02 Feb 2024

Continuing our series giving a closer look at BTB Academy internships, we asked Mary Amara Azubuike to share her recent experience at the Law Commission ....

IMG_8970 - Mary A

As part of the BTB Academy, candidates are put forward for the integrated internship scheme. This involved ranking your internship preferences and hoping you will be 1 of 20 so candidates selected for either the Law Commission, Supreme Court, Court of Appeal or High Court internships. I was fortunate enough to land the Law Commission internship, an internship I believed would marry my love of literature with my interest in the social implications of the law to explore how the law is reformed and created. I knew this immersion would be an eye-opening window into an aspect of the law rarely exanimating at undergraduate level, and I was not disappointed.

The Law Commission separates itself into four specialised teams: public law, commercial law, criminal law, and property and trust. I was on the incredibly dynamic public law team, amongst passionate researchers and lawyers propelled with the desire to make reform to suit greater society. At the time, the public law team was conducting research into autonomy in aviation, compulsory purchase and disabled children’s social care. To really get stuck into the work of a Law Commission research assistant, each intern was assigned a research task, of varying degrees of scope, that would be presented to a team of research assistants on the final day. I was assigned a case (the GPE Hannover Square dispute) relating to the calculation of compensation regarding the compulsory purchase of commercial property for the benefit of creating entrances to the new Elizabeth Line. Not only was I able to delve into the intricacies of compulsory purchase compensation rules (which disregard the consequence of compulsory purchase on the price of land) but I was given a conversive environment to express my opinions on the case, the implications of the ruling and discuss where reform could be made. I had numerous legal professionals at my disposal, willing to take time out of their very business workload to discuss the case and my ideas openly with me, making me feel like a valued member of the team, despite myself only being there for three days. This experience not only engrossed me into the world of research and reform, forcing me to become comfortable with my thoughts and opinions while perfecting the intricacies of my research; but opened me up to the world of public law and practice. Prior to this internship, I believe I only wanted to practice in commercial law as many of my previous experiences had been in commercial law practice. However, researching and learning about public law, while talking to passionate public law practitioners, showed me the type of career and change I could wield within my profession. From the internship, I have become more open-minded about what type of law I want to practice. Finally, I would encourage anyone interested in research and viewing the law as a social construct to seek some experience with the Law Commission. Truly a magnificent way of interacting with the law in a manner that transcends the black letter fixation of law as taught at undergraduate level. As a research assistant, it was my role not simply to learn and understand the law but to engage with what the purpose of these rules was, whether they served the purpose in its current form, and if not, how we could rectify this. It really made me understand why laws are created and how they serve the needs of society.

The research project was not the only spectacle of the internship. A notable highlight of my experience at the Law Commission was the numerous diverse talks organised by the Commission. Chief Executive Stephanie Hack provided a comprehensive overview of the Commission’s objectives and operations, while Ingrid Morgan from the Office of Parliamentary Council mystified my fellow interns and I with the intricacy of drafting legislation and making amendments to clarify the law for all. However, for me personally what I believe underpinned the importance of having these types of internships accessible to students of varying backgrounds was the talk with Sir Nicholas Green, the Law Commission’s Chair. A conversation I am sure my fellow colleagues can agree we did not want to leave. Being able to discuss legal reform and the consequences of inadequate legislation and sentencing with someone as senior as Sir Green not only demonstrated the humility needed to really excel in legal reform but also how each of us interns have different life experiences that created different perspectives on the impact of certain laws – and how each viewpoint was valuable to the creation of a more comprehensive legal system. The amalgamation of insights from individuals of diverse backgrounds – religious, socio-economic, and ethnic – highlighted to me the imperative need for inclusivity in legal reform discussion. The diversity of thought, I realised, is a catalyst for ensuring that the law remains responsive to the multifaceted needs of modern society.

From this immersive experience, I had three main takeaways: firstly, legal practice for me personally should not be a narrow road but rather an explorative one where I discount nothing and try all areas before making a final decision – as you never truly know what you like until practice. Secondly, legal reform is incredibly interesting and a transformative way of understanding the importance of the law we actively chose to want to practice. The law affects individuals and society in a magnetic way that black-letter law fixation can sometimes ignore. Finally, the Law Commission is a wonderfully friendly environment that encourages immense self-reflection and intellectual growth. Everyone was eager to help, listen and watch my final project presentation (which I was incredibly touched to find out). I will be applying for the Law Commission’s research assistant role in the coming months and would advise anyone looking to understand the law for its social benefits to do the same. It is truly an experience that carries no regrets.

For those of you who would like to hear about these programmes in more depth, we'll be publishing a continuation of this series next week and for more testimonials from our candidates, you can follow our Twitter, Instagram, and Linkedin.