Unless you have been in the circle or have done your research, the term ‘Inns of Court’ might seem somewhat daunting and confusing. Until I started studying the law I thought this was a posh word for a court house! How wrong could I be?
In order to be called to the bar you must be a member of one of the four Inns of Court based in London. The Inns provide a place where barristers get together to have social gatherings and can give guidance and support to aspiring barristers.
The four Inns of Court based in London are the Honourable Societies of; Gray’s Inn, Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Lincoln’s Inn. In helping to identify the inns, there is a rhyme which dates back to the 18th Century. Type the four inns into any search engine and you can expect to find this rhyme on most pages:
‘Inner for the rich, Middle for the poor, Lincoln’s for the scholar, Grays for the bore.’ Whether you agree with this or not is for you to decide.
Choosing the right Inn of Court for you is a big decision and one you will be left with for your future career. This guide will go through each Inn of Court separately to give you an overview, which hopefully will give you some idea of what to expect.
Each Inn provides tours. It is a good idea to view every Inn before making a decision. Whilst one might have better library facilities another one might have the best chances of gaining you a scholarship or had the most barristers that have gone on to become prime ministers.
Joining and scholarships
Anyone wishing to undertake the BPTC must have joined an Inn by the 31st May of the year they are starting the course. One day late will stop you from being able to commence the course that year. However you can join an Inn at any time from the second year of your LLB.
Each Inn has a pot of money which collectively amounts to approximately £5 million to give out in Scholarship awards to pupils commencing the BPTC or GDL. Each Inn has a different criteria for their scholarship award and if you are relying heavily on a financial award to get you through your BPTC this maybe be a major decision on which Inn to choose.
You do not need to be a member of the Inn to apply for their scholarship awards. However you can only apply to one Inn for the chance to gain a scholarship and if successful they will expect you to join their Inn of Court.
And finally Qualifying sessions might be another deciding factor as to which Inn to join. In order to be called to the Bar whilst commencing your BPTC you must also attend twelve qualifying sessions with you Inns of Court. These can range widely from lectures followed by dinner or a Karaoke Session. Even your call night counts as a qualifying session.
Whilst all four Inns are based in London and you will have to visit them at times, if you are based outside of London then do not fear, whilst you will have to attend an induction day or two at your Inn some of your qualifying sessions can be taken in one of the six circuits.
The smallest of the four Inns with approximately 5,500 members of which about 300 are students. The first record for Gray’s Inn dates back to 1388 and barristers which have resided at Gray’s include Thomas Cromwell, Lord Bingham and the current President of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale.
Walking around the Inn you get a sense of peace and tranquillity. The gardens which were designed by Sir Francis Bacon are open to the public during lunch hours but allow for a place to reflect for the members of the Inn for the rest of the day.
In regards to scholarships the Inn gives away around £1 million in awards and are based on merit in their first instance. The Inn also has accommodation which will be awarded to individuals on the same principle of the other scholarships available.
Tours can be booked by filling out a form on their website.
Lincoln’s Inn is the largest of the four Inns set in over 11 acres and is probably the most historic for having the most number of Prime Ministers as members. The Inn has been used as a filming location for many years and includes credits such as Downton Abbey.
Lincoln’s Inn is host to an impressive 24,000 members and 700 students. The Inn is currently undergoing some major redevelopment work which is hopefully to be completed by December 2018. The work is intended to help the continuation of the hard work Lincoln’s Inn education department have put in to students and for the first time the Inn will become much more accessible to people in wheelchairs or with mobility issues.
Lincoln’s Inn provides around £1.5m awards to give to deserving scholars including 14 rooms in self-contained flats. All awards are based on Merit and further financial awards are available.
The History of Middle Temple is what really makes this building. From the Readers’ coats of arms lining the corridors to the original features dating back to 1602. With its patrons including the late Queen Mother and Diana, Princess of Wales, it is no wonder that its current Patrons, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge can sometimes be seen around the temple facilities.
Middle Temple with its 6,000 member and 600 students has stunning gardens overlooking the Thames and the gardeners have recently taken up bee keeping in the grounds producing the Temple with an endless supply of honey. In terms of access, Middle temple welcomes applicants from a wide range of backgrounds and it’s accessibility for wheelchair users and people with mobility impairments. To me personally, it feels the most welcoming.
Every Scholarship applicant is invited to have a 15 minute panel interview and a total around £1.3m is awarded to aspiring barristers.
Inner Temple has a very modern feel. This is due to the fact that the main hall and building was destroyed during a raid in the Second World War, and in 1952 the queen laid the first stone to the commencement of the new building.
Inner Temple has approximately 12,000 members and 300 students and past members include the first women to be called to the bar Dr Ivy Williams. The grounds of Inner Temple lead down to the river Thames and created the backdrop for the kidnapping scene in the Da Vinci Code.
In terms of Scholarships Inner Temple offers around £1,786,306 in awards. The Inn has dedicated itself to helping people from diverse backgrounds and offers programmes such as the Pegasus trusts fund.
Making the right choice
All the Inns of Court have individual personality and to get a true feeling you must go and visit each one. For those wanting a career as a Barrister this is as big as the area of Law you want to study or which set of Chambers you wish to work in. It is not a decision to be taken lightly and once chosen one that will stay with you for the rest of your career.
All the Inns have an education department with a wealth of knowledge to help you in your decision. They will guide you and point you in the right direction. But remember the final choice is yours!
Victoria-Jayne Scholes – OULS Reporter
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