Former Intermediary awarded Gray’s Inn Scholarship

Headshot of Maddy, she is standing outside and wearing a light blue shirt.

Congratulations to Maddy Burt, who has been awarded a Gray’s Inn Scholarship to support her undertaking the Law Conversion Course and Bar Course. Maddy worked as a Communicourt intermediary, and we are delighted that she will be bringing this experience into her future legal practice. Maddy kindly shared her professional journey, her next steps and what she learned during her time as a court intermediary:

What have you been up to since leaving Communicourt?

I left Communicourt last September, and it has been a whirlwind since then! I moved from London to York, and jumped into two mini pupillages on the northeastern circuit. I then began my law conversion course, which has been eight months of intense study (with Christmas and Easter spent revising for exams). I have enjoyed the course greatly, but am looking forward to having some time off.

Tell us about your scholarship.

I am very grateful to have received a scholarship from Gray’s Inn (one of the four Inns of Court all barristers are a part of) for both my law conversion course and my upcoming bar course. Having the support of Gray’s Inn this past year has helped me financially, given me confidence in my career choice and ability, and allowed me access to all the Inn has to offer, such as mentoring schemes and advocacy development opportunities. I wouldn’t be able to study the bar course full time this coming September without Gray’s Inn continued support through the bar course scholarship.

What’s next for you?

I’m spending the next couple of weeks in court in London and Leeds on mini pupillages, and then I’ll be taking some time off over the summer before starting the Bar Course in September. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into the advocacy side of things on the Bar Course.

What are your current career goals?

The areas of law I am most interested in at the moment are crime and family. They are areas I predominantly worked in as an intermediary, and areas I am excited by the prospect of working in as legal counsel. In particular, I am drawn to the importance of client care in both areas, working with people going through a very difficult time, and the frequent opportunities for courtroom advocacy. Depending on the case, there can also be a degree of overlap between the areas.

Did you learn anything from your time as an intermediary, which has supported your career development?

An invaluable skill I learned as an intermediary was communicating with a wide range of people. I would spend a morning presenting a ground rules hearing to a courtroom, justifying and expanding on special measures to a Judge and barristers from the witness box. Then, I would spend the rest of the day breaking down complex court information and expert evidence in order to support a service user with difficulties retaining information. This has further developed my confidence in public speaking, and my creativity in breaking down information – I made use of all sorts from whiteboard drawings to post-it note diagrams.

I also learned how to manage my time effectively, juggling both intermediary assessments and writing up reports with trials and hearings, while travelling around the country – an essential skill to take into the profession of a barrister!

Why did you choose to work as an intermediary?

I was drawn to the intermediary role because of the opportunity it gave me to be in a courtroom on a daily basis in my own capacity as a communication specialist, supporting those with additional needs who would otherwise struggle to engage in the process. Throughout university, I had tutored English to students with learning difficulties and so I had already adopted various strategies to support people with understanding and retention. I saw the intermediary role as an opportunity to continue doing this, while also being immersed in a legal environment.

Has your view of the intermediary role changed, since continuing your legal studies?

It has been interesting attending mini pupillages and being able to watch an intermediary in action – something I rarely got to do while working as an intermediary. I suppose my view of the profession has solidified my feeling that having an intermediary can really support justice being achieved, by allowing people to fully engage in court proceedings involving them. In particular, I feel it is essential for barristers to have vulnerable witness training from as early a stage as possible, both for times when an intermediary is not available or required and for barristers to work most effectively with intermediaries.

The reality is that many more people would benefit from intermediaries than are able to have them, and so ensuring barristers are equipped in how to support their clients who may have communication difficulties is imperative.

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Learn more about court communication from experienced court intermediaries on The Access Brief. A growing library of free resources developed for legal professionals working with clients who have communication needs.