A Week in Legal London: One Lawyer’s Love Affair
By Lawrence E. Biegel
My love affair with the British legal system began one afternoon in 1999. My family was returning to the States from a wedding in Scotland and had a long day to kill in London before our flight home. My wife and son made the decision to tour the Tower of London. For me, I had always wanted to visit the Old Bailey; a fascination borne of watching the memorable movie, "Witness for the Prosecution." It was an afternoon well spent; watching a murder trial, observing that counsel and judge wore wigs, attorneys spoke with incredible erudition and precise diction, and jurors appeared to be a mélange of home grown Brits and immigrants. Suffice to say, I was smitten with what I saw.
In 2004, I registered for the Litigation Section’s A Week in Legal London (WILL) program to get a more in-depth view of the British legal system. Boy, did I ever get up close and personal. WILL has a protocol where groups rotate between the various courts in London, e.g. the Royal Courts of Justice, the Old Bailey, the various Crown Courts and the Supreme Court. On the day my group visited "the Bailey," after watching a dramatic murder case being tried in the morning, I had lunch in the "Barristers’ Mess", a dining hall for lawyers with business in the building. During that lunch, I met Andrew Bright, a barrister defending another murder case. Before I knew what had happened, that innocent lunchtime conversation morphed into an invitation from HHJ (His Honour Judge) Brian Barker to sit at counsel table with Andrew as he defended a man accused of running over his girlfriend with her own vehicle. I came to regard that case as "Murder by Mercedes."