On the Wings of a Pegasus Scholarship | Part Two of a Two-Part Story: Court Visits, Royal Property, and Lessons Learned
by Becky Bye
In addition to visiting courts in London, an important aspect of the Pegasus Scholarship included outings to other parts of the United Kingdom—namely Edinburgh and Belfast—which would stand as some of the most memorable moments during my scholarship program.
In Edinburgh, we visited the Faculty of Advocates and observed a criminal court proceeding. All Scottish barristers work in the library of the Faculty of Advocates at small desks, but keep additional materials and meet with clients in a central room called "Parliament Hall." They walk with their clients in large circles within the room to prevent others from hearing their conversation.
Before this visit, the notion of barristers sharing their small offices with other barristers and pupils baffled me; I was further surprised to see the way Scottish barristers office.
During my last week abroad, we also visited Belfast. I stayed at the Europa Hotel, known as the most bombed hotel in the world. Despite its stormy past, I felt safe; perhaps drinking pints of Guinness before bed helped ease any anxiety.
After a hearty Irish breakfast the following morning, we received a tour of the courts and chatted with one of the presiding judges in the High Court. I and a fellow Pegasus Scholar observed a criminal appellate proceeding where two defendants, who are Protestants, were appealing their verdicts for allegedly stabbing to death a 15-year-old boy because he was about to walk into one of Belfast’s Catholic schools. I keenly watched the proceedings, shocked that religious division was still so prevalent.
Afterwards, we ventured across the street to the Court of Appeals, where we enjoyed a long, intellectually stimulating lunch with two of Northern Ireland’s Court of Appeals judges in one of their offices. The judges’ candor consistently surprised me during this and the many other meetings we had with judges in the U.K.
I asked about the well-known tensions between Catholics and Protestants in the country, and sadly, they acknowledged that it was still a problem. A large percentage of their cases arise from this ongoing division. In the main building for the judicial center, I observed a plaque honoring judges who had been killed for upholding the rule of law. Even the judges I met acknowledged they sometimes fear for their and their family’s safety. Taking precautionary measures, such as inspecting their cars for bombs, is routine.
Before our departure, we also received a quick tour of a nearby building where barristers work. Similar to the Edinburgh barristers, the Northern Ireland barristers work in a large library with very small work spaces on shared desks.
As I left the city, I pondered the various complex layers to Northern Ireland, between its torn identity as a British territory and an Irish nation and the religious tensions stemming from it, to the warm people and the well-deserved reputation for their outstanding hospitality. This one day was the most eye-opening, moving experience of my trip.
Cumberland Lodge … and a Brush with the Queen
The Inner Temple Inn routinely hosts "advocacy training" at Cumberland Lodge, which essentially is an education retreat for aspiring barristers.
Cumberland Lodge is part of the Queen’s large Windsor estate. For centuries, the reigning monarch asked his or her best friend to live in the lodge, so they could be close to the castle. Last century, King George VI determined that this lodge should host educational institutions, and now a nonprofit leases the building from the royals for this purpose.
The weekend training addressed "Integrity in Sport—Uneasy Bedfellows?" Many of the lectures and exercises focused on the subject of illegal sports betting and use of drugs in sports.
On our arrival, the lodge director informed us that we could attend a service at the Royal Chapel on Sunday by providing our name and nationality to him for a background check. I jumped at the opportunity to do so because he hinted that the Queen attends this chapel when she is at Windsor.
On Sunday, a group of us crossed the Windsor grounds to attend the service. The chapel was nicely decorated, with stunning stained glass windows and traditional gothic architecture, but the church’s small size and quaintness surprised me—this is where the Queen, who also serves as the head of the Church of England, attends numerous services.
When Elizabeth attends, she sits in a front pew surrounded by velvet drapes, so no one could tell whether she was present. After I attended the service, everyone shuffled through the exit, and the minister greeted attendees. As I walked out, I saw Queen Elizabeth five feet from the entrance, smiling at the people leaving the church. She looked regal in her bright cobalt blue suit, with matching coat and hat.
As I stood there, star-struck, she looked right at me and warmly smiled. I reciprocated by smiling and nodding (perhaps I should have curtsied). She smiled and nodded back. Later, Prince Phillip took her hand, and walked her to their car.
I was surprised by the minimal security for the royals. On entering the chapel area, we merely had to provide an ID and a pass. The lack of intrusive security measures for the church service highlighted an inherent difference between our two countries.
Insights and Lessons Learned
Participating in the Pegasus Scholarship reinforced my belief in mentoring and the benefits of the model used for barristers. I always have advocated for a higher standard of professionalism among lawyers, particularly newer ones. Sharing and improving this value begins with mentorship.
In the U.K., the path to becoming a barrister is an extremely difficult one; only those with strong character and academic prowess make it. This rigorous mentoring structure continues to produce the best and most professional advocates, traits for which barristers are well known.
This is accomplished by requiring membership in one of their four Inns of Court, and all barristers must affiliate with a chambers and serve as a pupil in the beginning of their practice. They take their role as a barrister seriously and regard it as a fundamental part of their identity.
Also, I found I changed my mind regarding some of the procedural aspects of a trial. Though I was skeptical at first, I do believe bench trials for complex civil cases might provide the best justice to all parties involved. Too many factual issues in civil cases are far too complex for most people to determine, let alone a random sampling of jurors.
I also agree with their policy that voir dire of juries should be limited and brief. Too many trials focus on engineering the "perfect" jury, which completely obliterates the notion that a jury is comprised of "peers" who are a representative sample of the community.
From a larger perspective, some aspects of U.K. law and practice are incomparable, as our countries derive from disparate histories. The supreme laws of our countries stem from different ideologies regarding the government’s role in people’s lives.
Overall, besides learning the nuances of the British legal system and the culture of barristers, any immersion into other people’s lives and country makes us better global citizens. I know my Pegasus Scholarship has provided me with more insight as a lawyer and more education as a citizen of the world. D
Miss part one? Catch up on this and other articles at denbar.org/docket. Read more about Bye’s scholarship experience at