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Last week, we began our week of classes with a day spent away from Oxford. On Monday, we got on the train in Oxford and made the quick trip to London for a tour of the Inns of Court and what is commonly referred to as “Legal London.” We met our tour guide, Victoria, outside the tube station and made our way to the Middle Temple, one of the four Inns of Court in London.
The Inns of Court in London have the right to call men and women to the Bar, or admit those that have completed all of the necessary qualifications to become a practicing lawyer in England. The Inns of Court have a long tradition, and many important historical figures have been members of one of the four Inns of Court. Victoria took us on a day-long tour of the Inns of Court, and taught us all about the history of the Inns and the legal profession in England. I personally found the tour fascinating, since I honestly didn’t know much about the differences between the legal profession in the United States and England. I not only learned a lot about the history, but also about the daily lives of attorneys in England today.
One of the highlights of the day was our lunch. As part of our tour, we were allowed to dine in the Middle Temple Hall. The Hall is really the center of life in the Inn, as it is where attorneys, judges, and students meet daily for lunch and also in the evening for dinners. In fact, Victoria told us that one of the requirements for Bar admission is a certain number of dinners in the Hall. They also hold student moots and many Middle Temple meetings in the Hall.
We were extremely fortunate to be sat at the High Table for our meal, which is the table where dignitaries sit when they are invited to dine in Middle Temple Hall. The table itself is unique, because it was a gift from Elizabeth I to the Middle Temple and was installed before the Hall was even completed in 1570. So many important historical and present day figures have dined at the High Table. To be counted as one who has dined there is an experience that I certainly won’t soon forget.
After lunch, we were able to split into smaller groups and observe some cases that were being argued before a judge that afternoon. It was interesting to see an English court in action, especially since they still have so many traditions that date back hundreds of years.
At the end of our day, we took the train back to Oxford. I can’t believe that our time here is so quickly coming to an end. Just one more week until finals, and then it will be time to head back to the States!