How to get an Inns of Court BPTC Scholarship

How to get an Inns of Court BPTC Scholarship

Those law graduates looking to pursue the Bar, please see this for some useful tips

Warwick Law Careers Blog

Fees for the BPTC are a terrifying £16,500. It makes sense to try to land an Inns of Court Scholarship. I asked Alicia Jones currently studying with the benefit of two major scholarships for her advice on how to secure that prized scholarship. Here’s what she said.

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Impression of the Guest Lecture delivered by H.E. CG Weeramantry

Impression of the Guest Lecture delivered by H.E. CG Weeramantry

Today, I attended an inspiring guest lecture delivered by H.E. CG Weeramantry, a former Vice President and Judge of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), most famous for his dissenting and separate opinions on nuclear weapons and sustainable development. In his 50-minute, ex tempore address, the honourable judge spoke eloquently about how the wisdom of global religions should inspire the development of international law. Interweaving quotations from the Holy Quran, the Ramayana and the King James Bible, in his lecture he argued that these great scriptures are a treasure trove  for those seeking to formulate principles of international environmental law, protect the rights of the child and preserve the rule of law. He referred to how Rama avoided the use of highly destructive weapons in the war against Ravana, after consulting great sages (of the law), and how Christ sought to protect the rights of children (and arguably future generations) by saying, “whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). He spoke of how they all espoused sustainability and concern for future generations and stressed the cross-fertilisation of these universal ideas across civilizations. This was in line with his approach as an international judge, when he broke away from the traditional eurocentricism of the ICJ and arguably brought TWAIL more into the mainstream.

However, while looking at the past, at millennia of knowledge, the 89-year old judge had an eye fixed firmly at the future. Nuclear disarmament is not as high on the policy agenda now as it was in the ’80s and ’90s but sustainable development certainly is. Thus, the title of one of his 30 (!) books continues to be instructive – “Tread Lightly on the Earth” (quoting Ayat al-Furqan, 25:63).


Costs Keep Soaring

Costs Keep Soaring

In today’s Guardian, there was an article concerning the spiralling costs of qualifying as a Barrister. Admittedly, the eye-popping figure of £127,000, that was quoted from the new Chair of the Bar Council, is based on the most circuitous route to the Bar: 1) non-law degree in London; 2) GDL in London and 3) BPTC in London, plus living expenses during that time. Apparently, a similar path followed outside of London will set students back 111,000 GBP.

Astronomical sums, but for a Bangladeshi/Commonwealth lawyer, perhaps the most noteworthy figure is that of “£19,000” for the BPTC. (At least for the BPTC, UK, EU and non-EU students are on equal footing, as they have to pay the same fees. However, UK & EU students get to pursue the course part-time while non-EU students don’t, as a result of strict immigration rules.)

To elaborate a little on this, I did a quick search through the established BPTC institutions – that I have provided links to on the left sidebar – and found that for the 2016-2017 year, the full time BPTC tuition fees are £19,070/£15,680 at BPP (London/Rest of England and Wales), £16,060 at Cardiff,  £18,000 at City Law School,  £14,480 at Manchester Metropolitan University, £13,050 at Northumbria University, £14,100 at Nottingham Trent University, £19,040/£15,480 at the University of Law (London/Rest of England and Wales)and £13,795 at UWE-Bristol.

Looking at these figures, it seems that fees have gone up by roughly 30% since I did the BPTC in 2011-2012. This means a Bangladeshi student will have to pay somewhere between 14.5 lac BDT and 21.1 lac BDT  as tuition and between 10 lac and 13 lac BDT as living expenses through the academic year (according to UK Visa & Immigration minimum requirements).

Many in England perceive the Bar to be an ‘elite’ profession, dominated by a moneyed Old Boys Network, but through Inn scholarships, institutional bursaries, pupillage top-up schemes and an increased percentage of women joining the Bar and being appointed QCs, the reality is gradually changing. (Though challenges do remain) But this shift is only happening in the UK.

For non-EU Bar aspirants, the financial barriers to entry are overwhelming. Only a privileged few can hope to study at one of the aforementioned institutions by paying full fees or benefiting from a partial fee reduction. Some might say – “So what? If they can’t afford it, they should study at their own Law Schools and get qualified there”.

The problem is, in countries like Bangladesh, the number of quality Law Schools can be counted on one hand. For a country of 162 million people, there simply aren’t enough seats to accommodate all deserving candidates. As a result, many choose alternate careers. At the same time, I believe there is a nascent demand for legal services that is not met, as there are disproportionately few lawyers compared to the size of the general population. How do we remedy this? How do we ensure a bright future for the next generation of lawyers?

Well, the ‘invisible hand’ has pointed to two options already. On the one hand we have affiliate, associate and registered centres of the University of London, BPP and Northumbria University in Bangladesh, which allows students to pursue UK LLB (Hons.) degrees at a fraction of the usual cost, without leaving their home town. However, it is widely assumed that students graduating from these programmes will eventually go on to pursue the BPTC in England. Thus, we come back to the aforementioned cost problem and its deterrent effect. Some meritorious students may try to become Advocates or in-house counsel, while others will leave the profession altogether.

On the other hand, a number of private universities have opened new law departments. While this is a positive development, as I feel that we should develop high-class, local law schools like India, but the problem is quality-management and regulatory oversight. In this case, I am not referring to academic output per se but rather to the variable standards of teaching at some of these institutions. Many law departments are understaffed, overly reliant on part-time lecturers and lack the quality controls and feedback loops needed to ensure high teaching performance.Thus, questions may arise as to the extent to which these LLB degrees are compliant with the requirements of the Advocateship examinations and the broader demands of a legal career. (See here for an example of a recent tussle between certain private university students and the UGC-Bar Council regarding the recognition of LLB degrees). Given that the tuition fees of private universities are not exactly cheap by Bangladeshi standards, students may legitimately question whether they should pursue such qualifications at all.

Till these issues are comprehensively addressed, aspiring Bangladeshi law students will have to choose between the spiralling costs of English law degrees and local law degrees that may not be recognised!  A truly precarious position to be in.

the Hague

Negotiation, Erin Brockovich and Flint

Negotiation, Erin Brockovich and Flint

Earlier today, I briefly sat in on a lecture delivered by a senior colleague of mine, MPP (Maarten) van Buuren, on international commercial law and negotiation. During his presentation, he spoke about the Harvard Principled Negotiation method, as elaborated in the seminal Getting to Yes: Negotiation Agreement Without Giving In.

One of the key components of this method is ‘focusing on interests, not positions’, which in other words means focusing on your underlying motivation for a stance on an issue, rather than just the stance itself. This point was underscored by showing a clip from Erin Brockovich (2000), a legal drama about a one-woman crusade against a multi-billion dollar company responsible for industrially poisoning a city’s water supply. In the clip which I have shared below, the novice negotiator sent by the company clearly focuses on positions – a final cash settlement of US$ 250,000 – rather than interests. (At the same time, when assessed against the Harvard criteria, Erin and her lawyer also fall short in some respects)

Aside from negotiation blunders, while watching this video, my interest was piqued by the parallels the movie’s story line has to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan. (If you haven’t seen it in the news already: there is an unprecedented amount of lead and other corrosive substances in Flint’s water, caused by the local government rerouting the city’s water supply. The new source, the river Flint, is highly toxic. General Motors, the largest corporation in the region, is the only entity that continues to receive clean water.) I had read earlier that Flint-resident Michael Moore had already begun raising awareness of this human and environmental catastrophe but it was quite a coincidence to see today that the real-life Erin Brockovich had also become involved. See Michael Moore and Erin Brockovich’s interviews on this issue below:

the Hague

Holding Out as a ‘Barrister’ whilst conducting Foreign Work – A Personal Perspective

Recently, there has been considerable discussion about whether BPTC/BVC graduates, who have been called to the Bar of England & Wales by an Inn of Court but have not completed pupillage, can hold themselves out as ‘Barristers’ outside of England & Wales. (In particular, in Bangladesh) Prima facie, they cannot do so whilst providing legal services, as they do not have practicing certificates in the UK and may mislead their clients as a result. In fact, if an ‘unregistered barrister’ (as Barristers without practicing certificates are officially known in the Bar Standards Board [BSB] Handbook) provides restricted legal services, such as appearing before an English court, whilst holding themselves out as a Barrister, they may be charged with a criminal offence under s.12 of the Legal Services Act 2007.

However, my reading of the most recent version of the BSB Handbook (as amended in April 2015), allows limited scope for unregistered Barristers who practice exclusively outside of England & Wales, to hold themselves out as Barristers. rC144.1 of the BSB Handbook requires an unregistered barrister, who provides legal services, to inform their client that they are not acting in the capacity of a practicing Barrister (i.e. they can’t hold out as being a Barrister). rC145 provides certain exceptions to rC144 and effectively exempts certain categories of unregistered Barristers from the requirements of rC144 as well as a few other regulations under the BSB Handbook. These categories are set out in rS13-rS15. rS13 clarifies that if an unregistered barrister is practicing as a foreign lawyer and doesn’t give advice on English law or supply legal services in connection with proceedings in England and Wales, then rC144 does not apply to them. In other words, they are not strictly required to inform their clients that they are not acting in the capacity of a practicing Barrister, if they are, for instance, advising on Bangladeshi law or with regard to a Bangladeshi suit. Instead, they are bound by the Bar Council/Legal Professional Authority of the country that they are practicing in. (rC13)

I should add that the term ‘legal services’, in itself, has a restricted meaning. At the Definitions section of the BSB Handbook, it is stated that legal services doesn’t include sitting as an arbitrator or working as a law lecturer. Therefore, if an unregistered Barrister is not providing legal services and is working as a law lecturer, for example, they can still hold themselves out to be a Barrister.

To take a more purposive approach to these rules and guidelines – the BSB issued them with the purpose of not misleading clients. So, the question is, are Bangladeshi clients being misled by unregistered Barristers who hold themselves out as Barristers whilst practicing in Bangladesh?

I would argue that they are not.

The Bangladesh Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Order, 1972 does not define ‘Barrister’, though it is used as a term throughout the Order re: eligibility for enrollment as advocates, exemption from the pupillage requirement and so on. In practice, the only document supporting a candidate’s claim that he/she is a Barrister, that is required by the Bar Council at the time of enrollment, is an attested copy of the candidate’s Call to the Bar certificate. (The Bangladesh Legal Practitioners and Bar Council Rule, 1972, Rule 60(1) and the Form pursuant to it) He/she is not required to provide a copy of his/her UK practicing certificate or any other evidence that he/she has completed pupillage there.

At the end of the day, even with a ‘Barrister’ title, a lawyer is required to enroll as an Advocate with the Bangladesh Bar Council. So, in terms of rights and obligations towards Bangladeshi clients, both Barristers and Advocates are on the same boat.

[The views expressed in this post are strictly my own and does not constitute an authoritative reading of the BSB Handbook’s provisions]

New ‘Health Surcharge’ for Foreign Students in the UK

This article in the Times of India provides details of the new surcharge of 150 GBP imposed on foreign students for health services under the NHS.

An interesting statistic highlighted by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office: “International students cost the NHS around £430 million per year and over £700 per head”. I only visited the NHS once, for a routine examination, in my four years there and I can’t imagine many healthy-bodied 18-30 year olds darkening their door step. Where did the 700 GBP figure come from? Moreover, why they would impose a ‘nominal’, symbolic surcharge of 150 GBP if it doesn’t cover the purported cost of providing healthcare?


Kaplan Law School shuts down BPTC, refers students to University of Law

Kaplan Law School has decided to close down its Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), effective from September, 2014. This decision will be especially hard to swallow for those prospective students who have already received offers to study (/read, if you’re posh) at Kaplan and have passed the BCAT.

It also comes as quite a surprise, since Kaplan is reputed to be the most rigorous of the BPTC providers. It was the first to pilot an admission test for the BPTC and in 2012, 55% of its graduates secured pupillage, substantially higher than the 25% national average. (Obviously, part of the reason why they have such a high success rate is because they only accept students who already have pupillage or are most likely to secure pupillage.)

Kaplan cites “that the economics of the course have forced this decision.” It’s hard to discern the inner workings of an institution from such a cryptic phrase but I would hazard a guess that they’ve been struggling to keep up with the other providers, which have continued to adapt year on year and ‘internationalize’. College of Law (now University of Law), City Law School, BPP,Newcastle Cardiff, Bristol and others have been able to tap into the lucrative international market, by drawing students not only to their BPTC but also to their LLB, LLM and GDL programs. For instance, just last month, BPP has begun offering an online LLB, similar to that offered by the University of London External System, in collaboration with the London College of Legal Studies (South) in Dhaka. Kaplan has not done so, with the ostensible objective of maintaining ‘high standards’ and producing graduates for the English legal profession. The financial losses may also be attributable to the fact that Kaplan froze its BPTC fees this year, while the London bases of BPP and ULaw hiked fees by 6 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

Personally, I find it to be a sad state of affairs, symptomatic of the generally dreary outlook of England’s legal industry.