Sian's blog posts tagged with 'criminal advocacy'

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 4



At long last, Horncastle is dead. Ok, in the strictest sense of the term this is untrue. In all likelihood he is probably sitting miserably in his jail cell somewhere far away but, inasfar as my dealings with him in my first piece of assessment, he is dead and buried never to be thought of again... and frankly, I don't think anyone was sorry to see him go. This week started with a whimper but I am confident it will end with a bang. The untimely passing of Mr. Horncastle has freed up a bit of my life that I can now give to luxuries like sleep and alcohol and socialising oh, and my new favourite thing: the criminal advocacy competition! So, from the title of this blog it is perhaps unsurprising that I enjoy a bit of legal theatrics, but the timing of the first training session for Criminal Advocacy came at precisely the right time to convince me that all this Barrister-malarkey is actually worth it. There is nothing more brilliant or thrilling or more likely to make your teeth stick to your lips than attempting to make a legal argument in front of your peers without refering to notes! I can hardly imagine what that will feel like when someone's liberty is at stake. (Insert reference to Tom Cruise cross examining Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men.) Nevertheless, the dream remains strong if still painfully distant. On the plus side, I came home last night to find my train tickets had arrived for my reunion in Nottingham in a few weeks. I can't wait to see all the people who had shared the early years of my degree and then disappeared abroad to learn languages in my final year, it's going to be like going back to the carefree days of second year once more. Then, after the inevitable hangover of a night at Ocean has cleared, I must make myself presentable enough to attend the Bar Society alumni dinner which, trust me, isn't half as fancy as it sounds if they let people like me attend. I'm still struggling to come to terms with the fact that I am old enough to be an alumnus. It's strange when the younger kids get in touch to ask advice about scholarships and mini pupillages and so, I like the GDL lot because, I'm the baby of the group and I can play at being young and inexperienced again. The relentlessness of this course has shown me that, while I always seem to be looking toward the future, I mustn't forget to pay attention to the here and now and that amongst the facebook statuses of babies and marriages (of the people I was at school with) I'm not ready to give up my student life just yet! I'm unashamedly 22 years old and determined to rediscover a bit of balance in my life, starting with clocking off early (for once) and watching some well deserved Doctor Who...

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 7



My head is most definitely not in the game at the moment! For starters, I miscalculated the dates so dramatically this week that I actually forgot to start an essay that is due on Monday. My normal routine would be to have the bloody thing written by now, so this late starting feels distinctly out of character. Add that to the fact that, now I have actually started, I think pretty much every word I am writing is utter piffle! I'm bored reading it back to myself so, heaven help the poor bloke charged with marking it.

   Most of this week has been taken up with something far more unusual... If last week's theme was carving up the country into a new federal order for a public essay (which incidently was considered a sensible idea last night on the BBC news) this week has been all about Billy Shakespeare! Ok, context... After a very stressful blur that was Saturday morning, by the skin of my teeth I crawled into the Finals of the Criminal Advocacy competition. This was a major deal as, when I started out I didn't expect to last past 'boot-camp,' and now I've gotten all the way through the live shows and the numerous evictions and I'm standing at the end, ready to go to real court at Lewes. This feels pretty mental for someone who's been studying law a mere 3 months! Anyway, part of the deal for the last workshop is to perform a monologue, in my case The Quality of Mercy from the Merchant of Venice! As someone who ditched English after GCSE due to its over emphasis on terrible poetry anthologies, I have not read, let alone performed any Shakespeare since I was fifteen. My greatest knowledge of this speech is either an episode of the detective drama Lewis, set around a performance of The Merchant at an Oxford college, or its use by one of the most talented advocates I have ever seen in a closing speech in a rape trial. He ad-libbed like a pro and was one of the most warm and charismatic people I have ever seen in the profession... I am a long way from emanating him! So, not to be deterred in my quest for reaching warmth and charisma akin to my advocate-idol, I enlisted expert help- that's right: thesps! My friend is an actor turned drama teacher and decided to help out given that he considered it infinitely more fun than marking any of his student's work. Apparently the whole 'enlist an actor' thing is pretty common, he's had to assist in humanising doctors when dealing with their patients and so I'm hoping he's been able to do the same with me and juries. I know it's not a popularity contest but, as I have witnessed, likeability helps! Judgement day is Monday, and I sure hope it works because I think everyone in my course reckons I've cracked, as I seem to be muttering this speech under my breath everywhere I go. Maybe I have... but I would like it known, for the record, that I held up under GDL torture conditions longer than most! Haha!

   After around 3 months of knowing one another, the GDL-ers are taking our relationship to the next level and partaking in an actual social, that's right... we're getting a table at Law Ball. Oddly enough, the first we heard about this was actually from Mary in a seminar, not sure if I've ever had a tutor that actively encouraged going out and partying before so, this was new territory. I mean, for people that want to be lawyers, our ability to collectively make a decision is shocking... it took nearly a week to decide that we wanted a table and to purchase tickets. This does not bode too well for our futures! Haha. But, as I see it, it is an excuse to put on a too tight ball gown, a pair of shoes I can hardly walk in and have someone try to tame my hair into submission, and those are always great days!

Confessions of a wannabe QC part 8



I always thought that awards ceremonies were cheesy. You watch the Oscars and, when the winner's announced they always look that perfect balance of elated, deer in a headlight, close to tears but just keeping control of yourself combination that, I felt sure they had an entire class dedicated to in drama school. Actors of the world, I take it all back.

   Thursday saw the end of the internal Criminal Advocacy competition, the real one, in real court in front of people with very large legal brains that make me want to apologise for my own existence and feel cheeky when I describe myself as knowing anything about the law. I am accutely aware that, I do not and that I am half way through all the law I will ever learn. I mean seriously, any bar school would be lucky to have me... right? I digress... So, my first hollywood moment occurred right after I made my first submission. In "A Few Good Men" there is that iconic cross examination with Tom Cruise trying to get Jack Nicholson to break, knowing that he was risking everything putting him on the stand in the first place. In the middle of it, he turns away, picks up a glass of water and drinks it. As he does this, he shakes so violently and then he replaces the glass, turns back around and carries on like a pro. I trust you can see where this is going. Only, with me, sadly the illusion was shattered, I had a witness. Aparently the prosecution bench is too close to the dock to hide any violent hand spasms so, I was slightly busted. This however, was educational as, if I ever do get to prosecute anything non fictitious, I don't really want the defendant to be able to see just how bricking it I really am! Lesson one: poker face and poker hands.

   The second hollywood moment was a bit like being live at the Oscars, granted, no one asked me who I was wearing or  to make a ghastly speech requiring me to thank everyone down to a deceased family pet, but they did announce that I'd won the entire contest. Frankly, I think if I wasn't already sat down, I would have fallen. My hope was, get to Lewes, get to real court and that would be one hell of an achievement, I didn't think winning it was really on the horizon, I just wanted to be sure I didn't quote them the wrong legislation and look like a prize idiot. Having achieved that, I thought I'd done myself justice. But this is just so cool. The prize of a mini-pupillage at a set that are just amazing is out of this world, it's definitely re-affirmed my faith in barrister-hood as, while there is nothing more terrifying, there is also nothing more adrenaline inducing and exciting.

   Unfortunately, nothing that I have previously stated is going to help me answer the daunting question of: "Why do you want to train to be a barrister?" (in under 150 words) that currently plagues the page of my bar school application form and haunts the screen like a spectre. If someone ever does come up with the perfect response for that, they should sell it and retire off the profits. It is barrister gold dust! And at the moment I'm struggling to get hold of something so intangible. How do you explain why you love something? Mostly, it's not rational, I mean why do I relish the idea of spending hours of time in crummy courts in towns you've never heard of for close on no money and encountering some of the most socially despised people you'll ever come across? The reality of it sounds hellish and yet, there is nothing I want to do more. This weekend got me to thinking about it from another perspective. Maybe it's not about judging it objectively, maybe you can only achieve explaining how much you want something by detailing all the sacrifices you're willing to make to get there?

   The fact of it is, I do want this, more than anything. I know that sounds melo-dramatic and X Factor-ish but it's as sincere as I can convey via blog. But, it does come at a cost and this week, I think it may have cost me a friendship. I'm not saying that my striving for the bar is the only reason why things have gone wrong, but it's been brought to my attention from comments made by some of my childhood friends that I don't quite fit in in my home town, even less that I used to. If I use certain words in conversation I am accused of thinking myself more intelligent than they are, it's not true, but three years at university and being passionate about things will have an effect on your vocabulary I guess. I am also vilified for having new friends or a hectic schedule, this translates to my "not talking" to them. The fact that they don't contact me is apparently irrelevant. Perhaps they do see me on a different path to them, but I was unaware that that meant there was no room in my life for them. Evidently I was wrong. See, when it comes to life at the bar, and the desperate struggle to get there, everyone warns you about the statistics of employment and the expense of education and the fierce competition. No one tells you about the emotional side, the people who you don't see enough of, or who feel that they can't relate to you any more. No one tells you about what to do with the friends you have that want to settle at home and bear their 2.4 children before they're 25, that think that you've grown above yourself for not wanting that same life, or for using big words in conversation.

   I was given to believe we had a system of innocent until proven guilty, but it looks like with many of the people I know I've been condemned and tried in absence and so may of them are willing to believe the worst of me, I'm beginning to wonder if I ever knew them at all? Or, am I the one that's changed? Are they right? Is it necessarily the bad thing they claim, or just an inevitable fact of life? At the moment I'm not sure. But, I'm hoping I can find my 150 words, secure a place at a bar school and move out, away from this town where the fit is a bit hit and miss. I miss Nottingham today...