Gerard J. Cedrone
2017 Temple Bar Scholar Report
Brexit negotiations make daily headlines in the UK; the country’s impending departure from the European Union is a topic of intense public debate. And for the four of us participating in this year’s Temple Bar program, discussions about Brexit’s impact on the legal world infused nearly every conversation we had. In many ways, the sense of uncertainty and discord that we encountered in the United Kingdom mirrored the current climate in the United States, where it’s hard to miss the atmosphere of increased polarization. So it was a unique time to dive into London’s legal community for a month of study and observation. But it was perhaps the perfect time to do so: after all, the goal of the Temple Bar program (and of the American Inns of Court more generally) is to foster bonds of friendship and understanding, bringing disparate parts of the legal community closer together.
Our journey through Legal London unfolded in three parts—each of which offered us a deeper appreciation of British legal practice and the work of our UK colleagues. The first phase: a sort of crash course in the basics. Through a week of visits to storied institutions (like the ancient inns of court) and meetings with leaders in the profession (like the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales), we began to familiarize ourselves with the building blocks of the country’s legal system. This orientation left us ready for the next stage of the program: a comprehensive look at day-to-day life in a barrister’s chambers. Over the course of two weeks, we were invited to shadow lawyers as they went about researching their cases, drafting their “skeleton arguments” (what we would call briefs), and dashing off to court (wigs and all). Finally, we rounded out the month with a visit to the UK Supreme Court. Hosted by the justices and their judicial assistants, we enjoyed courtside seats as leading advocates argued an important case about abortion restrictions in Northern Ireland.
It would have been hard to finish this whirlwind tour without having noticed the many ways in which the British legal system differs from our own. Some differences were obvious. Unlike the US, for example, the UK divides its legal profession between solicitors and barristers: the former interact with and advise clients, while the latter (instructed by solicitors) deliver clients’ arguments in court. The particular manner in which barristers present their arguments stood out, too. While many American courts base their judgments primarily on attorneys’ written submissions (aided, at most, by a short oral argument or conference), in the UK oral presentations are still the main way in which a lawyer lays out his or her position for the court. (As a result, arguments are long by American standards—the UKSC case we observed spanned four days.) Beyond these more conspicuous differences, there were other points of contrast that took a little longer to spot. For example, the UK bar comprises around 16,000 active barristers in total; American state bars, meanwhile, add more than double that number to their rolls every year. The relatively small size of the UK bar—and the fact that many of its lawyers practice in the square mile of the City of London—makes for a professional experience that appears more close-knit and collegial than its US equivalent.
What I will really take away from the Temple Bar Scholarship, however—far more than my impression of any differences—is an appreciation for how much we have in common with our colleagues across the Atlantic. We enjoy a shared legal heritage, of course; American law (and our common law system) has its roots in English law. But even more fundamentally, we’re united by a shared set of ideals: in both the UK and the US, lawyers and judges strive for a legal system grounded in integrity, impartiality, transparency, and professionalism. And we face common challenges, too. Most notably, our trip to London demonstrated the ways in which our colleagues in the UK—just like our colleagues back home—wrestle with the difficult task of fostering a legal system that both values longstanding norms and traditions (on the one hand) while pursuing greater inclusiveness, accessibility, and adaptability (on the other hand). The Temple Bar Scholarship reminded me that as we work towards these ideals and tackle these challenges, the experiences of our British counterparts will continue to provide valuable insights.
For these lessons and many others, I offer my sincerest thanks to the groups and individuals who made this year’s Temple Bar program possible. On the UK side, I am grateful for the generous hospitality of the UK Supreme Court, COMBAR, and the four Inns of Court—as well as my individual hosts, Lord Kerr, Andrew Spink QC, and Emma Jones. And on the US side, I would like to express my gratitude to the American Inns of Court, and especially to Chief Judge Carl Stewart, BG Malinda Dunn, and Cindy Dennis for all their hard work and for their warm welcome in London.
Gerard J. Cedrone is a clerk for Associate Justice Elena Kagan of the Supreme Court of the United States. A magna cum laude graduate of Brown University with a bachelor’s degree in economics, Cedrone is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and served as Secretary-General of Brown’s Model United Nations team. He earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School, graduating magna cum laude, and served as an executive editor of the Harvard Law Review. Cedrone has worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, and has also served as law clerk to the Honorable Neil M. Gorsuch when he was on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. In his personal statement, Cedrone wrote of how his Model U.N. involvement allowed for the opportunity to connect and forge understanding with people of different backgrounds.