City alumni and One Crown Office Row barrister Adam Wagner launched his new venture on Tuesday evening: the RightsInfo website. With the Conservatives keen to kick that pesky Human Rights Act into touch and regular misreporting in the UK media, Adam's mission is to improve public understanding of human rights.
Great mission aside, this is a fantastic site - content is both hard-hitting and wry, accessible but not dumbed down. Bright, colourful infographics bring the site to life.
Features present at the launch include:
What human rights do for us - cards with key cases and developments - each one linked to the relevant judgment and any commentary featured on Adam's other superb site, the UK Human Rights Blog. You can change the category to focus in on specific categories: Equality, Justice and Privacy amongst others.
The 14 Worst Human Rights Myths - this is brilliant. Featuring the myth (headlines from the UK press) and the actual truth, along with the relevant source. Included are the classics: "Police give fried chicken to burglar because of his human rights" "Human Rights cases being decided by unelected European judges" and of course "A man was allowed to stay in the UK because he had a pet cat".
50 Human Rights Cases Everyone Needs to Know About - based on recommendations from the legal community, RightsInfo have pinpointed 50 cases, summarised them and then linked to the full judgment. These will be released daily.
As an ex-librarian, what is very cool about this site is that every post is tagged with a category (or several) so if you find a particular subject intriguing you can just click on the category tag to find everything on the site related to this. Addictive stuff...
Trade is Tribulation? The Public Interest Environmental Law UK Annual Conference, 9 April 2015 – Ali Nihat
For the third year in a row, City Law School has kindly been an official partner to the Public Interest Environmental Law (PIEL) UK Annual Conference. PIEL UK is a not-for-profit organisation run entirely by University students largely drawn from London institutions. Thanks to City’s support, PIEL UK was able to bring together a group of esteemed speakers from the worlds of law, academia, environmental activism, business and politics to discuss the relationship between trade and the environment.
In semi-secrecy, the European Union and the United States of America – between them accounting for just under 50% of world GDP – are negotiating the most ambitious free trade agreement in history, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
The avowed aim has been to cut ‘red tape’ inimical to trade, to create jobs, and to stimulate the two largest economies in the world at a time of recession. Given that trade tariffs between the EU and the US are on average very low, there has been speculation concerning ulterior motives, to say nothing of TTIP’s potentially-calamitous effects, intended or otherwise: conduit for the dominance of energy companies; backdoor to genetically-modified foods; death knell for the NHS. The European Commission has mobilised to assuage these concerns.
TTIP will do more than replace a handful of Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) concluded between the US and a number of eastern EU states on the fall of the Iron Curtain. Talks have focused on harmonising European and American regulatory regimes in a range of areas in order to ease market access, with the agreement only kickstarting an ongoing process, complete with its own novel structures coordinating between the two signatories. With negotiations further envisaging investor protection through the right to sue states before special investment tribunals (under so-called Investor-to-State Dispute Settlements, or ISDS), it is clear why the mooted deal is attracting significant interest from the legal world. To name but a few emerging questions: will the European ‘precautionary principle’ in regulatory matters lose out to the profit motive? Will ISDS undermine the rule of law and favour commercial interests? Will much domestic environmental legislation fall foul of the terms of agreement?
Established in 2007, Public Interest Environmental Law (PIEL) UK is a not-for-profit organisation which organises an annual conference on a burning topic in Environmental Law. The event is realised entirely through the sponsorship of Universities, NGOs and law firms. Naturally, the 2015 Conference focused on TTIP and the environmental effects of burgeoning trade. Such a contentious and topical issue warranted close and interdisciplinary analysis. Composed entirely of students from London Universities, including one third from City University, the 2014-2015 PIEL UK Organising Committee laboured for several months to put together a programme of 16 speakers – academics, lawyers, activists and politicians – in one affordable Conference open to the public: Satisfying Consumption: Trade and the Environment. From the very beginning, City University, and the City Law School, assisted in material, advice, and publicity, together with UCL and Queen Mary University London. On April 9 PIEL UK’s 9th Annual Conference was held in Cass Business School’s handsome lecture theatre under City’s kind auspices, and attracted over 100 attendees of all ages and walks of life.
Videos of all talks can be found on PIEL's YouTube Channel.
The day began with a closely-argued panel session assessing the overall merits and risks of TTIP for the environment and the public interest. While Sam Lowe (Friends of the Earth) warned of a race to the bottom in the regulation of food and other products, Emanuel Adam (BritishAmerican Business) noted the economic rationale and inclusion of a sustainability chapter in the draft agreement. For his part, Alan Bates (Monckton Chambers) stressed continuities with GATT and the existing WTO regime. Next, Sam Fowles (Queen Mary University of London) took to the stage to detail the more insidious dangers of Investor-State Dispute Settlements: a multiform ‘regulatory chill’ that would militate in favour of big business and governments hoping to push through, or retain, environmentally-suspect measures.
Ruth Bergan (Trade Justice Movement) and Tom Burke CBE (E3G) evidenced the wide-ranging impact of TTIP with presentations on ‘Third Countries’ (that is, non-signatories), and Climate Change, respectively. Asking why the mooted agreement made no clear provision to protect developing countries, Ms. Bergan set out how these ‘ghosts at the Feast’ will be detrimentally affected in myriad ways, including use of TTIP as a template in future trade agreements around the world. While dismissing the utility of Carbons Trading in tackling climate change, Tom Burke explained why TTIP would be an unmitigated disaster for emissions targets. He stressed that above all TTIP would throw up obstacles for countries seeking to pass domestic environmental legislation.
The day’s keynote speech was delivered by esteemed academic Professor Nicolas de Sadeleer, Jean Monnet Chairholder at the Academie de Louvain in Belgium, and author of works such as EU Environmental Law and the Internal Market and Environmental Principles: From Political Slogans to Legal Rules.
Establishing early on how environmental protection came to be placed on equal footing with the internal market as a core EU objective, Professor de Sadeleer went on to reveal the disconnect between apparent parity and practice.
The keynote spoke of the challenges facing Environmental Policy in Europe, observing, inter alia, the uneasy relationship between Competition Law and Environmental Law, the reluctance of the European Commission to bring Members to ECJ for failing to implement Environmental Directives, and the fact that environmental legislation may easily fall within the ambit of the principle of free movement of goods.
The second half of the Conference opened with Amelia Womack, deputy leader of the Green Party, setting out the political challenge of reconciling an impetus to increase trade with the need to protect the environment. Kindly taking time from the campaign trail, she spoke against conceiving of the environment in economic terms, and reminded those present that ‘there will be no business on a dead planet.’
There followed a raft of talks and panels on specific markets and trade-related environmental concerns. Revealing the realities of the global illegal trade in wildlife, Shruti Suresh (the Environmental Investigations Agency) detailed the workings of the international CITES regime (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), and the often corrupt and contradictory approach of the international community on this issue.
The evening panel on tackling Deforestation provided a different perspective of the role of business in environmental issues. Clotilde Henriot and Joseph Weyns (ClientEarth) set out the functioning of Voluntary Partnership Agreements, illustrating that different trade model agreements exist, not all of which are bad news for environmental and social standards. Equally constructive and hopeful, Leonie Lawrence (Global Canopy Programme) outlined how the Forest 500 project is working directly with corporations to eliminate deforestation from global supply chains.
A concluding panel on waste management brought into focus the diverse actors working to bring about a circular economy, and the tools at their disposal. Piotr Barczak (European Environmental Bureau) provided an insider’s perspective of the action being taken by the EU to decouple economic growth from resources use, focusing chiefly on excessive packaging. Looking at electronic waste in Africa, which is set to outstrip European volume this year, Professor Margaret Bates (University of Northampton) argued that bans were less effective than helping to build infrastructure for waste disposal. Mariel Vilella tackled consumer behaviour itself, underlining how it is possible to implement a ‘Zero-Waste’ philosophy across Europe with the techniques and laws we currently possess, following the example of a growing number of municipalities across the continent.
‘Satisfying Consumption: Trade and the Environment’ was a great success, sparking lively debate and, we hope, forging new constructive relationships in the area of environmental study and law.
THE YEAR AHEAD
In the new academic year, PIEL UK will be recruiting for a Committee to organise the milestone 10th annual Conference. Please subscribe to our Twitter (@Piel_uk), Facebook and LinkedIn groups to stay informed; you can also register your interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Committee positions are ideal for those interested in environmental, EU and Public law; the opportunity to shape your own academic line-up, liaise with expert speakers, fundraise, and publicise such an event also offers much in the way of professional development.
Ali Nihat is Co-Chair of the PIEL UK 2014-2015 Organising Committee. Ali completed the Graduate Diploma in Law and the Bar Professional Training Course at City Law School. He featured on the City University Mooting team which triumphed in the European Law Students Association (ELSA) ECHR Moot 2014 [see more on this achievement via CityNews and the blog], held in Strasbourg. Many thanks to him for this comprehensive review of the PIEL Annual Conference.
This past summer in Bangkok I got the chance to meet renowned economist Dr. Simon Evenett. During a lunch break a colleague asked for his views on the key to a successful career. Dr. Evenett mused that throughout his career, the people who he noticed rising the highest were those who had a unique skill that separated them from their peers. Put differently, if you possess a skill that is both useful and unique, your value as an employee will rise substantially.
Many law students perceive their skill-set far too narrowly, which can drastically inhibit professional development. A successful career in any field - including law - requires competence outside the core functions of the profession. Legal skills are of utmost importance in the legal professions, but they are not the Holy Grail.
Firm partners need to master the skills of management, budgeting, employee retention, and sales just to name a few. More junior employees can prove their worthiness by mastering these skills in other settings. If anything, expertise gained in a unique area prior to employment will get you assigned to any related project that happens to come across your firm’s radar.
Don't write any opportunity off, just because it's 'non-legal'
It would be wrong to assume that by taking employment in a non-legal setting that your legal skills will not be utilised. In today’s world, expertise comes at a cost. Even large organisations may not have an in-house legal team, and outsourcing can be expensive. A junior worker who can provide basic legal advice can be very helpful in these situations. I recently completed a placement in the Trade and Investment division at the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Before starting I had assumed I would focus primarily on development related projects. By the end of my first week, I was helping draft the Treaty Establishing the Micronesian Trade and Economic Committee. At time this article was written, the treaty (including provisions I wrote) has been signed by three Heads of State. I gained my most impressive legal experience while surrounded by economists.
My advice to new law students is to think of your career as a pyramid. Right now, you’re building the first few layers. If you want to make your pyramid structurally stable, you need to make sure your first layers are the widest. Gain as many areas of experience as you can, and remember, time is on your side. You have plenty of opportunity to specialise and build those top layers. Right now just focus on that base, when you are building the final piece, you’ll be grateful you did.
Thanks go to our writer Scott Howe [LinkedIn], a current student on the GELLB1 programme at the City Law School. Prior to coming to London, Scott travelled all over the world completing internships at the Canadian Red Cross, Amnesty International Sydney and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. Scott worked as a Business Development Consultant in Kenya whilst becoming an entrepreneur. He is working as an Associate Expert at Bridging the Gap Foundation Asia in tandem with his law studies.
Seeking Sanctuary: How do we provide refugees safety in the face of legal aid cuts and a climate of xenophobia?
Don't miss the talk lined up next week (Monday 20th April) by the Civil Litigation Forum, part of the Centre for the Study of Legal Professional Practice at the City Law School.
S Chelvan, barrister at No.5 Chambers, London (also Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year!) and Gabriella Bettiga, Head of Immigration Department at Lawrence Lupin Solicitors will be speaking on the following subject:
Seeking Sanctuary: How do we provide refugees safety in the face of legal aid cuts and a climate of xenophobia?
A last minute drop-out, 48 hours preparation, an unexpected flight to Belfast, a score miscount that saw the City team out and back into the competition, a close-fought semi-final – the first ‘JustCite Annual UK and Ireland National Mooting Competition’ was certainly a memorable competition for the City University pair!
During a break in our last equity and trusts lecture I received an email from Emily Allbon, City’s mooting director, simply stating “????!!!! Is this too late?”
A team had dropped out of the ‘JustCite Annual UK and Ireland National Mooting Competition’ organised by Queen’s University Belfast and so began a whirlwind of last minute preparation to take up our reserve place and catch up with the other teams who had been preparing for three weeks.
My moot partner, Alex Bennie, and I received the moot problem with 48 hours to go before the full-day mooting competition on Saturday 28th March. The fascinating problem closely mirrored the Strasbourg Court’s January 2014 judgment in Jones v UK  ECHR 32 . An innocent citizen D’Alio of the fictional European nation of Orestia visited the non-European Ruritania when he was arrested by the police on suspicion of subversion. Two weeks of torture ensued, before the citizen was allowed to return home. Two years later the Ruritanian foreign minister who had supervised the torture visited Orestia for medical treatment, and D’Alio immediately instigated civil proceedings in the Orestian courts.
Moot teams prepared both sides of the problem, ready to oscillate between advocating for a progressive attitude to Article 6 rights in the context of jus cogens/Article 3 violations, and defending the respondent government’s adherence to absolute state immunity rules. In order to argue the problem effectively, mooting pairs had to draw upon domestic, European, and international jurisprudence, which took us well off the familiar territory of our GDL syllabus!
Legislation as Aspiration: Statutory Expression of Policy Goals with Professor David Feldman – Helen Longworth
A tweet, an upcoming essay, and the hunt for a reason to miss the rush hour tube home combined to lead me to the Statute Law Society's lecture on legislation as aspiration on 16th March. From my background as a policy officer trying to influence legislation on its passage through Parliament the topic was appealing, and at a time of year where the number of cases for students to remember is rising by the day, a reminder of the power and purpose of statute seemed like a timely intervention.
What Prof. Feldman delivered was a cautionary tale to interpretive judges and descriptive drafters alike. With his experience as legal adviser to the Joint Committee on Human Rights in the Palace of Westminster, Feldman identified a problem for lawyers, not all legislation is really legislative. For a revising student trying to make sense of a miasma of legal principle this may seem like heresy. If Parliament can do anything, including making law that isn't actually law, how do judges know which bits are law? Does this bolster Parliamentary sovereignty or overturn it? Or are the dark nightmares that someone is simply making it up as they go along really coming true?
In reality of course the theory makes sense. Parliament, especially one so closely tied to the executive power, has more audiences than simply the judiciary. As Feldman observed, there are administrators and accountants to instruct, an audit office to guide, ministers who need to know exactly what power is being delegated to them, as well as the press and the public. The lawyers are not the only people listening to Parliament.
Feldman identified four classes of legislation that are aimed at a different audience. He called these promissory (showing a political commitment), declaratory (stating what the law is), aspirational (a hope, not a real commitment), and statements of political support. He cited the Flags Act 1953, which describes the national flag. Is that a matter for the courts? He also cited unenforceable, rhetorical flourishes, such as the Northern Ireland Act 1998 which opens with a declaration that Northern Ireland is a part of the UK until a referendum of the residents decides otherwise. It's good political rhetoric but in avoiding the need for a vote in the UK Parliament is legally unenforceable under the current UK constitution.
The danger of non-lawmaking legislation was shown through the case of Bromley LBC v Greater London Council . For Feldman it was a stretch to find that the aspirational words of the XXXX Transport (London) Act 1961 to promote an integrated transport system were justiciable. Yet in that case a court ruled that not budgetting to break even was uneconomical and therefore outside the law. This was a hostage to fortune. But this type of language, identified by Feldman as littering legislation, also risks debasing what legislation should do. If certain statutory text can be ignored who decides what to keep? Only the courts. So is it true that we can say that the Queen in Parliament makes laws by Act but not every Act is a law? There is the threat to sovereignty. But there again, for a scholar, there too is a problem that makes the British constitution so interesting.
The Cass Business School is part of City University London and it is ranked as one of the very best business schools in the world (4th in the UK and 18th in Europe). Last month Simon Hayley, a lecturer in finance from Cass, offered a unique lecture to the City law students where he introduced basic economic and financial concepts. The session was organised by the Commercial Awareness Club together with the City Law School and it was designed to assist students interested in a commercial law career.
As some students already know, having a commercial mind is becoming increasingly important for aspiring lawyers. Lawyers who are working with large profit-seeking companies will come equipped with an understanding of how those businesses work, and of the market in which they operate.
In this article I will summarise selected concepts covered by Mr Hayley; having a grasp of the following terms may help you in your understanding of the economic environment in which law firms and their clients operate in.
Gross Domestic Production (GDP)
GDP measures the monetary value of the total amount of items and services a country produces during a year. It is therefore beneficial for a country to have a high GDP and when the GDP is falling, the economy is in trouble. If the GDP is high it means that individuals can afford to consume and spend more money. This is positive for businesses as high consumption means more profit.
A higher GDP also marks a lower unemployment rate. This is because a higher level of production requires a larger workforce. A country’s GDP can be affected by trends such as population growth, high average incomes, investment in skills and technology. The level of GDP also correlates to recessions.
A recession can be described as an economic decline and during such period there is generally a drop in a country’s GDP. There will often be high unemployment rates and less consumption confidence (ie consumer spending). Businesses will also feel the impact of the recession. However some businesses will feel this more than others. For instance, people will often continue to spend money on necessities such as food, utilities, education and their health. In contrast, some parts of the economy will be more affected by reduced spending. People may feel less inclined to spend money on items such as expensive clothes, decorations and other luxury items. Furthermore, the investment sector and the building sector will be very affected by a recession and it is not uncommon to see a reduction in Merger & Acquisition deals. M&A is explained bellow.
What is the impact on law firms during a recession?
As we explained above, some parts of the economy will be more affected by an economic decline. If a company is making less money (which may be the case during a recession) it may seek to save money. Such companies may refrain from investing, make deals and participating in M&As. Law firms (especially commercial firms) are often making a profit advising on big deals between companies. Since a recession generally means fewer business activities (and deals) a commercial firm may find it troublesome to find work in these areas. On the other hand, some law firms may be less affected by a recession. A law firm whose core business is in areas such as wills and divorce may continue to have a steady flow of work. The reason being they are in a position to benefit from death and divorce which can be seen as inevitable parts of life, regardless of the market conditions.
Established in 2007, PIEL UK is not-for-profit organisation run by students from throughout the University of London. PIEL UK organises an annual conference on a burning topic in Environmental Law.
This year's Conference, 'Satisfying Consumption: Trade and the Environment' will be focused on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement (TTIP) being negotiated between the US and the EU.
It will also explore the role of corporations and trade networks in causing, but also managing, a range of environmental problems, from excessive waste to deforestation and climate change.We endorse a interdisciplinary approach, welcoming activists, academics and practising lawyers from a range of fields. The full-day event typically attracts around 200 students, academics and practitioners, and is realised entirely through the sponsorship of Universities, NGOs and law firms. This is a highly-affordable full-day event which offers great opportunities to find out about environmental law and to network. We are delighted to have City Law School as our official partner this year.
Tickets: Book online
Student - £5
Low Income - £15
NGO - £20
Professional - £30.
Includes vegetarian lunch and wine reception.
Speakers include Emanuel Adam (BritishAmerican Business), Amelia Womack (Deputy Leader of the Green Party), Alan Bates (Monckton Chambers), Nicholas de Sadeleer (University of St. Louis, Brussels) and Tom Burke CBE (former government adviser and founder of Third Generation Environmentalism).
Monday 16th March saw four City students battle it out in front of His Honour Judge Donald Cryan in the amazing surroundings of the UK Supreme Court.
Judge Cryan is a Circuit Judge and also sits as a judge of the High Court Family Division. He is a Bencher of the Inner Temple and Chair of the Institute of Family Law Arbitrators Advisory Committee.
This was the Final of the City Scholars Moot, open to all LLB and Graduate Entry LLB students at City - the problem revolved around obligations and variation of contracts. Essentially what happens when builders promise to complete work on time but fail to do so and only complete the job when more money offered to do the same work.
Appellants were undergraduate students, Jamie Popat (third year) and Abubakr Karimabadi (second year) and Respondents were first year students on the Graduate Entry programme, Kahroba Kojouri and Alex Battick.
Judge Cryan permitted the appeal on both grounds, awarding modest damages of £750. He was impressed by all the mooters, making comments like this:
Of Jamie: "A calm, well-argued case - very impressed by the way you dealt with my questions.."
Of Kahroba: "Projected amiably - confident in face of testing questions. Admirable how unfazed you were in dealing with authorities outside of your bundle..."
Of Alex: "..Will make a good advocate. You responded well to questioning and were appropriately confident and clear in your responses"
Judge Cryan picked out the "impressively calm and mature presentation" of Abubakr, choosing him as the winner on the night, before all finalists joined him for a celebratory dinner at the RAC club on Pall Mall. Judge Cryan noted Abubakr's well structured argument and his use of authorities "citing just the right parts at appropriate length in response to the court's questions". Kahroba was the runner-up on the evening.
The Pupillage Advisory Service will be running their annual panel event on Wednesday 18th March 2015.
Georgina Wolfe (5 Essex Court and author of 'path to pupillage') has been asked to talk about how to answer the 'why barrister' 'why you?' etc questions on the form (content) and what they will be looking for in a pupil.
Gary Lidington (11 Stone Buildings ) will be talking about technique (how to complete the form) and what they are looking for in a Pupil
Morayo Fagborun Bennett (Harwicke) will be speaking about how to demonstrate commercial awareness on the form specifically; (ability to relate to lay and professional clients, ability to attract and retain work, ambition to build a successful practice and business, understanding the need to work in a team with the solicitor and lay client)
Michael Edmonds from 9 Bedford Row will be talking about what they are looking for in a Criminal Set and how to ensure that applicants demonstrate to Criminal Sets the current issues around Crime and Criminal Practice.
Paul Skinner from Henderson Chambers will talk to you about how to tailor your form to Common Law sets and what they are looking for in a Pupil.
A Question and Answer session and drinks reception will follow....
Sign up via Eventbrite.