The Middle Temple Access to the Bar Award 2022
Written by Sarah Hair
I was honoured to be a recipient of the Middle Temple Access to the Bar Award 2021-22. Recipients of the award are granted two weeks of paid work experience, paid accommodation for the duration, and £700 towards travel and living expenses. One week is spent in judicial marshalling (accompanying a judge), and the other week spent undertaking a mini-pupillage in Chambers.
The Middle Temple Award is conferred based on academic profile, mooting performance, and references. Students who have limited experience of the Bar are preferred – the purpose of the scheme being to afford access and insight into the English Bar to students who attended state school or have an unconventional educational background. Participating universities shortlist applicants and submit applications to Middle Temple; the Inn then invites certain participants for interview, to select the final recipients.
Marshalling Senior District Judge Paul Goldspring, Chief Magistrate of England and Wales, was surreal. Previously, my interaction with judges was limited to mooting; sitting alongside the bench provided an entirely new perspective, literally and metaphorically. Aside from the intrigue of witnessing the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of judicial reasoning, it was immensely valuable to learn what characteristics and style choices are appreciated in advocates, and what delivery choices and lines of witness examination are not so conducive. The marshalling took place at Westminster Magistrates Court, where I was able to observe cases ranging from common assault and insurance fraud, to extradition and terrorism.
During the mini-pupillage at Whitestone Chambers (https://whitestonechambers.com), I was immensely privileged not only to work under Head of Chambers Lawrence Power, but to be given meaningful research and drafting tasks. In addition to acquiring practical knowledge in niche areas of law and legal drafting, the importance of decisiveness and clarity was underscored, where persuasiveness is what one is being paid for. Coming from Northern Ireland where barristers work solitarily, the communal chambers environment was something entirely unfamiliar, but one I’ve learned the advantages of.
From the award, I gained extensive insight into both judicial decision-making and the workings of a prestigious commercial chambers, and took full advantage of the invaluable opportunity to make connections. The Award has granted me a ‘foot in the door’ in terms of future prospects at the commercial bar in London, particularly noting mini-pupillages are typically prerequisite or desired when applying for pupillage. I would thus greatly encourage any aspiring barrister to apply for the Award – it is quite unlike any other placement scheme, both in the prestigiousness of the opportunities granted, and the generous support afforded.