One of the best things about studying law at Oxford is the fact that you are surrounded by so much legal history. Being in the heart of where the United States Common Law system comes from is amazing. We took a break from our studies on Tuesday to take a group trip into London to see exactly where the heart of the British legal system began.
Our tour began at Temple Street, where for centuries London’s lawyers have studied, practiced and lived. The legal community sprang up here at the midpoint of the Thames River because it was easy for those seeking legal advice to stop by on their way to the city’s courts, which were located at Parliament, just up the river from Temple Street.
Here, in the center of this legal community among great halls and law offices, is the Knights Templar Church. This is the same church that is shown in The Da Vinci Code. The Knights Templar have a rich history linked to the British legal system. With relics that had been placed under the church hundreds of years before of past knights, the church was phenomenal.
The tour concluded with a walk from Temple Street to the Royal Courts of Justice, where we were allowed to sit in on an actual court hearing. It amazes me how much the legal community is still grounded in the culture and traditions of the past. English attorneys are divided into two categories of practice: the Solicitors and the Barristers.
A client in the English court system will go to the Solicitor to describe their legal problem, and then the Solicitor contacts the appropriate Barrister who will eventually argue the case before the courts. The court proceeding was very formal with the Barristers and Judges dressed in flowing black robes and white wigs.
The trip to London was fantastic and we returned to Oxford with a better understanding of the English Legal system. A group of us are going to travel to Dublin this weekend, and I’ll report on that next time.