As part of the legal education and careers programme (‘Law LAUNCH”) all first-year law students at NCH visit the Inns of Court at the ‘Temple’ – the area of London where barristers traditionally receive their training. NCH Faculty of Law has close links with two of the ‘Inns’, namely Inner Temple and Middle Temple. This year 23 students (and one law converter who intends to study for the law conversion GDL course after his graduation) visited the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, one of the four historic Inns, established during the middle of the 14th century. The Inn’s name derives from the Knights Templar who had been in possession of the Temple site for over 150 years prior to that. It is an area of London near Temple Underground Station, which not many people generally know about, but can be accessed by all. One student compared this wonderful enclave as a ‘mini Oxford’.
On a freezing morning at 9.30 am, the student group was welcomed by Richard Frost from the Education and Outreach Department at Middle Temple outside the great Middle Temple Hall. Inside the Hall, the walls were graced with 25 portraits of female barristers’ who are members of the Inn. This year celebrates a ‘Century of Women in Law’, and the first woman to become a member of an Inn, Helena Normanton, admitted to Middle Temple on 24 December 1919, following the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act. She was called to the Bar in November 1922 and the first woman to obtain a divorce for a client at the High Court. Other barrister pioneers’ photos included Sybil Campbell, the first woman stipendiary magistrate, Barbara Calvert, the first woman Head of Chambers in 1974; Barbara Mills, the first woman to be made Director of Public Prosecutions in 1990 and Patricia Scotland the first black woman to be appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1991.
The group learned that Middle Temple today has in excess of 8000 women members, 160 women Benchers, amongst whom are several High Court judges, one Court of Appeal judge and many very distinguished law professors at universities throughout the UK. Richard told us that the Inn is proud to celebrate these achievements and a hundred years of women practising law.
The majority of law students will generally enter the profession as solicitors after graduating with a law degree (LLB) and then complete the one-year postgraduate training the Solicitors’ Qualifying Examination (the LPC or Legal Practice Course will be phased out in 2021). A handful will apply for pupillage by joining an Inn in order to train as a barrister. To be ‘called to the Bar’ and practice as a barrister, an applicant must belong to one of these Inns and competition in this area of legal practice is fierce. Richard encouraged NCH law students to apply for a bar scholarship.
© Photos by Ursula Smartt