Letter: Our learning friends

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your report about Bar pupils ("Barristers told to pay trainees", 28 April) omitted to mention the strenuous efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of pupillage made by the Bar Council in recent years.

In 1996, it introduced a clearing house system to ensure fairness in pupillage selection. Chambers are also required to have regard to a binding "equality code" when selecting pupils.

A major inquiry into the quality of pupillage, undertaken by a working party chaired by Mr Justice Hooper, tightened up the selection of pupil masters and mistresses and introduced procedures for the removal of inactive or unsuitable pupil masters from the register. New pupil masters and mistresses now have to attend a training course about their duties before taking a pupil.

In addition, the experience which pupils are expected to gain in pupillage has been more clearly set out in checklists prepared by the specialist Bar Associations. The advocacy training in pupillage has been developed and increased and, from this year, chambers' pupillages are subject to monitoring by review panels set up by the Bar Council.

There are undoubtedly a number of unfunded pupillages. While sets of chambers may advertise a pupillage as unfunded, when a pupil joins they may receive assistance from chambers in some form or another. Unfunded pupils may also receive support from the Inns or Bar Council.

The Bar Council expects pupils to receive proper training, and wants to see as many pupillages as possible funded.

NIGEL A BASTIN

Head of Education and Training

General Council of the Bar

London WC1

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