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Masterclass Rechtbank Den Haag: a look behind the scenes

A few law students were given the opportunity to conduct an eight-week internship at the Rechtbank Den Haag. They took part in hearings as clerks, in discussions about cases in the judges’ chambers, and contributed to the formation of decisions. They held a presentation about their experiences during the final meeting on 28 March.

Informal atmosphere

‘Beforehand you think: the courthouse is such a lofty building where everybody’s super formal and serious. So, it’s kind of nerve wracking to become part of it,’ said Thomas during his presentation. But in reality, things turned out to be very different. ‘There's so much room for advice among colleagues, the judges’ chambers are really nothing more than meeting rooms and there’s an informal atmosphere. Even an ordinary law student like me was really taken seriously during sessions.’

Sterre agrees with this experience: ‘I’ve always felt treated like an equal. My opinion mattered and was really taken on board. In the judges’ chamber, I was able to take part as an equal partner and I was asked: What do you think of this? Do you think I’m making the right decision?’

Room for emotions

‘I found it really inspiring to see that each judge has their own style’, says Rachel. She spent some of her time at the family law department. ‘I always thought that law was something static and that there wouldn’t be any room for emotions. But it turns out that there's plenty of room for emotions and that a judge actually makes sure there is. That makes the law more human than I’d previously thought.’

Fun and career perspective

President of the Rechtbank Den Haag Robine de Lange-Tegelaar really believes in the added value of the masterclass: ‘The best thing for me is to see students having fun. For them to experience that working at the courthouse is not only very important and authoritative but also incredibly fun. The masterclass allows them to take a look behind the scenes and helps them decide whether a job at the courthouse is something for them. The courthouse is also a potential future employee: this is a unique chance to network and work on your career perspective.’

More students should take part

‘I’d like for more students to take part in this masterclass’, said Sterre at the end for her presentation. ‘At the Rechtbank Den Haag, you’re really encouraged to think critically. The university is more exam orientated and critical thinking tends to take a back seat as a result. During the masterclass you were invited to question decisions. That was a valuable experience for me.’

The Rechtbank Den Haag and Leiden Law School organise this masterclass every year. Are you fluent in Dutch and interested in taking part? Applications will open in the fall of 2023. Keep an eye on the website!

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