What/Who are the Inns of Court?

May 20, 2023

The four Inns of court in England and Wales are Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple and Lincoln’s Inn. The Inns are professional associations for barristers which oversee several aspects of becoming a barrister. They are most notably responsible for the “Call to the bar” for barristers. They provide support for your professional development during training and as a practicing barrister, and promote a collegiate environment within the profession.

The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn

Size: The biggest of the Inns, hosting around 21,000 members in total.

Alumni and prominent figures: Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Wilkie Collins, and Margaret Thatcher. 

Fun or Interesting fact: It has a European law programme that combines lectures on current trends in European and Human Rights law with annual visits to the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

The Honourable Society of The Middle Temple

Size: Falls appropriately in the middle in terms of size, with roughly 600 student members admitted each year.

Alumni and prominent figures: Charles Dickens and William Blackstone.

Fun or Interesting fact: Any student member can be set up with a sponsor to help them understand how the Inn and the Bar operate. 

The Honourable Society of The Inner Temple

Size: Second largest of the Inns and has around 300 student members. 

Alumni and prominent figures: The first woman called to the bar was an Inner-Templar, named Ivy Williams (1922). More recently, Inner member Elizabeth Butler Schloss was the first female Court of Appeal judge (1988), and Rosalyn Higginsm an Inner Temple bencher, became the first female judge elected to the International Court of Justice (1995).

Fun or Interesting fact: Mentoring Corner- Students can request to be assigned a mentor and mentoring dinners count as a qualifying session.

The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn

Size: It is a smaller Inn, with around 300 students joining each year. 

Alumni and prominent figures: former President of Supreme Court Baroness Hale (bencher), and previous members include former Lord Chief Justice Tom Bingham.

Fun or Interesting fact: Students are assigned a mentor who is usually around 7 to 8 years calls.


You will need to apply to one of the four Inns of Courts for membership as a student member before commencing the vocational component of your training, i.e. the Bar Professional Course (previously the BPTC). Membership in an Inn is compulsory for barristers and bar course students.

The Inns will provide support and resources for prospective barristers, and choosing which Inn to become a member of can be a difficult choice for some students. You must apply for membership from a single Inn, and each Inn provides information online to help you make your decision. There are often opportunities to take a tour of the Inns. Usually, arrangements for tours can be made with the Inns’ education departments.

After making your choice, there is usually a membership fee of around £100 and upon registration, students will receive a membership card.


The Inns of Court offer a range of scholarships to help you fund your training, i.e. the bar course, and there are also pupillage scholarships available. You do not have to be a member of an Inn to begin a scholarship application to funding your bar course. However, if you are successful in obtaining a scholarship from the Inn of your choice, your scholarship award will be subject to your membership at that Inn. You can only apply to one Inn for a scholarship; we have provided more information on the Inns scholarship process, Inns of Courts Scholarships.

The CEO and Founder of Alignthebar, Neive Augustin secured a Gray’s Inn Bar Course scholarship and shares insight into the process. You can watch this on our YouTube channel or listen to The Future Barrister Podcast (also available on Spotify).

Qualifying Sessions

Read our article on qualifying sessions here.

Once you become a member of an Inn and have commenced the bar course, you will also need to complete 10 “Qualifying Sessions” (QS) before you can get “Called to the bar”. Qualifying sessions are opportunities for professional development and will include lectures, dinners and even weekends at Cumberland Lodge. Students are given a degree of choice to book sessions and are required to pay a fee for most qualifying sessions. The fee will vary depending on the nature of the session.

Qualifying sessions will cover areas including:

  • ethics, standards and values
  • advocacy skills
  • legal knowledge, justice and the rule of law
  • equality, diversity and inclusion
  • preparation for pupillage, career development and wellbeing

Membership at an Inn and completing Qualifying sessions are all great ways for students to network with senior practitioners and other colleagues on the course. There are a variety of mentoring schemes available through the Inns such as Court marshalling. The Inns offer support to students throughout the bar course, during pupillage (What is pupillage), and then in practice.

You can visit the Inns of Court’s respective websites for more information.

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