Training Contract First Day

I knew my first seat was in Insurance Litigation but that was it.

So I went into my first day with a strong coffee and new notebook at the ready, feeling nervous but also excited (new notebook see below- I love it and also think Aspinal’s personalisation is such a cute touch for a present).

Day One

  • I wore- Black dress from H&M, Black tights, Black flat shoes and Black Longchamp bag with a Tan Trench coat – nothing too elaborate for today as I thought I would assess the tone in the first week and then maybe branch out.
  • Met the firm’s Managing Partner
  • Met HR
  • Met Facilities team (and a talk on everything from Fire escape routes to Desk Risk Assessments)
  • Lots and lots of IT training. (Luckily my paralegal days have taught me some of the acronyms introduced to us today e.g. DMS – Document management system etc.)

Day Two

  • Lots more training to get our teeth into.

Day Three

  • Finding out what our new homes for the next six months are like (looking forward to this!)

Also, I would like to take this post as a chance to extend a massive thank you to everyone who wished me good luck and phoned me to find out how my first day went- I loved every second and cannot wait to find my feet at work. So far so good. I am determined to keep my blog updated with the highs and lows which will inevitably follow. I feel very lucky to be where I am and intend to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself.

Peak of today: Getting to properly know the other three trainees starting in my intake.

Pit of today: Set some bit of homework on the first night and battling with PLC login from home – will have to sort this out tomorrow in the office (luckily the IT team seem fantastically helpful, I have a feeling I will need to ask lots of questions).

LLM

xx

Professional Skills Course (PSC)

Before I start my training contract tomorrow, 4 September 2017 (Yes the date is F-I-N-A-L-L-Y coming up). I wanted to write a quick post about the PSC Course.

The PSC is compulsory for those training to become a solicitor. You are required to complete three core modules and 24 hours of electives. The course is regulated by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.

The PSC comprises three compulsory modules, each with fast track options throughout the year. Also there are a wide range of elective subjects to choose from. This means you are able to match your selected Electives to fit your areas of interest or career direction.

You must study all three core modules and 24 hours of Electives.

Three compulsory modules

  • Advocacy and Communication Skills (three days) 
  • Client Care and Professional Standards (two days)
  • Financial and Business Skills course and exam (three days) – including a non-examinable online module

I am starting with Advocacy and Communication in advance of my official start date.

The current training requirements laid down by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) only require trainee solicitors to carry out three hours of advocacy training on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) followed by a three-day advocacy and communication course during the training contract.

At the conclusion of their training contract those who wish to practice in the higher courts can, under the current system, go onto to take a further assessment to prove their competence to do so. None of this means that someone is less capable of becoming a good advocate because they haven’t been called to the Bar. It simply means that they are likely to have had less of an opportunity to hone their skills at an early stage.

Advocacy: Involves getting to know your peers, this was quite fun as we started with a get to know the group exercise which meant we had to present for five minutes on the person sat next to us. We also learnt several presentational tips. There was emphasise on “Eyes Up Advocacy” and finding a balance between functionality and persuasive advocacy. Over the second and third days we did a lot of group exercises including submissions, cross examination and examination in chief. Key thing I took from these three days: Proposition should always be supported by evidence or law.

I will continue to let you guys know how it goes and any lessons learnt along the way.

Useful Notes: 

IMG_9572           IMG_9573

LLM

x

Cybercrime

 

Asking you to think back, do you remember before you were able to watch a video an advert would remind you about film piracy? They asked, “would you steal a car or handbag?” and then equated this crime to illegal downloading and thus stealing a film. The premise being if you downloaded the film rather than purchased it or viewed it in a cinema it was the same as theft.

Have you ever been a victim of crime? The connotations of the word crime are drastically and rapidly evolving by removing the human element. Crime no longer exists solely in the physical manner of stealing a car or a handbag. In a similar way to Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak, crime can now occur online and it is becoming a critical concern for all commercial organisations, families and for the everyday individual. Celebrities are also not immune and high profile court cases are propelling a new spotlight on cybercrime, such as Ryan Collins’s 18-month sentence for hacking online accounts of Jennifer Lawrence. Collins entered a guilty plea in connection with hacking, and admitted to a “phishing” scheme to obtain passwords, in order to obtain nude photographs from the victims’ cloud storage accounts. Law firms are not immune, the “Panama Papers” leak which saw the release of 11.5million confidential documents and 2.6terabytes of data from Mossack Fonseca (bigger than Wikileaks and Snowdon disclosures combined).

Cybercrime can assist criminals in historical crimes existing before the internet such as fraud; however, it has also opened up a Pandora’s box of new geographically borderless crimes solely brought about through the existence of the internet. In the same way as new crimes have been unleashed, similarly new types of criminals have appeared. The National Crime Agency (“NCA”) has detailed many of those charged with cybercrime are teenagers; the internet has born a new type of criminal. The NCA reported a large proportion of offenders begin to participate in gaming cheat websites and game modification forums before progressing to criminal hacking forums as a means to showcase their technical prowess and knowledge. It will be interesting to see long-term what the effects of technology on the younger generations will be and whether a link between growing up with easily accessible technology can be correlated to the growth in cybercrime. Teenagers can now access new friends and girlfriends or boyfriends via a screen, existing outside their ‘real-world’. The line between what is right and wrong can begin to seem muddled. If you are used to playing on games and launching cyber attacks in a gaming community is there much of a step to doing something similar at school, work, against an individual or company you dislike? If a child has a computer in their room, they no longer have to even leave the comfort of their home to commit a crime.

There is little part of our daily lives now where we do not rely on the internet. Just this morning, how many of you checked the internet or apps for travel, email, shopping, banking or dating?

In a world where businesses store confidential and client sensitive information on computers or within cloud based storage systems and individuals rely more and more on mobile phones for storing credit card and bank account details. It was only a matter of time until criminals recognised the ease of access to photos, documents, trade secrets and passwords (literally at the end of their fingertips).

Cybercrime presents legal challenges

  1. There are numerous legal challenges posed by cybercrime such as, who is to blame? Beyond the initial person accessing this information, should we be looking at those storing information, processing information or third parties benefiting from this information or even beyond that? This leads to the question of monitoring cybercrime and cybercrime responsibility; should Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) be doing more to screen for cybercrime and thus adding a protective layer for the end user? TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC suffered a £400,000 fine by the Information Commissioner’s Office in 2016 after a cyber attacker gained access to customer data “with ease” in 2016. Therefore, businesses suffer not only the initial loss of information, but additionally the reputational damage and penalties as a consequence.
  2. The pace of cybercrime’s evolution and the need for legislation to be brought up to speed with the internet poses a further difficulty. Cybercrime like many other crimes can vary from small-scale to catastrophic ramifications and the legislation needs to consider voluminous factors. Many of the Acts in place today are only partly relevant to the ever-changing nature of cybercrimes. The passing of the Serious Crime Act 2015 (especially important sections are 41 to 44), which updates and amends the Computer Misuse Act 1990 ensuring harsher penalties for cybercriminals. Constant evolution such as wearable technology pose new threats- undermining even the wider drafted clauses – both the law and its enforcers struggle to grapple with tackling cybercrime consistently and effectively because of its very changeable nature.
  3. Punishment of cybercrime stumbles at a seemingly simple first hurdle, the identification of a criminal due to the often anonymous nature of the crime. The location and identity of cyber criminals are difficult to locate due to virtual currencies and encryption of data, such as those who operate in the billion-dollar ‘dark net’ drug crime network called Silk Road. In contrast to the open web pages on the ‘dark net’ cannot be searched for using popular search engines.

Asking you to think forward, it is time to get cyber savvy. The law now has to become educative from the grass roots levels and proactive rather than reactive to cybercrime. Collaboration and education from school age are now key components to combatting modern day cybercrime.

LLM

xx

Featured image: http://boingboing.net/2016/04/07/scammers-stole-2-3-billion-in.html 

 

 

 

 

 

What does the LPC not teach you?

Having not started my training contract (“TC”) yet (countdown to Sept 2017) most of this post is based on what friends have told me about starting their training contracts and how different it is compared to the LPC version. Although to a certain degree, the LPC does not really prepare you for training contract applications, paralegal work or being a trainee. The LPC has one massive area of failing in that it does not offer, genuine preparation for finding a training contract. So essentially a pretty massive flaw.

We all know the LPC (University and the GDL too if these are relevant to you) are not cheap. So it is incredibly frustrating when you come to find yourself competing against thousands of others all in the same position straight out of law school.

I feel incredibly strongly about paying for what you get; the LPC is not value for money in any shape or form. I was unfortunate enough to secure my TC after my LPC had just finished so did not get funding or back-pay (some students who secure their TC’s while still at law school are given the amount paid in addition to the amount outstanding, this varies per firm but is worth looking into if you have already started your GDL or LPC).

I think it is fair to say for the money the LPC costs, it should do a much better job at preparing individuals for the inevitable TC application process and the eventual training contract position.

A massive part of large city law firm applications (it is not a secret) are the psychometric, verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests. This begs the questions, why are there not practice tests included in the LPC’s extortionate fees? Why do law schools not teach you the method and what is desired by a first class law student in these tests?

I am not suggesting each law school spoon feeds each student or gives away the answers; however, I went through numerous tests from personal experience (having successfully completed my undergraduate degree, GDL and LPC) with no real understanding of what these tests were for or how to complete them to a high standard. It is hard to take a test seriously if you do not know what the end result should look like. How are you supposed to visualise this goal?

Also, as an aside can someone please explain the rationale between some of the questions asked and how knowing these answers can make you a better lawyer compared to someone with the same degree and LPC qualifications who gets this wrong?

The LPC does not explain to future lawyers the importance of building client relationships or the importance of winning client work (ultimately clients mean work and work means business. These in turn correlate to profit and business development with hard work). Softer skills matter and should not be overlooked, yet not once was this mentioned during my course.

Ultimately, law schools are not teaching students the practical business skills needed to answer training contract interview questions well or to practice law in today’s economy and ever changing legal marketplace. This ties in to my next point, Law firms need to recognise the importance of academia and positive results but also should offer adequate support systems for students receiving inevitable rejection letters.

Until the above concerns are sorted out there will continue to be a lot of LPC students struggling to gain training contracts and spending a lot of money pursuing legal careers before going down alternative paths. There is a bottle neck appearing which has consequences for the development of a diverse and socially representative profession, as expensive course fees and limited training contracts discourage students from poorer backgrounds. (The commercial world’s outlook is not a kind one for future trainees).

Rather than just buying into the LPC club…LPC providers owe it to students to be more open to students about the chances of successfully attaining a training contract.

LLM

xx

2016 Law Review

2016 I think it is fair to say has been a year of surprises (some good and some bad- depending mainly on your political position). I don’t think it is unfair to say 2016 has been a challenging year affecting the UK legal landscape. Not since the recession have some felt so gloomy. Silver lining – can 2017 be as bad as 2016? Chin up everyone…

Smaller firms have struggled to position themselves in the increasingly competitive market as a direct result of Brexit. With many firms following the party-line that “the future is uncertain” it seems the only common ground is not committing to know what the future has in store in 2017.

 Some of the ’16 big stories:

  1. Brexit, a referendum was held on Thursday, 23 June, Britain voted it should leave the European Union.
  2. Donald Trump winning the US Election, international ramifications.
  3. Olympics (alleged doping, ticket-touting and disciplinary actions).
  4. Law firms’ face questions over the sale of BHS.
  5. Panama papers leak
  6. Pay overhaul and new remote working schemes introduced (incl. Magic Circle firms)
  7. Fintech, predictive coding, artificial intelligence and technological advances in law firms (Taylor Wessing are now said to be trialling video game for trainee applications).
  8. Ched Evans rape acquittal debate.
  9. SRA moves closer to abolishing the GDL and LPC as talks of a super-exam gain momentum.
  10. Filming in the Supreme Court for the first time.
  11. Shoegate: do women in the legal profession need to wear high heels? (gender-debate in the workplace)
  12. New data protection laws.
  13. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle relationship, official statement released (press vs privacy debate).
  14. Solicitor who trained at Clifford Chance launched a negligence suit against Oxford University because of failed barrister dream.
  15. KWM’s decline.
  16. Law firm’s have announced big mergers (notably Eversheds big US merger and also CMS, Nabarro and Olswang), leadership changes, partner exits, pay overhauls.

My favourite quote from the year (because with all the doom and gloom theres a sprinkling of positivity).

‘The world has become more complex, and clients are looking for advisers who can cut through the red tape and help them navigate the choppy waters. That’s our sweet spot – the harder a deal becomes the more we feel at home.’ Charlie Jacobs, senior partner, Linklaters

 

Law Fairs 2016

It’s that time of the year again!

A few of my friends currently on their training contracts have been sent across the UK to represent their firm along with associates and graduate recruitment representatives (and snazzy banners/pitches/ goody bags). Law fairs are taking place at most universities across the country. These take place most often in the autumn term. Law students and non-law students interested in a career in law should look out for posters and careers service emails to find out about these events, if in doubt email or enquire at your University’s law library/department.

Best tip at this point ladies and gentlemen – take a large handbag/man bag there are freebies aplenty (I promise, you will appreciate the free book tabs and mugs during late revision sessions).

There are lots of things you can do and find out to prepare in advance of the law fair to maximise its potential use. Find out which firms are attending and then source information from the firm’s website and available resources before asking questions to individuals that could be easily answered yourself if you had only done a little preparation. Law fairs are an opportunity to dig deeper and ask informal questions to trainees directly. If you manage to make yourself noticed for the right reasons you could enlist a useful contact at a firm of interest. If it seems appropriate you could ask if it would be ok to add that person on LinkedIn.

Take a notebook. 

I recorded down the names of those I met, any points of interest and important contact details. If anyone was particularly helpful I emailed to say thank you following the event. This also permitted me to read over my notes, digest the day and to be able to send any follow up queries/ questions directly to the contact made that day.

This does not mean, you must write down everything that is said or that you wish to ask a trainee at one particular firm. Try to have a conversation rather than bombard a poor soul with a million questions. It is an opportunity to converse with trainees from different firms and work out which are of interest. It should not be an interrogation or application problem solver (remember you might be answering these questions in a couple years time).

Things to consider asking:

  • How much client contact do you get?
  • What are your working hours really like?
  • What sort of things do you do in a typical working day?
  • Do you have any tips for the training contract application?
  • Is there any advice you would give yourself if applying to (“XYZ” firm name) again?
  • What extra-curricular activities do you offer?
  • Does the firm have a pro-bono or corporate social responsibility scheme?
  • Do you socialise with your trainee intake outside of work?

Listen to the questions being asked around you as well as asking your own questions. Firms send a variety of people including trainees, newly-qualified associates, partners and team members from graduate recruitment etc (*make sure the question/s you ask are appropriately pitched).

Don’t be shy, this is your opportunity to network. Try to enjoy it.

 

Sources: 

  1. http://blog.bpp.com/law/top-10-tips-on-preparing-for-law-fairs/
  2. http://www.brodies.com/blog/attending-law-fair-tips-tricks/
  3. https://lawblog.warwick.ac.uk/2016/10/21/6-tips-to-make-the-most-of-the-law-fair/
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/law/2012/nov/27/law-fairs-guide
  5. http://www.allaboutlaw.co.uk/stage/law-fairs/how-to-prepare-for-a-law-fair
Photo credit: http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/law/news-events/law-news/law-fair-2012-1

Law degree or “GDL” conversion course?

It is a tricky decision to make. Do you follow your gut and choose a university course that you are sure is something you are interested in and  school has established you are good at it (therefore likely to succeed)? OR should you choose the degree offering you the direct route to the career you think you want straight out of school?

When I was faced with this UCAS dilemma the playing field was very different mainly because Brexit had not been conceived and university fees were a fraction of what they are today.

For me it was a no brainer, I knew I wanted to be a lawyer but also that history was a strong subject choice and one I was genuinely interested in. I applied to the University of Exeter to read history without a second glance. However, for many now this was and remains a harder choice to make. One work experience taught me a great deal and one moment stands out as a junior partner explained to me that law was competitive and only the most committed and passionate candidates succeeded to securing their training contracts. He went on to tell me that I needed to stand myself apart from the crowd and not be afraid to make unconventional choices if it ultimately would make me stand out at application stage. Furthermore, he went on to say it was not good enough in a post-financial crisis London to just be a good lawyer, I had to have something else “my very own x-factor” to be noticed, to get a training contract interview and to ultimately succeed in the legal profession. A simple suggestion was to study an arts degree or modern language and take the GDL route… this was the beginning of my exploration into the GDL.

Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption has publicly backed studying a non-law discipline over law at undergraduate degree level. Sumption’s advice to budding lawyers is to “personally enrich” and “intellectually satisfy” themselves by taking another degree discipline such as history, which he himself studied. Having a good grasp of “the dynamic of human societies through their history” makes him a better judge.

Do not let the extra year put you off, if you have a real passion for a subject. I would strongly urge you to pursue this and to choose the GDL route (add another feather to your bow). By the time it comes to choose either the BPTC or LPC an extra year will not make you feel “old”. The LPC and BPTC differ significantly from law degrees and the GDL, meaning it’s pretty much level pegging for all students whatever route they take to get there.

Overall, I can only paint a one-sided picture having chosen the GDL route (I its hard work but allowed me to pursue a subject I was passionate about and get a breadth of academia without restriction to one discipline). Everyone should go with the option that is best for them, lots of my friends who chose to study law straight away are very successfully reaping the benefits of this with brilliant jobs today. It is not necessarily a straight forward decision. Have a good think about how you learn best, what funding is available to you, and take it from there. It should be said there are champions for both camps- GDL and LLB; one really is not categorically better than the other.

Deadline for the majority of undergraduate courses –15 January 2017

Sources:

Photo credit: http://www.startyourbusinessmag.com/the-law-what-you-need-to-know/

“Bridget Jones Baby”, marks legal history

 

Legal History has been made.

The Supreme Court in London has revealed that Bridget Jones Baby filmed within the magnificent building. This is the first time the highest court in the country has permitted a feature film crew.

Leading from the top, this could be one of the many ways the legal profession is generating an income to ease pressure on the public purse.

You will not be recognising any of the Supreme Court justices as the film’s producers brought in actors to fill the bench.

*Spoiler alert* Mark Darcy (played by actor Colin Firth) has advanced in his career and is now a Supreme Court lawyer hence the filming location.

Featured photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Law Firms and AI

There is a buzz around artificial intelligence (AI) and its place in law firms. The jury is still out on its use and place in firms… however, it is becoming more obvious that its a case of when and not if it does find its place.

The legal profession is constantly undergoing changes and grappling to keep up with the ever changing technological advancements often causing several aspects of working practices to change. It is undeniable that many law firms and clients of law firms are moving towards more flexible working, open-plan offices and an increased emphasis on knowledge sharing and project management. Is this something AI can expedite?

I have condensed some of the more useful bits I have found into a short post however, please research this area further if you are using it as interview preparation. AI is the theory and development of one or several computer based systems which will be able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence.

What is AI?

AI is the legal tech buzzword of 2016. AI, also called cognitive computing in the legal tech world, is about machines thinking like humans and performing human tasks.

What can AI help with?

According to ROSS (an IBM Watson-powered legal adviser app): there are many things to which AI can be applied now: contract review, legal research, drafting of legal documents, e-discovery and more.

Should trainees and paralegals worry…

Intelligent search systems could now outperform junior lawyers, trainees and paralegals in reviewing large sets of documents and selecting the most relevant.  A recent study by Deloitte suggested that technology has already contributed to a reduction of about 31,000 jobs in the legal sector, including roles such as legal secretaries and a further 39 per cent of jobs were at “high risk” of being made redundant by machines in the next two decades. There has been speculation that law is ripe for “Uberisation”, becoming the next target of technological disruption.

This may worry some but I think there is a definite positive aspect too as AI will allow more time to be dedicated to transactional work, client interaction and a fuller training. There are still lots of opportunities for lawyers, even with technology, to provide services.

Legal Cheek has revealed a law firm unveiled a blueprint for an army of virtual paralegals — all named “Kim”. Kim stands for “knowledge, intelligence, meaning” see here for more information. 

Benefits of AI:

  1. Allow lawyers more time to dedicate to technical work
  2. Big chunks of documents can be easily digested quickly by machines
  3. AI can assist in standardising processes, reduce drafting errors, preserving knowledge and hopefully assist in speeding up transactions, all at a lower cost to clients.

Obstacles to AI implementation: 

  1. Technical shortcomings
  2. Client hesitation
  3. What are the risks? Who is Liable?
  4. Will this make some job roles obsolete/ dilute legal training?

Liability: Who is accountable for error? Human vs Machine

Teaching computers to perform lawyer’s tasks contain several issues for concern. The two most prominent in the legal journals, articles and blogs I read online centred around the legal and ethical issues surround the use of AI. The issue of liability has not been resolved for Google’s driverless cars, similarly is a human or a machine to blame if AI is brought into the legal landscape and what happens where the line blurs?

The use of AI will inevitably mean computers are processing large amounts of confidential information; therefore, there are privacy and data protection worries.

Who has signed up to AI?

  • Clifford Chance
  • Dentons
  • Linklaters
  • Slaughter and May
  • Pinsent Masons and Others (watch this space…)

Sources:

Image credit- http://www.legalcheek.com/2015/12/law-firm-unveils-virtual-paralegals-called-kim/