There’s absolutely no way you can join the Bar in England and Wales without being a member of one of the four Inns of Court: Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple. In order to become a practising barrister it is, quite literally, their call; you must be ‘called to the Bar’ by your chosen Inn before you can practise. They are the only institutions with the authority to do this.
What are the Inns of Court?
The Inns of Court are societies of lawyers that offer their student and barrister members a whole manner of services and facilities to help them in their work and study. These include both financial and educational support with BPTC training, scholarships, workshops and libraries, through to more professional development training for fully qualified practising barristers.
An Inn acts as a hub for the barrister community. It’s somewhere to network and socialise (they put on events and have societies based on common interests, just like university). They also offer pro bono services and deal with complaints raised against any of their member barristers.
The four Inns of Court are all located around the same area in London; all with ornate buildings, chapels and grounds steeped in history.
How to get in with an Inn…
The Inns of Court are all very similar in terms of what they offer their barristers and students, but they do have their own histories, traditions and ‘personalities’. Think school houses or university colleges (hold fire at Gryffindor and Slytherin) and you’ll be on the right track!
You can only join one, and membership with your chosen Inn is life-long, so it will also go some way towards building your sense of identity as a barrister. This means research and visits to each Inn is wise when you’re making the decision on who to apply for.
Interviews for scholarships are rigorous and will really put you through your mooting and advocacy paces in front of a number of highly experienced barristers. Once accepted, a kind of initiation process is on the cards, known as “qualifying sessions”.
You’ll have to complete 12 of these before the Inn will call you to the Bar, and they could involve either dining evenings or more educational sessions. When these are ticked off you will usually have your call ceremony – and you’re in!
When to apply for membership with an Inn of Court…
Anyone training to be a barrister has to join one of the Inns before they begin their BPTC, so make sure you’re applying for the year you are due to start your course. Their scholarships are prestigious and are, understandably, hugely competitive.
Some students have contact at an even earlier stage in their legal training, as the Inns of Court have huge funding resources and offer a number of scholarships to contribute towards GDL fees, as well as for the BPTC.