What help and support is available?
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.
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”.
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 large 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. These 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.
Find out more
- Combar’s careers brochure can be downloaded here
- The Bar Council publish a useful guide to qualifying as a barrister at https://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media/246249/your_career_as_a_barrister_pages.pdf
- The Four Inns of Court are www.lincolnsinn.org.uk, www.innertemple.org.uk, www.middletemple.org.uk and www.graysinn.info
- Inner Temple has useful material at https://www.innertemple.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/ and also an informative booklet called ‘Becoming a Barrister’ at https://issuu.com/theinnertemple/docs/it_careersguide/34