The London Legal Walk took place on 20th May, with over £575,000 raised for charities which provide free legal advice. Taking part in this 10K stroll around London were 7500 lawyers (482 teams), including the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Judge), the Master of the Rolls (Lord Dyson), the President of the Supreme Court (Lord Neuberger), the Director of Public Prosecutions (Kier Starmer QC) and the Attorney General (Dominic Grieve QC MP). Cuts to legal aid have made this annual event more important than ever.
Pounding the streets of legal London were a team from The City Law School, with Chris Lowney and Ellen Gordon-Bouvier alongside 10 students. Ellen tells us a little more about the walk:
The London Legal Walk is an annual event where law students, solicitors, barristers and members of the judiciary walk a 10 k course across London to raise funds for pro-bono clinics and legal advice centres in the South East. As many people know, Legal Aid is in the process of being all but obliterated by the government and access to justice for those who cannot afford to pay is a major concern. Pro-bono clinics offer an invaluable service in many areas, including debt, housing, family, employment and immigration law. City University itself offers pro-bono services to the community in conjunction with the Mary Ward Legal Centre. Funds raised from the legal walk will help places like Mary Ward stay open.
Chris gives his account below:
All quite enjoyable, if a little painful for the knees – over 6 miles on concrete. 10 students plus Ellen and I. Departed at 5pm from RCJ. Through Temple, along Embankment, Horse Guards, St James’ Park, across HPC, (nearly lost 4 of our party here to a no73 bus, as we misread the traffic signals!!) along south side of Serpentine, over the bridge – halfway point, then back along north side of Serp, major chaos at second visit to HPC, where we encountered the vast majority of the walkers from law firms – starting a bit later – stopped the traffic, then back through Green Park, Mall, Traf Sq. and Strand to RCJ.
Back at 7pm; 2 hours. More photos taken. Given drinks vouchers for much-needed restorative gargle. Main Hall of RCJ a sea of tired walkers, including 3 massage tables for the seriously wounded; CLS walkers did not avail of massage facility!!! But did avail of alcohol facility. Met Simon Innes and Prashant Sagar who were part of the security operation; this was apparently required as there had been a rumour that a movement called Fathers for Justice would pull some stunt to disrupt things, due to the august presence of the Lord Chief Justice and the MR, whom we didn’t meet but were presumably dousing their blistered paws in hot salty water somewhere.
RCJ got very crowded and began to resemble the Somme in 1916. Being a tad squeamish, we retired to the Law Society Hall where more drinks vouchers – and free drink – were made available. The main reading room looked a tad like Glastonbury with prone or squatting track-suit or lycra-clad bodies everywhere. I maintained the appropriate standard of décor and decorum by wearing suit and black shoes throughout. I mean, after all, we are supposed to be Officers of the Supreme Court of Judicature. I cannot, alas, say the same for Ellen. We encountered no security problems anywhere.
Ellen and I departed around 9pm to leave the few remaining CLS students to continue their recovery programme, through more vouchers.
Some final words from Ellen:
Personally, my legs are pretty sore but it was a very enjoyable evening (the drinking was more enjoyable than the walking to be honest). It is great that we have raised money for such a good cause.
The student walkers were:
LPC Interim Director Linda Jotham says: The CLS LPC is proud to have participated in this event, raising the profile of – and funds for – this important cause.
Gary Player once said of his success at golf, “the more I practise the luckier I get”. This is certainly true of giving presentations, but only if you take them seriously, prepare well, think about your audience and afterwards reflect on how successful they were and what you could do better next time.
Presenting the presenter
Introducing someone effectively is an art in itself. If you are asked to introduce a speaker, accept willingly as it’s good practice for getting the feel of the podium. Your purpose is to focus the audience’s attention by smiling, welcoming and possibly saying something amusing if the occasion warrants it. Don’t risk getting your facts wrong. Ask for the speaker’s resume, do a Google search and if possible have a chat beforehand. It can avoid the embarrassment of welcoming a speaker as an expert on corporate tax when he specialises in VAT.
It follows that if you are the keynote speaker, sending your resume beforehand and arriving in time to have a few words with the person who is introducing you increases the chances that you will be introduced in a way that you will be pleased about.
Looking and sounding natural when you are very nervous takes practice. Here are some suggestions:
- Type out what you are going to say in large type and then read it through aloud a couple of times, looking at yourself in a mirror if you can bear it.
- Speak more slowly than normal. Most people speed up when they are nervous. But don’t slow down to a crawl.
- Break up the pace of your presentation. If you ask a rhetorical question, pause and sweep the audience with your eyes. And then move on to the next point. BUT if you are asking a real question and nobody replies, treat it as a rhetorical one, give the answer and then move on; don’t risk an uncomfortable silence where your audience feels inadequate and hostile.
A room full of female barristers and solicitors networking over delightful canapés and wine without the men. Not a sight you often see given that women in the legal industry tend to juggle multiple roles balancing work and family life.
Amidst the clink of wine glasses, the female alumni of City Law School were gathered for an evening centered around women’s rights and the law as well as sharing their experiences as women in legal practice.
Charlotte Rachael Proudman (BVC 2010), a barrister at 1 Mitre Court Buildings and author with a commitment to human rights, social justice and equality opened the evening with a powerful address on her experiences in the Democratic Republic of Congo where she established the country's first free legal advice centre.
Speaking about battered women and victims of domestic violence, one particular topic stood out – that of forced marriages – a social issue affecting women in many parts of the world. It is thought that there are over 8,000 forced marriages every year in Britain alone. A forced marriage is likely to become a criminal offence soon and this will send out a strong message to the public that victims will be better protected and deter perpetrators and their relatives although not all favour criminalisation.
In Pakistan, where Charlotte also visited, it emerged that the battered women were counselled by men and leaders reluctant to change an age-old custom that was ingrained in their society, and thus there was little to help the women. Even the women themselves were afraid of openly defying the traditional custom of forced marriages, fearing that their family members could be jailed or discriminated against within their own community.
“Getting close to the sun: pinch points in Commercial Litigation”, a talk on commercial litigation by Ian Gascoigne – Marie Tay
Marie Tay gives us an insight into commercial litigation, thanks to a talk given at The City Law School by Ian Gascoigne, Partner at Eversheds, LLP.
Commercial litigation: analysing the legal position, identifying useful tactics and tailoring them to meet the goals of different clients against the backdrop of today’s challenging economic climate.
For those who have always liked the idea of a role in commercial litigation, here’s what it involves in a City firm.
Its foundation is in contract law, lots and lots of that, almost every aspect, but particularly formation, breach, remedies of termination and damages and the application of limitation and exclusion clauses. Add occasional aspects of tort and company law plus the Limitation Act 1980, which determines when claims are made too late. Add in arbitration law, if that is the chosen dispute forum, and you’ve got the life of a City solicitor in commercial litigation.
The commercial dispute lawyer also needs a detailed knowledge of the court rules, as well as experience in the use of mediation. Today, the main practical aspects for the clients are estimating costs accurately and then controlling them.
And the most satisfying part of the job? Using the process productively for the client's benefit: that wonderful feeling of winning against the odds, deploying the right strategy and getting your opponent to settle on terms close to your client's goal.
What essential skills are needed?
1. Forensic skills
Being able to work around the unhelpful documents, but making full use of the good material. The ability to identify significant written and oral evidence which will win your client the case is a crucial skill.
2. Strategic skills
The battle plan and how to achieve a victory or a desirable settlement. The client may expect a ‘leave no stone unturned’ approach. Identifying the other party’s vulnerable areas in the dispute and applying the right strategy at the right time to press home the advantage, such as making a well-judged offer to settle under Part 36.
“NOT a Barrister? NOT the end of the world!”
On 30th January, four former City Law students discussed their career paths following graduation. The evening commenced with former City GDL and LPC student, Jo Joyce, who generously gave the audience an insight into her weekly routine at commercial law firm Shoosmiths. “Urgent corporate support, burning client problems, new customer checks” and so on all sounds quite orthodox in a life of an up and coming solicitor. Early starts to the Monday morning that don’t end until 3AM on Tuesday, did not really shock anyone. Neither did Wednesday’s exhausting off-peak journey to Birmingham for a pressing meeting!
But it was not until she mentioned her initial craving to become a Barrister that the audience was suddenly all ears. It was right then, in that specific moment, when the audience and undoubtedly I, myself started to panic. Is it not obvious that we spend a fortune on education and accommodation as students? Why should our careers take a completely different route to what we initially aspired? Still, our many questions regarding the justice of this remain rhetorical.
Nevertheless, she states that you have to be “prepared to let yourself be moved in different legal careers”. Explaining that it was through her work experience that she completed at Shoosmiths that opened doors and allowed her to excel. Although it was not what she initially set out to do, perseverance rewarded her as she was then offered a Training Contract in 2007 (when law firms were still capable of splashing cash!). She ended her talk leaving us spectators with a lot of food for thought:
“Think where you are going and keep yourself focused. Be prepared to embrace change because not everything follows through and you can’t plan everything.
Being a first year student is a lot more difficult than I thought it would be. There are so many decisions to make in addition to the overwhelming amount of workload and information that is thrown at us. The year has just begun and I already feel like time is flashing before me and it is just a matter of time when we will be in our second year and having to apply for vacation schemes and training contracts. As an international student I had no idea what vacation schemes and training contracts were until I started here at City.
The Law school system in the UK is quite different compared to Canada, where I am from. I quickly began to realize that the most effective way for me to get an idea of what’s to come would be to attend a few of the many workshops and events that are available to us.
I had attended an event at Freshfields a few weeks back where I got plenty of useful information and a better understanding of a legal career in London, so when I heard that Freshfields was holding another event at City I jumped at the opportunity. I have always been interested in commercial law so the fact that the event was based on ‘commercial awareness’ was an added bonus.
Commercial awareness is one of the main criterion that commercial law firms look for in their potential future lawyers. But what is commercial awareness and how can one acquire such thing?
What is ‘commercial awareness’?
Jessica Booker, the trainee recruitment manager at Freshfields was the perfect person to elaborate on the concept since she interviews people every hiring season to see if they have commercial awareness or what she likes to call ‘commercial insight’. She sees the word awareness as something that you can teach yourself, whereas having insight is more of a skill.
We all know that there are 24 hours in a day, but do we always remember that we can maximise their usage through proper Time Management or TM?. This means managing your books, your notes, your surroundings, your day and yourself.
It’s all about structure
Have you ever thought why working in a library is so pleasant? It’s not just because you will find a flat desk, free warmth and friends to have a “quick” cup of coffee with when you are weary.
It’s because the information that you need has been helpfully arranged and made easy to locate by your librarian.
Replicating the library structure in your own work space will help you to avoid wasting time locating material before you get started on an assignment. You can do this by:
- Arranging books properly by subject or author on a bookshelf rather than on the floor.
- Sorting out notes in subject files with proper file dividers and a contents list at the front of each one file.
- Ordering documents into folders with sub-files to make information easy to locate on your computer.
- Getting your stationery stationary, together with all your other work paraphernalia. ‘A place for everything and everything in its place’ may sound like boring advice but searching for a stapler, which when located is devoid of staples, is not only time wasting but is likely to terminate your work session through frustration.
The training contract process can generate a swamping amount of paper or computer space if you are not careful. Paper applications and correspondence can be most easily handled if you file them in firm alphabetical order with a contents list at the front of your file. The contents list should include the following to indicate how each individual application is proceeding:
- Date application was sent and to whom.
- Date acknowledgement was received (if any). If your application is not acknowledged after a couple of weeks, you may decide to send a polite enquiry, taking the same care that you did over the application and covering letter.
- Date of interview/assessment day. Make some very brief notes of your impressions of the firm, the interviewers and what you spoke about.
- The result of the interview. Don’t throw away rejection letters in disgust.
- The date by which you should provide an answer to an offer.
You will then be able to see at a glance how many applications are outstanding and if – and it does happen – a firm phones you up at short notice to ask you for interview, you will be able to find a copy of your application and covering letter. Trite as it sounds, it’s astoundingly important to remember in minute detail what you told your interviewing firm about yourself in your application.
Life after University
After completing my law degree at the University of Manchester in 2004, the pressure was on to decide which path I wanted to take: whether I wanted to be a barrister or a solicitor or whether I even wanted to pursue a career in law. However, the decision was not so tough for me as I had made my decision about the profession I wanted to go into when I was aged just 14. I knew I wanted to be a barrister and it was my love of advocacy that drew me to the profession.
A Pupillage in London
As soon as I finished my law degree, I applied to do the Bar Vocational Course (BVC - now the BPTC) at The Inns of Court School of Law in London (now The City Law School). Before I had completed my BVC, I had already been offered a pupillage at 14 Grays Inn Square. Based in the centre of London, this was a predominantly family law set with a strong reputation in all aspects of family law. As I knew how difficult it was – and still is – to obtain a pupillage, the assurance that I had already obtained a pupillage gave me an incentive to work even harder during the BVC.
Moving back North
The hustle and bustle and the fast pace of London life is something I will never forget. It was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed and I feel it helped me to grow as an individual. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of living and working in London, I soon began to realize how increasingly expensive the city was. I decided to return to my hometown of Manchester and continue my career as a barrister there. In Manchester, I joined Kenworthy’s Chambers, one of the most sought after barrister’s chambers in the North of England and a leading set in Immigration and Asylum Law. I continued to practice in Family Law and also added Immigration and Asylum Law to my practice.
Dilara Alibayova is an undergraduate student at The City Law School who has got involved in a wide variety of pro bono work, in this interview with Emily Allbon she speaks about these different experiences and what they have added to her life.
1. You've had a great deal of success securing far from run-of-the-mill pro bono work - could you tell us about how each came about?
It was not down to my skills at the time, I think I was just lucky. The first one, internship at Reprieve, was thanks to your tweet back in April 2011. Ever since I moved to the UK, I wanted to practice my Serbo-Croat and put my knowledge of the region to use.
My letter of interest was pretty much three bullet points on why I want to do that job. The success of securing my place in the Death Penalty team came from motivation to do more, willingness to contribute to the team efforts, and learn.
2. Have you found that the post at Reprieve entailed quite a steep learning curve? Can you tell us what kind of work is involved...
Yes. In fact it still is a learning curve, just perhaps not as steep. I am part of the Death Penalty team, which is one of the three main teams at Reprieve. I work on cases of European nationals (or those who have ties to Europe) on death row in the US. This involves doing the background research on important issues in cases, looking into family history, and mostly collecting records. Sometimes I help with translating documents to/from Russian and Serbo-Croat.
For instance last summer I was allowed to go on an official visit to Croatia. My job was to plan the trip, which although it sounded very straightforward at first, was far from an easy task. While in Croatia my colleague and I met with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, for which we were especially briefed by our supervisors, and spent the rest of our time looking for documents at the archives or trying to find them through various institutions.
As you can see, the work volunteers do depends on their skills as well as their interest.