Living it up in the heart of legal London
In their first trimester, Bucerius students learned all about the English common law, including its history and institutions. So, naturally, 19 of them were eager to drink in the sights and sounds of London’s buzzing legal scene on the annual trip to the city organised by Monty Silley and James Linscott of the Foreign Language Programme.
First up on the agenda was a walking tour of the City of London, for many centuries the nerve centre of legal life in London. In glorious spring sunshine, students got to meander through the magnificent four Inns of Court, the professional home of all barristers in England and Wales. Then it was more wigs and gowns on a tour of the Royal Courts of Justice, where students were delighted to try out their oratorical skills in an ornate oak-panelled 19th-century English courtroom. The first day was rounded off by a talk on Brexit by Britain’s former deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, at the Imperial War Museum, where politically-minded Bucerius students eagerly shared their views on Britain’s impending divorce from the European Union.
The next day featured sharp suits and serious corporate vibes with a visit to Clifford Chance’s impressive offices at Canary Wharf. Students could ask an array of questions to either a trainee solicitor, the head of recruitment, or a Bucerius alumnus who spoke of his career as an associate in the firm’s litigation and dispute resolution practice area. But a law student’s life can’t be all work and no play, and so the afternoon was spent enjoying a matinee performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap. This was followed by a delightful three-course meal in the West End theatre district.
Come Wednesday morning, students were back in their suits, but this time it was to experience the gravitas of the United Kingdom Supreme Court, the highest in the land. Students heard several judgments being handed down by judges, and were also able to sit in on an appeal being argued by an array of Queen’s Counsel. Then it was back to the corporate sector for a tour of Norton Rose Fulbright. Students were fortunate to be addressed by the Global Chair of the firm who spoke of the career opportunities available to foreign-qualified lawyers. This was followed by a presentation by two of the firm’s trainee lawyers on the journey to becoming a fully qualified solicitor at the international firm. After that the group was treated to a private tour of the City of London Police Museum.
On Thursday, it was high drama as students got to sit in on several emotionally charged criminal trials in progress at the Old Bailey, where London’s most serious criminal cases are heard. Not all disputes need to be resolved in court, though, and this was the message from the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (“CEDR”), which students visited in the afternoon. They then took a stroll down the Strand to hear an informative lecture from the Incorporated Council of Law Reporters, whose editors spoke about the painstaking work that goes into producing accurate high-quality law reports, the bedrock of the precedent-based common-law system. After a long day’s lawyering, a pint down the pub was in order, and here students had the chance to chat to several young barristers in an informal atmosphere, before heading off to dinner at Leicester Square.
The final day of activities saw students again in formal attire for a tour of Middle Temple, one of the Inns of Court, where they got to look the part by trying on a barrister’s genuine horsehair wig. A splendid buffet lunch was then laid on in the Inn’s beautiful 16th-century dining hall, where the first recorded production of Twelfth Night was held. Friday afternoon was spent touring the Palace of Westminster, since medieval times the home of British parliamentary democracy. Students were able to enter and amble around both the House of Lords and the House of Commons, as well as survey the building’s many awe-inspiring and historic paintings, murals and sculptures. The final activity for the week was a talk given to the students by Sir Simon Hughes, a long-standing Member of Parliament and the Minister of Justice in the 2010-2015 coalition government. Students were able to share their views on social justice and liberal democracy with a seasoned politician, as well as hear his many useful insights into current social and political issues. The trip was brought to a close by a dinner at Covent Garden on Saturday night, whereafter some students headed out to live it up in a city that was jam-packed and ready to party after a long working week.