One of the essential steps to becoming a fully qualified barrister is to join an Inn of Court, and students must gain membership before they can undertake the Bar Practice Course (BPC). Read on to find out more about the Inns of Court and how they support your career in law.
By Grant Longstaff. Published 29 November 2022.
What is an Inn of Court?
The Inns of Court, often simply called Inns, are professional institutions for barristers in England and Wales, and the only organisation with the power to call you to the Bar.
The Inns provide training and support to both students and fully qualified barristers in a variety of ways. Each Inn will offer student scholarships to help towards the fees of the BPC, and they will regularly hold academic activities and professional events to assist your training.
The Inns of Court for England and Wales
There are four Inns of Court: Gray's Inn, Inner Temple, Lincoln's Inn, and Middle Temple. All four are located in central London, comprising of centuries old architecture and beautiful grounds, which reflect their long histories and prestige.
The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn
Gray’s Inn is the smallest of the four Inns. It’s grounds and gardens, known as the Walks, make up one of the largest, privately owned outdoor spaces in London. Their smaller numbers shouldn’t deter an application, as Gray’s Inn still award a minimum of £1.3 million in scholarships annually.
The Honorable Society of The Inner Temple
The Inner Temple is the second largest Inn with over 12,000 members. The grounds include a church dating back to the twelfth century which was originally home to the Knights Templar. The Inner Temple offers £1.7 million in scholarships a year, and run a number of schemes, including a mentoring programme, for BPC students.
The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn
With an estimated 21,000 members, Lincoln’s Inn is the largest of the four Inns, and the grounds are often used as a location for TV and Film, most notably Wonder Woman and Downton Abbey. Lincoln’s Inn awards over £1.8 million each year in the form of scholarships, schemes and prizes to students.
The Honourable Society of The Middle Temple
Finally, there is Middle Temple, made up of dozens of buildings and courtyards, surrounding the peaceful Fountain Court which Charles Dickens wrote of in The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Middle Temple awards up to £1.25 million in scholarships a year, with the majority of this funding going to BPC students.
Of course, a scholarship isn’t the only help an Inn can offer. Each Inn will regularly run their own events and have member societies you can join. They’ll also provide volunteering opportunities, work experience and mentoring programmes. Each Inn also has an extensive library of legal texts, and an Inn membership allows you to use the library of all four Inns. An Inn allows you to build a professional network, and offers you a place to socialise and study, a quiet retreat in the heart of the capital.
Choosing an Inn of Court
Choosing an Inn of court can be a daunting prospect. However, Josh Bibby, our Future Pupil Employability Coordinator, who hosted an episode in our Future Students podcast series on choosing an Inn, had this to say: “As a broad statement, we can say all the Inns are actually great. There’s no wrong Inn to choose. There’s no Inn that’s weaker than the others, and there’s not necessarily an Inn that’s better than the others. When you’re choosing an Inn, or trying to learn more about an Inn, don’t put pressure on yourself and think, ‘I need to choose the best one’, go for the Inn that fits you.” For more from Josh, and his fellow BPC students Amy Weir and Charlotte Arundale, listen to the full episode on Spotify.
Choosing an Inn comes down to research. Ask yourself what you want from an Inn. What scholarship suits you? Which Inn do you like best? What activities and societies most appeal to you? There’s a wealth of knowledge on each of the Inn’s websites to kickstart your enquiries. Additionally, all four Inns offer regular tours to prospective members. If possible, make the time to visit each Inn. This provides an opportunity to experience what they have to offer and speak with current members.
Ultimately It is up to you which Inn you choose to join. However, you can only join one Inn and membership is for life, so make sure you take the time to fully explore all of your options.
How to apply for an Inn
You have to become a member of an Inn of Court before you’re able to start your BPC, and the deadline for applying to an Inn is at least three months before the start date of your course. You apply directly to your chosen Inn, and the details can be found on their respective websites. If you’re already a student with us and need some support with your application to an Inn of Court, our Employability Team can help refine your application. Remember, applying to an Inn can be a long process. The application for each Inn will differ, and you can only apply to one Inn at a time, so make sure you allow enough time to manage any setbacks you might come across.
Are you considering a career as a barrister? Take a look at our BPC and see how we can help set you up for a career at the Bar.