Interview with a REL: Cristina Mihaiu
Have you got a question?
Why did you become a Lawyer and a Registered European Lawyer?
I became a lawyer for 2 main reasons:
- I was very lucky to have my father, a very knowledgeable and thoughtful individual, who guided me throughout my life. After my graduation, I was not really sure whether I wished to pursue my career as a Judge or a Lawyer. I knew that my father would be there to give me the best advice. Once I shared my concerns about my decision, he asked me what I wanted to do with my professional life, how I wanted to evolve. Being unexperienced at the age of 22, I answered him: “I want to be famous”. My father then asked me if I knew any famous judges, a question to which I did not have an answer. He gave me the names of some famous lawyers who changed the world, like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton etc. I knew that his answer was enough for me to decide what I wanted to do with my future. P.S. I didn’t become famous, but at least I tried (at least so far!).
- I also think that my personality and the search for fairness in everything since I was a child were actually a perfect match to this profession.
In those days I wanted to implement drastic changes in life. Today I my priorities have changed, but never my dream, that of practicing as a Lawyer. That is why I have decided to move to a new country and continue my professional development as a Lawyer, registering as a Registered European Lawyer.
It’s not easy to finish a law degree in one country and practice in another, why the UK?
Being a lawyer, you never stop learning new things, so when it came to learning a completely new legal system, I accepted the challenge. It certainly was not easy at the beginning. Finishing a law degree in continental law (civil law system) and practicing for 12 years in a codified law system, it formed my thinking differently. Civil law has its origins in Roman law and later in Napoleon’s Codes which contrasts with the common law system where precedents exist and there is an unwritten constitution.
What motivates you when it comes to your job?
In my opinion, the rule of law must be respected in all situations of our lives, as they have the power to ensure justice and equality between people. Based on this way of thinking, I am motivated, as a lawyer to contribute to the promotion of the law and to ensure, as much as possible, that the rule of law is followed. The human dimension is expressed, above all, by fundamental human rights. I therefore believe that we all need to look at the legal nature of life and the need to respect the law as a way of evolving as a society and as people, in a moral, social and cultural aspect.
Do you remember your first time in court?
Yes, I do, and I will always remember that day. Firstly, I want to mention that, in civil law, there is no difference between a Solicitor and Barrister as in the common law, and there is only one profession of Lawyer. European Lawyers are “all inclusive”, as they are trained to practice as a Solicitor and Barrister.
My first day in court took place during the first week of my training contract. I attended court with my supervisor for a small theft case. The Court, the equivalent of a Magistrate Court in the UK, was very crowded that day. The day before, my supervisor handed me the file to study. When I arrived to the Court, I was relaxed and I could not wait to see how the court hearings were taking place and hear the pleadings of the Lawyers. However, just a few minutes before the hearing was set to begin, my supervisor informed me that I will need to make the submissions and stand up to talk Infront of the court. Despite being nervous and anxious, I remember that I talked, a lot, until the Judge had to stop me. I can proudly say that the outcome was in our favor and our client was acquitted.
With that occasion, I realized that the courtroom is where I always wanted to be.
What was your most memorable win?
For about seven years I was defending a world-renowned University professor, one of the most famous specialists in statistics and data mining, he was accused of taking bribe. I noticed that certain procedural errors had been made in this case and that the evidence against him was not sustainable beyond resonable doubt, I decided to represent him. Since corruption is such an important issue in Eastern European Countries, I knew that I had taken the risk of being classified as the „Devil`s advocate”. However, I also knew that everyone has the right to be defended and the presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered innocent until proven guilty.
When I took this case, I knew that it could endager not only my career but also the image of my law firm, especially since the whole country was waiting for the final judgment. The case became one of National interest and not only, as I have called my client’s collaborators – University professors and researchers – from the UK, Northern Ireland, USA, Canada, France and Germany to testify in court. The trial reached the highest courts in Romania, it was as difficult as it could get; in the first instance, my client was sentenced to serve two years in prison. I continued the trial and, two years later, he was acquitted from the High Court of Cassation and Justice (the equivalent of the Supreme Court in the UK). All evidence were declared illegal and void. It was established that his case was staged and was wrongly investigated by the Public Ministry (the equivalent of the Crown Prossecution Service in UK). Unfortunately, he had an incurable disease and shortly after being acquitted, he passed away.
What do you do in your spare time?
Difficult question! I do not have any spare time actually as I am studying to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. I like reading and I am a big movie fan, especially old, black, and white, historical movies, documentaries as well as European movies. I also enjoy cooking … something sweet and always with chocolate.
What advice would you give a young aspiring Lawyers from your home Country?
This profession is fundamentally a humanist one; therefore a young person preparing to become a lawyer must be sure that they have a legal conscience or, more simply, a real inclination for that profession. If they are convinced that they have the love for the values of law, then my advice is to follow their dream, to learn, to always be with the best trained lawyers and not to forget that one day they must become one of them. So, as long as they choose this profession for reasons such as fairness, ethics and respect for people, they have a real chance of becoming a successful lawyer and, most importantly, a fulfilled person in their career.
Tea or coffee?
Certainly coffee, one big mug of strong coffee in the morning, no milk, no sugar.
Stairs or lift?
Red wine or White wine?
A dry red
Beach or City Holiday?
Beach and all the sun in the world
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