware that the Law Society perform a mandatory CRB check prior to admission. Lets face it they dont want a convicted fraudster running off with all grannys money do they?
The Law society then write back to you and tell you that you need to sit the Solicitors Accounts and Professional Conduct element of the Exam. The exams are open book and you can resit as often as you want, so if you are grey matter challenged or an old bastard like me with a crap memory, it wont matter, you will pass in time.
You then need to enrol with an approved provider in order to sit the test. This will cost you £250 which will register you for three attempts at the test. Each attempt will cost you in the region of £90. BBP and Central Law Training are approved testing organisations. They can also provide distance learning and face to face tutoring if required, the fees for this will vary between £250 and £900 depending on what option is taken. I would recommend the distance learning option with BPP as the materials are concise and go and do a book keeping course at your local college of further education if you don’t feel confident in this area.
If you have reached this point, you should now be at the following stage
■ Have obtained your certificate of eligibility
■ Have registered with a course provider
■ Decided on your mode of study
■ Brush up on accounts at your local college if required
You sit the QLTT and pass.
You now need to obtain 24 months legal experience and cover three areas of law which is a mixture of contentious and non contentious areas of practice. If you have prior experience you can apply to the law society for a reduction in this period. You will now need to start job hunting, ideally look for temporary contracts, these can be found on web sites such as totally legal. I suggest you work in areas that reflect the area in which you finally want to work. As you will be at the bottom of the pile, you will no doubt be meeting Council on a regular basis, this is where you have to shine and impress them with your hard work and knowledge.
As soon as you have your certificate of eligibility for the QLTT you must then apply to the Law society for a wavier in order to start the process by which you obtain higher rights.
There are various routes to higher rights but the route which is applicable to a non practising barrister is “development route”. The law society will exempt a non practising barrister from having to have training and assessment towards higher rights. The only requirement that you will have to adhere to is the requirement to create a portfolio, you will need a mentor to assist you with this who can either be a Solicitor or a practising Barrister. Examples of portfolio’s can be found on the law society website along with what is required by your mentor.
The Waiver that you apply for will allow you to start building your portfolio prior to been admitted on the solicitors roll. To apply for the waiver you must write to Paul Harrison, Solicitors Regulation Authority, DX 19114 Redditch. I could have made you sweat for this address but i am not totally heartless..
You must complete 4 of chapters in the portfolio prior to admission on the Solicitors roll (or you will have delays later on), the final chapter you can only do when you have your rights of audience as it is a requirement to have completed an advocacy exercise before a real court. Just keep your mentor sweet during your time with him or her, even if it means baby sitting on a Saturday night. They are helping you remember not vice versa.
You are now at the stage where you should be:
l You have passed your QLTT exam (if you fail just try again)
l Working during the day gaining the required legal experience
l Completing one chapter of your Higher Rights portfolio at least every 3 Months.
Once you have completed your 24 months experience you then apply to be admitted on the Solicitors roll,
Assuming you are admitted you are now a solicitor with rights of audience in the lower courts, you now must complete the last chapter in your portfolio with the aid of your mentor and send off your application for higher rights along with the portfolio. Full details are on the Law societies web site.
If all you meet the required standard in respect of the portfolio then you will be given your higher rights and you are now a solicitor advocate, with the same rights of audience as a practising Barrister.
Work as a solicitor advocate
You can apply to transfer back to the bar and you will be given the following exemptions
l If you have civil higher rights then you will get a 6 month reduction in pupillage
l If you have criminal higher rights then you will get a 6 month reduction in pupillage
l If you have both then you will be exempt from pupillage
l All you now need to do is find a chambers to take you on as a probationary tenant, remember all the contacts you made with Counsel when doing your legal experience requirement, if you impressed them I am sure you will find your tenancy.
The whole process should take two years or less depending on your exemption for previous legal experience. I think you will agree with me that you will be more attractive to chambers as a probationary tenant then a pupil who has to learn on the job at Chambers expense.
How many people are up for pupillage each year? To many to mention
What are your odds of getting a pupillage? If pupillage was a horse I would not bet on it.
There is always more than one route to a destination
Good Luck in your quest”
For more from our man in the law society corner trying on his wig and gown – go here: http://barrister2b.blogspot.com/