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Working at the Magistrates' Court

Jess Awad

Not many law students have the chance to get a behind-the scenes experience of a court. For the curious among you, the gist of it is paperwork, paperwork, paperwork! The very first lesson I learnt working in the Civil & Criminal Matters section of a Magistrates Court was that mountains – MOUNTAINS – of paperwork go into the running of a Court. But paperwork aside, there’s a lot that working in a court can teach you about the workings of the law.

For just one day of Court to run smoothly, you have to prepare well in advance. This includes gathering the files for the cases being tried that day, alphabetising them, allocating them a time and a Courtroom, and then giving them an order number – all up to a week ahead of time. Talk about organisation! Stationed at the Civil & Criminal Matters Registry, I did enough alphabetising and numbering to last me a whole year.

Then there’s the Court proceedings themselves. In any one day, five courts could be running a range of criminal and civil matters, family law matters as well as bail applications. So naturally, the foyer hosts a colourful and diverse crowd. Couple that with the local council, disability support services, corrections, police prosecutors, security and Legal Aid, you have yourself a crowded courthouse.

And weaving their way through the crowds are the staff in and out of their offices, interviewing clients, or preparing documentation, or in the case of Legal Aid, representing one client after another in Court.

While I worked there, I was one such character. As Benchclerk observed proceedings and helped prepare. I even got to meet some of the Magistrates! They seem intimidating up there on the bench, but I can assure you they are people just like you and me with interesting stories to tell.

Overall, I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to observe the Court and helping in thepreparation of proceedings. Meeting Magistrates, meeting lawyers, police prosecutors and liasing with other court staff was just part of the job but if I had to pick just one highlight it would be that. They all provided me with interesting stories about their own careers and how they got to where they were. They each play their own vital role in making sure the Court runs well, and for a while I too had a chance to play one of those roles.

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