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Written agreements could counter ‘abusive’ treatment of bar pupils

By Jemma Slingo

The Bar Council has backed the suggestion of written pupillage agreements, saying they could crack down on the ‘truly shocking’ and ‘abusive’ treatment of some pupils.

In response to an informal Bar Standards Board (BSB) consultation, the Bar Council said written agreements would make pupils, pupil supervisors and chambers aware of their obligations and ‘prevent or reduce disputes, should difficulties arise’.

It said that some instances of behaviour towards pupils are ‘truly shocking and indicate a complete failure on the part of the authorised education and training organisation (AETO) to appreciate the nature of pupillage and their responsibilities towards their pupils’.

According to the Bar Council, written agreements may ‘concentrate AETOs’ minds on their responsibilities to pupils’. However, they would not be a substitute for effective enforcement action by the BSB.

Under the current regime, relevant rules and guidance are found in the Pupillage Handbook. AETOs are also required to have a pupillage policy document setting out particular terms and conditions relating to pupils.

In response to the same consultation, the Bar Council also backed the introduction of a mandatory timetable for all pupillage applications, claiming it would help to promote diversity.

It said that chambers who recruit early and those who give out ‘exploding’ offers with very short acceptance deadlines create ‘a fragmented system which is difficult to navigate, stressful and in which we consider applicants without social capital are likely to be disadvantaged’.

(Courtesy: Law Society Gazette)