Home Chancery Careers FAQs about funding the early years at the Chancery bar

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FAQs about funding the early years at the Chancery bar

In 2012 the Chancery Bar Association conducted a survey to look at levels of debt, funding and earnings in the early years of chancery practice. 205 barrister members of the Chancery Bar Association who were called between 2004 and 2010 and who started practice between 2005 and 2011 were asked to participate.  There were 80 responses.

We have used these responses to answer the following frequently asked questions.

 

Can I get funding to do the BPTC?

Fees for the BPTC are now over £16,000 in London.  Add to that living expenses and the professional training aspect of the Bar can be a pretty big investment.  However, there are a lot of sources of funding available, with 87.5% of our respondents reporting that they received some form of external funding.

Scholarships from the Inns provide around £4.5 million between them each year to GDL and BPTC students (and pupils).  If you are lucky enough to secure pupillage before embarking on the BPTC, then many sets will allow you to ‘draw down’ a proportion of their pupillage award in the year before starting.  Having around a quarter of your pupillage award available during the BPTC can be very useful (as well as tax efficient!).  In addition there are a number of other scholarships available to aspiring barristers, although some won’t be available to those intending to practice in chancery (such as the Kalisher Trust).  The BPTC providers often provide a small number of scholarships and bursaries, as will some universities to their recent graduates.  For those with time on their hands there are a number of essay competitions with significant prize funds.

Our respondents reported that, on average, 58% of fees and living costs during the BVC/BPTC year were funded from external sources and just over a fifth of respondents stated that between 90 and 100% of their fees and livings costs were covered.  39 respondents (58%) received funding for at least half of their fees and living expenses.

Funding came from a diverse range of sources including pupillage award drawdowns (41.43% of respondents), Inn scholarships (88.57%), Bar School scholarships and bursaries (3%) and other forms of funding (10%).  Other forms of funding included grants from other educational institutions, professional development loans or payment from savings.

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How much will my chambers pay me while I do pupillage?

Thankfully, the days of pupils paying for pupillage are long-gone.  By law the minimum pupillage award is £12,000, made up of £6,000 ‘award’ and £6,000 guaranteed earnings in the second six (plus any expenses).  The ‘minimum’ award is generally limited to mostly criminal sets.  Chancery sets, particularly those in London, routinely offer significantly more. Sets which do predominantly chancery work offer on average higher pupillage awards than criminal, family and common law sets.  Pupillage awards at chancery sets are generally equal to or even in excess of pupillage awards at commercial sets.

Pupillage awards have increased significantly at chancery sets in recent years.  Pupillage awards of over £40,000 are now not uncommon amongst chancery sets, with some paying £65,000 or more.  Often pupils will get to keep any earnings they make in their second six, too.

Pupillage awards at chancery sets are therefore almost invariably more than the salaries given to trainees at even the biggest solicitors’ firms in London, which tend to be around £30,000-£40,000 for a first year trainee (as at 2012).

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How much debt am I going to be in by the time I end pupillage?

No doubt partly due to the funding and generous pupillage awards set out above, 31.25% of respondents reported that they were not in debt by the end of pupillage.  Of the respondents who were in debt by the time they finished their pupillage, the most common range of debt was £10,000-£15,000.

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What financial assistance am I likely to get as a junior tenant in chambers?

Over two thirds of respondents reported that they received some level of financial assistance from their chambers in the first year of practice.  This ranged from guaranteed earnings (30% of respondents), rent-free periods (75%) and waiver or reduction of chambers’ expenses for a period (54%).  13% of respondents also had loans made available to them from their chambers. Individual chambers may provide a combination of these forms of assistance.

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How much am I going to earn?

Whilst there are quicker and easier ways to earn lots of money, the Bar tends to be quite well remunerated, particularly in chancery and commercial areas. We asked our respondents to estimate their first-year income after taking off chambers’ rent and expenses.  This produces a figure which is broadly comparable with a salary figure which might be quoted by a solicitors’ firm or for an employed barrister.  The responses were varied, which reflects the fact that the survey covered income that arose in different years going back to 2005.  However, the most commonly reported range of net income for the first year of tenancy was £40,000-£50,000.  Only 5 respondents reported a first year income of less than £20,000.  On the other hand, 15 respondents earned more than £80,000 in their first year. These figures compared favourably to the range of salaries received by newly qualified solicitors at the top London firms in 2012.

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Where can I find out more?

The Inn websites all provide a lot of information about scholarships.  Please see:

http://www.graysinn.info/index.php/scholarships

http://www.innertemple.org.uk/prospective-members/scholarships

http://www.lincolnsinn.org.uk/index.php/education/scholarships

http://www.middletemple.org.uk/education-and-training/scholarships-and-prizes/

The Bar Council also provides information about finances, funding and scholarships. See:

http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/becoming-a-barrister/finance-and-funding/funding-and-scholarships/

Check the websites of the BPTC providers for information about their scholarships.  There are a number of essay competitions with varying degrees of financial reward, including:

The Times Law Award

The Graham Turnbull Memorial International Human Rights Essay Competition

The Bar Council Law Reform Essay

The Lord Rodger Essay Prize

The UK Supreme Court Blog Essay Competition

The Access to Justice Foundation Student Competition

Individual chambers’ websites will provide information about pupillage awards and possibly about the sort of financial assistance that is available to junior tenants.  In addition there are a number of useful publications such as the Pupillage Handbook and the Training Contract and Pupillage Handbook which provide information on pupillage awards.

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