If you want to become a barrister, you’ll no doubt have heard about the infamous Four Inns of Court. For most, the process of becoming a barrister involves joining one of them. In their chosen inn, future barristers receive support while undertaking the BPTC (or vocational component of bar training), participate in social and competitive events and have the opportunity to make connections via various networking events.
Lincoln’s Inn is the largest of the four. Located between Chancery Lane and Lincoln’s Inn Fields, the inn’s exact founding date is unknown, but records of proceedings within it date back as far as 1422. The inn offers student tours twice a week, and it’s recommended that students book in advance. This is the best way to explore the old hall, chapel, library and great hall and gives you the opportunity to ask any questions you may have. On the inn’s website, you’ll find the stories of many students who highlight that, despite the typical stereotypes associated with the bar, there are opportunities for students to excel regardless of background.
Gray’s Inn is the smallest of the inns. Its small membership intake is seen as an asset to its barristers. They consider the close-knit community feeling vital to creating a strong legal community and providing the best support. Its buildings range in age from the 18th to the 21st century and several are listed as protected. take a stroll down thegrand hall admiring the incredible portraits on display and you’ll soon see why many choose to apply for membership here. And despite its size, there are a variety of scholarship opportunities and educational experiences similar to those offered by the other inns that students can take part in before joining.
The Inner Temple, founded in the 14th century, prides itself on having a progressive global membership, and promoting diversity in the legal community. It has mooting, debating and drama societies that students can participate in once joining the inn. This particular inn may have an additional benefit for prospective students as it undertakes Project Pegasus, developing a flexible space for delivering training programmes for students. This includes classrooms, auditoriums and break-out spaces which may be an attractive modern space for potential students to study in. This does not mean there will be a departure from the traditional design in the inn, rather the heritage of the building will be maintained while providing comfortable study spaces.
The 400-year-old Middle Temple provides advocacy training, sponsorship schemes, marshalling placements, mooting opportunities, and of course qualifying sessions. It’s known for being a welcoming and a thriving society and provides around £1 million per year in support of its students and other junior members. On each of the websites for the Inns, there is a list of events for students and members, including that of mooting, guidance and lectures. However, most events will be for student members of the Inn only, so take care to check this.
After a study of what the inns have to offer, the next question to ask yourself is which inn you should join. This is a highly subjective question, and the best guidance that can be provided is to take the time to attend events and tours and make this decision based on your experiences. Undoubtedly, after undertaking mini-pupillages, many barristers will have a clear bias towards the inn they trained at. Most cite that it was like a second home to them, and many volunteer their free time towards improving their society by being active participants in their community. It is clear that each inn has its own specialities and unique points to consider. The facilities or the location may have bearing on whether a student chooses Gray’s Inn or the Inner Temple for example.
As you can only join one of the inns, the decision becomes infinitely harder especially under the time constraints as you must join before you start the BPTC. You have to apply before the 31st of May during the year you will undertake the course.
It is not just students from university who may be making the journey to a career as a barrister. Transferring solicitors, overseas lawyers, legal academics and specially qualified applicants can also join the Bar. It’s clear that this is a highly prized career.
The process of becoming a barrister and joining one of the Inns of Courts may appear complicated, difficult and traditional in comparison to the process of becoming a solicitor. However, being part of an inn is certainly exceptional through the educational opportunity as well as the excitement that comes with being part of a thriving legal community. With four Inns of Courts, the choice is extensive and requires much deliberation.
Simply put, the best steps to take are to visit the Inns of Courts, making plenty of time to explore and learn about each inn’s rich history. Thereafter, attending talks or even making conversation with barristers and academics may enable you to gain a better understanding of the facilities and opportunities available. When visiting the Inns of Courts, make use of the guides they have available, these guides contain the best selling points of each of the Inns and can often help students make the gruelling decision to join a specific inn.
A final word would be to say, that yes, this is a competitive and complicated process, but certainly, a rewarding one and students would find themselves undertaking the journey of a lifetime in becoming a barrister.
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What is a pupillage and what does it entail? Find out in our guide!
Words: Anjali Narbheram
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