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My name is Hala Furst, and I am a 3L. Before coming to Roger Williams I received a BA in Theatre Arts at the University of Minnesota. In the three years between graduating from college and arriving here in Bristol, RI, I worked as a hotel concierge for a luxury brand, a loan officer and mortgage...

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Across the Pond

Posted by Hala Furst on 08/01/2008 at 12:00 AM

Writer’s note: I wrote this while traveling in London. I simply cannot say enough good things about the program!

There are few greater thrills in life that hearing a man in a wig and a robe use something you, a mere American student, told him in chambers to question a barrister in open court. Perhaps that needs some context. For the last week and a half, I have had the privilege of sitting on the bench of the Croydon Crown Court, immediately to the left of His Honour Judge Kenneth MacRae. In front of me, I see a courtroom laid out in a similar fashion to one in the US, but with striking differences. For one, the 9 lawyers in front of me (barristers, as opposed to solicitors) are also in wigs and robes. For another, they are all jumbled together on long benches, defence (as they spell it here) sitting next to prosecution, without the seperate tables and aisles that make it so clear in the States. They address the jury calmly, conversationally; to raise one’s voice or *gasp*, slam a fist on a table would be catastrophic. They address witnesses, even in cross examination, with the same deceptively conversational tone, making statements like ‘I suggest to you that you are a liar’, to which the witness is supposed to calmly respond ‘I disagree.’ There is a reason there are very few British court room dramas.

Yet, I find it far from boring. Being in chambers with a judge or barrister is the ultimate insider experience, one very few ‘yanks’ ever get. My favorite part of the day is lunch time, where I had the great pleasure of dining in the Judge’s lounge, listening to Their Honours discuss politics and gossip like school boys, over the occasional sherry. Hearing first hand opinions about the British Judiciary, discussing the differences between our legal systems, being asked my opinion by a ‘Learned Judge’, these are priceless experiences made possible by the RWU London Program. It is a completely unique program, and in my opinion, one of the best RWU has to offer. Of course, there is London itself. While the dorms are not the nicest in the world, they are clean, comfy and right in the heart of London, 2 blocks from the Warren St. Tube station. London is expensive, true, but most museums and parks are free, and most other activities have substantial student discounts. Of course just walking around is a cultural and historical experience- London is just lousy with history. You trip over it, walk under it, smell it in the air. But it is a modern city as well, with excellent public transportation, progressive environmental policies, and every imaginable type of restaurant and bar.

Tonight we’ll have a class meeting with Professor Robert Webster, a honest to life barrister who always wears a pocket square. I ask you, how can you not be endeared to a man who wears a pocket square? He is an excellent teacher, who uses his personal contacts from a lifetime at the Bar to place us with judges and barristers. Before the two week placement, we received instruction from him on the history and background of the British Judiciary, the influence of the European Union thereon, and the current procedures of the Court. We received this instruction, I might add, in the Inner Temple, Professor Webster’s Inn of Court, where the ladies loos are nicer and roomier than my current apartment. Tonight happens to be my birthday, so after our meeting, which mostly will consist of drinks at the pub, we’ll move onto the London Eye, a giant Ferris Wheel in the middle of the heart of London. I can think of no better way to celebrate than watching the lights of London, surrounded by friends, toasting our great forture and our bright futures.