Who wants to be the barrister for the defence? (2)

Another bright day greeted me as I left home to reach the Royal Court of Justice at the beginning of my second week. Since the bus takes the same amount of time as walking, I decided to stroll my way to NCCL’s office, while listening to historical podcasts. In a week I learned about eunuchs, Agrippina, the war of butter vs. margarine and Alexander the Great, just to cite a few. And I found a great Law-related collection of radio shows, Law in Action (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006tgy1). I also signed up to an online magazine, the Law Society Gazette (http://www.lawgazette.co.uk). The more I read, the more I saw how complex the legal system is. Not that I expected to find it simple. Anything that tries to give order to life is, ironically enough, incredibly complex. Like physics. Or neural signals, which follow an order of their own that we are not very close to understanding yet. Oh, apologies, I am digressing into a neuroscience rant.

Back at NCCL I kept on reading about Public Legal Education: with recent cuts to legal aid, it seems it is down to us citizens to be savvy about the law, or ‘legally capable’. I started thinking that life without legal awareness is like going to school not knowing you will be tested on a history lesson you decided not to study the night before. Only that the consequences of not knowing your lesson are pretty mild compared to the possibility of being taken to court, or taking someone to court.

NCCL and other PLE organizations have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders. They have the chance to plant the seed of legal curiosity in young people, potentially preparing them to face problems once they go out into the world. As I watched two ‘Court in Session’ (http://www.nccl.org.uk/?activity=courtroom-workshops-4) mock trials during my second week, I thought NCCL is doing something great. Yes, you might think I am very biased, but I am just telling you what I saw. Two different schools came on Monday and Thursday. On Monday it was a group of 15-year-old girls who came to the RCJ to act out a cyberbullying case. The session went very smoothly. I was genuinely impressed by these ‘little women’, each playing their role: the two barristers for the defence and prosecution had to quickly think on the spot, while the judge looked over the trial with composure and severity not so dissimilar to the look I expected a real judge to wear. And if there were ever any difficulties during the trial, Tom was able to almost nonchalantly lead the group to the next point, ensuring they took home the right message. On Thursday a group of students from Hong Kong on a summer scheme came along to do a murder trial (always a mock, of course). Now this group was well prepared! They had already picked their roles, with the different witnesses reciting their parts to perfection, and the two barristers asking clever, to the point questions, holding onto the bundle of notes they had brought along.

These sessions were a practical example of how students can take on a role completely foreign to them and act it out comfortably in a real court room.

During the rest of the week I researched more into judicial diversity, reading statistical reports, finding articles and government press releases on the subject. Upon Professor Moran’s suggestion, I looked through this website too http://first100years.org.uk/, a project that puts together testimonies of women that had a career in law. If you have 5 minutes to spare, go have a look: there are some great stories in there.

I walked home that Friday at the end of my second week, wondering if in any of those kids the seed of legal curiosity was slowly planting its roots.

As for me, my little curiosity plant was definitely growing fast.

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