A law student from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has been awarded one of the country’s top scholarships for aspiring barristers.
Anita Ukah, who joined DMU through Clearing three years ago, will join the Middle Temple, one of four Inns of Court which can call students to the Bar. She was awarded the Queen Mother Scholarship as one of the most impressive candidates interviewed this year. Less than 20 awards are made in one year.
“It’s mindblowing to be awarded one of the biggest scholarships,” she said. “I remember checking my inbox and seeing the email marked ‘congratulations’ and I was like, ‘wait what??’
“It’s still sinking in. I’m so, so pleased to be joining Middle Temple because I fell in love with the people and the place, and most of the barristers I have shadowed have been from Middle Temple - so I took it as a sign that it was where I should be.”
The scholarship will contribute funding toward her studies at City University, London, where she will begin her Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in September. Once Anita completes that, she will then be “called” to the Bar and undertake a pupillage, learning under an experienced barrister, before starting her own practice.
The Middle Temple said the Queen Mother Scholarship was “awarded only to the most all-round impressive candidate”. Anita was judged against the panel’s four criteria: intellectual ability, motivation to succeed at the Bar; potential as an advocate and personality.
“The interview felt more like a conversation, I had a panel of three barristers and they were genuinely interested in who I was as a person. Afterwards, I thought that it had gone too well because it was such an easy conversation, I was not sure how I had done.”
Throughout the application process, which began in autumn last year, Anita was able to call upon the support of DMU law lecturers including Helen Edwards, Paul Omar and David Hodgkinson, all barristers themselves.
“I always say DMU is amazing because of the support you get from your lecturers,” said Anita. “I felt as though my lecturers genuinely cared about me and were ready to go above and beyond for me. If they see that you have potential they will try to help as much as they possibly can.
“Helen helped my application and offered to do mock interviews with me after class. Anything that I needed to work on, she would help. When I gave her the news she was so, so happy. Paul and Hodgie are also people who have really helped me in my journey by frequently telling me that the Bar is my calling.
“I think that it’s something about DMU. I have not heard that from my friends who go to other universities.”
While at DMU, Anita worked with law lecturer Melica Martin to set up the Black Law Student Society, to support other underrepresented students in gaining the work experience and building the networks so vital to a successful career in law.
Anita said: “It’s a good thing that you come out with a degree but when it comes to the next steps it’s all about what else you have done and we found that black students found it harder to get work experience. The Black Law Students Society works to build that confidence in people that you can do it, you can break into these areas.”
Anita knew she wanted to be a barrister after her first year so went about organising mini pupillages to gain experience, shadowing barristers at top chambers in Manchester and London. She has also been to the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal to shadow a Lord Justice, building up her network with legal practitioners who have now become mentors.
Anita came to DMU through Clearing after originally applying for a place at the University of Liverpool’s law school. “I’m so happy I ended up coming to DMU. I’ve had the time of my life here and in the end I think it worked out for the best.”
Posted on Thursday 6th August 2020