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Reports from the 2022 scholars to the EFTA Court, Benjamin Hulme and Samuel Willis

The EFTA Court scholar spends three months in the Chambers of Judge Bernd Hammermann, assisting with initial draft judgements, reports for the hearing and legal research into EEA/EU law. The scholarship is open to members of any Inn.

Inside the EFTA Court
Inside the EFTA Court

As you would imagine, the work is challenging and intellectually engaging, and provides a more rounded experience than one which is solely focussed on the law…

benjamin hulme, scholar to the EFTA Court, 2022

Benjamin Hulme

After just over five hours on the train from London, I arrived in Luxembourg in mid-January. As a Lincoln’s Inn EFTA Court Scholar, I had the opportunity to spend three months as a Trainee in the Chambers of Judge Bernd Hammermann, the Judge nominated in respect of Liechtenstein. The Court oversees the application of the EEA Agreement in Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway, with the Court being organised into three judges’ chambers or cabinets together with a registry. The Liechtenstein Cabinet is small, and very welcoming and supportive. During my time at the Court, I was fortunate enough to share my time and an office with a trainee each from Iceland and Norway.

Since my first day in the Cabinet, I felt part of the team and more than simply a trainee, that I was able to make a real contribution, and this was reflected in the tasks and responsibilities that I was given throughout my time. Although I was aware before I started that there are differences between EU and EEA law, these differences are reflected not only in the EEA Agreement but also in the approach and procedures of the Court. It was important in the early stages to understand these differences and to begin to familiarise myself with the procedures of the Court and difference in terminology.

Having settled in, my first week began with reviewing cases from the previous year for which Judge Hammermann was responsible and producing draft summaries for the Court’s Annual Report. This offered an immediate insight into the types of cases which I hoped to become involved in during my traineeship. Due to the number of cases, throughout my time I was able to engage across cases at different stages of the litigation process. This included producing pre-hearing reports based on the facts, law, and written submissions of the parties, and in the lead up to oral hearings, analysing written submissions to produce draft questions to be asked in the hearing. One of my last assignments was preparing an initial draft of a judgment.

I was fortunate enough to observe three hearings in the space of a week, which is unusual. It was insightful to compare the structure of the proceedings and the advocacy styles from those we would commonly witness domestically. Each advocate drew from the style of their own domestic system, which, coupled with the brief time given to make submissions and often making them in their second language, English, it made for quite the contrast and served to highlight the essentials of good advocacy. This was often only 15 minutes. During my traineeship I was also able to meet trainees from the other EFTA institutions based in Geneva and Brussels, to visit the Court of Justice of the European Union for a hearing, and to visit the EFTA Secretariat in Brussels for a conference on EEA law.

Luxembourg City is a small, charming multicultural city with lots to offer and explore, such as the old town, Ville Haute, and the fortifications at Bock Promontory. Aside from historical attractions, the city has a large range of restaurants, cafes, and bars. Despite my rather poor French, I was able to get by day-to-day. Public transport is free throughout the country, including the tram system in the city, which is very easy to use. Luxembourg is well-placed to explore the wider region, bordering France, Germany, and Belgium, with the German city of Trier being only one hour on the train and Paris being a little over two hours on the TGV. I even made it as far as the city of Kiel near the German-Danish border!

Overall, my time in the EFTA Court was thoroughly enriching and, although the three months passed very quickly, it was rewarding to recognise how much I had personally and professionally developed by the end. That my experience culminated in being given the responsibility to prepare an initial draft of a judgment, and receiving really helpful feedback on my drafting, demonstrated to me how supportive the environment created by my colleagues in the Liechtenstein Cabinet is, and one which I’m sure future trainees can also expect. As you would imagine, the work is challenging and intellectually engaging, and provides a more rounded experience than one which is solely focussed on the law, in part due to its international nature. For example, I had the opportunity to carry out statistical work, which I hadn’t touched in a long time. It also helped immensely in developing those soft skills which can easily be neglected.

The role is more than that of a trainee, as it was put to me, the purpose of the traineeship is to train you in every aspect of the role of a legal secretary or référendaire. I am grateful to Lincoln’s Inn for awarding me the EFTA Court Scholarship, and to the Court itself. I would strongly recommend this traineeship to anyone with an interest in EU or international law.


  1. It can be confusing reading the various websites, but you are exempt from the visa requirements as a stagiaire for a period less than 90 days. Make sure when calculating your 90-day Schengen stay to include your day of arrival and any holidays that you took previously.
  2. Book your accommodation as soon as possible. There are several organisations which cater specifically to trainees in Luxembourg, or the more expensive option of Airbnb. As there are many trainees in Luxembourg, accommodation can be booked up fairly quickly.
  3. The supermarkets in Luxembourg tend to close earlier than those that you may be used to in the UK, and that can catch you out if you want to pick something up after work.
  4. Make time to explore the city/country and meet other trainees from the many institutions in Luxembourg.
  5. I arrived in January and, while I had packed some warm clothes, I was still not prepared for just how cold and windy it can be in Luxembourg at that time of year.
  6. Brush up on your French language skills before arriving, it will make your life a lot easier. Try to learn basic phrases in Luxembourgish as well; they are always greatly appreciated. Äddi a vill Gléck!

If you are interested in EU/EEA law, this is the scholarship for you. You will leave Luxembourg determined to carve out a career that gives you the chance to grapple with the fascinating problems and topics that arise in EU/EEA law.

Samuel Willis, scholar to the EFTA Court, 2022

Samuel Willis

On arriving in Luxembourg, one is struck by the two personalities of the city. Architecturally, it is split between the romantic façades of the Ville Haute and the Germanic spires and roofs of the Grund. This visual impression is reinforced by the sound of French and Luxembourgish switched seemingly interchangeably from sentence to sentence in the cafés and shops and bars. There is a fascination in those things that defy easy categorisation – that blur the boundaries between concepts or generic types. It was in this environment that I came to learn and work with EEA law.

I worked for three months as a trainee in the EFTA Court, the court of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) pillar of the European Economic Area (EEA). As I and my fellow EFTA Court trainees had to remind our counterparts ‘across the street’ at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the Court of Justice is not only the court of the EU but one of the two courts of the EEA. The CJEU is the EEA court for the 27 Member States of the EU; the EFTA Court is the EEA court for the three EFTA States that participate in the EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). The EEA Agreement enables Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway to participate in the EU internal market on the same terms as the EU Member States with certain important exceptions and reservations. As such, the EFTA pillar mirrors the EU pillar structurally and procedurally, albeit with changes to reflect the non-transfer of sovereignty in the EEA Agreement. For instance, the EFTA Court receives requests for ‘advisory opinions’ rather than ‘preliminary rulings’; this is one of the key types of proceedings before the Court. The other main type of proceedings are direct actions, which are equivalent to CJEU actions for infringement, annulment, and failure to act.

I was the Trainee in the Chambers of Judge Bernd Hammermann, the Judge nominated in respect of Liechtenstein. Trainees at the EFTA Court, like their stagiaire counterparts at the CJEU, work in the cabinet of one of the judges and report to the judge’s legal secretaries (or référendaires, as they’re called ‘across the street’). They have a mixture of responsibilities within the cabinet, from administrative and practical matters through to conducting legal research and assisting with preparation for hearings. A particularly interesting aspect of the role is the proximity it brings to decisions being made – being privy to the legal debates that sit behind the judgments, the contents of which no one outside the Court will ever know. (Like the CJEU, the EFTA Court does not issue dissenting opinions.) It was a great privilege to have had such a glimpse into the operation of an international court.

It isn’t just insights about the operation of international courts that I bring back with me back to London. The traineeship, naturally, requires close engagement with complex areas of EU/EEA law, with the added complication of adapting substantive and procedural EU rules to the EEA context. My work touched on a wide variety of subjects, both legally and factually. One case raised thorny issues concerning the burden of proof in State aid law (Case E-10/22 Eviny AS v EFTA Surveillance Authority). Two other cases I worked on concerned the regulation of lawyers in Liechtenstein. Case E-12/22 Maier concerned freedom of movement of lawyers and Case E-14/22 Amann concerned the regulation of commercial communications. Another case, E-1/23 Sverrisdóttir, required me to acquaint myself with the Icelandic banking system. The common theme across these internal market law cases was the need to engage closely with the interpretation of directives. EU law university courses usually focus on principles, doctrines, and major cases. Law students reading this will appreciate, perhaps from any work experience they have done, that it is from practice that one learns the skill that sits alongside case law analysis at the heart of the vocation of a lawyer – interpretation of legal texts. I came to the Court with a good knowledge and understanding of primary law and judge-made free movement doctrine; I left with training in, and insight into, the skill of interpreting the secondary legislation that forms the positive body of EU and EEA law.

Other highlights of my time at the Court include the Liechtenstein cabinet’s trip to Brussels and the EFTA Court Moot for students from Lincoln’s Inn. The former involved a visit to EFTA House (home of the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the EFTA Secretariat) and the Liechtenstein Mission to the EU and the Liechtenstein Embassy to Belgium – a chance to see the two worlds of international relations, diplomacy and international law, in conversation. The moot, for which I acted as the Court’s mock Registrar, was an opportunity to watch oral submissions from the bench. This was one of the last things I did in Luxembourg, and it seemed fitting that I had the chance to see some advocacy from the students of Lincoln’s Inn after seeing the advocacy of representatives from the EFTA Surveillance Authority, the Commission, and the three EEA EFTA States. This is one of the other privileges of the EFTA Court Scholarship: the chance to see oral presentation styles and techniques from different legal traditions.

If you throw yourself into the social life of the institutions, you will make friends for life.

Samuel Willis, scholar to the EFTA Court, 2022

My time in Luxembourg wasn’t all work. One of the joys of the scholarship is the opportunity it presents to participate in a richly diverse intellectual and social milieu. I was not expecting to leave Luxembourg knowing as much as I now do about Canadian and Norwegian constitutional law, gleaned from social conversations with friends (we knew how to have fun) at the bar frequented by trainees from the European institutions every Thursday. If you throw yourself into the social life of the institutions, you will make friends for life. Those friendships might be forged over lunch or an after-work drink; they might be forged over trips into the countryside, perhaps hiking in Mullerthal (known as Petite suisse) or going wine-tasting near Schengen. You might even stumble across one of the many free events in the city, such as the park concert I found myself attending presided over by the drummer from The Police, who punctuated big band renditions of Roxanne, Every Breath You Take, and so on, with rambles about Sting in charmingly broken Franglais.


My advice for future EFTA Court scholars is to say ‘yes’ to everything for the short three months you’re in Luxembourg. Throw yourself into every opportunity, whether professional or social – you never know where it might lead. My advice for applying for the scholarship is this: think very carefully about why you find EU/EEA law interesting, prepare to explain your reasons, and prepare to explain how it will be relevant to your future career. The latter point is essential in the post-Brexit context; it is important to make realistic claims regarding your intentions and plans in light of Brexit. When thinking about why you find EU/EEA law interesting, make sure you demonstrate your interest in the EFTA Court over, say, the ECtHR, by thinking about substantive internal market law, competition, State aid, public procurement, and so on. A detailed and sophisticated explanation of your interest in European human rights law, for instance, while relevant to EEA law, might make the committee think you ought to have applied for a different scholarship.

If you are interested in EU/EEA law, this is the scholarship for you. You will leave Luxembourg determined to carve out a career, notwithstanding the practical problems posed by Brexit, that gives you the chance to grapple with the fascinating problems and topics that arise in EU/EEA law.


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Applications to this year’s European Scholarships are open until 18 March 2024 at 12:00. Find out more.