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 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, with 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 the 26th May 2023 and is expected to be able to offer a similar number of places with 23 sets participating. It is anticipated that a similar Mentoring Workshop and Reception, to the one detailed below, will be held at the beginning of 2024.

Mentoring Workshop and Reception 2022-23

A mentoring workshop was held on 24 January 2023 in the Large Pension Room at Gray’s Inn.  The event was very well attended, with about 120 mentees in person and more than 50 further mentees remotely.  Introductory remarks were made by Mr Justice Foxton, the Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court, followed by a series of talks and a panel discussion from commercial barristers which covered everything from CVs to pupillage applications and interviews.  This was followed by a drink’s reception in the Hall which saw about a further 50 barristers join and informally speak with the mentees. It was an invaluable opportunity for mentees to meet with barristers working at the Commercial Bar and with other mentees to share experiences. A recording of the event was taken, and it is hoped that this will be made available to mentees.  Combar would like to reiterate its thanks to all of the speakers at the workshop and to all of the barristers who were able to come to the reception and speak to the mentees. A similar event will be held for the 2023-24 scheme.

5.30pm-5.40pm Introduction from Judge Foxton J.
5.40pm-5.50pm Introduction to commercial law Craig Morrison (BCC)
5.50pm-6.00pm Discussion of barrister vs solicitor route Paul Bonner Hughes (3VB)


6.00pm-6.10pm What to do at university and post-university to improve CVs for the Bar Lucy Garrett KC (Keating)
6.10pm-6.50pm Pupillage application form: panel discussion with questions Matthew Parker KC (3VB)
Zulfika Khayum (Atkin)
Paul Henton (Quadrant)
Zac Sammour (11 KBW)
Koye Akoni (Quadrant Chambers)
6.50pm-7.30pm Pupillage interviews: panel discussion with questions Liz Jones KC (Serle Court)
Chirag Karia KC (Quadrant)
Anneli Howard KC (Monckton)
Timothy Killen (2TG)

The audio recording of the workshop is available here. This is password protected to allow mentees from the scheme to listen to the recording

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 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.
    • 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.
    • The 10,000 Black Interns Programme offers six-week internships to candidates who are Black African, Black Caribbean and/or Black British):