So you’ve just signed up to sit the Inns entrance exams in August or you are considering doing so post-undergrad or masters – it’s a tough choice, considering the minimum €600 price tag that comes with sitting the exams and the even bigger price tag of the Barrister at Law degree itself ringing in at €12,560. Add on to that the two years of devilling/working for free whilst paying fees to the law library to be down at the courts…..
Nonetheless, I took the plunge post-Law Masters,
I am still unsure whether or not I will go down and practice at the bar so upon passing I decided to undertake the degree course on a part-time basis so I could continue in full-time employment. I have just completed year one of two. This option makes getting into the profession that little bit more attainable at least. Nonetheless, here are some tried and tested tips for getting through those entrance exams.
Firstly, what is Kings Inns and what are the Entrance exams??……
In order to qualify as a Barrister in the Republic of Ireland – you need to complete the Barrister at Law degree at Kings Inns. Sounds simple right? Well getting into the degree itself involves three steps in total:
- Complete an approved law qualification
You can check if your law degree or masters/legal studies diploma qualifies on the Inns website. Within this law qualification, you need to ensure that you have passed the following core subjects:
- Land Law (including the Law of Succession)
- Equity & Trusts
- Company Law
- Law of the European Union
- Administrative Law
- Submit the application/supporting documents on time
There is a deadline for applying to sit the entrance exams, it is usually May 31st of that year for the early deadline and costs €600 to sit the entrance exams or alternatively a late application up to 1 July which will cost €1000. Alongside a standard form and fee, each candidate must submit:
- Student Admission Declaration along with two certificates (to certify you are a person of good standing by someone of good standing within your community)
- An original transcript of your relevant qualification
- 2 x signed passport photos
- Photocopy of a valid ID – drivers licence or passport
- Pass the Entrance Exams
The entrance exams consist of 5 exams, 5 days in a row. The examinable subjects are:
- Contract Law
- Criminal Law
- Irish Constitutional law
- Law of Torts
- Law of Evidence
Each exam is 3 hours in length, and each candidate will generally have to complete 3 questions within this time. Question 1 for each paper is MANDATORY, therefore you can’t avoid answering it, you then answer 2 further questions from the rest of the paper. Question 1 is always a problem question which explores a number of areas within the legal subject being examined. The rest of the paper is usually a mix of problem and essay/short answer based questions – this division varies dependent on the paper. The breakdown of marking is usually: Q1: 50 marks and then each of the optional questions will carry 25 marks each.
You must pass all 5 exams in order to be offered a place on the BL Degree. The pass mark for each paper is 50% and it’s important to note that you cannot appeal a failed result or review a paper!
This may be hindsight for some who have just completed their legal studies but the better the notes you take for the examination subjects, the more ahead you’ll be when it comes to revising. This may sound silly, but for a number of people, the subjects you will be examined in you haven’t touched since the very early days of your undergrad and they are concepts which you have drilled from your brain.
So if you are in the wonderful position to be just starting on your legal studies journey – take this on board, not only will it help you for potential Inns exams but also for FE-1’s and even more so your course exams! This obviously comes with the caveat that we all learn differently, so good notes for you might be too little for some and overkill for another! Play around with some techniques and find the best note taking system that works for you.
Read the Syllabi
Kings Inns provides comprehensive syllabi for all five entrance exams! Before you crack on and make your study plan I recommend that you take some time out to look through these. This is of paramount importance because the entrance exam itself that year might not examen you in a particular area of the law!
Once you become familiar with the syllabus for each exam I then recommend that you set out a study plan. Personally, I broke my study down for each exam into the subject area as specified in the syllabus. I then evaluated my current knowledge of the subject area in question and split up my time accordingly. Be kind though, it is the summer, after all, things will come up, so your study plan does not have to be rigid. Don’t kick yourself if you don’t stick to it fully. Just take a step back and use the time you have left and plan from there. Just make a plan and be structured!
Every student will always ask “Do I have to study all the topics?” – to that, I say that question 1 is mandatory and usually spans a number of legal issues. Personally, I aired on the side of caution – I made sure I had a somewhat grounding in all areas so I could at the least identify it as an issue in a problem question.
Do I need to read all the recommended reading? To that, I would say no, there are key core texts which I found very useful to read and work through on top of my own notes. These are (caveat that they were personally chosen from the syllabus of each subject):
Constitutional – Kelly: The Irish Constitution for me, this is the bible of constitutional law and a very accessible read
Contract: Contract Law; McDermott & McDermott
Evidence: Law of Evidence; McGrath
I would advise that if you intend to address an essay based question on the paper it would require you to have more in-depth knowledge on the legal concept. So I would recommend brushing up on some further reading if that’s a route you intend to go!
Organise, Read, Record, Review and then Condense
Get your bearings – organise yourself and see what you can pool from your own resources, such as notes from your legal studies etc. Work with friends to co-share notes too!
Read through the notes and other books – pull everything together and record any further notes.
Then I would recommend reviewing these together after you are through each topic and as a revision exercise begin to condense these notes down even further. Generally, I tried to condense each topic down into a one A4 blank pager, back to back. This may not be doable for each subject. In practice, this would look like condensing down everything you have on Negligence under Tort into a 2 pager. You need to be tactical – identify the key/most important cases for each topic!
Practice, Practice, Practice
Past papers are the best guidance for the exams. I don’t mean sitting down and writing out answers for each past paper but rather running through each problem question and jotting down the issues you identify in each and becoming familiar with the language used etc. All past papers are available on the Inns website here.
Work with a Friend
This one is self-explanatory but I found it most helpful for pooling resources and sitting down together to run through problem questions to see if we were identifying similar legal issues etc.
The biggest tip is stamina and lasting the 5 in 5 days. Therefore, look after yourself as much as possible in the month prior to the exam – study/work hard but by no means burn yourself out. Adrenaline will push you through also. If you have a bad exam one day, you need to put it behind you, head home, nap, get some food and focus in on the next exam! Don’t get yourself bogged down about a bad exam for a long period of time because you don’t have the time.
Within the exam setting itself, know your timing, identify the issues, key cases, plan your answer in brief and go to work! There is no time for waffle, just focus on nailing the proper application of the law and key cases.
Most importantly…Best of Luck!!