Throughout the pandemic, businesses have increasingly been running the risk of forgetting about the ‘Next Gen.’ A generation that is heavily tech-savvy and willing to push themselves to learn, grow and develop. It’s disheartening to see some chambers withdrawing their offers of pupillage during these difficult times and ultimately refusing to give the next generation a chance.

The Bar Council have been fantastic in their attempt to re-energise the recruitment and retention drive of pupils across the country, highlighted by their recent online Pupillage Fair. But further investigation is required to understand the assistance available to fund pupillage. Based off our recent recruitment round at Unit Chambers, we’ve noticed that some pupils are willing to forgo a funded pupillage to gain the much needed experience. Essentially they are willing to accept short term pain for the long term benefit on their part.

The Bar Council may need to place a greater focus and emphasis on the exception criteria surrounding funded pupillage. If there is the ability to safely exempt some pupils from receiving funding, this would open up many more opportunities. Especially as the end of the pandemic is currently not in sight.

Unit Chambers is committed to supporting the ‘Next Gen’ of future rock n roll stars in family law. We are set up in a way that allows for smooth and easy adaptation to the new working way of pupillage.

We know this because we’ve already done it. We’ve been working with our pupils as a group rather than as individuals, providing them with briefs to work on, rostering the cases and time spent in chambers, organising informal remote social events, involving them in the business side of Unit Chambers and securing other opportunities for them to broaden their horizon of family law. Most importantly, we have been encouraging the pupils to learn from one another and develop that collegiate spirit.

Pupils Unit Chambers

The volume of work we have is a high and of course we need to manage that but we also need to think long term. If we do not continue to recruit and retain, especially amongst the ‘Next Gen’, there will be a big problem in the years to come.

On a similar note, it’s very exciting to see solicitors cross-qualifying and I think there is a real opportunity for solicitors to personally develop and grow by transferring over to the Bar – especially in family work. This transfer provides a potentially more creative pathway when it comes to pupillage. For example, Kristine Lidgerwood, who is joining the Unit Chambers family as a Consultant Barrister next month, cross-qualified from a solicitor to a barrister and was therefore exempt from undertaking pupillage. This highlights not only the ease of transition but also the opportunity to grow and develop as an individual.

Ultimately, we should not be using these uncertain times as a reason to press pause. It’s not a viable option business-wise and it’s simply not fair for the next generation of barristers. There are options available to suit both chambers and pupils and these should be considered.

Written by Lisa Edmunds, CEO and Senior Consultant Barrister of Unit Chambers.

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