The Bar Council has reacted with outrage to training reforms that it says would include automatically ‘passporting’ solicitors with rights of audience and academics through qualification as barristers, thus “diluting” the brand.
In its response, the Bar Council warned that in practice the proposed changes would mean that a solicitor granted rights by the Solicitors Regulation Authority – which it claimed had “markedly less strict training requirements”, such as no pupillage – would be entitled to qualify as a barrister.
The Bar Council said: “It will unacceptably dilute the high standards rightly required of practising barristers; and it will provide an easy parallel route to the Bar for those practitioners who have failed the Bar’s entry and training requirements.”
It alleged a further rule change on partial exemptions was “scarcely better” in that it extended the exemption to many more with existing rights of audience, subject to an effective waiver of both the academic and vocational training elements, and also “if the BSB thinks fit”, pupillage.
It said: “It is easy to see that this will be attractive to solicitors who regard admission to the Bar as a badge of achievement, and who will recognise that this route to that badge is fundamentally less arduous than the route barristers currently take.
“It will swell the ranks of the Bar with those who will not have faced the same testing regime, and without giving the undiscerning public any means of distinguishing between the two at the point of instruction.”
The Bar Council objected to allowing any law teacher “of experience and academic distinction” an exemption from academic and legal vocational training. It said this right should not be automatic.
It complained too that a proposal to relax the requirement that a pupil must be individually supervised by a suitably qualified barrister, in the case of sets of chambers and other organisations, would “dilute pupil training”.
The response said: “We view this dilution of the vital work-based component of the pupil’s training as antithetical to the [regulatory objectives]…
“We urge the BSB to introduce appropriate safeguards, to ensure that this dilution does not take place.”