I joined an Inn of Court, which provides services for and a disciplinary role over barristers. It was a prerequisite to going to Bar School. My savings had run out and I plunged into debt with no way of paying it off. I needed a scholarship to have any chance of financially making it through training for the Bar. I applied and looked at the list of previous successful candidates. It was lined with Oxbridge and a smattering of red-brick Universities. I knew it was a long shot, but worth a try. A few months later, I was invited for an interview.
I travelled to central London and was intent on doing well. Listening to “Livin’ on the Edge” on the way, the words struck a chord with my situation. Once there, I walked along Chancery Lane and through some large oak doors to the imposing surroundings, leaving the traffic noise of London behind. I looked at the trees silhouetted against pale stone buildings and walked into an open square. Some cloisters and Georgian buildings overlooked perfectly manicured gardens.
I wandered about until the time came to go for the interview. I met an Inn of Court scholarships officer, who led me to a packed waiting room. She told me I had done exceptionally well to get this far, but not to expect to go any further. She said, at the end of the interview, I would be asked if I had any questions. As I was the last interviewee before lunch, I was expected politely to decline and let the panel go to lunch as they had a full day of interviews ahead. She was condescending and sniffy toward me. I kept my mouth shut, but it was clear I was meant to step aside for the serious candidates.
When the time came, I was calm and walked into the small, oak-panelled room. A long table was at the far end and behind it were seven old, white gentlemen dressed in dark suits. I was introduced and luckily someone had told me that barristers don’t shake hands, so I smiled and sat down. There were four QCs, one senior clerk from a grand-sounding set of chambers and two High Court judges. The ageing judge on the far left appeared to be asleep. It was like I stepped into the last century.
Questions began about my financial circumstances and moved onto substantive legal questions. It all seemed to be going quite well when one of the panel steepled his fingertips and asked a question.
“How on earth do you survive on so little money?”
“I’m Livin’ on the Edge,” I replied.
I sat there impassively, wondering why I gave such a stupid answer. The chairman huddled up to the barrister on his right and spoke in whispered tones. A few more leaned in and joined the thoughtful discussion for a long moment. The chairman looked up.
“Do you have any questions?”
I had to take a risk and glanced at the judge who hadn’t opened his eyes throughout the whole interview. If I could connect with him or maybe just wake him up, I could get something out of this.
“Considering your criteria are financial need and/or academic merit, are you more or less likely to award a scholarship to a candidate who is destitute and holds a First Class Honours?”
The chairman looked a bit startled that I dared ask a question.
“More likely, of course,” he replied. The old judge opened his eyes, peered over the top of his spectacles and smiled warmly.
I had made an impression, said ‘Thank you’ and left the room feeling good. I got out of the Inn of Court and called Michelle. I told her how it went and explained about “Livin’ on the Edge.”
“I doubt they listen to Aerosmith,” she reassured me.
She was right, of course, so I probably got away with it. A week later, I received a letter from the Inn of Court offering me a scholarship! Now I had to secure a place at Bar School.