It was after attending his first mooting workshop at Kent that Elliot Simmonds decided to become a barrister and now, he’s on his way to achieving his career goal after securing a scholarship from The Honourable Society of Middle Temple.
Elliot, a final-year Law LLB student, has been awarded a Diplock Scholarship, worth £12000 and will be heading to BPP in Leeds in September to study the LLM Legal Practice (Bar) course.
Middle Temple is one of four Inns of Court; the historic societies that educate and train barristers in England and Wales. At Middle Temple, scholarships are awarded on merit after taking into account the candidate’s intellectual ability, motivation to succeed at the Bar, advocacy potential and personal qualities. The amount of the award depends on the scholar’s financial circumstances.
Elliot’s interview at Middle Temple was conducted by a panel of three members of the Inn – an upper tribunal judge and two practicing barristers. Elliot said: ‘I remember the judge being particularly interested in the mooting experience I had as it fell within judicial review, so be ready to talk about the practice areas for the panel. Other than that, you are asked to provide your own question and a universal question is prepared for all applicants. This year we were asked what law reform you would most like to see which, luckily, I had prepared thanks to my preparation with barristers who had received scholarships in the past.’
Elliot said he has always found the Law School to be supportive of students seeking out opportunities. And Elliot has been in contact with Director of Lawyering Skills Darren Weir – who was also one of his lecturers – from the beginning of his studies. Darren was able to give Elliot general advice about the process and provide him with a reference. Elliot said: ‘Once I had my interview date set, I spoke with him again as well as other barristers I had met through Kent events such as the Boys and Maughan Advocacy Competition to seek any tips on the process. This was all facilitated by the fact that I had been actively involved with mooting and other advocacy opportunities since my second year and, as such, had got to know those involved quite well. Putting in the work and committing to these opportunities have had nothing but a positive impact toward my goals.’
When Elliot first decided to go to university, he hadn’t actually intended to study law so he had no real career plan. He said: ‘I attended a variety of workshops and talks during my first term of study in an attempt to change that. It was when I went to a workshop run by the Kent Law Temple Society introducing mooting that I decided I wanted to be a barrister. Most of the students left as the talk was winding down, but I and a few others stayed behind and briefly spoke behind the lectern. The comments from the then president and the feeling I got speaking to the bench meant that I never wanted to do anything else afterward.’
Elliot’s currently pursuing an interest in working at the Criminal Bar, with a preference for working alongside the Crown Prosecution Service. He said: ‘I feel quite strongly about the rights of defendants in criminal trials, especially with regards to striking differences between their treatment and that of witnesses (special measures/intermediaries/bad character). I imagine working within the prosecution would further develop my perspective on how the trial process is conducted in a practical sense which I can translate into some positive changes.’
Finally, we asked Elliot for his advice for fellow aspiring barristers: ‘Keep an eye out for opportunities and do not be afraid to take part. I know of many students who have not taken full advantage of what Kent Law School has available which, considering what is on offer, is a wasted opportunity. Know that everybody struggles starting out but the supporting network from mooting mentors, the chief clerks and lecturers means you can only improve. These experiences and skills will be what sell you to the panel at interview or the chambers reviewing your pupillage application. Finally, have fun with it. Advocacy is so often like a conversation between you and the judge or jury, so experiment and enjoy while you are still studying.’