LACONIA - A 19-year-old law student from France is getting an up close and personal look at how the American law system operates and says he's struck by the differences he sees between the United States and his home country.
Quentin Douette of Rouen in northern France is in the final week of his month-long internship with the Martin, Lord and Osman law firm and said he's enjoying the opportunity to see how American law works. He's entering the second year of what will be a seven-year program to become a lawyer in France and is pursuing a double major in the law and English.
What he sees in American courts is very different from what he has sees in France. "Lawyers are leading the debate here much more than the judge. In France, the judge is the one asking the questions," said Douette. The difference in the legal systems is in part explained by the English-speaking world's reliance on the common law based on consensus and precedent, according to Willard "Bud" Martin, head of the law firm, and the French reliance on the civil code originally developed under the Emperor Napoleon.
"Lawyers in France are much more apt to be looking at the written law than for precedents," said Martin. Douette has been exposed to many aspects of the law while here, attending court hearings, trials, discovery proceedings and even a real estate closing, and has worked with many of the lawyers and paralegals at the firm. He's also had the chance to speak with Judge James Carroll in Laconia Fourth District Circuit Court.
He said one thing he's noticed about American courts is that the system encourages communication between the parties involved in legal actions that promotes reaching agreements outside of the courtroom rather than going to a trial.
"Its very difficult to attend a trial in France. Many of our trials are not open to the public and often it's heard by the judge alone, rather than a jury," said Douette. He points out that in France judges attend a special school for judges and are not drawn from the ranks of lawyers, who attend different schools.
While in New Hampshire, Douette said he's had the opportunity to visit the Mt. Washington Hotel, site of the 1944 Bretton Woods conference which established the post World War II monetary system, as well as take in parts of Lake Winnipesaukee.
Last weekend he tried his hand at target practice, attending a shooting range in Belmont where he got to fire a pistol, a unique experience which he said he really enjoyed.
His internship with the local law firm was facilitated by Joseph Adrignola, administrator for the law firm, who said he was approached by a friend with whom he bicycles in France who was looking for a law internship in the United States for his grandson. "I talked with the partners at the law firm and they gave it the green light," said Adrignola, who says that Douette speaks excellent English "and is absorbing everything like a sponge."
Martin says that the lawyers and staff at the law firm are finding that it is a two-way street with Douette and are enjoying the opportunity to deal with someone who brings a different perspective to the firm.
By ROGER AMSDEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN