Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for July 25th, 2012

The Creation

BY Professor R.D. Charon LLB (Cantab), BCL, Ph.d,  FRSA
Emeritus Professor of Jurisprudence, University of The Rive Gauche, London Faculty, London

Author: “Legal Nihilism: Taking Rights Seriously, seriously”, Maninahat Press, 2009

While I marvel at the ability of regulatory committees to achieve anything of value, The Bar Standards Board, enthused, possibly, by that great festival of corporatism The Olympic games, have gone for Gold with their proposals to introduce a Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT).
Prologue

1. In the beginning Mammon created the law and the Bar

2. And  The Bar was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of mammon moved upon the face of the waters.

3. And Mammon said, Let there be a Bar Standards Board to regulate all the barristers: and there was  The Bar Standards Board.

4. And Mammon saw the light, that it was good: and Mammon divided the light from the darkness.

5. And Mammon called the light barristers, and the darkness he called those wishing to be barristers. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

6. And Mammon said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

7. And Mammon made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament with a Bar Course Aptitude test: and it was so.

I have no idea how The Bar Standards Board cooked up their idea of a Bar Course Aptitude test – but it amuses me to think that it may not have been far from the imagined description above – judging by the plans in place thus far.

A number of points  come to mind.  I address these seriatim:

1. There is no room at the Inn.  There are too many Bar students pushing at the door and frightening the existing members worried about being handed a SAGA holiday brochure by the senior clerk in their early fifties if the thrusting young are not held at bay.

“And Lo”… the éminence grises of The BSB  pronounced the creation of the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT).

2. Competition Law, unintended consequences or even fairly straightforward out of the box thinking not being on the  agenda, presumably: The BSB has gone for an aptitude test which has, Neil Rose of Legal Futures reports, been “set at a level that aims to weed out the bottom 10% of candidates.   The Damoclean sword has been replaced by a bacon slicer.

3. It would appear that a law degree is not a sufficient test of ‘aptitude’ to be a barrister.  Curiously, The BSB  has decided, in its wisdom, not to test English as part of this aptitude for the time being.  One can only surmise that they are rather keen to ensure that the many students from overseas (who return to their own countries and are not a burden to our sceptred isle or the angst of the practising Bar worried about the horde at the gates) continue to come from overseas, pay the fees to them, the Inns and law schools, and then return to their own countries?  I would not wish it to be thought that I suffer from gout to come to such a surmise.

The alternative, possibly rather too radical, proposition of making the Bar Professional Training Course  more difficult to pass – which would probably  achieve the same reduction of numbers objective, give all students a fair chance to take the exam and  benefit the general public onto which the thrusting young barrister is unleashed  – does not appear to have survived the bacon slicer thinking behind the BCAT creation process.

Interestingly, The Bar Standards Board appears to have invented a good old fashioned bogeyman to head criticism off at the pass with this statement – taken from Neil Rose’s report:

Some 64% pass all modules of the BPTC at the first attempt. The application says that as well as showing that “students are admitted who are not capable of passing the course after the one year of academic study for which it is designed”, their presence “immensely diminishes the quality of the learning experience for the class as a whole”.

At the risk of being burned at the stake for apostasy by the éminence grises of The BSB – I would imagine that students with poor English skills being allowed onto the course, may well have a more ‘diminishing the quality of the learning experience for the good guys effect’?  But be that as it may.  Aptitude in English is not a required aptitude for practice at The Bar for the purposes of the bacon slicing designed to repel boarders at the gates of heaven.

I fear that Chris Kenny may have been reading too many editions of Private Eye with this wonderful piece of BBC Burtspeak taken from the Legal Futures article. I sympathise.

LSB chief executive Chris Kenny said the very fact that the test has not operated in practice, other than in limited pilots, means it is “impossible to verify in absolute terms” what impact the test will have on issues such as diversity, and the number or competence of barristers.

“This uncertainly has a material impact on our ability to reach definitive conclusions, both about the impact in relation to individual regulatory objectives and better regulation duties, and our assessment of the broader impact on the overall public interest,” he said.

But it isn’t all bad news: Neil Rose reports BSB chair Baroness Deech saying that far from breaking new ground, the BSB was late to the idea of aptitude testing. “Medics have been doing this for years without any adverse impact on race and class,” she said. Overseas legal bodies also used it, she added.”  So to borrow from the BBC’s excellent Twenty Twelve …”That’s all good”.

And…and at least fee income is being considered – a priority in these dark days..

The BCAT will be in place from this September ahead of applications for the 2013 Bar professional training course opening in November. The application fee for the test will be about £67. All students will be told their scores, but the information will not be passed to course providers.

I am, it has to be said, a bit baffled by the kafkaesque last sentence – “All students will be told their scores, but the information will not be passed to course providers.”  I can only assume that those who failed will be ‘disappeared’ or be given the keys to the library where a revolver and a whisky await, provided at no extra charge. ?

Perhaps I shall telephone the BSB to find out how cunning that latter part of the plan is and what the sentence means in practice.

On that note – given that it is unlikely my colleagues from the world of academe and practice will be able to pull any more stunts over the Long Vacation requiring my analysis, I bid you leave.

If you are short of material to read over the Long Vacation – may I suggest, without irony, my greatest work (infra)  which my brother Charon QC describes thus “If you thought that Shades of Grey was amazing…this mind  ripper will alter your mindset forever.”

I am not quite sure what he meant.  When I first asked him to review my book he replied with the famous aphorism of Sir Maurice Bowra when asked to review a book – “Be sure, I shall lose no time in doing so.”

Professor R.D. Charon LLB (Cantab), BCL, Ph.d,  FRSA
 Author: “Legal Nihilism: Taking Rights Seriously, seriously”, Maninahat Press, 2009

***

Note by Charon QC

My brother has ‘issues’ with the legal establishment.  I have found it better to humour him than engage with him in reasoned rational argument – for therein lies the sort of ‘mania’ experienced by some legal commentators on twitter when they engage the libertarians, trolls and shield munchers.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I could not resist this picture from my old mate Charles Christian (@ChristianUncut and Editor of The Orange Rag)  – who keeps an eye on legal technology and this type of world class  marvellous behaviour…

However… all may not be as it seems.  HT to@Anttix for alerting me to this report from Snopes.com

Back tonight with a podcast on criminal law, the criminal justice system and the role of criminal lawyers.  We will also consider the PC Harwood acquittal.  Amanda Bancroft and Francis Fitzgibbon QC will be the guests, as will Carl Gardner if he is not tied up with work.

Read Full Post »

Advertisements