Combar runs a number of schemes which aim to assist those who are considering a career at the Commercial Bar and those who are already established members of Combar.
COMBAR 25th Anniversary Scholarships
Combar scholarships are generously funded work placements offered to students from less affluent backgrounds who are interested in finding out what being a commercial barrister is really like.
Every year, Combar funds up to 10 scholarships of £500, with at least a week sitting with Combar members in a commercial set of barristers’ chambers, and a continuing relationship with a barrister mentor. Successful applicants are also invited to a networking reception with Combar barristers.
Previous candidates have had the opportunity to shadow barristers from prominent commercial sets of Chambers, including One Essex Court, Brick Court Chambers, 3 Verulam Buildings and 7 King’s Bench Walk.
Applications are made and administered through two separate existing schemes run by Inner Temple and Middle Temple. Applicants follow the usual process for applying to those schemes and are then asked to indicate whether they also wish to be considered for the Combar award which is exclusively focused on the Commercial Bar.
COMBAR/Oxford University Scholarship
COMBAR (the Commercial Bar Association) and the Oxford University Faculty of Law are pleased to announce the availability of two full scholarships (covering fees and maintenance), for BCL students of black and mixed black ethnicity who have a serious intent to pursue careers at the commercial bar of England and Wales.
The two scholarships are to the value of £50,000 each and so will cover not just the tuition fees, but also enable the students to meet their accommodation and living expenses for their year of study. COMBAR will also offer the students the opportunity to join their new mentoring scheme to assist with the process of applying to and thriving at the Commercial Bar.
The scholarships will be available to those who demonstrate exceptional academic merit or potential, who are ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, and who indicate a serious interest in commencing a career at the commercial bar following completion of their studies. They will be awarded on the basis of financial need.
There is no separate scholarship application process. The applicants need to submit an application to study on the BCL by the deadline for applications. Based on the information supplied in the application, applicants will be automatically considered for scholarships where they meet the eligibility criteria set out above.
You can find out more information on the BCL, including what the course covers and the entry requirements here:
Further information on the Scholarship can be found here:
COMBAR Student Mentoring Scheme
The Combar Student Mentoring scheme aims to support and encourage individuals from groups which are underrepresented at the Bar of England and Wales (and in particular the Commercial Bar) to pursue careers as barristers. Applicants who are considered to have realistic prospects of obtaining a pupillage at the Commercial Bar will be assessed by reference to need for mentoring and potential to pursue a career at the Bar. Equal weighting is given to both of these criteria to help ensure that the scheme reaches talented applicants from the most under-represented communities who would benefit most from mentoring and guidance. Successful applicants are paired with practitioners from Combar member sets for a series of one-to-one mentoring sessions. Combar was delighted by the excellent uptake of the Mentoring Scheme which started in 2022, 22 sets participated and after 316 people applied for a place, Combar was able to place just over 250 of them. The 2023-24 scheme launched on 26th May 2023 and is expected to be able to offer a similar number of places with 23 sets participating.
Applicants for the 2023- 24 scheme can expect to hear whether they have been successful by mid- November 2023.
Substantial financial support to cover training
Financial support is also available from the Inns of Court (which are essentially professional associations for barristers in England and Wales). The Inns offer financial support and guidance to aspiring barristers. Scholarships are available for a number of stages of the training, including for the Graduate Diploma in Law and (in particular) the Bar Professional Training Course. The largest scholarships are over £20,000 and are enough to cover academic fees and living expenses, but there is a wide range of awards available.
Most Combar sets offer pupillage awards which are on a par with starting salaries for other city lawyers, and some are more generous than that. Many sets allow a proportion of that award to be drawn down early to help defray course fees for the vocational stage.
Other types of help
There are many other sorts of support available to those embarking on a career as a barrister.
The first port of call for these is the Inns of Court. In addition to financial support for vocational training (described above), the Inns of Court operate various scholarship schemes for aspiring barristers. They also offer open days and other information events, mentoring (or ‘sponsorship’) schemes which connect students with an individual barristers who can offer advice and support, and mock interviews and workshops to assist with the pupillage applications process. See:
In addition, many Combar sets participate in the following schemes:
- Bridging the Bar is a student-led initiative through which candidates from underrepresented groups are able to apply for mini-pupillages in chambers https://bridgingthebar.org/our-programmes/ Mini-Pupillage Programme
- The Pathways to Law scheme, operated by the Sutton Trust, offers eligible secondary students an opportunity to explore options available within the legal services profession. Participating chambers offers students the opportunity to spend time shadowing barristers in chambers and attending court. https://www.suttontrust.com/our-programmes/pathways-to-law/
- The Social Mobility Foundation helps students from non-traditional backgrounds to focus on thinking about careers and university choices whilst at school. It provides tailored practical support across 11 career sectors, including law. https://www.socialmobility.org.uk/about-us/
- The 10,000 Black Interns Programme offers six-week internships to candidates who are Black African, Black Caribbean and/or Black British): https://www.10000blackinterns.com/
COMBAR Member Mentoring Scheme
With effect from November 2020, COMBAR launched a mentoring scheme for all of its membership. We consider mentoring to provide a valuable means for members to derive support and assistance from other members with relevant experience, on a confidential basis and outside the framework of existing chambers relationships. There are a range of particular issues on which mentoring may be of help, such as applications for silk or judicial appointment, coping with stress, or maintaining practice after a period of leave; but the relationship need not be targeted at a specific issue, nor limited to a particular period of time.
Applicants for mentoring are asked to fill in a short application form (link below), providing details that will help us match them with a suitable mentor. Applicants to be mentors should likewise fill in a form (link below), indicating in what areas they have experience that may be of assistance. A panel of COMBAR members will then match mentors and mentees, and put them in touch with each other. Mentors and mentees can then decide together how best to develop the mentoring relationship.
This scheme is open to all Combar members. It is intended to be a platform for a wide and flexible range of mentoring relationships, led very much by the mentors and mentees. It sits alongside other more issue-specific mentoring schemes, in which Combar members are also involved.
Linked below are copies of the application form for mentees, the application form for mentors, an equality and diversity monitoring form (a voluntary form which mentees and mentors are invited to consider completing), and a set of FAQs which it is hoped addresses some questions that may arise about the scheme. Completed application forms should be returned to Veronica at email@example.com.
For any questions about or comments on the scheme, please contact the Chair of the Mentoring Committee, David Mumford QC, care of firstname.lastname@example.org.