The new rules, which were approved in February by the Legal Services Board, will enable the programme of reform known as Future Bar Training to be implemented. The new qualification rules are designed to ensure that training to become a barrister is more accessible, affordable and flexible whilst maintaining the high standards of entry expected at the Bar.
A phased approach to implementing the qualification rules
The BSB will be implementing various aspects of the new qualification rules between now and September 2021. The main reason for taking a phased approach to implementation for some elements is to ensure that prospective barristers are not disadvantaged as a result of the introduction of the new rules. For example, students currently on, or yet to complete, the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), and those planning to start the BPTC in September 2019, will have the opportunity to complete the course as normal, with transitional arrangements in place for those who have not completed the course by Spring 2022. The final new enrolments on the BPTC in its current form will be in September 2019.
The key milestones in the implementation of the new Bar qualification rules include:
- from April 2019, organisations wanting to offer training under any of the routes to qualification permitted within the new rules will be able to apply to the BSB for the required authorisation. Precisely what training becomes available to prospective barristers, and when, will depend on those applying to become Authorised Education Training Organisations (AETOs);
- from September 2019, the way in which pupils are assessed will change to reflect the requirements set out in the Professional Statement for Barristers, and the minimum funding award for pupillage will increase to £18,436 per annum for pupillages in London and £15,728 per annum for pupillages outside London, taking into account the Living Wage Foundation’s minimum hourly rates. The minimum pupillage funding award will increase annually in January thereafter;
- in December 2020, the first assessment for the new-look Civil Litigation centralised assessment within the vocational component of learning will begin. The Civil Litigation syllabus and examination will incorporate dispute resolution (which was previously a Provider-set assessment). The exam will be split into two parts – one of which will be closed book and the other will be open book; and
- in December 2021, the first new Professional Ethics centralised assessment will take place with the BSB exam being sat during pupillage / the work-based learning component rather than during the vocational component. There will continue to be a Professional Ethics assessment during the vocational component which will be set by AETOs.
A fuller version of the implementation schedule – including those aspects of the new rules which will come into effect with the publication of the new edition of the Handbook – is available on the BSB website.
Details of the fees and charges which will apply to AETOs, which were agreed by the Board on 28 March taking into account the results of a public consultation, are also available on the BSB website.
To coincide with the publication of the Bar qualification rules, the BSB is also publishing a new Bar Qualification Manual on its website today. This provides further guidance on the new rules for students, pupils, transferring lawyers, and AETOs.
Speaking about the introduction of the new Bar qualification rules, BSB Director of Strategy and Policy, Ewen MacLeod, said:
“Today’s introduction of new Bar qualification rules is a significant step for the BSB as we seek to make training to become a barrister more accessible, affordable and flexible whilst maintaining the high standards of entry expected at the Bar. By adopting a phased approach whilst we implement these new rules, we will ensure that nobody studying for the Bar is disadvantaged as a result of their introduction. We look forward to working closely with the profession and training providers whilst we do this.”
The implementation schedule for the Bar Qualification Rules is available here.