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Aspiring barrister who documented her BPTC struggles in new BBC programme is appealing Inner Temple’s decision to deny her a scholarship

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Leila Taleb is from a working class family in Bradford and is trying to raise £14,500 for her fees

Leila Taleb

An aspiring barrister from Bradford has showed viewers of a new short BBC3 programme how difficult it can be for working class graduates like her to become barristers.

Leila Taleb, the 25-year-old star of Breaking out in Bradford, told watchers that the bar is an “intimidating profession”, but that she doesn’t think her background should hold her back. She said:

It must be a cool and powerful thing to know the law and know your shit and then be creative and work within those parameters to seek justice for the person. The reason why I want to become a barrister is because I feel like there’s a lack of barristers that know what’s going on on the ground, that actually know about people.

The documentary shows Taleb — a Lancaster University LLB graduate, who also has a masters degree in applied human rights from University of York — raising money for the bar course by teaching part time. Given her hopes to study at The University of Law in Leeds, Taleb will have to save £14,500 to pay for the course. This 2017/18 fee is actually 7.5% cheaper than the 2016/17 rate, which set Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students back £15,480.

Leila Taleb on BBC3 documentary ‘Breaking out in Bradford’

Though the documentary ends on a high (Taleb secures her place at ULaw weeks after completing her entry assessment), the aspiring lawyer has told Legal Cheek that there have been a few updates since it was filmed. Namely, Taleb has not received funding for the bar course and is now hoping to crowdfund the money. Her crowdfunding page, ‘Leila Raises The Bar’, states:

I applied for an Inner Temple scholarship. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful, despite the fact that they pride themselves on social mobility and their grants are awarded 80% on need. I need to raise £14,500 to pay for my course.

Taleb also told us she is appealing the Inn’s decision to deny her a scholarship. A spokesperson for Inner Temple told Legal Cheek:

Inner Temple scholarships are awarded on merit alone, assessed against five key criteria. For the vast majority of our awards, financial circumstances are then taken into account to determine the amount to be awarded. In 2017, Inner Temple awarded BPTC scholarships totalling over £1,485,000. The Inner Temple recognises that access to the profession is not solved by awarding money alone and that is why we also invest in a leading access programme, working closely with school and university students and providing access to and funding for work experience and skills development though the Pegasus Access and Support Scheme.

Though her funding hangs in the balance, Taleb has accepted her law school place and says she is “determined” to start her course this year. She told us:

I will find a way to raise the funds, I am sure of it.

Watch the documentary in full below:

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162 Comments

Anonymous

She didn’t mention the masters degree in applied human rights from University of York in the documentary…

(33)(2)

Anonymous

and…

(6)(1)

Anonymous

or…

(4)(1)

Anonymous

but…

(3)(0)

Anonymous

You should put her in touch with Tom, so he can warn her of the perils of self funding a BPTC.

(37)(3)

Anonymous

Triggered!

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Am I missinf something? Who’s Tom?
She seems hard working and committed – really don’t get why people have to be so vile online. So what if she swore? Its BBC3 not Songs of Praise

(14)(9)

Anonymous

You are. It’s Tom Connolly, the LC writer.

(1)(0)

Tom Connolly

Good point well made

(5)(0)

Anonymous

How on earth can she appeal the Inn’s decision?

I would like to appeal the decision of Chelsea not to pick me up front for their game on Saturday. I may not be very good, but they did say that they wanted to get players from the local community into the set up…

(105)(5)

Anonymous

Shit point. We’re outside the Premier League transfer window, so Chelsea wouldn’t be able to add you to their registered squad for the Premier League. Your appeal would therefore have no logical basis whatsoever, even taking into account your shit football skillz.

(3)(5)

Anon

With all due respect I worked a full time desk job for 2 years straight to pay for the bar course and I don’t come from a wealthy family. No wonder other generations think of millenials as entitled.

(110)(8)

Anonymous

Spot. On.

(5)(3)

Anonymous

Appealing the decision smacks of arrogance.

(77)(7)

Anonymous

“I applied for an Inner Temple scholarship. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful, despite the fact that they pride themselves on social mobility and their grants are awarded 80% on need. I need to raise £14,500 to pay for my course.”

Stop. Don’t waste your money. Doing the BPTC is not likely to increase your chance of securing a pupillage. Use your time and money to do other things, gain experience, etc. If you’re good enough, you’ll get a scholarship, or secure a pupillage without having done the BPTC. If you’re not, (or not better than the competition at least) you’ve saved yourself and those contributing a lot of money.

I was really surprised the documentary placed significance on the difficulty of obtaining a place on the BPTC, does anyone know of anyone not obtaining a place on the BPTC?

(140)(2)

Pantman

Doing the BPTC is not likely to increase your chance of securing a pupillage.

Unfortunately this is not true. More than 25% of pupillages listed via the pupillage gateway have start dates within nine months of the application deadline. The implication being that only those who have completed the BPTC, or who are currently studying it, are able to make those applications.

http://www.indx.co.uk/pupilbase/?mode=stats&rtype=delay

Using your logic (by implication only those with pupillage should do the BPTC), all of those pupillages actually go to people that should not have undertaken the BPTC in the first place.

(5)(23)

Anonymous

25%?

So the overwhelmingly majority of pupillage’s are open to those who have not yet done the BPTC?

Considering how big the pool of candidates are that do not secure pupillage each year, which include merit-able candidates with Inn Scholarships, you would suggest paying all of this money to have the opportunity to apply for 25% of pupillage’s that you wouldn’t be able to have applied for otherwise?

I think the point was, if you don’t have the spare cash (and you DO have a few brain cells) why worry about doing the BPTC when you don’t need it anyway? If you’re good enough you will get pupillage, BPTC or no BPTC.

(7)(5)

Pantman

Thank you dullards for downvoting my previous post. I know many of you believe that embarking on the BPTC, without first having secured pupillage, is a mug’s game. I’m not sure that I disagree with that view.

However, as pointed out previously, at least 25% of pupillages essentially require the candidate to have completed or to have commenced the BPTC in order to apply for that pupillage.

If you draw the conclusion from this fact that this means that those doing the BPTC only have access to that 25%, then you are clearly lacking in logic. Unless you have some documentation to show that pupillages simply are not offered by the other 75% to those who have already commenced, or finished, the BPTC.

If you cannot grasp the logic that the market is demanding that candidates commit to the BPTC prior to receiving pupillage offers, then I wish you and your clients (the ones who require your cleaning services, because you won’t be doing anything requiring intellect) the best of luck.

(6)(22)

Anonymous

I’m not a dullard.

Perhaps it was considered silly to suggest that someone would be justified in spending £17k (not including maintenance/accommodation) just in case they should obtain one of the c 100 pupillages available to those who have done the BPTC.

Only rubbish chambers do this anyway.

Pantman

I don’t say that they are not rubbish chambers (though some of them definitely are not).

The premise is simple: there are pupillages that you can only apply for if you have committed to or finished the BPTC. This isn’t a negligable number, it is fairly substantial.

The main criticism of those doing the BPTC without pupillage is that they should get more experience instead, and they will (eventually) get pupillage, if they are up to the job. Otherwise they are wasting their money on a course that will not secure their career. It is suggested that one of those avenues of experience is paralegaling.

Clearly those committed to the course will have more choice in potential applications than those who have not. They can apply for pupillages that require the BPTC, and they can apply for pupillages that do not require the BPTC.

By your logic all the decent candidates already have pupillage offers, so they won’t be applying for these pupillages. Which leaves them open to the less able who didn’t secure pupillage in advance.

It may be true that this is not really a desirable situation. But I’m only the messenger here, the market is sending the message.

While c£17k may be a lot of money for a course, it may also enable you to complete paralegal work – which as noted elsewhere increasingly requires either a BPTC or LPC. So, doing the BPTC may lead to other avenues of experience that may benefit the candidate in the long run.

I would not take this bet myself, doing the BPTC without a pupillage is a long shot – but it is not necessarily throwing that money away.

Anonymous

Absolutely delusional. You are selling Christmas to turkeys.

There are many other things aspiring barristers can do to get experience, other than being a paralegal. If anyone is doing the BPTC to have the opportunity to be a paralegal, I would be amazed how they have had the capacity to get through a degree, let alone become a successful barrister.

“By your logic all the decent candidates already have pupillage offers, so they won’t be applying for these pupillages. Which leaves them open to the less able who didn’t secure pupillage in advance.”

Not at all, there are far more good candidates than pupillage. This is the problem you’re not realising, you can be a good candidate and still not get pupillage. So why take the risk?

“It may be true that this is not really a desirable situation. But I’m only the messenger here, the market is sending the message.”

The market is only the way it is because so many students are stupid enough to self fund. If even half of the market decided to be sensible and not do the BPTC without scholarship or pupillage, then the market would change. Its simple economics, the market is flooded, BPTC students are of nominal value.

Anonymous

It clearly states, “you would suggest paying all of this money to have the opportunity to apply for 25% of pupillage’s that you wouldn’t be able to have applied for otherwise?” It doesn’t say that the 75% of pupillage providers DO NOT offer pupillage’s to those who have commenced their BPTC.

Obviously, it is a fact that there are 25% of pupillage’s that people who have not commenced the BPTC cannot apply for. But you are failing to see the bigger picture.

As said above, when you put it into context, the advantage you’ll have in being able to apply for that extra 25% is negligible because of the size of the pool that can apply for that 25% is huge.

There is absolutely no correlation between having completed the BPTC and securing pupillage. Self funding is a monumental risk, if someone had an ounce of sense they would try and secure pupillage before commencing the BPTC (or get a scholarship).

Pantman

There is absolutely no correlation between having completed the BPTC and securing pupillage.

This is obviously wrong. That 25% of pupillages must be going to those who hae already completed the BPTC – so there is a correlation.

Self funding is a monumental risk, if someone had an ounce of sense they would try and secure pupillage before commencing the BPTC (or get a scholarship).

I am not saying that you are wrong in your view, I am only saying that you are wrong as to the factual conclusions.

Anonymous

I am not actually sure, which Chambers fall into this 25%.

Lets suggest I am an aspiring commercial/chancery barrister. All of my experience, university modules point in this direction (so it would be difficult to justify other areas of practise). How many commercial/chancery chambers would be open for me to apply to in the 25%, having done my BPTC?… I think you’re looking far too narrowly into this to have any credibility to even make a plausibly sensible point.

“I am not saying that you are wrong in your view, I am only saying that you are wrong as to the factual conclusions.”

Actually, I said above that there may be an increased chance, but its negligible. You have no concept of context and you have totally missed the point. Namely, it isn’t sensible to do the BPTC if you don’t have a scholarship or pupillage. If the only information you had in assessing your chances of a career at the bar was that there were 25% more chambers that you could apply to if you had done, or were currently doing the BPTC, of course the logical conclusion would be to do the BPTC. However, we’re in the real world and there are far more considerations than an extra 25% of chambers to apply to.

You’re either arguing for the sake of it, or one of those idiots that has paid to do the BPTC and feeling bitter at the fact that you’ve wasted so much money and haven’t got any further in life.

Anonymous

Also, although 25% of chambers advertise pupillage this late, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will continue to do so.

Pantman

When and why will they stop doing it? It’s the same chambers, year after year.

Anonymous

Who cares?

Your logic is flawed.

Anonymous

Over half of those who apply for a place on the BPTC at ULaw are rejected because unlike other Bar schools they actually put you through a live selection process – interview, advocacy and written assessment and you have to pass all three to get in. Might explain their 58% and rising pupillage success rate ….

(6)(32)

Anonymous

Thank you for that valuable contribution, University of Law marketing person

(61)(2)

Anonymous

No: successful candidate who went through that process and actually just thinks checking, y’know, FACTS might be an idea for anyone aspiring to be an actual lawyer

(2)(16)

Anonymous

What percentage do the other Law Schools reject?
Is the ULaw ‘over half’ stat at the application or interview stage?
What’s the pass rate at ULaw?
What proportion get a pupillage?
How does this compare to other providers?

Or are you simply delighted with some bit of marketing trotted out to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

Anonymous

A large proportion of applicants are rejected by each of the major providers. Which is astonishing, given the extremely low calibre of the average BPTC student.

Anonymous

Apologies – meant to press up button but hit report in error

(0)(3)

LC Team

Glad you confessed that.

We were about to delete the post.

(4)(0)

Legally Blonde

Unfortunately, your opening remarks make it entirely clear why you were unable to obtain a scholarship. You came across as inarticulate, unintelligent and utterly clueless about what being a barrister entails. I say this as someone who grew up sleeping on their living room floor, received free school meals and later obtained a full scholarship for the BPTC. I am working class through and through, but worked exceptionally hard to hone my oral advocacy skills and to ensure I came across as articulate within interviews. I am sure you are a very bright girl, but you seriously do need to work on your phraseology, tone and vocabulary. I am currently on Pupillage and can assure you that the same applies to Pupillage interviews; if a panel cannot ‘see’ you as a barrister, you do not stand a chance.

(16)(2)

Sarah-Jane Hounsell

I agree the place on the BPTC is the easy bit! I didn’t get my scholarship but I did get the award for work experience from both Inner and Middle. It does not mean I am not good enough to do the Bar it just means other students needed it more than me. We all have a sad story, it’s just a game of top trumps! I have started my gofundme page too so hopefully 18500 will donate a pound to me. Whatever happens though I will find the money and I’ll be starting at The City Law School in September.

(1)(10)

Anonymous

Don’t do it! Not getting a scholarship does not mean other people needed it more than you. You should be able to ascertain from this article that Ms Taleb needed it but did not get it. The award is based on merit, the quantum on need. You didn’t get one because you were not seen as a good investment.

You would be mad to do the BPTC without pupillage in circumstances where you couldn’t get a scholarship. Getting pupillage is harder. Please listen and don’t throw your money away.

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Anonymous

I agree

(1)(0)

Anonymous

If you will find the money anyway regardless of whether you raise it via gofundme, then why are you asking others to fund your BPTC for you? Its not about who has the saddest story, it is very matter of fact – if you are good enough, you will make it.

(3)(0)

Anon

She can apply for up to £25k in the form of a government backed loan – how does she think those in London fund the course, given that most awards don’t pay the full fee anyway!

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Anonymous

The documentary didn’t reveal too much into her motivations, experience or skills.

Oh, and her saying that barristers are out of touch will be a good one for her to justify in her pupillage interviews.

(53)(1)

Anonymous

I agree it didn`t reveal much of `her merit`.
But her crowdfunding page does and seems to me that she`s been working very hard for the things she believes in.
Not giving up and moving forward to fight for what`s right, isn`t this what a barrister should be all about anyway?

(0)(22)

Anonymous

erm…

(6)(0)

Anon

Most people I know worked full time beforehand or took out a loan.

(23)(0)

Anonymous

Her academics look under-par, she hasn’t secured pupillage, she hasn’t secured a scholarship, there is no evidence of her relevant experience and skill set, she swears in-front of children she is teaching (on TV too!!!), she’s openly said barristers have little understanding of the real world, she wants to challenge an Inn decision and the focus of the show was related to the difficulty of her getting on to the BPTC course (this either shows her lack of research and naivety, or the BBC’s). Things aren’t looking too good.

(108)(0)

Anonymous

Whilst I echo Ms. Taleb’s sentiments – the Bar is not nearly diverse enough – handing out scholarships to anyone and everyone from a poor socio economic background won’t fix the problem. The process has to be somewhat meritocratic.

(46)(1)

Bumblebee

Hmm, do you want meritocracy or diversity?

(1)(21)

Anonymous

Is it not possible to have both?

(17)(1)

Bumblebee

Of course it’s possible to have a meritocratic and diverse Bar. Indeed, a perfectly meritocratic Bar would necessarily have to exhibit a certain degree of diversity.

However the reverse is not true. A “perfectly diverse Bar” would necessarily have to come at the expense of assessment by merit alone.

I’m trying to gauge where you wish to set the mark. Would you rather have a perfect meritocracy which came at the expense of diversity, or a perfectly diverse Bar which came at the expense of meritocratic features? It’s an important question because so many stakeholders – the BSB, Inns, Media etc. – naively adopt the position that it’s possible to have a Bar which is both wholly meritocratic and yet perfectly represents society.

(10)(3)

Bumblebee

perfectly reflects* society

Pearl

It is entirely possible to have both. Other areas that require intelligent individuals (academia, investment banking, medicine, engineering, solicitors’ firms) are much more diverse and reflect the fact that merit is not restricted to a select number of universities or a particular socio-economic group. It is for this very reason that the Bar has come under so much fire – the contrast is just too glaring. Given the multicultural makeup of England’s elite universities (and in comparison to the international workforce of most London businesses) it is also curious to note that little to no foreign students seem to obtain pupillage. To be clear I am not referring to non-white British citizens, who are fortunately having more success at the bar. Perhaps a cultural bias as well?

Anonymous

You’ve missed the point. Bumblebee didn’t say that diversity and meritocracy should not be pursued, but that a perfect meritocracy and perfect diversity cannot both be obtained.

Also, what you say about foreign students not getting pupillage simply isn’t true.

Pearl

I agree that perfection in either sense is unattainable. However, the issue is that there has been a worrying and noticeable disparity, which the bar is trying to correct. As for the point on foreign students, this is my perception of the profiles of recent pupils and tenants in, let’s say, the top 30 commercial/public law sets. I will admit Australian applicants, mostly with considerable work experience, seem to be an exception at the very top sets. However, when you compare the bar to equally demanding professions, in what is possibly the most multicultural city on earth, I still find the numbers quite interesting.

Anonymous

She seems to have misunderstood that the scholarships are awarded on merit and the value is determined by financial position.
If she didn’t get a scholarship at all, then its likely that it’s for another reason. She also could have applied for a scholarship with her provider

(21)(0)

Hmmmmmmm

Even an hour after the full journalistic force of a Katie King article, Leila’s crowdfunding remains at £0. It doesn’t look promising.

(33)(1)

Anonymous

Pleb she is.
If she was actually academically smart, it would be a whole new story.

Don’t try to say only the wealthy get the elite academic …
Say that to the Indian student from east state school in the RG’s.

(12)(9)

Bumblebee

What language is this written in?

(20)(6)

Anonymous

English.

(3)(12)

Anonymous

If she really wants to do the BPTC before getting a pupillage offer then she should study it part-time while working. Working as a paralegal would give her useful legal experience for her applications. In any case, I don’t think that saying the things that she is saying in public forums will help her any.

Anyway, best of luck to her.

(22)(0)

Anonymous

I agree, her actions to date, along with her comments are in my opinion somewhat career limiting.

(5)(0)

Pantman

It is quite difficult to get paralegal work these days if you have not completed a BPTC or LPC.

(7)(3)

Anonymous

She isn’t the only one who is struggling to self-fund a legal career so I don’t know where this special snowflake got her sense of self-entitlement from

(26)(1)

Grew up on council estate- now have pupillage + scholarship

I’m not sure how convinced I am by her crowdfunding page…

“I have worked tirelessly & put my blood sweat & tears into getting this far & I know that, based on need and merit, I deserved that scholarship.” … “This means those without funding are left with the option of scholarships, a system that does not cater to social mobility if you do not fit the ‘status quo’.”

With greatest respect, I don’t think Inner Temple are looking for people that fit the ‘status quo’. I think they’re looking for people who meet their published criteria. Lots of the info on the crowdfunding page pertains to motivation to succeed at the bar- but motivation isn’t enough by itself. She did a law degree and a masters- how did she do in them? Does she have evidence of advocacy? Mooting/debating/FRU?

I’m not surprised she’s disappointed, but this should be taken as an opportunity to plug gaps before applying for pupillage, which will be more competitive than getting a scholarship. The competition is fierce, and unfortunately drive isn’t enough.

(38)(0)

#realworldcalling

I have a 1st class degree and a distinction on an LLM. Mooting and relevant work experience. But when I applied I did not even get an interview. xD she needs to grow up (as many BPTC students do) and understand how difficult it is for anyone to become a barrister.

(18)(1)

realworldcalling

yeah but from where?

(5)(0)

Anonymous

It’s not uncommon. 1st class degree here from a Russell Group university + mooting successes + FRU cases (including an EAT case) + successful previous career in academia, and I am still struggling to get past the scholarship and pupillage hurdle.

Becoming a barrister is hard. Whilst the Bar may not be diverse, using your upbringing to explain why you’re falling short won’t do you any favours.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

Could be explained by RG. Sadly for a lot of the bar, particularly the commercial bar, it’s Oxbridge or bust.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

The Russell Group consists of 24 universities. Could you say which? I’m a bit interested in your predicament.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

University of Nottingham.

Anonymous

Well, there’s your problem.

Anonymous

Research Chambers well. Look at who are current Members and get a feel for their values and criteria. Choose appropriately to maximise your chances and tailor your applications. Barrister.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(9)(27)

Anonymous

I have a 1st class degree and an equal LLM with Mooting and relevant work experience. But when I applied I did not even get an interview. She needs to grow up (as many BPTC students do) and understand how difficult it is for anyone to become a barrister. IF YOU CANNOT ACCEPT THIS THAN THE BAR IS NOT FOR YOU, SAVE YOUR MONEY!

(3)(1)

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