Pandemic causes pupillage numbers to plummet

Pandemic causes pupillage numbers to plummet

The coronavirus pandemic has caused bar pupillage numbers to dramatically drop by a quarter in 2020.

The regulator has warned that chambers may cut back recruitment in future months.

There were 354 pupils in December 2020, compared with 475 in December 2019 and on average, there were 473 pupils at the bar between 2015 and 2019, according to a Bar Standards Board diversity report.

There was a freeze on pupillage last year which was the catalyst for the first year-on-year decrease in the total number of people at the bar since reports began five years ago.

The regulator said at a BSB board meeting last night that many pupillages had been postponed due to the impact of the pandemic and that some chambers have strongly suggested that there will not be a recruitment drive in the same numbers next year.

Graduates undertaking extended pupillages rose significantly in 2020. As of 1 December 2020, there were 39 pupils undertaking pupillages that started over a year ago. In the same period, the equivalent average figure from 2015-2019 was around eight.

In 2018 it was a completely different picture as a record number of students enrolled on the bar training course. However, just 43% of UK/EU graduates who took the course between 2014 and 2018 had started pupillage by March 2019.

Since the introduction of a new form of vocational bar training, the cost of training has come down ‘very considerably’, according to the BSB. The regulator confirmed the Bar Professional Training Course cost around £17,500 a year before the reforms were introduced – but now costs around £11,500.


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