17 September 2019

Review of the Role of the Inns of Court in the qualification of new barristers

As part of the BSB's ongoing review of Bar training we are now beginning a review of the role of the Inns of Court. The Legal Services Act defines a barrister as someone who has been called to the Bar by an Inn and has not been disbarred by order of an Inn. The BSB supports that position.

The process by which the Inns call individuals to the Bar is part of the regulatory arrangements of the General Council of the Bar as defined by the Act. So too are a number of other functions of the Inns including:

  • Applying the requirements for admission to an Inn;
  • Approving pupil supervisors, and providing pupil supervisor training;
  • Providing training courses during pupillage;
  • Providing "qualifying sessions" and waiving/modifying the requirements; and
  • Student discipline, including the Inns Conduct Committee.

Our new Authorisation Framework, which will assess Bar training against the principles of accessibility, affordability, flexibility and sustaining high standards, will apply to the role of the Inns and will need to describe (amongst other things) the role that the Inns will have in any requirements for qualification as a barrister.

We will be issuing a public consultation on a new set of rules in September but, before we do that, we have a statutory responsibility to ensure that any rules are desirable from the perspective of meeting our regulatory objectives under the Legal Services Act and that all regulatory arrangements involving the Inns continue to be both necessary and proportionate from a regulatory perspective.  

The Inns are already reviewing their arrangements separately to see if there are any changes that need to be made. We will consult the Inns and the Bar Council closely throughout our review, but for any changes to take effect, we must decide to propose them independently, and the change must be approved by the Legal Services Board (LSB).

We have already begun our discussions with the Bar Council and the Inns.

Pupillage pilot

Later this year we will also be launching a pilot in relation to pupillage supervision alongside the 2017-18 intake of pupils. We currently require pupils and pupil supervisors to complete prescribed checklists for pupillage training, but in future we envisage this being done in a more flexible way, focusing on the competences in the Professional Statement. We will also be exploring different approaches to the supervision of Pupillage Training Organisations (PTO).

We intend to invite six-ten PTOs to take part in this pilot, covering a range of sizes, geographic locations and practice areas, both chambers and the Employed Bar. We will roll out any changes as a result of the pilot in 2018-19.

As part of the pilot we will also be considering some wider questions including the length and structure of pupillage that we currently prescribe and the one-to-one relationship between pupils and pupil supervisors that our rules require.