2017 British Pegasus Scholar Report
When I boarded my Virgin Atlantic Flight, bound for Washington D.C. back in October of 2017, I can honestly say that I had very little to no idea what to expect from my Pegasus Scholarship to the USA. I told myself that worst case scenario this would be a 6 week frolic to the USA, no loss at all and the chance to spend some more time in a country that I have always rather enjoyed visiting. What I was not expecting was 6 weeks packed with the most interesting legal activities, surrounded by the kindest, most informative people I have had the privilege of meeting in my life. That will come as no surprise to those who have read reports from the numerous previous scholars who write equally fondly of their time in the US as scholars, but for me the experience was as surprising as it was special.
My co-scholar and I spent an incredible 6 weeks embarking upon a whirl-wind tour of the States, from the crisp fall leaves of Delaware and Virginia to the sultry climes of Florida and California. Each day was packed with events and activities, carefully arranged and cultivated towards our own law practices and outside interests.
Washington D.C., being the promised land for those of us with even a modicum of political interest did not disappoint in any way. We were fortunate enough to have rented an apartment in the Dupont Circle/Adams Morgan area and being a stones throw from all the sites of D.C. certainly served to drive home how incredible the experience was. Walking past the White House, through Lafayette Square with the Capitol and the Washington Monument persistently on the horizon will be a view I will always treasure and eternally miss, now that I am back home. There is nothing quite like being in the middle of a city so steeped in history; one that serves as a monument both individually and in parts. There was also the added bonus on our last night of nearly being run down by the Presidential motorcade truly satisfied the House of Cards fan within me.
Our 3 week total in D.C. brought with it days spent with our hosts at the Department of Justice, meeting a whole range of people from the Solicitor General to litigators from the National Security Team. We were fortunate enough to meet with congress people, senatorial staff and Supreme Court Justices in addition to watching an array of litigation in cases that spanned the importation of big game to the criminal trial of the Benghazi bomber. A personal highlight was a day spent at the Pentagon discussing an array of legal and quasi-legal political matters with Generals from the Judge Advocate General Unit, former ambassadors and military death penalty litigators.
Another experience that will stay with me throughout my life, both professionally and personally, was the incredible opportunity to hear an appellate case before the US Supreme Court with the added bonus of having witnessed counsel for the Respondent, a former solicitor-general no less, argue the point in a moot 2 days previously. The uniqueness of such an opportunity alongside the invaluable notes taken for my own advocacy will certainly not be forgotten. Moreover, as a criminal barrister I have to say that I never imagined I would find myself pouring over the US Bankruptcy Code with such rapture as I am embarrassed to admit I did between those arguments.
In a similar vein a wonderful 2 days spent in the first state of Delaware amongst the Chancery courts and State Supreme Court hearings largely relating to corporate law, lead my co-scholar and I, along with our host, to spend the vast majority of a 2 hour drive passionately debating the grammatical interpretation of a comma within a contractual clause. I can honestly say that, not even as a bright eyed and bushy tailed 1st year law student have I ever been so intrigued by such a nuanced aspect of civil litigation. That perhaps leads me to what I found to be one of the most rewarding aspects of my scholarship; my re-discovery of my passion for the law and experiencing the legal process and studying the law from new eyes. The opportunity to be immersed in a completely new and unknown legal sphere with some experience was utterly eye-opening and it is a perspective which I have very much taken back with me into my own practice.
One of the best things about the Pegasus Scholarship to the USA is the diverse nature of it, not only in the range of legal activities but also in geography. My co-scholar and I were privileged to have an exceptional week in Orlando, Florida and 5 days in LA and Long Beach, California.
Our week in Florida can perhaps be described as the most organised and wonderfully tailored program a scholar could imagine. We spent an exceptional week hosted by the Orlando chapter of the George C Young Inn of Court sitting in on an array of criminal, civil and regulatory proceedings. Highlights included meeting with the teams at Channel 6 news and discussing budding issues in media law alongside visiting with the F.B.I and S.W.A.T teams based out of Orlando. As a criminal practitioner meeting with law enforcement, particularly those involved in high profile cross-jurisdictional and international matters, is always an exceedingly useful and informative process and the opportunity to meet with the busy agents and officers that we did, was truly wonderful. The sheer quality and quantity of the legal practitioners and judiciary we met was astonishing in Orlando and throughout the trip and will be one of my favourite aspects of being a scholar.
In Los Angeles and Long Beach we spent significant time in the criminal courts and the ability to see all aspects of court room advocacy, particularly the very foreign (to a Brit!) voir dire process was riveting. A personal highlight was a visit to NBC Universal Studios where we had the opportunity to meet with the global head of litigation for the studio before being given a behind-the-scenes tour. The chance to attend the centenary celebration of the Long Beach Bar Association whilst hosted by the Ball-Hunt-Schooley Inn of Court was again a fantastic experience.
I feel it my duty to point out that whilst practically every minute of our 6 weeks were packed with activities there was as much fun in there as professional. Given the volume of things we did, highlighting is rather difficult but in D.C. visiting Jefferson’s Monticello, private tour of CNN studios and tickets to the Mean Girls Musical preview have to be amongst my favourites. In Orlando catching a production of Big River, the Kennedy Space Centre and a last night consisting of a fantastic dinner at the Palm, Hard Rock followed by an impromptu late night visit to Universal Studios theme-park for Halloween haunted nights will go down as one of my favourite evenings ever. The amazing private tour of the Queen Mary Ship in Long Beach very much also deserves to be mentioned.
In D.C., Delaware, Orlando and LA the opportunity to address members of the legal community, in audiences spanning from some 90+ to more intimate groups was a real privilege. These presentations from us on the British legal system and a comparative analysis of our experience between the US and the UK lead to extensive debates about Brexit, the independent Bar, sexism and equality to name but a few. These wonderful discussions and debates amongst legal professionals across a wide range of disciplines and jurisdictions really served to hammer home, for me at least, why programs like the Pegasus Scholarship remain so very important in our ever shrinking world.
The common thread to our scholarship, whether in D.C., Delaware, Florida or California, was the warmth and kindness with which we were treated by each and every person involved in facilitating our visit. From our wonderful hosts to each Inn of Court and associated lawyers, Judges and everyone in-between, there is not a person to whom I am not completely grateful and eternally indebted. The life-long friendships and connections forged as a Pegasus Scholar are simply priceless and a wonderful and unexpected boon from the program.
I know both my co-scholar and I share real affection and respect for each person who took the time to host us and meet with us during our time in the States. It was a privilege to have met every one of them and a joy to have had the opportunity to do so. I simply cannot say enough about the generosity and kindness with which we were treated throughout. I imagine any other time in my life will be hard-pressed to match the wealth of experience and wonderful memories I have gained in the 6 weeks I spent in fall 2017 in the USA. The Pegasus Scholarship was an extraordinary experience for me and one I will carry very close to my heart throughout my future at the Bar.
Aadhithya Anbahan is a barrister practicing from St Ives Chambers, a leading common law set based in Birmingham. Aadhithya has a varied common law practice, but predominantly focuses on crime, regulatory and housing work.
Aadhithya is regularly instructed in an array of criminal proceedings including Defence work in the Crown, Magistrates and Youth Courts. She has a strong Crown Court practice appearing for Defendants and Prosecuting as a Grade 1 Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Panel Advocate. As a Defence advocate, Aadhithya defends clients in relation to a full spectrum of criminal matters, including Grievous Bodily Harm, general violence, dishonesty, drugs related offences and driving matters. As a Prosecutor she is instructed in breach proceedings, trials of issue, sentences and bail act proceedings on behalf of the CPS and the Probation Service. These offences range from fraud and dishonesty to child abduction, drugs and violence.
Through her regulatory practice Aadhithya represents education boards, local authorities and the police force in a range of hearings from closure orders to parole board hearings and tribunal matters. In housing, her practice covers the full breadth and depth of housing matters including possession, anti-social behaviour injunctions and breach proceedings.
Aadhithya read Law (LLB) at the University of Durham, graduating in 2012 with honours. Subsequently, she studied the Bar Professional Training Course at the University of Law in London and was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in 2015. Prior to commencing work as a Pupil barrister, Aadhithya spent 6 months working on death row appeals at the Office of Capital Post Conviction Counsel in Jackson, Mississippi. Upon returning to London, she was employed by the UK Home Office as a Presenting Officer (advocate). Aadhithya is an elected member of the Young Barristers Committee.