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London chambers criticised by barristers for advertising sixmonth unpaid internship

Paras Gorasia, a barrister at Doughty Street Chambers specialising in employment and employment litigation, said that it was “unusual” for a chambers to offer such a long period of unpaid work.“It’s not common to have such an arrangement for up to six months, often chambers will have mini pupils usually between three to five days,” he said. “It’s very rare.”“This sort of thing may carry with it social mobility implications as it may be the case that only candidates with means can afford to do things like this for such an extended period with no pay.” A London chambers has been criticised by barristers after it advertised for a six-month long “unpaid” internship.After completing an arduous stretch of research, internships and work experience, thousands of aspiring barristers hope to secure a coveted pupillage each year, while many more get rejected.One chambers set in the heart of central London has now offered competitive and ambitious graduates the opportunity to further enhance their CV after it advertised a six-month long internship. The only catch, however, is that it is unpaid.9 King’s Bench Walk (9KBW) based in Temple, houses barristers covering crime, immigration and regulatory matters. It offers law graduates, unable to secure a pupillage, the opportunity to gain “real world legal experience” and “increase their knowledge of substantive areas of law”. Christine Eadie, 9KBW managing consultant, said that it is one of several sets of barristers, as well as solicitor firms, which runs a programme of unfunded internships or work placements and that many interns have maintained part-time employment while interning and that 9KBW has always accommodated this.“We do not do this instead of offering either pupillage or mini pupillage, but as an additional opportunity for law students who are, or will, be having to compete in an ever diminishing market for funded pupillage in the publicly funded sector of the Bar.” An internship role is currently advertised on the chambers website for a “minimum period of three months and up to a maximum of six months”, during which time successful candidates will provide “valuable support” to chambers.The advert describes the internship as “unpaid”, but said chambers will cover travel expenses “in and around London and for travel to conference venues”.The advert has sparked a backlash from barristers criticising the unpaid role, saying it would further deter aspiring barristers from opting for a career at the Bar. In Summer 2018, the Bar Council launched its social mobility campaign, ‘I am the Bar’, to profile the experiences of those who have succeeded at the Bar from non-traditional backgrounds and encourage others to join. A spokesman for Young Legal Aid Lawyers added that it “considers full-time long-term unpaid internships to be totally unacceptable” and described it as a “significant barrier to the profession” regarding improving social mobility.“That any chambers or firm is relying on unpaid interns is likely to have serious negative effects on social mobility in the sector. It inevitably excludes those unable to financially support themselves during the course of the internship and prevents them gaining precious experience.A spokesman for the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, said: “The Bar Council is a signatory of the High Quality Internship Code and believes that it is essential that all internships are offered on an open and transparent basis in order to achieve effective social mobility and access to the profession.” “Since 2015 we have offered fully funded 12 month pupillages every year and last year, for the first time, we increased that number to two twelve month pupillages. We are offering the same for 2019/20.“We are doing this at a time when the publicly funded Bar is facing unprecedented difficulties with cuts to public funding in all areas. We believe that pupils are the future of the Bar and so we have we increased, not decreased, the number of pupillages we offer and have done so despite the difficulties that all Criminal and publicly funded Chambers faces.”She added that all pupils since 2015 have been invited to apply for tenancy at 9KBW at the end of their pupillage period and that the chambers also offers around 30 mini pupillages each year, for one or two weeks at a time.“Our internships are for a period of three months not six,” Ms Eadie added. “We do however give the intern the opportunity to apply to stay for longer, at the end of the three months, if they wish to do so… they are not there to work for Chambers; they are with us to learn which is what they do. Chambers do not rely upon our interns to do work for us.” Mr Gorasia added that generally, “only people who are well-off are able to sustain not earning for six months”. However he said that he could see, from 9KBW’s perspective, that such an internship would provide an opportunity to get a pupillage.Asked if such a role was in breach of employment laws, Mr Gorasia said that if the applicant is not doing any work and the role is being treated as an opportunity to gain experience, it most likely would not. While research assistants are usually paid, such applicants for the internship role would not be qualified to do work.The Telegraph understands that the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, will be reminding the profession and chambers of their guidance on pupillages and internships next week. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. read more

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