May 25, 2022, by Leah Sharpe
Turning My Dream of Becoming a Barrister Into Reality
By Noxy Sibanda, fourth year Law with Chinese Law student and an Inner Temple Exhibition Award Scholar
The path to becoming a barrister is difficult and often inflated by the financial burden of paying for the Bar course which many people, like myself, cannot afford. I have always been determined to expand my opportunities to mitigate any disadvantages. During my degree, I demonstrated my commitment to the Bar as Inns of Court Officer and later Vice President for the UoN Bar Society. I hope this blog will inform some of you of the financial support available in helping you become a barrister.
How to pick your Inn?
There are four Inns of Court and each of them offers prospective Bar Course students’ scholarships to cover part or all the costs of Bar School. It is a one Inn policy, so you can only apply for one scholarship, so pick wisely. For me, choosing Inner Temple was a no-brainer. I had visited the Inn prior and admired its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. More importantly, Inner Temple offered a guaranteed interview stage which I felt would be a good opportunity for me to show who I am and why I deserve a scholarship. For reference, only Inner and Middle Temple guarantee interviews for all applicants.
The application process for a scholarship is difficult. Not only was the process six months long, but the preparation both for the written application and interview takes up a considerable amount of your time and energy. If like me you apply in your final year, I would encourage you to be highly organised and prepared for the journey ahead.
The written application
The written application, as expected will require numerous drafts and attention. This was the first stage where, Peter Kay, from the Careers and Employability Service helped me, and I can honestly say that his direction and guidance during my drafting process, changed the trajectory of my application and all future applications I have done since! I would recommend, especially where your Inn has an initial paper sift, to get a fresh perspective from Peter on the content of your application and your stylistic choices. Applying for a scholarship is not like a job application and having this shift in perspective from him was a game-changer.
During the written stage I would encourage you to proofread continuously and CHECK YOUR WORD COUNT! The applications are very short and having trustworthy and objective people to also read your work is essential.
The interview stage
My interview was online in March. Unlike previous years, Inner Temple had a set list of questions that would be asked so my preparation was organised around this. Please attend any scholarship information events that your Inn runs, they are very helpful and allow you to get over the daunting reality of what’s to come.
To prepare for my interview, I emailed Peter again to run a mock session a few weeks beforehand. I would recommend having a mock interview, or at the very least finding someone to discuss/practice your potential answers with. There is a real difference between writing why you want to be a barrister and arguing it convincingly to a panel of strangers. Peter gave me great tips to help me practice and, in our session, we narrowed down the best examples I could use for my answers. There is so much to overthink when preparing for your interview and having this session really grounded me and reminded me just how quickly the time can go. My interview was around 15 minutes, so practicing how to be concise and confident was key.
The interview process will differ each year and is dependent on your Inn. My best advice is to be yourself, be confident, and remember why you are there. No one is trying to catch you out.
My final advice
The process, albeit a difficult one, has given me the access and opportunity to make my dream of becoming a barrister a reality. I would strongly encourage anyone, regardless of their socioeconomic background to apply to an Inn for a scholarship. It is life-changing and has given me a great level of confidence in myself and my ability to be a successful barrister in the future. I would also say to anyone on this journey to continue believing in yourself, that you are your biggest supporter, and it is your job to convince a panel of barristers and judges to give you a lot of money.
Good luck and utilise the support systems around you. Again I cannot thank Peter enough for all his help!
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