William C. Terrell, Esquire
2016 Pegasus Scholar Report
Powdered wigs, funny accents, and strict adherence to traditions were my, admittedly, limited opinions about the British legal system. I had no idea what to expect when I landed at London-Heathrow Airport and began my journey to 6 Eardley Crescent SW5 9JZ (our residence for six weeks). I have never traveled outside of the United States longer than ten days. Now, I was about to be away from friends and family for almost two months. Away from my practice, and all the comforts of home that I had grown so accustomed to having. To say I was nervous would be a slight understatement. However, London turned out to be everything I hoped for and more. There are countless Pegasus Scholar journals that detail where scholars worked, what scholars did, and the places scholars were fortunate enough to visit. I hope that you are reading my entry because you need some extra motivation to apply for this honor. I could tell you all about Lord Toulson (who will likely be retired by the time you arrive) and our visit to the United Kingdom Supreme Court, but that name means nothing to you at this point. Instead, my desire is that this journal entry helps you to better understand what you are in store for once you decide to apply for this amazing opportunity.
Just get used to it. London’s weather is not ideal. You do not have to take my word for it, just ask any British person once you land at Heathrow. If the sun happens to peak ever so slightly from behind the onslaught of daily cloud coverage, it would behoove you to take full advantage. If you are fortunate enough to work in the Temple area then use your lunch hour to take a walk in the courtyard that separates Middle and Inner Temples. Because of the persistent rain, grass has a darker hue of green that we really do not see in America. If you hit the jackpot and it is a beautiful day on the weekend, I would enjoy a day along the Thames. There are numerous parks and restaurants all along the Thames. Pick different areas and just enjoy being outside for as long as you can bear. You will find that London winters are quite mild temperature wise. I would say that most days the temperature rarely dropped below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. However, the wind can pierce you to your very core. So even if the temperature is forecasted to be on the warmer side, always check the wind.
William Shenstone once said, “Nothing is certain in London but expense.” I do not believe truer words have even been spoken in the English language. London in CRAZY expensive! It is always listed on the most expensive cities in the world list, and deservedly so. I currently reside in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis is known for having a relatively low cost of living. Arriving in London was a complete culture shock that I do not believe you can truly appreciate until you spend significant time there. For instance, let's take Starbucks. In America, a tall café mocha may run you about $4. In London, the numerical digits will be the same, but it will be in pounds. So that same tall café mocha in America that you get every morning before work now cost you $6 plus your exchange fee that your bank charges.
Perhaps the best jaw-dropping example of the expense of London is joining a gym. I am a reformed big guy, so it is imperative that I try and maintain some level of fitness or it could get ugly really fast. My first day there, I decided to venture around the neighborhood and look for a gym. To my pleasure, I found a SoHo gym roughly 0.3 miles from our flat. I thought this is perfect! After going through the tour and being sold on the gym, I made the mistake of asking how much. The gym representative told me it would £75. My mouth hit the floor! Using the exchange rate at the time, that was $112.50! After telling the gym rep thank you and running as fast as I could to another gym, I came to find that £75 is the going rate for a gym membership. I asked my wallet for forgiveness and ended up paying the £75.
I am sharing my story so you can budget properly. As soon as you get your stipend and airfare check from the Inn, start converting it to pounds immediately in your mind. Let’s assume you get $3,000. Immediately look at the exchange rate. Under the current exchange rate that’s about £2,000 pounds. Your flight is going to cost you about £700 pounds, so you have roughly £1,300 pounds to last you for six weeks. To make the money stretch is going to require some creative budgeting on your part. The sooner you begin the conversion the better off your experience will be.
For those of you saying that this sounds like more burden that you can bear, I promise that it is not. I found some best practices that really helped stretch the pounds. First, Tesco is your friend. Tesco is the largest grocery chain in London, and it is really first class. Think of it as a cross between Whole Foods and Kroger. European Union food regulations are much more stringent that the FDA (kind of sad to think about), so the quality of produce and meats in London was phenomenal. Plan on having breakfast at home. I would buy greek yogurt and granola every day to eat on my way to work. It is difficult to pack your lunch, because you are never really in control of your own schedule. I would just plan on eating out for lunch most days. Pret A Manger is a God-send. “Pret” offers ready-made, quality food for a relatively inexpensive price for London standards, and believe me when I tell you that they are everywhere. Another advantage of Pret is that they have Wi-Fi so it is a good place to check your messages during lunch or catch up on emails. For dinner, I would try to eat at your residence three to four times a week. Like I stated previously, the food in the grocery stores is great so take advantage.
London may have the easiest public transportation system in the world. Outside of the frequent “scheduled” strikes (they rarely happen), it is a model of efficiency and cleanliness. I used an app on my phone called “Tube Map” that worked pretty well. Google Maps also does a good job of giving the times and which lines you should take (District, Victoria, Piccadilly, etc.) However, after your first couple of weeks you will be able to take the train like a pro. When you first load your tube card, please pay attention to which option you select. If you select the wrong option it can be a hassle trying to get a refund from London Transport (not speaking from experience or anything). There are people at the airport station that should be able to help you load your tube card the first time.
The Tube uses electronic payment, so you can use a preloaded Tube card, or you can use a credit card with an RF chip inside (helpful tip: if you have not already, ensure that all your debit and credit cards have been converted to RF chips. It is much more important in Europe than America right now.). You are charged for each time you EXIT the train. So if you get on at Earl’s Court station, you are not charged until you get off at your destination. Anywhere in Central London is the same price (something like £2 each way). However, what no one tells you about it is the overhead trains that travel into the suburbs of London. Those can get expensive very quickly. If a Barrister asks you to meet him or her in a small county courthouse make sure you have enough on your tube card to complete your journey.
If you are going out on the weekend, be mindful that the Tube stops running at midnight. This was completely archaic to me. You would assume that London’s train system would run close to 24 hours but it does not. However, there was some discussion that the hours were being extended until 2:00 a.m. on the weekends. If you find yourself out having a smashing (I did not hear anyone use the word smashing while I was there FYI) time, you have a few options available to you. The buses run all night and they are easy to use as well. In fact, if you are going to a pretty common place, I would recommend taking the bus. It may take longer, but they are cheaper and you get to see more of the city. London also has taxis and UBER. The taxis can be super expensive, and unless you have a cell phone plan with data, it may be hard to find a Wi-Fi connection that allows you to call UBER.
As you may expect, the Tube system can be overcrowded in the morning. Depending on your tube station, you may have to leave a little earlier to account for the limited space available on the trains. You also should plan on being very aggressive when you are attempting to get on the train. People always act like there is not another train coming in two minutes, so they push and grab to make sure they get on the next train. Be polite, but prepared to be in a figurative fight to get to work on time in the mornings.
London is one of the cultural meccas of the world. Please take advantage of all it has to offer. Just remember that there is way too much to do to try and jam it all in on the weekends. Take advantage of your after work time to visit some attractions. A lot of the cultural attractions in London are free as well! I highly recommend the British Museum. You may have to break it up over two visits because it is massive. It is absolutely fascinating. I would also recommend visiting the Churchill War Room. It is an inside look of the how the British government was forced underground during World War II as well as the life of Sir Winston Churchill. We were fortunate enough to have special tours of the Tower of London and Parliament. I hope that you are afforded the same opportunity. There is so much history in both of these sites that it leaves goosebumps on your skin when you are walking through them.
Traveling Outside of London
As you may have heard, it is pretty inexpensive to travel within Europe once you get there. EasyJet is one of the low-cost carriers that makes it so affordable. However, it is different than probably any airlines that we have in America. You are only allowed ONE item period. Not a purse and a suitcase, not a backpack and a suitcase, but one item. Your normal carry-on luggage is fine, just do not plan on bringing anything else or you will have to pay a substantial fee.
The Inns are unlike anything that we have in America. It is really hard to describe all of the functions that they encompass. It would be similar to your respective state bar having a dining hall, a central place to have CLE, and offered numerous services for its members, amongst other things. Please try and visit all four. They are all fascinating structures, and the dining halls all look like something straight out of Harry Potter. If you happen to be in the area on the weekend, you may see a movie being filmed, as some popular movies such as Mission Impossible, the Da Vinci Code and Sherlock Holmes have all been filmed on the grounds of the various Inns. Also make sure you dine in all four Inns. Fish and chips day is pretty fun and they always have great desserts!
Do not just go to your placement, sit at a desk and read papers. Make relationships with as many Barristers as you can. The English system is a bit different from our American system. There are two classes of lawyers. The first set are Solicitors, which are a mix between a transactional attorney and an insurance adjuster. Then there are the Barristers, who are like closers in baseball. They only come in when it is time to go to court. You will more than likely be placed with various Barristers during your stay. You will find out that that we all struggle with the same issues on both sides of the pond. There are differences in the way we do things, but you will recognize that we have the same principles, just different words. The Barristers will be intrigued about the differences. Be inquisitive and be open to explaining how you would handle a situation differently in your practice here.
Perhaps my most rewarding experience was a barrister, who had just become a Queen’s Counsel, (an honor reserved for Barristers practicing 20+ years who are considered the best in their respective practice) invited me to Sunday brunch with his family and friends. I was truly touched by this and it all started because we got into an interesting conversation about a case he just argued before the United Kingdom Supreme Court.
Yes, Donald Trump. Perhaps no topic came up more than the American political dysfunction. British people know way more about American politics than we know about British politics. I consider myself a learned person. I read the New York Times and other publications that cover events throughout the world, but rarely does international news trump (no pun intended) our national news. That is not the case in London. American political coverage was on the front page of the daily London newspapers many days. Whenever we would meet with a Judge, the first question was who is going to win the election. So if you are going over in 2017, and Donald Trump is the president (God, help us all!) be prepared to talk about it….a lot.
If you are thinking about applying, please remember that this is an experience. Some things will happen that are just outside your control. You have to be adaptable and show an ability to just go with the flow. You will realize how dependent you become on certain things when you do not have them, and how productive you can be without distractions from home. I gained so much clarity just being by myself most days because there was nothing on TV and I could not access my American television websites while abroad. You realize how much of your schedule is taken up by civic commitments, work commitments and your significant other/family. For six weeks, it is all about you. All about how you can adapt to being in a foreign country. All about how you can live with another individual for six weeks. All about how well you really know and trust yourself outside of your comfort cocoon in America. If that scares you, then honestly this is probably not a trip for you. However, if that excites you, then I promise you that you will have the time of your life.
There are so many people that make this experience possible, and to list them all would take another 2-4 pages. However, I have to mention a few people who I will forever be indebted to for the rest of my life. First, the committee for giving me the honor of representing the American Inns of Court in London. It is an honor that I took various seriously and I can never say thank you enough. I also want to thank Cindy Dennis for making this process so seamless. There is not a question that she does not know about this program, and she is a great resource if you are seriously considering applying for this program. Once you cross the pond, Eamonn is wonderful. Eamonn is responsible for placing you with different chambers and your general point of contact in London. I want to say thank you so much for being so accommodating and understanding. I also want to thank the numerous Barristers and Clarks who welcomed me into their chambers with open arms. Each chamber was different, but each was equally as friendly and accommodating. Finally, I want to thank Megan and Bipin (the Indian Pegasus Scholar) for their friendship over the course of six-weeks. It can be very tough living with someone who have never met for six-weeks, but I could not ask for a better roommate, and better friends.
William C. Terrell, Esquire, is a trial attorney with the Memphis firm of Glassman, Wyatt, Tuttle & Cox. In a notable case, he successfully secured the dismissal of a legal malpractice action by presenting expert testimony that the lawyer’s conduct did not fall below the applicable standard of care. Prior to joining the firm in 2013, he clerked for Judge Jerry Stokes on the Shelby County Circuit Court in Tennessee. While in law school, Terrell worked as a judicial extern for Judge S. Thomas Anderson on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.
Terrell earned his J.D. from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law, where he served as note editor on the law review and as president of the Black Law Students Association. He was named a Diversity Leadership Institute Fellow by the Tennessee Bar Association. He is an associate member of the Leo Bearman, Sr., American Inn of Court, and is also active within the bar associations of Memphis, Tennessee, and Mississippi.