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'Practicing Certificate Risks' in the Market for Advocacy

Posted: 14 Feb 2008 Last revised: 26 Jan 2011

Rupert Macey-Dare

University of Oxford - Saint Cross College; Middle Temple; Minerva Chambers

Date Written: Spring 2008


This paper considers two types of practicing certificate risk, relevant to the Bar of England and Wales, plus related sections of the Neuberger Report 2007.

The first of these risks could be called New barrister practicing certificate risk. This is the risk for a qualified applicant of never gaining the Bar practicing certificate because of restricted supply of preliminary approved pupillages. The paper argues, contrary to the Neuberger Report, that perception of this risk is much more likely to deter potential applicants from minority groups from ever training for the Bar, than any outdated perceptions of stuffiness or snobbery. The Neuberger Report acknowledges that this risk has recently risen to around 75%. Its recommended remedy is to reduce annual BVC graduate production and bring it into line with current annual approved pupillage availability. Acknowledging that a direct numerical cap on BVC numbers could infringe competition law, the Neuberger Report recommends the introduction of a raft of academic improvement measures designed to achieve this reduction in numbers by other indirect means.

The second of these risks could be called Solicitor-transfer practicing certificate risk. This is the risk to established Barristers of BVC graduates excluded from the Bar by unavailability of pupillage, subsequently transferring over to gain their practicing certificates as Solicitors, with special training and interest in advocacy. Given the relative sizes of the two professions and ratio of annual BVC graduate production to annual approved pupillages, this process could quickly lead, if left unchecked, both to a large increase in the overall number of advocates licensed to practice and to a larger number of advocates in the Solicitors than Barristers profession. The risk therefore to the Bar is that it could lose its traditional position as quasi-monopoly supplier of advocacy services in England and Wales, together with any associated monopoly profits. N.B there is no direct discussion of Solicitor-transfer practicing certificate risk in the Neuberger Report. Nevertheless, the BVC graduate reduction measures recommended by the Report are certainly consistent with addressing this risk as well.

Keywords: Barrister, Solicitor, pupillage, BVC, Bar Vocational Course, Entry Barrier, Neuberger

JEL Classification: D43, D45, G28, J15, J42, J44, J78, L43, L44, L13

Suggested Citation

Macey-Dare, Rupert, 'Practicing Certificate Risks' in the Market for Advocacy (Spring 2008). Available at SSRN: or

Rupert Macey-Dare (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Saint Cross College ( email )

Saint Giles
United Kingdom

Middle Temple

Middle Temple Lane
London, EC4Y 9AT
United Kingdom

Minerva Chambers

United Kingdom

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