Training to become a lawyer is a competitive and expensive business. Unfortunately, finding where help comes from can be a challenge and a bit time-consuming. Here's a guide to what's on offer at the different stages of your journey into the law that might help make it a bit less bumpy.
Bar Professional Training Course and Pupillage
If it's the bar you're aiming for, the year-long Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) will set you back between £10,000 to £16,000. After that, it's pupillage. Pupil barristers receive an annual minimum salary of £12,000, although some chambers pay more than that, depending on the practice area. Details of pupillages and funding arrangements are provided in The Pupillage Handbook, which is available free from the Bar Council or online. You should also find a copy in your law library or careers office.
If you secure a pupillage before you start the BPTC, your chambers may allow you to "draw-down" some of your pupillage award as an advance during your BPTC year. While this might ease the financial pain during your BPTC, it will obviously mean that you will receive less money during your pupillage year, so it is really only an option for those with relatively well-paid pupillages.
Most of the funding available to help would-be barristers comes from the four inns of court.
Between them, Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, Inner and Middle Temple provide about £4.5m of awards each year.
All of the inns award their scholarships and grants on merit, with financial need taken into account by some. Candidates may apply for a scholarship to one inn only and must be a member, so it is really important when you're picking which inn to join to have a look at the scholarships on offer and criteria used to award them.
Further information on the scholarships and grants available are all available on the respective inns's websites. There are two key deadline dates; the first for those applying for GDL awards is in May and the second, for the major BPTC scholarships is 2 November, so if the latter is what you're going for, don't hang about.
Here's a brief overview of what's on offer:
Gray's Inn offers around £850,000 worth of prizes and scholarships, "irrespective of background". Most awards are for the BPTC year, but they also cover the GDL and pupillage years.
Gray's Inn also offers the Hebe Plunkett Award to assist students with disabilities, especially those with impaired eyesight.
Lincoln's Inn seems to be the most generous inn, offering £1,578,000 of scholarships and awards for the next academic year. They include up to 32 scholarships of up to £7,000 for the GDL and up to 70 scholarships of between £6-18,000 for the BPTC year. Scholarships for the BPTC year can include accommodation awards in self-contained flats in the Inns.
It has slightly more bizarre awards, such as the £15,000 Tancred Studentships for the BPTC year, awarded to two male communicant members of the Church of England.
Smaller awards are available to cover admission, call fee and dining charges, as well as funds to cover work placements in the European court of justice, the international criminal court and the European court of human rights.
Inner Temple will fund £1,428,000 next year, including around 100 for the BPTC year, including one Peter Taylor Scholarship of £20,000; one Stephen Chapman Scholarship of £18,000 and five Princess Royal Scholarships of £17,500 each.
There is no minimum academic entry level restriction and the inn will interview all eligible candidates.
Up to £10,000 is available annually to help students or pupils who are affected by serious disability, who demonstrate financial need and who can show they have a reasonable prospect of being called to the bar. Grants are awarded at the discretion of the scholarships committee.
Middle Temple will offer around £1m of funding next year, as well as hardship fund for those who experience serious and unexpected financial problems. The Inn commits to interview all applicants with a place on the BPTC for the BPTC awards.
The Kalisher Awards
Criminal barristers may be able to benefit from the scholarships offered each year by the Kalisher Scholarship Trust.
Set up in 1996 in memory of Michael Kalisher QC, they cover the entire cost of the BPTC, but are awarded retrospectively at the end of the students' BPTC year. The awards are rotated around the participating BPTC providers, with the prizes going to students from the nominated provider each year.
The trust provides funding for one place and the participating law school matches that funding by providing another place. Next year, the participating provider is the College of Law in Birmingham, but the trust hopes it will also be able to award a place at another law school too, with an additional place provided by that provider, making a total of four scholarships available.
The trust also runs an essay competition in the summer (June/July) for pupils at criminal chambers, with a first prize worth £5,000 and a second prize of £2,000.
Like trainee solicitors, those studying for the bar can, if all other avenues have proven fruitless, apply for a bank loan. The Bar Council and the inns of court set up the bar loans scheme in 2008 with HSBC to provide loans on preferential terms to those undertaking the BPTC.
Overseas students can get information about scholarships from the British Council and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
So, don't be put off. To inspire and encourage you, here's the difference that taking the time to find and apply for awards made to two students. If they can do it, so can you: Laura Morgans, currently on the BPTC at the College of Law in Birmingham, received a full scholarship from the college, after her electronic presentation on diversity at the bar impressed the former Bar Council chair Tim Dutton QC, who judged the submissions.
She says: "It's made a huge difference. Without it, I'd have nearly £50,000 of debt by the time I finish."
Laura worked full time for two years – at a national charity for the first year and in the NHS for the second – in order to save up the money to support herself through her legal studies. "You have to do 48 hours a week of studying and it would be difficult to have to do a job as well," she says.
As well as helping her financially, Laura says the award has improved her chances of pupillage. "A lot of pupillage applications ask what scholarships you have – I can now tick that box."
Getting the scholarship, says Laura, has also improved her confidence and self-belief. "I felt very encouraged that someone in the profession like Tim Dutton, who judged it, thinks I have potential," she adds.
Eloise Le Santo was a Inner Temple BPTC scholarship winner and is now a pupil at Matrix Chambers. She says she had always been interested in the bar, but for a long time a career as a barrister did not seem realistic. She left school before doing A-levels and had her first son relatively young. After getting married Eloise had another child and concentrated on being a mother. Her interest in the law remained and she nurtured that by working as an administrator at a magistrates' court and enrolling on a part time legal executive course at college.
After her marriage broke down, and with a one-year old son, Eloise enrolled at the University of Lincoln.
"Some of my family thought I was crazy as they could not understand why I would want to get myself into so much debt and study full time with two small children. It turned out to be the best decision I have ever made," she says although the financial cost was daunting.
"Without the scholarship I would have found raising the funds for the BPTC very difficult, if not impossible," she says. Eloise still needed to take out a bank loan to cover her living costs, but she says that having the scholarship helped convince the bank to approve her loan.
She adds: "It undoubtedly strengthened my applications for jobs and pupillage as it showed that the Inn felt I had a reasonable chance of becoming a barrister. The fact that they were willing to take a gamble on me encouraged others to do the same."
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