There was a new application process for Bar School, which involved completing an application form and sitting an entrance exam. I spent months preparing for that exam, which focussed on critical reasoning – an analysis of facts, evidence, relevance, fallacy, evaluation, inference and conclusion.
An example was: Some zinks are zanks. Some zanks are zonks. From this, what is absolutely true?
A. Some zinks are zonks.
B. No zonks are zinks.
C. All zinks are zonks.
D. All zonks are zanks.
E. Some zanks are zinks.
The correct answer is E because: Some zinks are not zonks just because some zinks are zanks and some zanks are zonks; as some zonks are zanks and some zanks are zinks, some zonks can be zinks; the use of ‘Some’ in the zinks and zonks statement precludes any prospect of all zinks being zonks; by using the inverse of the previous logic, all zonks cannot be zanks; and, if some zonks are zanks, it must be true that some zanks are zinks.
I did countless questions based on critical reasoning so my preparation was thorough. I got a coach to the exam halls in London and lined up with the posh boys and girls. The well-to-do seemed incredibly sure of themselves. There were lots of sports jackets, turned up collars and stuck-up accents. Charles shook hands with Harvey. Oscar kissed Cordelia on both cheeks. Pippa hugged Bunty. I was used to Poshies at Oxford Brookes University, but the amount of toffs here took it to another level. I was astonished, but focussed on the task in hand and sat the exam. It went well and I was hopeful.
A few weeks later, I received a letter from Bar School stating I had “Regretfully not been offered a place on this occasion.” This was when only one Bar School existed in the country. I was unsure what to do next as my Inn of Court scholarship depended on obtaining a Bar School place. I had nowhere else to go. After a despondent week, The Times reported: “More than sixty top graduates awarded scholarships by the Inns of Court failed to secure a place on the course.” According to the report, only two hundred and fifty students in the whole country were successful in being awarded an Inns of Court scholarship and “One in four of the Inns’ scholars had been rejected under a new selection procedure scientifically designed to choose the best barristers.” The system was criticised for excluding students who displayed all the relevant aptitudes to be a barrister, which was described as the “Most appalling injustice.”
I knew it was wrong when it transpired I got a grade A in the entrance exam, but was rejected because I didn’t tick the box on the application form about experience in acting. I appealed on the ground of exceptional circumstances and, after an uncertain time, received a letter informing me “It has been agreed that a number of additional places will be offered… I am pleased to inform you that a place is now reserved for you on the course.” All appellants with a high mark in the entrance exam and an Inns of Court Scholarship offer were successful in their appeals. So I secured a place at Bar School and would receive my Inn of Court scholarship after all. But I had to fight for it.