Friday, 8 August 2014

London Legal Practice from a German Law Student's Perspective

Report on my work experience with Wainwright & Cummins Solicitors

Looking back on the last three weeks, I had a great insight into the common law legal system during my work experience with Wainwright & Cummins Solicitors. I am very delighted that I could experience all the legal issues that I have been thought by the FFA programme at the University of Muenster before.

In addition to that, it is very interesting and important for a German law student to do an internship at a law firm in England in order to experience the legal system. This is the case, because the common law legal system appeared to me as a very vivid system, where a lot of work has to be done with the clients and especially at courts. Therefore, it is necessary to make this experience rather than just learn about the legal system in lectures.

Furthermore, from a German point of view, the common law legal system is enormously vivid and changeable. But nevertheless, I experienced that it is very important to prepare a case in advance and to read it closely and to know about all the details. This will later help at the court and during the preparation with the client.

Therefore, it was very interesting for me, how the work is separated between solicitors and barristers. Both of them have a great impact on the outcome of the case and should work together precisely.

In addition to that, it was a great pleasure for me that this law firm employs solicitors as well as barristers and that I could have an insight into both areas of work. Furthermore, it was extremely helpful that I could assist and observe a lot of different people during their work. Due to this, I got different impressions on how one can work and cope with cases and clients.

During my time with Wainwright & Cummins, I spent the most time with attending courts with Kathleen, Clea and Tariq who really explained a lot to me and answered all my legal questions. They provided me with all the helpful information that I would need in order to follow the hearing. In addition, they were always keen on giving me a full overview of the case and the legal issues. I am very thankful about that and I am very happy that everyone was extremely friendly and concerned about my interests and questions. This helped me to get used to the law firm very quickly and had the effect that I enjoyed every minute with the law firm and felt very comfortable and confident.

Furthermore, I enjoyed that I had so many opportunities to attend different courts. This was very important for me, because as I mentioned before, I learned the most while observing the courts and proceedings. Fortunately, I got to see a trial at the Inner London Crown Court, what was a great experience for me, because the trial was so different from what a German trial would be.

Starting with the wigs, gowns and the court rooms in particular, this all appeared to me more traditional and procedural than as it would be in Germany. Although there are gowns in Germany, too, the atmosphere in the court room is different. I was really surprised and impressed how polite the parties react in front of the judge and how respectful they treat him. Additionally, it was a new experience for me to get to know the adversarial system. In Germany, the judge intervenes a lot, asks the witnesses questions and leads the trial, so it appears to be more inquisitorial. Therefore, it was really new to me that the judge in this system does not intervene very often.

But what had the greatest impact on me was to see a jury. The whole process, from the beginning, where the jury gets sworn until the end when they reach a verdict, is unknown to me and the German law system. Therefore, it was very exciting for me to observe this. After having seen a trial with a jury, I thought about the advantages and disadvantages of this system and if I prefer having a jury or not.

To my mind, the jury system could be an advantage for the defendant in some cases. The reason for that is that even if the law definitely says that someone is guilty of an offence because he fulfils the requirements without any doubt, the jury can decide that he is not guilty.

This could be negative for the defendant, as well, but to my mind, it can be more convenient if the jury decides not guilty in some cases where there is no serious offence and the defendant is of very good character.

On the other hand, it appears to be unfair and not justifiable to a German law student that someone who definitely fulfils the requirements of an offence can be found not guilty, nevertheless. Due to this, I cannot decide clearly which system appears to be the better system or the fairer system.

Additionally, I also enjoyed the work at the law firm. I was really surprised at the beginning that there is so much for me to do. During my work experiences in Germany, it was rather common that I just read files and observed client meetings and court hearings. That is why I really enjoyed that I was given tasks in this law firm that could help the solicitors and barristers. I had to make phone calls, write letters to clients and to write down a police interview recording. Especially, I enjoyed the case summaries, because this gives you a full overview of the case and requires reading the file carefully and in detail.

All in all, I can confirm that I had an extremely interesting work experience and that I got a full insight into the common law system, as well in the office as when attending courts. This helped me to get an impression of the common law system and to get to know it in more detail than any lecture could teach me.

Therefore, I am very happy and delighted that I were allowed to spent my work experience at this law firm and I would recommend this law firm to any other student, if there is no objection from Wainwright & Cummins.

I want to express my deepest thanks to everyone who assisted me during these three weeks and to everyone who made this possible for me.

Furthermore, I wish everyone all the best for the future and a continuing and prospering career for the law firm.


Alina Nissen, 8th August 2014

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