My first experience attending court

4th November 2020

I joined JMW as a Trainee Solicitor in September 2020 and my first seat is within the Personal Injury department. I was recently given the opportunity to attend a contested application hearing at court.

The partner who is handling this case asked me to assist her in preparing for the hearing and attend the hearing; I jumped at the opportunity. Even though we had instructed an extremely experienced barrister who was familiar with the applications and I knew I would not be required to speak at the hearing, this was the first time I had been asked to represent the firm externally which felt like a lot of responsibility.

I spent the week leading up to the hearing reading the file to ensure I was up to speed on the case and the key arguments from both sides. I wanted to ensure that if our barrister needed anything clarifying in relation to facts of the case, I could assist. I also made sure I had printed spare copies of all the relevant documents. Prior to the hearing, I was fully briefed by the partner on what exactly was required as she was aware this was my first experience in court.

On the day of the hearing, I was excited and nervous about attending court for the first time, especially given that the hearing was relating to a complex area of procedural law. I arrived early to allow for any extra security or Covid measures. I signed in with the relevant usher and found a waiting room. Our barrister arrived a few minutes later. We spoke about the case and I made sure he had all the documents he needed. This was also a unique opportunity to chat generally with a barrister with over 30 years of experience and make a new contact. He was very friendly and advised me on where I should sit in the court room.

The court usher called us in and after applying vigorous amounts of hand gel, I sat behind our barrister. The District Judge entered the court room and we all stood. I’ll be honest, I forgot I had to stand but sitting at the back I think I got away with it as I just followed what everyone else did.

During the hearing, I took comprehensive notes of the submissions by both sides and the comments of the judge. Given the complex nature of the issues, the judge allowed a lot of free conversation between him and both barristers which I was not expecting, but I managed to follow what was being argued. I was later advised by our barrister that usually the judge will hear submissions from both sides and then some discussion and this hearing was more ‘free’ than usual.

As the hearing progressed, there were occasions when I passed information and documentation to our barrister which I was able to find quickly and hand to him at the appropriate points.

I did find it hard not to speak during the hearing when the opposing side were making submissions which I wanted to rebut but this is obviously the role of the barrister (and he performed it very well).

During my law studies, I recall studying the Civil Procedure Rules and I remember asking at the time, how often are technical aspects of procedure brought before the courts? Well from my recent experience, I have learned that courts are often asked to determine the answer to such questions and they are far more complex than you might first think.

Overall it was a very enjoyable experience which I will never forget. I am very grateful to the partner handling the case for trusting me to attend and represent the firm and also to our barrister who was friendly, encouraging and appreciative of my support. This is invaluable experience for any trainee and demonstrates the commitment that JMW has to their trainee’s development.

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Jonathan Holling is a Trainee Solicitor located in Manchesterin our Trainee Solicitors department

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