Bank on it?….

Sign at a Bank: “We can loan you enough money to get you completely out of debt”

Tom Brennan, a barrister, is taking on the banks. If he wins the case against NatWest the banks will have to reduce their penalty fees for unauthorised overdrafts and returned items. Thousands of bank customers will benefit. If he loses, he risks bankruptcy and his career. Full Story: The Independent

Tom Brennan gets my vote. The banks are tending to settle individual cases and have closed customer accounts when sued. If you want to know more – see Marc Gander’s Consumer Action Group website / blog

Comment from Martin: have a look at this report where “a  businessman from Norfolk has recovered a record £35,987.94 from NatWest after accusing it of charging him unlawful overdraft fees. ”  BBC story

And…since we are talking money…

Alex Novarese, writing on the Legal Week Editor’s Blog, has an interesting analysis on City law firm pay rates and argues that City firms get the associates they deserve – but are the associates grateful or loyal? RollonFriday weighs in with a short report on the Clifford Chance associate pay rises.

By contrast – the position of potential pupils at the Bar is fairly stark and while Lord Neuberger’s interim report indicates that action is being planned – the present position is that there are only 550 pupillages available for the 1800 who pass the BVC each year. One idea being mooted is that The Bar Council should regulate the number of BVC places available at BVC provider institutions. This will not go down well with providers. The irony, of course, is that by reducing the number of BVC places, diversity will be reduced! It seems to me that if a BVC student is aware of the maths, has been properly advised by tutors at the academic stage and by the BVC provider at the application stage, and wishes to take a chance – competition will ensure the continuing high quality of entrants to the bar irrespective of background. Perhaps it is time to stipulate a minimum 2.1 – the reality is, I suspect, that those with a 2.2 do not really have much of a chance of getting a pupillage.

Is it really a Bar problem – or is it an acccess to legal education problem? The key is to ensure that those from less privileged backgrounds get the opportunity to study law at the first, academic, stage (and afford to see it through to LPC or BVC stage) – after that, they, like everyone else, properly informed, should make their decisions accordingly. I have read Lord Neuberger’s interim report carefully. It is a start and the consultation process is open until 31st May. I am not entirely convinced that a proposal requiring Chambers to make pupillage offers to students before they commit to a BVC is a great idea.

Other proposals – which I am more familiar with, having discussed these ideas some years ago with senior members of the Bar – to allow part of the BVC to be done by open or distance learning are interesting. This would reduce the course fee element, allow the students to work while they study (reducing overall debt) and provide access to those who do have to borrow the £20,000 needed to do the BVC year at present. But, again, we have the course provider attitude to consider. Would they just not raise the fees to mitigate loss of income – or pull out altogether?

4 thoughts on “Bank on it?….

  1. A very interesting post!

    I agree wholeheartedly with the proposal to limit places on the BVC to those who have attained a 2:1 in their undergraduate studies. Even candidates of this calibre will struggle to obtain pupillage. The figure of 1800 students passing the BVC and looking for one of the 550 pupillages doesn’t take into account that applications for pupillage in any given year will include those who were unsuccessful the preceding year, so the actual numbers applying for pupillage are probably considerably higher.

    I think that the Inns, though their various talks etc. are making students aware of the difficulties of securing pupillage, more so than tutors at universities, many of whom will not have direct experience of practice. The word seems to be that you effectively need to have a first class degree, as well as a Master’s degree, in order to stand a fighting chance of gaining pupillage.

    The difficulty with doing the BVC part time is that while it is possible to work in order to maintain yourself and service student debts, and thus reduce costs, working in order to live does detract from your studies. In addition, I have to confess to having little sympathy for course providers. They charge just as much for the part time course, the quality of what they deliver is not great, and the BVC, as a qualification, is not well-regarded by pupillage providers given that most of what you learn that is of any consequence is learned in practice.

    Finally, I was wondering if it necessarily follows that reducing the number of BVC places reduces diversity?

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