izz22576
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Hii, i’m 17 years old and i’ve got work experience in a barristers chambers.

Tomorrow i’m going to be shadowing a barrister in a murder trial in court. I’m really excited however i’m a bit nervous as i don’t really know what to expect as i’ve never been to court before😬

Could anyone give me any information as to how everything works and what i’ll be doing?
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TGratts
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Congrats what an exciting experience!

Normally court day begins at 10/10.30am but presumably you will have been told to head to chambers earlier where hopefully your Barrister will come to meet you and take you to court.
When in court you will merely be observing how the case unfolds. You will either be sat in the public gallery or if there is enough bench space, at a desk behind your Barrister. (If I were you I would head to sit in the public gallery unless your Barrister says otherwise)

At lunch time (unless your Barrister is super busy preparing their case) you will likely have the opportunity to ask your Barrister about how the case is unfolding and for them to answer any of your questions. Also it will be an opportunity to ask them about their life at the Bar and any other general questions... However, if your Barrister is busy, you may have to occupy this time yourself by maybe just grabbing some fresh air and lunch. After lunch, court will resume (the judge will tell everyone in court what time they will sit in the afternoon) and the case will continue. The day will likely finish at 5, if not a touch earlier, dependent on where in their cross-examination / speech / evidence the Barristers are.

I've shadowed numerous Barristers and my tips are for attending court:

- Go on the Chamber's website and read up about your Barrister and previous cases they have worked - it is good to know a little something about the person you will be spending the day with!

- Also if you know the case you are shadowing is fairly large, and has been reported in the media, read up on that too so you know what stage court proceedings are at!

- Dress smartly in a dark suit and shoes.

- You aren't allowed to take metal cutlery into court with you so if you take lunch bring plastic cutlery (However it is typical etiquette at the Bar that Barristers buy their mentees lunch... so perhaps hold on bringing your own?)

- Bring a notepad to write down lots of notes. In particular, keep an eye on how the jury look and react to certain aspects of the case. Also, unless they have a junior, it is unlikely a Barrister can take notes of their own performance so would love hearing your thoughts so get these thoughts down on paper!).

- Write down any legal jargon you don't understand and when you have an opportunity, ask your Barrister what it means. Identifying this jargon and having the confidence to ask questions like this will impress your Barrister. However saying that be careful....given the case is before a jury, it is likely that any difficult legal jargon will be already explained by the judge. So if you hear the judge explain the jargon in court, don't ask your Barrister what it means - they'll think you haven't been listening!

- Be confident and when spoken to, give back genuinely interested/inquisitive responses and ideas. However, unless told to otherwise, never talk to your Barrister in front of a client or talk to the client themselves. Especially under no circumstance give any legal advice / your opinion to the client! You are there merely to observe!

- Be polite and engage with the court staff - it will show the Barrister you are shadowing that you are a confident person with good people skills. Plus it's nice to be nice!

- Turn your phone off in court!!!!! Don't be that person that gets told off by the Judge for a ringing phone.

- Most importantly.. have fun, enjoy the day and learn lots. And if the case is continuing the rest of the week, ask if you can come along for the whole week!
Last edited by TGratts; 4 weeks ago
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izz22576
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(Original post by TGratts)
Congrats what an exciting experience!

Normally court day begins at 10/10.30am but presumably you will have been told to head to chambers earlier where hopefully your Barrister will come to meet you and take you to court.
When in court you will merely be observing how the case unfolds. You will either be sat in the public gallery or if there is enough bench space, at a desk behind your Barrister. (If I were you I would head to sit in the public gallery unless your Barrister says otherwise)

At lunch time (unless your Barrister is super busy preparing their case) you will likely have the opportunity to ask your Barrister about how the case is unfolding and for them to answer any of your questions. Also it will be an opportunity to ask them about their life at the Bar and any other general questions... However, if your Barrister is busy, you may have to occupy this time yourself by maybe just grabbing some fresh air and lunch. After lunch, court will resume (the judge will tell everyone in court what time they will sit in the afternoon) and the case will continue. The day will likely finish at 5, if not a touch earlier, dependent on where in their cross-examination / speech / evidence the Barristers are.

I've shadowed numerous Barristers and my tips are for attending court:

- Go on the Chamber's website and read up about your Barrister and previous cases they have worked - it is good to know a little something about the person you will be spending the day with!

- Also if you know the case you are shadowing is fairly large, and has been reported in the media, read up on that too so you know what stage court proceedings are at!

- Dress smartly in a dark suit and shoes.

- You aren't allowed to take metal cutlery into court with you so if you take lunch bring plastic cutlery (However it is typical etiquette at the Bar that Barristers buy their mentees lunch... so perhaps hold on bringing your own?)

- Bring a notepad to write down lots of notes. In particular, keep an eye on how the jury look and react to certain aspects of the case. Also, unless they have a junior, it is unlikely a Barrister can take notes of their own performance so would love hearing your thoughts so get these thoughts down on paper!).

- Write down any legal jargon you don't understand and when you have an opportunity, ask your Barrister what it means. Identifying this jargon and having the confidence to ask questions like this will impress your Barrister. However saying that be careful....given the case is before a jury, it is likely that any difficult legal jargon will be already explained by the judge. So if you hear the judge explain the jargon in court, don't ask your Barrister what it means - they'll think you haven't been listening!

- Be confident and when spoken to, give back genuinely interested/inquisitive responses and ideas. However, unless told to otherwise, never talk to your Barrister in front of a client or talk to the client themselves. Especially under no circumstance give any legal advice / your opinion to the client! You are there merely to observe!

- Be polite and engage with the court staff - it will show the Barrister you are shadowing that you are a confident person with good people skills. Plus it's nice to be nice!

- Turn your phone off in court!!!!! Don't be that person that gets told off by the Judge for a ringing phone.

- Most importantly.. have fun, enjoy the day and learn lots. And if the case is continuing the rest of the week, ask if you can come along for the whole week!
Thank you for your response!

I’ll definitely keep all of this in mind and will do some research on the barrister now. I already am quite familiar with the case now as i was in the chambers today and was given a file to read covering the whole case and i have also done some research at home so i’ve got that covered at least aha.

Thank you so much again for your advice again it is so helpful!!
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Kessler`
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TGratts, what an excellent reply. Anyone who is doing shadowing/mini-pupillage should take the time to read this post. In particular, the absolutely cardinal sin is to start talking to the client ESPECIALLY when your barrister is not present. Really, you should not be anywhere alone with the lay client, but even if they start talking to you directly and ask "what do you think?" the correct response is to politely smile and say that it would not be appropriate for you to give any opinion. I've had some awful experiences over the years, including one mini-pupil who started arguing with me in conference (wrongly, I might add) and ignoring my suggestions that 'this was not the arena for learning discussion right now". In the end I had to stop the conference, drag the young man outside and send him home. I don't mind saying, even if he might be reading this, that there is a black mark against his name now with our chambers. On another occasion, I had to duck out of the room very quickly to catch the usher who was about to call our case on (I needed some more time) and when I came back, my mini-pupil - WHO HAD NOT EVEN COMPLETED THE BPTC! - was sitting there, calm as you like, informing my petrified client that their case had been wrongly pleaded (by me) and there wasn't any chance the 'Defendant' was going to succeed so there would likely be a costs order on top. Of course my client flew into a rage and stormed outside until I explained that the young lady was not qualified and was talking out of her arse and would be sent home. When I then spoke to her (holding back my rage) she burst into tears saying that she had thought my client was the Claimant (no, he was the Defendant) and she didn't realise I had drafted the pleadings in fact she hadn't read them and she was trying to 'cheer him up'. It turns out that, instead of reading the papers like I had asked her to when she arrived that morning, she had gone to the cafeteria instead so she didn't even have a clue what the case was about. I made her apologise directly to the client before giving her the choice of staying or leaving. She left, which is a shame since I would have genuinely given her a second chance. I never saw her again.

Anyway, those are just a couple of the worst ones and do not reflect the vast majority, However, I shall consider them usefu experiences if they drum into you the importance of being a silent observer and speaking only when invited to (and even then with appropriate tact and politeness!). If you behave properly, the experience of shadowing a (competent) barrister can be very rewarding and enjoyable!
Last edited by Kessler`; 4 weeks ago
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Palmyra
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(Original post by Kessler`)
On another occasion, I had to duck out of the room very quickly to catch the usher who was about to call our case on (I needed some more time) and when I came back, my mini-pupil - WHO HAD NOT EVEN COMPLETED THE BPTC! - was sitting there, calm as you like, informing my petrified client that their case had been wrongly pleaded (by me) and there wasn't any chance the 'Defendant' was going to succeed so there would likely be a costs order on top. Of course my client flew into a rage and stormed outside until I explained that the young lady was not qualified and was talking out of her arse and would be sent home. When I then spoke to her (holding back my rage) she burst into tears saying that she had thought my client was the Claimant (no, he was the Defendant) and she didn't realise I had drafted the pleadings in fact she hadn't read them and she was trying to 'cheer him up'.
I spent a solid 15 seconds laughing out loud at this story. Then I stopped and felt bad for her; mistakes happen (though they vary in degree...) and it's a shame she decided to leave.

I think you've had some bad luck with mini-pupils, though the upshot is that you don't half have some funny stories to show for it! :lol:
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Kessler`
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(Original post by Palmyra)
I spent a solid 15 seconds laughing out loud at this story....[snip]...you don't half have some funny stories to show for it! :lol:
Thank you. It just goes to show that the Secret Barrister is not alone in having an 'interesting' career. If Crazy Jamie is reading this, have you ever considered writing your own book? I know the path has already been well trodden, but so many people have expressed interest in anecdotal writing from the Bar (and there is for both of us, I suspect, a wealth of material without the sort of exaggeration that the Secret Barrister often stumbles into) that I have often wondered whether it might not be a nice little earner on the side! It would be even better if, alongside making people laugh, such a book could be used to educate on pupillage and the 'first few years'. I'm somewhat surprised that there aren't so many more books out there. The only barrier would be fitting it in with workload, but I consider myself very busy and I'm sure I could put aside a couple of hours in a week!
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by Kessler`)
If Crazy Jamie is reading this, have you ever considered writing your own book?
Not really. There were quite a few books out there before Secret Barrister came along, although s/he obviously nailed the advertising element by building up the social media presence first. I have no real desire to write a book like that (even if I did, it sounds like SB is covering a lot of the ground of it with their second book, which is going to at least touch upon things like Employment Tribunal fees), and certainly wouldn't be able to spare the time to build such a Twitter presence, write a blog etc. It's not just compatible with my life at the moment. I'd be more interested in putting something together as a guide for prospective and new barristers. I don't know whether you'd find a publisher for a book like that, because I think the prospective sales would be quite limited with such a restricted target audience, but I'd consider it if the opportunity came along. For now though I'm happy doing what I'm doing to give advice, both online and off.

Also, I will say that I have never had mini pupils close to your experience. Those two examples really are quite something.
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