Position yourself for a career at the Bar

How I became interested in a career at the Bar

Some students are lucky, in that they are able to pinpoint a particular ‘lightbulb’ moment that made them realise they wanted to become a Barrister. My decision to pursue a career at the Bar, can’t be attributed to one particular event, rather, it’s been the result of a number of work-experience placements, extra-curricular activities and networking events that have taken place over a number of years.  They have given me a strong indication that I would find it a fulfilling career of constant growth.

Exploring the Bar

Most of the experience I have gained has been through volunteering placements and, at my interview, I was able to hold the most engaging conversations about these roles, since they were long-term and allowed me to get more ‘stuck-in’ with client-contact. Notably, volunteering as an advisor at my local Citizens Advice Bureau gave me the opportunity to work with a lot of vulnerable and disadvantaged people and, as someone who wants to join the Public Bar, this is something I must be able to do.

Undertaking mini-pupillages, court volunteering roles and marshalling placements have been central in motivating me to join the Bar, as they can give you an idea of the ‘skill set’ of a barrister (and are also essential for making scholarship applications!). I enjoyed the courtroom traditions, the fast-paced nature of work and the balance struck between the self-employed barrister and the collegiate atmosphere in the robing rooms. What stood out to me the most, however, was the uniqueness of courtroom advocacy. During my LLB, I was a brand-ambassador or a magic-circle firm and spent a day with their litigation team, where I found myself wanting to play the role of the advocate and have a greater degree of responsibility and control over my practice.

Outside of ‘formal’ work-experience/volunteering placements, my commitment to extra-curricular activities has allowed me to develop my own skill set. Taking part in mooting and debating competitions have pushed me to become confident in both public speaking and thinking on my feet. These experiences help you put your legal knowledge and/or skills into practice so they are invaluable in applications and I would highly recommend that you take up university-led opportunities when they come along.

Obtaining my Bar Course scholarship

The first thing I would say to those thinking of doing the Bar is to, definitely, put in an application for an Inn of Court scholarship! To summarise it briefly: everyone who decides to do the Bar needs to join an Inn (there are four of Inns of Court based in Temple, London). The Inns provide generous scholarships every year to students who demonstrate a strong commitment to a future career at the Bar, and I would encourage anyone with a strong desire to join the Bar to make an application.

Applying to a prestigious Inn of Court’s scholarship programme is, of course, rather daunting and competition is fierce. There are some things you can do to make your application stand out.

  1. Prepare your CV– keeping your CV regularly updated when you take part in new activities/ placements means you are more likely to demonstrate to Inns that you have taken part in a diverse range of activities and satisfy their desired ‘qualities’ in a scholar.
  2. Pick the right Inn– all the Inns come with their quirks and defining features so it’s worth doing a little bit of research to see which one suits you best! I chose Lincoln’s Inn because it had the oldest and most ‘historic-looking’ building and gave out the most number of scholarships!
  3. Writing your application: keep it short and to the point!- a good barrister must be able to be objective and precise, so make sure your application and interview answers are clear, direct and free of exaggerative or hyperbolic language. This doesn’t mean that you are entirely un-feeling (or worse, boring!) in your answers, but rather that you give a clear picture of what you bring to the table.
  4. Time is your best friend– if I could go back and change one thing about my application, it would have undoubtedly been to ensure that I started earlier! Putting together a scholarship application involves providing two finished academic references, answering some challenging questions and compiling a list of all your experiences, which can take a lot of time. Applications open two months before the closing deadline so you have plenty of time to complete them!

The Interview

Obtaining my Lincoln’s Inn scholarship involved one of the hardest interviews I have ever sat through! Two barristers including a member of the Queen’s Counsel and a pupil interviewed me.  I quickly realised that barristers are incredibly good at cross-examination, meaning that they were quick to question or argue against some of the points I made. This may sound quite daunting but it is important to remember that the reason they do this it to ensure you, as a potential barrister, are able to stay calm and think on your feet in high-pressure situations.

For me, the best, and most useful, way to prepare came in the form of mock-interviews. Every interview consists of some questions you can prepare for, such as ‘Why do you want to become a Barrister?’ for which mocks are a fantastic opportunity to ensure you have your answers nailed. Make the use of the resources at Warwick too, I engaged with the careers service and will give special thanks to Valerie Matthews-Lane, who provided me with a fantastic mock and post-interview analysis that really helped my performance on the day!

Above all, I would emphasise that approaching the interview with a calm, clear mind-set and being yourself will ensure you give the best performance you can on the day. Good luck!

Shobi Keerthy

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