Time for another quick update on the law journey. Sadly it is impossible for them to be more frequent, however, I make an attempt to update where I feel it’s absolutely necessary (as in this case where I want to encourage law students to do marshalling).
What is marshalling?
Marshalling or court pupillage is the experience of shadowing a judge for a few days. I have marshalled twice, once at Southwark Crown Court and most recently at the Old Bailey.
Why should one marshall?
No matter the stage of your education or your background this is an exciting and fulfilling experience that every law student should endeavour to do. It allows you to gain real insight into the daily workings of the court and an appreciation for the judge’s role in case management. Some of the work which you get to do will be confidential. For instance, if asked to prepare a case note on an appeal case or judges’ feedback on counsel submission. You do however, get to sit in on cases which you can discuss as well (tip: if members of the public are in the public gallery, it means the case can be discussed). It also stands out on a CV.
Needless to say that I personally would highly recommend marshalling especially to persons from a non-legal background and international students.
How does one get on a marshalling scheme and when should I apply?
- Personal connections
- Inns of Court
- Ask the careers service at your university for information on other schemes
Last week I shadowed the Hon. Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb at the Old Bailey. In 2017 I also had the opportunity to marshall at the Southwark Crown Court and although I did not write up on it, it was equally beneficial. Both of these were arranged through my inn, Gray’s Inn (To whom I’m extremely grateful for the effort in making access to the bar equal for everyone) and I’m sure the other inns may have similar programs. Students can join an inn from their penultimate year, I enjoyed so many benefits from my inn before I was on the bar course – that is really the way to go!
I did personal court visits, mini-pupillages and marshalling throughout my undergraduate degree but there is a deeper appreciation after you have started the BPTC. Judges may discuss the strengths and weaknesses of submissions with you which will really inform your class prep for advocacy modules.
My experience at the Old Bailey
So let’s talk about my 2-day experience. I was allowed to sit on the bench with the judge which would be thrilling as it were but even more so as a Bar student because of the ‘view from the top’. I got to sit on a range of cases including a terrorism case and an application for a production order.
The jury actually came back yesterday with a verdict on a case which I witnessed and I have to say that based on some of the jurors’ facial expressions during court I did not expect a unanimous decision to acquit at all! What a lesson for me as an aspiring barrister – juries are unpredictable! The opportunity to discuss with the judge on what my preliminary thoughts were on counsels’ submissions and how it could have been improved will definitely be of massive assistance for Term II on the BPTC.
This experience provided the absolute delight to dine with the judges at the Old Bailey for 2 days. A current personal development goal is to improve my listening skills so there was some conflict because you’re seated with some of the top judges in the country and you just want to absorb but you also want to be able to engage in intelligent conversation. Dining at Gray’s Inn was excellent preparation having done a few mixed messes, dining evenings with judges and barristers. (tip: for BPTC students, if your background did not include formal dining and even then, mixed messes/dining sessions are highly recommended as part of the 12 required Qualifying Sessions).
The Honourable Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb
A huge part of this experience was meeting Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb. She is the first Asian woman to serve as a High Court judge in the United Kingdom and I was elated to have an opportunity to shadow her for a few days. Prior to that, she was a successful barrister and the areas which she specialised in are my areas of interest (the inn will attempt to match you that way). She was also made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II in 2016. I truly admire anyone from an underrepresented group who has been able to achieve success in their career at the bar.
Fast forward to Thursday morning and the clerk has ushered me into the room where I wait and contemplate how I should address the judge (tip: just ask, always ask), she breezes in and says “hi I’m Bobbie”! This set the tone for the rest of the time with her. I must stress that it can be tempting to be too friendly when a judge has taken that approach but fight the urge and remain professional at all times.
It was admirable to witness her command of the courtroom, her input and questions of clarity where necessary and the generosity to excuse the jury to correct counsel on a point of law to avoid him being reduced before the jury.
However, in her own words, she does not like attention and seeks to honour God in her work and ultimately to honour others. The ability to work without prejudice is evident in some of the work which she did as a barrister including the prosecution of retired Church of England Bishop, Peter Ball, for sexual abuse even if she is a Christian.
There is no doubt that she is proud and does not reduce her accomplishments but also has a sense of humour. When asked how it feels to be referred to as the first Asian female HC judge she joked that if you look hard enough, there’s always that small box you can fit yourself into.
- always send a thank you note to the judge (I send an email)
- it goes without saying but be courteous to everyone including the judge’s clerk, the security guards
- if you are a perfectionist (or a recovering one like me) you will start listing off all things you did wrong or could have done better; was I too chatty? did I listen when I needed to? Honestly CHILL! you’re always way worse in your head than you actually were and every experience is meant to teach and assist development.
- remember what is confidential and what can be shared especially if you want to do a write up such as this one.
Thank you to the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, the Hon. Mrs. Justice Cheema-Grubb and her wonderful clerk.
Have you done marshalling before? How was it? Share in the comments.