Pupils must have written agreements from May

Neale: New man in charge of BSB

Written pupillage agreements will become compulsory from 1 May 2020, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has said.

A related change will make it compulsory for chambers and other training providers to bring their pupillage recruitment timetables into line with the pupillage gateway – from 1 November 2020.

Offers of pupillage must also be made in writing and signed by the training provider and successful candidate.

Training providers will be allowed to draft pupillage agreements themselves, provided they meet the BSB’s ‘outcomes’.

They are under a duty to ensure a “fair distribution” of training opportunities to the pupils, who must be covered by insurance and provided with “all necessary assistance” in meeting their regulatory obligations.

A written description of the training programme must include details of training and supervision, and the compulsory advocacy course.

The agreement must specify what action will be taken if the pupil fails to achieve the BSB’s competencies set out in the regulator’s professional statement. The training provider must also provide details of the minimum amount to be paid each month.

Pupils must provide “clear documentary evidence” that they have passed their academic and vocational training, are members of an inn, have obtained immigration visas if relevant and registered their pupillage.

Last year the BSB postponed the move, designed to reduce the risk of what the regulator has described as “inappropriate behaviours”, by six months to give chambers and other organisations more time for implementation.

The BSB already requires that all pupillages are advertised on the pupillage gateway, operated by the Bar Council.

From 1 November 2020, all chambers and training providers will have to ensure their recruitment is in line with the gateway timetable, whether or not they use the gateway to process applications.

Ewen MacLeod, director of strategy and policy at the BSB, said: “The introduction of a single timetable will make pupillage recruitment fairer and more consistent, while written pupillage agreements will enhance pupils’ and chambers’ understanding of their obligations.”

In a separate development, the BSB’s head of equality and access to justice, Amit Popat, said gender and ethnic diversity at the Bar was showing “slow and steady improvement”, following publication last week of the BSB’s annual diversity report.

The proportion of women at the Bar increased by 0.6% to 38%, and the proportion of BAME barristers by the same amount to 13.6%.

There were similarly small gains at QC level, with a rise of 0.4% in female silks to 16.2% and 0.3% in BAME QCs to 8.1%.

Most pupil barristers are female, almost 55% – making women a majority for the fourth year in a row. The proportion of BAME pupils is higher than the figure for barristers as a whole at 19%.

A third of barristers who responded on what type of secondary school they attended went to a fee-paying school – nearly half (48%) of barristers did not answer the question.

Ms Popat said: “While the data follow a similar trend to those seen in recent years insofar as they show a slow and steady improvement in gender and ethnic diversity at the Bar, there is more to be done before the profession can be said fully to reflect the society it serves.”

Finally, following his appointment in October last year, Mark Neale took up his position this week as the new director-general of the BSB. He replaces Dr Vanessa Davies, who is retiring after nine years.

Mr Neale was formerly chief executive of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme and before that held senior roles in the Home Office and HM Treasury.

Mr Neale said: “Barristers have an essential role in the administration of justice and in upholding the rule of law and I look forward to working with everyone who has an interest in our work to regulate the Bar in the public interest.”

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