The Commercial Bar Association (Combar) is again this year offering financial awards and work experience to promote social mobility and encourage a wider range of candidates to consider a career as a commercial barrister.
A former Combar Chair, Laurence Rabinowitz QC explained: “The English Commercial Bar has always been a meritocratic profession where bright and motivated candidates can succeed regardless of their background, but it can seem daunting for those students who don’t already have relevant contacts to find out what a career at the Commercial Bar is really like, and we know it can be difficult for students from less affluent backgrounds to meet the expense of work experience in London. That is why we established these scholarships in 2014, as part of the celebrations of Combar’s 25th Anniversary, and they have been so successful we have decided to continue them”.
Combar is funding up to 20 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 for those scholars who decide to pursue their interests. The scholars will also be invited to a networking reception with Combar barristers.
Rosalind Phelps QC, the commercial barrister and member of Combar’s Equality and Diversity Committee with responsibility for the scheme, said “Our aim is to ensure that the Commercial Bar continues to thrive by attracting the best people from as wide a range of backgrounds as possible. We hope that this scheme will help to open up the profession to some of those who might not previously have considered it.”
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. Combar members advise in the most complex commercial disputes and appear regularly as advocates in the English Commercial Court and at arbitrations and tribunals around the world.
Applications are made and administered through two separate existing schemes run by Inner Temple and Middle Temple. The closing date for applications is now closed. 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. For applications made in autumn 2019, the work experience in Chambers will take place in the summer of 2020.
Lauren Hitchman, a Scholar in 2018 wrote:
“As a Combar 25th Anniversary Scholar and a member of Inner Temple’s Pegasus Access and Support Scheme, I spent a week as a mini-pupil at Outer Temple Chambers. The experience developed my understanding of how the role and day-to-day tasks of a barrister adapt through varying levels of seniority. I also gained an insight into different types of practice by attending a range of cases: I witnessed a pensions case at the Court of Appeal, discrimination cases at the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Employment Tribunal, and a civil claim at the Mayor’s and City of London Court.
As an aspiring commercial barrister, the opportunity to spend a week at Outer Temple was invaluable. Having worked in a different industry for the past two years, the scheme allowed me to take a first step into the profession. In addition to the mini-pupillage, I was also assigned a Combar mentor. I receive ongoing support from my mentor, and can ask any questions I have regarding life at the Commercial Bar.
The PASS and Combar scheme afforded me an opportunity that I would not otherwise have received. I would recommend the scheme to anyone who, regardless of their background, wants to experience the Commercial Bar first-hand”.
Becky Powell, a participant in the 2015/2016 Scheme said “My mini-pupillage was highly informative and instrumental in convincing me that this is the area of law in which I aspire to practice. I would encourage any student considering a career at the Bar, to apply for the Combar scholarship scheme”.
Here is a list of students who have received the Combar Scholarship: