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UEL students visit Red Lion Chambers

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Students get an insight into the life of a barrister

The barristers of Red Lion Chambers in London recently threw open their doors to welcome 15 University of East London (UEL) students and three academics to offer them an insight into the life of a criminal barrister. 

Red Lion Chambers, highly regarded for its expertise in criminal law, invited the students to take part in a hypothetical criminal case from arrest through to sentencing. 

The scenario involved a defendant who was charged with a serious assault on another male. The prosecution argued the two men were members of rival gangs which had arranged to meet in a pub to fight each other. The prosecution claimed that the defendant used a pint glass to attack his victim, causing serious injury. 

The victim insisted he didn’t know the identity of his attacker while the defendant said he was acting in self-defence after the complainant had threatened him with a knife. He also denied the allegation that the attack was gang-related. 

This was the scene set for students and they were asked questions about their potential approach, including how they would advise the defendant and prosecution at every stage of the process from police station to crown court. They were asked to consider what evidence would be required from both sides, defence and prosecution. 

In the end the defendant was found guilty by the jury and the students had to consider what sentence the judge would pass, with some very good guesses. The students said they enjoyed the activity as it enabled them to apply their knowledge to a realistic scenario.

Afterwards, students spoke to a panel of the Chambers’ barristers to learn more about their diverse routes to the Bar. Senior members of the Chambers, including the incoming chair of the Bar Council, made clear the realities of a career at the criminal bar. 

It was apparent that change was taking place and access to the Bar was broadening, but more progress still needed to be made. However, the panel of barristers reassured students that background was less important than motivation and the ability to overcome challenges. 

Sailesh Mehta, a barrister at Red Lion Chambers, said it was important for the Chambers to engage with students. He said, "Social mobility, equality and diversity is at the heart of Red Lion Chambers ethos and values. It informs the way we work with our clients and Bar solicitors and how we engage with the wider world."

Ewa Murzyn, second year law student undertaking the LLB law degree at UEL, said: “The 'Open Doors' event gave us a great insight into the life of barristers and judges. We learnt from the members on the panel and listened to their professional biographies. 

“Their unique stories convinced us that the Bar is a diverse profession and access to it is possible from many paths of life. Due to the fierce competitive nature of the Bar, building the confidence to handle rejection appears to be the biggest challenge. It was a highly educational and encouraging event.”

These types of engagement sessions run by chambers and law firms are rare and Red Lion Chambers were thanked for arranging such a motivating event.