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  • Writer's pictureNadia Cook

"What the Devil?"- Is a Mini-Devil?

Emma shares her experiences and reflects upon her recent participation in the 2022/23 Mini-Devil scheme, which is organised and hosted annually by the Faculty of Advocates in Scotland. The Mini-Devilling Scheme offers Diploma students an insight into Devilling and life at the Bar. The scheme also provides a safe space for students to hone their advocacy skills and gain first-hand experience of legal work.

Application Process

During the Diploma induction week at university, we got a talk about the Mini-Devilling Scheme from Craig Findlater, one of the Mini-Devilling co-ordinators. It sounded very interesting and something that was right up my street. The application process was straightforward. I noted my interest with my university’s Diploma co-ordinator and then I got invited for an interview which was conducted online. The interview was enjoyable, and it is nothing to worry about. Some of the questions I got asked related to why I wanted to do the scheme, whether I would want to be paired with a Criminal or Civil Mini-Devilmaster and my previous experience that I could bring to the scheme. At the end of my interview, I was asked to briefly speak about a challenge the legal profession is currently facing. Of course, every university may structure their interviews differently, but I hope giving a brief insight into what my interview was like may help future Mini-Devils.

Post-interview process

I was one of five students to be chosen to participate in the Mini-Devilling Scheme from the University of Aberdeen. Our names were forwarded to the Faculty of Advocates who then contacted us. We got our own Faculty of Advocates email account set up and we were told which Mini-Devilmaster we had been paired with. As I am passionate about Criminal law and that I am pursuing a career in this field, I was grateful to have been paired with a Criminal law Mini-Devilmaster. My Mini-Devilmaster made the first contact and at this stage, Data Processing Agreements were signed. One tip I have is if your Mini-Devilmaster does not make the initial contact, reach out to them. My Mini-Devilmaster and I organised a time to have a phone call to have a chat about upcoming cases and we chose a day to meet for the first case.

What is Mini-Devilling?

The Mini-Devilling Scheme is run by the Faculty of Advocates and is available to Diploma students. To be admitted as an Advocate in Scotland, a period of Devilling must be undertaken which consists of training, learning and assessment. The Mini-Devilling Scheme offers Diploma students an insight into Devilling and life at the Bar. The scheme also provides a safe space for students to hone their advocacy skills and gain first-hand experience of legal work.

What does Mini-Devilling involve?

The Mini-Devilling Scheme involves shadowing an Advocate weekly both in court and client consultations. In addition to shadowing our Mini-Devilmasters, we were required to attend four days at the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh which involved an induction, two advocacy training days and mock trials. I thought at this stage it would be interesting to write about what each day in Edinburgh involved.

Induction (day 1)

The first day in Edinburgh took place in Parliament House where we met the Mini-Devilling co-ordinators. All Mini-Devils were given name badges and each person introduced themselves to the group. This was helpful to get to know other Mini-Devils and eased any nerves. We got a tour of Parliament House, the Court of Session, and the Faculty of Advocates Library where we learnt about some of the history. To end the induction day, the Dean of Faculty welcomed us by hosting a drinks reception. This made for an excellent networking opportunity to get to know the other Mini-Devils, Mini-Devilmasters and Members of Faculty.

Advocacy Training (days 2 & 3)

The second day in Edinburgh was held in the Mackenzie building. The day was predominately focused on advocacy skills. We learnt what constitutes a good examination in chief and cross-examination, which are valuable skills to take to my traineeship.

Next, we were given our first advocacy task. The purpose of the task was to learn how to address the court. Each Mini-Devil got given a script and we had to go through the writing and change the language to make it appropriate for court. We then presented our edited scripts and addressed the Mini-Devilling co-ordinators as the judges. Each Mini-Devil got useful feedback from experienced Advocates. Additionally, it provided us with the opportunity to grow in confidence in public speaking.

The second part of day two in Edinburgh involved guest speakers which was a great privilege. We got a talk from the Solicitor General who spoke about her background and career. We also had talks from Claire Mitchell KC, Shelagh McCall KC, Advocate Nicola Gilchrist, and Advocate Martin Crawford. It was very interesting to hear how they each pursued a career in law, their memorable cases, and some of their top tips.

The third day in Edinburgh involved further advocacy training and preparation for the mock trials. At this stage, we had already been provided with the material for the trials which we briefly went through. The Mini-Devilling co-ordinators ran through the procedure and court etiquette, and we could ask any questions we had at this point.

Next, we had a talk from several speakers which again was a great privilege. The Advocate General for Scotland spoke to us about his role and provided his advice on advocacy. We then had a talk from Lord Turnbull who spoke about building the trust of the decision-maker, whether that is the jury or judge, and what constitutes good advocacy. Lord Turnbull also spoke about his experience and how he approached trials at the start of his career. Lastly, we heard from Neil Mackenzie KC, who talked about mindset, note taking and preparation.

Mock Trials (day 4)

I was in my element because for the mock trials, I was acting as Defence Counsel. We were provided with the summary of evidence, crown witness statements and defence witness statements well in advance of the day to allow us time to prepare. It also gave us the opportunity to clarify any questions we had with our Mini-Devilmaster which was very helpful.

In the mock trial, once we had completed the questioning of witnesses, we then were asked to give a closing speech. We could decide whether we addressed the judge or as if we were addressing a jury. Although I was slightly apprehensive about this, the feeling quickly disappeared the more I prepared my speech. I really enjoyed delivering my speech and preparation does really pay off. Having this opportunity allowed me to figure out my own style and learnt which stylistic things worked well and what I could do differently in future. At the end of the trial, the KC who was sitting as the judge provided feedback and I am proud to say that it was all positive.

I thoroughly enjoyed the mock trials, and I would say this was definitely the highlight of my Mini-Devilling experience. There is really nothing to be nervous about for it. The mock trials were fun, and it allowed us to apply in practice what we had learnt throughout the Mini-Devilling Scheme. This experience also provided an excellent safe space to learn, and this is the time to make mistakes as there was no pressure on us.

After the mock trials, the Dean of Faculty hosted a drinks reception to conclude the end of the Mini-Devilling Scheme. We also had the privilege to hear from Lord Carloway who gave us a speech and congratulated us for completing the scheme.

My Mini-Devilling experience

I thought it would be helpful for future Mini-Devils to briefly mention the variety of work I got involved in during my time as a Mini-Devil. The first thing I observed was an examination of facts. I had not observed this type of case before, so it was interesting to learn when an examination of facts is required and how it differs from a regular trial. I observed several s.275 applications where I learnt the importance of managing clients’ expectations. I then also observed a Sheriff and Jury trial pertaining to one of the s.275 applications. I also got the opportunity to observe a high-profile trial in the High Court of Justiciary. In addition to shadowing my Mini-Devilmaster in court in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Inverness, I also got the opportunity to sit in on client consultations with my Mini-Devilmaster and instructing agents.

My top tips for future Mini-Devils:

  • Take notes both at the days in Edinburgh and in court (if the court clerk gives permission). When I was in court, it was helpful to have the 1995 Act with me so I could follow the law when it was mentioned in the case. I personally did not take notes in consultations with clients, but I wrote up notes and points of law afterwards.

  • Network as much as you can. During my time as a Mini-Devil, I networked with Members of Faculty, senior and junior counsel, solicitors, other Mini-Devilmasters and Mini-Devils, court staff, and current devils. It really does pay off making connections with figures in the legal industry.

  • Communicate regularly with your Mini-Devilmaster and ask questions. My Mini-Devilmaster always went above and beyond to help with any questions I had. During the Mini-Devilling Scheme, I have learnt there is no such thing as too many questions. Mini-Devilmasters have a wealth of experience and knowledge so really grasp any learning opportunity you can.

  • Prioritise and manage your time effectively. This really does allow you to get the most from the Mini-Devilling Scheme whilst juggling the workload for the Diploma, work experience, other commitments, and the Mini-Devilling Scheme. I found it helpful to plan out each week and prioritised tasks on to do lists. Not only did this allow me to keep on top of everything to not get overwhelmed, but it also gave me good practice for work as a criminal solicitor.

I would highly recommend future Diploma students who are thinking about applying for the Mini-Devilling scheme to go for it. I learnt so much that complemented the courses I had picked in the second semester of the Diploma whilst learning skills for my traineeship.

If any incoming Diploma students have any questions, I would be more than happy to have a chat on LinkedIn.

I wish to thank my Mini-Devilmaster for all his time, guidance, and support, and to the Mini-Devilling co-ordinators and everyone else involved who made the 2022/23 Mini-Devilling Scheme such a success.

The last thing I wish to say, is good luck to future Mini-Devils, I am sure you will all enjoy it as much as I did!

By Emma Stewart

Trainee Solicitor

2022/23 University of Aberdeen Diplp Graduate

Emma graduated with an LLB (Hons) in 2022 and is graduating in June 2023 with the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice both from the University of Aberdeen. Emma will commence a traineeship in criminal defence at George Mathers & Co.

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