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Diary of a legal wannabe - The Old Bailey

Blog post by Heather Gilland

So, after a quick flight, brief shuttle, and speedy train. I’m here. All the way from snowy Scotland to the thrilling city of London, I’m about to embark on an adventure that will consist of a historic courtroom, a blank notebook, and many insightful conversations with like-minded individuals from all different walks of life. I’m ready and fully prepared, plus all prohibited items (including my lifeline also known as my phone) are safely stored in my hotel.

I’m now standing in the middle of a street in Central London, just staring! I’m gazing up at the shimmering gold statue of Lady Justice and I am utterly starstruck, fascinated in fact. I only started my law degree a few months ago and I already have this exceptional opportunity to experience a real-life court case at an extraordinary and characteristic court, also known as the Old Bailey, all thanks to the OU Law Society! I’m grabbing this chance with both hands and soaking up the entire atmosphere: like a sponge in the water!

The morning at our meeting place is quickly filled with warm greetings, a multitude of introductions and handshakes, as well as a great deal of laughter. It is utterly captivating just listening to and engaging with my fellow students. They are all at different stages of their law degree, they all have different ideas of what they would like to specialise in, and they are each blessing me with invaluable knowledge of extra-curricular law activities that I could get involved in. We head to the public gallery entrance and eagerly wait to be called forward for our chance to witness the talented and passionate court professionals at work. I am overcome by anticipation, I am eager to know what and who I will be observing today. 

Old Bailey signage

It's finally my turn! I head up the stairs, go through security and enter one of the courtrooms with some of my peers. The atmosphere is intense, the trial is in full swing, and we get to see the judge in his fancy red and fur robe, the barristers in full formal attire, the twelve members of the jury promptly taking down notes and the defendant sandwiched between prison officials. I feel empowered just being here, let alone having the opportunity to see and take notes on what is about to unfold before me. I’m in utter awe of these barristers and how they have achieved their personal goal: to operate in this type of profession, in this exclusive location, and in this specialist area of law. I have that same dream! 

We adjourn the court for lunch, I cannot wait to see the rest of my fellow students and hear about their morning at the Old Bailey – what courtroom they attended? How were they feeling? And what were their first impressions and experiences? We find a quaint little restaurant just beside the court and for the whole hour we speak, we listen, we swap emails, and above everything else we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company. We head back to the court to continue on from this morning and I’m just overcome with all different emotions: Firstly, mournful – this feeling is for the victim and their family who are sitting behind me. Secondly, regretful – as I didn’t book myself into the hotel for an additional few weeks so I could watch the rest of the trial. Thirdly, thankful – that I had the chance to meet such wonderful people that will hopefully, in the near future, be my work colleagues. And lastly, utterly optimistic. It was a joy and an honour to be part of this outstanding little group. The wealth of knowledge that I have gained from this short trip is incredible, I’m extremely excited to see what future trips will entail.


Heather Gilland

Heather Gilland Bio

If you asked me when my interest and passion for law started, I could try and come up with some fluffy and inspirational answers for you. But honestly, I cannot remember. Maybe it was when I started binge-watching true crime; perhaps it was when I read "the secret barrister" series, or maybe that attraction has always been there. I can, however, tell you the exact minute that I decided to take that overwhelming and exciting leap to study it. I'm so thankful that I did; my ultimate goal is to make law my full-time career; I'm finally on that incredible journey pursuing my dream and loving every second of it. 

I'm at the ripe old age of 31; I'm a mummy of three amazing, talented, feisty and cheeky children I love beyond words. I live in snowy Scotland, but I plan to make England my home when I graduate. I have had various employment positions in the past. I have been a property manager, a marketing assistant and a recruitment consultant, to name a few; however, studying full-time whilst watching my babies grow and blossom is my favourite role by far!