15 Dec 2023
Continuing our series giving a closer look at BTB Academy internships, we asked Jaya Sudera to share her recent experience at the UK Supreme Court....
When I received the phone call from Imogen saying, “we want to send you to the Supreme Court”, I really could not believe it. I felt a sense of accomplishment and happiness which, after a long line of rejections that every aspiring barrister is faced with along their journey to the Bar, feels incredible.
At the interns’ day hosted at BPP Holborn and organised by Bridging the Bar, there was an opportunity for me and the seven other interns to meet each other as well as two Judicial Assistants from the Supreme Court. We were each given our own pack which included a lovely postcard from Vicky Fox, the CEO of the Supreme Court, welcoming us; the Court of Appeal decision and case summary of a case that we would be watching during the internship; a timetable and a document containing which Judicial Assistant (JA) and Justice we had been matched with. It was at this moment where it felt real, that we actually had the opportunity to meet Justices whose names I had seen multiple times in judgments throughout university. I appreciated the time taken to consider each intern’s area of interest and which Justice we would have common ground with. It allowed us to get the most out of our conversations with the Justices and Judicial Assistants as possible. Whether we were interested in public or private law determined which of the two available cases we would observe and analyse. I am interested mainly in private law, therefore, I was assigned to watch a private law case. I made sure I was familiar with the facts of the case and the Court of Appeal’s judgment before my internship week. Interns with an interest in public law were assigned to follow a public law case.
Walking up to the Supreme Court on the first day felt like a dream. I soaked in the atmosphere and appearance of everything in sight. Everywhere I looked, it was an incredible fusion of modern and traditional architecture. I was snapped out of what felt like a trance by a lovely member of staff asking me if I would like to collect my pass. At the risk of looking far too eager, I almost jumped at the opportunity. With all of us interns together, we were welcomed very warmly by Rebecca Fry, the Head Judicial Assistant and Vicky. Rebecca gave a warm introduction in the Lawyers’ Suite, told us her legal background and what brought her to the Supreme Court as well as asking us all individually about ourselves. A frequent observation throughout the internship was everyone we met took the time and effort to learn about each intern. The Lawyers’ Suite, the very first room we were taken to was exactly what I expected to be met with. The walls were decorated with large portraits of prominent figures and a dark wood bookcase; the lighting was mellow and complemented the maroon and gold decor. To think that there was a time where no one who looked like me came into the highest court in the land and here I was sitting amongst my fellow interns getting an insight into its innermost workings.
This was followed by a quick meet up with the Judicial Assistants that we had been paired with. I was very excited to have a chat with my JA, Mannat Malhi, about a career in law and working at the Supreme Court. Everyone was so friendly and we very quickly got into comfortable conversations with all of the JAs. It was lovely to see that all of the JAs were just as interested in getting to know us as we were them. The café was so bright, open and inviting. I remember looking up to see all the way to the top of the building itself. I could see balconies and windows to all of the levels.
We said a quick goodbye to the JAs before making our way back to the Lawyers’ Suite to meet Lord Reed, the President of the Supreme Court. As everyone had made us feel very comfortable, there were no nerves before meeting him, just pure excitement and I felt intrigued to see what he would be like. As a person whose name you see many times at the head and foot of many judgments, what would he be like as a person? Lord Reed was lovely and very human in nature; the introduction was very light-hearted and interesting. After introducing himself, he went through each of the interns in turn. Starting with me, he asked about the stages we were at in our journeys to the Bar and our practice areas of interest. Also, he looked at the Justices we had each been assigned and had a conversation about our pairing and certain things we had in common with our respective Justices. I thought this was brilliant as it gave us commonalities to commence conversation once we met them. It was another indication of the time that went into matching each intern with a Justice. There was great emphasis placed on how much this experience was one where there would be a lot of learning for both the interns and the Justices. Right from the beginning, I felt like what I said during this internship would be heard and absorbed.
Once we had all engaged in a positive conversation with Lord Reed we met with Vicky who had played a very big part in organising the internship. Together, we spoke about the aims throughout the internship and what we all were looking forward to this week. What was great to see was, as we each spoke about what we most looked forward to, Vicky wrote down our answers. This would allow us to all revisit these points at the end of the week to see if those things we looked forward to had fulfilled our expectations and we had learnt as much as we had initially expected to. Vicky wanted to hear our thoughts and feedback to see what else she could offer us during our internship and to make sure that we were able to take something positive away from every event. She left us with a final thought, which was being brave throughout the internship and considering “what would the bravest version of myself do?”. Being brave would allow us to ask questions and discuss topics that on first thought, may seem daunting, especially as we would be delivering a presentation at the end of the week. I kept this in mind throughout the internship and it will be something I will use in every experience. I really felt it helped me bring the best version of myself and gave me the confidence I needed to have open, honest and thought-provoking conversations about diversity, equality and inclusion as well as my own personal experiences throughout my journey to the Bar.
Before lunch, we had a tour of the library with the Supreme Court Librarian Paul Sandles. The library was beautiful and gave off such a warm and traditional atmosphere. Paul was very enthusiastic and shared his knowledge about the architecture of the library as well as the type of work he does with the Justices. Something that caught my attention was, the library was quite small and held a small collection of legal texts in comparison say to the Inns of Court libraries. Paul explained that this was due to the library being quite young in comparison, as the Supreme Court was established in 2009. In addition, it was due to using electronic methods to access legal texts. This would save a lot of money and is also better for the environment. To see the Supreme Court adapt to modern methods, take care of the environment and save money by using alternative measures demonstrated an intention to keep with the times and constantly look for way to improve working. Furthermore, it was fascinating to hear about how the library was once a main courtroom when the Middlesex Guildhall was used a Crown Court.
After lunch was a tour of the court with Maura Kalthoff, Events and Communications Manager. It was great to hear about the designs of the carpet and curtains sitting in the Justices chairs in Courtroom 2. We compared the design of the courtrooms and marvelled at the modern design of Courtroom 2 as well as the traditional, gothic designs in the well-known Courtroom 1.
Once our enriching tour had ended, we made our way back to the Lawyers’ Suite where we met Lady Rose and Lord Sales for our talk on “Journeys into the Law and up to the Supreme Court”. It was refreshing to hear both of their incredibly different journeys to the Bar and then to the Bench. They were so different and full of things that were not always planned out from the beginning. They had each been involved in many different legal roles, both at the self-employed Bar and the employed Bar. Lord Sales talked of commencing pupillage and his career at the self-employed Bar before embarking on his career with the Government, with the very intriguing title of the “Treasury Devil”! Lady Rose shared her career as a barrister at the self-employed Bar before working for the Government Legal Department and as part of the Office of the Speakers’ Counsel, the legal team at the House of Commons. They both explored numerous different areas of practice in their careers. This I found particularly interesting, as aspiring barristers when applying for pupillage are typically expected to know the areas in which they wish to practice and demonstrate a commitment. It is normal and acceptable to explore different areas at the Bar to determine which you truly enjoy.
Before our first day came to an end, we went to the JAs’ room which is where we would be staying and reading up on our allocated cases when we didn’t have a specific talk. It was great being amongst the JAs and listening to their discussions on specific points of law. Suddenly, that was the first day finished, it had gone by much too fast!
Today, I practically skipped into the Supreme Court very early, as it was the swearing-in ceremony for the newest Justice, Lady Simler. I was to meet with the other interns at the back door of the Supreme Court to avoid the busy hustle and bustle of the many guests that had come to watch the ceremony. Due to the sheer number of people set to watch the ceremony, we were to watch from Courtroom 2 with a lot of Lady Simler’s former colleagues from Devereux Chambers. Watching Lady Simler receive her robes and take her seat with the other Justices had me unexpectedly quite emotional. Another Lady Justice to join Lady Rose was so inspirational and really tugged at my heart strings.
The ceremony was quickly followed by a networking opportunity with all the established guests and Justices. As I stood with my fellow interns, I took in the sight of the room. I thought, it is possible that I may never again be in a room with so many well-established, well-known legal experts, so I will make sure I speak to as many people as possible. I made my way through the crowd when I locked eyes with Lady Rose. We had a lovely chat about how amazing the ceremony was and about seeing more women in high and powerful positions. Seeing Lady Hale and Lady Arden was very much a pinch me moment! It was truly an honour to be alongside all of these incredible women, I felt so inspired and motivated! Through the crowd, I made my way to Lady Simler to congratulate her personally and tell her how amazing it was to see her achieve so highly. Lady Simler is such a lovely, gracious person. We spoke about her career at Devereux and she asked me and other interns what stage we were at. I spoke to her about being very interested in commercial law and since going to a Women and the Tax Bar event, being intrigued about a tax practice. Immediately, she took my arm and introduced me to some of her colleagues! It was such a lovely thing to do and I was taken aback at her kind offer to introduce me around.
Once this dream networking event concluded, the interns were to attend the next talk, “media, education and outreach at the Supreme Court” with Scot Marchbank, the Head of Communications and Natasha Bennett, the Education and Visitor Services Manager. We learned about the Supreme Court’s work with schools and universities, such as: tours, the Ask a Justice Online event, moots, debate days as well as the Inside the Supreme Court free online course with FutureLearn. It was really refreshing to see the efforts made to interact with children, sharing the functions of the Supreme Court as well as hosting events and getting young people into the Supreme Court. In addition, Scot spoke about his role relating to increasing understanding and awareness of the Court and its role within the media. He explained the danger of the media publishing an incorrect interpretation of a Supreme Court judgment and how working with journalists helps prevent that. The Supreme Court has also been working on increasing their social media presence, which is great and would appeal to a wider audience.
Next was our talk on the “life cycle of a case” with Emma Ainsley, the Deputy Registrar, Kelly-Anne Johnson, Case Manager and Sophia May, the Judgments Clerk. They took us through when an application first comes through the doors of the Supreme Court, the decisions as to whether the application would be accepted, what evidence was required and finally when the case goes before the Justices. It was interesting to learn about the differences in processing the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) cases. The Supreme Court Justices also decide the JCPC cases and apply the law of the different jurisdictions accordingly.
After lunch was the session I was very eager to get involved in, the round table discussion with Vicky, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Leggatt and Lord Burrows. We were split into smaller sub-groups and allocated to a specific Justice. I along with two other interns were assigned to Lord Leggatt. We had an in-depth conversation about each of our different journeys to the Bar and the struggles we have faced. We discussed the issues regarding diversity, equality and inclusion talking about the barriers we personally encountered, such as fairness in pupillage and mini-pupillage applications. Finally, we discussed the term “luck”, it is a common term used when putting through applications, and whether the lack of transparency paired with the use of the term “luck” is used to potentially mask discrimination. Lord Leggatt’s responses were very helpful and open, it was great to have the opportunity to discuss such raw and important topics with the Justices. To an extent, I felt a responsibility, as one of the eight interns who were selected for the internship, to bring forward and discuss these important topics. They affect so many aspiring barristers, and so when I was able to do this, I felt a strong sense of accomplishment.
Before meeting the JAs involved in the private law case, I had the opportunity to meet the Justice I was paired with, Lord Hamblen. He was extremely comfortable to speak with and took the time to discuss my route to the Bar in great detail. He gave me some great advice which I look to utilise in the near future, specifically when looking to apply for pupillage in the upcoming round. Lord Hamblen was very interested in how I had found the internship so far and it was also great to hear of some of his thoughts regarding the round table discussion points from the session prior. I was very happy to have been paired with Lord Hamblen and felt I had learnt a lot from him.
The final session of the day was for those watching the private law case the next day, to meet with the JAs also on the case and discuss our thoughts on the points of law that would be argued. We had been provided with a file containing the submissions of both sides, which we had read prior to the discussion. It was great to have this group talk about the main legal arguments as it gave an opportunity to clarify any complex aspects and gain a full understanding before hearing the oral submissions. I found it a very positive experience to hear more about the JAs’ thoughts on the submissions, as well as the written style of the submissions. It was clear that the structure of the written submissions were quite different. The discussion also allowed us to learn more about the JAs themselves and their careers before coming to the Supreme Court. We learned that Lord Kitchin, from the Supreme Court Supplementary Panel, would be present in the case as the expert in Intellectual Property law. I had read from the case papers, many of his previous judgments had been referred to and so I was intrigued to see his depiction of the case at hand.
Time was spent afterwards reading the case papers and familiarising ourselves with the facts prior to hearing the case on Wednesday and Thursday.
Today was an incredibly exciting day and not just for us interns, because it was the day of the Rwanda hand-down! There were two other judgments that were being handed down, the first being Primeo Fund (in official liquidation) v Bank of Bermuda (Cayman) Ltd and another . The second was Canada Square Operations Ltd v Potter. Walking to the back entrance to the Supreme Court was interesting, there was a sea of journalists and camera crews setting up, ready to document the results of the Rwanda judgment as soon as it was given by Lord Reed.
Sitting in Courtroom 1 was an unforgettable experience in that moment. The room was full of counsel and legal teams and journalists. Throughout all the judgments and reasoning behind the Rwanda judgment, you could hear a pin drop. I found myself not even wanting to take a breath. Lord Reed explained the main points leading to the judgment very clearly and in a way that could easily be understood by all members of the public. It was only when he said that the Rwanda policy was unlawful and that the Home Secretary’s appeal was dismissed, that there was an audible release of the breath those in court had been holding and suddenly the room burst back to life.
After a short break, I along with three interns made our way back to Courtroom 1 to hear the private law case. Hearing the advocacy from the counsel for the Appellants was a great experience. The barrister acting for the Appellantsis an exceptional advocate, he was dynamic and incredibly engaging. Also, the way in which the advocates navigated a lot of paper documents and directed the Justices accordingly was done seamlessly. After lunch, the JAs allowed us to sit in the JAs’ seats behind the Justices. This was great as we got to hear the Justices clearly in their questioning and deliberation. It was also interesting to see the advocates and the courtroom from the perspective of the Justices, almost as if the advocates were presenting their case to us. As the Appellants’ counsel concluded their submissions and the Respondents’ counsel began, the difference in advocacy style was intriguing. Counsel for the Respondents had a clear cut structure to his submissions and a mellow advocacy style. Both advocates presented their arguments very well in such different ways; it was great to see that each barrister, over time, will develop their own advocacy style, which is also dependent on each case, but there can be many different styles that are all very effective.
Once the case was adjourned for the day, me and the group of interns on the private law case along with our JAs had the opportunity to speak to Lord Hodge about what we learnt. The interns watching the case of RM, had a similar conversation with Lord Reed upon adjournment. Lord Hodge was very interested to see what we made of the advocacy as well as the substance of the submissions themselves. I set out the differences in advocacy style and which I preferred at that stage. Lord Hodge pointed out that advocacy style is tactical as well, setting out that it is case-dependent how an advocate chooses to set out their oral submissions. As a group, we discussed our thoughts on the content of the submissions as well as how the oral advocacy compared to the written submissions made by each side. When considering the difference between the UK Supreme Court and the US Supreme Court, where there is much less oral advocacy, it highlighted to me the very importance of oral advocacy. When arguments are made on paper alone, there is no tone or opportunity to demonstrate the strength of a submission beyond what is written. A good oral advocate with a weak argument could, through the way they present the arguments in court, at least provoke thought amongst the panel and draw the panel to reason with them.
The day started with watching the remaining submissions and reply in the private law case in Courtroom 1. To my surprise, the Justices had a plethora of questions for the Respondents’ advocate. A lot of time was spent on this, but it was the best example of how an advocate should deal with judicial interventions. There was no uncertainty in the advocate’s voice or physical expression, very calmly and slowly he considered his responses before assisting the Justices. This was a very valuable learning experience for me and I look to adopt the same approach to judicial interventions in my own career at the Bar.
Once the case was concluded, I had an opportunity to have a post-case discussion with my fellow interns and JAs. I definitely understood the effects of brilliant advocacy after watching this case as both advocates presented their submissions as if they were respectively the only logical arguments for the Justices to consider. It was also interesting to know, after the case had been heard, what specifically the Justices would have to consider in their judgment, as well as the fact that this decision needed to assist future trade mark cases. I appreciated that the Justices had to consider their interpretation and the test they set out would affect, not just the case at hand, but whether it would pose problems for future cases. The facts of this case were unique and incredibly specific and thus, considerable caution was required. After the discussion, I, along with my JA, Mannat, went to speak with Lord Hamblen about the private law case and my experience on the internship. Lord Hamblen was one of the Justices sitting on the case and it was interesting to discuss my take away with regard to the submissions and the advocacy style. To be able to see the way the Justices considered the law being applied in the submissions of both parties was such a valuable experience. The questions asked by Lord Hamblen and the other four Justices were incredibly intricate. What I specifically observed from Lord Hamblen, was the importance of listening and absorbing information and placing considerable amount of thought behind the case as a whole. On the first day, I found the Justices asked interesting questions however, it was the second day of the case where the Justices asked more detailed questions accompanied by examples. I aspire to develop a strong, brilliant legal mind as the Justices I saw in the Courtroom.
Once I had concluded my meeting with Lord Hamblen and Mannat, the interns regrouped to a reflective talk with Vicky and Rebecca about how we found the internship. I couldn’t believe how quickly the time had gone! Vicky mentioned some of the expectations and parts we were looking forward to at the beginning of the internship and asked us if these were the same now. Personally, I really thought the internship was better than anything than I could have expected. This was largely due to the fact that everyone was so approachable and I could have meaningful, positive conversations with everyone. I felt very grateful for the internship falling on this week specifically as we got to see very significant events, such as the swearing-in of Lady Simler and the Rwanda judgment hand-down. Vicky had this lovely idea of us writing a postcard to our future selves about the fact we had done the internship and to remind ourselves to use what we had learnt in our future journeys to the Bar and our careers. She would then post them back to us in around 6 months!
All that was left to do was to prepare for our individual presentations tomorrow in front of the Justices, JAs, Bridging the Bar representatives, past interns and other lovely Supreme Court staff we had met throughout the week! I was a mix of nervous and excited, I knew I wanted to speak about something personal but also highlight a barrier that aspiring barristers face. I wanted to use the opportunity to highlight important points relating to diversity, equality and inclusion, drawing specifically on access for women at the Bar.
When I walked through the main entrance, showing the Security Staff my pass for the very last time, I felt a wave of emotion flow through me. I really did not want the internship to end, but as it had to, I wanted to do a few things. I wanted to leave the people I had met with a final message about what is important to me and to all aspiring barristers, to ensure fairness and equal opportunity. I also wanted to thank everyone I had met and ensure I could keep in touch!
I spent most of the morning adjusting and perfecting my speech. As it was something personal to me, I felt that I did not want to use a PowerPoint. I wanted everyone to listen to my words and feel what I felt during my experiences, this was something I aimed to convey through words alone.
After lunch, it was time to present! I was the second intern to go. I was nervous, but as I started to speak, I saw all of the brilliant people who had gone out of their way to make me feel comfortable throughout the week. Suddenly, I was not nervous at all. I was speaking about something important, not just to me, but to all future barristers. I saw the representatives from Bridging the Bar, and as I saw Imogen smile at me, I knew I was doing well. I really felt like I was doing something important. I chose to speak about how inspired I felt by Lady Simler’s swearing-in and that women should not be treated any differently when accessing the Bar. I spoke about barriers, very specifically, my relationship with mini-pupillage applications. I was incredibly aware whilst planning my speech that people might be inclined to think, “maybe the applications were just poorly written” or that I did not have enough experience. However, I took the audience through the whole process I had taken over the years to tick every box that was there to be ticked to ensure I could construct an air-tight mini-pupillage application. Yet, none. I was over the moon with how I conveyed myself and I felt so supported standing at the lectern; I was overcome with happiness.
I had the pleasure of listening to all of my fellow interns’ presentations. They were each very different, which was great since we had not spoken to each other about the topics of our presentations prior. Each presentation carried so much weight and was met with a very interested and engaged audience taking in every second. The presentations were concluded with a few words from Aaron Mayers, the Vice Chairperson of Bridging the Bar. He spoke highly of our presentations as well as the benefit of conducting the internship and working so closely with the JAs and Justices. A truly beautiful ending to a breathtakingly brilliant week!
The day finished with an opportunity for everyone to speak with each other over refreshments. I took the opportunity to have further words with the Justices, such as Lord Hamblen who was a pleasure to speak with, Lord Leggatt, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Hodge and Lady Rose. They gave such positive feedback on the presentations which was dearly appreciated. It was also brilliant to speak with former Supreme Court interns. I had a very thorough chat with a member of last year's cohort about my presentation topics and she gave me some great advice ahead of the pupillage application process! The opportunity for us to speak with each other gave a beautiful sense of camaraderie and companionship.
The internship was an incredible experience, I learnt so much and it is an experience I will cherish! I met the most incredible people who I have every intention of keeping in touch with. To my fellow interns, you were all brilliant and it was a pleasure to work alongside all of you, the experience would not have been what it was without you! I want to thank Vicky Fox, Rebecca Fry, Bridging the Bar and the UK Supreme Court with another specific thank you to Mannat Malhi and Lord Hamblen for making this internship possible and so brilliant. A big thank you to all of you for making us feel we truly belong at the Bar.