Students' experiences

In July 2012 three young people from Lambeth College spent 2 days with solicitors from Hodge Jones & Allen, 2 days with a barrister from 2 Dr Johnson's Buildings and 1 day at the Court of Appeal. The day at the Court of Appeal included an hour long meeting with the then Master of the Rolls, David Neuberger, a meeting with Sir Stephen Sedley, and a chat with one of the very few female Court of Appeal judges – Lady Justice Arden. We have to thank all three members of the judiciary wholeheartedly for their time – they were unfailingly friendly and encouraging and the students very much enjoyed meeting them – all said the judges were very much not as they expected! The students also spent a morning in Court hearing oral argument in an appeal against the deportation of a father to Jamaica, which would mean separation from his young daughter.

You can read about the experience in the words of the three students below:

"Stop and search legal project re-ignites my passion for Law, I have always wanted to study law at the university level and having participated in this project made me realise how much i wanted the career. I was given the oppotunity to go behind he scene to speak with the top judges and especially the president of the supreme court Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury ( then the Master Of The Rolls), I would never thought i'd meet those people at this stage of my career.

The project is suitable for both law and non law student, as it enlightens its participants on the importance of time-keeping and non-judgmental thinking. Although I'd say some of the project was unpredictable, it taught me to be flexible and be prepared for short notice activities such as travelling from one court to another.

I really enjoyed the project and felt very privileged to have taken part and been one of the pioneers of the project. I look forward to my continued involvement with Stop and Search Legal Project because it is inspirational.

Thanks once again for the opportunity!"

Stella Omoniyi July 2012

"For a week I had the opportunity to get a real insight into the legal system by taking part, watching and shadowing solicitors and barristers as well as having the chance to speak with one judge after one of the cases and most interestingly speaking with some of the members of the Court of Appeal, including the Master of the Rolls. We visited different types of courts within the justice system including the Magistrates Court, Crown Courts and the Court of Appeal.

On the first day we watched a high profile case which had previously had a lot of attention by the media – the Occupy London cases. As the public gallery was occupied we got to sit right in front of the witness box next to the prosecutor on the case whilst watching our very own Raj Chada who previously worked for Amnesty International in the US that represented prisoners on death row put his legal argument to the judge in defence of his clients. We where shadowing Raj and Jen for the day from Hodge Jones and Allen.

On the second day we went to the court of Appeal, we had a brief tour of the Court of Appeal before meeting the very down to earth justice Sir Stephen Sedley who we posed many of our questions to, before getting to watch him in Court. My highlight of the whole trip was the meeting with the Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger. We met with him in his office where he answered all of our questions as well as posing some of his own questions back to us. After the second day I realised that the public perception of judges was not an accurate one, they are all ordinary people and also shared our same concerns about the potential elitism in the judiciary especially in the higher ranks.

All in all I would recommend the SSLP Demystifying Law course to anyone who is interested in law or even curious about law. You get the opportunity to ask the people who have already worked their way through the system for their advice and find out about their interests. Many of the lawyers and judges disagreed on what part of law they found to be of interest - whether it be family, criminal, civil or commercial law: But in the end it always came down to what type of person you are.

I’m a politics student myself and before the project I was thinking about studying law but not very sure, the project gave me the gentle push I need in the right direction and I have now decided that I would love to pursue a career in law. I’d like to thank the team down at Hodge Jones and Allen everyone we meet at the Court of Appeal, Dan the barrister who we shadowed on Thursday and Friday and Molly for putting on the project and realising a great need for a project of this sort."

Patrese Foster, July 2012

"For the duration of a week, I was fortunate enough to talk to senior lawyers, barristers and judges, some of whom are highly prestigious within the law profession, thanks to Stop and Search Legal Project.

We were lucky enough to ask criminal lawyers from a top law firm, some of which were partners of that firm, questions regarding their work. Additionally, we were able to attend many forms of court (crown, magistrates and appeal) to watch several court proceedings. Some of the cases we watched involved trials regarding fraud, rape, knife crime, theft, paedophilia, extradition, assault and murder, to name a few.

As you can imagine, the depiction of court from the media is very different to reality. As with most social protocol, there is courtroom etiquette that must be followed, some of which was alien to me for example, bowing your head to the judges as you are about to leave.

The biggest surprise for me was just how down to earth the judges were. In all honesty, I was expecting the judges to take a rose tinted spectacles view in our discussions due to their privileged backgrounds but in fact, the opposite happened. Topics such as elitism, prejudices and stereotypes towards ethnic minorities and the impact of an accent were all discussed. Another common theme that was mentioned during the week was that you need to be empathetic but at the same time, be thick skinned. Due to the nature of some cases, the emotional mind will be tested but it is essential that you enable your rational mind to be dominant. They suggested that putting this into practice for real life application can be extremely beneficial for the legal profession. If there was a theme for success within the legal profession, it was luck. Most people claimed that it was luck; some admitted it was skill, which helped them to get to their position.

For me, the sessions we had with members of the court of appeal, which involved a discussion with the former master of the rolls, who is now a member of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, were the most beneficial, in terms of enjoyment and learning.

A memorable experience for me was when, in the Crown Court, the judge would often talk to us and even invited us into his chamber to ask him questions, something which he was not obliged to do but chose to do it out of goodwill. He eventually gave us the nickname "mini pupils" and during the case, as the severity of the case was minimal, he would often refer to us as mini pupils in front of the jury.

Every single person we met, they told us that the police did not know the law and this was evident as we started watching police officers give their testimony. When we were watching the legal professionals in action, I was amazed by the transformation I had observed, in regards to their demeanour. It was like watching somebody with a dual personality.

Personally, I would highly recommend this for anyone, especially to those pursuing a career within law or a law related career. In all honesty, I don't know which career path to go down but this project definitely gave me an insight into the legal profession. This project was very enjoyable and valuable for me. The only downside for me was the travelling as I found that it can be quite demanding, both physically and financially. If travel is not a problem, then this project is a win-win experience. On a serious note, I would like to thank everybody we met, especially Molly, for giving us a memorable and enjoyable experience."

Twaheed Rahman, July 2012

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