I stare at my mirrored image on the laptop screen; black blazer clad, wild hair tucked into a neat bun and almost shaking with nerves. Sat in the waiting room for the team's hearing at a magistrate’s court, I ponder about what exactly the barrister wants me to make notes of, eventually concluding to make notes on everything. It is a little strange to be doing work experience through a screen, but with our world diving into the digital it seems apt. Could an online system of hearings, trials and meetings replace commuting barristers, daunting courts and conference rooms? A part of me thinks this is the perfect solution to many problems faced by the legal system, part of me wishes it not to be.
The screen changes as I enter the virtual court. Becoming very aware of my attendance in this seemingly intimate hearing, I sit with my pen poised and back straight.
“May I please ask who Miss Singh is?”
I reach to unmute myself when my barrister mentor lets the clerk know that I am a mini pupil. All the attendees smile with an air of friendly welcome and something within me glows. As the hearing progresses, I make copious but careful notes while listening with interest. The butterflies still bounce around my stomach with the worry of perhaps not having the acumen or the strength to do this work, but they are quickly quietened by my ambition. Each lawyer puts forward their case but, as the judge repeatedly says, custody discussions are about making the child safe, secure, and happy. That thought is comforting. There is not a winner or loser. Every decision is taken with the child’s best interests in mind. This spirit is not dulled by having to sit behind a screen instead of a courtroom.
After the hearing, I join a zoom with the client, a solicitor and my barrister mentor. The judge’s decision was in favor of many of the points made by my mentor and seeing the smiling face of the client on that zoom call moved me. A parent wanting more time with their child and finally getting that with the help of a determined legal team. The solicitor and barrister smiled back with expressions of endearment. This. This was why I wanted this career. To be able to advocate intellectually and thoughtfully for the betterment of someone’s life.
A few days earlier I had asked my barrister mentor why she chose this career. She told me because she wanted to use her intelligence to fight for people who needed it. This sentiment does not dim through a laptop camera. So, whether hearings, trials or meetings are online, being a lawyer will always play an imperative role fighting for people’s rights in our society. And I will work my hardest to get that role.