By: Philip Cowburn – 3rd Year
In January 2017, in my second year and at age 19, I was appointed by the Lord Chief Justice on behalf and in the name of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II as a Justice of the Peace for England and Wales pursuant to s.10 of the Courts Act. This appointment was one of the initial steps in my plan to make a career in the Criminal Law. My appointment as a JP, often referred to as a Magistrate, was a very proud moment, not only for me but for my family. My Dad, a successful roofing contractor and former taxi driver and my mum, a devoted mother, wife and classroom assistant attended my swearing in where I took the Judicial Oath for the first and hopefully not the last time. My Judicial career had begun, and it was Derby Law School that gave me the confidence to step onto the first rung of my ladder.
From my first year at Derby Law School, I was enabled to mould my own extra-curricular practice around the core modules. As an aspiring Barrister I was quickly placed on the University team for the ESU Mooting Competition, alongside a second-year student (and now good friend of mine) Ashleigh Russell. This placement not only allowed me to handle my own brief and develop my own argument, it allowed me to develop the confidence that is required of any aspiring Barrister, especially one that intends to practice on his feet in the criminal courts, as I do.
In my second year the LL.B. Programme Director appointed me to Head up the University’s Mooting Initiative, titled as Master of Moots and working alongside the law faculty, administrative staff and the members of the moot team I was provided with a valuable chance to manage and co-ordinate a comparatively large team in the context of a large corporate organisation. I was able to learn and show competence in human resources management, financing, logistics, marketing (hence, www.pgcowburn.co.uk) and conflict resolution. These skills invariably prepared me for when I was elected as President of the UoD Law Society in my final year, where I would be required to put all of the skills I gained as Moot Master into practice.
Also, in my second year I was, thanks to Derby Law’s mentoring scheme (Liz Doherty) given the opportunity to link with, and marshal, HHJ Avik Mukherjee, a Circuit Judge sitting at Birmingham Crown Court. This most valuable experience allowed me to see the environment in which I aim to work, from the eyes of the bench to which I will be making submissions. Avik kindly provided me with advice and guidance as to the way I might go about progressing to the bar.
Following on from my second year, I have been privileged enough to continue as Master of Moots – I have also been lucky enough to be able to have gained some of the best experience that any aspiring barrister can have. Mini-Pupillages. I have undertaken a few minis: Ropewalk Chambers; No5 Chambers and 25 Bedford Row. For illustrative purposes I’ll draw upon my first Mini with Jo Sidhu QC of 25 Bedford Row, London.
I joined Jo on a Murder trial in Wolverhampton, for one week, staying in a hotel for that week I got a real sense of what life would be like at the Criminal Bar. I accompanied Jo and his Junior (Abimbola Johnson, 25 Bedford Row) each day to court, brainstormed with them over case strategy, sat in conference with our client and completed work for Jo overnight in relation to the case that he reviewed the following day. The opportunity that Jo was kind enough to offer me, although not provided by the Law School directly, was enabled by them as they gave me the opportunities that gave me the requisite skills and confidence to seek out the things that I needed to make my dream of being a Criminal Barrister a reality.
I look forward to sitting in the SJP Warrant Court tomorrow at Derby Mags, receiving the results of my BPTC applications on Tuesday, participating in the Legal Skills Triathlon, and attending 33 Chancery Lane for my interview with Lincoln’s Inn in a couple of weeks – and I am ever grateful for the law school for continuing to invest in, not only me, but in all their students. Michala, Rebekah, Liz, George, Larry and all the staff are second to none.