With pupillage season upon us, you might be looking to learn more about becoming a barrister. Although mini-pupillages offer a great insight to the Bar, they can sometimes be quite hard to obtain. In all honesty, the Bar is diverse and the Inns of Court are always hosting events to give an insight to those interested in the profession, which you can then add to your CV. Hopefully, this article will give those who have not yet joined an Inn of Court or are contemplating a career at the Bar an insight into the role of the Inns of Court and what you can get out of them.
The function of the Inns
The Inns of Courts are a prominent feature of the Bar of England and Wales. Their existence dates back to the 14th century and have facilities that aim to prepare you as much as possible for a career at the Bar. Each Inn offers scholarships to contribute to the costs of either the Graduate Diploma in Law, Bar courses or sometimes even pupillage. Students should check the deadlines for scholarships on the individual websites for each of the Inns. Although, remember that a scholarship is not essential in order to obtain pupillage and for you to have a successful career at the Bar. Membership at one of the Inns of Court is required to complete the Bar course and to complete qualifying sessions in order to be called to the Bar. Following your call to the Bar, you must complete pupillage and obtain a practising certificate.
As well as this, the Inns offer opportunities for professional development and are a close community that supports you throughout your career. From advocacy training to dinners, networking and conferences, there are many benefits to attending such events. I have even heard of people successfully obtaining mini-pupillage and shadowing opportunities just by networking with barristers at these events. Put simply, they play a crucial role in the training and professional development of barristers in the UK.
I am a student member of the Honourable Society of Middle Temple and have thus enjoyed my many commutes to London to explore all it has to offer. Being a student outside of London should not stop you from enjoying the benefits that the Inns offer. I first attended Middle Temple for its open day, which consisted of hearing the experiences of different practitioners, a tour around the Inn and an advocacy session hosted by Bernard Richmond QC. It was a transformative day; I met many like-minded people and the fact that the practitioners each had unique, not-so-straightforward journeys to the Bar highlighted the diversity within the profession and the Inn’s commitment to social mobility.
I applied for such open days, insight evenings, and a university dinner at Inner Temple. These opportunities not only allowed me to look at the Inns, but I was also able to dine with fellow students, barristers, judges and QCs. I was lucky enough to sit with His Honour Judge Pegden QC and hear his views on how your unique experiences can give you a lot to offer in this profession. I think it is important to remember that barristers are still real people; they have been exactly where we are. I once got to talk to a barrister about his travels in Australia – this was completely unexpected. A normal conversation will go a long way to building key connections. At the end of the day, be yourself.
Next upcoming event at Inner Temple: an insight evening on 4 February 2021, which will be hosted online.
Lincoln’s Inn hosts its own ‘InnSight Days’. These involve attending a presentation from practitioners and engaging in a Q&A session. The day provides an invaluable opportunity to ask questions to a pupil barrister, junior barrister and a QC. Barristers can be very open people and admire those with an inquisitive mindset. Before you attend these events, have in mind the type of questions you want to ask. For example, you could ask barristers how they manage their practice, their predictions for the future of the Bar and what they would have done differently on their route into the profession. Life in different practice areas can be very different, so be prepared to use their stories to help you to decide what practice areas you are likely to enjoy.
Although I am yet to visit Gray’s Inn, I know that its biannual ‘University Advocacy Day’ is a great opportunity to be trained by leading barristers at the Inn. This event consists of advocacy, case analysis and ethics discussions. Students can participate in cross-examination, professional ethics and examination in chief exercises based on scenarios given by the advocacy trainer – all of which are necessary skills for a successful career at the Bar. Although this may feel like an awkward experience, remember that everyone attending these events is in the same boat as you, so make sure you have a go at the advocacy exercises.
You can sign up for these events mainly through the Inns’ websites, but occasionally these events are offered via your university’s law society – you do not need to be a member of an Inn to attend these events. Ultimately, I would encourage people to attend events at the Inns of Court, whether you want to be a barrister or a solicitor as it will help you to determine which side of the profession you want to join. Capitalising on these opportunities is so important, being an advocate and networker is valuable for both your personal and professional development.