Ilana B. Gelfman

2015 Temple Bar Scholar Report

The first morning of the Temple Bar Scholarship provided a hint of the wonderful experience to come.  We four scholars were lucky enough to attend the Westminster Abbey service marking the opening of the British legal year.  The soaring ceilings and grand stained-glass windows seemed the appropriate backdrop to the ceremony, which was attended by judges and barristers dressed resplendently in ceremonial wigs and robes. But despite the pomp and circumstance, something about the service seemed familiar. Westminster Abbey served as the venue for what resembled (at least to me) a family reunion—or the first day back at school after summer vacation.

The attendees of the ceremony all seemed to know one another.  And over the course of the month-long Temple Bar program, many of the faces became familiar to the scholars as well. This was partly due to the size of Legal London. Most barristers’ chambers are clustered in the same small geographic area surrounding the four Inns of Court. During the two weeks that we spent observing in chambers, we scholars quickly became familiar with the neighborhood. Walking from chambers to court and back, it seemed that we ran into someone that we knew, or someone that our host barristers knew, more often than not. 

The sense of community is no doubt facilitated by the four Inns of Court.  Each barrister is a member of Lincoln’s, Inner Temple, Middle Temple, or Gray’s. The membership begins when one is still a student and continues even if a barrister is made a judge. Inside the four beautiful buildings, students learn from more senior members, and everyone joins together for meals. The Temple Bar Scholars visited every Inn of Court—in particular, returning again and again to Middle Temple—and we were incredibly grateful for the warm welcome that we received.

The barristers that we met and whom we observed also were familiar with so many of their counterparts because of the way that the profession operates in England. Each barrister is self-employed, which means that two barristers may oppose one another in one case and work together in a second case in short order. This fosters a collegiality within the profession that is particularly striking to American lawyers. It encourages barristers to think of every other barrister as a potential colleague and as a partner in the joint enterprise of serving the court and seeking justice. 

I am hugely appreciative of the staff at the Inns of Court, members of COMBAR, solicitors, barristers, Supreme Court justices, and clerks who invited us into their dining halls, their offices, their courtrooms, and their community. And I am proud to be a member of the community that those at the American Inns of Court—including the wonderful Chief Judge Carl Stewart and Cindy Dennis—are working so hard to create. Thank you to everyone who hosted, taught, and accompanied us during the Temple Bar Scholarship.

Ilana B. Gelfman is a law clerk to Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer of the Supreme Court of the United States. A magna cum laude graduate with highest honors in the study of religion from Harvard College, Gelfman was a John Harvard Scholar and received the Study of Religion Senior Thesis Prize. She also was awarded a Stride Ride Post-Graduate Community Service Fellowship while an undergraduate. Gelfman earned her juris doctor from Yale Law School, where she served as a submissions editor for the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism and received the Stephen J. Massey Prize for community service. She was a Skadden Fellow at Greater Boston Legal Services in Boston, Massachusetts;  a Francis D. Murnaghan, Jr., Appellate Advocacy Fellow at the Public Justice Center in Baltimore, Maryland; and has served as judicial clerk to Judge Douglas P. Woodlock, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts; and Judge Robert A. Katzmann, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.