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There Has Always Been A Bar Aptitude Test – And Training To Be A Barrister Is Free For Those Who Pass It

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Amid all the debate about rising Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) fees and the new pricier-than-expected Bar aptitude test, two obvious points keep being ignored. 1) There has always been a Bar aptitude test (it’s called the Inns of Court scholarship application process) – and 2) training to be a barrister is free for those who pass it (via a full Inns of Court scholarship)…

There are no statistics on the correlation between Inns awards (which total almost £5m annually) and pupillages, but anyone who has done the BPTC knows the reality: fail to get a scholarship and chances are that you’re career as a “barrister” will be limited to eating a few fancy Inns of Court dinners.

Oddly, despite figuring highly in the minds of chambers pupillage committees, this extremely valuable piece of information remains something of a secret among students at the LLB and GDL stages. OK, so it’s hinted at via the regular pronouncements about the tricky nature of gaining pupillage, but I’ve never heard it said – or seen it written – directly.

So, for the record: don’t do the BPTC unless you get an Inns of Court scholarship.

Wouldn’t a campaign to more widely disseminate this message be more effective than schlepping about with an expensive Bar aptitude test that doesn’t seem to satisfy anyone?

16 Comments

Oxy

As someone who had the “privilege” of grinding through the tortuous and pointless LPC at OXILP (sorry “a course of immense practical value” [sic]), I’m just surprised that the sorry institution has managed to limp on this long.

Let’s be honest, the only thing OXILP ever had in its favour was the “City LPC” (a relic from the days before bespoke courses existed). This meant that almost the entire intake were from top universities (almost every City-bound Oxford grad went there, whereas now they are forced to go to CoL/BPP London), with training contracts in the bag, and so were able to treat the entire year with the respect it deserved.*

There was always something glorious about running a useless, money-spinning course in Capt Bob Maxwell’s old house.

*None.

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The Judge

your=you anger fueled typing caused the mistake. Alex your comments are RUBBISH

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HT

Actually, I think there is a lot of truth in this post. I wouldn’t go quite as far as Alex in saying that it’s pointless doing the BPTC without a scholarship, but I certainly don’t know many current pupils who didn’t get a scholarship. I don’t think pupillage committees care much about Inn scholarships, but in my experience the scholarship interview was similar to an easy first round pupillage interview. If you’re not impressing enough at that interview to be one of the many people who get a scholarship, I think you need to think very carefully about whether you’re going to get pupillage.

Of course some people will have had a bad interview / been unlucky with their panel / applied to the ‘wrong’ Inn. But my advice to those people would be to take a year out and reapply to another Inn for a scholarship the next year. If you fail two years in a row, it should make you stop and think very seriously about spending the best part of £30,000 (with living expenses) to get into a profession that its senior practitioners don’t think you’ll succeed in.

Alternatively, prove them wrong and get pupillage before the BPTC, which is also a good reason to do the course without a scholarship.

Incidentally, I don’t have exact figures to hand but at my Inn there are definitely more student scholars than pupil barristers. This suggests to me that those who don’t get even a minor scholarship should take it as a sign that they need to really improve their CVs / interview technique if they’re going to have a realistic shot at pupillage, because there are currently too many people who the Inns think are better.

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Anthony Dursi

I’m afraid this is not quite correct. There are nearly as many scholarships and awards from the Inns of Court as there are pupillages. Upwards of 90% of Senior & Major Scholars of Inner Temple secure pupillage and upwards of 60% of Exhibition Award winners do. There’s a strong correlation between these awards and securing pupillage.

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Anthony Dursi

All scholarships across all of the Inns are awarded based on merit. Some Inns then take need into account in terms of how much money a candidate receives.

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Sandman

I believe that HT above has the right of it. If you can’t impress a scholarship committee who are trying to give away free money, imagine how much harder it is going to be to impress chambers who are looking for a dedicated professional to work alongside.
And “I didn’t bother applying for a scholarship” shows a disregard for rational decision making or self-organisation.

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Jim

The Inns give away around 400 scholarships a year. The average is about £12k. It is possible to get pupillage without though. You have one shot at scholarship but could have many more interviews for pupillage at a stage when you are better prepared to be interviewed.

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Clusterfokk

Do these scholarships just go to those with the most ‘aptitude’? I doubt it. From my experience, they get awarded for a load of politically correct reasons, to increase ‘diversity’ and the like.

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Doubting Thomas

By this logic, you should also say- go to Oxbridge, get a first, intern at the UN and clerk for a Supreme Court judge. Scholarships are one important factor, but not the be all and end all. I didn’t get a scholarship (for a variety of reasons), and have spoken to multiple barristers and tutors who have all said that, yes, a scholarship would help, but provided you can fill the gap with other things, is not the end of the world. Similarly, I know people with scholarships who are spectacularly average on the BPTC, and appalling advocates. If you want to be taken seriously Alex, try and up the standard of Legal Cheek, it’s pretty poor compared to most other law-tongue-in-cheek websites.

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a

There’s no drivel about sitting on a beach waiting to start pupillage next year because, y’know, he got pupillage for next year…

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Bar Student.

It’s my understanding that around 650 scholarships are awarded each year and there are around 450 pupillages up for grabs. There’s a strong correlation between those awarded scholarships and those awarded pupillage and it certainly helps to have an award on your application form. I’d emphasise though that it’s a correlation- those awarded scholarships are likely to be awarded pupillage, partly because they can tell pupillage panels that they have a nice shiny scholarship but partly because scholarship panels and pupillage panels are looking for the same thing. It’s also true to say that some of those who secure pupillage don’t have scholarships but that doesn’t mean you should go down that road unless you can be fairly certain of your chances.

I mostly agree with Alex’s article- why rush into the BPTC when you could take a year out, get experience and try again for a scholarship? It’s not true to say that scholarships allow you to do the BPTC for free though- only the very top awards cover the fees if you’re within London and even then you’re left with change of only a grand or two to live off for 9 months. I was fortunate enough to get one and not to live in London so I am indeed enjoying a year mostly paid for by an Honourable Society but I am one of the rare few. And for the record, I’m a white, English, middle-class person who told them I can pay for it myself if I have to so I can’t imagine the decision to give me a scholarship had a lot to do with either diversity or means testing.

Also Alex- it’s probably worth correcting the “you’re career as a barrister” sentence. I am not a career as a barrister.

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BarStudent

I agree with HT. I’d definitely recommend that nobody do the BPTC without having a major inn scholarship and/or a pupillage secured before they start. We all know the odd exception who messed up their scholarship interview but went on to get pupillage at a top set, but these are few and far between. With the cost of the course being so high, and the number of pupillages so low, you’d be mad to start the course without having either funding from your inn or a definite pupillage at the end of it.

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KS

I went through this process 6 years ago and I am now a practising member of the bar. I’m not sure if getting a scholarship should be the only test in place for working out whether or not you are likely to get pupillage, but it is a very good indicator. Another good way of looking is seeing whether your CV is comparable to those of practising barristers. This is something I tell every mini pupil that comes my way.

If someone on the BPTC doesn’t even know about the availability of Inn scholarships, it is a good sign that they generally have no idea what is going on. All it takes is a bit of research. Ignorance of these is a good test for sorting out the good candidates from the bad candidates.

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Mark

I got pupillage without a scholarship

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Mark

In fact, 2 of my friends on the Bar course with good degrees had full scholarships, and haven’t gained pupillage. Utter nonsense.

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Thomas Fairclough

I think people without scholarships should still try for the Bar. It might be easy for me to say (having recently been awarded a scholarship from an Inn) but everyone is going to get a lot of rejections when applying for pupillage; don’t let the first no stop you from trying, essentially.

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