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Diary: Work Experience with a Criminal Barrister

Barrister in chambers

In this article we hear from one of The Lawyer Portal’s contributors about what they learnt on a weeks work experience with a criminal barrister.


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Shortly after completing my first year of sixth form, I was on my way to gaining an honest, unfiltered truth of what just a week of being a Criminal Barrister is really like.

Monday

I was slightly overwhelmed to be completely honest with you. I had always been interested in taking on law as my future career, but what if this week changed my mind completely? There was nothing I could do about this now as I am embarked on my first journey of my work experience, which led me to the lovely Shrewsbury Crown Court.

Before even setting foot inside, I was told to walk through security, making sure I had nothing offensive on my body, whilst they checked my bag for anything that could possibly be a weapon. I was then led by my barrister to a room full of other barristers, all getting ready to put their wigs and gowns on. This made me nervous as I asked myself, how would I ever fit in with this way of life? However, as soon I sat down everyone began to talk to me about my prospects, giving me advice and guidance on what best suited me. I felt relieved.

After my barrister had prepped themselves for their case, which was supposed to be at 10:30, we made our way to court two, where our case was not heard until 1pm. It showed me that the job require a lot of patience, as you cannot always follow a pre-perceived time table in court. I also found out that every time the judge entered the room we had to stand up for them, which is a historical gesture of respect.

After we had completed our cases, we went back to my barrister’s chambers for a conference with a client. From just one conference, I could already tell that barristers really had to adopt a hard exterior when approaching difficult clients. After the conference, I went home feeling completely exhausted, however I was still intrigued about the next day ahead.

Do you want to become a barrister? Then why not check out our Becoming a Barrister FAQ that provides answers to the most commonly asked questions. >>

Tuesday

I found out over the next few days that travel played a big part in the role of being a barrister, as today we had arrived at the Wolverhampton Crown Courts. The security procedures were the same in these courts, but I wasn’t so surprised this time!

For the first part of the day I sat in the public gallery, observing cases such as a woman stealing £70 worth of meat to smuggle drugs into. I found this case particularly humorous and I would have laughed out loud had I not have been in a court room.

The case my barrister was prosecuting on this day was one of fraud, which then proceeded with a trial on the following week. Although it doesn’t seem like much happened, I was allowed to sit a row behind my barrister, instead of in the back corner of the public gallery. I was practically face to face with the judge and it was the best experience of my life!

After we had completed the cases, my barrister took their time to discuss the different roles there were in the court room, stating that for a barrister the person you should respect the most besides the Judge is the Usher. These are the people who decide the order of the cases. So, it’s best to avoid confrontation with an usher if you do become a barrister, as you may have to wait a long time for your case to be called.

Like Criminal Law? Or are you interested in another area? Take our Family Law Quiz to see if you may be better suited to Family Law. >>


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Wednesday

Although it had only been two days of work experience, I already felt that my decision of taking up law as a career was the right one. However, the third day did test my resilience.

We had gone to Warwick Crown Courts, which I have to say was the strictest of the courts I had visited. Not only did they take my protractor from my bag, which I had forgotten to take out, but they also took my pencil sharpener!

After my barrister had prepped with his wig and gown, he brought me into a room where I sat face to face with our client. The client was being considered for a section 20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861, which in other words means ‘grievous bodily harm’. This then changed to a Section 47 (assault occasioning actual bodily harm) as the defendant had admitted to hitting the injured party only twice.

I was surprised by the severity of the case and realised that in a legal career, you have to work with people you might not associate with in everyday life out of choice. So, we sat down and discussed the case with the client, who was an alcoholic with a number of physical disabilities and it really wasn’t looking hopeful for us.

After discussing everything with the client, we went to court four, where I was again able to sit behind the barristers. It was then decided that before the Judge made his final verdict, that a medical report be conducted for our defendant. This report could potentially allow leniency on the Defendant’s sentencing.

After this was agreed, we finished the case and went to retrieve my compass and sharpener. When I went home, I reflected on the day and realised that although a career as a barrister won’t be an easy one, it is still something I want to do.

Thinking of becoming a barrister? Read our FREE GUIDE on Becoming  Barrister Here. >>

What’s the difference between a Solicitor and a Barrister anyway? Find out here. >>

Want to know more about legal careers?:

Author: Hajrah Shafique

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