Kathryn Wynbrandt

2019 Temple Bar Scholar Report

The Temple Bar Scholarship was an extraordinary opportunity to spend a month immersed in the United Kingdom’s legal system.  I am deeply grateful for the chance to participate.

We spent our first of four weeks becoming familiar with the United Kingdom’s key legal institutions.  We toured the United Kingdom Supreme Court, the Royal Courts of Justice, the Commercial Court of England and Wales, and the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales.  During those visits, we met with judges who offered incredible comparative insights into our respective legal traditions.  We also visited all four Inns of Court.  We learned about each Inn’s unique history and educational offerings, toured their awe-inspiring facilities, and discussed the Inns’ commitment to improving access to the barristers’ profession among historically marginalized groups.  Our meetings with leaders of professional bodies such as the Bar of England and Wales and the Commercial Bar Association were enormously instructive components of the week as well.  But without a doubt, the highlight of our introduction to “Legal London” was the opening of the legal year at Westminster Abbey.  Through all of these experiences, I gained a much more sophisticated understanding of how the American legal profession compares to its English counterpart.

The Scholars shadowed commercial barristers for the two weeks that followed.  I was thrilled to be placed in two terrific sets of chambers:  7KBW and One Essex Court.  Most of my time was spent in courtrooms, observing trials and hearings on a variety of motions.  I also read and discussed barristers’ court filings and their correspondence with solicitors.  I was particularly struck by the diversity of the work that barristers housed in commercial chambers take on.  Some of the barristers to whom I was assigned, for example, serve as part-time judges and represent the government in addition to their bread-and-butter work representing companies in litigation.  Perhaps my most memorable day during this phase of the program was spent shadowing a junior barrister representing the government on rehearing of a penalty proceeding involving migrants smuggled into the United Kingdom on a truck filled with pears.  Without any warning, the owner of the trucking company appeared at the hearing without legal representation (or, as they say in England, as a “litigant in person”) and proceeded to introduce previously undisclosed evidence.  The barrister delivered an exceptional cross-examination with only a fifteen-minute break to prepare it, all while taking pains to ensure that the opposing party understood the courtroom procedures and the evidence being addressed.  Not only did this barrister demonstrate oral advocacy at its finest, her presentation deftly upheld her duties to zealously represent her client’s interest and at the same time assist the court in determining an outcome that best serves justice. 

We spent our final week in London at the Supreme Court.  Each scholar was assigned to shadow a different member of the Court, and thus had the privilege of discussing cases one-on-one.  We also spent time with the Court’s current and former Judicial Assistants, whose role is similar to that of law clerks in the U.S. system.  It was a pleasure to interact with these young lawyers and compare notes on our respective experiences.  We spent several hours observing oral arguments as well.  Unlike their American counterparts, oral arguments in the U.K. Supreme Court sometimes span several days.  (Among those we observed was a four-day argument—complete with morning and afternoon sessions—concerning an important jurisdictional issue in patent cases.)  Members of the Supreme Court also sit on the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which serves as the final court of appeal for several countries outside of the U.K.  One of the arguments we observed arose from a land dispute in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago; it was absolutely fascinating to see the Court grapple with issues of foreign law in addition to their docket of domestic cases. 

Throughout the program, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the barristers and judges we met.  They warmly welcomed us into their workplaces and took significant time out of their busy schedules to introduce us to their legal system.  And they went above and beyond the confines of our already imposing schedule—taking us out for unscheduled dinners and drinks, and continuing to meet even after our placements concluded.  I look forward to keeping in touch with so many of the remarkable people I met during the program, including the members of the American Inns of Court community that took part.  I offer my sincerest thanks to the American Inns of Court, COMBAR, all of our hosts, Clara Benn, Emma Jones, Lord Kerr, and Cindy Dennis for making this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible.

Kathryn L. Wynbrandt is a law clerk for Judge Patricia A. Millett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. She earned her law degree from Yale Law School. She also earned a master’s degree with distinction in public policy from the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government and an undergraduate degree summa cum laude in English and political science with honors from the University of Pennsylvania. Before her current clerkship, she was a litigation associate at Jenner & Block in Washington, D.C., and a law clerk for Judge Gary S. Feinerman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. She has also interned at the Veterans Legal Services Clinic in New Haven; the U.S. Department of Justice; and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law.