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My Journey Through Legal London: A Passion Long in the Making

Claudia | Speechlex| London Telephone Cabin
Claudia | Speechlex| London Telephone Cabin

I've recently embarked on this venture of writing about legal London. You may be wondering why I have set out on such a venture. The answer lies in the fact that this passion has been a part of me for quite some time now, and I've finally found a space where to share it.

Let me tell you something about myself. First of all, I'm an ardent traveller. From solo hikes along ancient pilgrim paths in Japan to completing the Santiago pilgrimage among other adventures, I've always had an insatiable wanderlust.

However, it was in Canada, at the age of 21, during a vacation at my grandmother's home in Ottawa while preparing for law school exams in Italy, that I started to get a real interest in learning more about legal traditions. After catching up with relatives and indulging in my beloved Canadian cuisine, I explored the city with my sister. Together, we decided to visit the court of justice. The atmosphere was charged with an indescribable energy, and I was instantly captivated. The course of my passion was set in motion.

When we inquired with the court clerk for information he recommended returning in a few days for a particularly interesting hearing. It was the first trial following the introduction of new terrorism law reforms.

Eager and intrigued, we heeded his advice and returned with my mother on the day in which the hearing was scheduled. The sight of the jury, the presiding judge, and the entire ceremonial spectacle left me absolutely spellbound. Eager to unravel the intricacies, I turned to my sister, who was a lawyer herself, for explanations. Her expertise in comparative studies shone through, and I found myself absorbing a wealth of knowledge.That day ignited a spark that has since fuelled my enduring fascination with legal London. Reflecting on it now, I can't help but contemplate the profound roots that underlie my passion. We may know what we do, but it's often a mystery just how deeply ingrained these interests truly are.

That spark lay dormant until a couple of years later when I travelled to London to complete part of my apprenticeship in a solicitors' firm. It was during this time that my passion for legal traditions of foreign countries was rekindled. I would roam the historic Middle Temple, listen to my boss conversing with clerks to identify the ideal barrister for our cases, and I even had the opportunity to attend court proceedings.

Having flexible working hours, I spent some of my mornings wandering around Temple and the Old Bailey and even made a visit to the Parliament to see the Prime Minister being questioned by MPs.

What was I truly pursuing? I think I was just allowing myself to follow my natural inclination to blend my love for justice, language and travel, while silently exploring the possibility of amalgamating all my passions into one cohesive journey.

Upon my return to Italy, I was determined to keep up with what I had started in London. It was a challenging task because I began working at the Court of Justice in my city with limited vacation time to spare. Nevertheless, I made a concerted effort to carve out time, ensuring that at least once a year, I could return to London and nurture this enduring passion.

My determination to become a lawyer and a legal English teacher led me to dedicate my first summer to attending TEFL classes in London. This allowed me to acquire the necessary skills to teach English to students for whom English is not their first language. However, that didn’t leave me much time to dedicate to visiting law-related sites in London.

The following year, in mid-July, I returned to London with unwavering determination, seeking inspiration for what I envisioned as a guidebook tailored to tourists with a passion for legal history, architecture, and legal traditions.

Now, let me tell you something about myself. When I travel solo, I find myself in a continuous flow that I seldom experience when I'm at home. I'm attuned to the subtleties of coincidences, lights, and symbols, allowing questions to simmer within me as I wander through a new place.

One day during that holiday, an idea struck me to dine at the Honourable Society of Middle Temple, having read that it was open to visitors. Eager to explore this legal haven, I made my way to its entrance, only to be turned away by the guard who informed me that a reservation was required but the next available day for a reservation coincided with my return to Italy.

While disappointment initially loomed, I resolved to maintain a positive outlook and took a seat on a bench in front of the grand entrance.

Beside me sat a man, and we struck up a casual conversation. When I learned that he was a lawyer, I couldn't help but share my reason for being there – my aspiration to write a book about legal London, even though my attempt to enter Middle Temple had been in vain.

At that moment, my luck took a fortuitous turn. The lawyer explained that he had concluded his morning hearing and was waiting until the afternoon when he had a party to attend. Since he didn't reside in London and had some spare time, he kindly inquired if I had any other plans, offering to show me around the legal landmarks of London.

I felt incredibly fortunate and promptly rose from the bench. Our first stop was the Royal Courts of Justice. Although I had visited it earlier that day, he provided a wealth of information about the various rooms we encountered, including the chamber of the Master of the Rolls, the Bear Garden and the huge painting on the right side of the main entrance.

After leaving the court, he told me that he also needed to buy a collar at a shop called Stanley Ley. This ancient shop specialises in legal robes, gowns, and wigs. Eager for the learning opportunity, I readily agreed to accompany him. He purchased a barrister's collar, and I even tried on a gown, disregarding my typical Italian superstitions, as I had no intentions of pursuing a career as a barrister.

Subsequently, we ventured to a charming bookshop, which would later become my favourite. Here, he introduced me to a book authored by a judge he knew. Regrettably, I can't recall the title, but I devoured it in my hostel and during my journey back to Italy. The book was a fascinating and thought-provoking account of the judge's journey from a family of coal miners to achieving the distinguished title of QC.

Eventually, the time came to bid each other farewell, and so we did. After expressing my gratitude for the delightful tour, I made my way to the court of justice in hopes of retrieving my misplaced jacket . However, in a comical twist of fate, as I ambled along with my gaze fixed on the floor, trying to spot my jacket, I turned a corner and quite literally collided with a person. When I looked up, I couldn't believe my eyes - it was him again. We both burst into laughter, the unexpected reunion adding a touch of hilarity to the story.

At that moment, he extended an invitation, saying, "Listen, if you don't have other plans, would you like to come to a garden party at Middle Temple?" I could hardly believe my ears. It's amazing how quickly things can shift in London. Just that morning, I had been turned away from the public entrance due to lack of a reservation, and now, in the afternoon, I was invited to a garden party. Needless to say, I enthusiastically accepted!

Upon my arrival at Middle Temple, the guard who had turned me away that very morning greeted me with a smile and quipped about how Italians always manage to find a way to get where they want. I smiled at him.

Before the garden party commenced, we enjoyed a guided tour of the building. I was awestruck by the grandeur of the Middle Temple hall with its hammer-beam roof, and I couldn't help but draw comparisons to the hall in which Harry Potter and the other wizards dined in.

It was a splendid evening, and I had the pleasure of savouring my very first Pimm's, a renowned summer cocktail in London. The garden party provided the perfect backdrop for engaging conversations with many lawyers who generously shared their career experiences.

I realised that some concerns are universal among lawyers, regardless of the country in which they practice. They voiced their grievances, which ranged from clients reluctant to meet lawyer fees to the exasperating bureaucracy that can make a lawyer's day nothing short of arduous.

I took this opportunity to inquire about hidden gems in legal London, and that was the first time I heard about the renowned 'Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.' This historic pub, among a handful rebuilt shortly after the Great Fire of 1666, had once been frequented by literary giants like Charles Dickens, and Mark Twain. I diligently noted down all the advice and suggestions I received and as I left the building, I couldn't help but feel that it had been an exceptionally memorable day.

However, nothing much happened until last summer, when a turn of events led me to spend a week in London. Having once called London home and extensively explored its legal, cultural and natural landscape, I seized this opportunity to rekindle my longstanding project.

Wandering through the historic sites of legal London, I took some pictures I’m very proud of. It was then that I resolved to breathe life back into this cherished endeavour once back in Italy, by embarking on a journey of blogging about this topic.

In retrospect, it's the seamless fusion of travel, exploration, and an unwavering passion for justice that has sustained this interest, even as my professional journey has evolved significantly since those early days.


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