It was an absolute pleasure for me, Paula Walsh to have had such a unique opportunity to delve into the legal system in Ireland and I believe this programme has greatly influenced my view on what path I would like to take later in life. I feel honoured to have been the first student from my school to participate in this programme and I encourage every student who has an interest in law to put their names forward in the years to come.
The programme was based at The Bar of Ireland’s offices, Distillery Building. We were first split into four groups. Then each group was divided further into groups of five and given a relevant barrister who we shadowed until lunch time each day. During the hours of shadowing, we witnessed our barrister argue in many different areas of practice including: crime/fraud, commercial and contract, family, landlord and tenant/housing, personal injury and technology, media and telecommunications. I found it stimulating to see our barrister resolve disputes and deliver a closing speech to a courtroom. It was also fulfilling to see cases settled outside of the courtroom, whether in arbitration or mediation. This showed how important it is to have good, general knowledge, belief in your arguments and confidence as a barrister. No two days are the same for a barrister.
Meeting a criminal court judge was an educational experience. He told us lots of facts about the criminal courts and about law itself. It was interesting to hear what he loved so much about his profession as a judge, and the responsibilities he has to the court.
We also got to sit in on a real murder trial and it was interesting to hear both the defendant’s and prosecution’s versions of the murder that took place.
RTÉ’s legal affairs correspondent Orla O’Donnell also spoke with us. She explained her responsibility of providing news bulletins to inform the public of important court cases. Sometimes, the outcome of a court case can reform Ireland’s constitution, that is what makes Orla’s job so important. Orla also gave us the opportunity to broadcast a mock news bulletin, she even brought along her microphone and a camera man!
On the third day of the programme, we had a talk from a court Garda. He told us about the running of the prison cells and why there is such high security in the Criminal Courts of Justice, which I found to be very interesting.
The following day consisted of a tour of the Four Courts and the King’s Inns. This was the highlight of the week for me. It is not often that the doors of The Honourable Society of the King’s Inns are open to the public. Sean Alyward the under treasurer, gave us a very informative tour, while we all cloaked up in barristers’ robes. It was wonderful to learn about how Ireland’s legal system was formed and the traditions, dating back to medieval times that are still kept today. Sitting at one of the tables, which had been decked for an event that evening in the dining hall, made the experience feel extra special.
On the final day, we put the mock trials, which we had prepared for during the week, into action in Green Street court house. I found it exhilarating to sit in a witness box, while real barristers cross-examined me, however I hope I am not in the same position for real in the future! It was also exciting to be part of a jury and to have the rare opportunity to decide a person’s legal fate. Being involved in a mock trial was a very fun and enjoyable way of putting our knowledge from the previous days into perspective. I also had the honour of being presented my Certificate of Participation by Chief Justice Susan Denham.
In conclusion, I found this programme to be incomparable and a once in a life time experience. It gave me the opportunity to experience the reality of life as a barrister. It’s impressive organisation meant that each day was both relaxed and educational.