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Southampton Law School Undergraduate study

Marshalling testimonials

Sophie Cole was marshalling Mrs Justice Roberts (Family Law)

Thanks to the generous award provided by the University of Southampton Law School, I was fortunate enough to spend a week marshalling Mrs Justice Roberts in the Royal Courts of Justice. Not only is Mrs Justice Roberts a family judge in the High Court, but she is also the Family liaison officer for the Western Circuit, and so her diary was always incredibly full! However, throughout my week she always made time for me and would provide me with the case papers and a general overview to any cases that were about to be heard.

Having not yet studied family law, I was worried that I would be at a disadvantage, but I was surprised about how much of an overlap there was with other areas of law, including contract law and equity.

Many of the cases involved financial provision, and how monies were to be distributed following a divorce. I was particularly surprised by the extremely high values that were being distributed, which were often matched by the very expensive hearings (with one case involving four Queens Council!).

In one particular case, following the divorce of the two parties, the issue arose as to what type of security the wife could place on the husband to ensure that she received the money that she was entitled to. The key issue here was that, in the event of the slightest default, she would be able to seize control of the husband's entire multimillion pound business. This case also involved elements of company law, looking at the most sensible way to split the business's earnings, through the use of loan notes and a separate holding company.

Throughout the week I saw a real variety of cases. Having already undertaken two family law mini pupillages, it was really useful to take a bird's eye view over proceedings, and to gain an understanding into the decision making process, and the work that goes on when the barristers leave court. I would like to thank both Mrs Justice Roberts, and her clerk Barry Clark, for being so welcoming and allowing me to spend a week with them. The week was so beneficial, and now, having seen a Southampton Law graduate reach the top of the profession, I am even more motivated to pursue a career at the bar.

Georgia Mitchell was marshalling Sir Nicholas Green (Commercial Law)

With his clerk away, and knowing I had a short window of time to Marshall with him before I began a summer work position abroad, Sir Nicholas himself put in the time to communicate with me and organize our time together. For him to have done so amongst his busy schedules as a Lord Justice of the Court of Appeal and Chair of the Law Commission is a true reflection of his commitment to the Marshalling program and genuine character.

Arriving at the historic Royal Courts of Justice, I was again greeted with a feeling of welcome and true interest as Sir Nicholas himself greeted me in the main hall and showed me up to his chambers. Once settled, we spent the next couple hours discussing his roles as Lord Justice and Chair of the Law Commission, his journey to the bar and onto the bench, and my interest in the law and the bar.

During our talk, I asked Sir Nicholas what he believed was the strongest attribute a young aspiring barrister could have. He replied by saying, the best barristers, newly called to the bar or a veteran, are those that are precise, unambiguous, and direct when presenting an argument, piece of evidence, or making a statement before the court. I was grateful for his own direct and unambiguous answer, though knew immediately, simply from reflecting on the way I posed questions to him just moments ago, that was a crucial skill I needed to hone. Initially self-conscious, I reminded myself that this Marshalling scheme was for precisely what I had just experienced – a first-hand learning opportunity from an expert in the legal field. No better a time to learn how I could improve my presentation and advocacy acumen than while still developing my legal aptitude and skill set, and in the hallowed halls of the Royal Courts of Justice no less.

Following our talk, Sir Nicholas told me about the appeals he would be hearing the next day and allowed me to read the notes detailing the cases. In all three appeals the defendants had brought appeals of their sentences after having been convicted of criminal offences. The first appeal involved three defendants each convicted of conspiracy to transport weapons, the second appeal involved two co-defendants convicted of grievous bodily harm and kidnapping, and the third appeal involved one defendant convicted of violent disorder.

The following day I got to watch the appeals in court 5. The ornate architecture of the courtroom, talented male and female barristers, use of Videolink to allow the defendants to attend the hearing, and targeted questioning from the bench all culminated to make it an exceptionally educational experience, and one I will never forget. During the appeal, Sir Nicholas stressed that the Court of Appeal only had the ability to interfere in the decision making of the trial judge, if that judge had made an error in law. Only one of the six defendants made a strong enough appeal for Sir Nicholas and his co-justices to find an error in sentencing had been made. For all the others, the discretion of the trial judge prevailed and the appeals were dismissed.

One of the most rewarding experiences while Marshalling with Sir Nicholas was that I was able to use knowledge I had just learned in my Criminal Evidence module. The first and second appeals focused heavily on the influence of bad character (antecedent) evidence, and having studied this topic meant I could have deeper and more lucrative conversations with Sir Nicholas.

The experience I had Marshalling with Sir Nicholas is a defining moment of my legal education. I would like to thank Sir Nicholas for his time and wisdom, and the Law School for facilitating and providing me with this immense opportunity.

Caroline Jackson was marshalling Mrs Justice Roberts (Family Law)

It was difficult not to feel privileged at stepping into the beautiful Royal Courts of Justice and knowing that this was where I was spending the next week. I still haven't gotten over the fun of being able to go 'behind the scenes', as it were, to get a better look at a day in the life of a judge.

Both Barry, Mrs Justice Roberts Clark, and the judge herself made me feel incredibly welcome the entire week. Despite being clearly busy, I always felt like I could ask any question without being an imposition. More than that, Mrs Roberts took time to talk through each case we heard, asking my opinion and giving her own (oh, and she has quite the sense of humour as well).

This was the Family Court, so I spent a week watching Financial Dispute Resolution cases - normally fantastically wealthy divorcing couples trying to split their assets between them. The money going around meant that I got to see some top notch advocacy; I learnt so much about drafting a good skeleton, and about what kind of demeanour will keep you in a judge's good books. The final day, I got to sit with Mr Justice Keanan, and see a case involving a father contesting his ex-wife's decision to take their children to Qatar. I feel like I can safely say I saw a real breadth both of family law issues and of aspects of the justice system.

I knew I wanted to be an advocate before; now I'm doubly sure, and feel far better equipped for mini pupillages, scholarships and interviews. While I'd never had a serious interest in Family Law before, it was far more interesting than I expected. In fact, I'm doing a mini at one of the chambers I saw a lot of in that week - something I'm sure I'd never have got without the marshalling scheme.

Boykin Smith was marshalling Sir Nicholas Green (Commercial Law)

It is the late afternoon on September 11, 2019 at the Royal Court of Justice, the Scottish Court has just ruled that Boris Johnson's unprecedented suspension of parliament was unlawfully, and I am in the chambers of the one and only Sir Nicholas Green. One could only imagine the exciting discourse to ensue and this, inter alia, is why marshalling with Sir Nicholas was an absolutely unforgettable experience.

On the first day, I sat in the Administrative Court with Sir Nicholas, Lord Justice Baker and Lord Justice Floyd to hear an application regarding a public housing matter. The case concerned the relocation of a child to "secured accommodation" under s. 25 of the Children's Act 1989. The next day, I accompanied Sir Nicholas and Lord Justice Floyd in the same court for an application to order extension of time regarding a self-represented prisoner's bold and inappropriate submissions on 'freemasonry' rights. On the final day, I was passed onto Lord Justice Davis with Mr Justice Lavender, and Mr Justice Fancourt in the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division). The two-day hearing pertained to multiple convicted offenders under the Sexual Offences Act 1992 and the misdirection of the court regarding jury tampering. I am grateful to Lord Justice Davis for allowing me to shadow him, witness stellar advocacy, and develop my case analytical skills in this regard.

Before the hearings, Sir Nicholas summarized the key facts and legal issues, allowed me to read the court materials and welcomed any commentary. This was a great opportunity to learn about the practical aspects of the profession (i.e. reviewing application notices, supporting statements and written submissions) and going further to develop my case analysis skills via informal talks.

It was invaluable to witness how judges informally discuss their opinions before and after the hearings. It was even more interesting to see how those opinions slightly shifted or remained the same. For instance, due to good advocacy during the first case, the judges were compelled to abandon the majority purposeful interpretation of the legislation and subsequently had to rely on EU law, which required additional research by Sir Nicholas to achieve the desired outcome for the defendant (a young and venerable teenage). Meanwhile, before the second case, Green LJ had already drafted a judgement, which was delivered the same day without any major amendments. It was a straightforward case and, despite being a prisoner, the claimant was ordered to pay a fee for wasting the courts time. These two cases showed me the importance of good advocacy/ representation and how the courts seek to give effect to the overriding objectives of the civil procedural code.

In closed chambers, we also discussed matters pertaining to the Law Commission, namely how it functions to tackle the pragmatic and issue-based demands of our ever-changing society. It was particularly insightful to engage in discussions and review documents on how innovative and AI drive technology such as Bitcoin and automatic cars should be regulated.

In short, this was a very timely experience as I prepared to commence the BPTC/LLM at City, University of London the following week. I really appreciate the time Sir Nicholas took to introduce me to the practical side of the Bar and the various career opportunities within the legal profession. With that said, thank you to Lord Justice Nicholas Green, Ms. Hunte and the Law School for securing this opportunity that I would not otherwise have had the pleasure of experiencing. It was a truly inspiring and eye-opening week. I would encourage all second-year students to apply for this scheme because I believe it will be beneficial to many different students for many different reasons depending on their aspirations.

Bethany Holmes was marshalling Dame Jennifer Roberts

When I walked into the grand building that is the Royal Courts of Justice on my first day, the judge’s clerk, Barry, immediately put me at ease. He showed me around and introduced me to Mrs Justice Roberts.

Mrs Justice Roberts was equally welcoming and immediately asked me about my specific interests so that she could make my experience as valuable and enjoyable as possible. We discussed my planned dissertation topic because it concerns an area of law that she often deals with: the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. Being able to discuss the legal issues on this topic, and to see the safeguards in practice, helped me clarify my dissertation plans.

As it was the summer holidays, the Family Court was inundated with highly emotive child abduction cases concerning children who had been removed from the country, often by a family member who then failed to return them. The applicants were frequently litigants-in-person and had not been able to access legal advice before their court appearance. Mrs Justice Roberts took the time to explain the law and the available options. I also witnessed how important interjurisdiction relationships are in ensuring that the child’s placement is decided in the country where they are habitually resident. In one complex case the international liaison judge, Moylan LJ, was consulted, demonstrating to me how even a highly experienced judge will look to expert peers to get advice when appropriate.

During the week Mrs Justice Roberts was also assigned to the urgent application list. This involved hearing serious, time-sensitive cases that needed urgent judicial consideration. As a result, the week was packed with a variety of different issues, from forced marriage to high-profile divorce proceedings.

Despite her busy schedule, Mrs Justice Roberts made time to explain the background of each case, highlighting the key legal points for me before we went into count. Once an order was made, we would return to chambers and discuss the legal issues that arose. Mrs Justice Roberts dealt with each case with great empathy and respect for all involved. She made sure that everyone understood the implications of her decisions. As a family court judge, she is involved in some of the most sensitive aspects of a person’s life.

I am grateful to Southampton Law School and Mrs Justice Roberts for allowing me this invaluable opportunity that has really ignited a passion for family law issues and ensuring justice. Highlights of my experience included being asked to correct a high-profile judgement that was going out that day, and also when the court accidently mistook me for the judge as I entered to take my seat!

Lillie Sutherland was marshalling Dame Jennifer Roberts (Family Law)

I spent a week marshalling Mrs Justice Roberts in the Royal Courts of Justice thanks to the scheme offered by her and the University of Southampton.

It was my first instance of family law work experience and it was extremely insightful, particularly because it took place during the summer before I would begin studying the family law module at Southampton.

Throughout the week I was fortunate to observe cases and to read papers on a variety of issues, including child, Court of Protection and money-related work. This was invaluable because it allowed me to observe snapshots of the different areas within family law. I also had the opportunity to witness some of the best barristers in family law at work, and to meet different judges.

Later in the week, Mrs Justice Roberts kindly gave me a tour of chambers, Middle Temple and Inner Temple. It was amazing to get a real insight into the life of a barrister. To see where they work was very exciting!

I can honestly say it was the best piece of experience I have had, and it provided me with an insight into family law that I could not have obtained in any other way.

Zahra Dalal was marshalling Sir Nicholas Green (Commercial Law)

Marshalling Sir Nicholas Green gave me both an insightful experience into the Commercial Bar and also an exclusive look at what occurs ‘behind the scenes’ of the court rooms of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Sir Nicholas was incredibly friendly and accommodating. Other judges that I was introduced to were happy to answer questions and discuss career options.

I felt privileged to sit with Sir Nicholas in his final case in the High Court before beginning his new posts in the Court of Appeal and as Chair of the Law Commission. This was also a case in which one of his own previous judgments, spanning some 386 pages, was the leading authority – meaning that I was discussing that judgment with a real expert in the field!

During the three-day hearing I watched four very talented QCs, each with different presentational styles. It was particularly interesting to see who was thought the most persuasive by Sir Nicholas and his fellow judge Lord Justice Gross. It was also one of the hottest weeks in the year. The barristers still needed wear wigs and gowns, and court clerks would rush in with jugs of water and fans to keep us all cool!

Mr Justice Green very kindly arranged for my last day to be spent in the Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) where I met its President, Mr Justice Lane. Having gone from a three-day hearing on one case, to a period where I observed six or seven different cases in quick succession, really illustrated how legal practice differs. The advocacy was also fascinating to contrast. I saw some litigants in person in the Upper Tribunal. As Judge Gillian Jackson explained, the judge must deal with the case in such a way as to ensure that everything is properly understood by the claimants - often non-lawyers arguing against government-instructed barristers.

I would like to thank both Sir Nicholas and the Law School for giving me this opportunity. It was one of the best legal placements I have had and allowed me to see the law in practice through a completely different lens. My marshalling experience is not only a fantastic addition to my CV but has also provided me with valuable talking points that can set me apart from other applicants at pupillage interviews. I would encourage any second-year student who has an interest in the Bar to apply to the scheme.

Emily Jermin was marshalling Sir Nicholas Green

During the Summer of 2018, after demonstrating at interview my ambitions to become a barrister, I was successful in gaining one of the Law School’s prestigious Marshalling Schemes with the Honourable Mr Justice Green of the High Court, Queen’s Bench Division at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

The focal point of the week was a judicial review case concerning the free movement of services amongst EU member states. The case concerned the government acting as market regulator and thereby impeding the free movement of services of gambling companies taking bets for the national lottery; the question was whether it was in the public interest to preserve the donations those companies would also be making to good causes. I was astounded by the quality of advocacy that I witnessed. Each QC crafted difficult legal points in such a persuasive way that I began to think that the points being made were almost obvious. It really became a tennis rally as to which argument was the more persuasive. This experience confirmed my interest in public law and has prompted me to think about specialising in it or a related field.

I also had an opportunity to watch some criminal trials. Although I had observed criminal cases in the past, these proved to be especially contentious. One case involved dangerous driving by a learner driver causing severe injury, and another concerned the legality of detaining a vulnerable person under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (prohibiting torture and inhuman and degrading treatment). The delicacy of the issues for the parties in these cases was handled with outstanding care by the advocates and the judges.

On the final day of the scheme, Mr Justice Green kindly took me to the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal because I had expressed interest in it. I was particularly grateful for this experience since it is an area that many budding lawyers are interested in but rarely see first-hand.

I wish to thank Mr Justice Green for being very welcoming, and for answering with enthusiasm any questions that I had about the cases, the law or the legal profession in general. I also wish to congratulate him on his appointment as Lord Justice of Appeal and his new position as Chair of the Law Commission. His exemplary career has further motivated me to pursue a career at the Bar of England and Wales. Thanks must also go to the Law School and its staff, without whom I would not have had this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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