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.



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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.



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


Commercial Awareness

What is commercial awareness?

It is easier to state what it is not rather than what it is.

  1. Commercial awareness is not just reading the economist and knowing which big deals are being dealt.
  2. It is not static as it constantly evolves and develops.
  3. Commercial awareness is not border specific and thorough prep for an interview (depending on the firm’s size and structure) should see you looking to utilise broad spectrum of sources and international press.  Associates are asked to advise on issues affected by economic, political and social issues.

This was a common interview question and one that is worth getting your head around in advance of the pre-interview/application cram. In interview initial stages on two occasions I was asked the question “what is your understanding of the term commercial awareness” and in others I was asked for key skills of a trainee and associate to which “commercial awareness” formed part of my answer.

Law and business (especially business development) are often very intertwined (occasionally inseparable). This is due to such a significant proportion of daily developments shown in the news having a direct knock on effect in the legal landscape. The first thing which comes to mind is Brexit and I am sure this will feature in other questions so perhaps try and keep a positive spin as far as possible.

A good amount can be picked up easily through peer and dinner discussions with parents (do family’s still eat dinner together- if so pick your conversation topic wisely).  I would start by reading sensible newspapers and broadsheets (The Times, The Economist, The Guardian etc). A good tip I received was to put BBC news on in the morning when I woke up and was getting ready for law school. Even if you don’t realise it you are probably more commercially aware than you thought. Experience is also a really valuable time to capture awareness of the legal world around you, it is hard to ignore if you are submerged completely on a VAC scheme or work experience placement.

Overall- being commercially aware displays to an interviewer that you have taken the time to investigate law, the legal profession and the wider landscape effecting the legal and business industries. Furthermore, it shows you have committed time to research (an invaluable skill for a paralegal/trainee/associate and partner) your career path.

A really useful tip- do not be out commercial awareness’d by fellow Law students, GDL’ers or LPC’ers because you might know more about something else that has been flagged by an interest area of yours or because yours/their information is more or less recent. Try to gain a rounded knowledge base but don’t see it as a competitive area. Use others commercial awareness to boost your own. Their information and experiences will help you and not hinder.