Saturday, 30 May 2015

Tips on Increasing your Professional Networking Opportunities

This post is aimed at undergraduate LLB students. However, most of the information in this post can be adapted to anyone at any level in any profession or field. I hope you find in useful!

Networking Opportunities


Blogging

Create a blog that’s relevant to your chosen field of law. This will aid you in building commercial awareness and making new contacts. If your blog is good, it will also aid in building your professional reputation. However, remember that future employers may see your blogs, etc. so think carefully before writing something controversial. I am not saying that you should not write anything controversial as this could have as much of a positive impact as it could a negative impact (depending on the subject). For example, if you are discussing women’s rights and flaws in the legal system it could demonstrate your interests and research skills etc. However writing a biassed blog aimed at a set group of society may make you look like a bigot. Therefore, you should use your initiative to decide what message you are likely to send. If you do not trust your judgement, ask a friend to approve your blog posts!


Social Media

Use Twitter to follow professionals and firms/chambers of interest. You will quickly find that if you use Twitter to share professional opinions you can quickly increase people's interest in you. I suggest that you use your account to professionally market yourself, using other social media for socialising with friends and family. Twitter is amazing for gaining new professional contacts. It can also be minimal effort for improving your commercial awareness. Once you have invested time in setting up a professional account, following people and organisations of interest, you can quickly update yourself on current news stories, legal changes, etc. You should aim to follow some respectable news accounts, fellow law students, lawyers, judges, charities, human rights campaigners and government bodies such as the Home Office, who will all tweet interesting updates. Never underestimate the power of Twitter. I have previously received mentoring advice and a genuine job offer (which I accepted), through Twitter.


Memberships

Join local societies and associations. There are a wide variety of societies and associations for law students, junior lawyers, solicitors, barristers and other members of the legal profession. There are local student law societies that are usually set up within universities. Your local region will usually have a law society for junior lawyers. They usually accept membership from law students, trainees, case handlers, etc. and lawyers up to 7 years call.  There are also other various societies and associations aimed at law students and professionals working in the legal sector, including The Association of Women Barristers. Joining societies will provide you with an increased amount of networking opportunities. Some events will be formal; others may be educational or sociable. 


Public Speaking

You could even volunteer to speak at conferences and events. People are more likely to approach you afterwards to thank you or to ask questions. This will provide you with extra opportunities to network with a broader range of people. It will also provide you with a rare opportunity where people are interested in your knowledge or work, providing you with an opportunity to talk about yourself for a change.


Organise a Networking Event

You could hold your own networking event. This will allow you to target the types of people you wish to network with. For a networking event to become successful, it is recommended that you hold it regularly on the same day and time. People are more likely to remember when it is and their attendance becomes a habit.  It is also recommended that networking events last 90 minutes. Less that this can be insufficient time for people to relax and feel comfortable networking. If it is too long people start to lose interest and people start feeling awkward when conversations run dry.


Fellow Students

Never underestimate the knowledge of fellow students. Some have very interesting part-time jobs or previous careers. You may be surprised what knowledge they can share with you if you actually take the time to ask questions!


Initiate Contact

You could contact some of your professional role models by email or letter and ask them if they would be happy to provide you with informal advice. This may be over a coffee or by email or letter. While they may be extremely busy, you will still find that the odd professional that is willing to free up some time to assist you. You do not know if you do not try and people respect people who use their own initiative.


Mentors

You can also ask your university, Inn, law society, etc. if they have any mentoring schemes. I had a mentor assigned to me from Shoosmiths in my first year of my LLB, who I found invaluable. The insight I gained from her allowed me to make a decision on progressing onto the BPTC, rather than the LPC. I have also been assigned a mentor from my Inn, who is a practising member of the Bar. He has been equally as supportive during my first year of the BPTC, offering me advice and securing me a mini-pupillage within his chambers. While on the subject of mentors, you could also become a mentor yourself! You could join a scheme mentoring people lower down the career ladder to yourself. For example, if you are studying your LLB you could support someone studying their GCSE’s or A-Levels. This could include giving them insight into university life as a law student or helping them with filling in university application forms and deciding on the best university for them. I have mentored youths with Catch22, undergraduate students as an alumni mentor at my previous university and an A Level student as part of Big Voice 2015.


Building and Maintaining Contacts


Be Yourself and be Sincere

Networking is not just about making contacts that are of benefit to you. People talk and dislike insincere people who are not themselves. Make conversation with people who you are naturally drawn to who you get along with easily. You do not have to talk about work; you can talk about genuine interests like football and local restaurants. After all, most people are the same in the fact that we like people that we can relate to and can get bored talking about the same things. Building contacts with people you genuinely like will help with future work. For example, if you was a solicitor and had the choice of instructing a barrister you liked and another that you did not, you are more likely to instruct the barrister you like so you do not have to deal with a person you dislike.

It is also important that you 'stay in the conversation'. If you allow someone to 'talk at you' while you zone out they will notice and you will look rude. This also includes scanning the room for 'important contacts' while ignoring everyone else. It is alright to embrace an opportunity of gaining powerful contacts, but this does not mean that you should not make an effort with other people in the room. After all, you will be surprised what and who 'ordinary' people know. I have also found that the contacts that you make who are at a similar level to yourself are usually more helpful later down the line than the more senior and powerful contacts who have forgotten you a week later. You will also be surprised what you can discover in a natural conversation.


Be Reliable and Dependable

If you promise to do something for someone, follow it through. If you are unsure weather, you can commit to something make sure the person knows at the first instance to avoid future embarrassment. Being someone that people can depend on demonstrates that you are an organised and trustworthy individual. The type of person people are happy to introduce to other contacts or provide references for. After all, when you introduce people to each other, these people are trusting your judgement. It can reflect badly on the person making the introductions if things end badly between the parties being introduced to each other. Also, remember that the legal world is a very small place. People talk! Also, the person that you let down this year could be the same person interviewing you or referring cases to you in 10 years time!


Be Supportive and Helpful

Throughout my legal studies, I have built a reputation with fellow students as someone who is willing to help and reliable. Luckily this is part of my natural personality. Nevertheless, this has led to me usually being the first person they contact for work or study related advice and support. I always try my best to help if I can. If I can not, I always explain why, whether it be because I am unavailable or I genuinely do not know the answer. Not surprisingly, my genuine interest in supporting those around me has lead to these same people helping me in my hour of need, because they know that I would do the same. This is not the reason why I help others. Nevertheless, it is much harder to say no to someone that you know would help you!


Sharing Contacts

When networking it is important not to be possessive with your contacts. It is important to introduce other people to each other too. If they are of use to each other, they will remember your recommendation. Also, people will be more willing to offer support and advice to people that they know would do the same, particularly fellow students. 


Storing Contact Details

Have a good system for storing contact details. Always include date, where you met, their company/place of study and position. If possible include a couple of personal facts that you remember about them. This will aid you in initiating future contact and makes it more personal. You could store all of this information in a database. This would aid you if you were looking for a particular type of contact. For example to see if you had met someone from a specific firm or chambers, before applying for a job/internship. A quick and simple way of storing this information is to have a jar or box to store business cards in. Then you can request a business card off each new contact. When you leave the venue, you can quickly make a note on the back of the card where you met, the date and any personal information that will aid future conversations or aid you in remembering them.


Maintaining Your New Contacts

Send new contacts an email every now and again to maintain contact. This could be general chit chat, or you could notify them about an upcoming event that may be of interest to them. You could even include a link to an interesting article in the news or on your own blog etc. This will depend on the seniority of your contact, how well you know each other and how relaxed they are with you. Some senior members of the legal sector will be very supportive and volunteer themselves as a mentor while others will keep contact strictly professional and will only communicate with you if necessary.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Training as a Mentor with Catch22

Here is a blog on some of the training I undertook to become Mentor with Catch22. Please note that this is just some of the training that I have participated in. I have attended numerous training sessions with Catch22. However, I thought that this quick blog could enlighten readers about some of the transferable skills that you can learn while training as a Mentor with Catch22. In celebration of Volunteering Week next week I hope it inspires more people to volunteer with this incredible and invaluable charity. I will be posting some other relevant blogs shortly. So once again....watch this space!

Introductory
Training was led by the Volunteer Coordinating Manager ‘L’ at their Northampton offices, on the Billing Road. The room used for training was large with a large table and chairs set up in the middle that could seat around 20 people. There was also a large whiteboard and projector at the front of the room. There were two other prospective volunteers present for today’s training on Mentoring with Catch22. Both were females and of similar age to me. I have renamed the two volunteers volunteer ‘A’ and volunteer ‘S’ for the purpose of my blog. I have also renamed the trainer ‘L’. 'S' has become a good friend of mine over the past two years, which has been an added benefit of mentoring with Catch22!

I was a little nervous at the beginning of training (back in 2013), as I did not know what to expect during training sessions and had not met any of the other volunteers previously. Training was broken up into various styles. We participated in group work which included icebreakers, role play, discussions and brainstorming. We also completed worksheets independently and listened to lectures and presentations delivered by our coordinator and trainer, ‘L’.

Icebreakers
The training commenced with icebreakers. In a group of three, we participated in various tasks such as introducing each other and guessing which information that we disclosed to each other was a lie or fact. At first, I presumed the purpose of the ice breaking tasks was purely to allow volunteers to get to know each other. However after carrying out these tasks ‘L’ used the icebreakers as examples to highlight factors that we should have been more aware of. She also expressed the importance of being self-aware and aware of other people’s body language during communications.

Understanding Social Changes
‘L’ presented a presentation on changes in society which have resulted in a need for Catch22 services. These included changes in education, family, employment, crime and health. For example, there have been increases in absent parent families. There are also health issues as a result of drug abuse (including legal highs), promiscuousness and not protecting sexual health, unhealthy eating and poor hygiene.

Observing Policies
At this training session, we were provided with copies of several different policies that we are expected to abide by. This helped me to gain a full understanding of what my role as a volunteer entails to ensure that I do not exceed this role in the future. This includes understanding and obeying boundaries. We were instructed to take the policies home and read through them in preparation for a test on them during the next training session, which was the following day. The policies that we were given copies of included Loan Working Policy, Equal Opportunities and Diversity Policy, Child Protection Awareness, Safeguarding Children and Young People, Confidentiality, Safety Procedures and Safeguarding Personal Belongings. I was surprised to receive so much information to read at home as I was not expecting homework during my training and had organised to attend an event after training with friends. (My town’s annual beer festival.) Nevertheless, I killed two birds with one stone and read the documents while chilling on the grass at the beer festival with a nice glass of wine.

Raising Complaints
As part of our training, we were notified about Catch22's complaint procedure. We were advised that if we have a problem, we should always approach the Case Worker first. If our concerns are not resolved, we should raise the issue with the Line Manager and then if it continues to be unresolved we should raise it with our coordinator, ‘L’. I had already independently identified Case Workers and ‘L’ as appropriate members of staff to raise problems with. However, I had not previously considered approaching a Line Manager. This was probably because I was not fully aware of staff ranking at Catch22 before this training session.

Safety Procedures
During our training, we were also taught safety procedures that we must follow before, during and after our meetings with Mentees. We were informed that all meetings must be pre-arranged and logged at Catch22 with the Case Worker so that they remain informed of all meetings. Once the meeting is finished, we must phone the Case Worker to confirm that we have left the meeting safely. We must also arrange a secret panic word before leaving for a meeting that we can use during an emergency phone call with the Case Worker in the Mentees presence. I thought that this was a really good idea for raising the alarm discreetly in an emergency situation. In addition to this, we were instructed to keep personal belongings locked in the boot of our car or on us at all times to prevent theft. These procedures were easy to understand. I could identify the purpose of these procedures easily. For example to protect Mentors and their property. It also avoids temptation for Mentees, after all, we are meant to be supporting them in improving their lives, not encouraging them to commit offences with temptation.

Identifying Boundaries
As a group, we identified the boundaries of a Mentor. Some of the boundaries included not being able to introduce Mentees to your friends or family appeared to be obvious. However, I was surprised by other boundaries such as not being able to accept a small present to say thank you. Conversely, it was even more surprising to be informed that this is extremely unlikely as ‘L’ had never known any Mentee to buy staff or volunteers a present. We also identified the different types of advice that we can give as a Mentor, including helping Mentees to set achievable goals. This sounded reasonable to me as there would be no point in setting Mentees goals that were not achievable, based on their skills and opportunities available to them.

Maintaining Case Notes
Throughout our training, we were informed about the importance of maintaining case notes. This information was presented to us through a presentation. ‘L’ informed us that as a Mentor for Catch22 we would be expected to attend supervision meetings monthly. Attending these meetings has provided me with extra support to help me deal with the pressures of working with vulnerable and challenging individuals, by enabling me to discuss any concerns that I have. Supervision meetings help Catch22 to monitor me to ensure that I am observing the policies I have learnt during training. These meeting also allow staff to monitor whether I am maintaining administration.

Learning Through Role Play
As part of my training, I participated in role plays with the other two trainee volunteers. During these role plays, we developed our communication skills. We looked at how small and quick changes in our environment could have a positive effect on communication and the atmosphere. We tried sitting in various positions to help us to identify comfortable seating distances and positions that set the scene so that we do not appear intimidating or distant. We all agreed that the twenty past positioning of the two seats felt the most relaxed and comfortable positioning for communicating. We also agreed that the distance between the seats was essential. If they were too far apart, it made conversation appear distant. If the chairs were too close, it felt intimidating. This has been invaluable for various other roles that I am responsible for, particularly when I am interviewing people.

Self Awareness
‘L’ went on to teach us the Jahiri Window theory through a presentation. The aim of this presentation was to improve our self-awareness. We were informed that the Jahiri Window is split into four equal squares to explain what is known by an individual and by whom. The squares are split into ‘everyone knows’, ‘I know’, ‘other people know but I don’t’ and ‘no one knows’.

Advising
As a group we also discussed the different types of advice we can give to our Mentees. When giving advice, we must be aware that different people are unalike and do things in different ways. We all accepted that we must always maintain equality and diversity when dealing with Catch22 clients. Additionally, we discussed things such as valuing the other person and being non-judgmental. We also discussed what we thought professional conduct was and how one person’s behaviour can affect how others behave; and therefore how a Mentor’s behaviour can affect a Mentee’s behaviour. This was actually quite a logical concept.

Mentoring with Catch22

Today I am blogging about why I became a Mentor with Catch22.

When I initially applied to volunteer with Catch22 as an Appropriate Adult at the beginning of 2013, I was under the illusion that this was the only service they offered. I had found out about the charity through my local Police Station when inquiring about the role of Appropriate Adults. However during an information evening in 2013, I discovered that there was much more to Catch22 as a charity. 

Catch22 specialises in assisting young adults to secure training, education, apprenticeships and employability. The charity also offers support to young people and troubled families. Usually these clients are referred to Catch22 by local authorities. The charity also offers support to care leavers. In addition to these services Catch22 supports youths and adult offenders. In larger towns and cities members of Catch22 work on projects to reduce gang crime. Catch22's "goal is to deliver social benefit by turning chaotic lives around." You can find out more about Catch22's projects on their website.

After attending an information evening for prospective volunteers I decided that I would be interested in volunteering as a Mentor. I was informed that the role only required a couple of hours a week commitment. Time commitment was important as my schedule was already limited between studying a two year intensive law degree, three children and other volunteering commitments. 

I thought that mentoring would be a good opportunity for increasing the diverse range of people I interacted with. Mentoring would also help me to continue to develop my interpersonal skills. I also believed that mentoring would be rewarding, giving back to the local community. This was particularly important to me after being mentored during my first year at The University of Northampton, by a member of Shoosmiths. Two years later and I still believe that my Mentor was responsible for shaping my career path!

Mentoring with Catch22 has provided me with a wide variety of transferable skills. For example it improved my self-confidence, teamwork skills, self-awareness, active communication skills and social awareness. The level of training that Catch22 offer their staff and volunteers is outstanding. I have found it invaluable, aiding me in both my volunteering roles and my accademic studies. I would also like to think that it aided Mentees in making important life changing decisions.


Watch this space for further blogs on my role as a Mentor.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Advice for BPTC Scholarship Interviews at the Inn's

I know this blog is a little late for this year but this blog has been written to give future LLB/GDL students an insight into an Inn’s BPTC scholarship interview, to aid preparation. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any advice on the structure and contents of BPTC scholarship interviews before attending my first interview in March 2014. Therefore, I hope that this Blog aids future students in preparing for scholarship interviews. However please note that questions may vary depending on the applicant, Inn and the criteria of that academic year. I have attended a BPTC Scholarship interview at Inner Temple in March 2014 and March 2015. Both interviews were structured almost the same. However, I am aware that the Inn’s structure their interviews differently. Therefore, it would also be sensible to ask someone from your chosen Inn about their interview experience if you have contacts. Please also note that any opinions in this blog are my own and have not been affirmed by my Inn.

BPTC Scholarship Interview at Inner Temple 

The interview process began with me checking in half hour before my interview at the Treasurer’s Office. I was then asked to return to the office five minutes before my interview start time. When I returned at the start time, an additional five applicants joined me in the Treasurer’s Office to wait for their interview. You could feel the tension rising in the office.

The six of us were greeted by a member of the Inn who explained the interview process to us as a group. Afterwards, we were all escorted upstairs to the Inns library, where we were provided with writing materials. We were then asked to choose from one of three unreported cases on; family law, criminal law or civil law. I chose the criminal case as I had stated on my application form that I inspire to practice at the criminal bar. I am now wondering whether this was a wise choice considering the current uncertainty of the Criminal Bars future. This has been a hot topic at most dining and networking events recently. Nevertheless, I decide to stick with this choice for consistency. I do not want to look indecisive when I am asking them to invest in me.

We were then allocated 30 minutes to independently read our chosen case and to identify facts in the case. We were expected to know facts about the case including the prosecution and defences arguments, whether the appeal was based on a matter of law or matter of fact, the ratio decidendi and orbita dictum. We were also expected to form an opinion on the case. We were reassured by a member of the Inn that the test was aimed to help us demonstrate that we understood the outline of the facts and the principals involved, rather than our current knowledge of the law. This was also clear during the interview.

Similar to an exam, we were notified when 30 minutes had passed and then we were asked to return the unreported case notes. We were all escorted out of the library and across the courtyard to a chambers within the grounds of the Inn. Upon arrival, a friendly pupil greeted us and conversed with us while we were waiting for our interviewing panels to invite us into our interview rooms.

After waiting for twenty minutes, I was informed by the pupil that the interviewing panel was now prepared for me. When I entered the interview room I was warmly greeted by a friendly panel of interviewers. There were two males and two females present. Each interviewer had their name and chambers written in front of them. Unfortunately, I cannot remember their names or their chambers. This is quite unusual for me as I am good at remembering personal details about people. I must have been very focused on answering my interview questions. At a guess, their ages ranged from 40s-60s.

A member of the interviewing panel began by confirming my personal details, followed by the structure of the interview. She explained that they would each have a different area of questions to ask me to prevent the interview from being too overwhelming.

The first interview panel member began by confirming my academic history. She then inquired about how I was progressing on with my current course. She then went on to discuss work experience that I had included on my application form. She concluded her questioning by asking me about the hobbies that I had included on my application form, and asked me to persuade the panel in one minute why they should participate in my chosen hobby.

The second interviewer asked me some questions on the unreported case I had previously examined in the library. For example, he asked me to explain what the case was concerning and the reasons why an appeal was requested.

The third interviewer asked me to discuss a case of my choice that had been in the media recently. I decided to discuss a case that I had been following with a friend, so that my responses were more natural. I was asked various questions on my view of my chosen case, one of my opinions was challenged. I believe that this was to enable me to demonstrate that I could develop an argument and hold my ground when arguing a point. During my interview in March 2014, I discussed the case of Oscar Pistorius. In March 2015, I discussed the effects of legal aid cuts to family law and the statistics of women unable to prove that they are a victim of domestic violence, in order to qualify for legal aid.

The fourth panel member began his questioning by asking me why I wanted to join the Bar. He also asked me why I had chosen this point of my life to enter the profession (at 29 and as the mother of 3 children). He then inquired about my finances, however he was very polite and explained why these questions were relevant to the application process. He inquired how much it would cost to fund the BPTC course, my travel to university and any other relevant expenses such as childcare.  He then asked how I would fund the BPTC if I was unsuccessful in my application. The interview concluded with me being offered an opportunity to ask the interview panel some questions.

I found the interview friendly and supportive. Seventeen days after my interview I was notified by post that my application had been unsuccessful. Unfortunately, I was not given any feedback on why my application had been unsuccessful except for the fact that Inner Temple had had over 350 applications in November 2013. (I got a similar response in 2015 about the number of applications that they had received in November 2014). It also explained that feedback on the interview for unsuccessful applicants would not be available due to the amount of people interviewed. However, I feel that this would have been very useful, even if it was simply explaining that they believed that the applicant was not in financial hardship or that they believed their grades or experience were not sufficient or that they believed that the applicant was not suitable for the profession. This could aid the applicant in deciding what steps to take next and whether the panel felt that the applicant would have a future at the Bar. I have discovered that both Gray’s Inn and Lincoln’s Inn do provide feedback to unsuccessful applicants who attend interviews. However, neither of these Inn’s interview all applicants, so they have fewer applicants to provide feedback for.



Bar Schools Out For Summer.....

(I hope that anyone reading this post sang 'Bar Schools Out For Summer' to the Alice Cooper tune!)

So I officially completed all of my first years exams at Bar School, last Friday. I bet you are thinking that I must be relieved??? I have been looking forward to this moment for so long! In fact I have pictured it for what feels like forever! I imagined sitting on a tropical beach with a cocktail in one hand and a book that has no mention of the law in the other. It looks like I will have to hold that thought for another year.

I have not had a break from my legal studies for at least 3 years as I studied my LLB as a 2 year intensive course. This saved me adding another £9,000 course fees to my student debt, which is brilliant. However, it also meant that I had to work through the traditional university summer breaks (June-August)! By the time I handed in my dissertation on the 14 August 2014 I had less than a month to make the final preparations to organise myself and my last minute paperwork ready for the Bar Course (BPTC) in London. So it is safe to say that I am starting to feel like I am in need of a break. In fact I would welcome a holiday! (Feel free to send me any unwanted holiday tickets.)

Dreaming of a holiday? Don't be so silly! I can not afford a holiday! I have £8,500 to find by September 2015 to pay my second year of Bar School's course fees. What this also means is I do not have time to relax and put my feet up! So after 3 years of working hard without a break while juggling my legal studies, pro bono, part time paid employment and three children, I must now maintain my motivation and spend my first week of my summer vacation..........applying for full time jobs with salaries that will stretch to covering both my bills and my tuition fees! With only 14 weeks until I return to Bar School, time really is money! Oh and yes the stress of next years fees is really that bad that I have to count how many weeks I have remaining when my first week of vacation has only just passed. Oh how my summer would have been spent differently if I had of secured a scholarship with my Inn. Lazy picnics with the children, jogging around country lanes and cocktails on the beach. Ok, now I have come to terms with the fact that that is just a fantasy I must focus back on how I am going to pay my BPTC fees. After all I have come too far to fail at this small but expensive hurdle!

Thankfully last summer,somewhere in-between sitting my final year LLB exams and drafting my 10,000 word dissertation I found the time to apply for additional scholarships at City Law School. This lead to me being awarded The Rosie Keane Memorial Scholarship worth £5,000 off my course fees. This was a huge help. In fact if I had not received it I genuinely do not think I would have afforded my first years course fees of £8,500. So despite the fact of being disappointed that I can not embrace my well deserved summer vacation, part of me knows that I am actually fortunate to be in the position of worrying about my second years tuition fees.

So it looks like I will be putting off the cocktails on a tropical island for another year and spending the next few weeks completing job applications and hopefully working full time for the next few months. In fact I may have to continue full time work during my second year as the expenses build up pretty quickly. If £17,000 course fees for a 9 month full time course or 21 month part time is not already extravagant, I also have household bills, everyday expenses from the children's school trips and dinner money etc, train travel to London twice a week, the cost of attending networking events and one off lecture evenings etc, dinning sessions at my Inn of court, new work clothing or clothing for evening events and a hefty coffee bill to keep me going. Thankfully the coffee bill has been reduced thanks to my friend informing me about free coffee as Waitrose (as discussed in one of my previous blogs).

Thankfully I am a optimist instead of a pessimist and can see that in the long run working throughout the summer break will give me better standing for pupillage applications. I just have to keep thinking of the extra skills and experience that I will gain in employment, that I may not have achieved if I had received a full fee scholarship! Thankfully there are currently quite a few law related job vacancies advertised which means I should be able to kill two birds with one stone. I am currently applying for Case Handler, Paralegal and some civil service opportunities. So fingers crossed I will have some success in the coming weeks and continue to build on my legal skills, while raising September's fees. 

Watch this space for an update on my success.....or my depressing failings lol

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Free Coffee at Waitrose Everyday!!!!

After spending a near fortune on coffee for nine months while studying the BPTC, my 'new best friend' informed me that Waitrose offers free coffee (or tea) to all My Waitrose members. This is probably the second greatest news that a Bar student can hear. (Obviously the words we are really waiting to hear are "would you like to join our chambers as a pupil?") Until then, free coffee is pretty amazing. As soon as I found out I signed up for free on Waitrose's Website and waited for my card to arrive.

A week later I received My Waitrose membership card and stopped off at Holborn Waitrose to get my free coffee. I was pleasantly surprised that the choice was quite reasonable. This offer was not for some flat black instant coffee, I was able to choose from a selection of fresh coffees including cappuccino. There were also a selection of teas if your a tea lover.

There is no minimum spend and you can have a free coffee/tea every day! All you have to do is sign up for the free card which also unlocks other special offers including free newspapers when you spend over £5 on a weekday or £10 on a weekend!

So what are you waiting for??????

Sign up today :)

2015 Law Firms in Transition: An Altman Weil Flash Survey

This is worth a read regardless of whether you intend on practicing as a solicitor or barrister. The servey was conducted in the USA but it is perfect for helping any future lawyer understand changes in the legal sector.

'Now in its seventh year, Altman Weil’s Law Firms in Transition Survey continues to
document how the business of law is changing and identify emerging forces that will
move the legal market forward — whether law firms are ready or not.'


2015 Law Firms in Transition: An Altman Weil Flash Survey

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Community Donates Money to Save the Home of Mother of Murdered Rapper

Today I came across one of the most inspiring fundraising pages that I have seen in a long time. It was set up to raise money for the mother to of a murdered rapper (Josh/Depzman) who risks loosing her family home less than 2 years after her son was stabbed to death. The page was set up by a member of her family on Sunday and by Tuesday morning it had raised over £1,670. The target is £2,000. The cause of her (Alison Cope) rental arrears are due to bedroom tax being imposed on the property which is one of the few things she has left to remember her son who was murdered at the age of 18. She has been issued with an eviction notice and has 4 weeks to raise the funds or leave her family home that she once shared with her murdered son and estranged husband (who she separated from as a result of the stress suffered from the loss of their son).

I do agree with the idea of bedroom tax if it was applied sensibly and logically. I understand that the system needs to appear more fair to prevent members of society who work, showing animosity toward those who are in receipt of public funds. I also appreciate the fact that people who are employed have to downside property when their funds are reduced and therefore I can understand that they would find it unfair that people who are not in a position to support themselves do not have to consider downsizing when they are over occupying a property. It also seems crazy that you can have a family of four crammed in a 2 bedroom flat owned by local housing, while a single person lives in a 3 bedroom house owned by local housing because there children have left home. If a person who is not vulnerable is offered a smaller property and they refuse to move without good reason then yes in principle I can understand the logic of requiring them to pay for the luxury of having a spare room if it is not needed. However, this should be used on a case by case basis as as a last resort to encourage people to move to smaller properties if they are available and subject to their personal circumstances. For example it wouldn't be fair to move someone who didn't drive from a town/city to a rural location where support and employment would be scarce. However, the bedroom tax is completely pointless if there are not smaller properties available for the tenant in question. If the fact that there are not sufficient properties available to reshuffle tenants does not convince you that the bedroom tax is unfair and a waste of time, then consider the reason why people are claiming housing benefit in the first place?

Claimants are claiming free rent or contributions towards their rent because their household income falls below the amount that the government has set as the basic minimum amount that a person/family needs to survive. Thinking about this logically, how can you demand that members of society living on basic funds pay a fee (bedroom tax) when they are claiming assistance (housing benefit) for a fee (rent) that they already cannot afford because they are considered as having insufficient funds to survive by the government that also imposed the bedroom tax. If the government say that £x is the minimum a person/family needs to survive how can they then contradict themselves and tax them when they cannot afford to pay the rent in the first place. When you look at it from this perspective, there really is no logic to this tax.

If the government are determined to keep the bedroom tax they need to adopt common sense, compassion and guidelines on genuine mitigating circumstances that can omit a person from contributing towards bedroom tax. The government need to consider occupants that are in genuine need of the extra space (considering parents with visiting rights and people with disabilities). For example you can not expect teenage girls to share a bedroom with their father every weekend. This would just be completely inappropriate! Also its obvious that disabled and elderly people are going to need extra space for equipment and wheelchairs/mobility scooters. The government also need to factor in vulnerable claimants who have suffered the loss of a child or partner or who are vulnerable and in need of extra support from the people around them who probably live near to them. People like the mother of the murdered rapper, who is still coming to terms with loosing her young son in a brutal and sudden way. Being around happy memories with the support of her neighbours, friends and family could make the difference between her dealing with her grief and eventually moving on with her life and her being unable to deal with or get over the pain that she must be feeling. The sad thing is she is not alone. How many other grieving parents and widows are suffering the same fear and treatment through no fault of their own, during a time when they need support and their worries reduced instead of their worries increased with tax that serves no purpose other than to punish and judge those who are as most in need? More needs to be done to protect  those that are vulnerable or grieving. This should also extend to those who risk loosing private properties when a loved one dies.

In the short term I hope that the mother of the murdered rapper raises sufficient funds to secure her property and prevent eviction. Thankfully, looking at the fundraising page it looks like this is very likely. In the long term the government need to either scrap this contradictory and unjust piece of legislation or spent more time on making it fair and logical.

You can find out more about the untimely death of Josh Ribera (Depzman) here.

To make a donation to his mothers fundraising page click here.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Job Available with the Local Government Ombudsman in Coventry

If you are due to graduate from the LPC or BPTC this year and you are looking for law related work in-between graduating and securing a training contract or pupillage, then this job would be fantastic experience. The salary is quite reasonable too.

Note that you must have/be about to finish the LPC or BPTC.
I have included a link to the job here.