Last year, I applied for, and was selected as a Pegasus Scholar for 2012 by the American Inns of Court. I encourage you to find out more information about the American Inns of Court by browsing the material on their website. Generally, the American Inns of Court oversees and supports local Inns throughout the country. These Inns contain judges, lawyers, law professors and law students who meet approximately once per month to discuss professionalism, ethics, and to mentor. Each Inn is subdivided into “pupilage groups” which are smaller groups that typically have one judge, several senior attorneys, several junior attorneys, and several attorneys. These groups also gather outside of the more formal once-per-month Inn meetings, and each group is responsible for one of the monthly programs presented to the Inn.
The American Inns of Courts are loosely based on the mentoring structure within the UK legal system for Barristers. As I understand (and I will certainly learn more about this when I go to London), aspiring Barristers must shadow or apprentice with Barristers, have dinners with them, and work with them until the Barristers are satisfied about their knowledge about the profession. When they are satisfied, that apprentice is “called to the Bar” and admitted to practice as a Barristers. (Note: Barristers wear wigs and practice in front of judges; Solicitors are attorneys that do not practice before judges but work with Barristers when their client must go to court).
The American Inns of Court sponsors the Pegasus Scholarship which allows two young lawyers who have a few years of experience to go to the UK for approximately six weeks (and in exchange, two young Barristers from the UK travel to the US). During the six weeks, the US attorneys work with different Barristers and learn about their legal system and all of its nuances. This experience includes watching oral arguments, engaging in legal research, eating dinner with the Inner Temple Inn in London, and visiting Barristers in Edinburgh, Dublin, and Belfast, amongst many other priceless opportunities.
Since my second year of law school in 2003, I have been a member of the William E. Doyle Inn of Court. Joining my Inn has been one of the best and most satisfying decisions I ever made. Over the years, I established numerous mentoring, professional, and personal relationships with judges, lawyers, and law students. I can talk to people within my Inn openly about any questions I might have about a sensitive issue or discuss any trials or tribulations. I can always turn to someone for more mentorship or guidance and feel that others know they can turn to me about any questions they have about the legal profession, jobs, and handling situations tactfully.
One of the attorneys I initially met, who has served as my mentor and confidant, received the Pegasus Scholarship in the 1990s. He constantly spoke highly of the experience and indicated that it might have been one of the best, most educational experiences of his life. Having studied abroad in college, I understood that this was indeed a once-in-a-lifetime educational experience.
I always kept the Pegasus Scholarship at the forefront of my mind, but the time never seemed right between job obligations, professional obligations, and weddings. Luckily, in 2012 everything came together to allow me to immerse myself in this scholarship (and luckily, I was selected as one of two people to receive it!). My fellow scholar is John DeStefano, whom I have not yet met except via phone and email.
One of the reasons why I’ll be writing these blog posts, besides memorializing this unique opportunity for myself, is to allow others to experience this journey with me. As such, please post in comments section below any questions or topics you would like me to explore about the UK (and Irish) legal system, the Inns of Court, mentoring, the UK government system, or any other questions you have. I will post them on the blog or write back to you directly.
I leave for London on February 17, 2012 and arrive back in the United States on April 1, 2012. I’m crossing my fingers for decent weather!