Top tips for getting a BPTC Scholarship by Holly Girven, Warwick Law School Alumni.
Before coming to university I was fairly certain that I wanted to become a barrister and three years later I am about to embark on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) having received a scholarship from Gray’s Inn to fund the cost of the course.
I wouldn’t be in the position I am in now without the advice of alumni and other students and so I wanted to share some of my top tips for pursuing a career as a barrister as well as some information about the scholarship application process.
Before it comes to the actual application, make sure you get involved with a variety of activities throughout your degree! The application form for scholarships has lots of room to talk about your extracurricular activities so it is really important that you have something to say. This could be a variety of things, from the more obvious choices such as mooting to being part of the executive committee of a society or any volunteering experience. Even if some of your experiences might not be directly related to the Bar, try and relate the skills to those needed to be a barrister, for instance communication.
The deadline for applying for a scholarship from the Inns is normally the first Friday in November the year before you commence the BPTC, so for example I had to apply by the 2nd November 2018 to start in 2019. There are four Inns you can apply to and you may only apply to one a year- Gray’s, Lincoln’s, Middle Temple and Inner Temple. They each differ slightly in the way they offer scholarships, for example some normally interview all the applicants (Inner and Middle) whereas the other two do a paper sift first and they each have different systems to determine the amount of scholarship you receive so it is worth checking their websites to see which system you prefer. I chose Gray’s having attended one of their University Advocacy Days and having conversations with previous applicants.
When it comes to the application form, I think it is really important to start on it as soon as possible. It was quite daunting to begin with and it takes time to decide what you want to include. For most of the Inns your references need to be uploaded by the deadline, so it is worth making sure you give your referees plenty of notice. I started by going through each question and bullet pointing what I wanted to talk about and then double checked there was nothing else I wanted to mention. I then went through and wrote each of my answers in prose, ensuring I kept to the word limits. I would advise getting someone to check your form for you, whether that be a barrister, careers advisor or just a friend to ensure it reads well and there are no errors.
Each of the Inns conducts their interviews slightly differently so it is worth researching each Inn to see which you think would allow you to perform at your best. Currently, at Gray’s 10 minutes before your interview you are given the information about your interviewers as well as two current affairs topics to choose from. I prepared arguments on both sides related to my chosen topic and made brief bullet points on the paper we were provided with. The interview itself only lasted for 15 minutes and I was interviewed by a panel of 3 including a QC and a senior member of the CPS. The first half revolved around the current affairs topic and was quite intense, but they are testing your advocacy skills, so it is important to stay as calm as possible. The second half involved being asked questions about my experience and my application form so make sure you look over it before your interview to remind yourself what you said and ensure you have a clear answer to questions such as “Why do you want to be a barrister?” I think it is really important just to be yourself in the interview and to have confidence in your abilities.
So, to conclude my top tips to get a BPTC scholarship from an Inn is to take advantage of opportunities that are presented to you, make sure you sell yourself on the application form and to be yourself in the interview.