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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

EssexBoy

when are the BBC coming to film me – funded and gained a distance learning law degree working full time, funded my BVC with a loan, then worked in a law firm whilst trying to get a pupillage, no contacts, a complete outsider, went to a comprehensive school in Essex and now a shit hot criminal defence barrister in a legal 500 chambers, the bar I work in every day includes many people from all manner of backgrounds who not only know their shit but are shit hot – what none of them do is talk a load of shit. Truly awful and what could of been a really inspiring piece of filming was totally wasted. I’m about to start interviewing for pupillage if anyone is thinking of spouting that X Factor generation rubbish to me – DONT!

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Ostrich

It’s always so endearing to see the chicks taking their first few wobbly steps, flapping their stumpy little wings, opening their beaks very wide, and hearing the peepy noises they make.

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Proudboobs

Stay classy BD3.

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Anonymous

Glad to see that there are positive and constructive comments that Leila can use to her advantage. Leila, if you are reading the comments section still (as toxic as it can be), let me chip in.

You do seem to have a lot going for you. But undertaking the BPTC is not going to be a sensible investment. This is simply because it is not valued by Chambers as much as your degrees and at what University you did them. Therefore, the eye-watering expense of the qualification is not worth it if you have not secured pupillage (and I of course do not have to tell you about the difficulty of securing one in current economic times e.g. <400 places, the stiff competition year by year etc). I also would like to highlight that you have 5 years after being called to the Bar to try and secure pupillage, in which you will most likely struggle year after year in getting Pupillage before you have to re-do the course again as well as paying for it. This is not good as it will be demoralising for you, never mind financially crippling and hopeless. I appreciate your background and your openness in conveying that in the documentary. One day I hope you do use it appropriately in the future for interviews related to the Bar if it didn't work out the first time. But please understand, that cannot be the sole reason for wanting to join and develop a career the Bar, there is a lot more to it as described in some constructive comments above.

I must also add that you should consider what sort of practice you are after. If it is the Criminal or Legal Aid Bar, this is highly uneconomic for you to pursue and it is highly unlikely you will make a return on your investment in the BPTC course. If it is Public Law/Human Rights, it's the stiff competition and there will be candidates with more competitive CVs taking a more reasonable risk than you.

Apart from damage control (and I am referring to the Documentary), I strongly think you should put the Bar on hold. It will be there for you no matter where you go. Do something different, utilise your degrees to work in an organisation promoting Human Rights or work in Government e.g. Home Office (relevant to your Masters). If there is one thing that was quite interesting from your documentary, it was that you worked part-time teaching in a school. You can use this to your advantage by teaching English abroad and learning a new language too (a very good skill that is in low supply). I'll leave it to you to think outside the box. These experiences can also be life experiences too, things that can be demonstrated in interviews to show you are a well-rounded person and not just all about legal speak. And I'm talking full-time where you will not only be financially stable, but also show that you are committed and can demonstrate loads more competencies than you are now (all qualities that are valuable for the Bar as well as other professions). You have got to think about yourself, and manage your expectations at the earliest possible stage so you can keep going. That will show you are mature and ready enough to begin a career at the Bar.

There is no shame in doing something else, whether that's an alternative legal route or non-legal route, and then coming back to the Bar years later. Because by then your CV will hopefully be competitive and sending an application for pupillage will be worth the risk (cheaper than paying extortionate amounts for an arbitrary qualification, by the way).

I appreciate that this is your life and decision regarding your passion for the Bar, but please do not waste your money on this when you can put it to a better use. You will only limit yourself and the 5 year expiry will trigger and most likely put you under pressure. Read the constructive advice provided here again and again, get in contact with someone in the Bar or Inns of Court, read relevant sources about realistic pupillage prospects and make a positive informed decision. You'll thank yourself later when you look back in years to come.

I wish you all the best, Leila.

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Anonymous

lol

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Anonymous

one big lol

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Anonymous

Why do these sorts of people (entitled, arrogant-but-average brats; just a caveat before some SJW accuses me of sexism or racism or whatever else is cheap nowadays) always struggle to come to terms with their mediocrity?

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Go Leila

The BBC have abused Leila’s ignorance to create a non-story. Her intentions are ok. She means no harm. She’s inexperienced, overconfident and vulnerable. The injustice here is not her flakiness but the corrupt system of legal education in this country. Why aren’t the bar exams public? Because the inns and the bar schools make massive profits from the bptc. One day we will have an open, competitive and accessible legal education system. When that day arrives it will be because people like Leila spoke out. You trolls should do the same.

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Anonymous

How do the inns make massive profits from the BPTC? That is complete nonsense.

If you made some effort to inform yourself you would know that the Inns and the bar have been working hard, and making representations to the BSB, to try and get a fairer system in place, against the wishes of the BPTC providers.

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Anonymous

what have the Inns achieved exactly? Why should every Bar student have to pay an Inn £300 for a series of meals? That’s a million pounds a year into the coffers of the Inns out of the pockets of law students.

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Anonymous

1) The BSB was persuaded to include in its series of “managed pathways” the preferred option of the bar council and the inns for future training, namely a split course the first part of which would not require any formal training, so drastically reducing the cost to students, if those students were prepared to self-train, and taking money away from the providers. This was not originally included by the BSB in its original consultaiton paper. Heavy representation from the Bar Council, the Inns, the various professional associations and individual barristers changed the BSB’s mind. If the plan comes through, it will represent a drastic shift of power and money away from private-equity owned BPTC providers. See legal cheek article at https://www.legalcheek.com/2017/03/bsb-approves-radical-reforms-that-will-see-bptc-split-in-two-and-law-school-attendance-made-optional/

2) The inns do not profit from student dining. It is heavily subsidised and involves a great deal of time and effort being given up by practicing barristers.

3) If you don’t like the meals, go to lectures and other events, many of which are free.

4) The Inns collectively spend millions of pounds a year in scholarships to help students with BPTC fees and expenses. Ever increasing fees require ever greater fundraising efforts from the Inns to keep their scholarship schemes meaningful. Many members of the bar give generously in time and money to keep the schemes going. It is simply wrong to say that the Inns profit from the existence of the BPTC.

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Anonymous

A very nice girl, wish her best of luck at least for her determination. Not getting the Inns scholarship doesn’t presume she’s not good enough for getting pupillage. At the end of the day, she may get it in a year or two when she fills the gaps. Even though becoming a barrister is competitive, and it does favour students from Oxbridge, determination can make it happen. She can make Master’s, relevant experience, publications, mini-pupillages, there are always things that boost the chances of becoming one. Wishing luck, patience and determination to all those pursuing their dreams (including me))!

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