Through the immoral but unfortunately indispensable power of Who You Know* I scored some work experience at a Bristol firm specialising in family and education law, and thus spent the last fortnight (well, there was that Easter thing in the middle of it) working there. Family law is a field I know nothing about – which was precisely why I wanted to learn more about it – and it’s… definitely interesting.
It was, of course, largely office work – filing, compiling, copying, various other activities surrounding the vast mass of complicated paperwork (even in this digital age, lawyers are some of the fiercest and most uncompromising enemies of trees), calling up courts and clients asking them for orders and reminding them to show up, but the most interesting part was actually getting to go to court. The rapid-fire two-hearings-an-hour style of it was very different from the monolithic, massively detailed Walter Lilly case that was my only real civil court experience,** and even aside from getting to hear solicitor war stories when they gather around the administration desk and kvetch about the chaos of it all,*** it’s a wonderfully interesting and very involving business. I can see how rewarding it could be to do that kind of incredibly personal work, but often very hard too: representing people who are clearly in the wrong, representing people who are clearly in the right – and with a system that can tell, one which is both principled and brutally pragmatic. From what I saw, though, the great creaking inhuman legal machinery actually works fairly well. The priority in all the family contact/custody cases was explicitly getting what was best for the children; and the various gender biases that internet scuttlebutt claims certainly weren’t evident in the cases I witnessed. I have no idea exactly how fucked everything is going to be with the abolition of government legal aid (which appropriately took place on April 1st), but it’s not going to be an improvement.
In other cheerful legal news, I earned a place on a vacation scheme this summer! It’s with one of my favoured Bristol firms, a large and prestigious place whose name carries weight with competitors; whether or not it leads to the elusive training contract (and chances are, I think, fairly good – from what I can gather from assorted feedback I’m variable at interviews but shine in the actual workplace), it’s a fantastic feather in the cap for further applications. Fingers, as always, crossed.
GDL substantive teaching is done. Finished. We’ve got a couple of revision sessions to come, then a month of crunching cases before the exams. The semester has blown past, but I was admittedly expecting it to. And now it’s just a little further.
* The relevant contact being my brother’s girlfriend’s friend’s mum. I once got free computer games from my cousin’s wife’s best friend’s brother, so this isn’t even an unusual number of degrees of separation.
** Though that was actually very dramatic in places! http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/TCC/2012/1773.html – search for “pulborough” in the text for transcripts of exactly what a horrible man the defendant was.
*** Me to the usher organising the various cases and courts: “So, has there ever been a day where it’s all gone according to schedule and you’ve not had to juggle things around?” “Nope.”