The future of Bar training is changing, and we want your views

Posted by Ewen MacLeod, director of regulatory policy at the Bar Standards Board

MacLeod: which route to the Bar do you favour?

MacLeod: which route to the Bar do you favour?

We are proposing to make big changes in training for the Bar and want your views. The Future Bar Training programme was set up by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) in 2014 in response to the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR). The aim of the programme is to ensure that training for the Bar is flexible, accessible and affordable while sustaining high standards.

We are aware of problems with the current system, both from the LETR and our own consultation which was launched June 2015. We had a good response to this consultation and have taken on board many of the comments and suggestions when developing future training options.

We recently launched a second consultation seeking the views of students, professionals, academics and the wider public on three options. These are:

  • An ‘evolutionary’ approach which would retain the three sequential stages in the current system: academic legal education (law degree or graduate diploma in law), vocational training (Bar professional training course) and work-based learning (pupillage);
  • A ‘managed pathways’ approach under which several routes may be authorised, including:
    • following the current three stage approach (as in Option A);
    • combining academic and vocational learning;
    • combining vocational and work-based learning; and
    • completing all learning separately over time in a modular way;
  • A ‘Bar specialist’ approach which would create a new exam combining academic and professional learning followed by a short skills course and then pupillage.

These options were discussed in July when the BSB held a debate on future training routes. We had a lively evening where proponents of these options made a case for their preferred choice. It was a well-attended event and we were grateful to all those who attended and shared their views. For further information about this event please click here.

In 2017, the BSB will decide which option to take forward and implement as the new route for training at the Bar. We want to hear your views on the issues raised in our consultation paper. We will be taking the consultation process across England and Wales to ensure that the widest number of people are able to contribute. Dates and details of consultation events can be found here.

Each of the options we are considering meet the requirements of the Professional Statement for Barristers, which we published last month. It includes the threshold standard and competences which set out the specific knowledge, skills and attributes that all barristers must have to practise on ‘day one’.

This will greatly support our work as we further develop the future training pathways to ensure that all barristers reach the same standard. This is one of many changes we have already begun introducing as part of the Future Bar Training reforms.

Other examples are the introduction of new CPD requirements for all barristers of more than three years’ call. These changes will be introduced in 2017 and will allow barristers to write their own CPD plans, allowing greater flexibility for CPD completion and removing the requirement for waivers and exemptions. We have also updated the BPTC and pupillage handbooks to remove unnecessary prescription and allow greater flexibility. This should improve their usability for both students and providers.

For more information about what we have been doing in the Future Bar Training programme. please see our website. If you have any questions or queries or would like to respond to our consultation please email

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