RCJ Citizens Advice Bureau
Tucked away in a shabby room in the Royal Court of Justice in London is the Citizens Advice Bureau. It looks like a dump. The stewards treat you like shit.
But it's a gold mine in disguise.
You enter and wait to be called to speak to a volunteer lawyer acting "Pro Bono" (for free). Every week you meet and sit in a stiff upright chair across from a different lawyer or trainee. Some are good, some not so good.
Beggars can't be choosy.
You're allotted between 30-40 minutes of legal advice. During this period you must present your entire case with enough information so the lawyer not only comprehends the massive complexities of your case but has enough time to give you advice too. This means you must communicate your story in about 10 minutes in the hope you get 20-30 minutes of advice. Every minute you waste cuts into the amount of advice you get.
The timeline is dead strict. So you have to be utterly on your toes and thoroughly prepared in order not to waste precious minutes or seconds. The pressure to get your story clear and succinct is immense. It requires planning, rehearsal, charts, diagrams and outlines.
I loved it.
The advantage of a different lawyer every week is that you get a really broad perspective on your case. So I wasn't just able to get a second opinion but a third, fourth, fifth, and many more.
But the one consistent thing was the reaction of every lawyer when I mentioned that I was acting alone as a Litigant in Person against the Voldemort of the legal world - Allen and Overy. First, their heads went back, their jaws dropped open, then closed, and finally, their bodies trembled slightly.
(sound of gasps and vultures in the background)
For two years I learned to hone my skills in communication. I suspect the two years I spent in the Royal Court's C.A.B. was better than any law school training.
The downside of the RCJ C.A.B. is if others go over time - you lose your spot. The people who work there treat you like dirt on the carpet. You're a charity case and they help you remember that. Pleading with them if you get bumped does nothing. They've all had empathy bypasses. What's worse is when you try to book an appointment each week, sometimes you can't get through. There is a half-hour window where you must call weekly to book your appointment and the line is always busy.
But none of that matters for you are thrilled to get legal advice and drink in every word like a precious magical elixir.