I recently had the free time and a corresponding strong interest in attending a seminar at the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies on freedom of expression and how it is playing out with relation to the Internet. Attending seminars was something not even on my radar in the first days of the LLB program at City, but as I begin to settle into a cycle and what was once almost overwhelming becomes a known factor, something that can be managed, I am glad to find myself able to explore my interests in these outlets. I cannot say I am certain of how my interests will guide my legal career, but human rights will always be a foundation for my legal career, and the experience of this seminar was fantastic in the way it provided a broader context to our academic studies at City.
The seminar was led by one of City's own, Professor Lorna Woods. She is a director at City's Centre for Law, Justice & Journalism, and has practical experience as a solicitor in the field, as well as authoring leading textbooks on EU law and the subject in question. In short, Professor Woods is the quintessential definition of an expert in the field. She guided the lecture along several main points, the exploration of the Internet as a right, the exploration of how far the laws on expression and the Internet can be pushed, and an analysis of the Internet itself. Is it something new, or just a new forum for the common interpretation of the law on speech? All aspects of this lecture were interesting, but I found myself compelled strongly by the first and last pillars of the lecture.
In search of the right
What really compelled me about this first point was that I was forced to think outside of my own bias on this subject. I always love it when that happens, because that's when I feel you can really learn things. I'll admit that I walked into this seminar with a clear notion that if the Internet was, if not already a statutorily defined right, then at least something confirmed by common law. The lecture demonstrated that I was not alone in my thinking, with the data supporting that nearly 80% of people at least somewhat agree.
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.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and floods show us the extreme and unpredictable power of Mother Nature. These events leave devastation in their wake both human and physical. We can monitor the earth, we can build barriers, and nations can sign climate change agreements but there is little we can do to protect ourselves.
Is it time now to move beyond goodwill? Is it time to invoke the law - an international law on Ecocide, the environmental equivalent of genocide? Is it legally possible?
In September 2011, at London's Supreme Court, a Mock Trial played out as though this crime were already adopted by the UN. Michael Mansfield QC, the prosecuting barrister, and Nick Lickley QC, the defence barrister led the case for and against two fictional CEOs. The trial outcome was not pre-scripted; it was for the jury to declare whether or not the Earth's Right to Life had been violated and if the crime of Ecocide was proven. This trial was one of the first steps in a sustained campaign to raise awareness of these issues and to air them within Government, business and communities. This lecture continues that momentum. In his lecture, Michael Mansfield will give evidence to support such a law and aim to set out the implications for businesses - regardless of whether they simply provide the funding for activities which impact the environment or are the main protagonists.
(Background: Polly Higgins, barrister and international environmental lawyer proposed to the UN in April 2010 the need for an international law on Ecocide.)
The objects of the EJF are the advancement of research (including facilitation of the supervision of research students), scholarship and education in the fields of evidence and justice within both criminal and civil jurisdictions. 'Evidence and justice' covers such subjects as the process of proof, accuracy in fact-determination, probability theory, adversarial, inquisitorial and alternative dispute resolution processes, pre-trial, trial and post-trial procedure, advocacy, the roles of judges, magistrates, jurors and witnesses, including expert witnesses, and the use of 'special advocates' in relation to secret evidence. It also covers non-legal disciplines that have a bearing on evidence and justice, including, for example, psychology and the forensic sciences.
Be sure to book online for this launch event.
An all star line-up of the human rights world adorned the 4th Annual Justice Student Human Human Rights Conference this weekend. This year’s topic was freedom of expression and protest, both highly topical given the recent student protests, coupled with the recent Wikileaks cases.
First up was Helena Kennedy QC, recently appointed onto the Coalition’s panel examining the Human Rights Act. She gave an impassioned defence of Human Rights (as one would expect), as well as some interesting insights into how she felt the act could be improved.
In her opinion it is Euro-scepticism that has fuelled discontent with the European Court of Human Rights, coupled with a failure to communicate the attraction of human rights. We hear the stories of terrorist’s utilising the act, but rarely the impacts of Article 8 (Right to family and private life). A definite highlight of her address was an anecdote about standing up to a judge who had been rude to her in front of a jury. (“What can he do to me? I’m old enough to be most the juries mother, and I sit in the House of Lords!”).
Fifty years ago, on 2nd November 1960 at courtroom number one of the Old Bailey, a remarkable and brave jury acquitted Penguin Books of obscenity for publishing an uncensored version of D H Lawrence’s wildly controversial novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. This landmark decision revealed the extent to which opinion about freedom of expression underwent a remarkable transformation during the ‘60s, challenging the stuffiness of ‘the establishment’ and saving one of the twentieth century’s most significant works of literature from vilification. Fifty years on, Geoffrey Robertson QC was joined by Helena Kennedy QC, Jeremy Hutchinson QC and Ben Silverstone at the London School of Economics to discuss the trial of the novel once branded ‘the foulest book in English literature’.
The panel was indeed an expert one; each distinguished member bringing his or her own experience to the table, offering a diverse and enriched discussion. Geoffrey Robertson is founder and head of Doughty Street Chambers, the largest human rights practice in the UK and has defended the last two cases brought for blasphemy in this country. Helena Kennedy is a leading barrister and expert in human rights law and member of the House of Lords. Perhaps most interesting of all, Jeremy Hutchinson was junior counsel for the defence in the trial. One of the oldest speakers ever to speak at LSE, his reflections were what made the evening discussion so unique.
Geoffrey Robertson as principal speaker provided the discussion with the history behind the trial which was deployed with his usual impeccable wit and charisma. Censorship for obscenity came rather late to the UK, and it was not until the late 1800s, the height of Victorian repression, that Lord Campbell as Attorney General decided the time had come for obscenity to be punishable in the courts.
The 1868 Hicklin Test for Obscene Libel was the first set of criteria establishing that any book or pamphlet that tended to deprave or corrupt minds open to immoral influences was to be prosecuted. However, there were three main problems with the test. The litmus test for the readership of the work under scrutiny was the most ‘corruptible’ member of society, usually the 14 year-old schoolgirl, and whether she would be ‘depraved’ by it. The work was not read as a whole either – ‘purple passages’ were enough to secure a prosecution, as in the important 1928 trial of Radclyffe Hall’s novel, The Well of Loneliness.
Another problem with the Hicklin Test was that it did not allow for experts to give their opinions on the work in question. As a result of the efforts of Roy Jenkins MP and the Society of Authors, the Obscene Publications Act was passed in 1958 which required the three problems with the test to be remedied. This history was relevant in more ways than one. The prosecution in the Lady Chatterley’s Lover trial had tried to get Rudyard Kipling to appear as a witness, as he had been so helpful in The Well of Loneliness trial. It was cause for great hilarity in the LSE lecture theatre, and revealing of the outdated nature of the prosecution in general, that Rudyard Kipling had, of course, died in 1936.
Leading family law Judge and Chairman of the Advisory Committee of The City Law School, Donald Cryan, gave a lecture on Thursday 18 February about legislation regarding forced marriages.
Forced marriage is a paradoxical nexus of both real consensus and profound disagreement. The UK government definition sets out that ‘A forced marriage is a marriage in which one or both spouses do not consent to the marriage and duress is involved. Duress can include physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure.’(1) In 2008, over 1,600 incidents of suspected forced marriage were reported to the Forced Marriage Unit, 420 of which became cases, although the incidence is certain to be much higher. About 15 per cent of victims are male; and the vast majority of all known cases are associated with South Asian communities (2). Some of the many motivations for forcing a child to marry are to clamp down on unwanted sexual behaviour, the use of alcohol or drugs, wearing makeup and to guard family honour or 'izzat' (3).
All agree that it is wrong and should be prevented. In 1948 article 16(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provided that ‘Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses’. And 194 countries (all UN nations except Somalia and the US) have signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which determines that ‘Children should be protected from all forms of sexual exploitation including unlawful sexual activity’.
A World AIDS Day panel discussion on: HIV Transmission and the criminal law – Anjalie Athukorale GELLB1
On December 1, 2009 City University London hosted a panel discussion to coincide with the World Aids Day.
The controversial topic of criminalising the transmission of HIV and other serious sexually transmitted infections was invigoratingly debated by a distinguished panel comprising:
Yusef Azad (Director of Policy & Campaigns, National AIDS Trust), Catherine Dodds (Senior Research Fellow, Sigma Research, University of Portsmouth), Arwell Jones (Team Leader of the Domestic Affairs Division, Crown Prosecution Service), and Matthew Weait (Reader in Socio-Legal Studies, School of Law, Birkbeck University).
The panel discussed the case of Sarah Porter to illustrate a more recent case of a female defendant that was convicted for recklessly transmitting a sexual transmitted disease. The cases of R v. Dica  EWCA Crim, 1103 and R v. Konzani  EWCA Crim 706 were also discussed as examples of cases in which the criminal law prosecuted those cases involving sexually transmitted diseases.
As an aspiring lawyer a key component of your skill set is the ability to research well. The various techniques of researching a firm which is a 'right fit' for you can be categorised into the following stages.
One: Know what type of lawyer you want to become. There is a useful section on the Prospects website which outlines what various roles are involved in the legal profession. Even if you are confident with regards to what these roles are it is still worth reviewing these since it can become part of your audit check as to the skills required to fulfil the role.
Two: Research the firms by looking at their websites and cases. They may not be necessarily looking to employ someone. But at the initial stages this need not be your prime concern, because your focus should be to look at fit of firm to you. Often you can review employee profiles on the firm’s website. This should help you indentify areas of legal practice the firm engages in. Plus you can begin to get an understanding of the culture and background of the lawyers within the firm. Ask yourself 'could I see myself fitting in?'.
Three: Do not be afraid to contact by phone a lawyer within the firm who you feel that you can identify with, ideally within your practice area of interest. You can initially email and follow-up with a phone call if you like. But remember if you just email them they may just delete it since they do not know you.
Four: When you are talking to your chosen contact make sure you have prepared some questions. Decide what you want to get out of the conversation; knowledge about their practice area and sector perhaps, or whether they could offer you work experience.
On the 3rd of December we are inviting in an Employer Panel Of Non-Commercial Law Firms (click here for full details and to book ). These are typically smaller law firms which would expect to be researched and contacted in the way I have described above. They are more likely to recruit people that have taken an interest in them especially when contacted (i.e. research cases they have been involved in). And remember unlike bigger firms they recruit as and when. Plus they do not necessarily have the budget of the larger firms to promote themselves.
The legal job market has always been competitive pre-recession and certainly in the current economic climate. So trying to calculate the odds of getting a training contract or pupillage is unhelpful. The essential aspect to grasp is that you have to compete often with national and international graduates with strong academic backgrounds and legal experience. So as well as aspiring toward your dream career as a lawyer it is also worth considering alternative careers in the legal sector. There may be a positive alternative either in the short or long term. A great way for you to start the process off of evaluating alternatives would be to attend our Alternative Careers For Law Students event on the 26th of November 2009 - check out full details here.
Also take advantage of handouts developed with law students in mind such as the Alternative Careers in Law 2009. These sit on CitySpace under My Career Workspace (Year 2009-10) -> School Specific Information -> Law -> Career Guides.
It would also be advisable to book an appointment with a Careers Consultant who will have knowledge/expertise of the legal sector but also of the wider graduate market.
Remember to keep an eye on Future Lawyer in the coming weeks for video interviews with those who have followed an alternative path.
Marlon Gray is Senior Careers Consultant at the Centre for Career and Skills Development at City University London.
Hello, my name is Ross Agim and I am a second year law student at The City Law School. Over the coming months I will be writing some articles based on a wide range of topics related to the law. The articles may just be aimed at giving you an insight into aspects of the law profession, gaining opinions from prominent legal figures or just propagating a unique opinion on what is going on in the law. I hope you enjoy reading!
On October 8th 2009, Justice Sam Rugege, Deputy Chief Justice of the Republic of Rwanda came to speak at City University London.
The date is April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Habyarimana and Burundi Pres. Cyprien Ntaryamira is shot down over Kigali; the ensuing crash kills everyone on board. The next day Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, a moderate Hutu, is assassinated. Her murder is part of a campaign to eliminate moderate Hutu or Tutsi politicians, with the goal of creating a political vacuum, and thus allowing for the formation of the interim government of Hutu extremists that is inaugurated on April 9. Over the next several months the wave of anarchy and mass killings continue, involving the army and Hutu militia groups and the Tutsi-led FPR.
During the genocide more than 800,000 civilians, primarily Tutsi, were killed. As many as 2,000,000 Rwandans, both Hutu and Tutsi, fled, most of them into eastern Zaire. However, fifteen years on from the conflict, I was at City University London to hear Justice Sam Rugege of the Supreme Court of Rwanda give a lecture titled Reform of Rwandan Business Laws. The lecture gave details of laws that have reinvigorated the Rwandan economy and imbued the nation with a spirit of optimism.