My traineeship at the Supreme Court in Brno: A lifetime experience (February 2013)

by Eleftheria Chanialaki

As I have always had a keen interest in working abroad for a while in the field of my studies and being a postgraduate law student and a member of ELSA Greece, last April I decided to apply for STEP (Student Trainee Exchange Programme) Traineeships. Especially, I applied for the position of trainee lawyer at the Supreme Court of Czech Republic, which is located in Brno. I cannot describe my enthusiasm when I was informed from Dena Dervanović, the VP STEP ELSA International, that I was the person, who had been selected for that traineeship!!

In February 2013, I travelled from Thessaloniki to Brno. At the main station of Brno, Petra and Martin, the two ELSA Steppers, were waiting for me with a huge smile on their faces and the best welcome ELSA package consisting of maps, cards and guides with general information for Brno. Petra and Martin helped me with my stuff and they led me to the dormitories, where I would stay for the whole month, as accommodation was provided by Elsa Brno. After that, we went to a restaurant, where I had a constructive discussion with my new friends, concerning life and activities in Brno, hobbies, weather, various legal issues etc.

Next morning, I met Petra and we went together to the Supreme Court. It is noted that the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic is the highest judicial authority both in civil and criminal matters except for issues dealt with by the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic and the Supreme Administrative Court. Katarína Šipulová, Head of International Department of the Supreme Court, and Libor Havelka welcomed me to the Court. They explained to me which would be my duties as trainee lawyer and gave me the key of my new office, where I was working with the other assistants of judges.

For the whole February, Katarína and Libor were my supervisors. They entrusted me tasks about a specific issue, which required research of the legislation and case law of the ECtHR or the Court of Justice of the European Union. When I completed every task, we had a meeting of evaluation and interesting legal discussion, as Katarína and Libor are intelligent, communicative and broad-minded persons, with enthusiasm and love for legal science.

As far as the town of Brno, I now agree with the opinion of every law student I met there. Brno is a nice place to live. Every single spot of that place is scenic and has its own story. What I really enjoyed was the walk up to the hill of the Spilberk Castle, the exhibition with the history of the Castle and the nice view over Brno from Castle. My visit to the Cathedral of St Peter and Paul makes me feeling astonished and impressed by its great and unique architecture. Typical for Brno is also the Brno Dragon, for whom many stories have been written. Brno is considered to be a city with many students because of the Masaryk University. So, there are many nice places to have a drink and the night life of Brno is really various. As I became friend with many ELSA members and other law students, we went together to parties, restaurants, pubs, tea-houses and clubs and we really had a great time!! I also had the chance to try many kinds of beer because there was a huge variety of beers for every taste and they were really cheap. That is the reason why the Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption in the world!

The Czech country presentation, organized by ISC MU Brno, was also a great experience for me because I had the chance to meet interesting persons, to learn some things about Czech tradition and to taste some typical Czech food and drinks, such as kofola, a soft drink like coca-cola or pepsi, which was popular in communist Czechoslovakia in order to have an independent economy and not to import such products from capitalist states. I also learnt that Czechs used to offer bread with salt to their guests for welcome and I attended Czech folk dances by dancers with traditional costumes. Another unforgettable experience was meeting some members of ELSA Slovakia because they came for a study visit in Brno, when I was there. We did many  activities together, such as visiting the observatory and going for dance to some clubs.

To sum up, I absolutely believe that STEP traineeships are not only an outstanding opportunity to gain practical legal experience with foreign legal system but also a way of coming in contact with the culture of another country. For me, traineeship at the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic was a lifetime experience with invaluable memories and life-long friendships!!

Martin, Gabriela, Iva, Milan, Simona and the whole family of ELSA Brno thank you very much for having done my stay in Brno pleasant, interesting and unique!! Special thanks to Petra Schneiderová, the VP STEP ELSA Brno, and Šárka Malinovská, the VP STEP ELSA Czech Republic, who provided to me any assistance I wanted before and during my traineeship!! You will always and forever be in my heart, girls!!


My traineeship at the Supreme Administrative Court in Brno (July 2012)

by Jessica Pressler

My STEP traineeship at the Supreme Administrative Court in Brno has been a wonderful and unique experience. I have met a lot of interesting and open-minded people and was provided a special inside into the Czech legal system and the Court’s specific jurisdiction.

I worked in the Department for Research and Documentation, which prepares legal comparative analysis of both legislation and case law for the judges. I got familiar with European databases and the recent decisions of German, Swiss and Austrian Courts. When conducting legal research, I summed up all relevant results in written outputs, which were submitted to the Head of the Research and Documentation Service. Furthermore, I participated also in translations of legal texts and significant cases for comparative purposes into English and German language.

The team of the Department was considerably young, very welcoming and also motivated to organise activities after work. This contributed to a strong team spirit and a very nice working atmosphere. They really showed interest in the interns and regularly gave feedback or explained their individual working steps.

Throughout my stay in Brno and my time as trainee at the Supreme Administrative Court, I have had only very few difficulties. One of them was maybe the confrontation with the Czech language at work as well as in every day life. It would certainly be easier and an even more enriching experience to understand all the documents, legal analysis and plenary sessions of the judges at the Court. Also in the streets and shops it has not always been easy to communicate with locals.

What I also found slightly disappointing was the fact that due to the summer holiday, half of the Court’s staff had not been present and there was thus only a limited amount of the normal jurisdictional workload. In order to experience the tense schedule, more legal proceedings as well as the conduction of projects and legal analysis, a traineeship at a different time of year could be even more fruitful.

Besides of Brno being the administrative capital and second largest city in the Czech Republic with 400.000 inhabitants, it is also the cultural centre of the South Moravian Region. It is therefore surrounded by forested hills and many lakes. The cities of Prague, Vienna and Bratislava are also reachable within two hours and invite for short trips during the weekends. Over the past two decades Brno evolved also into an important university city, which is why you find a lot of nice cafés and bars to spend the summer evenings.

Moreover, the ELSA team of Brno has definitely contributed to making my stay perfectly enjoyable. They gave all the necessary information beforehand, planned my arrival and accommodation and organised meetings and trips in and out of the city. Throughout the whole time, they have cared for my well-being and have turned my traineeship into a great and unforgettable experience!

Being one of the most pleasant and inspiring working experiences, I can therefore strongly recommend a participation in the STEP programme to every ELSA member.


A hungarian STEP to Czech Republic

by Zsofia Bitai

One night last summer I just arrived home from some parties and I opened my e-mail box and found the following: Congratulations, You are the chosen one – the e-mail was written by Katka Bukovska VP STEP ELSA Prague.

I started to scream and run around in the flat and even though it was late I called all my friends and said: I got the traineeship in Prague! I was very happy and I already knew that I will have a great summer. So it was.

The two Czech Steppers Katka and Pavi were expecting me in Prague with the best welcome package and a lot of care. They took care of me like I was their little baby, took my hand and brought me to work on my first day, took me for sightseeing, inline-skating, parties, trips, pedal-boating, beer drinking, Czech family lunches. The list of the things that we did together is much longer and I am not even able to tell how great they were. From the first moment I felt like at home and not just because the city is so similar to my hometown Budapest.

If you are in Prague, you can experience what body shot is, you learn some new sports like lifting beer, you get to know that dark beer is for women and light beer is for men (ask Czech people why) you meet people under the horse, you can ask your colleagues like this: please my dear Czech check this Czech text for me, moreover you can buy T-shirts with “Czech me out“ texts on, you can watch movies about Hungarian countess named Elizabeth Bathory, and you can go to visit the Sex-machines museum. I could not even imagine a better place to be a trainee.

I was working for Pokorny Wagner & spol. law firm (PW), which is one of the biggest law firms in Prague. The colleagues and the leader lawyers of the firm were very kind to me and thanks to the office managers and my roommate in the office, Zuzka, who supplied me with every kind of help, I felt comfortable from the very beginning.

I was working in the unfair competition team. The case which I was working on was very complicated but also very interesting. Sometimes the work was hard, but at the end I can sum things up just in positive way. I got a taste of Czech law and observed the Czech way of legal thinking. It was also great to see different approach on legal matters. I learnt a lot especially about competition law, special thanks for this to my team leader. This experience just gave something very extra to my Curriculum Vitae and gave me such knowledge that I could have never gained anywhere else and what is really useful in my current legal practice.

I realized that socializing is also very important at PW. Every week we went somewhere with some colleagues to do some sports or for party or just for a drink. For me it was a great pleasure to be part of such a good society.


What more can I say? Prague, Prague still how much I miss You!

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