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See You in Court: Why Court Visits are a must for Law Students


Being in law school sometimes leaves you feeling a bit removed from what you are actually working towards. Maybe that’s why we love watching legal TV shows like Suits. Although it’s awesome to watch Harvey Specter and Mike Ross do their thing, we often forget that there are plenty of real life cases that we can sit in on at court. Here’s why you should add a few court visits to your diary…

The Benefits

I started attending court on a regular basis when I signed up for mooting. We received a lot of tips about having your own style when presenting to the court, but we were advised to see it in practice. Sitting in on real cases gives you a feel for the language used when addressing the court. You’re also able to get a sense of how the court runs and how lawyers, clients and court staff interact.

I remember waiting for proceedings to begin at the Family Court one day and spotted opposing solicitors having a friendly chat outside. Of course this will not always be the case, but it was good to see that court isn’t always the cutthroat environment that TV shows often depict.

Visiting court is also great preparation for taking subjects like evidence and civil procedure.

The Cases

Trying to pick which court to visit can be difficult. If you go to the Local/Magistrates Court you will usually be able to see something from start to finish. If you decide to see a trial in the District Court or Supreme Court be wary that they can go on for days.

Having an interest in family law, I decided it would be beneficial to sit in on a parenting dispute that was open to the public. Admittedly, I was a bit underprepared for the allegations of family violence that were made against the husband in this case. While studying family law I was aware that independent children’s lawyers existed, but it was only after seeing one in practice did I realise the importance of the role. The objectivity that the independent children’s lawyer brought to the situation was crucial in the dispute I witnessed.

Of course, not all cases are as emotionally charged as that and there is plenty of scope to sit in on matters relating to whatever area of law interests you and to get a feel for whether it is an area you would like to work in in the future.

If you want to see a particular case, look up the court lists available online to find out where to go and when it’s happening. Or if you’re not too sure about what matter you’d like to see, you can check with court staff to see if there are any interesting matters scheduled for that day.

Etiquette

Before entering the courtroom, turn off your phone or switch it to silent as the last thing you want is to have a judge glaring in your direction! If you are entering a courtroom once a case has already started or you’re exiting early, don’t forget to bow to the judge from the door.

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