Quite a lot of people have requested that I talk about scholarships for the GDL and BPTC. I wrote a little about scholarships in my ‘Essentials for aspiring barristers’ post but it’s definitely worth elaborating more on the process, how to apply, how to interview and how to have the best shot possible at securing a scholarship for the GDL and/or BPTC.
Scholarships are provided by Inns of Court
A first point to clarify is that scholarships for the GDL are given by Inns of Court. There are four Inns (Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn) and in order to become a barrister you must have joined one of these inns before you start the BPTC. You need to apply to join an inn by completing an application form and providing various documents and references.
What’s in an Inn?
Inns provide part of the mandatory training necessary for you to qualify as a barrister and its worth it to take the time to read up about exactly what inns do, their historical role in training barristers and their background to find the Inn that’s right for you. In sum, inns provide the 12 qualifying sessions that you must complete before being called to the Bar. It is not enough to complete the BPTC, you have to complete this training through your inn as well.
Inns also provide opportunities for networking, mini pupillage, court marshalling, mooting and even theatre performances! They are at the heart of the Bar and you will be a Member of the Inn for the rest of your career at the Bar. Inns have libraries and other quiet spaces so you can really feel at home there if you choose to spend time there. I’ve heard this is especially true during BPTC and I’ve heard of people using their inn’s library during the GDL.
Scholarships are not essential in order for you to have a successful career at the Bar. They are intended to support your Bar studies. But it’s worth noting that they are also highly coveted because they are an indication that an Inn of court has recognised and rewarded your aptitude for success at the Bar. Remember, not having a scholarship does not mean you will not be a successful barrister and having a scholarship is no automatic guarantee of pupillage. Even if you know lots of people with scholarships, you are not strange for not having one.
What are the Inns looking for?
Obviously I don’t know everything about each inn and I can only speak on what I personally know and have experienced. What I’ve noticed is that (at least at Inner) they want to see that you are really committed to a career at the Bar and that should shine through in the type of experience you’ve been gaining. In my post ‘Don’t let a lack of legal experience hold you back’ I stressed how important it is to show your commitment through the company you keep.
You can show you’ve been thinking about being a barrister for a while through the kinds of extra-curricular activities you did and how you feel they prepared you for your future career. Perhaps you did a certain type of work experience with the specific idea in mind that it would give you certain skills that your future barrister self would need.
Alternatively (and trust me this is far more common than you think) you only decided to become a barrister a short while ago and you want to show you’re committed but haven’t been planning to become a barrister since you were seven years old. No fear! The Bar is an extremely diverse profession and many people have come there after a career in a different field. Remember, this work is all about advocacy.
Choosing to become a barrister wasn’t an accident. You’ve definitely been doing things that relate to it. Did you act in a Theatre group? Did you volunteer at a shelter and help people fill out forms for social assistance? Did you do after dinner speeches? There are many different ways to show you have been collecting the skills required of a successful barrister.
Don’t forget to also let them know about things you have planned for the future. Have a few minis planed for later in the year? Be sure to let them know in your application and remind them at interview. You don’t need to tell them you only just decided to pursue the Bar, you can focus the discussion on the experiences you had and the skills you learnt.
Be authentic and back yourself
The last thing for me to add (as always) is be authentic and back yourself if you do go for a scholarship interview. The final decision is out of your control. All you can do is be confident about who you are and why you have what is needed to be successful at the Bar. Go forth and shine!
Until next time,