Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Second Year Law – Second Trimester

So I’ve made it through to my second year of Law at Birkbeck. Looking back over the last year I am filled with a sense of achievement. I know it is only the first year, but just completing it, and moving to the next level is a truly satisfying feeling!

Now looking to the coming year I am filled with a whole other spectrum of emotions, fear, anticipation, anxiety, excitement…..the list could go on. Not only does this next year ahead look like an insurmountable amount of reading and work, I am also in the second trimester of pregnancy…just to keep things simple! I must say though, as much as I enjoyed my subjects last year, this year looks even more interesting! So although the reading and work is daunting, I am truly looking forward to throwing myself into the subjects. And as much as being pregnant whilst studying law is not ideal, I am ecstatic about my little miracle baby. So far… looks to be a very exciting year ahead.

The only truly scary clash between baby and study, is he/she is due on the 10th of May…..exactly around exam time. So could prove to be very interesting…..

On a separate note, I have volunteered to mentor some first year students, to share my experiences and give a bit of advice on navigating first year. This is along the same vein as the reason I first started this blog, to provide a resource for students studying law whilst holding down a full time job, and give some encouragement that it is possible as long as you are are committed and passionate about your subject. If you are a Birkbeck student and interested in being involved in this project, it has already kicked off, but there might be a few slots available. It is taking place from this week right through to December.

Till next time…

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The 'open plan office' nightmare

Working in an open plan office is not a productive use of anyone’s time. I know this is a very strong statement to start a conversation, but I am speaking from experience. Every time the doorbell goes, we all look up like meerkats from our desks to see if there is someone available to get the door, sometimes three of us get up at once. Once the visitors are in the building, they often wander round the office saying hi to all the people they know, and stop for a chat. This is great if it was maybe just every now and then, but the traffic through our office is second to none. Not only are the visitors disruptive, but the staff as well, because of the open plan, people often stop by your desk for a chat, regardless of how involved you are with what you are doing, breaking your chain of thought, and putting you back at square one.

In a recent study done by the University College London, they found that excessive noise and lack of privacy, as well as constant distraction, cause workers to suffer problems such as stress, say researchers. Perhaps even more worrying for employers is a 20 per cent drop in productivity because of the “open plan office”

The noise level in our office is particularly high with four large printers placed within a small radius of any of the desks, as well as ALL the phones ringing when the main number goes. My desk in particular is one of the worst, I am right in the way of all passing traffic as well as four feet away from the biggest printer/copier machine adding to the constant flow of people to collect printouts or copy papers. I often get more “quiet time” with my blackberry on the busy London tube than I do sitting at my desk. On days when I am allowed to work from home, my productivity shoots up, as I am able to sit quietly and concentrate on finishing projects.

Surely it is just common sense that if you cram people into a tiny, overcrowded little space the chances of them having any level of concentration is little to none. The air con blows all day, circulating everyone’s germs, most times if one worker gets a cold, the whole office goes down as a result. Most of the staff are afraid to take time off for sick leave, as this is frowned upon, so the germs continue to circulate. That is a whole separate issue though. Another worrying statement that came out of the research was that current building practices risk cramming staff in like 'battery hens' can cause the staff members to become paranoid, say researchers from University College London and environment consultants BRE.

The concept of the “open plan office” was a way to improve communication between office workers, increase efficiency and camaraderie. The real reason was to reduce lighting, heating and air conditioning costs in new buildings, it is cheaper to maintain and more staff are housed. But there is a greater cost, and this is to the productivity of the staff, which cannot be measured. As in the words of Stephen Harrison, of Steve’s blog - “If you have 2 loud chatty people and they chat for about an hour over the course of a day and this disrupts just 6 other people close by guess what: that's a full day's worth of 1 persons work LOST, you've managed to employ 2 people but only get the benefit of one, and with it irritate the other 6, and guess who's likely to leave first the chatty ones or the ones trying to work and getting irritated by the others? Guess who feels punished? Not the people chatting!”

Unfortunately, most companies would balk at the idea of providing individual offices for their staff.  The people who set the budgets may be intelligent, but they often have a hard time seeing past the immediate costs compared with the loss of revenue in terms of staff productivity, when it comes to intangible savings such as these.  They just see the initial outlay of £n0000 and shriek, "we can't afford that!".  Companies are too budget strapped to put up a few partitions and rent a bit more floor space. 

The extraordinary thing, however, is that workers have been complaining for twenty years about the open office but nothing has been done and no one has paid attention. This particular piece of research was conducted in 2010, and as yet, I have not seen any change in the rate of open plan offices reducing. . This “open plan office” idea put simply is a miserable failure introduced by psychologists and other ergonomic engineers to destroy the working environment and workers’ productivity.

As always, comments welcome.

Till next time….

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

London Riots

One of the very first things I learnt whilst studying law is that we are all involved in a social contract. Whereby we promise to abide by the laws set by our elected government and give up some of our freedom in order to be protected from harm and live in an orderly society. This is a very basic version of what we were taught, but I’m sure you get the idea.

What I am seeing with this rioting and looting is the youth of today, realising that this relationship is more based on trust and promises and that actually the authorities are unable to back up with action necessary to fulfil their side of the social contract. They are seeing that this is more of a promise, and realising that it can be broken, and if done so on mass, they can actually break the contract all together. By this, I mean the authorities are no longer able to protect the innocent, law abiding citizens and havoc has prevailed.

There is of course the question in everyone’s mind of why. Why are they doing this? What are they hoping to achieve. The simple answer is, because they can. Initially it started off last Thursday, in Tottenham, when a father of four – Mark Duggan – lost his life during a police operation. This kick started the riot, but other gangs and youths have realised how much they were able to get away with and joined in. Why, because they can. Because there were no consequences to their actions. All we are hearing on the news, is the repeatedly the word, mindless violence. On the contrary, they have thought about it, realised the faults in the system, and taken advantage of the situation to the full extent. The fires have been caused because of the mob mentality, they have worked themselves into a frenzy believing they are invincible, and taking it that one step further. Pushing the boundaries, seeing how much they can actually get away with.

It’s shocking and horrendous, and last night whilst lying in my bed listening to the screaming and the sirens, I was left wondering - will London ever be the same again?

As always, comments are welcome.

Till next time….

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A Barrister’s Choice

At a recent work function, I was fortunate enough to be sat next to an eminent Barrister who has been working in his field for many years, and in fact writes a blog himself, which I have linked to at the end of this blog post.

He was very honest and open with me about the challenges ahead, and so I thought I would share some of his wisdom. A lot of what he was saying, rang true with many of the things that I have been hearing. At his chambers, they can get anything up to 150 applications a year for placement. From this, they narrow it down to just 30 people, and from there, only 2 are picked, and often only 1 is kept on.

His advice was to make sure your CV stands out above the rest, make sure you do lots of volunteer work, get involved with your university representative body, sign up to help at legal clinics and get involved with mooting competitions. And he said, no one with less than a 2.1 in their grades even gets a look in. It is a cut throat industry, and you have to be prepared long in advance for that one chance at a placement. This of course is purely if you are thinking of becoming a barrister. I hope at some stage to have a chat with a solicitor and give you some insight into that world.

It’s some great advice, but of course with us Birkbeck students, filling up our CV with volunteer work is a little difficult, as most of us are working full time, and this degree is something we do in the evening and on weekends, which does not leave much time for much else. I spoke to him about this, and he said that it shows determination and a great skill set to juggle it all at once, and work experience is a plus. So don’t be too down if you cannot find all the time in the world. Just the odd mooting competition on the weekend, or a few hours at a legal clinic over the years will build up, and you will at the end of it all have a very impressive CV.

As always, comments welcome.

Till next time…

The Barrister’s blog can be found here:

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Summer time – waiting for results

So now the first year of my law degree is finished, I have a sense of accomplishment combined with a little fear. The results of all my exams will only be out at the end of July, so a bit of a long nerve racking  wait. I thought today would be the best time reflect on the past year, and look ahead to what the future holds. This has been one of the most interesting years so far, I have argued in a moot competition, learnt things I had never even thought of before, made new friends and kept old ones. It has been such a rich and interesting year. There has been a fair share of working into the night on various assignments or cramming for exams, but if I had to, I would do it all over again. I cannot recommend Birkbeck Law more highly, their support system, their administration, their lecturers, they have been remarkable.

There is an interesting array of activities being run by the University over the summer. I will hopefully get the privilege to attend some of those and give you some feedback on how they go. Otherwise, I just want to wish you all a happy, sunny, summer! For those going into winter…my thoughts are with you… ;-)

As an aside, there is a brilliant blog done by one of my fellow students, with some really practical tips on what is involved with studying at Birkbeck, and can be found here. 

Till next time…

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

LPC without a TC

This blog is particularly aimed at my law student contemporaries to help with their decisions about their future careers.

Recently there has been some debate on whether students should go on to get their Legal Practice Course (LPC) without a Training Contract (TC) in place. It is a huge financial risk to take, that is, doing the LPC without first securing a TC. There are increasingly limited number of TC's with a growing numbers of applicants. Some students do take the gamble, and go ahead and do the LPC without a TC in place, and succeed in getting jobs.

Saying this, although it is a gamble I wouldn’t recommend anyone takes, there is always pressure to take the LPC as the Bachelor Degree in Law (LLB) and the  Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) last 7 years, therefore you lose out on all the hard work in gaining those qualifications in order to do the LPC, whereas the LPC never expires. You only have to pass the LPC in the seven years after your LLB/GDL, not actually start to train or qualify. So as long as you have the academic course and LPC under your belt, the timer has stopped.

With this in mind, it is easy to see why students are keen to get the LPC under their belt, with or without a TC. But what happens to all the students who have spent a fortune educating themselves at their own expense, particularly with the looming hike in fees? All of this is wasted. It is a great worry, not only to me but to all my fellow law students as well. There are some hard questions ahead of us, some of which I hope to share answers with you as I come upon them.

To all those with exams in the next few weeks, good luck!

Till next time…

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Political stuff - where is the world headed?

I haven't blogged in a little while, mostly due to assignment stress. Having to get those two rather large assignments out the way didn't leave me with much time to do much of anything! Those have now been handed in, thank heavens, now just looking ahead to my exams in the coming weeks. So I thought in between handing in the assignments and getting ready to knuckle down to some serious cramming, I would do a quick blog. And my goodness, there is so much to talk about since I last blogged I don't even really know where to start! So I shall stand on my little soap box and begin.

I'm not much of a politics orientated individual, I see it, I hear about it, but just generally don't get involved. But recent events cannot go without a mention. So instead of rambling on for ages about EVERYTHING that has happened in the last couple of weeks. I have instead picked three subjects that I think would be most topical! No prizes for guessing which three!!

The first one is of course the death, or rather, execution of Osama bin Laden. I only have a couple of opinions on this, and I will most likely get a LOT of comments for my opinions, but none the less, I shall express them. Why, for example, if in actual fact they have killed him (as opposed to him dying of natural causes) are there no pictures or evidence? The media have stated that they are not going to publish pictures as they are worried it will insight hate crimes. Fair point, but then why do ‘they’(the proverbial they) publish pictures of all the other individuals executed? Surely if the point not to publish pictures was in order to keep the peace, then really they should not have published any of them? My next observation is the footage of all the rejoicing at the news of his death. Surely everyone is entitled to a fair trial? I’m not a fan of terrorism, in fact the opposite, I think it should be punished to the full extent. But only after a fair trial where he is found guilty, and upon that, given the death penalty. Disturbing times.

The second…you guessed it, the Royal Wedding! This was such a happy occasion, and something to truly rejoice over. My only opinion on this is, whoever organised that wedding should be running the country! It ran like clockwork….except for the random escaping horse! 

Finally, Nadine Dorries MP What was she thinking?? For my more international readers, Nadine Dorries is and MP that has proposed a Bill to teach young girls abstinence. Let me be clear on this point, I have nothing against abstinence, but since when is abstinence a female responsibility!? Nadine Dorries abstinence gambit is sexist, stupid and wrong!

On that very definite note, I am still smiling, just wondering what the world is coming to….

Till next time…

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Deciding to blog about law

A few people have asked me why I decided to start blogging about law. As many of you know, I work in Public Relations at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, in this role I have to think about various channels of spreading the word about what we do. Initially this is what made me begin to think about blogging, more as an experiment to see if there was any value in a blog for my company. This blog, I must say is in my personal capacity, and not on behalf of the company. So with the decision that I wanted to start a blog, I then had to think about what I wanted to say.

I thought about all the things that I found interesting, all the possible topics I might have something to say about. All of them would make one or two interesting stories at most, and then I would have been stumped. Then, I thought about my law studies, I found myself constantly talking about all the interesting discussions that were taking place in class, as well as all the struggles I was facing working full time and studying in the evening at Birkbeck. Being an evening university, it meant that everyone else in my class was going through the same issues. Which brought me back full circle to thinking, it would be wonderful to set up a student blog where by all my class mates going through the same things, could see they are not alone, and that we are all facing the same challenges.

So I began, it wasn’t too difficult to set up, and of course a bit daunting to start on a completely blank canvass, but I decided to just delve in and see how I got on. I am now at my two month blogging anniversary, and I have to say it has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. The amount of people who I chat to now, have generally read one of my blogs, and it is a real conversation starter. I have made some great new friends at university as well, people who I probably would never have met otherwise, who read my blog and came and chatted to me about their journey. It is something that I think I will continue on a personal level, as I find it so rewarding.

That being said, my exams and assignments are all due in the next few weeks, so there is fair amount of pressure at the moment to study and get those assignments finished. So I apologies in advance if my blogs become a little less frequent. Once May is up, I will be back to my normal one a week.

As always, comments welcome.

Till next time….

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

End of term for lectures….exam time….!

It’s a wonderful feeling coming to the end of my first year of law. Looking back, I have to say it has been one of my most interesting years! I remember the excitement of that first letter of acceptance, sitting in my first law lecture, soaking it all in. Now I’m sitting at the other side of my first year, and so glad to still be here, although at the same time, amazed that time has flown by so quickly!

That being said, although lectures and seminars are finished, there is one final HUGE hurdle to pass. EXAMS….! I have several rather large essays to write as well as a couple of exams to sit. The nerves have already set in. I found myself lying awake last night thinking about what I need to do to prepare. I am already having nightmares about the exams, and they are only happening in the last two weeks of May!

Luckily I have made some great friends this year, and I am sure we will all be meeting up to share our nervousness together!

Till next time…