20 January 2019

Joining an Inn

Who or what are the Inns?

All barristers must belong to one of the four Inns of Court. These are: Gray's Inn, Inner Temple, Lincoln's Inn and Middle Temple. Contact details for each Inn are available online.

What is the purpose of Inns?

The Inns of Court or "Inns" alone have the power to Call a student to the Bar. Only those Called to the Bar are able to exercise rights of audience in the superior courts of England and Wales as barristers.                            

What do the Inns do?

The Inns are principally non-academic societies which provide collegiate and educational activities and support for barristers and BPTC students. They all provide the use of a library, lunching and dining facilities, common rooms and gardens.

They also provide a number of grants and scholarships for the various stages on the way to becoming a barrister. Please contact your Inn for details of the closing date for GDL scholarships. Closing date for BPTC scholarships is the first Friday in November for the BPTC in the following academic year.

As well as awards and scholarships, the Inns are able to offer advice to their student members, for example, assistance with completing CVs and application forms for the BPTC and for pupillage. Mock interviews are also available, as are the arrangement of marshalling schemes. Check with the student officers of the Inns for details.

When should you become an Inn member?

Admission to an Inn is required before registration on the BPTC, although many undergraduates join before this stage in order to participate in activities, use the library, or start their qualifying sessions.

Students must join an Inn by 31 May of the year their BPTC is due to commence. Students who are not a member of an Inn when BPTC registration starts will not be able to enrol on the course.

Making your Inn choice

A student's choice of Inn does not affect the area of law in which they wish to practise or their choice of pupillage or tenancy. It is usually a matter of personal choice. We suggest that students visit the Inns and talk to current members and to the student officers to inform their decision.

Qualifying sessions

Students are required to complete 12 qualifying sessions in order to be Called to the Bar. These sessions, also known as qualifying units, can be defined as "educational and collegiate activities arranged by or on behalf of the Inn(s)" for the purpose of preparing BPTC students for practice. These sessions traditionally focused on dining with senior practitioners which also provided networking opportunities and sharing of best practice. It is more common now for these sessions to have relevant talks and training workshops.

Qualifying sessions may take a number of forms, including:

  • attendance at weekends (either in the Inn or at a residential centre such as Cumberland Lodge);
  • education days (primarily for students based outside London); and
  • a range of dinners which as well as providing networking opportunities, often also contain learning and development activities such as lectures or talks.

Weekend events count as three qualifying sessions; education days count as two sessions; dinners and Call Night count as one session. Different Inns have different procedures for booking and recording qualifying sessions. Please contact the appropriate Inn accordingly for more information.

Advocacy training

Each Inn runs advocacy training courses for their pupils. These combine advocacy training with lectures on areas such as law and forensic skills.

Each Inn has student societies and supports involvement in debating activities which range from internal events to inter-Inn, national and international competitions.

Some training counts as qualifying sessions.  

 Future Bar Training (FBT) - What's changing?

Our FBT change programme has considered the role of the Inns of Court in the education and training of barristers. As a result, subject to Legal Services Board approval, the following policy decisions will be reflected in the new training rules and their supporting documentation. The BSB will:

  • continue to oversee students intending to become barristers in England and Wales, but with strengthened oversight arrangements between the Inns and the BSB;
  • continue to require student membership of an Inn;
  • require AETOs to check prior educational attainment;
  • continue to require the Inns of Court to administer the "Fit and Proper Person" test and other checks made before somebody is permitted to be Called to the Bar;
  • require a Standard Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check to take place;
  • review the wording of the declaration made when students are Called to the Bar, and its associated guidance;
  • continue to delegate matters of student conduct to the Inns (subject to reviewing roles and responsibilities and agreeing appropriate BSB oversight of the process); and
  • continue to require a minimum number of professional development events provided by the Inns which are known as "qualifying sessions".

The issue of whether to retain qualifying sessions as a mandatory part of Bar training generated a lot of interest during our review. When deciding to retain them, we concluded that qualifying sessions should not only be aligned to the Professional Statement but should also focus on public interest matters such as the advocate's role in the rule of law and integrating trainees into a "community of practice" through interactions with more experienced practitioners and the judiciary. The Inns are uniquely placed to provide this important function and we have been considering in more detail with the Inns how many sessions would be appropriate and the detail of the oversight arrangements to be put in place. We also believe that more of this activity should be available to prospective barristers outside London, through coherent collaboration between the Inns, circuits and regional training providers.

We will publish more information about the changes to the role of the Inns on this page in due course.

If you would like to read more about all the FBT changes in one place, please visit our Future Bar Training webpage.