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Published on March 31, 2021 by Content admin

BPP recently hosted its ‘Step Up to the Bar’ webinar which included various interactive activities and panel discussions aimed at developing skills and providing an insight into the Bar. The evening was broken down into four areas;

  • an interactive speed mooting workshop, which will test your research, application, advocacy and communication skills;
  • a Q&A session about how to succeed in scholarship and pupillage interviews;
  • an expo where you can hear from the four Inns of Court about membership of their Honourable Society and speak to BPP about our scholarships; and
  • a pupillage panel where pupils and junior barristers will discuss what chambers look for in graduates.

Each area provided its own lessons, with hosts and panels available for feedback and advice throughout. However, there were some lessons that stood out. Read about them below.

1. Journey to the Bar

The most emphasised message throughout the webinar was that there is no one route to the bar. All of the pupils of the panel had passed through different routes, some taking years out, others working in industry before being successful in pupillage applications and others who received pupillage during university. However, despite the various routes, each panel member reiterated similar advice in reaching pupillage.

The first was that no experience was bad experience. Multiple members of the panel had taken years out to travel, work in non-legal spheres and volunteer in various organisations and all echoed the various transferable skills each experience provided. Therefore, non-legal jobs and other volunteering that develop skills relevant for the Bar, such as written or oral advocacy, time management, work ethic, or integrity, to name a few, is valuable experience to be respected.

The second piece of advice that was echoed throughout the panel’s journeys was that setbacks are inevitable in a journey as long and competitive as the Bar, but how each individual reacts will attest to their success. Each panel member had faced their own setbacks, but all advised in trusting the process and demonstrating resilience. This message was most compellingly exhibited by the panel member who had not been successful in attaining a Bar scholarship initially and instead worked as a paralegal for a year, stating that without this challenge they wouldn’t have the understanding or skill they have now that allowed them to be successful the second attempt around.

2. Getting Involved at University

Involvement in certain activities throughout university can support your CV and improve the skills necessary for success at the Bar, with the repeated advice being, “do a little, often”. Many activities offered at university were cited as providing transferable skills, any team sports, academic clubs and arts societies are sources of valuable skills that can be developed in the success of the Bar.

However, the most discussed activity was mooting, not only for its invaluable experience as to the advocating demands of the Bar, but its ability to support applications and interview success through its development of composure and confidence. Involvement in mooting also provides testimony to understanding the role of barrister and success within the field, experience and understanding that can open doors.

3. Preparation for Scholarship and Pupillage Interviews

Firstly, as noted by the speaker, it is important to understand the selection criteria of the interviews to prepare substantially. Each interviewer, whether scholarship or pupillage, will be looking for;

  • Motivation: e.g. Why a barrister and not a solicitor?
  • Competence: e.g Discuss a time… you persuaded someone ect.
  • Topical/Debate: e.g How to deal with knife crime, freedom of speech ect.
  • Ethics: e.g Why do you think ethics are so important in law?
  • Curveball: e.g Dream dinner guest, tell us something about you not on your application
  • Case analysis: e.g Legal issues and principles, facts of the case, outcome

In order to prepare, it was advised that each applicant thinks of two examples of each to discuss that properly demonstrate the elements required by the criteria. It was also advised that individuals revisit the written applications to critique them and use them as a skeleton argument to ensure your case is as robust as possible. This preparation is easier to breakdown and practice through a mock interview in advance that allows interviewees to practice these elements and minimise the component of nerves on the day.

4. Choosing an Inn

The webinar hosted representatives from all four Inns of Court who discussed the decision of membership. Many of those deciding to join an Inn will be doing it as a result of applying for an Inn of Court scholarship. On this foundation, members of the Inns discussed potential reasons for choosing an Inn.

The first note was to prepare and contemplate the required funds needed from the scholarship and compare that to the scholarship pot and the number of applicants of each Inn to determine the ratio of scholarships and adequacy of the loan.

The second suggestion was to consider the application arrangement of each Inn and tailor it to your strengths. Grey’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn only provide interviews to a certain number of applicants, whereas Inner Temple and Middle Temple provide interviews to all applicants. It is therefore important to note whether you look better on paper or interview, and subsequently determine which interview process would act in your favour.

The third suggestion was to look at alumni and members of each Inn to evaluate which Inn provides suitable networking candidates that share interests and ambitions. Along with this advice, the Inns suggested looking at the type of qualifying sessions each Inn provides and whether the format is suitable for an enjoyable and educational experience. While these suggestions are minor considerations, they attest to the feel of each Inn and its suitability to each individual to enable the greatest success.

Words: Lucie Brooks-Francis


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