Bar Scholarship success – my experience and tips
I first learnt about scholarship options at an open day for a Bar Course provider, I spoke with some students there, some who had been awarded Inns of Court scholarships and others who hadn’t. The overall opinion was that it is difficult to get a scholarship but that it should not put you off applying.
With that information, I then had the somewhat difficult decision of choosing an Inn of Court to apply for. You can only apply for a scholarship at one Inn of Court per year and if awarded a scholarship from that Inn you must join it. Therefore, it is important to pick the Inn that has values and ethics that align with yours. I found attending local talks and information evenings by each Inn particularly useful. The Law School also arranges a yearly trip to London where you have the opportunity of visiting some of the Inns and their grounds, which is a great experience and one not to be missed.
I decided to choose Inner Temple as they guarantee an interview and I felt my chances of success would be greater if I had the opportunity of a face-to-face interview. They also offer many other benefits such as the PASS scheme.
The deadline for applications is usually early November in the year before you are due to commence your bar course. The application asks various questions about why you want to be a barrister, what qualities you will bring as well as assessing your financial situation. Like any application, it is important to be truthful and honest but also intriguing, as the panel will have your application in front of them during the interview.
Following the submission of my application, I received my interview date. The interviews are held in London and usually at the respective Inn. Luckily, I had two other friends who had interviews on the same day and so we were able to travel together and support each other which took a great deal of pressure off on the day.
The interview itself was, in my opinion, a tough experience but at the same time, nothing surprised me about it. Before the interview, myself and a group of about nine others were taken to a large room and directed to pick a case report. There were three areas to choose from, crime, family or civil. We were directed to read the case report and make notes on the key parts such as party names, outcomes, how the judge reached that decision and the key arguments for each side. I was also advised by a current Bar Course student to form an opinion on the case as we may be asked for our own view. We had 30 mins to read and make notes (which we were allowed to take in with us). Following the reading exercise, we were individually directed to a waiting area where we would be called in for our interview.
The interview itself lasted around 15 minutes. I was sat in front of a panel of four people, two were QCs and the other two were professional staff within Inner Temple. Each interviewer asked a different set of questions but only asked around two questions each. I was asked the following questions in the respective order:
- Why do you want to be a barrister and not a solicitor?
- The interviewer then looked at my CV and asked about my Vice-Presidency of the Junior Barristers Society at Leeds Law School.
- Questions about the case report such as, can you give a summary of the case, the parties names, the key points in issue, what the outcome was and on what basis was this formed?
- I was given a statement and asked to argue for and against it. I had one minute to plan and one minute to argue both for and against.
- Based on my application, where would my income be coming from during the Bar Course and what would I do if I didn’t receive a scholarship?
The interview flew by quickly and it’s important to show your passion and commitment to the bar throughout. Take your time, take a breath before you answer and make sure you are open and honest. Most importantly, be yourself!
My best advice would be to prepare but don’t overdo it. I had the experience of doing a mock interview with the Dean of the Law School, Deveral Capps, and an external Inns expert. This helped to test out my responses to some of the questions above and I was able to use their feedback on the day of my interview. It may also be useful to find other students talking about their interviews on blogs and LinkedIn as it can help to calm nerves on the day and prepare you for what to expect.
To all aspiring barristers and future Inns of Court scholarship applicants, good luck, remember to shine and just be you!