Fees for the BPTC are a terrifying £16,500. It makes sense to try to land an Inns of Court Scholarship. I asked Alicia Jones currently studying with the benefit of two major scholarships for her advice on how to secure that prized scholarship. Here’s what she said.
“There are four Inns of Court, every barrister must belong to one, and each one offers a generous sum of money each year towards your fees. But a scholarship is worth more than “just” money. The process of securing a scholarship is similar to that for gaining a pupillage. A scholarship gives you a ‘vote of confidence’ and indicates that you are well on your way to becoming a successful member at the Bar.
So, how do you manage to secure one of these prestigious awards?
Know your inn
The method used by each Inn for awarding scholarship varies. Middle Temple and Inner Temple interview all applicants. Now I know that my advocacy skills are more impressive than my paper application, so this appealed greatly to me when deciding which Inn to apply for.
The scholarship criteria also vary between the Inns. Some Inns offer scholarships solely on merit; whereas others consider merit in the first instance, (to decide who the awards should be offered to), but then move on to consider financial means, to determine the level of the award.
The Inns vary greatly in size and this is generally reflected in the overall sum of money which each Inn has available for scholarships. For example, Gray’s Inn has the smallest cumulative award each year (in 2015 they awarded £850,000); however, they are the smallest Inn. It should be emphasised that the general consensus of practitioners and students is that the size of the Inn is generally in proportion to its scholarship fund. This means that the number of students competing for each scholarship award is relatively even. Don’t let the size of Inn or of its scholarship pot weigh too heavily in your decision making.
Know your paper application
If you secure an interview, it’s vital that you know every last detail of your paper application and are prepared to speak about it. In my paper application, I mentioned that I played the Alto Saxophone. This resulted in me explaining, to a panel of top QCs, how to achieve the right pitch at the lower register of the Alto Saxophone. Although I managed to do so, it did catch me off guard and remains a memorable moment of the interview! Although, I escaped this question unscathed, it did highlight the potential risk of including something in your paper application which you do not fully understand or would struggle to talk about.
A primary purpose of a scholarship interview is for the inn to see a student’s advocacy ability. It is sensible to prepare for the panel to disagree, or even play devil’s advocate, to see how well you defend yourself. This does not necessarily mean that you are wrong; in fact, they may push you further as they perceive you to be a very competent advocate. Do not let this panic you during the interview. Stick to your guns and argue what you genuinely believe. Having conviction in your arguments cannot be underestimated. (This is with a crucial caveat. If the panel state you have misunderstood the law, case or question and that you are factually wrong, it would be considered ill-advised to continue to argue against them!)
This comes hand in hand with defending yourself. During the BPTC you will learn that you have to ‘represent your client fearlessly.’ Arguably, the notion of representing someone or something fearlessly is crucial in obtaining a scholarship from an Inn. Hundreds of students are interviewed for a finite number of scholarships, it is vital to demonstrate that you want to have a successful career at the Bar. This passion will generally lead to you being energetic, engaging and memorable. This is crucial if you are to be successful in obtaining a scholarship – particularly, when your interview is at 3.00pm on a Friday and the panel have been interviewing students every 20 minutes for the last four days!
Relax and be yourself
It is easy to be swept away with worries of ‘what if I don’t get a scholarship?’ or ‘what if I don’t know the answer to a question?’ but do not let these fears cloud your ability and personality. Ultimately, you are going to impress far more if you’re relaxed, poised and confident. Believe in yourself and know that you couldn’t have done anything else to prepare for the interview. Ignore any horror stories you might hear, or have heard, about an Inns of Court scholarship interview, they really are not that bad. You never know, you might even quite enjoy the experience!
If you’re at Warwick come along to hear Alicia speak on Wednesday next week, here’s the booking link.