Pupillage fears over Bar exam delay

updated on 25 March 2020

With the Bar Standards Board (BSB) having to delay BPTC exams until August, concerns have arisen as to whether students will qualify in time to start pupillage in the autumn.

The BSB stated: “In light of yesterday’s government statement about the latest measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 we have taken the decision that the April sit of the centralised BPTC and BTT examinations (ie the three subject areas of Civil Litigation, Criminal Litigation and Professional Ethics that are currently set and marked by the BSB) will not go ahead as planned. This is consistent with the advice about travel and social distancing. The next scheduled opportunity to take the centralised exams will be August 2020 but we will need to keep this under review as the situation develops.”

A spokesperson for the BSB added: “At this stage, it is… clearly not possible to give any definite assurances about when it will be possible for potential pupils to fulfil all the requirements that they must do before commencing pupillage. These include provider-set exams, such as advocacy, as well as Inns qualifying sessions and the BSB-set centralised exams. The impact on chambers is also as yet not quantifiable.”

According to the Law Gazette, this decision concerns only centralised exams, which must be coordinated consistently across the United Kingdom. 

The University of Law’s aim is to prevent delays to students’ progress in the legal profession where possible; a spokesperson for the university said it is doing “everything it can to avoid delay to students in starting the next stage of their training (training contract or pupillage).

“We will, therefore, utilise additional assessment points for non-centralised assessments where possible between June and September. Where permitted by the regulators ([Solicitors Regulation Authority] and BSB) we will also convert assessments to online methods.”