The Inns of Court offer buckets of scholarship dosh and ample networking opportunities. Getting stuck in at an Inn is a must if you're serious about a career at the Bar.
The four Inns of Court – Gray's Inn, Inner Temple, Lincoln's Inn and Middle Temple – are the Bar's professional associations. They provide students with training, careers advice, scholarships and the chance to meet as many practising barristers as you can shake a stick at.
The Inns are the only institutions with the power to call someone to the Bar. You have to join before you start the Bar Course, but the decision is worth mulling over as membership is for life, and while the Inns have many similarities – long histories, illustrious former members, beautiful gardens, impressive architecture – there are differences too. We've set them out in four features based on visits to each Inn and interviews with current members:
Before you make your choice, bear in mind that you can (and should) apply for GDL and Bar Course scholarships before joining. The Inns have deep pockets, offering over £5 million in scholarship money between them. Scholarships are awarded based on an application and a tough interview with a panel of senior barristers which may even include a judge. Interviewers are looking for advocacy skills, intellectual ability, and a determination to succeed at the Bar. Awards are given based on merit but may be weighted to reflect financial need.
You can apply to one Inn at a time for law school scholarships. If you are rejected you can choose to join the Inn anyway (no shame in that!) or wait and try your luck again at this Inn or another in the next scholarship round. So it pays to start looking early. We recommend you visit the Inns yourself to get an idea of what each has to offer. This is easily arranged – just call up and ask for a tour. You never know what you might encounter; during our rounds we bumped into a bishop and heard of preparations for one Inn's upcoming Christmas variety show.
Once you become a member you must participate in 10 'qualifying sessions' to be called to the Bar (12 'qualifying sessions for students who started the Bar course prior to September 2020) -- the last of these can be the call ceremony itself. Recently the Bar Standards Board proposed scrapping qualifying sessions (an idea that caused 'anger' according The Telegraph), but it quickly junked the idea and for now qualifying sessions are here to stay. Sessions can range from social occasions like dinner in Hall and grand formal nights to educational events like lectures, moots and training weekends. As a member you'll also be able to use your Inn's library and other facilities (e.g. its bar), as well as being assigned a mentor ('sponsor') and getting access to careers advice and skills training.
All four Inns of Court can be found right in the heart of London; each is a haven of leafy calm in the busy hectic city. With their charming medieval and Georgian buildings and immaculately kept gardens, they have more than a hint of the Oxbridge college about them. But don't let the Gothic arches and stained glass put you off if you've never been near any dreaming spires. Staff and members alike are keen to help students from any background. The Inns see improving social mobility as one of their primary goals and make every effort to support and guide those who need advice.
If you play your cards right – get involved in moots, take heed of your mentor's advice, chat away casually to the right people at social events – then you can get an awful lot of your Inn membership.