Schools Training

Law competition opens school students’ eyes to a future in law

28 MAR 2014

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For school students who want to pursue a career in law, this year’s Bar Mock Trial Competition gave them the opportunity to take on the roles ofbarristers and witnesses in front of real judges. Teams from around the country met at Cardiff Crown Court where they were given cases to study and then battle out in the court rooms.

As you would expect, the gaggle of 15-18 year olds who made it through to this year’s final, run by the Citizenship Foundation, were thrilled to operate in such an arena.

A collection of senior figures from the upper echelons of the justice system gave up their Saturday to preside over the cases, giving the students valuable insight.

Suitably inspired, many of these talented kids – who, unlike many at the Bar, are all state school-educated – say they now want to become lawyers, particularly of the criminal barrister variety.

The problem they face is that the publicly-funded branch of the legal profession is in crisis, with a succession of legal aid cuts leaving its junior members to survive on rates of pay that are sometimes even lower than the minimum wage. Students need to think about alternative careers in law.

One of the benefits of participating in competitions like the Bar Mock Trial, or studying citizenship as part of the national curriculum, is that students are encouraged to consider these sort of topical issues at an earlier stage than most, and are then able to use that knowledge to make more informed choices.

“Most of the students are interested in going into law, with a significant number seriously considering it. Although some fancy the criminal Bar, they tend to have very general ideas of the law. They are now at a point when they can begin to consider different avenues,” says Ryan McAuley, whose group at Aquinas grammar school in Belfast won Saturday’s competition, seeing off Tunbridge Wells girls’ grammar school in the final.

Competitions like this give would-be lawyers a more realistic view of the profession. They will hopefully grasp that while there are some court scholarships available to help them get to the criminal bar, practising there will be hard. Some will decide it’s worth it, others will explore different options that still contain the essence of what they enjoy about law.

This was the mental journey made by Eversheds solicitor-advocate Helen Marriott – who spoke at a filmed Q&A for students at Saturday’s final . Marriott initially wanted to practice criminal law but this interest eventually gave way to a desire to lead a more secure life practising civil law within in a large law firm.

She explains that it is a move she has never regretted:

“A lot of my work involves litigation involving the recovery of assets, from which I get a real buzz. People feel passionately about laying claim to what is rightly theirs, and as a lawyer it is a very stimulating area in which to practise,” she says.

“You can be a solicitor-advocate and practise in almost the same way as a barrister.”

 

Read full article: The Guardian