In 2018 Calypso Blaj was awarded the J P Warner Scholarship to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Due to Brexit the court was unsure whether they could accept British scholars when Calypso was due to start her placement so she was offered a chance to work at the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) instead. She was subsequently able to transfer to the CJEU as originally planned.
I was awarded the JP Warner Scholarship to the CJEU (2018) and the EFTA Court Scholarship (2019). This allowed me to spend, in total, two months as a stagiaire at the EFTA Court and one and a half months at the CJEU over the course of 2019. I cannot overstate my gratitude to Lincoln’s Inn for the opportunity to undertake these internships, and to both the EFTA Court and the CJEU for welcoming me and allowing me to be a part of the team for the time that I was there.
The first period of my internship was at the Liechtenstein cabinet of the EFTA Court. My tasks included researching points of law, sourcing relevant documents where necessary, and amending draft judgments. I particularly enjoyed working on the draft judgments as it allowed me to analyse a case on a granular level: from the moment it was filed in the Registry, to the parties’ correspondence, factual background and finally the legal analysis placed on it. I enjoyed situating this ‘narrative’ of a case within the wider context of the EEA Agreement as the detail of the former allowed me to better understand the workings of the latter. This was also helped by the close and collegiate atmosphere across the court. Since there are three countries (Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway), there were many opportunities to discuss the relationship between the three domestic legal systems and the EFTA Court (which is not the same as the relationship between EU Member States and the CJEU, for example, in the binding nature of preliminary rulings versus advisory opinions). My highlight was attending the E-7/18 Fosen-Linjen AS hearing. It was an opportunity to compare different advocacy styles from parties across the EEA, whilst the hearing itself led to a landmark judgment in which the court reversed its earlier position on the liability threshold in procurement damages claims.
The second period of my internship was at the cabinet of Advocate General Sharpston in the CJEU. The most immediate change was linguistic: the working language of the CJEU is French, not English. As my degree was in French literature, I enjoyed the chance to read, write and speak the language in both a professional and social context. I joined the cabinet during a particularly busy term which was both rewarding and challenging, as I worked on a number of cases with a wide range of subject matter: from consumer credit protection, to the balance between freedom of expression and potentially discriminatory comments in an employment context, to my particular interest, tax law (VAT). My highlight was attending the cabinet meetings every week as this was a chance to see close-up how cohesively and dynamically the cabinet worked together. I wrote up notes of meetings that I sent round as soon as possible to the attendees, summarised cases and proposed questions to ask at hearings, researched points of law including drafting opinions on discrete points, proof-read and fact-checked draft opinions, and attended hearings. As well as the range and pace of work, I also enjoyed meeting the stagiaires from the others Member States and learning how their approaches to legal issues and systems differ, especially in the context of civil law systems as opposed to common law.
Finally, it is not possible to give an account of my time in Luxembourg without mentioning the beauty of the country and city. I maintain that few cities have the charm of the Grund on a summer’s evening, not to mention the outstanding galleries and museums in the city centre as well as the forest walks that lie just outside it. I enjoyed my placements a great deal, learned a lot ahead of starting pupillage, and could not recommend them more highly to any future applicants.