“Great deal of work” still needed on barrister apprenticeships

Apprenticeships: Bar Council looking at practicalities

There is still a “great deal of work” to be done to ensure that barrister apprenticeships are ready for launch, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has warned, even though it is set to move closer today.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), an arm’s length body of the Department for Education, is to consider approving the occupational standard for the barrister version at a meeting today.

IfATE works with employers to “develop, approve, review and revise apprenticeships” and a spokeswoman said more information about the timing of the launch of the barrister apprenticeship would be available afterwards.

She added: “IfATE welcomes this proposal for a barrister apprenticeship, which could be game changing for opening out the profession to people from more diverse backgrounds.

“We look forward to working with expert employers, including barristers’ chambers across England, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Bar Standards Board and Bar Council, on developing this further.”

A ‘trailblazer group’ of employers designing the apprenticeship is made up of Clerksroom, Trinity Chambers, St Philips Chambers, Cornwall Street Chambers and 33 Bedford Row. The public sector is represented by the Crown Prosecution Service, Government Legal Department and Ministry of Justice.

An apprenticeship is only available for delivery when both the standard and assessment plan is approved and a funding band (core government contribution) has been assigned to the standard.

A BSB spokesman said it was working with the barrister apprenticeship trailblazer group to develop the standard according to the requirements of IfATE.

While the group “must be driven by potential employers of apprentices, rather than the professional or regulatory body, we are very much involved”.

The BSB’s authorisation framework provides for a barrister apprenticeship pathway, but there was “still a great deal of work ahead to ensure that the proposed route meets IfATE’s requirements, fits into the existing regulatory framework, and is appropriate and feasible for the Bar”, the spokesman said.

Once the IfATE process is complete, organisations will be able to apply to the BSB for authorisation to deliver an apprenticeship route.

Nick Vineall KC, chair of the Bar Council, commented: “The Bar Council is open to exploring new routes into the profession as a means of improving diversity, but these require very careful consideration.

“We are in conversation with the apprenticeship trailblazer group about the practicalities of implementing a Bar apprenticeship.”

Dr Vanessa Davies, the then director-general of the BSB, told Legal Futures back in 2017 that there was no “particular reason” for not having barrister apprenticeships, although the market would be much smaller than for the solicitor apprenticeships launched the previous year.

Michaela Hardwick, a solicitor who is regulatory compliance officer at national chambers Clerksroom, said in a paper this time two years ago that apprenticeships could be a “viable option” to qualification as a barrister, but required collaboration between the BSB, education providers and the Bar.

She said that while pupillages were hard to find, there was “plenty of work” for those who had completed part or all of the training needed to become a barrister, whether it was acting as a caseworker, paralegal or legal assistant.

Meanwhile, City Century, the law firm collaboration launched in June to significantly increase the number of solicitor apprentices entering the City of London each year, has named UCAS, education and career guidance provider Not Going to Uni, and student network Young Professionals as official project partners.

It said this could generate “thousands of quality applications” to the solicitor apprenticeship route.

City Century has two major events for Year 12 and Year 13 students running next week, the first in London and the second in Manchester.

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