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s large numbers of students continue to pursue a career at the bar, Diana Bentley speaks to those at the forefront of the education of barristers about whether the current approach is appropriate – both for the students and the wider profession.
What skills does the modern barrister need? For the solicitors selecting them, it’s a combination of talents. ‘They must be very knowledgable about the law but other qualities are extremely important too,’ says Nicholas Lakeland, head of the employment and pensions team at London firm, Silverman Sherliker LLP. ‘Good cross-examination comes from an understanding of people and an intuition which is not always found in overly-academic barristers. I also look for common sense, tenacity and a capacity for lateral thinking.’
So is the training providing the barristers that solicitors need?
Those responsible for educating barristers are keenly aware that they need to equip their charges with the necessary range of talents. But they clearly understand too that while training must continue to be kept thorough and relevant to the demands of current practice, factors such as training costs must not act as a barrier to entry into the profession. With these things in mind, early last year, the Bar Standards Board (BSB), embarked on an initiative called Future Bar Training to produce a new blueprint for education and training for the bar. A series of consultations – which are ongoing – are providing the BSB with the input it needs to decide on any necessary reforms.
All three phases of barristers’ training are being considered – the academic degree stage which provides a core knowledge of the law, the practical training course (currently the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)), and the year of pupillage in barristers chambers which provides hands-on experience. A summary of the results of the initial responses to its first consultation was published in February 2016. Most respondents believed the BSB could consider alternative methods of training for
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