Number of places: 420 FT, 60 PT
Pro: boasts a 'who's who' of alumni
Con: commonly oversubscribed
City Law School (formerly the Inns of Court School of Law) was the founding provider of the Bar course and had a monopoly on it until 1999. As such, many alumni of ICSL have gone on to become judges, Queen's Counsel or distinguished academics. It can even boast that four British Prime Ministers – Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, Clement Attlee and Herbert Asquith – and Mahatma Gandhi passed through its doors. The school has built a good reputation both at home and abroad and many international students, especially those from the Commonwealth, will seek training here. As a competitive and challenging course, City expects international students to demonstrate a minimum of 7.5 on the IELTS scale to ensure they can follow classes competently. With the course commonly oversubscribed (and City deliberately recruiting fewer students than it's validated for), it's a good idea to put it as your first-choice destination.
City offers the course both full and part-time. Full-timers will be in classes three days a week, with the remaining two days left free for preparation, professional development or research. City recommends that an additional 20-plus hours of private study should be undertaken weekly. Part-time teaching takes place two evenings per week. In an effort to acclimatise students to the professional world, it's stated that attendance at all classes is mandatory.
The course is designed to replicate the demands and discipline required of life in chambers, and the emphasis is on learning by doing. The programme is written and developed in consultation with practitioners to ensure it imparts the relevant skills and knowledge needed for a career at the modern-day Bar. Course director Stuart Sime even works closely with Oxford University Press to write textbooks that are used across the country. Teaching is conducted by qualified legal professionals, many of whom are directly involved in practice or sit, or have sat, in a part-time judicial capacity. Small group sessions contain up to 12 students, while interactive large group sessions also occur frequently. City has made efforts to improve its provision of online materials, and its 'online learning environment', Moodle, allows instant access to course materials and communication tools from any computer.
Advocacy is a key subject at City. It offers three times as much advocacy training than the BSB requires and is taught in a courtroom setting to groups of six. Students will receive regular feedback during these classes and one-to-one advice can be sought throughout the year. A wide selection of options are available and three of them – FRU, domestic violence and social security – are pro bono-based, providing the opportunity for some real-life case experience as part of the course. For those looking to get involved with pro bono and add some gloss to their CV without dedicating a whole option to it, City runs a pro bono programme. Partnerships with the FRU, London Innocence Project and the National Centre for Domestic Violence are just some of the initiatives through which students can hone their skills.
Students are free to seek advice from the City University careers team but a dedicated pupillage advisory service is also available for those seeking information or assistance. It offers mock interviews, advocacy exercises or just general guidance on how to best navigate the path to pupillage. A guest speaker programme will see prominent members of the legal community impart their wisdom, while students can also participate in mock trial and mooting competitions.
The school's Future Lawyer Excellence Award gives one full fee and six 50% scholarships to eligible students. In addition, there's a variety of external awards and scholarships available, and former City grads receive a loyalty discount.