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A barrister like Wills and other useless qualifications

Author: Alex Aldridge |

08 Jul 2009 | 01:00

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The news that Prince William has been made an honorary barrister has provoked some annoyed responses - the flames of disgruntled public opinion fanned by William's decision to include a trademark Windsor gag in his acceptance speech.
"I promise not to practise, except for the odd speeding ticket," quipped the heir to the throne as he addressed the Middle Temple earlier this week.
This little flourish was the final straw for Guardian 'Comment is free' w riter Heather McRobie, who wrote in response: "To allow - even theoretically, even 'jokingly' - unqualified individuals like William to practise undermines everything the profession stands for. Would we make someone an honorary medical doctor? An honorary teacher?"
For Heather, I've got some reassuring news: William won't be allowed to practise - even to handle those speeding tickets. Being able to call yourself a 'barrister' and being able to practise as a barrister are, as I've found out the hard way, two very different things.
As a graduate of the Bar Vocational Course (BVC), I share with William the dubious honour of being able to call myself a 'barrister'. But as one of the many who tried and failed to get a pupillage, practising as a barrister would result in my likely incarceration - or at least a hefty fine. Our future king would, in theory, face the same sanction.
The point I'm trying to make is that the title of barrister was de-valued a long time before they gave it to Wills. For years now, BVC providers have welcomed law graduates with open arms and the promise that whatever happens, even if they don't get a pupillage (and only one in four do), they'll still get 'Called to the Bar' at the end of it and be able to call themselves barristers.
Well, a few words of wisdom for prospective BVC students: if you're plan ning on doing the course so you can stick 'barrister' after your name on your CV and wow pe ople at dinner parties with your new title, you might want to think again. Like William, you won't be impressing anyone. I ended up getting into journalism, which in my hearts of hearts was what I think I really wanted to do, partly by writing about my experiences trying to get a pupillage, so the BVC wasn't a complete waste. But when I last checked, the BVC cost almost £15,000 and a NCTJ journalism course around £3,000.

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