Matthew C. Zorn
2020 Pegasus Scholar
The Pegasus Scholarship is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get unparalleled access to the UK legal system and see the profession through a different lens. It is also an opportunity to make new friends and build out an international network. That was especially true this year, Fall 2021, in which the program included two years’ worth of Pegasus Scholars and Temple Bar Scholars.
For five weeks, we were immersed in Legal London—a small oasis in the heart of London centered around the Temple Church, where the courts are located and where barristers practice in chambers, which are the rooms used by a barrister or a group of barristers. And for one week, we travelled to Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Dublin, getting a small window into their practices.
Week One was an action-packed week planned by the program organizer Cindy Dennis. We got to tour the ins-and-outs of the UK legal system, spanning from the UK Supreme Court (the court of last resort in the UK) to the Old Bailey (a criminal court of first instance) to Parliament. And of course, we toured the four Inns of Court—each with its own Hogwartsian style and reputation. Free time during this period was hard to come by and at its end, my feet were quite sore. Throughout the scholarship, I regularly walked 20,000 steps per day.
Weeks Two and Three were spent in two different chambers where I got to see some English advocacy. As a mini-pupil, I did a dash of public law, did some legal research, saw a closing argument in a commercial dispute. I also spent many evenings chatting about the profession at the pub. I got the true taste of barrister life: hours sitting around waiting for the next case to come followed by a frenzy when the cases did come in.
Week Four was spent at the UK Supreme Court. For four days, the group sat in chambers as shadow-clerks, reviewed briefings, sat in on the court hearings, and got a look behind the scenes at permission to appeal meetings where the Justices decided which cases were worthy of their attention. And on the last day, we had a reception and dinner with all of the Justices—a true treat.
Week Five sent us to Edinburgh, Belfast, and Dublin where we got to learn about the legal systems of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. None was radically different from the English system, but each had some significant differences in the details. In Edinburgh, we got to tour the Faculty of Advocates, the Scottish version of the Inns of Court.
There, I also learned my favorite UK legal quirk: pupils are called “devils” and pupilmasters are called “devilmasters.”
In Northern Ireland, we were exposed to a morning’s worth of court hearings and an afternoon at the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland. And in Dublin, led by Judicial Assistant John McNally, we toured the Four Courts in the morning; and in the afternoon and evening, toured the King's Inns and had a delicious formal dinner with Judges Barneville and O’Connor at the King’s Inn.
In my final week, Week Six, I got to see oral advocacy at its finest—two days of the Duchess of Sussex v. Associated Newspapers involving claims arising from the publication of private letters of the Duchess of Sussex, presided over by the Master of the Rolls, the President of the Civil Division of the Court of Appeal of England and Wales.
Over the course of this six weeks, I not only got to see English advocacy (both Zoom and live) but became acutely aware of the many differences in legal practice between the legal systems and how those differences affected legal practice. Three stood out.
First (needless to say) the UK does not follow the “American Rule” on fees where each side presumptively pays its own attorney fees, absent a fee shifting statute. In the UK, loser pays. This one aspect of the system permeates many aspects of practice, from deciding when to bring a case to which applications (the UK version of a motion) to put before the Court. From deciding when to file a case to when to file a motion, the economic calculus of everything is different when there is a possibility you may be paying attorney fees of your adversary.
Second, nearly all civil cases are not tried to a jury, but judge. This affects practice in all sorts of profound ways. For example, because the judge is the fact finder, summary judgment practice is far more limited and less used. In one case, during closing argument, I saw a barrister ask the judge for an adverse inference based on the mere non-production of evidence—something you would never see the States unless there were evidence destruction.
Third, the fact that each barrister maintains her individual practice and leaves the day-to-day tasks to solicitors is significant. This arrangement is very different from American law firms and solicitor firms, where partners share profits and law firms typically litigate all aspects of the case. In particular, the arrangement—with instructing solicitors usually sitting in-between barristers and clients—provides for a different and less direct relationship between court-appearing advocates and clients.