On Friday 7 March 2014, a small group of year thirteen pupils attended the Twenty-third Annual Inter Schools’ Sixth Form Law Conference. The conference was directed at girls who aspire to enter into a future career in the Law profession. It took place in Methodist College, Belfast. We began the day with talks from barristers on the topics of, ’what is law?’, and ‘your career in the law’. We were then given information on high ranking universities, to ensure we could consider the correct university for our career needs.
After a refreshment break, David Ford, the Minister for Justice in the Northern Ireland Assembly, explained on what possible jobs we could expect to obtain within the Assembly upon completion of our degree. Life ‘behind the bench’ was discussed by the ex-Lord Chief Justice, Justice Weatherup. He focused on the underrepresentation of women within the judiciary. This was an encouraging feature for us as girls from an all-female grammar school, as soon we will all be looking to go into the law profession. We were also invited to a day in the courts on the 31 March, which we hope to attend.
After a lunch provided by Methodist College, we watched a mock trial from the Institute of Professional Legal Studies in Queens University. This is where law graduates will train to become either a solicitor or a barrister. This was helpful as it gave us an idea of what training in the Institute would consist of, and it showed how essential charisma and confidence is within a court situation.
Finally to end the day, we were split into discussion groups with other schools to take part in a program called ‘Healing Through Remembrance’. The organisation gave us a topic for debate which was an imaginary country, which had suffered conflict and is now deciding how to deal with criminals, and the main question of whether to prosecute or not. This exercise was designed to draw parallels with Northern Ireland and through debate we put across ideas of how these situations should be handled. Mainly it showed us that there are no two cases the same and that depending on the situation, the answer would tend to differ each time. This also highlighted that the ‘Troubles’ is still a significant issue, however, in a different way to fifteen years ago. It highlighted also the need for respect and patience for the views of others and showed that statements should be carefully phrased in order not to offend.
To conclude I think the conference was a valuable experience for all girls involved, it allowed a precious insight into a very lucrative and private prospective career. I would personally encourage any girls in year 12 thinking about law to sign up next year.