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Five things I learned while I was working in court for a month

I worked at a first instance court (trial court) in Austria for a month and had the privilege to listen to all kinds of trials, no matter if it was a civil or criminal case.

I’ve learned quite some things about court cases and what really is behind them, but it also made me realize some things:

  1. Don’t steal. You will get caught. Seriously. We’ve had so many stolen things: phones and even phone cases. Perfumes and tools. Ranging from several hundred Euros to under 30 euros. They all got caught (well, who would have thought that!) and I was surprised how store detectives work and how well they can identify thieves. It’s not that I’d ever steal something but if you’re thinking about it: don’t do it. You will get caught.
  2. There are strange people wandering around everywhere. Day and night. They have crazy ideas, for example removing fire extinguishers from buildings. Seriously, what does one do with a fire extinguisher? They also do drugs and even sell them. Not just marijuana, also coke and even heroin. I didn’t even know you can buy stuff like this in Austria. Some people even order it online. There are people, who buy cars without concluding a written contract who get scammed and then never receive the car. I did not think things like that really happen outside of the fictional cases we get to work on at university.
  3. Legal experts are so good at their profession. I’ve seen one reconstruct a car accident. They even analyze traffic lights to see if the driver drove over red. They measure all kinds of things while the judge is talking to witnesses. I was amazed how well they were able to simulate car accidents on their computer to show how the crash really happened.
  4. Lawyers are extremly good at defending their clients. They know exactly when to ask which questions, to get the best result for their client. I guess there’s a lot of preparation going into that but they seem to never get stuck at a problem. There’s always a way out, even if it’s the appeal to the higher court.
  5. The problem is not to find legal problems, it’s to find the true facts. At university, the problem is finding legal difficulties to solve the case and not the alleged facts, meaning: we get a paper with a certain case and have to solve all legal problems and consequences that come with it. In court, most of the work is done when the alleged facts have been determined. I got to experience that finding out what is true and what is not is way harder than finding the legal regulations that come with the alleged facts.

While I have studied for the past three years, I still don’t really know what kind of profession I’m aiming for. The month at court was an eye-opener for me: I could imagine to work as a judge, but I also love the work of lawyers.

Working in court was an interesting thing, but now it’s time to look for the next internship, mainly to expand my knowledge and experience and to find the one profession I really love.