Durham Law Student Reports on Her German Internship Experience
(21 September 2007)
Durham Law student Laura Graham was awarded a summer internship to Meiningen, Germany, to work with a law firm.
In June 2007, I was awarded one of the mini-pupillages as a prize for receiving one of the best marks in Introduction to Comparative and International Criminal Law. Between the three prize-winners we had to choose which one we'd each take - the location choices were Meiningen in Germany, The Hague or Amsterdam. After we decided who would go where, we each made contact with the lawyer who would be supervising us on our respective visits. My trip was to Rechtanwälte Dr Anschütz und Kollegen in Meiningen, Germany. We arranged that I would go for two weeks in August, and Mr Latour, who was my supervisor, helped me to find accommodation for my stay. I was nervous about going to Germany as I had no previous knowledge of the German language, but thought it would be a challenge to try and learn some before I went. However, when I arrived, I was pleased to find that the majority of people in the firm and the town had a good command of English so it was not as daunting as I'd expected. I began my mini-pupillage on 20 August. Mr Latour showed me the courts and around the office where I'd be working. I was surprised by how modern the court buildings were in contrast to English courts. However, the main shock came when I entered a court room to watch a trial. The room itself was more reminiscent of a board room than a court room. The furniture was sparse and very modern, with a simple chair in the middle for the witnesses. Furthermore, the parties had far more interaction with the judge than I'd experienced in English trials. The essence of the verdict appeared to be compromise between the parties and the judge. There was also a focus on allowing the accused to be heard, and I was surprised when I heard him talking directly to the judge for a lengthy time with no interventions or questions from the prosecution. Another large difference that became apparent throughout my stay was the German focus on codes. While I had expected this, as I had been taught about it in lectures, I didn't think it would be quite so acute. In fact, Mr Latour described cases he'd had where his client had not been convicted because the wording of the code had not exactly fitted the scenario of the case, and the Germans stick to the principle of ‘no crime without law'. I was also told about legal education during my stay. This was another point of divergence. In Germany, it is usual for students to study for up to ten years before they qualify to practice. Many of the people there seemed shocked that I had finished my Bachelors degree at only 21, while in England it is very common. It was very interesting to see the differences (and similarities) which I had learnt about being used in practice. I also gained a lot of knowledge of German history, particularly because Meiningen is slightly east of the Former Inner German Border, and had a brilliant experience of the friendly and welcoming manner of the German lawyers and their families. It was definitely worth going. Laura Graham, LLB