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 has joined with the University of Oxford to offer two scholarships for study on the BCL. The Scholarships will be available to graduate students ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom and declaring Black or Mixed Black ethnicity, who are commencing the Bachelor of Civil Law course at the University of Oxford and who indicate a serious interest in commencing a career at the commercial bar following completion of their studies. The scholarships will be awarded on the basis of financial need.
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. Applications are assessed by reference to need for mentoring and potential to pursue a career at the Bar, and successful applicants are paired practitioners from Combar member sets for a series of one-to-one mentoring sessions. Combar is delighted at the excellent uptake of the Mentoring Scheme, with 20 sets participating and places for roughly 250 mentees across those sets. This year’s application window will open at the end of May 2022 when full details of the scheme will be published.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
For any questions about or comments on the scheme, please contact the Chair of the Mentoring Committee, David Mumford QC, care of email@example.com.