Hi all, my name is Amy and I am shortly going to commence my BPTC year at UWE in Bristol. I was lucky enough to be awarded the Jerry Parthab Singh scholarship from Middle Temple this year.
For those of you who are applying for Scholarships it is really important to think about which Inn is right for you. I chose Middle Temple because when I attended an open day there, they were extremely informative, welcoming and honest. I recommend that you so go and visit the Inns of Court if you get a chance. It allows you to get a feeling about the place. However, if you are unable to do this ensure you attend any events arranged by the Inns of Court at University. Gray’s Inn hosted a particularly informative evening session when I was in my final year.
Unfortunately, choosing an Inn is the easiest part of the process. The application and interview stage (if reached) is where it gets really tough. With your application it is really important that you try to stand out – I appreciate this is really difficult to do in such a high calibre and competitive environment. The one thing that interviewers and application handlers really like to see is self-reflection. How aware are you of the things you have done well, incorrectly, or what you would change if you were to do something again. Honesty is absolutely critical as it highlights your integrity which is vital in a legal career. If you get offered an interview you must know your application inside out. They will scrutinise the tiniest sentences so make sure you can defend anything you have said. Needless to say you also need to be aware of current affairs and key legal developments. If there are a few of you all applying for scholarships, it is a good idea to meet once a week and discuss developments together. This allows you to open your ears to other points of view and think about things from different angles. I found this very useful for interview preparation this year.
Good luck if you are applying for scholarships!
As for choosing where to do your BPTC I would say do what is best for you. The institutions all have their pros and cons. The BPTC is much the same wherever you do it. Different institutions offer their own extra opportunities. I am staying in Bristol to do mine because I love the City. Also I have no burning desire to work in London in the future. That may be different for some of you.
If you are just about to start your law degree at Bristol I wish you the best of luck. You should immerse yourself in University life and welcome every opportunity that is thrown your way. The three years go extremely quickly and before you know it you will be sat in your Graduation Ceremony saying bye to Bristol.
Good Luck to all of you!
Before saying anything else I absolutely must stress how jealous I am of you reading this if you’re about to start your life at Bristol. You really have got an amazing few years ahead of you, and having reached the end I couldn’t wish more to be back at the start. Enjoy it.
With BPTC scholarships the first step is to figure out which inn to apply to. Some people may have an obvious reason to apply to a particular one (personal connections being a prime example, and if you are lucky enough to have such connections then definitely use them) but for everyone else it’s not so simple. As a student it’s very hard to figure out what distinguishes each and I remember being reluctant to trust the opinion of a stranger on an internet blog post (don’t you just hate them…). My advice would be to talk to anybody and everybody with professional experience of the Bar, so you should see your mini-pupillages and Bar-related socialising events as a good opportunity to ask these kinds of questions.
The next part for me was a written application, which was admittedly only a short form but with precious little space for answers. My advice with all of these kinds of forms is to first write a list of the things you want to include and in their order of importance. It is massively frustrating to spend half an hour crafting one of these points into prose, then later have to cut it to give space for something more important. If you find that you don’t have enough space for a certain point, try to find a way to fit it into another answer. I wouldn’t worry about straining to fit your experiences as vice-captain of your school’s under-13s hockey B team into an explanation of why you would enjoy the intellectual stimulation of the Bar, but don’t leave out anything like debating/mooting experience.
Next is the interview- with retrospect the hardest point of this stage is that it falls in the middle of a busy period in final year. It’s tricky trying to juggle a number of balls at once and to figure out how much time should be devoted to each. Stay as rational as possible and don’t be afraid of saying no to things if you think it would hinder something more important. In terms of general interview preparation I would recommend reading back over your application and for each thing you’ve mentioned just write a small paragraph describing what it involved and what you took from it. I wouldn’t worry about learning two-page long answers by heart but just to be familiar with everything you’ve written. I can tell you from experience that you don’t want to have to remember mid-interview what kinds of cases you saw on a specific mini-pupillage! Also, and this applies to the whole of your degree, stay completely on top of legal issues and current affairs. Try to find time to read a good daily newspaper if you can, and every few days have a look at a legal awareness feed (Inner Temple do an excellent one).
In terms of general tips for starting uni I want to stress one thing more than anything else- don’t worry too much. It sounds like a strange thing to say, but if you take anything else from this then please remember that. By far the hardest year of my degree was the first one. It’s hard to adjust to everything new, and it takes a while to really understand how to study law. It’s a very different kind of learning and I remember feeling as if I would never be able to keep up. Older law students (and some tutors) love to make it clear to first years how hard the degree is, how outrageously important everything is and how distinctly average you are now that you’ve made it to law school. Don’t listen to them- if you’ve made it this far, you’re a very intelligent person and you’re absolutely more than capable of doing really well. By the end of first year you’ll have figured out what works best for you and it will get easier and easier from there. When it feels in the first couple of months that other first year law students are finding it really easy and you can’t figure out why you’re not, just remember that everyone is struggling really. Behind every smug smile is a frightened eighteen year old that has no idea what the hell consideration is either. Trust me.
So that’s it! I wish you the best of luck with your time in this incredible city, and remember that the most important thing is to enjoy it! Law is a truly fascinating subject and you’re in the safe hands of a brilliant law faculty (and Bar society!). Go to as many events as you can and never feel afraid to try something new. Steer clear of Lounge as well, mbargo is much better. Cheers!
I graduated from Bristol in 2014 in French and Italian, and was a member of the Bar Society during my final year. It was during this year that I learned invaluable advice about a career at the Bar through the various events put on by the Bar Society.
Firstly, Bar Soc organised for Quinn Clarke, the Education Director at Gray’s, to speak to us all via Skype. Being made aware of the importance of scholarships from this early stage meant I was a step ahead when it came to applying: I’m on the BPTC now, and the number of people who didn’t apply for scholarships is astonishing. I subsequently applied to Gray’s for a BPTC Scholarship as I took their merit-based approach to be a real seal of approval for a career at the Bar. I was awarded a £15,000 scholarship for the BPTC as a result.
I also went to various panel evenings with barristers from chambers in Bristol. I was concerned that not being a law student would mean that I would have a more difficult task proving my commitment to law. I took the opportunity to talk to Family practitioners to ask about relevant pro bono and work experience I could involve myself in. I was therefore in a stronger position to apply for Pupillage during the GDL because I had organised extra-curricular experience at an earlier stage in my career.
Thirdly, I was selected to attend the Inner Temple Universities’ Dinner that takes place annually in March. This is an excellent opportunity to network with barristers and judges in a relatively informal environment.
I applied for pupillage in April 2015 through the Gateway online submissions. My aim at this point was a first round interview. This often means that you’ve got the right things on your application form and chambers think you have potential. I was invited to two first round interviews and one second round interview. My chances of pupillage pre-BPTC were fairly slim, but I was happy that I’d been invited to interview in the first place as this is still an enormous achievement.
What I hope fills you all with comfort is that this was all I needed to secure pupillage – in August I was offered a place at 1 Garden Court Family Law Chambers in London. I would always encourage applying the first year you can (either final year LLB or GDL year), even if it’s just to test the waters. We all know the competition is tough, and the sooner you can get an idea of where you fit into the competition, the better.
I’m currently on the BPTC at BPP in London, mainly because of an Advocacy Scholarship I was awarded. What many students don’t realise is that the law schools offer scholarships as well as the Inns. I had a mooting-shaped hole in my CV during the GDL, having not gone particularly far in competitions against BPTC students. BPP awards Advocacy Scholarships with up to £4,000 off the BPTC fees: it’s a great way of both reducing the £18,500 fees and proving your skill as an advocate.
I hope this encourages you all to maximise your potential! Good luck!