In a guest blog for the Bar Council, barrister Eve Robinson participating in the mock trials sparked her journey to a career at the Bar.
In 2009, I first stepped foot into Ipswich Magistrates’ Court for the local heats of the Citizenship Foundation (as it then was) Mock Trial Competition, which my secondary school and several other local schools were there to take part in.
I was 13 years old, wearing a ‘suit’ I had cobbled together, courtesy of my school skirt and the finest blue and white striped Primark shirt, all ready to assume my role of Defence Advocate 1. Between us, we had nearly all those that I now see in the Courtroom covered, from the advocates, and witnesses to the Magistrates and Court reporters. Having spent weeks preparing my Examination in Chief, Cross Examination and a Closing Speech to ensure my (entirely fictitious) client wasn’t convicted of carrying a bladed article, that day was the day to put it all to the test … needless to say, I was bricking it!
Fast forward some 10 years, I stepped into Ipswich Magistrates’ Court once more, only this time, it was for real – as an actual Barrister, with an actual case, an actual client, and you’ll be pleased to hear, an actual suit! And to think I thought I was nervous before!
Participating in the Mock Trial Competition was my first experience of life at the Bar and introduced me to a world that I otherwise probably wouldn’t have been … the escapades of Martha Costello in Silk, which followed a couple of years later, aside! I like to think I would have always ended up pursuing a career as a Barrister, however, I have no doubt that the invitation from my Headteacher to take part in this competition gave me a head start and to her, I will always be grateful.
After the Magistrates’ competition in Year 9, I went on to participate in the Bar Mock Trial (Crown Court) Competition whilst in Year 12 and during my two years of Sixth Form, mentored the Year 9 students with their competitions too. I well and truly caught the Barrister bug, which also led me to the public gallery of the Old Bailey with my Dad one cold December day in 2011, to watch the trial of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence. For me, this competition very much planted the seed that being on my feet, in Court, was what I was going to work hard from then on in to achieve.
Even now, having been called to the Bar five years ago, there are still times where it dawns on me just how far removed the Bar can feel; it only takes turning off of Chancery Lane into Gray’s Inn to be reminded of the feeling that it, and I, are worlds apart from the bustling street behind me, but also from the very small village and State education that I come from.
For me, the Mock Trial Competitions made this world, which seemed unreachable, move much closer. It allowed me to peer into a career which was exciting, intellectually challenging and which, on a day-to-day basis, I now know makes a significant difference for others. It also gave me the opportunity to develop skills that are fundamental to my career at the Bar; it was my first chance to analyse information in this context, to work out a case theory, to have a go at persuading others through oral advocacy and to realise, that I really, really enjoyed doing it.
Transparency is something that at the Family Bar we are now striving to achieve more of and, whilst in a different context, I think transparency is exactly what the Mock Trial competitions offer.
In recent years, a great deal has happened at the Bar which I believe ought to be making us all look inwards, to really consider the kind of Bar that we would want to see, the kind of Bar that we want to be a part of, and doing what we can to achieve it. These competitions afford young people the chance to experience some of the best parts of our profession, but they also afford us the chance to become more accessible and ultimately the chance to be more diverse. In my mind, this should only be encouraged and I truly hope these chances, for us all, can continue.
Find out more about the Young Citizens Mock Trial Competition.
Eve Robinson is a Barrister at 36 Family, specialising in private and public children work.