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Bewigged and Bewildered, by Adam Kramer

Before cracking on with the updates, I would like to repeat what I said in the Introduction to the book: if you have any suggestions for things that should go on this page or in a later edition then please do let me know by emailing bewigged@hartpub.co.uk.


Foreign bar applicants (3.11)

The UK Border Agency has granted the Bar Council a license to issue certificates of Tier 5 sponsorship which can then enable non-EU bar applicants to apply for leave to enter the UK and do pupillage.

Unified Pupillage Timetable (3.11)

From spring 2012, all pupillage offers must be made at the same time (during the timetable that is currently mandatory only for those chambers operating through the Pupillage Portal). Chambers may still interview early and outside the Portal, but will no longer be able to offer early, thereby giving strong candidates the invidious bird in the hand/two in the bush dilemma and allowing chambers to get better pupils than they would have in a fair competition.

Aptitude Test (3.11)

For a few years now the Bar Standards Board has been planning an aptitude test for all BPTC places. It has now been delayed again, until autumn 2012. (Kaplan Law School already has its own aptitude test as a condition of entry to its BPTC course).

New Bar Statistics (3.11)

Th pilot 'Bar Barometer: Trends in the Profile of the Bar' was published by the Bar Council. It is available here: http://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/assets/documents/Bar%20Barometer_final_web.pdf
The numbers broadly accord with those previously produced. Current figures show, for example, a gender split of 56% men to 44% women among new tenants.

Become a Barrister site (3.11)

The Bar Council has a new website about coming to the Bar: http://www.become-a-barrister.com/
The site includes videos explaining that the Bar is not only for posh men.

Aptitude Test for BVC Places (3.09)

Following the Wood Report (see 7.08 below) an aptitude test will be introduced for all those seeking a place on the 2010 BVC course and subsequent courses. This will (it is intended) make it more difficult to get a place on the course. See the Wood Report for more information on what the test might be like.

HSBC Bar Loans Scheme (3.09)

A deal has been reached with HSBC’s Fleet Street branch to provide loans to those with a place secured on the BVC on fairly favourable terms (no repayments for three years, low interest rate). This known as the Bar Loans Scheme.

Pupillage Support Group (3.09)

The Bar Council has set up a support panel of barristers to provide advice to pupils in the rare cases where they have concerns but feel that they cannot or do not wish to raise them through internal chambers complaints mechanisms. To use the scheme, call Alexandra McHenry on 020 742 4882 to be put in touch with an adviser.

Third Six Vacancies Website (9.08)

The Bar Council now has a webpage on which chambers can advertise their third six vacancies (which , as readers know, are not advertised through OLPAS). It seems that the page is being used so readers after a third six should click here.

The Wood Report on the BVC (7.08)

The Bar Standards Board's report on the BVC, the Wood Report, has been published. It recommends that an aptitude test be introduced as a compulsory entry requirement for the BVC, the difficulty be increased, the number of re-sits be limited to one, and the course content be adjusted.

Wigs and Gowns (7.08)

After various consultations, the position on wigs and gowns is now settled. The general gist of the Bar Council's guidance is that full court dress will be worn by barristers in criminal trials, the Administrative Court, contested divorce petitions, trials in the Chancery and Queen's Bench divisions, and appeals in the Court of Appeal and House of Lords. Barristers will wear business suits for all other hearings. The Lord Chief Justice has also issued guidance clarifying when judges will wear wigs and gowns.

New edition of the Taxation and Retirement Benefits Handbook (3.08)

A new edition (the 5th) of the Bar Council's Taxation and Retirement Benefits Handbook, the best guide to taxation of pupils and barristers, is now available. Unfortunately, it is no longer free. All chambers have a copy, else it can be bought for £40 (see here). If the Inn libraries don't have it, I suggest readers without a chambers request that their Inn buy a copy.

Income Tax (11.07)

Although the advice on tax and VAT is, as far as I know, generally correct at pages 95-96, I was wrong to suggest that you can deduct BVC fees as a revenue expense from your income when calculating income tax due (or claim the VAT back). Unfair as it seems, apparently the Inland Revenue does not deem the BVC to be a deductible expense.

Law Blogs (6.07)

The new best source of information on what it is like to do the BVC and to be a barrister is blogs. Most blogs are fictionalised but still give a good feel for what goes on. Current highlights include http://timesonline.typepad.com/baby_barista/, http://pupilblog.blogspot.com/ and http://pupillageandhowtogetit.blogspot.com/ about pupillage, http://lawminx.blogspot.com/ and http://lawyer-2-be.blogspot.com/ about life on the BVC, http://legalbeagleuk.blogspot.com/ by a criminal barrister, http://blog.barcouncil.org.uk/ by the Chairman of the Bar Council about current issues and http://thelawwestofealingbroadway.blogspot.com/ by a magistrate.

Bar Council and Bar Standards Board websites (6.07)

When the book went to press, the new websites were not yet operative. Now they are up and running: see http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/ and http://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/. The most important parts of the sites for readers are the bit on qualifying for the Bar (http://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/qualifyingforthebar/- see particularly the FAQs sections) and the statistics page (http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/about/statistics/). Unfortunately the excellent discussion board and archive from the old site has not yet been carried forward to the new site.

Plagiarism at School or University (6.07)

Something I don't think I emphasised enough in the book is that if you are ever caught at school or university (or anywhere else) plagiarising, there is a good chance you will never become a barrister. Plagiarism is something of particular relevance to the Bar, where integrity is of great importance, and your referees will be forced to mention it when writing to your referees in response to specific questions about integrity and honesty. So don't do it.

State School Pupils: Mock Trial Competitions (6.07)

State school pupils who want experience of the Bar and good CV points can enter the annual Citizenship Foundations Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition or Bar National Mock Trial Competition. See http://www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk.

BVC Scholarships (6.07)

In an effort to attract students to the ICSL, it has provided four £6,000 BVC scholarships, one for each Inn of Court. Students apply through their Inn in the usual way, but this means that those going to ICSL will have an extra chance at a scholarship.

Non-OLPAS: a bird in the hand (6.07)

If you get an offer from a non-OLPAS set then you have a bird in the hand. If it is your top choice then take the pupillage. If you are a weak candidate and are lucky to get any pupillage then take the pupillage. But if you are fairly strong and have applied to several within OLPAS, and the offeror is not your top choice, then keep in mind that if they will make you an offer, there is a good chance you'll get an offer inside OLPAS. This is clear if you think about it from the chambers' point of view: the whole reason for them not going within OLPAS is to try to get better students by means of the bird in the hand lure than they would get in a fair fight with other chambers in the bush. That doesn't mean that, as the hunter, you should spare a thought for the birds in the bush, but you should think of what you might bag if you hold out.

OLPAS forms (6.07)

Having been involved in reading the OLPAS forms for my chambers, I can now (without giving anything away- I've changed the details to protect the anonymous guilty) add a little to my advice on the OLPAS forms itself. In a nutshell, the worst mistakes made by applicants were:

- Writing almost entirely inapplicable reasons in the bit about why you want to go to a particular chambers. Just because one person in a chambers does intellectual property or criminal law doesn't make it sensible to say that you want to come to the chambers because it is a leader in those fields. Do some research.

- Choosing very different fields of practice, which makes the applicant look unsure. (And if you've done lots of mini-pupillages in different areas but recently settled on a particular area, then you may want to omit some of the ones that are now less relevant from your form.)

- Not having done any mooting or mini-pupillages. Even if he or she is bright, what is there to show that the applicant will actually like or suit the Bar?

- Putting high grades as 'expected' when past performance (first year marks etc) do not bear this out (or when the course hasn't even started).

- Saying that a particular chambers is your favourite and that you've always wanted to work there, despite not having applied for a mini-pupillage there. If you haven't then take it on the chin, don't be unrealistic.

Flat-rate VAT Scheme (6.07)

Although most barristers do quarterly VAT returns calculating the VAT they must pay to the Inland Revenue (the amount taken in less the amount paid out on relevant expenses), barristers with an annual turnover of less than £150,000 have the option of entering the flat-rate VAT scheme instead. Under this scheme you just pay a fixed percentage of your turnover to the Inland Revenue, whatever deductible expenses you have made. Whether or not this benefits you (other than in saving time) depends upon how much you spend on business-related expenditure. Ask your accountant.
















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