2021 Pegasus Scholar
Justice. Temperance. Charity. Mercy. Personifications of these concepts adorn the ceiling of the basement hall in the Old Bailey. As we marvel at the history and design of this legendary criminal court building, Judge Leonard explains why the English Lady Justice is surrounded by the three contemporaries. Unlike her American counterpart, English Lady Justice is not blindfolded. Instead, she sees all. And as she fulfills her mission of justice, she is mindful that sometimes the fulfillment of this mission requires other considerations; that the fulfillment of “justice” can sometimes require a deviation from the black letter of the law, and include the application of temperance, charity, and in some cases, mercy. English Lady Justice is surrounded by her contemporaries, all within her eyesight, to remind her that all four can factor into achieving a truly just outcome. It is no coincidence that this ceiling is part of the foundation upon which the criminal justice system is at work on the floors above it.
As I reflect on this ceiling and Judge Leonard’s explanation of this beautiful and insightful design, I am reminded of why I became an attorney, and more specifically, a prosecutor. I think about my charge: to not seek a conviction, but to see that justice is done. I am reminded that in seeing that justice is done, I should remember temperance, charity, and where appropriate, mercy. In the time I spend reflecting on the ceiling and its meaning, I feel excited, rejuvenated, and better informed about what it means to be an advocate seeking justice.
This was just Day 1.
I applied to be a Pegasus Scholar because I wanted to learn more about different legal systems and what it means to be an advocate. As Judge Tony O’Connor philosophically told us over lunch, there is a difference between an “attorney” and an “advocate.” All attorneys are not advocates. An attorney is a profession. After finishing law school and passing that (evil) test that shall not be named, I was an attorney. But that did not make me an advocate. Advocacy is a craft and art that takes time and practice. I know that if I want to be a truly great advocate, then I need to observe and learn from different masters of the art. If this report conveys nothing else, I sincerely hope it reflects that I met some truly AMAZING artists as a Pegasus Scholar, and sincerely believe my advocacy, understanding of different legal systems, and sense of justice are all the better for it.
My Pegasus Experience
My first week in England was spent acclimating to Legal London. For those unfamiliar with the English legal scene, Legal London is the section of London where many of the courts, barrister chambers, and Inns of Court are located. We visited many of these legal institutions, including the Rolls Building and the National Pro Bono Center, and were generally exposed to the lay of the legal land in London. I personally enjoyed meeting the first woman and first Black president of the Law Society, I. Stephanie Boyce. The week was highlighted by visiting the four Inns of Court (in order of our visits): Lincoln, Gray, Inner, and Middle. The Inns serve as gatekeepers for individuals desiring to get “called to the bar” and practice as a barrister. The Inns are micro-communities for barristers, where barristers train, dine, work, socialize, and even sleep. Each has their own personality and feel, but are uniformed in their commitment to ensuring that any individual fortunate enough to call themself a barrister has the tools and skillset to advocate for their client in an effective and persuasive manner. I love the concept of the English Inns and the role they play in ensuring no barrister is left behind.
During week two, I was assigned to the chambers of Crucible Law. This assignment served as a fantastic introduction to life as a English barrister. Over the five days I spent at Crucible Law, I was in the office for maybe a total of two hours. As is common for some barristers, I spent each day visiting a different court or hearing site across the realm. I spent three days in the Kingston Crown Court with Libby Anderson and Clea Topolski watching them defend their clients against affray charges; one day in Stratford observing Laura Bayley defend her client against an accidental death charge before the Nursing and Midwifery Council; and a day with Martin Goudie QC in a virtual hearing before an Irish Court.
I spent my third week at 2 Bedford Row Chambers. My first two days were with Shauna Ritchie and Eleanor Sanderson as they prosecuted a defendant for manslaughter by gross negligence. Interestingly, the trial was presided over by High Court Judge Ed Murray, an American-born and trained attorney. At the conclusion of the trial, Judge Murray kindly invited the barristers and me to join him for tea and biscuits as he answered questions about his background and practice. I then joined Howard Godfrey QC for a two-day appeal at the Royal Courts of Justice. Howard’s matter involved a challenge of his client’s sentence stemming from a guilty plea obtained by a government agency that failed to disclose information surrounding the circumstances of the plea. Finally, I spent a day at the Southend Magistrate Court with Fred Batstone as he defended a young lady accused of simple assault.
Week four was at the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the Judicial Council of the Privy Council. The Supreme Court serves as the high court for the United Kingdom, while the Judicial Council serves as a court of last resort for former British colonies and territories. The Justices on the Court also serve on the Council. The week at the Court was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We had the chance to observe Permission to Appeal (PTA) conferences, engage with the Judicial Assistants (English-version of American judicial law clerks) about their experiences and insights, and view appellate hearings before the Court and Council. However, what I enjoyed most about this week was having the opportunity to converse and dine with Supreme Court Justices, an experience I never imagined having as a practicing attorney. The Justices were welcoming and insightful, and none more so than the Justice in which I was assigned, Lord Lloyd-Jones.
My co-scholars and I spent week five touring the United Kingdom and Ireland. In Belfast, we met with and discussed the history of the Northern Ireland legal system with the (first) Lady Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, Dame Siobhan Keegan, and the Recorder of Belfast, Judge Fowler QC. In Dublin, we enjoyed coffee and biscuits with Judge David Barniville of the Court of Appeal, and a thought-provoking lunch discussion with High Court Judge Tony O’Connor. The amazing Mary Griffin took us on a tour of Dublin’s Inn of Court, the King’s Inn, which included one of the most amazing libraries and legal collections I have ever seen. Judges Barniville and O’Connor graciously invited us to dine with them at King’s Inn, which was followed by drinks with the Inn’s Benchers. As I drank some sensational Irish whiskey, I enjoyed a riveting and insightful conversation with two senior Benchers, Desmond and Denis, who shared with me their observations about the changing Irish legal system over their seasoned practices.
My last week in London was with a commercial set, Essex Court Chambers. The first couple of days were spent with David Scorey QC, assisting him on an interesting legal issue requiring the identification of a legal cause of action against a non-signatory to a contract after its signatory subsidiary breached the contract. The next day, I joined Iain Quirk QC and Stuart Cribb for a hearing regarding an amended Particular of Claims (English-version of a Complaint) and associated fees. My last two days in chambers involved me working with David Peters, as we reviewed and discussed appellate grounds for challenging the verdict in a foreign embezzlement case.
My six weeks in various legal environments through the Pegasus Scholarship Program provided me with unique and interesting insights about the English and Irish legal systems, and the life of a barrister. While it would take me pages to identify all of these insights, I will highlight three that really impressed me.
Insight #1: Being a Barrister is About Service
For many barristers, their chosen career really is a labor of service. Similar to American attorneys, many people assume that the life of a barrister is posh. But the reality is that a barrister’s life can be far from it. Many barristers, especially criminal barristers, are only paid for their time in court. Barristers are often not paid for “pre-court” legal services, and can incur (substantial) out-of-pocket costs in performing their legal services, including for something as essential as commuting to the location of the court. Simultaneously, compensation through legal aid and other sources have been reduced and/or stagnant to meet these costs. Despite this reality, many attorneys continue to practice as a barrister. I asked several barristers why they continue in the practice, and their answers were generally the same: belief that being a barrister is a calling and that everyone deserves quality legal services. Even though many of these barristers could likely make more money employed with a firm or as a solicitor, they remain a barrister due to a belief and dedication to the service they provide to the larger community.
Insight #2: The Wig and Robe Have Meaning
One aspect of being a barrister I was most looking forward to observing (and hopefully partaking in) was the customary wearing of a robe and wig in court. I was disappointed to learn that the robe and wig are only worn in court by barristers called to the bar. However, during my tenure with Crucible Law at the Kingston Crown Court, a barrister representing a co-defendant provided an insightful perspective on the significance of the robe and wig.
According to the barrister, one function of the robe and wig is to make all advocates equal before the court. When a barrister dons her robe and wig, it removes the differences between the attorneys, and makes them just advocates all wearing the same uniform. Another function is to provide anonymity. The robe and wig (somewhat) alter the advocate’s appearance, allowing for a barrier between the advocate and the individual, especially in contentious or noteworthy cases. And finally, the robe and wig are a reminder to the barrister that the proceeding is not about them, but their role as an advocate and officer of the court. When the barrister puts on the robe and wig, it changes the barrister from the individual, to the barrister as an advocate for their client and officer of the court.
Insight #3: There is an Shared Interest in Making Each Other Better
One aspect of the Inns that I really appreciate is their interest in ensuring each individual called to the bar is provided with the tools and skills necessary for success as a barrister. All barristers are required to be affiliated with an Inn of Court. As such, the Inns recognize there is an interest in ensuring that each individual that holds themself out as a barrister not only appropriately represents their Inn, but the profession at large. A role of the Inns of Court is to provide qualifying sessions, which are mini CLEs for the pupils, on a variety of topics relevant to the practice of law. The Inns usually work together, and will often make sessions or trainings offered by one Inn available to pupils of the other Inns. Further, the teaching provided by the Inns do not stop when the pupil is called to the bar; instead, the Inns regularly host trainings and sessions for barristers to aid them in maintaining their skillset as competent advocates and practitioners.
However, this shared interest does not stop with the Inns. Many barristers will often volunteer their time and energy to training and nurturing pupils and more junior barristers in the profession. One of my favorite experiences from the program involved Shauna Ritchie of 2 Bedford Row demonstrating this selflessness. After a long day of spectacularly prosecting a case in a Crown Court an hour by train from her office, Shauna invited me to join her bi-weekly training session with several pupils. During the training session, Shauna and two of her colleagues practiced with the pupils on how to present a bond application to a court. Shauna even allowed me to practice with them, and provided me valuable feedback on ways to improve. After the training, Shauna took the pupils and me out for a drink to debrief, something I learned is customary for her after their training sessions. Even though Shauna and her colleagues all had families or other things they could be doing, they all found value in taking time to train and provide feedback to the pupils and an American interloper.
Over the course of my six weeks as a Pegasus Scholar, I met and learned from some truly amazing advocates, and, more importantly, some truly amazing people. My experience was heightened by the friendly and welcoming reception I received from British and Irish attorneys alike, even those not affiliated with the Pegasus Scholarship Program. Without fail, whenever I was introduced to an attorney as a American scholar observing the British and Irish legal systems, the attorney would almost instantly give me a warm smile and offer to share their insights or answer my questions. However, I soon learned that I was in fact not special, and that members of the bar are generally this cordial with any fellow practitioner needing answers or insight about the practice of law. The level of congeniality and camaraderie demonstrated by members of the bar, even towards me as a foreigner, was inspiring.
My time as a Pegasus Scholar provided me many teachers and lessons in the art of advocacy (and life). While everything I learned may not translate to our United States system (e.g. calling opposing counsel “my friend” as a subtle admonishment), I intend to incorporate the skills I learned where possible in my practice. Being a Pegasus Scholar has forever changed me, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity and all those who helped make this possible.
- Thank you to my better half for allowing me to live out my childhood dream of being an “international lawyer.” I appreciate her supporting my dream, even though it meant I was leaving her with a ten-month old, teething baby for nearly two months. I also appreciate our parents for volunteering to help out while I was gone. I love you all and cannot thank you all enough for your sacrifices for me.
- Thank you to the incomparable Cindy Dennis, General Dunn, Judge Kent, and everyone with the American Inns of Court and Pegasus Scholarship Committee for providing and selecting me for this truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- Thank you to Dick Schwartz, Judge Edith Jones, and the Garland R. Walker American Inn of Court for supporting and allowing me to represent our Inn through this Program. I especially appreciate Dick for his willingness to meet with and assist me with my application.
- Thank you to everyone at Crucible Law, 2 Bedford Row, and Essex Court Chambers for being patient hosts to an inquisitive American lawyer. A special thank you to the British Pegasus Trust, especially Georgina Everatt, for working so hard to make this a wonderful experience.
- Lastly, thank you to my amazing co-scholar and partner-in-crime, Larissa Lee. I appreciate her allowing me to tag along on her many adventures, and for ensuring that we truly made the most of our time in the United Kingdom and Ireland.