The pandemic may have halted international travel for the time being, but it did not manage to put a stop to the Foreign Language Communication Programme’s Legal London Trip, which took place in virtual form this year.
Instead of physically taking 20 students to London for a week, we decided instead to host an online event over two days in March for all first- and second-year Bucerius students. As in previous years, our aim was to expose our students to a range of key British legal and political institutions.
Gaining impressions at a corporate law firm
Our headline event was one which exposed students to life and work at a London corporate law firm. Partners, associates and trainees at McDermott Will & Emery regaled students with entertaining war stories about life in the legal fast lane. Thereafter, students were able to chat with younger lawyers at the firm in various breakout rooms. That the event was a great success was evident from the many questions with which the students peppered the lawyers.
London (arbitration) courts and the Houses of Parliament
The tour also featured a highly informative online presentation on the history of the UK Supreme Court. Among other topics, our presenter detailed how the House of Lords became the Supreme Court and gave students a heads-up on some of the important cases it has heard.
Of course, not all disputes need to be litigated, and Andy Rogers of the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution conveyed this idea to our students most effectively in a presentation on mediation and arbitration as valuable tools for conflict resolution.
As laws in the UK are made in Parliament, students took part in an online guided tour of this venerable political institution. Our expert guide led us virtually through Parliament’s world-famous central lobby to the House of Commons and the House of Lords, on the way pointing out the many beautiful and historic art works on display in the building that is home to Britain’s highest legislative body.
Insights into the working life of barristers
Another highlight of the tour was a talk by Christa Richmond of Middle Temple, one of London’s four Inns of Court, where English barristers are educated and have their chambers. While it was unfortunate students could not experience first-hand the exquisite beauty of Middle Temple, as well as the sumptuous lunch traditionally laid on for us in the Elizabethan dining hall, they nevertheless gained a good idea of the work the Inn does and the role it plays in the lives of the barristers it serves.
The barristers’ profession was again the topic of discussion in an enjoyable Q&A session with a Queen’s Counsel – namely, Sara Masters QC. We were very fortunate to be able to have Sara address our students, and she more than lived up to expectations with her perceptive and witty answers to questions put to her by both teachers and students. This new event nicely complemented an earlier one, “Beer with a barrister”, at which students were able to hear about the experiences of two younger London criminal barristers, James Caldwell and Sushil Kumar, both of whom previously taught legal English at Bucerius.
Edmund Burke and the political system of the 18th century
The virtual tour was rounded off by a talk given by Richard Bourke, a professor of political thought at the University of Cambridge, who spoke at the Middle Temple Historical Society on the life and legacy of the 18th-century Anglo-Irish parliamentarian Edmund Burke. Teachers and students were most privileged to be able to sit in on a lecture of the highest academic calibre and learn about this complex and much misunderstood political thinker.
While it is a pity we could not take our students to London this year, we are very glad to have been able to offer them at least a taste of legal life in London, thanks to 21st-century technology. We very much hope to be back in Blighty next year to enjoy London’s manifold delights in person once more!