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How To Get An Inns Of Court Scholarship

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BPTC student Jack Smith, who’s in receipt of a full scholarship from Lincoln’s Inn, explains what to do – and what not to do – to get your hands on some Inns of Court treasure

It’s that time of year again. Hundreds of budding barristers are currently waiting to hear whether they are among the lucky few who receive prestigious scholarships from one of the four Inns of Court.

Students from all backgrounds are finding it difficult to fund the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which at London providers can cost upwards of £16,500 for September 2012 entry. Some may dip into savings, take out commercial bank loans, and perhaps pay a visit to the Bank of Mum and Dad. Those who are fortunate enough to have pupillage may also be able to take advantage of a pupillage award advance draw-down. These sources notwithstanding, the fact remains: the BPTC year is an extremely expensive year.

Each year, the four Inns of Court award scholarships and awards to prospective BPTC students based on – and it varies by Inn – means, merit or a combination of both. Each Inn has a different sum of money available. Lincoln’s Inn – the Inn which I am a member of – proudly boasts a whopping £1,524,000, with Inner temple not far behind with approximately £1.2 million. Middle Temple state on their website that their scholarship fund is ‘over £1,000,000’, while Gray’s Inn appears to have a total fund of £711,750.

Lincoln's Inn's basement is truly a sight to behold

So there is a huge amount of money – around £4.5 million – on offer to help with those steep BPTC fees. And it is perhaps unsurprising that Lincoln’s Inn has a huge number of applications, given that it has the highest amount on offer. The sums available should only be one consideration, though.

Different Inns have different selection criteria and different selection methods. For example, Middle Temple and Inner Temple interview each applicant, and make a decision based on merit and means. Lincoln’s Inn, however, doesn’t interview every applicant, and generally takes into account merit rather than means. So while Lincoln’s Inn has one of the largest pots of money available, it probably has the most number of applicants, so you may face more fierce competition.

In the past you used to be able to apply to each Inn of Court for financial support. But that is no longer the case, so it’s important to figure out beforehand which Inns’ scholarship criteria suits you best. In practical membership terms, the differences between each Inn is minimal, and you will probably end up dining with colleagues at all of them at some point, so it doesn’t matter a great deal where you eventually end up.

So how do you get the interview, and once you’re there, how do you impress the panel?

You need to have something to talk about, so you need to be interesting and confident. Get back to basics and think what qualities a barrister should have. Imagine the person reading your application or interviewing you is a client; a client wants to have confidence in your abilities, so you have to convey this to your interviewers.

Unfortunately, simply having good grades will not see you through. A career at the Bar is – as I’m sure you are well aware – extremely demanding, and therefore you need to show that you can perform at an extremely high level academically, while at the same time engaging in legal work experience, paid employment, and other interests or hobbies. Hopefully, this won’t be news to you. If it is, you need to do something about it. Put simply, the more legal experience, jobs and interests you have, the more interesting you are as a person. Couple this with a strong academic record, and you’re a serious contender.

The interview will be fine. Moreover, it will be all over before you notice – time flies when you’re under pressure! You have no doubt heard, as I had, horror stories of scholarship interviews. They are created by people who, consciously or subconsciously, want to put you off – either because they didn’t get a scholarship, or they did get a scholarship and want you to know how damn hard it was and how well they’ve done to get one. Ignore it – it’s a load old trousers.

Try and relax and be yourself when you step into the interview room. I know it’s not easy, but you must try. If you appear panicked, unconfident, bewildered or bored, your interviewers will pick up on this, and it is unlikely you’ll do well (even if you are all three of these, find a technique that conceals this!).

You will be asked about all those exciting and interesting things you’ve done with your life and have diligently put down on your application form. Most probably you’ll be asked how those interests and experiences relate to a career at the Bar. You may also be asked to talk about something legal that interests you, or something current in the world of law. This doesn’t mean that you need to spend the preceding month reading the Financial Times from cover to cover, but you should have an idea of what’s going on in the world of law, and the world more generally. It’s even better, in my view, if you can have an opinion as well.

My experience suggests that all this will form the bulk of your interview. You should have of course also prepared answers to all those pesky questions, like ‘Why do you want to be a barrister?’ and ‘In which area of law do you wish to practice and why?’ You’re on your own with those I’m afraid, I’m still in search of the ‘perfect’ answer – not that there necessarily is one…

Obtaining a scholarship from one of the Inns of Court is not only beneficial financially, but it will also do wonders for your CV. Some scholarships awarded by the Inns are highly prestigious, and the fact that you’ve got one says a lot about you as a prospective pupil. There is always a box on pupillage applications for scholarships, awards, and prizes – and, let’s be honest, it doesn’t look great if you’ve got nothing to fill it with. So make sure you have.

Play the long game, and think about what you can do now to increase your chances of success in the future because it matters when you get there. Best of luck.

Jack Smith is a BPTC student at City University

Correction: This article originally stated that it was possible to apply simultaneously to all four of the Inns of Court for scholarships. This is no longer the case.

8 Comments

michaelspencer

this is the least informative and most unhelpful article i have ever read about anything. it also originally contained factual inaccuracy. i suspect jack harris needs to keep his head down if he’s going to make it at the bar and not advertise himself if this is what he produces.

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michaelspencer

Please forgive the capital letters below, which I use to indicate which are my comments following each part of this article. I really feel strongly about this.

It’s that time of year again. Hundreds of budding barristers are currently waiting to hear whether they are among the lucky few who receive prestigious scholarships from one of the four Inns of Court.
IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN IS NOT A GOOD WAY TO BEGIN THIS ARTICLE. YOU CAN ONLY APPLY FOR A BPTC SCHOLARSHIP ONCE. SO ALTHOUGH THE PHRASE MIGHT MEAN “IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN IN THE LIFE OF THE INNS” OR “IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN FOR A NEW LOAD OF APPLICANTS”, IT’S NOT VERY FELICITOUS PHRASING.

Students from all backgrounds are finding it difficult to fund the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which at London providers can cost upwards of £16,500 for September 2012 entry.
NO SPECIFIC FACT OR EVIDENCE HERE. NOT VERY HELPFUL. HOW MUCH DOES IT ACTUALLY COST AND WHERE?

Some may dip into savings, take out commercial bank loans, and perhaps pay a visit to the Bank of Mum and Dad.
OBVIOUS. THIS IS NOT INFORMATION, THIS IS GUFF.

Those who are fortunate enough to have pupillage may also be able to take advantage of a pupillage award advance draw-down.
AGAIN, OBVIOUS.
AND NOTHING TO DO WITH INN SCHOLARSHIPS.

These sources notwithstanding, the fact remains: the BPTC year is an extremely expensive year.

Each year, the four Inns of Court award scholarships and awards to prospective BPTC students based on – and it varies by Inn – means, merit or a combination of both.

Each Inn has a different sum of money available. Lincoln’s Inn – the Inn which I am a member of – proudly boasts a whopping £1,524,000, with Inner temple not far behind with approximately £1.2 million. Middle Temple state on their website that their scholarship fund is ‘over £1,000,000′, while Gray’s Inn appears to have a total fund of £711,750.
THESE FIGURES ARE, AS YOU GO ON TO SAY, NOT HELPFUL. THEY DO NOT FACTOR INN THE NUMBER OF APPLICANTS. THEY’RE ALMOST MEANINGLESS. YOU HAVE INCLUDED THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE EASY TO RESEARCH. YOU SHOULD ONLY HAVE INCLUDED THEM IF YOU CAN USE THEM TO PRODUCE HELPFUL FIGURES ABOUT THE AMOUNT VIS A VIS APPLICANT NUMBERS. YOU DO NOT MANAGE THIS.

So there is a huge amount of money – around £4.5 million – on offer to help with those steep BPTC fees. And it is perhaps unsurprising that Lincoln’s Inn has a huge number of applications, given that it has the highest amount on offer. The sums available should only be one consideration, though.

Different Inns have different selection criteria and different selection methods.
THIS IS TRUE.

For example, Middle Temple and Inner Temple interview each applicant, and make a decision based on merit and means.
YOU NEED TO ADVISE HOW THESE FACTORS ARE WEIGHED. ARE THE INNS THE SAME?

Lincoln’s Inn, however, doesn’t interview every applicant, and generally takes into account merit rather than means.
“GENERALLY?” EVIDENCE?

So while Lincoln’s Inn has one of the largest pots of money available, it probably has the most number of applicants, so you may face more fierce competition.
“MAY”?

In the past you used to be able to apply to each Inn of Court for financial support. But that is no longer the case, so it’s important to figure out beforehand which Inns’ scholarship criteria suits you best.
CORRECTION ALERT.

In practical membership terms, the differences between each Inn is minimal, and you will probably end up dining with colleagues at all of them at some point, so it doesn’t matter a great deal where you eventually end up.
THIS IS PERHAPS ALMOST TRUE BUT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE INTERESTING TO ASK SOME ESTABLISHED BARRISTERS AT EACH INN IF THERE ARE DIFFERENCES LATER IN YOUR CAREER.

So how do you get the interview, and once you’re there, how do you impress the panel?

You need to have something to talk about, so you need to be interesting and confident.
I AM ALMOST RENDERED SPEECHLESS BY THIS PLATITUDE.

Get back to basics and think what qualities a barrister should have. Imagine the person reading your application or interviewing you is a client; a client wants to have confidence in your abilities, so you have to convey this to your interviewers.
DOES THIS SAY ANYTHING NOT OBVIOUS TO EVEN THE DIMMEST CANDIDATE?

Unfortunately, simply having good grades will not see you through. A career at the Bar is – as I’m sure you are well aware – extremely demanding, and therefore you need to show that you can perform at an extremely high level academically, while at the same time engaging in legal work experience, paid employment, and other interests or hobbies. Hopefully, this won’t be news to you.
QUITE.

If it is, you need to do something about it. Put simply, the more legal experience, jobs and interests you have, the more interesting you are as a person. Couple this with a strong academic record, and you’re a serious contender.
THIS IS AGAIN THE MOST OBVIOUS STATEMENT I’VE EVER READ ABOUT A CAREER AT THE BAR. IT IS ALSO ESSENTIALLY REPETITION OF SOMETHING YOU’VE JUST SAID, AND THE FIRST TIME YOU’VE SAID IT, YOU POINT OUT ALL YOUR READERS SHOULD KNOW IT ANYWAY.

The interview will be fine.
WHAT IS THE POINT OF YOUR ARTICLE THEN? SO FAR YOU HAVE PROVIDED NO EVIDENCE AND NO ADVICE TO JUSTIFY THIS CONCLUSION.

Moreover, it will be all over before you notice – time flies when you’re under pressure!
SEE ABOVE.

You have no doubt heard, as I had, horror stories of scholarship interviews. They are created by people who, consciously or subconsciously, want to put you off – either because they didn’t get a scholarship, or they did get a scholarship and want you to know how damn hard it was and how well they’ve done to get one.
EVIDENCE? MAYBE SOME PEOPLE HAD TOUGH EXPERIENCES? HOW ON EARTH DO YOU KNOW? IF YOU HAVE DONE RESEARCH OR HAD ANYONE ADMIT THIS, SAY SO. IF YOU ARE BASING IT ON ASSURANCES FROM THE INNS, SAY SO. THAT WOULD BE OPEN TO DOUBT AS TO ITS EVIDENTIAL USE. IF YOU ARE BASING IT ON A RANDOM SAMPLE, SAY SO FOR THE SAME REASON.
Ignore it – it’s a load old trousers.

Try and relax and be yourself when you step into the interview room.
PLATITUDE. PATRONISING TOO. AND UNHELPFUL.

I know it’s not easy, but you must try. If you appear panicked, unconfident, bewildered or bored, your interviewers will pick up on this, and it is unlikely you’ll do well (even if you are all three of these, find a technique that conceals this!).
IF YOU’RE BAD IN INTERVIEW IT’S UNLIKELY YOU’LL DO WELL. I FAIL TO SEE HOW ANYTHING YOU HAVE SAID SO FAR GIVES YOU THE AUTHORITY TO MAKE EVEN THIS ENTIRELY OBVIOUS STATEMENT IN CONCLUSION.

You will be asked about all those exciting and interesting things you’ve done with your life and have diligently put down on your application form.
NOT NECESSARILY. MY (SUCCESSFUL) APPLICATION SOME YEARS AGO FOCUSSED ON AN ETHICAL QUESTION AND ONLY THE VERY BRIEFEST DISCUSSION OF MY CV.

Most probably you’ll be asked how those interests and experiences relate to a career at the Bar.

You may also be asked to talk about something legal that interests you, or something current in the world of law.
THE MOST YOU CAN SAY HERE IS “I WAS ASKED…” THIS WOULD BE MORE HONEST AND ULTIMATELY MORE HELPFUL TO YOUR READERS.

This doesn’t mean that you need to spend the preceding month reading the Financial Times from cover to cover, but you should have an idea of what’s going on in the world of law, and the world more generally. It’s even better, in my view, if you can have an opinion as well.

My experience suggests that all this will form the bulk of your interview. You should have of course also prepared answers to all those pesky questions, like ‘Why do you want to be a barrister?’ and ‘In which area of law do you wish to practice and why?’ You’re on your own with those I’m afraid, I’m still in search of the ‘perfect’ answer – not that there necessarily is one…

Obtaining a scholarship from one of the Inns of Court is not only beneficial financially, but it will also do wonders for your CV.
THIS IS A CONTROVERSIAL STATEMENT AND NOT BACKED BY ANY EVIDENCE. IT IS OPEN TO DEBATE WHETHER IT WILL DO “WONDERS”. PRECISION OF LANGUAGE IS IMPORTANT IN THE LAW. IT MIGHT BE OF SOME HELP. IT MIGHT BE OF CONSIDERABLE HELP. IT MIGHT DO WONDERS. BUT YOU NEED EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT SUCH A CONTENTION.
A LOT OF INN SCHOLARS DO NOT GET PUPILLAGE. OUTSIDE THE BAR, AN INN SCHOLARSHIP IS NOT MUCH USE ON A CV.

Some scholarships awarded by the Inns are highly prestigious, and the fact that you’ve got one says a lot about you as a prospective pupil.
AH. MODERATION IN LANGUAGE AT LAST. “SOME” SCHOLARSHIPS, YES. BUT THIS PREMISE COMES AFTER A CONCLUSION IT DOES NOT REALLY PERMIT YOU TO DRAW!

There is always a box on pupillage applications for scholarships, awards, and prizes – and, let’s be honest, it doesn’t look great if you’ve got nothing to fill it with. So make sure you have.
“MAKE SURE”? HOW? DO YOUR BEST?

Play the long game, and think about what you can do now to increase your chances of success in the future because it matters when you get there. Best of luck.

Correction: This article originally stated that it was possible to apply simultaneously to all four of the Inns of Court for scholarships. This was previously the case, but is now incorrect.
NOTHING TO ADD.

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[…] this post from the Legal Cheek blog successful scholarship applicant Jack Harris shares with you just how to get yourself a […]

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Cheryl Jones

Bit harsh, Michael. Although the article does come over as being a bit smug and self-satisfied. But I do not know where Jack got the idea that you could apply to all the Inns. I applied in 1995 and you had to choose one only at that time.

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michaelspencer

I genuinely don’t think I am being harsh. It’s not the smuggery that worries me, smug though the blog is, it is the sheer ineptitude of something purporting to offer advice to aspirant lawyers.

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[…] applying interests you, here‘s an interesting post on what to […]

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naomi

I actually like this piece. Yes it may come across as “smug”, but I would say that anyone who has got as far as the author has has something to be smug about! It comes across as a down to earth piece of opinionated advice from someone who has been there and done it. If you want solid answers to questions, go and do your own research rather than relying on a “blog” posted by someone else. At the end of the day, it is a blog, not a piece of work that people should take as being 100% correct.

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Andrew

Prospective scholarship applicants would be better served by reading this: http://pupillageandhowtogetit.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/inn-scholarships/

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