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FAQs about funding the early years at the Chancery bar

Funding is available for each stage of the legal education of an aspiring barrister.  There is a range of help on offer, from the Inns of Court, from banks, from a number of bursaries, and sometimes as part of a pupillage award from individual sets of chambers.

The answers to these FAQs are designed to give you, the aspiring Chancery barrister, some answers and to direct you to where further information can be obtained.  The answers are unlikely to be exhaustive - we may have missed some of the other options which are out there - but they should cover the main options available.  If we have missed something, please let us know so that we may update these pages.

Finally, and importantly, please note any deadlines for any applications for funding.  This may seem obvious, but all too often those who may have been eligible for funding fail to secure it simply because they did not apply!

 

What funding is available for the GDL / law conversion course?

As at September 2019, fees for a full-time GDL courses range between £5,400 and £11,740, depending on where you choose to study and the course provider.

The main sources of external funding are:

  1. Inns of Court - each of the Inns offer awards / scholarships to fund the GDL.  See below for the relevant links and further information.
  2. Law school scholarships - some providers offer full-fee awards or other scholarships.  See “Other sources: law school scholarships” section below.
  3. Flexible payment options - the University of Law and BPP offer the option to pay GDL costs in instalments by direct debit.
  4. Loans - see “Other sources: loans” section below.
  5. Part-time course combined with part-time work - some providers offer the GDL course on a part-time programme over two years (rather than the usual one) allowing students to continue working at the same time as studying.  The course is demanding, so you should make sure your job can be balanced with the workload from the course.

The Inns of Court
Each Inn offers an award / scholarship for the GDL year.

The precise deadlines, amount of funding available, and eligibility criteria differ for each Inn.  For example, some awards are large enough to cover the entire cost of even the most expensive GDL course; whereas other awards will cover part of the cost.  Please visit the Inns’ respective websites via the following links for further information:

Gray’s Inn: here

Inner Temple: here

Lincoln’s Inn: here

Middle Temple: here

As a general guide, applications open in the March preceding the start of the course - i.e. in March 2020 for academic year 2020/2021.  The deadlines tend to follow in (very) early May, although the precise date differs for each Inn.

It is worth noting that some of the Inns guarantee those who are awarded a GDL scholarship or award are guaranteed an interview for that Inn’s BPTC awards, or (although this only applies to Inner Temple at present) guarantee a GDL scholarship winner an award of at least equal value for their BPTC.

Other sources: law school scholarships
There are currently 24 GDL course providers (excluding the separate campuses for BPP and the University of Law) which provide the GDL.  A list of the providers, their entry requirements and fees can be found here.

The most well-known of those are:

  1. BPP
  2. City Law School
  3. University of Law (formerly the College of Law)

At least some of those institutions offer scholarships and bursaries for students taking the GDL.  We recommend that you check the website of your chosen institution for more information.

If your chosen provider is any of the three institutions mentioned above, they each offer scholarships to prospective GDL students:

  1. BPP - the scholarship programme fund is being expanded to £1million.  Scholarships on offer include the Career Commitment Scholarship, Full Fee Scholarship (yes, that covers the full cost of studies), Dean of Law School Scholarship, Future Leader Scholarship, and Lord Holmes Scholarship.  Visit the BPP website for further information: link here.
  2. City Law School - scholarships and bursaries, including Academic Achievement Progression Scholarships and the Lord Mayor of London Scholarships for Academic Excellence, are available.  For further information, including the eligibility criteria, follow the link here.
  3. University of Law - £600,000 was available for funding in the most recent award round.  A number of scholarships for GDL students are available, including Set for Success (covers the full GDL fee), Choose Law (covers the full GDL fee), Law First, The Lord Blunkett Widening Access Awards, Charles Russell Speechlys Scholarship, and the Nottingham postgraduate award.  Some scholarships are means tested, others are not.  For further information please visit the UoL website: here.

     

    Other sources: loans
    Postgraduate loans from the government are only available for master’s level courses, which the GDL is not.

    Some providers (e.g. the University of Law - see here) offer an equivalent MA Law course, which is a master’s level qualification and thus opens up the possibility of obtaining a postgraduate student loan from the government.

    The majority of high-street banks offer graduate loans to those who left university relatively recently, with loan amounts typically ranging from £1,000 - £15,000.  These loans are available on application to the relevant bank, and usually require the applicant to explain how the course will boost your employment prospects.  This Association cannot provide any advice in relation to the suitability of these loans - the terms and conditions should be carefully considered by the applicant before entering the loan.

    There is also a company ‘Future Finance’ who offer student loans for university of between £2,000 and £40,000.  Again, the terms and conditions should be considered carefully before entering in to such an arrangement.

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    What has happened to the BPTC?

    The final enrolment on the BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) took place in September 2019.  By the final enrolment, fees for the BPTC had reached over £19,000 in London.  It is hoped by the Bar Standards Board that the new course will make training more flexible, accessible and affordable than ever before.

    From September 2020, aspiring barristers need to complete one of the new Bar Course, which:

    • Makes up the vocational component of the Bar training;
    • Has a different name depending on the provider, so look out for ‘Bar/Barrister Training Course’, ‘Bar Practice Course’, ‘Bar Vocational Court’ and ‘Bar Vocational Studies’;
    • You need a 2:2 above for entry, along with a GDL if your first degree was not in law;
    • Requires applications to be made directly to the organisation running the course; and
    • Costs between £11,750 and £17,450.

    The institutions offering the course are called Authorised Education Training Organisations (AETOs), and include the Inns of Court College of Advocacy, City Law School, BPP University, the University of Law, Cardiff and Northumbria Universities and others.  The Inns of Court College of Advocacy is, unlike some of the other providers, a not for profit organisation which builds any savings it can make into the price of the course and, for that reason, does not offer scholarships.

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    Can I get funding to do the new Bar course?

    In short, yes.

    Fees for the Bar Course range from £11,750 to £18,000, depending on where you take the course and whether you take it full or part time.  Add to that living expenses and the professional training aspect of the Bar is an investment.

    However, there are a lot of sources of funding available.  Many of this Association’s members have received some form of external funding for the Bar Course year and have been able to cover most, if not all, of the fees and living expenses for that year.

    The main sources, which are explained further below, include:

    1. Inns of Court BPTC scholarships / awards;
    2. BPTC providers’ scholarships and bursaries;
    3. Pupillage award ‘draw-downs’; and
    4. Competition winnings.

      Inns of Court
      Scholarships from the Inns provide around £5 million of funding between them to BPTC students.

      As with the GDL awards, the offering and the eligibility criteria differs for each Inn.  For example, some Inns offer a smaller number of awards in a large amount (up to £30,000) with a large number of lower value awards.  Some offer accommodation to their scholars as part of the scholarship, or one can apply for a residential scholarship.

      It is therefore worth familiarising yourself with each Inns offering, via the Inns’ respective websites:

      Gray’s Inn: here

      Inner Temple: here

      Lincoln’s Inn: here

      Middle Temple: here

       

      Pupillage ‘draw down’
      If you are lucky enough to secure pupillage before embarking on the Bar Course, then many sets will allow you to ‘draw down’ a proportion of their pupillage award in the year before starting.

      Chambers usually provide information about whether they permit a draw down and in what amount via their website and in their pupillage policy.  We recommend you consult those places first.  But if in doubt, ask the chambers in question.

      Bar Course providers’ scholarships and bursaries
      Some Bar Course providers provide a small number of scholarships and bursaries, as will some universities to their recent graduates.

      These awards are diverse in amount, eligibility criteria and application process.  We there recommend you consult the website of your chosen provider, or speak to their admissions department, to obtain more information about what options are available to you.

      Competition winnings
      For those with time on their hands, there are a number of essay competitions with significant prize funds, including the following annual competitions (in no particular order):

      1. Bar Council Law Reform Essay Competition (usually with a deadline in September) - see, here;
      2. Gray’s Inn runs two annual essay prizes (the Michael Beloff Essay prize and Lee Essay prize) as well as awarding other prizes throughout the year - see, here;
      3. Middle Temple’s two annual essay prizes: (i) Colombos International Law Essay prize - here; and (ii) Lechmere Essay Prize - here; and
      4. Times Law Awards.

         

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

        Thankfully, the days of pupils paying for pupillage are long-gone.

        By law, chambers is required to pay a minimum pupillage award.  On 6 December 2018, the Bar Standards Board (the Bar’s regulator) announced that the minimum award that will apply from 1 September 2019 will be £18,436 per annum for pupillage in London (and £15,728 p.a. for outside London).  The minimum will then be increased in future from 1 January each year in line with rates recommended by the Living Wage Foundation.

        Chancery sets, particularly those in London, routinely offer significantly more than the minimum and, on average, higher awards than in criminal, family and common law sets.  In some sets, the awards equal (or exceed) some of the most well-known commercial sets.

        Chambers’ websites will indicate the level of award they offer, and the amount varies from chambers to chambers.  However, pupillage awards of over £50,000 are common amongst chancery sets, with some paying £65,000 or more.

        Pupillage awards at chancery sets are therefore almost invariably more than the salaries given to trainee solicitors (and even newly qualified solicitors) at even the biggest solicitors’ firms in London.  A first year trainees’ salary tends to be around £35,000-£45,000 (as at 2018).

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

        The answer to this depends largely on how you have funded your studies.

        However, when a survey of our members was carried out in 2012, 31.25% of those who responded reports that they were not in debt by the end of their pupillage.  Of those who were in debt by the time they finished their pupillage, the most common range of debt was £10-15,000.

        Given the level of fees commanded by even the most junior members of the Chancery bar, such levels of debt should be manageable and capable of being repaid during early practice.

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

        The level of assistance available to junior tenants varies from chambers to chambers.

        Some chambers will provide guaranteed earnings, rent-free periods, or a waiver or reduction of chambers’ expenses for a particular period of time (or a combination of those things).  Some chambers also provide loans to their junior tenants.

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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 the fields of chancery and commercial law.

        In 2012, we carried out a survey of our members, and asked them to estimate their first-year income after taking off chambers’ rent and expenses (i.e. to estimate their net income).  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.  We anticipate that it is somewhat out of date, and intend to carry out a further survey in due course.

        However, the most commonly reported range of net income for the first year of tenancy was £40,000-£50,000, while a statistically significant number reported that they had a net income of 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 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 Bar Course 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.