Citizenship Foundation’s Bar Mock Trial final sees Northern Ireland’s Aquinas Grammar School win national junior advocacy crown, as assembled lawyers warn wannabes of plight of criminal Bar and encourage them to explore other areas.
The final of the 2014 Bar National Mock Trial Competition took place over the weekend. It saw teams of sixth formers from schools around the country gather at Cardiff Crown Court for a final round of battles — with the participants having made it through regional heats that have been running since last year. In a fiercely contested grand final, Northern Ireland’s Aquinas Grammar School bagged the crown ahead of Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar School.
As part of the day, a host of lawyers gathered in the library of Cardiff Crown Court to participate in a Q&A with some of the kids involved. We have pulled out their most eye-catching comments below.
Q&A panel, from left to right: Lowri Wynn Morgan, barrister at Thirty Park Place; Eluned Parrot, Assembly Member for South Wales Central; Janet McDonald, barrister at 9 Park Place; Oliver Williams, social mobility policy officer at the Bar Council; Lynne Squires, Chartered Institute of Legal Executives regional development officer; Angela Devereux, director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Cardiff Law School; and Helen Marriott, senior associate at Eversheds.
Lowri Wynn Morgan, barrister at Thirty Park Place: Declining social mobility fears
“I went to a state school, and I didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge. I went to Aberystwyth University. But the situation as it stands now is that people who can’t afford to practise won’t do this job. But you will have your wealthy Oxford and Cambridge graduates who come from affluent backgrounds and have mummy and daddy who can pay for them doing the job. It’s not the case at the moment, but that’s the way it’s going.”
Eluned Parrot, assembly member for South Wales Central: Law is a great general degree
“If law itself is a subject that fascinates you, but you are not sure at this point what you want to do then a law degree can lead to lots of related careers. For example, lots of politicians are lawyers, which is useful when you write laws for a living. Employers across the spectrum respect law degrees because they know law is a tough discipline that helps you to develop analytical skills.”
Janet McDonald, barrister at 9 Park Place: Fused profession on the way
“You have to keep an eye on politics: the government’s aim is for a fused profession. In ten years time we won’t be talking about barrister or solicitor, we’ll be talking about lawyer. However, there will always be a need, in criminal terms, for defence and prosecution. If you want an interesting life, do crime. If you want to make money, do something else.”
Oliver Williams, social mobility policy officer at the Bar Council: Confidence is key
“One difference I see between students who went to state school and private school is that that fee-paying students are very able to talk about the skills they have gained but the experience they have had isn’t necessarily better.”
Lynne Squires, Chartered Legal Executives’ regional development officer for Wales and South West England: Explore all the options
“Regardless of costs or family background, there is a route available to qualify. Be prepared to look around and investigate your options. At each point there are possibilities: you can qualify as a solicitor and a barrister after becoming a chartered legal executive. The thing I come across most among students is that they haven’t explored every alternative. Know all of your options and have back up plans.”
Angela Devereux, director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Cardiff Law School: different types of people become different types of lawyers, but there are exceptions
“If you prefer to be primarily a team player, you are much more likely to gravitate to be a solicitor. If you like risk-taking and if you like to be out on a limb and on the front line — death or glory — you are much more likely to be a barrister. But there are plenty of people who are strong minded risk-takers who become solicitors. And indeed there are more thoughtful people who do not seek glory who go to the Bar.”
Helen Marriott, senior associate at Eversheds: consider becoming a solicitor-advocate
“I’m a solicitor advocate, I stand up in court, I’ve been to the Court of Appeal. You can be a solicitor-advocate and practise in almost the same way as a barrister. Yes, finances are very important, yes grades are important. But never ever think having bad grades, or if your finances are tight, that a career in law is blocked for you. Because it absolutely isn’t. It’s all about your awareness of all the different options. As long as you are committed and determined then even if you hit a bump in the road, or start to walk down the wrong path, that absolutely is not a block to going into the profession if that is what you want.”