Between them, the four Inns of Court offer more than £6m to aspiring barristers. One of the main things to consider when choosing an Inn of Court is the level of funding it has available for the Bar course and GDL, advised our expert panel at the TARGETjobs National Pupillage Fair.
Given the cost of the Bar course (£13,000–£20,000) and GDL (law conversion course for non-law graduates) (£5,000 –£13,000), many aspiring barristers fall at the first hurdle: funding their training. There are several ways to avoid this, the most important of which is applying for an Inns of Court scholarship. You do not have to be a member to apply to an Inn, but if you are offered an award then you must become a member to receive it. You may only apply for a scholarship at one Inn each year. The deadline for joining an Inn of Court is 31 May in your Bar course year.
Funding factors to consider
Candidates for scholarships and awards can only make one application, so it’s vital that you make a good choice. Factors to consider include:
- The overall amount of money available for the Bar course or law conversion course.
- The number of awards available.
- The amount of money awarded for each individual scholarship/bursary.
Choosing an Inn
The main factor in deciding who receives awards, regardless of the Inn, is merit. ‘You need to be selective when making applications to the Inns. You need to pick the right one, and focus on the Inn that offers the best chances of success of obtaining a scholarship,’ advises Mason Bloom of Silver Levene chartered certified accountants, speaking at the TARGETjobs Law National Pupillage Fair. ‘The Inns are looking at intellectual ability, legal research skills, motivation, evidence of serious commitment to succeed at the Bar, advocacy potential and oral skills – any mooting or debating in mock trials experience – personal qualities, and your financial circumstances and need.’
The scholarship application deadlines to apply to an Inn of Court fall on the first friday in the November preceding the start of your Bar course (6 November 2020) for Bar course scholarships, and the first friday in May preceding the start of your GDL (7 May 2021).
Hardship funds for barristers
When you apply for the conversion course and Bar course, enquire about any available hardship funds or bursaries at your chosen institution(s). These are usually discretionary funds that help students who encounter unforeseen financial difficulties during the course of their studies. However, depending on the institution, there may also be bursaries that you can apply for in advance.
Advances on pupillage awards
A number of chambers will allow successful applicants to draw part of their pupillage award early, in order to help fund the Bar course year. Depending on the size of the pupillage award, the amount you can draw in advance may vary.
Regrettably, local authority grants are few and far between these days but you might want to contact your local authority just in case. Other less conventional sources of funding can be investigated in your university or local public library – for example there are publications detailing grant-making trusts and charities.