Archive for the ‘law students’ category

Carry on Eating

May 31st, 2011

Alex Aldridge wrote an article for the Guardian this month lampooning the dining requirements of training as a barrister.  Most surprising for me was the number of barristers who appear to read the Guardian who rushed to correct him in the comments, which probably ended up being far more informative than the article – surely a first!

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Tuition Fees

November 10th, 2010

I drafted this on the day the Browne report was published, and then decided it was too boring to post.  I post it now as point 6 came true today and I wish I’d posted it before so I could seem prophetic.  Students are angry at the Lib Dems, say the media – they were betrayed.  So why are they breaking windows at the Conservative Party offices?

Ahhhh, tuition fees.  I’ve spent about eight years talking about tuition fees.  Part of me would love to write a lengthy and referenced summary of the arguments on this blog in the naïve idea that I was contributing to a wider debate.

However, having spent eight years talking about tuition fees, I have learned enough to know that such a post would be pointless.  Instead, I offer you some baseless predictions and observations.

1.       There is no ‘reasoned argument’ to be had about tuition fees that involves institutions or students.  Institutions will repeat, ad infinitum, that they are broke and need more money to make it through another year.  They always make it through the next year.  Likewise, students will say they are broke and debt will stop them from going to university, right up until the point that they sign the loan forms.

2.       Taxpayers, the majority of whom did not attend University, resent the idea that their taxes should pay for others to do so (with the exception of those who are parents with children aged 16-21).

3.       The government will succeed in doing whatever they plan to do, as they have on the last two occasions, because, despite the media headlines and students moaning, there is quite a low political cost (sulking 18-24 year old undergrads, who become far less fussed when they become taxpayers).  Also, there are far more graduates than undergraduate students, which is why a graduate tax would have a high political cost.

4.       Those who talk lovingly about the days of the full grant forget that the full grant supported far fewer students attending even fewer universities.  There are now 130 Universities and a further 122 Further Education Colleges in receipt of funds from the Higher Education Funding Council.  If anyone could point me towards some figures from the time, I would be very grateful, but in my ignorance I guess that there were around 50 Universities in 1970.

5.       I am very very idealistic.  I think you should want to study a degree because a) your passion is a vocational subject, and the degree is prerequisite qualification for a job in that field (Medicine, Veterinary Science, Engineering, Law, Architecture etc.) or b) your passion is a particular subject and you wish to study it out of pure interest with no particular job in mind.  I don’t think either group would be massively dissuaded by higher fees because the earlier group will make a financial calculation and decide it will pay for itself, and the second group are not making a financial calculation at all.  Those that fall into neither category, and have been told that a degree in anything will bolster their employment prospects for any job have received awful careers advice and are right to think very carefully about whether they will get a return on their investment when compared to an extra 3 years early entry into the job market.

6.       There was a time in British history when student action was a genuinely worrying prospect.  This time has long past, and the NUS will be as ineffective at opposing the increase this time as it has been the last two times.  They will, however, be more vitriolic in their opposition, as they no longer need to tread carefully when considering their personal future in politics.  Their desired employer is now the opposition and not the party suggesting the increase.

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Can You Buy a Pupillage?

March 18th, 2010

I have quite an important career related interview in the not too distant future, where a group of very established barristers will ponder if I have the potential to succeed in their world.  Understandably, I’m a little nervous and have been haranguing people at every opportunity, not to mention scouring the Internet, to try to be as prepared as I can for my interrogation.  Hopefully, something working in my favour is the intention to make the Bar a little more diverse and remove the presumption that you ride into the profession on the back of a trust fund (excuse the lazy cliche).

So imagine my surprise when I discovered http://www.oxbridgetrainingcontracts.com/pupillage.php.

Clearly not a modest company, they are happy to announce:

Oxbridge Training Contracts™ is not just for training contract applicants. We also empower people who aspire to complete pupillage, a necessary stage before beginning life as a fully-fledged Barrister, and we have special expertise in providing fully customised Model OLPAS Form Essays and in Editing completed OLPAS Form Essays. We at Oxbridge Training Contracts™ know how hard it is to get a pupillage. Our services are organised so as to maximise your chances of successfully navigating the application process.

We contract a growing team of Barristers, Pupils, and Legal 500 ’Band 1 or 2’ Pupils-to-be to provide applicants pupillage-seekers with a wide range of services, from simple Cover-Letters and CVs or Model Application Essays on the OLPAS form, to a ‘Magic Service’ including Interview Preparation and specialist Consultations, enabling you to find and get into the optimum Chambers for you.

As a guide, they’ll complete your OLPAS form for you for a mere £650, interview prep for £150 p/h,  or a “magic service” for £4,500 (I wonder if that includes the brown envelope and delivery to the head of the interview panel?!*)  If I try really hard, I can almost see the justification for this part of the business.  However, offering the same services for Inn Scholarship applications seems pretty distasteful.  If I was seeking a training contract, I would also be disturbed by the idea of a HR lunch.

I have two problems.  Firstly, I don’t have £4,500, and I don’t think I could persuade Natwest to add it to my professional loan.  Secondly, having had my application form drafted by their “experienced Oxbridge-educated and Magic Circle ….lawyers, trainees and lawyers-to-be, as well as Barristers, Pupils” it will promptly become apparent when walking into the interview that I am none of these things and have essentially cheated my way in.

They contend that those with families in law or attending top universities essentially get the same services for free, and so they are simply levelling the playing field.

Either way, I think I was happier before I knew they existed.

(I apologise to any normal humans for my current fixation on inside-the-profession posts rather than more general topics… It’s just where my mind is for the moment, I promise to broaden my horizons next week.)

* This is a joke, I am not suggesting there is anything dishonest about this company but I can’t afford their services or a libel lawyer, so I’m sure they operate an incredibly professional and decent operation.  This service refers to a very lengthy process of support throughout the application process.

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Daily Little Law Links

February 25th, 2010

There is a higher education theme to today’s post.

The Times reports on the case of a lecturer who claimed unfair dismissal from Bournemouth University, which found another marker to review student papers after they had been failed by this lecturer and his colleague. Considered narrowly, the judgement seems to be a good example of an implied trust and confidence term being found, and more broadly raises questions about standards in universities. Law graduates, perhaps more than most subjects, are partially reliant on the perceived teaching quality of their alma maters’ in securing employment, so the doubts raised by this case are unhelpful. At least in theory Qualifying Law Degrees are monitored by the Bar Standard’s Board.

Which neatly leads on to Charon QC’s blog post on the BSB’s inspection of BPP. As this is quite an obscure subject, Charon’s take (as one of the founders of BPP) makes interesting reading. I find myself firmly on the fence with my thoughts. On the one hand, the free-marketeer in me thinks they should be allowed to sell the course to as many as they feel able to teach effectively. The BVC (now BPTC) fees are very high among all the London providers and well beyond the cost of studying a Master’s degree. More places and more providers would increase competition and theoretically lower prices. On the other hand, the next step for these students is a pupillage and there are (I think) roughly five BVC graduates competing for each available pupillage every year. Those four unsuccessful candidates are left with a very expensive postgraduate qualification of limited value for employment away from the Bar. Finally, basic self-interest makes me quite nervous about the idea of them being ultra-careful about the number of offers made this year (though I might reconsider that if it was me forced to sit on the floor during lectures!).

Lastly, yesterday I ranted about the Prime Minister and said that the topic warranted a post to itself. Well, MTPT has done just that, including comment on the guidelines, which were released today. Do have a read…

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Daily Little Law Links

November 24th, 2009

Students Edition

A short break from the news to bring you three items that have interested or alarmed me recently in student land.

  • Firstly, a mention of the LSE Law Careers Blog, which is excellent, up to date and has some interesting guest posts like this one from James Wakefield of Kaplan Law School.  I wish I was an LSE student!
  • Sadly however, I am closer to the part of the Higher Education sector that features in this article in which we learn that all of the London Met Board of Governors have been asked to “consider their position”. I may have misunderstood, but I think the intention is for that to be read as “we are so astounded by your incompetence and the betrayal of some of the most vulnerable students in higher education that we think you should be ashamed to show your faces in public ever again”. I could be mistaken.
  • Finally UCL, the first University in England founded on a secular basis and to admit men and women on equal terms, seems to be forgetting its legacy. It has invited a controversial Islamist preacher to speak on its campus. Having enjoyed many a beer (or other concoctions during the infamous “Fives”) at the UCL bars, I dare Mr Usamah to repeat his belief that:

” [a] woman, even if she gets a Phd, deficient. Her intellect is incomplete, deficient”

I learned about it from Sky’s Tim Marshall

UPDATE 25/11/09:  UCL have confirmed the event has now been cancelled.

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