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BPTC scholarship advice

BPTC scholarship advice

Ibrahim Ilyas

05/08/2019

This guide is for candidates applying for the Inns of Court BPTC scholarships.

As the recipient of a major scholarship from Middle Temple in 2018, I hope to provide personal insight on approaching the deadline for the scholarship application form.

How to prepare

Consider each element of the criteria and pair these with your own examples or experiences.

I used the following format on a word document to help organise my thoughts on how to approach the application and/or interview:

Quality

Example

Intellectual ability

I was awarded a first-class mark in some modules and secured the highest mark in a particular assessment.

Motivation to succeed at the Bar 

Court visits, legal volunteering, mini-pupillages and marshalling.

Potential as an advocate 

I was an active debater at university and won an internal debating competition. (Any experience which equips you with the skills to become an effective advocate can be added here.)

Personal qualities 

Evidenced through various roles/responsibilities and supported by references. (Personal qualities may also be judged at interview.)

Application form

  • Be concise – if you can save a few words and still articulate the point, do so. It will help with the word limit!
  • Try not to complete your application form in one sitting; instead, complete a section or question, leave it and then come back to it. A fresh pair of eyes makes a great tool for review or revision.
  • Think about the various experiences that you have undertaken – both legal and non-legal – and assess if and how they fit into the questions that are being asked.
  • When answering questions, keep the criteria in mind.
  • Pay close attention to spelling, punctuation and grammar. The form itself may be considered as a taster of the quality of work that you may produce as an advocate, so ensure that your spelling, punctuation and grammar are on point.
  • Ask a family member or friend to review the form – they may be able to provide helpful advice.
  • Finally, don’t leave it until the last minute. Set aside some time every day to make progress at a steady rate. Submit the application before the deadline and then consider interview preparation.

Interview

Preparation

  • First, arrange a visit to your university careers service. It is surprising how few students utilise this valuable resource.
  • The careers service will likely offer mock interviews, which – for me – were of great assistance in preparing for the real interview. Mock interviews may be conducted in a panel-style format, which is even better, as it gives you a taster of the real interview.
  • In my experience, the mock interviewers prepared numerous questions and although most of these will not come up in the scholarship interview, they will help you to become more confident in a live interview environment. Moreover, questions which require you to think on the spot are particularly helpful. In the interview, you may be asked unexpected questions and the feeling of panic will be diminished if you have faced such questioning in practice.

Interview

  • Illustrate confidence – show that you are ready to present yourself to the best of your ability.
  • Try not to shake hands – for Middle Temple, the advice was not to shake hands. It can be awkward having to go around what could be a large table. In my opinion, a simple greeting will suffice.
  • Show your understanding of the Bar – whether this is through mini-pupillages or court visits, ensure that the interviewers are confident in your understanding of this career path.
  • Have an opinion on current affairs – it is likely that you will be asked about something that has recently come up in the news, so you should be up to date on this area. Form an opinion and stick to it, but also appreciate opposing arguments.
  • Know your application – although obvious, it would be in your best interests to review your application multiple times beforehand to ensure that you know what you have written. In addition, some interview questions may be based on your form, so make sure that you not only know what you have written, but can also confidently expand on the relevant point when appropriate.
  • Keep the criteria in mind – tailor your responses to the published criteria.
  • Evidence your experiences – it is senseless to make an important point (eg, about a skill that you possess) without presenting evidence of it. For example, if you say that you have an aptitude for advocacy, then something such as success in debating, mooting or other public speaking-orientated activities would be a good way of supporting this point.
  • Research common questions – http://middletemplestudents.com/example-pupillage-interview-questions/ has some great examples of past interview questions and you may want to think about your responses to such questions should you ever be asked.
  • Address weaknesses – you may be asked about negative areas of your application (eg, a poor grade in a module), so think about why this happened. Are there any mitigating circumstances? Did you make up for this by working harder the following year? No one is perfect but it is important to show that you have not only identified your weaknesses, but also actively overcome them. For example, if organisation or time management was a problem in your first year of study and this meant that you did not perform well in exams, what did you do to improve the situation?
  • Finally, relax! The interviewers are human and only want to see whether you have what it takes to be successful at the Bar. They are not there to expose all your weaknesses; instead, they want to assess what you are good at and how this will assist in your journey to the Bar.