The Secret Barrister - Stories of the Law and How It's Broken

Why law students should be following The Secret Barrister

The Secret Barrister is an anonymous author who has a career as a criminal barrister in the UK. The Secret Barrister’s work provides an insightful account into our criminal justice system.

Regardless of whether you intend work in criminal justice or not, everybody should have a basic understanding of how the system works. Here’s why you should be following the Secret Barrister’s (SB’s) blog and reading SB’s book.

You’ll see how the law is applied to current events

Law students study the law and apply it to fictional scenarios in tutorials and exams. However, what is often lacking is seeing the law applied to current events. When you visit SB’s blog, you’ll find countless articles describing how the law has been applied to current events.

As a law student it’s important to see the law being applied in practice and SB does a brilliant job in explaining the process. It’s important to keep our eyes open to what is going on in the world around us and be aware of how our work affects society.

You’ll see how the law can go wrong

A large part of learning the law is being able to apply it in different scenarios. During your studies, you will all encounter many problem questions, each with a correct/model answer. However, it’s important to understand that in practice, this model answer is not always reached.

SB’s book and blog reminds us that our legal system does still lead to unjust outcomes. Among these are stories of:

  • The Innocence Tax: Citizens, who earn slightly too much to qualify for legal aid, having to re-mortgage their property to pay for legal fees simply to secure their innocence. All without any compensation at the end of the lengthy process.
  • Administrative errors, due to an overworked, underfunded legal system, leading to violent abusers getting off without any punishment.

The examples you can encounter from reading SB’s work will inevitably open your eyes to the reality of our legal system. I believe that in understanding where the law can go wrong, you can aim to address these issues as you go forward in your legal career.

We have a responsibility to understand and address misinformation about the law

As law students, we all learn that one of the key facets of the Rule of Law is that it should be clear and accessible. Unfortunately, the reality is, unless you study law, you’ll probably have some difficulty understanding cases and statute. Even law students themselves don’t always fully understand the law!

Recent claims regarding prison sentences by various politicians highlight one of the deep failings in our system. Namely, the spreading of misinformation regarding the law. Reading SB’s blog, you’ll see that SB attributes the failures in the legal system partly to this public misunderstanding of the law.

Through reading SB’s blog, I hope that you will come away with a sense of responsibility to address misinformation to your peers. The law is all too often misreported in the press and other media.

As law student and lawyers, we have the privilege of learning how to understand the law and its implications on society. If we want our society to develop, the wider public also needs to understand how our legal system works. Your skills in communicating the law will be crucial to the development of the system as a whole.

I would urge you to discuss the law with your peers, especially those outside of your legal circles. The Secret Barrister provides an accessible way to find out about a widely misunderstood system. Sharing what you read from the Secret Barrister is just one way of introducing the law into your conversations.

An improved general public awareness of our criminal justice system might make it slightly easier to fix. This is just one part of our responsibility, as lawyers and students, to our society’s legal system.

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