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The Guernica Academy: The Right Work, in The Right Way, with The Right People - by Jack Sproson


Over the course of the last 3-months, I have had the privilege of participating in Guernica 37’s Academy Programme, which I have enjoyed immensely. Looking back on my time at the Academy, I find myself reflecting on what it is that makes the Programme, and indeed Guernica more generally, so exceptional.

My answer, simply, is that Guernica does the right work, in the right way, with the right people, and the Academy is an unparalleled opportunity to experience that in real time.

The right work

Having specialised academically in international law, a factor that first attracted me to Guernica was its scope of operation, which is truly global and straddles the (often blurred) boundaries between public international, international criminal, and international human rights law. Since joining the Academy, it has become abundantly clear that this work is undertaken as part of an unwavering commitment to making a positive impact around the globe; if the Guernica team feel that they can help, they will, regardless of the enormity of the challenge they face in doing so. This, I believe, is an inspiring and sorely needed source of positivity in an international community often hamstrung by realpolitik.

As part of the Academy, I had the opportunity to contribute to projects undertaken as part of Chambers’ commitment in this regard by making small but genuine contributions to a variety of tasks, which, alongside vital exposure to domestic drafting work, included INTERPOL Red Notices, Article 15 submissions to the International Criminal Court, and research on a variety of contemporaneous issues within international human rights and international criminal law.

The right way

In addition to undertaking the ‘right work’, my time in the Academy led me to understand that the Guernica team sits at the crossroad between principles and pragmatism, allowing them to complete work in the ‘right way’ by coupling creative legal solutions with a rounded and contextualised outlook to effectively tackle problems that may otherwise simply be dismissed as impossible or intractable. Being involved (even tangentially) in this atmosphere of creativity, optimism, and dedication is not easily forgotten, and is an example that I hope to emulate in my own career.

More concretely, the way Academy internships are administered cannot be said to be anything other than ‘the right way’. The Academy is part-time and in my experience exceptionally flexible and well planned, meaning that I was able to undertake the Programme alongside my bar studies, even during my exam period, without distracting from those studies. Crucially, Academy interns are also remunerated for their work, reflecting a fair and principled approach to internships that I can only hope will become the norm at the bar in coming years.

The right people

Finally, reflecting the comments above, every person that I had the opportunity to meet at Guernica has been a singularly impressive, creative, and dedicated legal professional, all of whom are willing to do whatever they can in order to help in any given situation. In this sense, the Guernica team are undoubtedly ‘the right people’.

Personally, I spent the vast majority of the last three months under the tutelage of Carl Buckley, whose commitment to and engagement with the needs of young lawyers is the reason why the Academy Programme is the exceptional experience that it is. Carl was always ready to give feedback and ensured that he gave me work in areas in which I was less familiar to better encourage my personal and professional development. Crucially, he was also immensely understanding and from ‘day one’ practised the now familiar refrain that he could be as flexible as I needed him to be, a small reassurance that was nonetheless centrally important in managing stress and balancing the Academy with the pressures of full-time bar school.

The Guernica Academy – what else can I say?

All in all, echoing Guernica’s organisational calibre more generally, the Academy Programme is an unparalleled experience that is exceptionally well suited to the needs of young lawyers, like myself. I am immensely grateful to Carl and the Guernica team for the opportunity and hope that the Programme continues to go from strength to strength, as I have absolutely no doubt that it will.

Jack Sproson

Guernica 37 Academy Intern March - June 2021


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