Author - studyinglaw

The Role of a Judge

Lord Neuberger describes the role of a judge and his career path. It’s very encouraging to know that even a judge as respected as Lord Neuberger didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do at university. Even two years after he didn’t know he wanted a career in law. Once he knew he wanted a career in law he didn’t just easily waltz into the profession either.

It took hard work, persistence and determination.

I’m sure many of you are in a similar position. You don’t know exactly what to do with your career and are maybe feeling a little lost. Or maybe you know exactly what you want to do but aren’t there yet. Give the video a watch – things in your life can turn around so quickly.

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5 Tips for Researching a Firm

research a firmLaw firm research is crucial. You could be doing this because of an interview, potential career prospects or because you’re meeting someone from a firm at an open day. Not knowing at least the basics about a firm will make you look worse than a barrister who arrived in court without pants on. 

The research doesn’t take too long either and can look really impressive if you do it right. There’s so much information available on the internet; it’s like having your own private investigator. Depending on whether you’re doing big research (for interview preparation or because you’re thinking of hiring the firm) or little research (for an informal meeting) you can do all, or a few, of the following:

1. Social media

Did you know social media isn’t just for posting pictures of your friends vomiting? It really is. Before you leave the site in disgust let me give evidence for this admittedly far fetched remark. Using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn you can really get a good insight into what is currently on the mind of the firm. Where are they looking in terms of promotion and marketing? What services are they pushing at the moment?

Let me give you an example. Years in the future Space Law will probably exist right? Now let’s say this isn’t a big legal area, not taught at Uni, but you see a Facebook post by a firm sharing a new piece of legislation. It points out a small section of a new Act to do with Asteroid mining. You then see a tweet about a job opening for someone who knows about “Non earth based mining”. Space law is obviously a key issue for the firm. Now if you get an interview at the firm during the process you can say something like “Oh and I definitely think Space Law is a great area to expand into right now.” They will be impressed with the forward thinking you show. Just don’t go too far and turn into some weird law firm stalker.

2. The homepage

The site of the firm is an important source of information for research. But it’s the bare minimum you should do. Just browsing the site of a firm is OK if you just want to know the basics before an informal meeting, but for employment it’s not enough. You’re just telling them things about themselves they already know. It will be much more impressive if you tell them something that wasn’t on the site.

Also the firm won’t say anything bad or critical about themselves on the site. So you may not get a balanced view. Therefore you should just use the home page of a firm to start off your research. Just use it to understand which areas of law they specialise in and maybe a little bit about their history.

3. News & press releases

If a firm submits a Press Release, or gets put in Google news you can be sure it’s going to be important. They’re not going to be telling you they just got a new coffee machine on floor 2. Much of the time they will be mentioning their expansion into a new legal area. So you can combine this with the social media point above to get more detail.

So using the first example you could check Google news or PRweb for any recent news on the firm in regards to Space Law. This press release or news would go into more detail than social media. Eventually it would be picked up by legal news websites too. Imagine how awesome you would look if you got there first. Using this method you can also try and spot patterns in the press releases. Maybe it’s mentioned that they have invested in a company which “aims to build a large Death Star moon base”. You can be sure the firm are really putting everything they have into Space Law. Tailoring your whole CV and application to Space Law is now obviously a great idea.

4. Google & search

You can undertake further research by simply using Google. You could search for the exact firm name like this – “Firm Name” (with quotes) to get some great new results. You can also narrow the results down to recent events by looking to the left of the page, clicking on more search tools, and then clicking past month. This will give you a range of interesting news articles, blog entries and forum posts. If you type in -site:lawfirm.co.uk this will remove any results from the home page of the firm. So the full Google query could look like – “Firm Name” -site:lawfirm.co.uk

If you have access to WestLaw or Nexis (or http://www.bailii.org if you want a great free version) you can also try searching for the firm there to see what sort of cases they have recently been involved with. If you can follow a firm in this much depth it’s going to be very impressive. Especially if they ask a “what can you tell me about [Firm]” question. Even if they don’t you can usually slip it into the interview. Just make sure it’s at least semi relevant to the current topic of conversation. Don’t just blurt it out when they’re asking about your work experience… unless you’re a segue master that is.

5. Firm research sites

The Legal 500 and Chambers Student Guide are two amazing resources. Chambers Student Guide gives some incredibly detailed information on certain firms. Firms supply a list of their trainees to Chambers who then randomly select several individuals to interview. Everything is confidential; the firms don’t know which trainees have provided an interview. They don’t see the interview before it’s published either so trainees really can speak freely. The Legal 500 is good for students but also individuals undertaking more professional research. It has a full overview, lawyer profiles and even a collection of press releases for many firms. Obviously these sites only feature medium – large firms.

We would recommend going through this full list for your training contract interview.

The Cookie Law – Politicians Don’t Understand the Internet

I’ve only recently done some reading up on the Cookie Law after seeing numerous “This site uses cookies; are you OK with that?” messages. Yes I know I’m late to the cookie smashing party but I’m going to weigh in anyway. It annoys me both as a site user and creator.

I know it’s only 2 seconds out of your day for every page but when you browse the internet as much as me it really starts to add up. I get to the stage where I just ignore the messages. This deprives the webmaster of valuable information (via tracking) and therefore hinders them in the improvement of their site. These cookie messages create such bad user experience and could actually be bad for EU business by deterring creative web companies from setting up here. They won’t like the idea of needing to ask the users permission before doing anything cool. They will probably just go to the US.

Also I’ve never met anyone who has actually cared that a website remembers they’ve been there, and tracks how long they stay. I mean what’s next? Signing a legal document before you go into a clothes shop so the staff can look at you, judge you clothing size and offer suggestions? I don’t see much difference between that situation and this one.

It seems to me that the people who came up with this law have zero knowledge of how the internet works. They seem to think that cookies cause awful privacy violations and consequently must be stopped. Zero thought seems to have been given to implementation and the amount of people it would impact.

Anyone who uses any sort of tracking software would seem to be in violation of this law. People are breaking the law just because they’re trying to improve their site. As long as there is a way for someone to opt out (if they want) I don’t see the problem. I really don’t see how it’s the job of website owners to educate everyone who comes to their site about cookies.

This lack of understanding also seems to be shown by American politicians with their SOPA Act too. Basically it would allow sites to be taken down without notice if it enables copyright infringement. So in theory if someone uploaded some content to a website, and the content was copyright protected, the entire website could be taken down without due process. Because it’s enabling copyright infringement.

But there’s so much sharing on the internet these days. Even this most simple of facts was overlooked by those behind SOPA. It appears they had zero understanding of the internet. I’d be surprised if they could master a printer let alone understand the practicalities behind the web. Those sort of people shouldn’t be making decisions about the internet.

Their thinking was just piracy = bad; a huge oversimplification. Privacy = good was the oversimplified thinking behind the Cookie Law. Although the cookie law is no way near as potentially damaging; it’s just really annoying.

Quite simply it’s really embarrassing for everyone involved when these laws are made by people who have zero experience of the web. As far as I can tell (granted that I’m not an expert this) very few experts were consulted.

I literally think a bunch of 13 year olds would do a better job at passing legislation in regards to online matters compared to current politicians. It’s not that the core ideas that are behind the Acts in question are poor – privacy is a good thing, but they way they are implemented is just awful.

This video does a better job of telling you what’s wrong with the Cookie Law than my ranting:

My Favourite Fictional Lawyers

I waste spend quite a bit of time watching American comedy, and in those shows there’s usually a lawyer character. So I came up with an idea for a pretty light hearted blog post – my favourite fictional comedy lawyers! Some of them you will definitely have heard of and others you will only know about if you’re a die hard fan of the show. We’ve also included a poll at the bottom of the page if you want to tell us who your favourite is.

no money down lawLionel Hutz

Lionel Hutz from The Simpsons is by far the most well known lawyer in this list. He first appeared in season two in the episode Bart Gets hit by a Car.

Hutz is pretty incompetent but despite this fact the Simpson family repeatedly hire him as their lawyer. It’s a good thing too; Lionel has so many classic lines. Here are just a few of them:

Hutz: Now don’t you worry Mrs. Simpson, I – uh-oh. We’ve drawn Judge Snyder.
Marge: Is that bad?
Hutz: Well, he’s kind of had it in for me, since I accidently ran over his dog. Actually, replace ‘accidently’ with ‘repeatedly’, and replace ‘dog’ with ‘son’.

Late Ms. Bouvier [video-will]: Now let’s get down to business…
Hutz [voice dubbed in]: To my executor, Lionel Hutz, I leave $50,000.
Marge: Mr. Hutz!!!
Hutz: You’d be surprised how often that works, you really would.

Hutz: And so, ladies and gentleman of the jury I rest my case.
Judge: Hmmm. Mr. Hutz, do you know that you’re not wearing any pants?
Hutz: DAAAA!! I move for a bad court thingy.
Judge: You mean a mistrial?
Hutz: Right!! That’s why you’re the judge and I’m the law-talking guy.
Judge: You mean the lawyer?
Hutz: Right.

Barry defending George in jailBarry Zuckerkorn

There are 3 hilarious lawyers in Arrested Development – Barry Zuckerkorn, Bob Loblaw and Wayne Jarvis. However Barry Zuckerkorn (played by Henry Winkler, yep – the Fonz!) is my personal favourite.

In similar style to The Simpsons Barry is very incompetent and defends the Bluth family on a number of issues throughout the show. He makes some pretty big blunders in every episode he features, like these:

Michael: We need to speak to you about getting a divorce for Gob.
Barry: Well, I got Michael out of his marriage, didn’t I?
(Smiles and holds up hand for high five)
Michael: Actually, she died.
Barry: You’re kidding me. I’ve been taking credit for that for years!

Barry: Unfortunately, it’s a private stock, so you cannot just buy up the shares unless someone is willing to sell.
Michael: Are you sure?
Barry: That’s what they said on “Ask Jeeves”.

Barry: The will is not here, the will is at my office next to the hot plate with the frayed wires. I didn’t, uh… (Muttering.)
Narrator: In fact, Barry had lost George Sr.’s will.
Barry: …how did I get here?

Harvey Birdman

Harvey Birdman is pretty hard to describe. It’s all about a law firm – Sebben & Sebben, which is full of superheros and characters from Hanna-Barbera (The Flintstones, Shaggy & Scooby and Secret Squirrel are just a few of those featured). Birdman is the main character; apparently he was tired of fighting crime and wanted a career in law instead. Harvey usually plays the role of a defence lawyer.

In one episode Harvey needs to defend himself against and old nemesis who is suing him for injuries caused during a fight from his superhero days.

Marshall Eriksen

Marshall Eriksen is from How I met your Mother and throughout the show we see him graduate from law school and move on to being a lawyer. He’s probably the only lawyer on the list who isn’t wildly incompetent! While his character doesn’t just revolve around him being a lawyer there are lots of funny moments which occur during his time at work.

The video to the left is a clip from one of the episodes – a law school band Marshall forms called The Funk, the Whole Funk and Nothing but the Funk (sorry about the poor quality).

Marshall also coined the phrase Lawyered which is used whenever he uses facts to disprove another persons argument, like this :

Barney: Statistically, men who have had at least one relationship with a prostitute, are 75% more likely to have success in future relationships.
Marshall: You made that up.
Barney: Withdrawn.
Marshall: Lawyered.

Other lawyers worthy of mention

Uncle Jack Kelly

Jack Kelly is from a show called It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He’s the uncle of one of Charlie Kelly; one of the main characters. He’s certainly the creepiest lawyer on this list. He doesn’t like his hands being photographed.

Gerald Broflovski

Also known as Kyle’s dad from South Park. There are several episodes where his legal career comes up. Like the Sexual Harassment Panda episode where everyone tries to sue the school.

The Bird Lawyer

Our second bird based lawyer. This time from Futurama; he appears in a few episodes when legal advice is needed. Unfortunately he’s not very good. I don’t actually know if that character has a name, so I’m just going to call him the bird lawyer.

All I know is that he is some sort of bird which has evolved to the stage where it can speak. And obtain a law degree. Also he sounds like he’s from Texas. Anyway the video to the right is him in action.

Judge Dredd should get an honorary mention. Although I do question the amount of legal training he’s received.

[poll id=”2″]

Mooting Tips & Advice

Mooting is a crucial bit of work experience for prospective barristers. A fantastic video on mooting from the College of Law. Some tips and advice on mooting including common errors that students make. There is also information on the structure of your arguments, enhancing argument clarity and communication with the judge.

This video is invaluable if you’re going to be having your first moot in the near future or even if you’ve got a good deal of experience already.

For more information on mooting check out the Learnmore mooting guide. The guide covers everything to do with mooting such as bundles, skeleton arguments, and public speaking.

Law Graduate Profile

Bangor Law School have given us permission to use some of their graduate profiles. We think this is useful in order to see the paths others have taken to get into the legal profession and the wide range of career options open to law graduates. Visit the Bangor University website to see the rest of the profiles. We will hopefully be adding to this page in the future with further graduate profiles from a range of universities. If you would like to contribute a profile please contact us.

David Darlington, LLB Law with Accounting and Financeuniversity law grad

“After leaving Bangor Law School I studied the Legal Practice Course at the College of Law, Chester. I was recently admitted as a Solicitor after completing my training contract with Stephensons Solicitors LLP, “a UK top 100 law firm, one of the largest, fastest growing and most successful solicitors in the north west” (Legal 500). I have been kept on with the firm and I am now working as a Criminal Solicitor. I am also fully accredited for the Police Station and I am on the firms’ 24 hour rota.

I would like to thank Bangor Law School for all the support that I received during my degree as I wouldn’t be where I am now without it.”

Tristan Koriya, LLB Law with Business Studies (2008 graduate)

“After completing an LLB in Law with Business Studies at Bangor Law School, I worked for the Cabinet Office as Acting Head of Communications for the Government I.T Profession. In 2009 I completed the Legal Practice Course at the Oxford Institute of Legal Practice before being appointed Head of Law at Roade Sports College in Northamptonshire. I also worked for Her Majesty’s Courts Service and the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) prior to finishing my studies.

“I am currently doing a 2-year training contract with Wilson Browne Solicitors and Qualify next year hopefully! I strongly believe that without the support and guidance of the staff at Bangor Law School I simply would not have been able to secure such a good btraining contract.”

Paralegal Studies; A Trend for the Future?

paralegal careerThe University of Glamorgan have recently announced that they will be offering a degree in paralegal studies. The degree is “designed to provide you with a flexible, work-related learning experience that will equip you with the necessary skills to succeed in the legal sector”. The course is approved by the Chartered Institute for Legal Executives (CILEX) and successful completion can allow exemption from the level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice.

Because the course was developed along with CILEX it should be a great way for prospective paralegals to train. When it comes to employment the course could give you a real advantage over other applicants. A mixture of legal subjects and practical legal skills will be taught to students on the course. In this way it strikes me as being a kind of “paralegal LPC”.

One question you may ask is this: If you’re going to invest the time and money in a course to become a paralegal, (which doesn’t actually require a degree), why don’t you just invest that time and money into becoming a solicitor via the traditional route? Looking at the fees calculator on the page linked above it seems that it will be much cheaper than taking an LLB course. The course is done over 2 years (if done full time) and shouldn’t cost more than £5000 per year for UK students (less for Welsh students). And your chances of employment should be higher compared to a student who wants to be a solicitor and has just completed the LLB.

Also the required grades are much lower (160 UCAS points or relevant professional experience) which will mean that a legal education from university becomes much more accessible to some. What wouldn’t be ideal is if this sort of course became the norm, and indeed an unofficial requirement of paralegals.

Right now this seems like a great course. We all know how hard it is to get any job in the legal sector, and if you want to become a paralegal this would certainly help you. But what about the future? One day (hopefully!) the economy, and legal sector as a whole, will become more healthy. This should mean employment increases and therefore it won’t be as hard to become a paralegal as it is now. Would this decrease the usefulness of this course when that time comes? I think not. This seems like the sort of course that should be an investment for the future. Something that could help with career progression. Undoubtedly firms will see this course as a massive bonus. So rather than the course simply being something that’s required (like the LLB or GDL for solicitors), we should think of it as a nice bonus that will help in the future. Like a masters degree.

This is only speculation but it will be interesting to see how employers treat this course and what impact it will have on the way paralegals are employed. We certainly don’t want the paralegal role to be labelled “graduates only”, if this does happen then we can be sure that many other course providers will offer paralegal studies similar to this one.

Pannone Trainee Diary & Profile

Pannone have kindly allowed us to republish one of their graduate diaries. You can see the other trainee diaries here. There are 6 diaries in total; two testimonials from Pannone trainees who progressed from the position of paralegal to trainee and four Pannone trainees who have written a summary of their typical working day.

A day in the life of a Pannone Trainee

Richard Hill: Second Year Trainee, Pannone
Seats to Date: Dispute Resolution, Construction and Corporate
University: King’s College London
Degree and Class:  BA Hons 1(1)

8.45 am – I arrive at work, check my emails and see if anything urgent has come in that I should deal with immediately. I check my “to do” list and add any extra tasks that appear in my emails.  I grade my “to do” list in order of importance (on a scale of one to four with one being the most importance) so that I know which tasks to do first.

9.00 am – This morning I am drafting a third party legal charge for one of our clients who wishes to obtain a charge in order to secure the goods that they sell to a third party prior to them receiving payment for these goods.  I have had plenty of experience drafting such security and I am confident that I will get this done in around one hour.

richard-hill

10.00 am – Reminders that I have set up in my outlook calendar remind me that I need to perform winding up searches and check the filing histories of several companies.  It is important to check a company’s filing history and to do winding up searches on the day that a transaction is set to complete in order to ensure that there have been no last minute changes to the company that is being acquired.  There are no new filings for the companies and the winding up searches are clear, I therefore update the Partner leading the transaction of this, so that he knows that the transaction can proceed.

10.20 am – One of the partners in the Corporate Finance team asks me if I am able to assist on a transaction that is due to complete next week.  The completion of transactions is an important and interesting part of life in the Corporate team.  I need to prepare and agree with the other side a file containing all of the disclosures that are to be made by our client who is the seller in the transaction.  I log in to a data room that we have set up and start to work through the documents that the client has sent across and upload these to the data room so that the other side’s solicitors can see these documents.  It is important for me to make a note of any substantial issues raised by these documents and in particular to note any that relate to questions asked by the other side in the due diligence questionnaire.

12.45 pm – I move onto the next task on my ‘to do’ list which is to provide a company search on a company that will be giving security to one of our clients in the future.  These company searches are important in order to flag potential issues such as if the company has already given security to others or whether it does not have the powers needed to borrow or to give security.

1.00 pm – I go for an impromptu lunch with the partner with whom I share an office for a catch up and to replenish for the afternoon!

2.00 pm – I recommence the company search started before lunch.

2.45 pm – The company search is complete and I return this to the fee earner responsible for the file.  He asks me if I have capacity to help him on a file that I have previously assisted with.  As I have nothing urgent to do on my ‘to do list’ I say that I can help.  He asks me to telephone the client and obtain some share certificates that the client has hold of.  Upon receipt of these I am to arrange for new share certificates to be issued by the Company’s registrar.  I make the call and I then set a reminder in my Outlook calendar for three days time to ensure that I have received these certificates.

3.15 pm – I now have some internal training on how to use one of the IT systems that we use at Pannone.  This is an update session outlining new facilities to automatically check case and legislation references within documents in order to ensure that they are up to date.  The training sessions that we have are extremely useful and enable us to keep up to date with key issues in the law, develop a range of skills such as networking and improve our IT skills in order to ensure that we can do our work as efficiently as possible.

4.20 pm – I return from the training session to find a note from one of the partners requesting that I do some research into community interest companies, what they can and can not do and whether it is possible for them to convert into a public limited company.  Performing research into new areas of law that I have not studied before is one of the most interesting and challenging tasks as a Pannone trainee.  It enables you to expand your knowledge base and is fundamental to providing efficient and accurate information to clients.

5.45 pm – Pannone organise internal football matches every Tuesday.  Socialising with others at the firm is an important and enjoyable part of life as a Pannone trainee.  As I enjoy playing football I try and go to most of these Tuesday sessions, so I finish my work, meet up with some fellow players and head off to play (or try to play) some football.

If you are interested in applying for a training contract at Pannone please complete the online form. If you have any queries please email us at [email protected].

New Trainee Retention Rates & Analysis

Trainee retention rates have recently been published and actually look quite good. Slaughter and May have published a retention rate of 91% for its newly qualified solicitors. That’s 42 out of 46 trainees retained. The figure from their March intake was at 90%.

Ashurst also increased their retention rate from March. They retained 83% of NQ solicitors up from 78% after 24 out of 27 trainees who applied for solicitor roles were offered employment. SNR Denton’s retention rates were up even more – 83% up from 60%. They are retaining 24 of 29 qualifying trainees.

So the retention rates do seem to be getting better. This should make sense. After all there are 44.5 graduates applying for each trainee solicitor role as I looked at here. So the best of the best should be the only ones getting training contracts. Only people who really want the job and have the ability to be an amazing solicitor. After all the competition, all of  the applications and all of the assessments a firm should be pretty sure that they’ve got the right candidate.

And that’s how I first looked at the figures.

But then I thought about something else. Is the actual training contract just another stage of the interview? Do firms ever intend to keep 100% of their graduates? Or is it a situation where they NEED to eliminate one or two candidates because of budget requirements? I don’t know. But 100% retention rates seem rare, and that seems odd to be because of the intensive recruitment process.

Another way to read the situation is that the trainee retention IS a cost cutting measure. NQ solicitors will need to be paid much less than a senior solicitor or partner. Their wages may even be less than an experienced paralegal or legal assistant. So firms could be cutting several senior jobs and replacing them with NQ solicitors that they view as highly talented. Because of the competitiveness perhaps trainees would settle for a lower wage too?

They would be happy simply getting a job in law and making a respectable amount of money in the process. I’d feel pretty annoyed if I’d worked in a firm for several years, got made redundant, and then the firm keeps 100% of its trainees! However this is just speculation. I have no idea how firms will deal with this sort of process, or the transparency which is involved.

I also found it interesting that graduates resigned; 2 of Slaughter’s trainees resigned before qualification. I guess working in a big commercial firm isn’t for everyone, but they must have disliked it enough to make the 59k NQ salary not worth it!

Other retention rates should be released within the coming weeks. It will be interesting to see if the other firms repeat this upwards retention trend. But it is hard to know what to make of the numbers. Does the fact that we’re in a recession again mean the retention rate is likely to drop soon? Or was I right by saying that retaining more trainees could be saving firms more money overall?

Would love to hear what other people think.

Assessment Day Group Exercises & Interviews

Here is some great advice, hints and tips on what to expect from assessment days. This video is from Clifford Chance and goes into quite a bit of detail about some of the exercises, interviews, tests and overall process. It really tells you what firms are looking for during the whole interviews process so it’s really worth a watch. The video even mentions some specific questions that will be asked at the interview. Although they are taking about the Clifford Chance assessment day, the process with other firms should be very similar.