Scarlet R. Smith
2017 Pegasus Scholar
“Do they really wear the white wigs?” Since returning from my Pegasus Scholarship, I have been asked this question on a daily basis. I take it as an opportunity to explain that the wigs and gowns are not even close to being the most interesting aspect of the U.K. legal system. It has a celebrated history associated with iconic courts and an outstanding judiciary with an international reputation for excellence. Indeed, while the U.K.’s common law system has influenced other jurisdictions for the past thousand years, many international litigators prefer the U.K. for modern commercial issues.
In the first week, my co-scholar and I joined four American Temple Bar Scholars on a whirlwind introduction to the English legal system and to a wide range of the most remarkable people. Thanks to the hard work and planning of Cindy Dennis and her colleagues, each day was filled with unique events and activities. For example, we had the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with the Lord Chief Justice of the Royal Courts of Justice, the Master of the Rolls, and the President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. We also met with inspirational leaders in the community, such as the Trustee of the National Pro Bono Centre, the Master of the Temple Church, and the Chair of the Bar Council, each of whom made us feel welcome and enthusiastically answered our questions. From evening receptions at the Inns of Court to the Opening of the Legal Year Service at Westminster Abbey, we knew we were experiencing something exceptional.
As a scholar, you are given a unique view into the day-to-day duties of a barrister. I initially feared my casual nature would be out of place in prestigious barristers chambers, but the minute I met the barristers that I would spend my time with that fear vanished. Everyone I worked with was very friendly and seemed genuinely glad to meet me. Through my placements, I was fortunate enough to observe a wide-range of legal proceedings and trials. I sat at the bench during argument in the High Court at the Royal Courts of Justice, watched parts of a murder trial at the infamous Old Bailey, and participated in the investigations for a serious assault trial. I even got to go into the holding cells. From missing diamonds to esoteric issues regarding after-the-event insurance, the wide array of legal issues that I was introduced to on a daily basis gave me an overview of the various practice settings that barristers regularly find themselves.
I was particularly impressed by the quality of the advocacy I encountered. There was both an acute appreciation for the client’s legal position and a realistic and down-to-earth approach to the challenges in each case. It did not take long to realize that the professionalism in the U.K. legal system is an attitude, not simply a set of competencies. Every barrister that I had the privilege to talk with and observe regularly demonstrated a great deal of pride in their work, a commitment to quality, and a sincere interest in their client. It was inspiring and motivated me to maintain a similar level of professionalism in my own practice.
The Inns of Court were invaluable to my overall experience. Dining in the anachronistic halls, I was awestruck by the seemingly countless coats of armor, the astounding paintings, and the architecture. Though in the center of London, the Inns are tucked down an intricate maze of alleys and narrows streets that somehow disconnects you from the bustle of the city. I could fully engage in discussion about the law or share the stresses of the current political climate in a way that our fast-paced profession rarely allows. It became clear why, whether for lunch or for a more formal dinner, dining at the Inns of Court is regarded as a right-of-passage.
Although most of my time in London was spent in court or in chambers, I took the opportunity to see as much of London as my schedule would allow. The city has fantastic museums, world-famous theaters, and a matchless music scene. But most often after work I would walk through nearby neighborhoods to take in a show or just strike up conversation with some of the locals, immersing myself in London by night the same way I was able to engage in the U.K. legal system by day.
What I cannot adequately convey in this short report is what was to me the most valuable aspect of the Pegasus Scholarship—the way I felt. Like any of life’s most notable moments, it was the people I met that made the experience invaluable. People shape our memories more than the locations themselves. Whether it was having dinner with a new friend at their flat or an intimate chat with a new friend as we walked from the Middle Temple Hall to the Barbican to attend a concert, these experiences were the most precious part of the Pegasus Scholarship and will remain with me not just for the rest of my career, but for the remainder of my life.
Throughout the entire experience, the atmosphere was warm and inclusive. Everyone I met was accommodating and took great care to recognize and include me. So, while the wigs and elaborate place settings were fun, it is the people and the atmosphere of the U.K. legal community that I think about most. To those who made these opportunities possible, who took me under their wing and took the time to indulge me, thank you.
Scarlet R. Smith is an associate attorney at the Salt Lake City law firm of Strong & Hanni. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with a degree in psychology and Italian studies. Smith earned her J.D. with honors from the University of Utah, a joint degree program with a master’s in public administration. She served as executive footnote editor and staff editor for the Utah Law Review and was a semifinalist in the Traynor Moot Court Competition. She was recognized with several writing and leadership awards, including the National Pi Alpha Alpha Student Manuscript of the Year.
Smith has worked as a judicial extern and a law clerk at the Utah Court of Appeals, as well as a judicial extern for two judges on the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. She also participated in the American Inns of Court National Advocacy Training Program. She is a member of David K. Watkiss-Sutherland II American Inn of Court and sits on the board of Women Lawyers of Utah.