It can be easy to lose the full perspective of law when you are caught up in academic quotes and classrooms.
Those hearings, appeals, trials and other such cases you read about involve real people like you and I, and for a law student one of the best things you can do is visit the public gallery.
If you’re interested in a legal career, but don’t know which path to take, a visit to the public gallery can be extremely useful in helping you to decide your career options e.g. whether you choose to pursue a career in civil or criminal litigation. It also encourages you to think about how comfortable you are at the thought of handling contentious cases, and which area of law to specialise in.
If up to now, your only experiences of law are through reading about it, watching real cases in action really brings the theory side of law to life, by demonstrating why the law is the way it is which improves your knowledge and thus enhancing your academic work.
It can also be an opportunity to gain an understanding of the emotional impact of cases on those involved – something that can’t always be appreciated from a textbook.
What if I want to be a solicitor?
Even if you don’t aspire to be a barrister, observing the practices of law can be incredibly insightful. There are lots of useful live examples of how evidence is gathered, how solicitors interact with counsel and how winning arguments are constructed.
What do I need to know?
Aim to be there for the start, as this is when the charges are read and opening statements are made.
Most cases are public, so you’ll be allowed to watch for free whilst the public gallery is open. You don’t have to book, but if you’re planning on taking notes you may have to check with the court prior to your visit, as some cases can be classed as sensitive.
Check the court rules before you go, as some ban electronic devices (so no mobile phones, tablets, etc.)
Remember, if you’re unsure of anything whilst you are there, don’t be afraid to ask the court ushers for help!