Speak French? Spend September in Paris!

The exchange programme is open to barristers of all four Inns of Court in their first seven years of practice. Four barristers visit Paris in September en stage, with financial support from the Pegasus Trust, shadowing French avocats, attending proceedings and developing their knowledge of, and contacts at, the Paris Bar. Avocat members of the Paris Bar of similar seniority spend the month of July doing a stage in London. This is an opportunity for barristers who have good French to experience the Paris Bar at first hand. Applications close on 18 May 2018. Click here for further details.

Pauline Tubiana of the Barreau de Paris, took part in the 2017 Paris-London Bar Exchange Program

Without any doubt, my advice is ‘Join in!’ In 2017 during the month of July, I shadowed judges and barristers throughout the London courts together with three avocats colleagues. We were invited to Inns’ dinners and ceremonies and took part in a mock trial held in the Royal Courts of Justice.

We heard inspiring statements at court. We built friendships and even managed to lessen our very Frenchy accents. It felt like a rare opportunity to take a step back from practice and learn from fellow litigators, sharing views and opinions. It also provided me with the possibility to challenge some givens of the French judiciary system through comparative experience. Finally, how else than through the programme would I have learned first-hand that barristers’ wigs do not scratch your forehead as much as I had expected?

Along with my new Big Ben wallet I wanted to bring several lessons learned back to Paris, including: (i) the process of ‘bad character evidence’ unknown in French criminal proceedings; (ii) some exercises in advocacy training which we had seen provided by the Inns; and (iii) the quality of the relationship between judges and barristers at trial.

From these impressions you will establish, beyond reasonable doubt, that all my expectations of content, friendship and enjoyment were more than met during the programme. I challenge any barristers who might have thought the contrary to come to Paris and live a similar experience for themselves.

There will be numerous French lawyers here, grateful from their own experience in London, to make sure their stay is as rich and pleasant as mine was. Participating is a step towards maintaining a strong bridge across the Channel, and building professional partnerships in the future. Bien confraternellement!

Jim Duffy is a barrister at 1 Crown Office Row and took part in the 2016 Paris Bar exchange

In late 2016, with my French degree gathering dust somewhere down the back of the washing machine, I applied for the Paris Bar Exchange. It was to offer me one of the most memorable experiences of my career.

From my quintessentially Parisian apartment in the 15th arrondissement, I set out each sunny morning – sustained by a pain(s) au chocolat – to the other side of the city of light. There, I was shown the tangled ropes of French legal practice by Benjamin Pitcho, a hugely impressive young human rights lawyer, and his brilliant assistant, Mila Petkova.

A whirlwind tour of the country’s legal system followed. On my first morning, I interviewed bewildered detainees who found themselves in the bowels of the Palais de Justice having been caught pickpocketing or dealing drugs the night before. This was to be their first stop on a conveyor belt of summary justice that could see them locked up for years by dinnertime. I visited all of France’s major courts, from the business-like Tribunal de Commerce to the grand environs of the Conseil d’Etat.

The advocacy was invariably theatrical. I marvelled at one indignant prosecutor, accused by his opponent of having presented the court with an inadequately prepared dossier. He responded robustly, lamenting the fact that, whilst on holiday the previous week he had been forced to abandon his long-established plans to tackle James Joyce’s Ullyses in order to digest his learned friend’s rambling pleadings.

Benjamin had recently been elected to the Conseil de l’Ordre, the body that oversees the 27,000 avocats practising in Île de France. Its weekly plenary sessions are held in an exquisite room in the Palais and broadcast to members of the profession. To my astonishment, and horror, I was asked to address the Conseil on how UK procedure protects persons lacking mental capacity – an exacting test in week three of my trip.

My legal work spanned intersex rights, intellectual property and an Indonesian land rights claim. It was punctuated daily by three-course lunches and heated political discussions extending long into the balmy night. The exchange ended with a mock criminal trial before the Cour de Cassation. I returned to St Pancras station with some new perspectives on the law and with many new friends. For French-speaking barristers, the scheme is an opportunity not to be passed up.

Practical Paris
By Prof Dominic Regan

What follows are some tips on what to do and not do in a city that I visit many times each year.

The Eurostar Service has many advantages. There is no weighing of luggage or liquid bans. On a good day I have cleared passports and security in six minutes. The other immense advantage is that one is travelling city centre to city centre. The cheapest return in standard is £58. Book ahead, although now and again big batches of cheap tickets are released. There is a premium economy option which gives one a light meal, a bigger seat and a more tranquil carriage.

Those who hold an Amex Platinum or Black card can use the opulent business lounges in London and Paris; even if travelling on an economy ticket. Far from the madding crowds one can grab lots of free newspapers, magazines, drinks and snacks. Only the cardholder gets in though. I always snatch a few bottles of water.

Some trains are non-stop between London and Paris. Apart from being slighter faster, the benefit is that as the train pulls out you can move to a seat you might find more attractive.

One arrives at the Gare Du Nord which is being cleaned up but still attracts some dubious characters. Beware of people inviting you to sign a petition. Whilst distracted, pickpockets get to work. They also operate on the Metro so keep passport and money buried deep in pockets.

If you want a taxi on arrival you will see a large sign telling you to turn right. Ignore it. Instead, turn left and walk along until you reach the vast exit opposite Platform 18. Go out and cross the street. Right outside the Hotel Richmond is a fast moving rank where I have always got a cab at once. You can wait 25 minutes in the official rank.

If using the Metro there is a massive interchange within the station. Depending on where you are going, it is much easier to get off the train and directly cross the street where on the corner opposite you will see a lovely Art Nouveau entrance to the Gare Du Nord metro (note: closed for renovations until 13 June 2018). It takes seconds to enter and you can pick up line 4 (Direction Porte d’Orléans) which stops at popular points like Chatelet, St Michel and St Germain des Près. Buy a ten ticket bundle of metro tickets, a carnet, for about €15. Pay cash or else you will be stung by card fees. One can buy a carnet on the Eurostar but they are more expensive.

Forget the Eiffel Tower. It is hectic and the queues are miserable. Far better to visit the cheaper and much more central Arc De Triomphe where good views prevail. Paris is a low built city so you can see from here. In the evening the whole Eiffel Tower sparkles for a few minutes on the hour and that is a memorable sight.

Forget the Louvre. It is massive and heaving. The Musée D’Orsay, once a railway station, is more manageable and is bursting with good sculpture and impressionists galore.

To navigate, buy The Paris Mapguide, an English publication which as I write is £3.50 on Amazon; utterly invaluable. The RATP app is free and enables one to plan Metro and bus trips. The Metro is fast and stations are close together.

La Coupole is opposite the Vavin tube on the Left Bank. It is a massive brasserie so you will always get a table. Bizarrely, the speciality is lamb curry served by two staff in Raj couture. Lots of seafood and steak are available too. The French President likes Le Dome a little way further up the road. Dirt cheap but atmospheric is an old canteen for workmen, Chartier, at 7 Rue du Fauborg Montmartre, by the Grand Boulevards metro. A bottle of wine can be had for a tenner.

Where to stay? The English Hoxton Hotel group has just opened by Chartier. If you have young children the Novotel at Les Halles is good because it has family rooms that will sleep four and the area is pedestrianised. Rue Montorgueil originates here and becomes a pedestrianised street with lots of small food stores including the cake shop Stohrer which the Queen has visited.

The Pompidou Centre is five minutes’ walk away. My personal favourite is the Hotel K and K opposite Rue du Bac tube. Rooms are modern so the plumbing and air conditioning work. Very central but calm and the Rue Du Bac has everything including the Bon Marche department store which is the best in Europe. The food hall and wine cave are beyond belief.