Number of places: 420 FT, 60 PT
City Law School (formerly Inns of Court School of Law) has a long history of educating barristers. Once the monopoly Bar course provider, it has a wealth of famous alumni including Tony Blair and Gandhi, whose portrait graces the student common room. Primarily an “advocacy school,” City recognises that its students must be academically strong due to the Bar’s increasing role as a referral advisory service. The school accordingly considers applicants’ academic abilities and commitment to the Bar – mooting, debating and mini-pupillages – to select those with a realistic chance of completing the course and securing pupillage.
Students come from all over the world and in particular the Commonwealth countries, where City enjoys a great reputation, but nonetheless the majority of those enrolled are domestic students. City requires its international students to demonstrate a minimum level of 7.5 on the IELTS scale, to ensure that they can follow classes competently –“some applicants should consider deferring to improve their language skills.” City told us that it deliberately recruits fewer students than it is authorised to teach – about 83% of its maximum full-time intake and approximately 50% for its part-time course. Nevertheless, it is over-subscribed and it’s a good idea to put City as a first choice. Full-timers are timetabled for four days a week –“sometimes it’s three”– while part-time students attend over two evenings, for three hours each.
Members of the teaching staff have written legal texts and the team includes barristers and some solicitors who are able to bring real-life experience to the course. Teaching emulates real-life practice as far as possible, and skills training is integrated with the knowledge requirements. For example, students will learn the procedure of applying for an interim injunction, watch a demonstration, and analyse cases and skeletons before performing the exercise themselves. One-on-one advocacy sessions also boost students’ skills.
Students follow the same cases through the course, applying each new skill they learn to the scenario, from initial meeting with clients to hearings and even appeals. The rationale behind this is firstly because “it feels more like the Bar” and secondly because during pupillage students will be exposed to a higher level of work – under the supervision of their pupilmaster – than they would be doing as a junior tenant and so the BPTC must reflect this. Sources at City explained: “We don’t just want to get students through their exams; we want to train them for the junior Bar, to push them to go as far as they can, so that they don’t just reach the standard level.” The school has also increased its body of online materials, allowing students to access documents such as drafting and cross-examination papers via topic and the week of study.
Students have access to careers advisers at City University as well as a dedicated pupillage advisory team that “puts students through their paces” in mock interviews, and also provides application and CV advice. A speaker programme welcomes legal personalities including judges, and a mooting and mock trial competition is useful for boosting CVs. Cross-examining trainee police officers once a year adds a more realistic dimension to mock trials. City runs two criminal elective options and a new (-ish) landlord and tenant module which has gone down “very well – students go for it if they are entering into a chancery practice. It’s complicated, but there’s a great deal of work for the bar in this area.” Alternative options with FRU and the National Centre for Domestic Violence are still available. For students who don’t want to devote a BPTC option to pro bono, a host of other ‘free-time’ opportunities are available for those wishing to develop their skills and add shine to CVs.
Supplementing the Inns’ awards, scholarships are granted based on student performance at the end of the BPTC year. Former City grads get a £1,000 discount, while two new ‘Rosie Keene Memorial’ scholarships are available for promising female students. A student society has free rein over a budget and organises socials throughout the course, like boat trips up the Thames, and events with an “international flavour.”
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