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Yang ’15 Enjoyed Learning Barristers’ Role

Hongli Yang ’15 – The British legal system truly is an interesting one. After visiting the Inns of Court, we went to visit the Littleton Chambers and the British Library. In the UK, Barristers and solicitors, two important parts of the legal profession, practice in very different ways. I believe my peers have demonstrated enough on the differences between a solicitor and a barrister in previous blogs. But it was really invaluable experience to go to a real chamber and talk to a great barrister.

Littleton is a leading set of barrister’s chamber, which practices on very broad legal areas, such as commercial, employment, injunctions, disciplinary and regulatory, sports, mediation and arbitration. In fact, Littleton is so great at those areas that members of the chamber appear against each other. Chris, a successful junior employment barrister, and Jason, one of the clerks in Littleton, shared with us their own experiences. Pupillage, a process to become a barrister in the UK, is a training contract. It includes a six-month shadowing, and another six-month practical legal services. Chris took his pupillage with some other barrister’s chamber before joining Littleton, and has enjoyed a great legal career so far. He told us that barristers, in addition to the privilege of appearing on court, are also experts in specific areas, and can help drafting the litigation. Therefore, instead of only doing arguments in courtrooms, barristers do participate a lot in the client’s cases. Due to the independent nature of barristers (barristers in the UK must work as independent , it is hard for women to pursue a career as barristers, and Oxbridge graduates dominate the barrister occupation.

On the other hand, Jason, a clerk working in Littleton, showed us the interesting relationships between clerks and barristers in a chamber. Clerks advise clients (mostly solicitors) to get an experienced and affordable barrister. Barristers specialize in different areas and some may not be available to take a new case by the time a client requests services. Therefore, clerks can decide a barrister’s “business”. But also, clerks are paid through a fund that draws a percentage of the barristers’ salaries, and some clerks are even some barristers’ personal assistants. Thus, the relationship between a clerk and a barrister is a bit complicated. The interaction between clerks and barristers resembles a financial “symbiosis”, I guess.

Leaving from Littleton, we then moved on to the British Library. The British Library is the national research library in the UK. It is also a legal deposit library, meaning that this library automatically receives of a copy of publications in the UK and Ireland (through some government agreement). The British library houses 14 million books, and some manuscripts that date back to 2000 B.C. Originally part of the British Museum, the library was separated in 1973, and moved to a new building in 1997. The current British Library is the largest public building in the UK constructed in the last century. Among the notable collections are the Diamond Sutra, the earliest dated printed book, in 868 A.D. in Tang Dynasty; several early manuscripts of the Bible in kione Greek; The Lindifarne Gospels; and Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook.

But in regard to the purpose of this trip to London, the British Library is a must-go because it houses the Magna Carta. Actually the Library devoted a single purple room for Magna Carta to demonstrate its significance in the history of the UK. Magna Carta is “The Grand Charter” in Latin, and was first created in 1215. Magna Carta was later revised due to the constant changing political background. Although Magna Carta failed to work as a “constitution” then, the concept that the King is also under the supervision of the law is historically crucial. Laws could limit the King’s power. Magna Carta established the mindset of the supremacy of law that later give rise to important legal documents, such as Habeas Corpus, and the Bill of Rights. No wonder, Magna Carta was the first important legal documents we encountered in our class.

From what I have observed and learned in the past few days, the common law system in the UK is constantly improving and very interesting. The UK legal system might be a lot different from the U.S. system. But the underlying principles are similar. History is not an endpoint. It can also be a roadmap to the future. I am extremely thankful for such opportunity to come to London and experience the history and development of the common law myself.

British Library Impresses Mahone ’15

Zach Mahone ’15 – The British Library was one of the newer buildings that we visited on our tour of London, however its roots are dated back to 1760. The British Library is actually a collection of older libraries that were assembled and finally opened in 1998. The Libraries that make up the British Library are the library department of the British Museum, the National Central Library, the National Lending Library for Science and Technology, and a few others. The idea for a central library started to form after WWII when shelving was severely limited due to the destruction of the Blitz. The British government recognized a need for more shelving but it wasn’t until 1971 that the process of creating the British Library began. In 1972 the British Library Act was passed but due to complications with a building site completion of the library was pushed back to 1998.

The British Library contains 14 million books and 150 million items stretched out over 180 miles of shelving. As our class entered the library our group of 20 was completely dwarfed by the massive library. Needless to say we did not see all of the library and we instead decided to spend most of our time in just one section. The section that we decided to visit was the more “classical” section of the library. This section was especially relevant to our Common Law class because it housed the Magna Carta. While the Magna Carta section was amazing, I was most affected by things like the first English copy of the bible and edited copies of sheet music by composers like Bach. It was interesting to see all the scribbles and cross outs of Bach’s original sheet music and the color and gilding on the early bibles were great. With all these great books on display it was a bit of disappointment that I couldn’t touch the pages and read through them, but for many of these books and articles human contact would be destructive.

The British Library was a great stop on our tour across London and if you are ever in the area I highly recommend stopping in. You could see anything from the first copy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland all the way to the Magna Carta.

Neal ’15 Presents Paper at Roycal Courts

Adam Neal ’15 – Based on our mixed luck with presentations so far, Likai and I still weren’t sure about how our presentation would turn out, even as we passed through security into the Royal Courts of Justice.  We had done as much research as we could about the building itself, its organization and function, but we couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that we would be silenced abruptly like Patrick and Michael were at the Tower of London.

There are few buildings that can truly be called majestic, but the Royal Courts of Justice have more than earned the description.  As soon as you enter the building, it opens up into a great hall, whose floor is littered with mosaic designs, with large columned walls that extend almost twenty meters up, interrupted only by elevated stain-glass windows decorated with many colorful coat-of-arms.  Combined with its high pointed arches and sweeping flying buttresses, the RCJ is a textbook example of a Neo-Gothic style cathedral, an apt comparison given that the architect who was commissioned to build it, Sir George Edmund Street, thought he was designing one at the time.  Buildings like the RCJ are one the best things about London: humility that comes with being in the presence of such famous and venerable institutions, ones which seem to defy the effects of time and history.

The building was opened in 1882 by Queen Victoria, who believed that the different courts across the nation needed to be consolidated into one location (to an extent).  This integration was an important step in the continuation of the merging between common law and equity in England, an important theme to which we have often returned during both class and this trip.  The common law courts merged into the High Court in 1875, while the Chancery/equity courts merged in 1875.

After meeting our tour guide, he took us into court room 7, one of the original and oldest courtrooms in the building.  Even though some of us had already been inside in order to listen to cases, it was still worth noting how small these courtrooms were in comparison to what we’re used to seeing in the States.

After discovering that we had done some research on the RCJ already, our tour guide very graciously allowed me and Likai to present some of our findings on the building, from the desk of the court clerk and stenographer no less.  Despite being neither of those, we managed to surprise the tour guide, accidentally jumping ahead of his planned remarks on several occasions.

The most distinguishing feature of the RCJ as an institution must be its distinct division of labor.  Of the main divisions, first is Chancery, which handles business, trade, and industry disputes.  Second is Queen’s Bench handling large commercial disputes and civil wrongs, and finally Family with divorce, custody, etc.  There is also the Administrative Court, which handles judicial review.  You won’t see any criminal cases being handled at the RCJ unless an already convicted criminal is appealing a decision.  It was also interesting to learn that there are no jury trials at the RCJ, with however the exception of libel and slander cases.

Learning and (more importantly) seeing practically every detail, from who sits where in the courtroom and different official garb to the little quirks in the building’s construction really made the Royal Courts of Justice come alive as a living, working legal organism.  Seeing barristers in action also greatly expounded upon the talks we had earlier in the week, and really placed what we learned in a modern, practice-instead-of-preach light.

Poe ’13: London a Place ‘I Never Want to Leave’

Trevor Poe ’13 – Returning to London for the first time since studying abroad brings back great memories.  However, I did not come to London to relive the past, I came to learn about it.  Today we visited the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey to tour some of the places we learned about in our course over the history of Anglo-American Common Law.  At the palace, commonly referred to as the Houses of Parliament, our group enjoyed a private tour of the building.  On our tour, we saw the House of Commons, House of Lords, and the Queen’s robbing room.

The Neo-Gothic architecture and decoration of the building impressed me with its grandeur.  Westminster Hall, a particular part of the palace, held important significance for the course.  The hall once served as the location for the Court of Chancery, Court of Common Pleas, and the King’s Bench until they got their own buildings on Fleet Street, which we visited earlier in the week.  Seeing such a historically important building helped make important connections about the evolution of Anglo-American law, and its origins in England.

After the conclusion of the tour, our class walked across the street to enjoy the sights of Westminster Abbey.  The Abbey contains the graves of many of Britain’s most important figures, and serves as the site for the coronation of British monarchs.  Following sightseeing in the Abbey, I traveled with two of fraternity brothers to watch a soccer (football) match.  While studying abroad during my junior year, I became an adamant supporter of the Queens Park Rangers football club.  I simply could not pass up the chance to watch a match while visiting London.  Seeing my club win a much-needed victory allowed me to end my trip to London on a high note.  L

London is a place that I never want to leave, but traveling with my class allowed me to make the most of this learning opportunity.

Dettmer ’16 Appeciating Westminister

Andrew Dettmer ’15 – Well, the last day has finally arrived.  With our final day in London we spent our time at Westminster Palace and Westminster Abbey.  Most people have heard of Westminster Abbey because it was the venue of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. At the beginning of the trip our tour guide mentioned America’s fascination with the British Monarchy; and from the amount of Americans at the Abbey that was clearly evident.

The Abbey itself was an amazing artistic master piece and was filled with many of the names that we have spent our semester reading about, and showed the power of the monarchy that at one time ruled this country single handedly. However across the street is Westminster Palace, the original palace of the monarchy it now houses the British Parliament. It was very impressive and informative to see how the traditions of this country play out in their governance. They still vote by counting you as present in either the “aye” or “nay” rooms, which while mildly old fashioned is a system they like. The building itself was very impressive. As I said earlier, it used to be a palace for the monarchy until Henry VIII moved down the street to Whitehall, guess he needed more room for all of his wives.  This building has been here since around the 11th century, and much of the historic part of the building still stands.

During World War II Winston Churchill chose to “let the Commons burn,” his own wing of government, in order to save this treasured national icon. Both of these experiences allowed us to see where the battle over governance happened. In fact until 2009 the House of Lords served as the highest court in England until they created a Supreme Court that looks much like ours.

After our time at Westminster we were free to spend our last afternoon in London as we wished.  Two of my fraternity brothers and I headed off Loftus Road to watch the Queens Park Rangers F.C. take on Sunderland in an exciting Premier League match.  It’s a shame that soccer hasn’t caught on in the U.S. because the match made for quite an exciting afternoon.  QPR pulled out a 3-1 victory in a game that may help them avoid relegation to a lower league. Trevor Poe is a huge fan and sharing the experience and excitement with him was a great experience and introduced to a great side of English culture. Seriously, everyone should go to a good soccer, or football as they say, match and see some of the most passionate and die hard sports fans around.  It made for a great ending to an already awesome week.

As I finish this post, I’m also finishing packing as we’ll be leaving London in just a few hours.  This week has been amazing and I’ve definitely fallen in love with London.  The trip not only allowed us to see and experience what we had studied in the classroom, but I made some great new friends, strengthened old friendships, and has me extremely excited to return to the U.K next fall for study abroad.  While I’m exhausted from everything we’ve managed to cram in our schedule in the past 9 days and I’ll be grateful to return home, I’ll be sad to leave London and these experiences behind.

Wichlinski ’14 Finds More Amazing History

Neil Wichlinski ’14 -  After spending a week with my head tilted back, eyes toward the ceiling of London’s most astonishing structures, I had thought my yearning for sights outside the country were sufficiently satisfied. For this reason, as we approached Westminster Abbey I found myself less excited to enter than I might have been five days earlier.

Somewhat reluctantly, I filed through the gigantic wooden doors, exhaling as I cracked my neck, preparing it for another hour of inversion. But this reluctance soon subsided as my love for history kicked in like a Tylenol with the first sight of the main hall. All the previous depictions I’ve seen and heard did not even scratch the surface of the brilliance of the Abbey. You could feel the events that had taken place there, all the burials, coronations, and controversies that made the Abbey what it is. This might also have been egged on by my superstitious inclinations which were agitated by all the graves I inadvertently walked over. But all the grave dodging made my appreciation for this location grow as I looked down and saw names like Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. I was even more astonished by the thought of the men and women who walked through this Abbey, sat in the coronation throne, and were laid to rest within the many nooks and crannies scattered throughout the Abbey. It was also great to see who was not buried in, but honored by the Abbey like Martin Luther King Jr. and William Shakespeare which brought to light the people valued by English culture. This factor was driven home to me by the irony that Charles Darwin’s body could be found in a church.

Overall, this was a great location to visit, it’s definitely one of those places you have to visit in your lifetime. I was absolutely amazed by what human beings could create without modern technology. It was also great to see the center of the connection between religion and English politics which really brought to light how valuable the church was to the stability of the government.

Fluffy Sounds in NYC

Josh Lutton ‘14 - Today was a pretty awesome day. Woke up, ate breakfast, and started to go to Christopher St. for our first activity, which was a workshop with Constance Zaytoun. Basically, this workshop starts out the same as the one on Tuesday – we had our introductions and we changed into our workout gear, but then we were given a towel and rag. I was confused. What are we going to be doing?

It was actually very interesting: the workshop was based on a breathing method used by many actors to centralize focus and reduce tension. The first part of the exercise was simply that – an exercise; practicing the technique of stretching, finding our breathing, and vocalizing our breathes into audible sounds – what Constance called “fluffy sounds.” After doing this for about an hour, we focused on using this technique to help us with the Shakespeare monologues we were supposed to memorize for the trip. The purpose was to find different areas of breathing to determine the mood and pace for how we presented the lines. It was actually pretty interesting – something I had never really thought of before while acting. Following that, we went to the East Village for some pizza and then we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was pretty cool. My areas were the Greek and Roman art and the textiles area. And then the night began…

We went to dinner at this fancy restaurant called Gallagher’s, which is this really nice steakhouse. Kids, if you think your idea of a fancy sit-down meal is a table for two at Garfield’s where you can color on the tables with crayons, then you’re in for a surprise. We first have our coats checked at the front door and make our way to this long table in the back where the waiters, plural, were pouring out water into our cups out of nice glass bottles. I had to use the restroom really bad, so I went to the bathroom – there was ice in the urinals, a lot of ice. I later found out that the ice is an old fashioned form of keeping the smell dulled, interesting fact. My dinner consisted of a delicious salad followed by the best steak I have and will ever eat in my life, and chocolate mousse cake sent from the gods. We ate six hours ago, and I’m still full. After the meal we made our way to see The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Studio 54.

The show was phenomenal! It always kept me laughing, the singing was great, and the acting was superb. My favorite part was when the cast interacted with the audience by either going out into the house or acknowledging the fact that this was a play. Afterwards we went on a backstage tour of the set given by one of the actresses in the show. This was a really unique experience for me because as I was passing by the wardrobe room, I mentioned to the actress that I am interested in doing costumes professionally, and she let me walk into the room to talk with the wardrobe for the show. It was absolutely incredible, and such an incredible opportunity that I was blessed with. I am extremely tired, we’ve been walking around all day, so its nice to finally relax after a long day.

Tres Dia en Nueva York

Corey Egler ‘15 - So far on this trip I’ve been the photographer and the social media guy, and now I have the opportunity to reflect on what I have seen, felt and done so far in New York City on this third day.

Today was a big day for me. I felt accomplished as I successfully, for the first time ever, tied my tie all by myself!  A great start to the day.  I then did some social media work and then went on to have a magnificent bagel with cream cheese at Murray’s Bagels in Chelsea, the neighborhood where we are staying.  We spoke with Marvin Denton, the creator of nytheatre.com at the New Ohio Theater, who gave us some insight at the multitude of possibilities that are available in the theater industry in New York City.

My day then became even more exciting.  As we were leaving the theater, I happen to tear a small strip of seam on my pants from the end of my left pocket. But no fear! Junior Josh Lutton carries emergency needle and thread with him at all times, so he performed surgery on my rip. What’s even better is that he did it while on a moving NYC subway!  It was successful and my pants are now better than ever!  Although, we may have received some weird looks from others on the subway, I bet it was not the first time such a thing has happened.

We arrived in Times Square where we split up for a little bit to check out the area and grab lunch.  I went with Senior “Papa Raynor” Mendoza and we checked out some stores and then had lunch in a nice little pub called the “Playwrights Pub” which had great food and pictures of numerous famous New York City playwrights.

As we finished lunch, I waited to get my change back and go use the restroom and “Papa Raynor” decided he would go ahead and check out a shop across the street and then I would meet him there when I was finished.  Well, “Papa Raynor” who has been trying to teach many of us to be “REAL NEW YORKERS”  seemed to have decided to teach me a lesson the hard way and make me fend for myself.  For as I arrived at this shop, which was a small Army surplus store that was owned and operated by a Jewish man who had been running that shop for 30 years, I was unable to locate “Papa Raynor” and was now in a hurry to get to the theater we had to be at very soon.  I attempted to call Papa but he did not pick up, so I decided to hurry to the theater, but then my poor sense of direction and memory kicked in and instead of coming off of 45th street and taking the easy left and going to 46th where the theater was, I instead made it all the way to 41st street where I was unable to find the theater when dear “Papa Raynor” called me and turned me around.  I hurried at a pace almost faster than the typical New Yorker and I did make it to the theater in time for the show!

And boy I am glad I made it on time, because we saw on Broadway Cat On A Hot Tin Roof that starred Scarrlett Johannson and Benjamin Walker (“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter).   And as expected, it was top notch!  During intermission, being the social person that I am, I met an older lady who was an usher at the theater, who was the sweetest thing. Her name was Fran, she was a huge theater admirer and she was retired and wanted to do something she loved and that would keep her busy, and as well to talk to sweet people such as myself.

We then, thanks to the wonderful Jessica Phillips (daughter of our very own Dean Phillips) had the opportunity to go backstage and see how things work, as well as to walk on the stage and see how real everything actually is.  The stage is even raised, and you would not be able to tell that from the audience, but it sure makes viewing so much better.  We even met Ms. Phillips’s (and Tom Hanks’s) personal dresser, Sara, who took us back stage.  Sara’s daughter, Tori, played one of the five children in the play, and she even gave us a tour as well and told us about her busy life of being so young, going to school, and being in a Broadway play.  This girl gets home at midnight every night and is up at 6 a.m.

We enjoyed Dim Sum at the oldest Dim Sum restaurant in NYC, Dim Sum is Chinese food that consists of primarily dumplings.   We enjoyed the busy and crazy shop life of Chinatown, and ended the evening by going to HERE and watching two one-act plays, that were very interesting and took artistic to a new level.

As this trip continues I am continuing to learn, immerse, try new things and meet new people, experiences that not everyone gets although they should do at least once in their lives.   In the words of Robert Frost “I took the road less traveled and that made all the difference in the end”  although the roads in NYC are very often traveled.

Change in Plans Can Be Good

Matt Paul ’13 – Riley and I were all set to make our presentation; we had known for some weeks that we would have to present over the Inns of Court, one of the most historically enduring features of the English legal system. We had done preparation before the trip and the night before; we knew that there were four inns, what each one was called, where they were, what their function was, even the types of people that were likely to join them. Riley was especially ready to present their role within the English legal system as whole, and how the inns provided specially trained advocate barristers with training and a legal community. I had focused more on the history of each of the inns and how that continued to manifest itself today.

We should have known that our grand plans to lead our group would have to be adjusted. We had already had two guided visits in England, both of which had been different than expected. On Sunday we had made the train ride to near the coast of England to visit the battlefield of Hastings. We had a wonderful visit, but ironically, we were provided with a guide who was doing his first tour of the battlefield, while having with us one of the worlds leading historians on the battle (Professor Morillo) and two students (Rob and Jake) who had been researching the issue on their own for the past several weeks. As our guide said, “This will probably be the easiest guided tour that I ever give.”

Subsequently, at Monday morning’s tour of the Tower of London, after being provided with a virtually silent guide at Hastings, Patrick and Michael found themselves silenced by a guiding monopoly that put an end to their tour with a force that befitted the harsh history of the Tower. As soon as they were hitting their stride, telling us about the central tower building that gives the castle its name, a beefeater briskly informed us that guided tours were only allowed to be given by sanctioned tour guides.

So after this history (or might one in the spirit of our law class call it precedent?) Riley and I should have known that a wrinkle might be thrown in the plans of our guiding plans. That wrinkle was named Joanne Lee, the British guide of our tour of “Legal and Illegal London.” While there were initial worries about the potential cheesiness of a tour with this name, these worries were soon put to rest by this small but knowledgable woman who had in fact used to practice English law as a solicitor. Like most of the English we met she was full of jokes, but this in no way compromised her expertise. And, while this knowledge was very interesting, especially combined with her personal experience as a solicitor, Riley and I spent much of the tour mentally or physically checking off information from our list of information. By the end of the tour every one of our points of research had already been covered by that incredible woman! And yet it was impossible to be upset, despite the destruction of our dreams to be tour guides. The tour was beyond fantastic, from the information, to the sites, to the anecdotes. The weather was a bit cold, but beautiful (and rare for London) afternoon sunlight created big shadows with the magnificent, historical buildings that highlighted our tour. By the end we were all ready for a warm room and comfortable chair, but no one would have argued that it hadn’t been a wonderful afternoon led by a fantastic woman who it would be impossible to begrudge for stealing our thunder. As I have heard so many times of the past few days, cheers!

Thanks to the Rogge Fund

Scott - What does the European Council do? How do the nations overcome their language and cultural barriers?

This is what we learned today at the European Council. The Council is not far from our hotel, but we still took the metro. It was a good time, and we were able to sit in the actual rooms where policy decisions are made daily in the European Union. I sat in Italy’s chair, as they are my “country of interest” so far through this course.

The most interesting part of the Council was hearing our presenter talk about the issues in a non-official way. We have had some great presenters so far, but all have been in official positions. This was just a reporter from the Netherlands, who’s favorite memory of working for the Council was when George W. Bush came to speak. His opinions and stances were genuine, and that was neat to experience from a true “European”.

Today we also visited Waterloo. The students had to plan the trip, so that made it fun. But I am writing this blog soaked because apparently we aren’t very good planners! It was raining the whole time, and then it started pouring. We had a five minute walk to the bus stop, and everyone got drenched. It was neat to see the Lion and the battlefield though so it was worth it.

This has been a great trip. I have learned a lot, but not just about the European Union. I have learned a new way of life, experienced another part of the world. For that I am and will be eternally grateful. In the words of Dr. Mikek: “thank you Rogge Fund”!

I am finishing up this blog at a Congo restaurant. It was great food and the people were a treat to meet.

Tune in tomorrow to find about our day at the European Commission!