“Inner Temple for the rich, Middle Temple for the poor; Lincoln’s Inn for the gentlemen, And Gray’s Inn for a whore.”
Spoiler: this rhyme is very misleading.
1. The total annual scholarship pot is 5 million quid
For 2015, it breaks down like this between the four Inns of Court: Inner Temple (£1,655,625), Lincoln’s Inn (£1,534,000), Middle Temple (£900,000) and Gray’s Inn (£800,000). These figures also include Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) scholarships and pupillage awards, but most of the cash goes to BPTC students.
Bear in mind that the bigger the Inn, the more applications it tends to receive: Lincoln’s is the biggest, Gray’s the smallest.
2. Try to ignore the history of the Inns
Each Inn has charming histories — with their detailed websites containing tales of, for example, Shakespeare plays being performed in halls clad in wood plundered from Spanish Armada vessels (pictured above is Gray’s Inn’s “Armada Screen”).
This stuff is amazing, but try to ignore it: choose the Inn which offers you the best chance of a big payout (although it’s worth doing some cursory swotting up on history before the scholarship interview).
3. Inner and Middle award scholarships on the basis of need as well as merit — for Gray’s and Lincoln’s it’s merit only
Inner and Middle offer a good way into the bar for those who got unspectacular 2:1s, but can make a good case for needing the money.
So there’s not a lot of truth in the old rhyme mentioned above.
4. Inner and Middle interview all candidates
5. You can win a rent free central London pad* for the year
Some of Gray’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn’s scholarships include rent free flats for the year in the heart of legal London. Subletting your amazingly-located room and finding a place in Homerton at half the price, while pocketing the difference, is believed to be seriously frowned upon.
*The photo above is how the Legal Cheek team imagines the flats look.
6. You do not need to be a member of an Inn to apply for their scholarship
Students often incorrectly assume that you have to join an Inn — which costs around £100 — to apply for an Inns scholarship. That’s wrong. Anyone who’s planning to become a barrister can apply. You only have to join an Inn before starting the BPTC.
Note, though, that scholarship applications can only be made to one Inn.
7. Think carefully about which scholarships you target
Some argue that the latter type — which often don’t amount to much more than £3,000 — are of dubious value, barely chipping away at £18,000 plus BPTC fees, and in effect encourage students to take on more debt.
Others say winning these smaller awards were the confidence boost they needed to follow their dreams and embark on successful careers at the bar.
Whatever your view, it’s worth bearing in mind that Inns scholarships function not only as a way to help students fund their barrister dream, but also as an unofficial signpost for pupillage decisions. Chambers favour applicants who carry an endorsement from their Inn in the form of a financial award — even if it’s not a big one.
8. The deadline is next Friday
City law firms pour huge sums into marketing to promote their law school sponsorship packages because they’re desperate for the best students. With wannabe barristers operating semi-independently through chambers, the Inns lack an incentive to crow about all the money they offer.
Accordingly, each year the Inns’ Bar Professional Training Contract (BPTC) scholarship deadline passes far too many students by unnoticed. This year it’s on Friday 6 November.
Inns of Court
Inner Temple — scholarships website
Gray’s Inn — scholarships website
Lincoln’s Inn — scholarships website
Middle Temple — scholarships website