Mark's Blog

Is Technology Creating Worse Solicitors?

reading law bookWhen I was studying law I spent a great deal of time thinking “Wow, imagine how much harder this would be if I didn’t have Westlaw / Wikipedia / the internet”. Before everyone had laptops even a simple matter of looking up a case would require a trip to the law library.

Think about all of those times you needed look up a relevant case you hadn’t heard of before. Nothing in depth; let’s just say it was referenced and you wanted to know the basics. Instead of needing to read through a text book, or reading the case in full you can just type “[case name] key facts” to get a quick and dirty explanation. You will probably find out enough to get by but certainly not anything complex. It basically plugs a hole in your knowledge.

Sadly it also got to the stage (for me) where instead of looking up a case in a textbook, I did a quick Google search. Why? Because it was faster and easier. Now don’t get me wrong, I never based by knowledge on an online summary when it came to reading an important case. But I didn’t use the opportunity to greatly expand my own knowledge. Someone 15+ years ago would have needed to read a full section in a text book, or even research the entire case themselves. Therefore learning a ton of new stuff.

So my point is this – for me it was rare to read a case all the way through, as it was for my classmates. I read through the full case a few times but I used a lot of online resources (at least to get the foundations of knowledge in place). Without the internet – just relying on the cases and law textbooks when doing your own research, you’re going to develop some pretty amazing comprehension skills and a far greater understanding of the thinking behind the ratio decidendi of a case.

Alternatively you could argue that all of this technology and information is a good thing. This is because it’s not realistic that every case / legal principle the law student of yesteryear didn’t understand would be researched. They may just ignore the gap in their knowledge because the time spent researching compared to the actual benefit would mean it wouldn’t be worth it.

But humans tend to get used to challenging circumstances, they also get used to situations in which everything is going their way or is too easy. I always remember this bit of research:

Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert found that after about three years, amputees and lottery winners have about the same level of happiness, having returned to their natural state of happiness after their respective gains or losses

I believe that this can be applied to a student studying law now, and one studying it 15 years ago. You soon get used to the current work load and way of doing things. I remember when I was doing the GDL, people doing the LLB said how they couldn’t imagine doing all those modules in one semester. It was hard yes – but you get used to it. Likewise students of 15 years ago would find a way to fit all this extra research time into their routine. Have modern students got too used to this easier way of studying law because of the wealth of information (some good, sometimes not so good) at their fingertips?

I believe the best students will always go into further detail when studying the law. So they will pick up similar skills, understanding and knowledge compared to students of the past. But they will also be aware of something perhaps much more powerful – the power of technology. At the end of the day what matters is fully understanding a legal principle. You can read through a case 100 times yet not understand it. If something you find on an online resource suddenly makes the case click, then great.

I always understood the cases very well – but one thing I wish I had done is read through the actually cases fully. To complete my knowledge. It’s like I had a 80% understanding, reading the actual case would have pushed that up to 95%. Yes, it’s time consuming but it’s something you won’t regret doing.

I guess you can phrase this question like an essay question – Do you think technology has helped or hindered the development of legal professionals? Would love to hear your opinions on this – leave a comment! 🙂

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Recommended Reading; Preparing for a Law Degree

law booksYou’re going to have to work damn hard during your law degree – if you want to become a solicitor or barrister that is! Your social life will be reduced and you may find that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. So why not make good use of your time over the summer before university starts? 

Yes we know you would rather be sat out in the sun or going out with friends, but you should dedicate at least a few hours a week to preparing for your law degree. This will help you so much when it comes to the start of the academic year and may even give you an advantage over the people who didn’t bother preparing. Anyway if you want a career in law you better get used to putting in some extra hours. If anything it will make it less of a shock when you degree starts!

Recommended reading for law

Your university will give you a reading list for your law degree way before the start of your course. It usually is a pretty long list. The good news is you may not have to read all of it. When I was doing the recommended reading I bought two introduction to law books which were very similar. Reading one would have sufficed. But each university will provide different reading lists. As a general rule just make sure you don’t read two books which are obviously the same.

So what’s the best introduction to law book? Well I’ve just read a few – certainly not all of them but Glanville Williams: Learning the Law really stood out. I learnt a lot from reading that book. It’s brilliant at laying the foundations before you start you degree. That’s not just in relation to knowledge, it’s good at showing you the sort of legal thinking & skills that you will need too. So when you start your lectures the topics and themes won’t be too alien to you. I found the book contained a good mix of theoretical and practical knowledge. Since university focuses on academic law some key practicalities of the legal process are sometimes overlooked. Learning the Law gives you what you need to know in regards to practical law until you start your LPC / BPTC.

What else should you do?

The recommended reading isn’t the only thing you should do before the start of the academic year. You should try and get some work experience. Even if it’s just for a week, or even if it’s for 2 days! It will help demonstrate you have had a strong interest in the law from an early age. That one piece of experience could also be the difference between getting a mini pupillage / vacation scheme and not getting one.

It may also be a good idea to go down to your local court / magistrates and observe a hearing. This is even more important if you want to be a barrister. I really wish I could go back in time and tell myself to get more experience before university (yes if I could time travel I probably wouldn’t need to go to law school, I know!) But it really will make the difference when you’re in the final year of university and you’re aiming for the top. The fact is it’s not even going to be that much time out of your summer. Surely you can spare one week?

Setting goals out for yourself is crucial. No one is expecting you to know exactly where you want to be in 3 years, but at least have a rough idea of what you want to do. This way you won’t miss training contract / pupillage deadline and have to wait another year. It also allows you to make full use of the university societies. So do some thinking!

The last thing you should do is keep up to date with the latest legal news and developments. Again this doesn’t need to take hours of your time up every single day (or even week!) but a little work can really help your chances of getting a training contract. Reading the legal news will allow you to see the most important issues currently facing the legal sector. And keeping up to date with it over a matter of years will let you see how these issues evolve and change. If someone just started reading the legal news weeks before an interview they won’t be able to do this. This in our opinion is key to commercial awareness and demonstrating depth of knowledge at any kind of interview.

Law Gap Year / Internship – The last ingredient your CV needs for a training contract?

Do you need that one extra piece of experience on your CV to make yourself stand out? That one little thing that could make recruiters take note? Well it’s possible that the experience you gain on a Gap year could be exactly what you need. But you need to think pretty logically about the choice. It may be a bad decision to take a Gap year depending on your circumstances.

It’s so easy to get carried away when thinking about a Gap year. You may get to have a holiday, get legal experience, and maybe even get paid at the same time. It all sounds very nice. But there’s a good chance your gap year won’t turn out so well. It may cost you a load of money, provide little in the way of decent legal experience and if you could have landed a paralegal role during the time, it would be a wasted opportunity.

Be realistic

Sorry to be a Buzz Killington but a Gap year won’t always be a good idea. So I’m going to look at some of the situations where I think a Gap year is and isn’t a good idea. There are quite a few articles I’ve read out there stating that a Gap year is going to be the best choice you ever make, while painting an idealistic picture of your experiences overseas. You need to remember that these companies may want your money / free labour. So you should take everything they say with a pinch of salt.

When should you do a Gap year?

In my opinion 2 main criteria should be met if you want to take a Gap year to further your legal career prospects:

1. Currently limited career options. If you don’t have any realistic chance of imminently obtaining a training contract or paid legal work then it could be a great idea to do a Gap year. What would you be doing otherwise? Working a minimum wage job which doesn’t have much value on a CV? You could find yourself in a nasty rut where you’re not going anywhere.

A gap year which provides you with experience and a fun time could be just what you need to give you extra confidence, determination and skills you need to get a training contract (or other legal job). Depending on the placement you may even be paid for your work. Other placements may provide your accommodation

2. The experience is actually relevant. Fair enough if you just want to go on a fun holiday. But don’t take a Gap year for the sole purpose of improving you CV if you’re going to go to be doing something which isn’t worth mentioning at an interview. It doesn’t need to be legal based (look at some of the key legal skills you need) but it would be great if it is.

This would be a good example of invaluable Gap experience; the sort of experience that could make the difference between getting a training contract and not even getting through the application stage.

A year working in Hong Kong in a Chinese firm carrying out a range of duties. Once a week you take Chinese lessons. You went travelling in China during the last two months.

That sort of experience would probably require some sort of investment on your behalf. But it could be well worth it. If enough research is done you can find some pretty good Gap year / internship schemes where accommodation is included in the price and you get a basic wage from the place you’re working.

When shouldn’t you do a Gap year?

You probably shouldn’t do a gap year for the sole purpose of helping you get a training contract if, realistically speaking, your academics aren’t good enough. Unfortunately a Gap year won’t turn that 3rd class degree into a 2:1. A gap year should help improve an already good CV. Not be used to patch up a bad CV. You need to be realistic about your training contract chances.

Just because work experience is gained overseas doesn’t automatically make it better. A years worth of work experience working with the British legal system is invaluable. Especially because you will be getting paid and therefore reducing some of those nasty debts. If you can realistically get this sort of experience then maybe a Gap year is unnecessary. Working in a firm may also increase your training contract chances at the firm or even allow you to work your way up.

Make sure the experience is useful. Although it will be of some value, and will be very rewarding, volunteering on building projects may not be of that much value when it comes to applications. Yes it will give you some great skills and experiences but if you’re pinning your hopes of training contract success on your year abroad then you should really pick something which is law based.

Where can I find law gap years?

You need to fully research you gap year placement so you know it’s right for you. Get all of the information you can and know what will be paid for, what you will need to pay for, how long it will last, accommodation arrangements and most importantly learn about the exact nature of the experience you will be getting. Once you find out exactly where you’re going do some research on the location. If you’re being sent to a ghetto it’s best to know before (so you can pack your nunchucks). Here are a few sites which offer legal based internships / gap year experiences:

The bottom line

It’s all about knowing the strength and weakness of your own application. Would some good experience overseas make the difference in your training contract chances? You need to be realistic about your application. If you’re just lacking that bit of experience, then yes; it could be a good idea. If you don’t stand much of a chance then don’t waste more money! You need to be brutally honest and realistic.

The phrase “Gap year” can mean so many things and the value of your year off can vary an insane amount depending on what you’re doing. In better economic times it used to be possible to find paid paralegal work in Australia, New Zealand or the US. This would look so good on your CV (and would be so much fun!) that it could be a good choice to take it even if you already had decent career prospects or could obtain a UK legal job. However due to the economic situation at the moment this sort of gap year experience would be very hard to find. (Note: If you have duel nationality or overseas contacts this route could still be a possibility.)

Remember we’re speaking from a purely logical point of view here. If you just want a fun holiday then go for any Gap year. But if you’re thinking of a Gap year specifically with your legal career in mind then take note of the above points. What you don’t want to do is spend yet more money on your legal career unnecessarily – that money may need to be spent on the LPC.

What to Expect Studying Law at College – Skills, Revision & Exams

Guest poster Steph Staszko talks about her experiences taking law at college. Read about revision tips, the skills needed, and the advantages of studying with others.

What to expect when studying law at college

Knowing what to expect from studying anything as part of a full time education programme can be difficult, so knowing what to expect from studying law at college is certainly a difficult task. Because of the sheer volume of work involved and the difficult nature of the subject matter, law courses differ greatly from other programmes of study.

There seems to be a common misconception about those studying law, in television programmes they’re often stereotyped as being rich and highly intelligent. Whilst intelligence is required, you don’t have to be in MENSA or own a mansion to progress in a legal profession. What you will require is determination, patience and the ability to read, re-read and read some more!

Studying law is well suited to people with a natural eye for detail and a great memory for storing and recalling information, and during your time studying you will be learn the reading, writing, problem solving, and teamwork skills that almost all modern employers look for in an applicant, regardless of the position.

Basic skills and talents

Whilst becoming fluent in the language of law can feel like climbing a mountain at times, there are some fantastic skills you pick up along the way that will help you in all walks of employment. If you’re like myself and somewhat unorganised, studying law will help you kick your bad habits of untidiness. In order to be able to revise on your own (i.e. out of class) you will have to organise your folders by area of law and come up with a system that will help you to be able to recite case studies by heart. If you end up entering the world of business, organisation is a key skill to have that many businessmen and women struggle with.

As I have already mentioned the volume of work which is given whilst studying law is immense, extensions are rarely granted and students are expected to teach themselves how to prioritise their time correctly in order to get their work done, on time and to the full extent of their ability. In fact its things like this which teaches law students the skills which will benefit them in any line of work they choose to take on. So anyone studying law can expect to have their social life diminished and can expect their ability to study, work and prioritise their time to greatly improve. Those who put the most work in will get the most out of their legal career path.

Social studying

Team work is essential to most forms of studying, but when studying law this rule is magnified two fold. Having friends who can act as study partners will make the entire learning process easier, more bearable and generally less stressful. Essentially, discussing law, solving problems and working on coursework together is the best way to grow and learn. Not only is it easier to learn as part of team, but because anyone who hopes to move into a career in law will be working closely as part of a legal team, the skills developed as part of socialising in college will be essential later in life.

Social studying can prove vital and further your understanding of certain areas of law which you’re unsure about. If your study partner is a civil law guru they can help to explain the principles of sentencing for example, far better than a text book. In return, you could help them with an area of law they are struggling to grasp, making study partners a vital part of your learning.

Studying alone

Whilst social studying is great, you will have to learn to enjoy your own company too. Expect textbooks and online learning resources to be your new evening entertainment and don’t be surprised when you swap Coronation Street and Eastenders for British crime dramas!

Academic expectancies

In terms of exams, every question which comes up on the end of year papers will have been covered in the curriculum at some point. The only problem is, the point may not have been touched on since the beginning of the academic year. Continually running over areas of law which you studied a few months ago is the key to passing your A Level exams. Memorising case studies and debunking legal jargon is key; if you want to succeed in law you need to have a fantastic memory or train your brain to be less forgetful!

Law can be an incredibly rewarding career path, but it isn’t for everyone. If you decide to study law but choose a different career path, you will definitely benefit from the skills you learnt when studying law at A Level and can prove valuable in all areas of work and education. Not least it’s always helpful to know your legal rights in certain situations!

This article was written by blogger Steph Staszko who writes on behalf of the expert legal team at Gray and Co Solicitors. Steph particularly enjoyed studying criminal law at college and loves a good detective novel!

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″]

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].