What do the Inns of Court do?
The four Inns of Court provide support for their members from their time as students at university right through their careers as barristers. It is essential for anyone wishing to join the Bar to become a member of one of the Inns. The Inns are Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple, Middle Temple, and Gray’s Inn.
Each of the Inns provides a range of facilities for their members such as common rooms, gardens, and dining facilities. They also offer members guidance and educational support. Scholarships are available for students and the social network created by each Society can provide members with support in a number of ways.
All of the Inns are located near the Royal Courts of Justice and each has its own history which gives it a unique character.
One of the most important duties of the Inns of Court is to call barristers to the Bar. They are also responsible for dealing with any complaints made against their barristers.
Students are offered mentoring from their chosen Inn and will have opportunities such as shadowing a judge for a day. There are also seminars offered in various subjects and all Inns encourage their students to get involved in mooting. There are also societies for those who have wider interests in things like music or theatre.
How to choose an Inn of Court
You will be a member of the Inn of Court you choose for life, so it is an important decision and could impact your career. It is therefore worth spending some time researching and thinking about which Inn is right for you. While each offers support to its members in similar ways, each Inn definitely has its own personality.
Perhaps the best way of deciding which Inn will suit you the best is to visit them in person. Each Inn welcomes prospective members to get in touch and organise a tour.
When to apply to an Inn of Court
Students who want to become barristers are advised to join an Inn of Court as soon as possible. It is compulsory to join before starting the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), however, there are scholarships available for students taking the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), the BPTC, as well as those entering pupillage.
The four Inns have around £5.4 million available in scholarships collectively. Keep an eye on the deadlines for scholarship applications and make sure that you have become a member of an Inn before this. For the next academic year (2018/19), the deadline for BPTC scholarships is 3 November 2017 and the deadline for GDL scholarships is 5 May 2018.
The competition for scholarships is extremely high, however, it is well worth the effort if you are successful as some of the top awards are worth about £15,000. Funds are also available to help with work experience such as internships and mini-pupillages.
Being called to the Bar
Your Inn of Court is responsible for ‘calling’ you to the Bar. Before this can happen, you must attend 12 qualifying sessions at your Inn which will prepare you for life as a barrister. These will include educational and networking sessions and might take the form of lectures and seminars or more social events such as dinners or music performances.
The Inns of Court also have funds available to cover the cost of those students travelling to these sessions from outside of London.
This is the largest of the Inns in terms of membership with around 23,000 members, 800 of which are students. The buildings owned by The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn are striking architecturally and some date back to around 1490. Because of this, it is often used as a filming location for films and television series. Previous members have included 16 British Prime Ministers. There are more than 200 scholarships available each year from Lincoln’s Inn.
In the twelfth century, the Knights Templar chose a site, now known as the Temple, as their headquarters in London. The Temple is now home to two Inns of Court, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. Some of the original buildings were destroyed during the Blitz and have been replaced, however, the site is still steeped in history. Inner Temple has around £1.4 million available each year for student scholarships. Previous members include the first woman to be called to the bar, Dr Ivy Williams, and the author of Dracula, Bram Stoker.
On the other half of the Temple, the Honourable Society of Middle Temple dates back to 1501. It is home to an award looking garden and very grand rooms and halls. Sir Walter Raleigh and Charles Dickens are among the previous members here. This Inn has the smallest total membership but still has around £1.2 million available in scholarships for students.
The buildings of Gray’s Inn also suffered damage during the Second World War and have had to be restored. This was the Inn of choice for Sir Francis Bacon and Thomas Cromwell. The Inn offers more than 50 scholarships for BPTC of values between £10k and £24k.
For further advice on becoming a barrister, take a look at our detailed job description which will take you through all the qualifications required. For an idea of the opportunities available for barristers, see the current vacancies on Simply Law Jobs.