Responding to new figures from the Bar Standards Board on the decline in pupillage registrations in 2020, Chair of the Bar, Derek Sweeting QC, said:

"The Bar Council is disappointed but not surprised to see that there was a large drop in the number of pupils registered in 2020.

"Throughout this pandemic, the profession has made huge efforts to ensure that existing pupillages and offers of pupillage were honoured, and to increase the number of pupillages recruited going forward. Most notably, the criminal pupillage scheme saw eight commercial sets fund criminal pupillages that would not have otherwise been offered during this recruitment round. However, such acts of generosity are unlikely to be sufficient to make up the shortfall.

"Even if pupillage numbers do recover to previous levels, the number of cancelled recruitment processes and deferred pupillages from 2020 are likely to leave a persisting “pandemic” gap at a time when legal needs are likely to increase. This will disproportionally affect publicly funded work and highlights the need for a thorough review of the legal aid system to ensure recruitment into this vital part of the justice system."