Barrister apprenticeships a “viable option”, specialist argues

Hardwick: Plenty of work for would-be barristers

Apprenticeships are a “viable option” to qualification as a barrister, but they would need collaboration between the Bar Standards Board, education providers and the Bar, a new paper has argued.

Michaela Hardwick, solicitor and managing director of Beyond Compliance, said that while pupillage itself was hard to come by, there was “plenty of work” for those who had completed part or all of the training needed to become a barrister.

This could be acting as caseworkers, paralegals or legal assistants for chambers, self-employed barristers or law firms, and undertaking paralegal-type activities such as research, case preparation, drafting and general legal administrative duties.

It could be working as an advocate, on a self-employed basis, using “the loophole in the Legal Services Act 2007 allowing for individuals who are not authorised themselves but are working for an LSA-regulated entity to conduct court hearings being heard ‘in chambers’”.

Ms Hardwick, who is also regulatory compliance officer and pupillage co-ordinator at Clerksroom, said all of this work could “very easily form the structure for a barrister apprenticeship route; whether that was through some form of collaborative approach or through individual organisations wishing to capitalise upon the potential opportunities which could result”.

In a paper for the Clerksroom Pupillage Academy, Ms Hardwick said that while the employed Bar was in a “strong position” to provide apprenticeships, the reality was that no single organisation was likely to take on a sufficient number of apprentices to make it worthwhile for the individual organisation to create the pathway.

She went on: “Equally, the lack of collaboration between organisations and also with training providers, in addition to a lack of numbers, means that there is insufficient incentive for training providers to develop the relevant components for the pathway.

“Furthermore, it is unclear as to whether the number of opportunities which would be available through the employed Bar would, in itself, be sufficient to persuade all parties to invest the time to develop the pathway.”

At the self-employed Bar, meanwhile, “a lack of numbers from individual chambers and a lack of collaboration” were barriers.

However, a “larger barrier is the requirement for an apprentice to be employed”, which was contrary to the nature of the relationship between chambers and members/tenants.

Ms Hardwick said: “In itself, this is not insurmountable but, in the current environment of work opportunities and structure, this is only likely to be feasible if an apprenticeship existed which mirrored pupillage.

“This does not move matters forward from where we are with the current pupillage issues.”

Ms Hardwick said Beyond Compliance would be carrying out a survey this autumn to gauge individuals’ attitudes toward pursuing an apprenticeship qualification and ascertains what the hesitation is, “if there is any”.

This could be followed by a further survey to obtain “feedback, attitudes and interest” from organisations.

“It is clear that the apprenticeship route is a viable option to qualifying as a barrister. It also addresses some of the current issues faced by the Bar when it comes to qualification routes and, as detailed above, it would promote all of the BSB’s fundamental principles (accessibility, flexibility, affordability and high standards).

“There are barriers and hurdles which need to be addressed, but these are not insurmountable.

“With collaborative working, particularly from, the BSB, any interested organisations (whether at the self-employed or employed Bar) and educational providers, the apprenticeship pathway could be successful.”

Chelsea Sparks, a compliance consultant at Beyond Compliance and now a pupil barrister at Clerksroom, contributed to the paper.

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