“Ambition is the key to success, persistence is the car you arrive in” – Bill Bradley.
It feels like forever since I last blogged (I apologise), but here I am, back, back again writing about what I have recently been up to. This summer has flown by, and its only sixteen weeks until Christmas, SIXTEEN! I cannot believe it. So, what have I been doing over the last couple of weeks that has kept me so busy?
I have been on work experience at VHS Fletchers Solicitors, which has been great! Whether you are aware or not, getting legal work experience is often difficult to obtain and I have realised that many firms will not even respond to emails querying such thing. Therefore, to be offered two weeks experience was totally fabulous.
VHS Fletchers are an East Midlands based law firm who specialise in criminal defence. (Head over to their website should you wish to read more).
I spent the first week of my experience at the Nottingham office and the second week based at Derby, which I found advantageous because I could go to the courts in both cities and network with plenty of solicitors, barristers and advocates.
Week 1: Nottingham (14th – 18th August)
Monday: At 8 am I travelled into Nottingham via train which took 30 minutes, I chose to travel via train to avoid extortionate car park fees and long bus journeys. When I arrived at VHS Fletchers Solicitors at Nottingham I waited in the upstairs office for the staff to arrive. Once everyone had arrived, I was told I would be going to Nottingham Crown Court to shadow a member of staff who was working on a grievously bodily harm (GBH) case. I was quickly briefed on the case before taking a walk down to the court. Read more about the trial here in the Nottingham Post. Upon entering the court, I greeted the barrister for the defence before taking a seat in the public gallery amongst many of the victims and the defendants family members and friends. The trial began once the jury was sworn, and the prosecution began to build his case against the accused. The case went on all day and was due to finish by the end of Wednesday.
Tuesday: The next morning I went down to Nottingham Crown Court again to follow the trial. Key evidence was presented to the court, including the alleged weapon. Numerous witnesses were called to give their evidence on oath, and the day ended with the prosecution giving his closing speech. This gave the jury a chance to go home and consider everything they had heard before returning in the morning to decide on a verdict based on the evidence. On returning to the office, I discussed the case with staff at VHS and looked through the paperwork including the jury bundle.
Wednesday: On Wednesday I returned to Nottingham Crown Court to hear the defence barristers closing speech. Personally, I think the barrister did an amazing job of defending the case, she was very convincing which left the jury in much doubt (even if I am biased). It was clear that she had a lot of experience which was reflected in her overall contribution to the proceedings. The case was adjourned until after lunch to give the jury time to think. During my lunch hour, I went to Heavenly Desserts with another work experience student (Ifra). I had not been to Heavenly Desserts before so I was very impressed with the quality of the puddings, and I will certainly be returning. If you have not tried it, I would totally recommend!
After lunch, I returned to the Court and waited for the jury. The jury eventually found the defendant guilty. It was then the defence barrister’s responsibility to mitigate the sentencing, which resulted in 13 years’ imprisonment. Read more about the sentencing which was reported in the news here.
Thursday: When I got to the office on Thursday morning, a different member of staff from VHS took me down to Nottingham Magistrates Court to shadow her during a bail application. I was fortunate enough to be allowed to sit amongst the other lawyers as opposed to the public gallery. I spent the rest of the day in and out of court rooms in the Magistrates.
Friday: On the final day, the courts were very quiet so there was not much to spectate. I spent half the day at Nottingham Crown Court and the other half at the Magistrates Court spectating from the public gallery. Additionally, I sat in on a meeting between a client and his solicitor and barrister in preparation for his appearance before the Crown Court.
Overall my week in Nottingham was very interesting, I spent most of my time in and out of Nottingham Crown Court which I had done three years ago, during my time at college studying law. However, this time was more personal as I was shadowing the defence solicitors in all proceedings.
Week 2: Derby (29th August – 1st September)
Monday: The 28th of August was a bank holiday Monday, so I did not go into Derby nonetheless, I spent the afternoon ironing my outfits and preparing for a busy week ahead.
Tuesday: I chose to travel via bus into derby this week, arriving at the office for 8:30 am. On arrival, I was greeted by the staff and given a tour around the building and facilities. I sat in the Crown Court department where I was briefed on the case I would be following for the week. Shortly after I walked down to Derby Crown Court with a Crown Court Litigator from VHS to meet the client (before his trial was due to begin). I then sat in on the meeting with the accused advising on likely court proceedings alongside the litigator and barrister who were representing him. The meeting was short, and the case was called to start after twenty minutes. I sat alongside the litigator on the bench behind the barrister for the case. In court, the jury was sworn and the prosecution opened their case. The case was then adjourned to the following morning to allow the defence barrister time to view video footage from the CPS which he was not aware of yet. It was then lunch time, so I went to subway for a quick sandwich before returning to the office. I spent the afternoon reading over the file of the case, looking through interviews and statements of all witnesses.
Wednesday: On Wednesday morning, I returned to Derby Crown Court for the trial. On arrival, I went down to the robing room where I greeted barristers and solicitors who were gathered in there. The case was called, however shortly after was adjourned for a later date in the year, due to a failure of the CPS to disclose significant information relevant to the defendant’s case. After this, I moved to another court room for a separate case VHS was representing, after court proceedings I then got to go down to the cells to discuss with the client. This was the first time I had been down to the cells at court because on previous occasions I was told that work experience students were unable to. After a lunch break, I spent the afternoon carrying files from the bottom floor of the office to the third floor where I then sorted them from A-Z before they would be put into archives.
Thursday: When I got to the office on Thursday morning I was greeted by a solicitor advocate who had a case in the Crown Court that day. I walked down to Court with the solicitor whilst having a conversation about his career and advice in obtaining a legal position. When we arrived at court, we went down to the robing room to drop our bags off before going to the court room. After a lunch break, another member of staff from VHS took me down to the Magistrates Court where I spectated the proceedings for unpaid fines.
Friday: On my final day in Derby, I was taken to the Crown Court by another member of staff who was also a solicitor advocate. I spectated the sentencing for an armed robbery, which was reported in the Nottingham post here. Following this, I then watched the sentencing for an actual bodily harm (ABH) charge. After court, Siobhan McGuiness (Crown Court Litigator) treated me and another work experience student (Chloe) to lunch on our last day, which was lovely.
In the afternoon, everyone at the office was busy on their laptops doing paperwork etc. Chloe and I went back to the Crown Court to spectate the sentencing of a fraud case which you can read about in the Derbyshire Times here or by the Derbyshire Constabulary here.
By the end of the week, barristers and clerks had noticed my presence and came over to discuss with me where I am with my studies. One barrister joked and said I should have taken the bar to become a barrister instead of training to be a solicitor.
The experience over the two weeks was invaluable, upon reflection, I can honestly say I really enjoyed my time with VHS. The staff made me feel incredibly welcome, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity I was given. This experience has encouraged me to pursue my dreams and ambitions into a career I always hoped of…which brings me to my next point:
Those of you who have been following my blog will remember me saying that I was going to postpone my Legal Practice Course (LPC) however, after much thought and deliberation I have changed my mind. I will be starting my LPC with masters at Nottingham Law School on the Monday 11th September 2017. Which is only just over a week away, how crazy! I am studying the course full time which is three days a week. I am excited to go back to University to continue my education as I had initially planned to, it is going to be difficult financially because the postgraduate student finance loan does not cover the tuition fees and therefore, I am hoping to find a part time position to fit around my studies.
I am sure you will hear all about it in my future posts…but until then I am up to my eyeballs with pre-reading for my LPC and training contract applications.
Until next time,