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How to get a law school scholarship

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The students who bagged scholarships from BPP Law School and the Inns of Court reveal how they did it

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Amid all the law firm-sponsored Legal Practice Course (LPC) places and Inns of Court scholarships, students often overlook the considerable wedges of cash offered by law schools. This year alone BPP Law School is awarding £150,000 in scholarships, including five awards that cover the LPC fees in full.

There are fewer applications for these scholarships than is often assumed, with law school cash representing a great way for wannabe lawyers to fund careers in areas like crime, family and even media law which lack sponsorship options. But those in charge of the purse strings tend to look for certain things. Here are a few pointers …

1. Have a story to tell

The students who get law school scholarships are often able to “take you on a journey” in their response to the 500-word ‘Why do you think you’ll make a successful lawyer’ question they’re typically asked, says Jo-Anne Pugh, director of LPC programmes at BPP Law School.

A case in point is LPC student Charlotte Hale, whose inspiring tale of suffering from dyslexia and how she overcame cerebral palsy persuaded Pugh and colleagues to award her a full course fee scholarship.

“The basis of my essay was what has been the basis of my entire life: people telling me that I can’t do things — in this case, be a solicitor. And I explained how I would prove them wrong again,” says Hale, who is studying at BPP’s Cambridge centre and aiming to get a training contract at a high street firm specialising in property and wills & trusts.

LPC student Eunice Becker is another good example of someone with a story. She used her successful application for a full LPC scholarship to explain how, against the odds, she managed to support her five children as her husband fought a court decision that prevents him working in the UK.

“I explained how I had my last baby during the GDL, but completed the course with no breaks while also working and raising my kids,” says Becker, adding: “I will continue to do this because this is what I really want to do. That was the selling point.”

2. Make a clear case for needing the money

Hale wants to work for a smaller firm of the type which don’t sponsor LPC places, while Becker intends to practice initially in Nigeria before returning to the UK and qualifying as a lawyer via the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test. With scant sources of funding available for these options, both would have struggled to have done the LPC without their scholarship.

BPP’s Pugh says the whole point of the scholarships is to help such students, commenting:

“Surprisingly over the years we have noticed that the number of applications isn’t that high. They are increasing now, and we working hard to make students aware that they exist — precisely for the purpose of helping students who wouldn’t be able to become lawyers otherwise to achieve their potential.”

3. Fire off lots of applications

With no money, and fearful of getting into debt that she might not be able to pay back, wannabe common law barrister Jessica Randell knew she had to cover the entire cost of her Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) fees through scholarships.

So the Newcastle University law graduate applied for everything she could. The result was two Middle Temple scholarships (valued at £12,000 and £220 each), a BPP scholarship for £1,750 and — pretty amazingly — £5,000 from local businesses in Blackburn, Randell’s home town, which she personally managed to drum up through knocking on doors and cold calling.

And now Randell is set to be able to qualify from the BPTC in Manchester debt free, and work in legal aid cuts-hit criminal law without risking bankruptcy.

“It’s about having the confidence to keep putting yourself forward. At first I was dubious about applying for anything, but the more I did, the more I realised I had a chance,” says Randell.

4. Treat a scholarship form like a training contract application

One thing that all those in receipt of a scholarship have in common is how serious they took the application process. Hale, Becker and Randell all set aside several days to put their applications together, then went through an exhaustive proof reading process.

“I’d recommend approaching applying for a scholarship in same way as applying for a vac scheme or training contract,” says BPP’s Pugh. “We often look for the same qualities, such as an ability to substantiate everything you’re saying through examples, clear error-free English and an adherence to word limits.”

5. Take time to do your research

There are a formidable array of scholarships on offer, with deadlines throughout the year. For BPP, the main LPC scholarship deadline 30 June, while there are BPTC scholarship deadlines from 16 March. Different criteria apply to many of the scholarships, which can be viewed here.

Meanwhile, the next key date for Inns of Court scholarships is 1 May, the deadline for applications for scholarships for the Graduate Diploma in Law. The deadline for Inns BPTC scholarships is 6 November. The successful students, say Inns’ outreach staff, tend to be the ones who have devoted a few days to trawling through the various Inns’ websites to read about the different awards and figure out which best suit their CVs.

Further reading

8 things you need to know before applying for an Inns of Court scholarship [Legal Cheek Careers]

How to get people to give you money to become a lawyer [Legal Cheek Careers]

How baby barristers can bag a Pegasus Scholarship — and escape the British winter [Legal Cheek Careers]

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