Oversight regulator the Legal Services Board (LSB) has approved the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) proposals for changing the training regime for aspiring barristers in England and Wales, which includes reforms to pupillage but retains the role of the Inns of Court.
The LSB stated it ‘broadly welcomes’ the changes which would enable a ‘degree of liberalisation of the BSB’s regulation of education and training’. The BSB’s proposed new training method adopts a ‘managed pathways’ approach. Under this model, courses run by Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETO) are intended to be ‘more flexible and fit with the requirements of students’. Currently, trainees undergo three stages in their development: academic education, vocational training and work-based training. The BSB’s proposed approach permits trainees to take different routes, including combining the sections. The BSB said although the ‘vast majority’ of aspiring barristers will continue to go through pupillage, it expected new forms of training to emerge over time. The proposals also cover the role that the traditional Inns of Court play in the training of barristers, including the centuries-old traditions of mandatory ‘dining sessions.’
The BSB had originally intended to limit the influence of the Inns, but responded to criticism from the Bar Council that defended their ‘fundamental role’ in ‘nurturing and developing the shared culture of the bar’. The BSB intends to allow the Inns to retain their role but said there needs to be ‘greater BSB regulatory oversight and assurance’ in the process of calling to the Bar and administering fit and proper person checks. It proposes to outline the new approach through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the BSB, the Council of the Inns of Court, and each of the four Inns of Court. The LSB said it has accepted this is an improvement on the current position and that it will take a ‘close interest’ in how the MoU works and the impact of the new arrangement.