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Middle Temple Overview

by Charles Nwabueze
Reading Time: 6 minutes

The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple (better known as the Middle Temple) along with Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple and Lincoln’s Inn are one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the Bar of England and Wales. The Middle Temple proudly provides students and aspiring barristers with training, career advice, scholarships, support, education and accommodation and the chance to meet as many practising barristers as they possibly can. As one of the four institutions with the power to call someone to the Bar, you will have to join one of them before you start the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). So do you want to join the Middle Temple? You’ll have to think about it because membership in any of the Inns is for life. Although the four Inns share many similarities – long histories, beautiful gardens and impressive architecture, they still have their differences. We will now examine what the Middle Temple is made up of. 

History

Located in the wider Temple area of London, near the Royal Courts of Justice, and within the City of London, the Middle Temple is an institution, community and physical environment with a rich, complex and fascinating history. From the arrival of the Knights Templar to the Inn’s present position at the heart of an international network of its members, the Middle Temple has long been at the heart of countless intersecting spheres of history and culture. The rich history of the Inn is the story of one of the world’s most important centres of legal education, but it is not limited to the field of law. The Inn has also functioned for much of its history as an important hub for socialising and networking, the setting for feasts and duels, politics and literature, courtly spectacle and academic discourse. The contribution of the Middle Temple to the practice and study of the law spanning over eight centuries has been tremendous, but members of the Inn have achieved fame (and infamy) elsewhere too – their cultural, political, navigational, architectural and indeed revolutionary achievements are beyond number. It is generally thought that the Societies of the Inner and Middle Temple came into being in the mid-14th century, following the return of King Edward III’s courts from York to Westminster. This would have led to significant numbers of lawyers seeking permanent accommodation within easy reach of the courts at Westminster, coinciding magnificently with the opportunity to rent such accommodation from the Knights Hospitaller on the Temple land. By the early 1400s, the Inn functioned as a place of learning and education. Students were admitted into the society and served their superiors in Hall until they completed the first stage of their education. The students were taught through several different methods, but the centrepiece of the curriculum was the practice of Reading. Though the Temple has gone through several upheavals it has maintained its primary goal as laid out by James I in the 1608 charter – and confirmed by Her Majesty the Queen in 2008 with a second charter – to provide education and accommodation for lawyers. The Inn strives to serve and support its members at all points in their careers and continues to offer training as well as the educational content of qualifying sessions to augment professional training courses. Beyond Call, it provides training in advocacy and professional ethics, pupillage courses and programmes of lectures for practitioners at all levels.

Education & Training 

As mentioned earlier, one of the core purposes of the Inn is the education and training of students and barristers. This includes the promotion of the ethos of the Bar and the maintenance of the highest professional standards in the public interest.  It also includes the provision of scholarships (this is discussed extensively in the next section). To make sure that the student members receive the best education and training possible, the Inn offers several services and provides information to its student members to help them hone their skills as advocates and introduce them to life at the Bar. One of the initiatives the Inn runs is the Rosamund Smith mooting competition it holds every year for its student members. The mooting competition is open to both BPTC and CPE/GDL students. The competition is run on a ‘knock-out’ basis, and students compete in teams of two. The team that wins the moot go through to the next round. The semi-finals and final take place in Hall – the Hall is at the heart of the Inn – before dinner, usually in front of a large audience. Each finalist will win a wig and gown. In addition, they usually take part in a fully-funded mooting exchange with a US university (either Pepperdine University in California or the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill). Due to COVID-19, the trips are currently on hold. 

In addition to this competition, the Inn has two other famous competitions it takes part in, Mooting v. Pepperdine University and The Willem C Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. Mooting v. Pepperdine University is organised by the Middle Temple usually in partnership with Pepperdine University, The competition takes place in the Royal Courts of Justice every year and provides the participants with a truly memorable experience. Conversely, the prestigious Willem C Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot is a competition, which took place annually in Vienna until the pandemic. As part of the Middle Temple team, you will be competing against international teams of law students and trainee lawyers and arguing your case before some of the world’s leading arbitrators. Apart from these moots, the Inn runs advocacy training for students and post-call training.

Scholarships & Prizes

In 2021, the Middle Temple awarded approximately £1.25 million in scholarships. The majority of the funding (over £1.1 million) was awarded to students undertaking the BPTC. Some of the funding also went to participants of the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) or equivalent post-graduate conversion courses. Every year the Inn also offers scholarships for post-Bar Course placements in overseas jurisdictions, essay prizes, support for five places on the South-Eastern Circuit Advocacy Course (‘Keble course’), and pupillage support. The Inn welcomes applications only from candidates intending to practise as a barrister in England or Wales. If you are undertaking the BPTC or GDL on a part-time basis, you can make your applications either before the first or before the second year of the course. If an award is made at the beginning of the course, it will be paid in two instalments (the half at the start of each year). Usually, the scholarship is paid in one instalment at the start of the academic year for a full-time course. The scholarships are awarded on merit by taking into account the applicant’s intellectual ability, motivation to succeed at the Bar, advocacy potential and personal characteristics. After this has been satisfied by a candidate, the next criterion for the award is that the amount of the award will depend on the scholar’s financial circumstances; for example, if you are well-to-do the amount awarded to you will not be as much as the one awarded to someone who is barely scraping by. Usually, the award will meet a percentage of the difference between the scholar’s resources and needs. The Inn interviews all scholarship applicants who get a place on the Bar Course. If you intend to apply for the scholarship expect to face a panel of three during the 15-minute interview. 

To succeed at the interview you have to display the four factors they look for in applicants: intellectual ability, motivation to succeed at the Bar, potential as an advocate and personal qualities. To convince them of your intellectual ability, you need to show them that you can conduct legal research and give written advice, Middle Temple (and at Congrapps too) believes there’s no better demonstration of this ability than your performance in school and university examinations. You can also prove your intellectual ability via other experiences and through your conduct during the interview. To show you have the motivation to succeed at the Bar, it will be necessary to display your knowledge of the profession and the Courts, and the steps you have taken to acquire the personal skills required of a barrister. Your potential as an advocate should not only be orally but also displayed in your written communication (participation in mooting, debates and your examinations will prove this point). Lastly, you should possess the personal qualities that a barrister is known for. These will include, self-reliance, integrity, independence, reliability and the capacity to work seamlessly with clients, colleagues and chambers staff. 

In their quest to make sure that aspiring barristers succeed, the Inn offers pupillage support to members, pupils and students via their pupillage support grants, pupillage hardship fund and provision of travel expenses for pupillage interviews. The pupillage support grant is a support scheme that the Inn runs to help provide direct financial assistance to pupils in publicly funded areas during their 12-month pupillage in chambers. Through the pupillage hardship fund, the Inn makes awards to members of the Inn who are in pupillage, or who have pupillage arranged, to alleviate cases of serious unexpected hardship. Their purpose is to ensure, as far as possible, that members of the Inn with the potential to succeed at the Bar are not prevented from doing so by some unexpected financial setback. As a result of the Covid-19 circumstances, this fund has been subsumed into the Hardship Fund for Students and Pupils. For students who are finding the cost of attending pupillage interviews financially challenging, they can take advantage of the fund available to students for their pupillage interview travel expenses.

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Charles is a writer, practising lawyer and personal trainer who loves learning and developing himself. He graduated from Middlesex University, London with eight first-class grades in the second and third years of his law degree, and received a postgraduate offer from Cambridge University. He loves strength training, boxing and encouraging people to succeed in their pursuits (legal ones)

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