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Peter Hoskin in January 2012 famously in the Spectator published his version of the Richard Reeves’ famous “different strategy” of the Liberal Democrats as this parliament progressed.
When I tweeted briefly yesterday evening that David Cameron had acquired Obama’s advisor, Jim Messina, my followers who are UK Labour supporters were distinctly underwhelmed. They certainly did not share the naked excitement of Allegra Stratton, the BBC Newsnight’s political editor who was behaving as if she’d won the National Lottery. My followers instead loyally to took this to mean that more people were needed to clean up after the shambolic implementation of policies, such as #RacistVan. Many stuck to the reasonable line that the number of electoral advisers is not strongly correlated with coherence of political ideology, nor indeed electoral success. That of course will be good for Ed Miliband, who currently has no official electoral “campaign head”, although he has a strong policy steer from Lord Stewart Wood. The media are obsessed about the scalp of Lynton Crosby, and some extent they have already obtained the scalp of Tom Watson MP. However, Owen Jones on the BBC ‘Any Questions’ debate last night was quite correct to identify that, even if he personally does not agree with it, the main thrust of the Conservative Policy is in fact very clear: e.g. chucking out of the country illegal immigrants, or being tough on those people who don’t believe ‘it pays to work’. The implementation of both of the policies of course has been cack-handed, in that the Home Office continue to use the #immigrationoffenders hashtag completely ignoring the issue that suspects only become convicts if tried with due process in a legal court of war. In fact, the use of the hashtag not only offends the legal presumption of innocence, but it also potentially runs into problems with ‘contempt of court’. Nobody likewise fundamentally disagrees with the ‘it pays to work’ idea, but resent of course the scapegoating of unemployed citizens, deplore the attitude of ‘zero hours contracts’ as alleged for multi-national companies, with an abject failure to understand the ‘work credits’ policy. However, the Conservatives are ably assisted by a BBC which maintains that it maintains editorial standards upholding ‘accuracy, balance and lack of bias’, even in the face of high profile failures such as the John Humphrys decision. The Government can get away with a huge amount of misrepresentation, particularly ironic in their ambition for transparency and openness, as the debacles concerning the NHS funding and Iain Duncan Smith’s department demonstrate.
What Owen Jones has identified is that the Government appears to have a ‘vision’. Margaret Thatcher had a ‘vision’ too, which many people still profoundly disagree with. ‘Being Ed Miliband’ is pretty predictable though. For Ed, some things go well, some things go not so well. For example, his 2010 conference speech on ‘responsible capitalism’ in Liverpool was widely panned to be to a bit of a ‘turkey’, but many argued that he called it right in fact on the illegal phone hacking allegations of corporates. To give him credit, the wider ideological battle has been progressing well with him, in that policies such as workfare, where corporates abuse their power, curries favour with the public. The public also have taken to the outsourcing scandals like ducks to water, fully resentful against G4s, A4e, and Harmoni for their widely reported problems. The slight poll-lead of Labour one could argue could be greater, but it is easy to overestimate the amount of disunity in the Conservative Party. The Conservatives have had a good few months, having parked the issue about the EU referendum for now, and most importantly with the UK economy having appeared to have turned a corner at 0.6% growth. Ed Balls always had a substantial problem with the fact that he had signed up to the austerity agenda, which appears to be delivering (despite the fact that the UK economy is much more crippled than it otherwise should have been, had it followed the lead of Barack Obama). The Labour Party appears to have been voiceless over the attack on employees’ rights (in unfair dismissal claims). On the Bedroom Tax, it gives a muddled message where it appears to object to it, but does not quite commit convincingly to repealing it if it were to come into office and power on its own in May 2015. As for disability issues, many disabled citizens are left utterly confused on what Labour’s precise stance about ‘universal credit’, and how it does not seem to have any opinions on the steady stream of citizens who have committed suicide on the distress of their benefits decisions.
There are two things to form a strategy for. One is Ed Miliband, and one is Labour, though their relative fortunes are necessarily linked. You can have a reasonable ‘go’ at branding Ed Miliband as the ‘decisive leader’ on the left, despite the usual predictable reports that he can’t make up his mind what type of wine to drink (he has to drink rosé as he can’t make up his mind between red and white). This is all rather reminiscent of how Gordon Brown was also alleged not to be able to make up his mind over what type of coffee biscuit to eat, though ultimately the ‘dithering’ mistake which ultimately cost Brown his career was not this coffee biscuit problem but a problem concerning when to hold the 2010 general election. For me, the fundamental problem is that Labour does not have a clear “differentiation policy” of its own. One massive lack of differentiation remains the economy, where Ed Balls somehow has to concede ‘success’ for the Conservatives while saying that he would like to do something differently. However, Balls does not seem to wish to do anything markedly differently, as he has signed up to the same ‘austerity cuts’, not particularly winning him friends in the Unions with low pay conditions. Labour can of course remedy this by saying that it will fundamentally redesign the economy anyway such living standards are a top priority, such as with implementing a national living wage (either through law or not). However, Labour’s determination not to ‘tax and spend’, and not particularly to wish to do anything aggressive on the rich-power divide which has been bad in all governments since Thatcher to varying degrees, might fundamentally undermine this potential argument for ‘fairness’ many desire. Also, on the NHS, Ed Miliband is not actually signed up to anything fundamentally different for the NHS. Andy Burnham MP is the man who ‘is driving the Conservatives round the bend’, according to Isabel Hardman from the Spectator, because all attempts to smear him have gone belly up. However, Burnham also knows that he is not fundamentally signed up to anything vastly different when it comes to efficiency savings or PFI. The Government could of course potentially get the big four accountancy firms to advise on how it could creatively avoid tax to salvage £20bn in efficiency savings before 2020, or could decide to stop allegedly illegal wars abroad, to make up this ‘funding gap’ in the NHS. However, apart from repealing the Act which builds on the direction of the NHS competition boards set up under Labour and reducing the private income cap of s.164(1)(2A) of the Health and Social Care Act, Labour does not have a drastically different offering on the NHS apart from repeating the tired mantra that “Labour is the party of the NHS”.
Actually, as a Labour voter, I don’t actually really care whether the Liberal Democrats self-destruct or not. I am vaguely interested in whether they might wish to go into a Coalition with the Labour Party 2015, but I suspect this would not be a popular move amongst many members of the Labour Party I know. Anyway, I don’t think it’s going to happen with Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander in the higher echelons of the Liberal Democrat Party. Vince Cable for them can be easily ringfenced as a one-man protest party, so I do not expect him to have much influence and power in that party, unless his guru Lord Oakeshott can go into turbodrive with a campaign should Nick Clegg decide to fall on his sword. On the other hand, people do tend to have very short memories in politics, so ordinary voters might have somewhat forgotten about the closure of libraries, the NHS reforms, the education support allowance, welfare reforms, the economy, all decent policies where the Liberal Democrats have well and truly shafted members of Labour (and the more left-thinking members of their own party.) On the other hand, another factor governs the fate of Labour apart from the performance of Ed Miliband. That factor, whether the Liberal Democrats can rise like a phoenix from the ashes, could yet produce a problem for Labour, but while this Liberal Democrats seem totally signed up to crackpot policies such as #racistvan and lack of plain packaging cigarettes, there is no sign that the Liberal Democrats wish to leave their suicide pact yet. They know full well that if they do, David Cameron will be ecstatic, and their party meanwhile is fucked.
R (on the application of LB of Lewisham and others) v Secretary of State for Health and the TSA for South London Hospitals NHS Trust High Court of Justice (Queen’s Bench Division) Administrative Court  EWHC 2329 (Admin)
None of this of course was ever meant to happen (except it was, because the history is elegantly deciphered in “NHS SOS”, edited by Tallis and Davis). Remember this?
The Lewisham decision was taken relating to a specific legal problem, in a particular place at a particular time. Judge Silber therefore applied the law to that particular situation, and he specifically did not wish to go into the merits of the case. He just looked at how the decision was taken, which was a bad mess. Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Health, either received bad legal advice, or chose to ignore the legal advice he was given. There are useful lessons to be learnt from the judgment (“Judgment”) though, which is a beautiful piece of work. Certain issues were avoided altogether, such as how next to proceed (is there a need for a reconsultation? who should now make the decision? The Judgment does not discuss whether neoliberal economics produces the best outcome for patients in the National Health Service, nor does it opine on the eventual consequences of failure regimes around the country. It takes the case law further, but the danger is that too much can be read into its significance. However, in terms of morale and confidence, this was undoubtedly a much needed ‘boost’ for the patients, public and clinicians of Lewisham.
At the root of the problem, the Prime Minister had said:-
“What the Government and I specifically promised was that there should be no closures or reorganisations unless they had support from the GP commissioners, unless there was proper public and patient engagement and unless there was an evidence base. Let me be absolutely clear: unlike under the last Government when these closures and changes were imposed in a top-down way, if they do not meet those criteria, they will not happen.”
The draftsman of the parliamentary legislation is aware of the problem posed by the Secretary of State having a duty to provide a comprehensive NHS. This is, of course, the major faultline in English health policy, with both the Conservatives and Labour truly adamant about ‘comprehensive, free-at-the-point of use, universal’, while stories appear all the time – in a drip-drip fashion – about the manifestations of rationing. Again, Silber can only refer to the law as it was at the time in para. 61:
61 All these matters have to be considered against the background that under Section 1 of the 2006 Act, the Secretary of State has the duty of continuing the promotion in England of a comprehensive health service. Section 3 of the 2006 Act specifies the Secretary of State’s duty to provide or arrange the provision of a wide range of services (including hospital accommodation and services) to such extent as he considers necessary to meet all reasonable requirements. Section 2 gives the Secretary of State the power to provide other services as he considers appropriate for the purpose of discharging any duties conferred on him by the 2006 Act.
Against this is the backdrop that each NHS Trust is a separate financial and clinical entity, allowing for units to be ‘ringfenced’ as or when they run into financial or clinical problems. The problem has emerged where the parliamentary draftsman has found himself producing every voluminous legislation to cover any eventual possibility, which is why Silber is able to state confidently as a point of legal fact at para. 76:
76 It is clear that each NHS Trust is a separate entity, and this issue raises questions of statutory interpretation.
The tension in reconciling the needs of the entire National Health Service and local resource of allocation, of course, had to be addressed, and indeed it was. What is certain is the extent to which national policy will be sketched out for the strategic and operational management of the entire NHS, calling into question the mantra of Andy Burnham MP, “putting the ‘N’ back into NHS”.
81 Third, the Parliamentary draftsman chose to distinguish between “the interests of the Health Service” and those of the Trust.
What clearly emerged yesterday was that any-old promise does not produce a ‘legitimate expectation’ in this jurisdiction. This of course will also be great news for Nick Clegg after his tuition fees fiasco. Indeed, in my blogpost of July 7th 2013 for the “Socialist Health Association”, I wrote the following:
“And what about the actual law? R v. Inland Revenue Commissioners ex parte MFK Underwriting Agents Limited (1991) WLR 1545 in which Bingham LJ and Judge J stated that, for a statement to give rise to a legitimate expectation, it must be:
“clear, unambiguous and devoid of relevant qualification” (para. 1570)
The promise has to be made by the decision maker: R (on the application of Bloggs) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 686,  1 WLR 2724. Further the promise must be made by someone with actual, or ostensible, authority, otherwise the decision will be ultra vires: South Buckinghamshire DC v Flanaghan  EWCA Civ 690,  1 WLR 2601. The promise has to be made by the decision maker: R (on the application of Bloggs) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 686,  1 WLR 2724. Further the promise must be made by someone with actual, or ostensible, authority, otherwise the decision will be ultra vires:South Buckinghamshire DC v Flanaghan  EWCA Civ 690,  1 WLR 2601.”
Justice Silber felt, like me, that there could be no legitimate expectation:
99. In this case, the Secretary of State was merely saying that he intended to rely on the Chapter 5A regime which is a rapid decision-making process in which services can be properly configured, but only provided that certain requirements were met. Indeed in his statement, the Secretary of State was saying nothing more than that he proposed to rely on the statutory regime which included certain requirements to consult. This was uncontroversial and does not alter what the Secretary of State was obliged to do.
100. In my view, the Minister’s statement relied on by the Campaign cannot give rise to a legitimate expectation because as a matter of general principle the undertaking or promise which gives rise to the alleged legitimate expectation must be, in the words of Bingham LJ, “clear, unambiguous and devoid of relevant qualification” (R v Inland Revenue Commissions, ex parte MFK Underwriting Agencies Limited  WLR 1545 at 1569).
Having said there was no ‘legitimate expectation’, I felt it was quite generous of Silber nonetheless to consider the ‘promise’ in para 112:
112. The four reconfiguration requirements were designed for local service reconfigurations and not for decisions under Chapter 5A of the 2006 Act, which is, as I have explained, an expedited and emergency procedure. Paragraph 39 of the Statutory Guidance states that:-
“In assisting the Secretary of State to make a final decision on the future of the organisation, [the TSA] should have regard to the Secretary of State’s four key tests for service change in developing his or her recommendations i.e. local reconfiguration plans must demonstrate support from GP commissioners, strengthened public and patient engagement, clarity on the clinical evidence base and support for patient choice.”. (Emphasis added)
And all of this is a legacy of the Lansley bygone era. Lansley’s “promise” may have been politically expedient at the time, but clearly had not escaped the attention of Silber:
109. In an article in the Daily Telegraph on the following day, Mr Andrew Lansley, M.P., who was then the Secretary of State, explained the new principles stating that they “will not merely be another tick-box exercise – it will be a tough test which every proposal must pass if it is to succeed”.
It had even been sufficient for Sir David Nicholson to confirm this:
123 The Claimants point out that after his initial letter of 20 May 2010, Sir David Nicholson wrote again to all NHS Chief Executives on 29 July 2010 referring again to these four new requirements explaining that “the Secretary of State has also made it clear that GP Commissioners will lead local changes in the future”.
124. The letter also attached a document entitled “Applying the Reconfiguration Test”. Under the heading entitled “Support from GP Commissioners”, the process is defined in this way and with emphasis added:-
“Local commissioners and consortia should review the current evidence of engagement with GPs and the level of support and consensus for a proposed service change. As GP/practice based commissioning structures vary across the country, local commissioners will need to take an appropriate view as to how best to gather this evidence, with PCTs supporting this process where required. Commissioners will need to consider the engagement that may need to take place with practices whose patients will be significantly affected by the case for change, inviting views and facilitating a full dialogue were necessary”.
Where the Judgment really comes into its own is at this point. It first of all accepts that the consultation which took place, in terms of patient engagement, “worked”:
141 The engagement with patients and the public also occurred through patient and public advisory groups as well as in individual meetings with representatives of many local involvement networks and focus groups. There was also formal consultation on the draft recommendation with 27,000 full consultation documents and 10,000 summary documents distributed through 2000 locations across South East London.
However, the judicial consideration of the extent to which ‘patient choice’ matters is clearly set out in para. 166. While this might seem like a rather terse exercise in statutory interpretation, it is obviously significant as to whether any one group of patients, however articulate, can ‘veto’ a progress of policy. This wider nuanced interpretation is very helpful, in that it allows clinicians also to have their say about patient issues legitimately:
166. Mr Phillips submits correctly that this requirement to be “consistent with” in this requirement cannot and does not mean “the same as”. The Secretary of State was quite entitled to accept the view that concentrating clinical sites to drive up clinical quality so that although it inevitably reduces patient’s choice, it still increases choice between high quality services.
There are discussions to be had about whether CCGs will be impressed about the ‘snake oil’ nature of ‘more for less’ (which is rapidly becoming ‘less for less’, or even ‘less for more’, as some NHS budgets become subsumed in paying off high-interest loans for PFI arrangements). The ‘more for less’ philosophy is of course pervasive in the pitches for CCGs in the philosophy of making existant staff ‘working more effectively’ or working ‘more imaginatively’. Whilst integrated teams, downsizing clinical specialisms, may appear to save money to make Nicholson savings work, coupled with unsafe doctor:bed or nursing:bed ratios, a highly toxic mix of ‘front door firefighting’ might emerge, leaving only HSMRs much later down the line to pick up any damage done possibly. Of course, the platitude that it can all be done in the community might sound nice, but it is not so much if the decisions of Consultants leads to quick-fix TIA management leading to full-blown haemorrhagic strokes. This of course is a personal tragedy for the patient, as well as a hole in the budget for NHS managers. Nor indeed, a quick-fix unstable angina management leading to a full-blown coronary artery bypass graft. The NHS will remain crippled with the implementation of a “jam tomorrow” philosophy, but there are lots of clever salesmen out there to pull the wool over the eyes of vulnerable people.
However, the Lewisham result is monumental. It restores faith in the idea that the views of clinicians, public and the patients matter. It is hugely important that the judiciary should say to the legislature that the Secretary of State acted outside the law – he actually UNLAWFULLY. It restores faith in the idea that somebody will listen to it all fairly. It restores faith in the idea that nobody is above the law. Whilst the focus of the Lewisham judgment was focused on Lewisham policy issues, there are, as argued above, huge implications for the rest of English health policy, and, crucially, the manner and style in which it is conducted. Lack of even ‘shotgun diplomacy’ is no longer an option. Certain people, especially Jeremy Hunt, will have to tread very carefully. Finally, I should like to pay a personal tribute a huge army of people involved in this. It would be unfair to single out particular individuals, but please do allow me to say thank you to @jos21, @carolmbrown, @drmarielouise, @lewishamcouncil, @goonerjanet, @savelewishamAE, @snigskitchen and @drjackydavis (list not to be read “expressio unius est exclusio alterius” as the lawyers say.)
Different recruiters will have their own ways of assessing these forms. Some look at the holistic nature of the form, more than others. Some require cover letters, but others do not, and such firms put a lot on emphasis on their cover letters. This document is not supposed to provide the substrate of a ‘perfect answer’ for the “marking matrix” used by these firms, but is supposed to provide clues as to the rationale for asking the question in the first place.
Competencies are knowledge and skills statements and not task statements. For example: conducting the meetings is a task. In order to do so, one needs required competency. Therefore, in this case the required competency is the combination of skills to make an agenda, to promote a healthy group process, to resolve conflicts, to manage time etc.
- Be clear in your own mind why you want to join the firm and why you wish to become a commercial lawyer. What is it that really interests you about the work we do? Match what you’ve got to what they’re looking for. Most employers nowadays select against criteria. The more precisely you match them, the harder it is for them to avoid interviewing you! A detailed list of what they’re looking for often comes with the application form but, if not, go systematically through their website or recruitment literature; you may find it especially useful to look at their graduate recruitment pages, especially “what we’re looking for” and any statements of competences or shared values of the firm. Knowing precisely what they want will help you match up your own qualities when you complete the form.
- You’re applying to a commercial law firm so you will be expected to know about the world of business and the issues that affect the firm and its clients. It’s probably worth your while if you identify one or two key business or legal news stories that interest you and follow them for at least a few weeks before the interviews, so you can talk quite broadly about the main issues.
- Take your time. Look at various websites, brochures, careers fairs, presentations, and other online resources like http://www.allaboutcareers.com/ . Time spent preparing is time well spent. It’ll make those “why do you want to work for us?” questions so much easier. With longer forms you may need to break it into chunks, filling the form in over two or three sessions.
- Make it easy for the graduate recruitment officer. Give your answers a clear structure. Directly match the skills they want to your own, using headings if necessary. Think about what sets you apart from other applicants. This is your chance to sell yourself, so use a range of examples from both inside and out of university to highlight your skills and achievements.
- Where’s the evidence? Many applications lack the individuality injected by small bits of specific detail which make them come alive. Give relevant interesting examples - go into detail. Make every effort to include practical examples of when and where you’ve demonstrated the skills they want.
- Don’t be modest. Application forms (and interviews) are all about letting people know what we’re good at.
- Treat it like an exam i.e. answer the question! Recognise a multi-part question and tackle all its parts separately, using sub-??headings or breaking it up into paragraphs. Treat each bit separately – don’t smudge it into a single answer.
- Don’t be afraid of your failures. Application forms can read like an unstinting list of successes. It’s sometimes worth going on to analyse the lessons learned – why did things go wrong, how might you do them differently next time?
- Vary it! Get together a list of examples you might use. You can call on all sorts of things - holidays, summer jobs, flatshares, voluntary work, committees. Then go through the form, considering which example is strongest for each of the answers. Think about the job you’re applying for, and try to use the most relevant examples.
- Don’t overdo the academic. Employers seek rounded individuals, adept in a number of situations, not people whose main experience of teamwork, achievement, challenge and communication comes through their course.
- Attention to detail is a key skill for a lawyer and this starts with your application, so check thoroughly for grammar and spelling errors. his is the number one training contract application mistake to avoid on every recruiter’s list. There are good reasons for this. It is something that can be easily avoided. Quickly pasting your work into a word processor for a grammar and spelling check should get most of the job done. Printing a hard copy and proof reading it, with a pen in hand, will do the rest. Do this when you are completely cold to what you have written, the next morning for example. Making these types of mistakes shows a lack of attention to detail, which is not taken lightly by prospective employers. Given the type of service that Law firms provide to their clients, attention to detail is especially important. Errors in drafted legal documents expose cracks in a firm’s amour of professionalism. You can imagine that a client will then start to question the firm’s competence in other less visible but more important areas. Drafting errors also provide ammunition for the opposite side and their lawyers. In the manoeuvreing that happen during negotiations it is much harder to hold your ground and assert your side of the argument if your work is being questioned for lack of quality.
- Copy and pasting. There are no shortcuts to a well-written and constructed application. Next to spelling and grammar errors, cutting and pasting from other sources is not only a waste of time with applications, but also easy enough to detect. Copying and pasting is often betrayed by inappropriate or incorrect information. Addressing the application to the wrong person or company happens all too often.
? “Give an example of ..”
Competency-based questions often involve you demonstrating these key attributes so really think about the answers you give and explain your examples in full. Examples should have a clear structure to highlight your skills and achievements but remember to answer the question succinctly. If you need help with structure, you may want to think about the STAR technique:
A good way of dealing with this type of question is by using the CAR approach. CAR stands for Context, Action, Result. It helps you to structure your answer as a convincing way. The CONTEXT forms an introduction, describing the scenario you faced, date and place. The ACTION forms the main body and should be the longest part. The RESULT is the conclusion, and, like the introduction, should be quite short.
Other aspects might include:
- Try to give quantifiable results if possible.
- If the result was negative, then say what you learned from the experience, and what you would do differently next time. Sometimes interviewers will ask you about a situation where you were unsuccessful. This is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate how well you learn lessons from failure, but also to demonstrate qualities such as resilience (to bounce back and try again); determination; strength of character (when the going gets tough, the tough get going!); flexibility; initiative; and lateral thinking. There is a saying that “The most successful people have failed the most” as the best way to learn is via your mistakes.
- Don’t go into too much background detail – keep to the point! Often there isn’t enough room to use the CAR approach, but it’s still worth keeping in mind when you prepare your draft answer. Think of the most relevant examples, rather than the most “impressive”.
- Use action verbs to improve your content.
“[X] has minimum academic requirements, so before completing our application form please give careful consideration to the following questions:
Do you have 3 A levels at grades A, B, B or equivalent? (N.B. Taken in one sitting and NOT including General Studies.
Have you gained or are you realistically expecting to gain a minimum 2.1 honours degree or equivalent?
Have you previously made an unsuccessful application to ?”
Multiple languages can be added by selecting the language, and fluency levels.
Percentage grades are now required for undergraduate and postgraduate subject results. You are required to ensure that your institution details and results are correct. You must include at least one secondary and one undergraduate record (including all results). You are also obliged to provide a complete breakdown of all your grades by subject, obtained during secondary school and university. Please list your all of your GCSEs and A’? Levels or international equivalent.
? “How did you hear about us?”
Various options are given. See also the section on “Firm choice” below.
You are normally required to enter details of two employers at least, sometimes one academic and one vocational.
? Other details
Excluding motor offences not resulting in a custodial sentence or disqualification from driving, have you ever had a criminal conviction (including any spent conviction which, by virtue of the Rehabilitation of Offenders (Exceptions) Order 1975, should be disclosed)?
You will need to disclose any criminal convictions anyway if you wish to gain student enrolment with the Solicitors Regulation Authority to do the Legal Practice Course.
Do you have any disability for which you require any assistance for during the selection process?
As well as being a practical point such that “reasonable adjustments” can be made for any assessments you do, including for online assessments, the law firm will be interested in issues of accessibility for the place in which you have your interview/other assessments, or any necessary adjustments (e.g. special lighting, ergonomic chair) consistent with the Equality Act .
? Work experience
Please set out details of your work experience. (Normally 4 + “others”)
Many large solicitors’ firms run formal work experience schemes, generally known as vacation placements. As well as shadowing solicitors and completing small, discrete tasks there may well be presentations about the firm and its work and a number of social events. Unsurprisingly, vacation placements are extremely popular – it can be harder to get onto one than to get a training contract. Most vacation placements will have fixed closing dates. As well as spending time with a solicitors’ firm, other good forms of legal experience include volunteering at a Citizens Advice Bureau or law centre.
? Detailed questions
? Activities, interests, positions of responsibility
Please give brief details of your key non-academic extra-curricular hobbies, activities, leisure interests, highlighting any positions of responsibility whether at school, university or otherwise.
Describe your biggest achievement and/or most demanding position of responsibility you have held to date; why did this achievement stand out for you, and what did you learn from this?
This question is trying to assess how you manage your time. What have you been or are you doing whilst studying at university or Law School? If you are involved with any sporting or charity work tell them all about it - be specific. Talk about what you have done, what contribution that has made and what you gained from your involvement. These activities provide opportunities to develop skills that will be useful at work and your response should show that you understand this. A simple list of things that look good is less important than offering evidence of what you’ve gained from them. If possible, show how your interests have developed your skills, for example in teamwork, business awareness, or communication. Try to show results in terms of objectives set and achieving improvements. These sections are often quite tight, so some say it’s permissible to provide an answer in note form.
Please provide details of any academic prizes, distinctions, skills, scholarships and any other noteworthy achievements. In the case of skills please specify level of proficiency.
Sometimes the question will specify which “level” of your education these refer to, e.g. school, college or university.
? Firm specification
Please explain why you think you are well suited to , and have chosen to apply to  for a training contract or vacation scheme placement? why you think you would make a successful trainee?
[X] is a leading UK law firm. How do you think we are distinct from other law firms?
All [X] trainee solicitors are based in our [Y] office. Please give your reasons for choosing to live in or around and train at the [Y] office.
Again this question is trying to determine your commitment to a career and specifically your commitment to their particular law firm. Recruiters look for motivation, commitment and enthusiasm. So, why have you chosen them? Is it because you have spoken to trainees and like the sound of the firm’?s working environment? Have you researched their work and found a specific case / area interesting? Do you have relevant industrial experience? Do you have a language or are from a country that they have clients / offices in? Is there something particular about their training that appeals to you? Show that you have done your research about the firm and that you are genuinely interested in them.
Apparently most law students do extensive research in fact into their choice of firm. It’s also worth noting that @AllAboutCareers and @AllAboutLaw are very helpful in this regard, as well as “The Training Contract Handbook”.
? Career motivation
What qualities do you think you possess to be a successful lawyer in location [X] with [Y]? Which areas of law interest you and why?
Please explain what attracts you to a career as a solicitor at an international business law firm, with reference to other careers that you might have considered and why you chose not to pursue them.
This question tries to determine your commitment to a career in law: the thinking and research you have done about the profession and what you want from a career as a lawyer. Can you demonstrate enough commitment and interest in law to persuade the firm to invest money and time in you for the Graduate Diploma in Law, Legal Practice Course and/or training contract? This may seem an obvious question but do you really know why you want to be a solicitor or barrister – think hard about it, this may be asked at interview.
If you can produce a convincing answer to this question you’re one step ahead. Think about what first sparked your interest in law, or what you like most about it. Maybe being a solicitor was your childhood dream, or maybe it runs in the family. Whatever the case, you need to show that you are passionate about the law. With all the academic requirements and vocational training, becoming a solicitor is a long-term project. To be offered a law training contract you need to show that you have the passion and the drive to see it through to the end.
Be specific in your reasons for choosing a legal career. Have you had any relevant work experience that has helped you to see first hand what a lawyer actually does? Have you had any personal experience of the work of a lawyer – perhaps through family or friends? Even if you have done pro bono in a law centre or a CAB, has this experience been useful in you understanding generic skills such as teamwork, communication or meeting deadlines? Has your law course or degree furthered your interest and commitment to law? Have you developed a substantial interest in access-to-justice? Have you had any relevant experience that has developed skills that would be easily transferable to a career as a lawyer?
The work of solicitors is more varied than you might think. There are a number of different settings in which solicitors work, for example commercial, private or in-house practice. You should be aware of the differences between the various settings, but if you’re not, do some research. Find out about the kind of role you might find yourself in if you were to go for commercial practice, for example. Is this what you hoped for when you embarked upon your law studies? If not, look into the other options. Being aware of your preferences is vital when choosing a firm with whom you want to carry out your training. Not only will it make what you learn more worthwhile, but you will find it easier to choose a firm. The firm will also find it easier to choose you.
For most training contract applicants, the choice boils down to the simple question: “Do I work in London, or do I work for a local regional firm? This is something of a personal choice, with implications that will affect your quality of life and your career. The largest firms are based in London and the legal market which circles the capital’s financial services industry is one of the most lucrative in the world. This translates into higher average pay packets for London solicitors. Aside from the careers benefits to choosing London, trainees can enjoy all the social and cultural activities that the cosmopolitan city has to offer. However, the cost of living is higher in London and you will have to content with the traffic and rush hour crushes on the tube. Working hours are often longer at London firms and you may find a more attractive work-life balance at firms outside of the capital. The choice, as always, is yours.
? Commercial awareness
Identify a current commercial article that you read or a recent event from the business world which has attracted your attention recently. Why do you consider it to be significant? Who are the key stakeholders in this situation and what are the implications for those concerned?
Business acumen and commercial awareness are important elements to becoming a successful solicitor. Please outline, in your opinion, why you think this would be important and tell us about a time when you’ve demonstrated your abilities in this area. What was the occasion and what impact did possessing this awareness have over the final outcome?
Choose a sector group of the firm and summarise the biggest challenges and opportunities they will face in the future.
Commercial awareness is something that firms almost without exception mention as a desirable quality. Commercial awareness is generally defined as a candidate’?s general knowledge of business. It can be summed up as an interest in business and an understanding of the wider environment in which an organisation operates: its customers and competitors. For corporates, this is about establishing “competitive advantage”, and it’s often interesting to work out how companies enter new markets (especially the BRIC emerging economies), and what barriers there might be for companies competing effectively in critical markets.
Commercial awareness generally means an understanding of a client’?s business and the industry or sector in which it operates. It is a key competency for applicants. It involves not only keeping up to date with commercial issues and it is also about being able to demonstrate commercial awareness through any business/work experience and, specifically, the applicant’s understanding of the type of firm to which they are applying. Clients seek business solutions, presented in a way that makes sense. An understanding that a law firm operates in a competitive industry is also considered as being commercially aware.
As a result you may be expected to demonstrate an understanding as to how the firm or chambers markets itself to its clients. To know who the firm’s main competitors are. To explain how you would attract a potential client by explaining the unique selling points of the firm (USPs). For example, if you’re applying to a foreign firm, it’s not inconceivable you could be asked who the major players are in that particular market (e.g. the US market). In addition to this you will be expected to know about the practice areas in which the firm or chambers operate and to be aware of key changes in legislation and the economic market which may affect the way in which they operate.
Have you done a LL.M. in international commercial law where you might have gained important experience in drafting or case analysis in this particular field of law? Have you even done a M.B.A. where you have studied business management in great detail? You could also think about participating in any student societies where you are doing the GDL or LPC – these are very active the vast majority of “learning providers”.
Mention any business/commercial experience you have had, including non-legal work and/or roles which involve dealing with clients or members of the public. Have you ever been a Director of a private limited company yourself? This can highlight your awareness of customer needs and expectations. Were you ever given the task of improving a current service or product? Did you add value to it? If so, how did you go about it, what factors did you have to take into consideration? Are you able to identify the long term and short term goals of an organisation or a project?
Thinking in terms of a SWOT (the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the firm or legal sector can be helpful.
Did you have a key role in any society committees at school or university? Were you given a financial role? Any of these can be good indicators that you have had to think about different perspectives in the market place.
Have you ever raised money for a charity, secured sponsorship for an event? What process did you go through to secure the funds? Read the business press regularly. Try to know something about current leading stories/issues, and how they might have an impact on the firm’s clients. Look out for stories that will affect the firm to which you are applying, or its clients, directly or indirectly.
Look at the BBC news and business website. Read also publications like the Financial Times, the Economist, and The Lawyer. There are business related programmes on BBC Radio which are also available to listen again on-??line and as podcasts such as:
The Bottom Line (with @EvanHD) http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/bottomline “Insight into business from the people at the top. Evan Davis meets influential business leaders for a round table conversation about the issues that matter to their companies and their customers.”
Describe an occasion when you spotted an opportunity to make an improvement in ‘going the extra mile’, and took action without being asked to do so. What steps did you take? What was the outcome? Explain why you think this attribute is relevant for a solicitor.
This question is testing your problem solving ability. Detail what the issue was, why it was difficult and then what you did to resolve it. If you are talking about a group activity, do not put ‘?we‘? - they are interested in what you did. As with all your answers use this question to differentiate yourself i.e. make it personal and substantiate what you say with specific examples.
Aspects of a good answer might be as follows.
- Use initiative to act on opportunities. Become a leader before other people view you as one. Healthy organisations often reward those who take the lead, not just those with formal management roles.
- Take responsibility for own objectives: set priorities. Display a “?can do“? attitude even in demanding situations. Try to solve problems, rather than to pass them on to other people.
- ?Go the extra mile? when asked to do tasks. Go beyond your job description. Do work that gets you noticed. Show enthusiasm: this will be noticed and you will eventually be rewarded.
- Take ownership of problems: anticipate potential problems, take pre-emptive action and act quickly to resolve problems. Develop innovative practices. Value innovative thinking.
- Learn new skills that will enhance capability.
Describe a time that you have had to change your approach to a project or task halfway through. What changes did you have to make? Why did you need to make these changes? What was the outcome?
This means that you are able to modify your approach to achieve a goal, and you are open to change and new information; you can rapidly adapt to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles. Legal recuiters are often looking for the following aspects.
1. Values need for flexibility:
- Accepts that other people’s points of view are reasonable or valid.
- Acknowledges that people are entitled to their opinions, and accepts that they are different.
- Steps into colleagues’ tasks when needed or required.
2. Demonstrates flexibility:
- Works creatively within standard procedures to fit a specific situation.
- Understands policies and can work within them to meet office, work group, team or individual goals.
3. Adapts approach:
- Changes one’s approach as required to achieve intended outcomes.
- Prioritises actions effectively in order to respond to numerous, diverse challenges and demands.
4. Adapts strategy:
- Changes the overall service plan and implements new practices when original approach and assumptions are no longer valid.
- Able to shift strategic focus and activities quickly in response to changing organisational priorities.
Teamwork is considered crucial to functioning well as a trainee/junior in a corporate law firm.
Please give an example of a situation where you were required to work in a team to accomplish an important objective and describe your role in achieving this objective.
A law student who is good at teamwork might:
- Believe that working together with others or in teams gives higher synergies to self and the teams, and therefore is positive and enthusiastic about teamwork and team building.
- Contributes significantly when working as a member of a team or when working as a team leader to build a strong team; respects all the members of the team and cooperates with every team member and the team leader.
- Provides help and support to those team members who are in need of help and support, and shares relevant knowledge and information with all the team members including the team leader.
- Maintains the required level of communication in terms of quality, quantity and timeliness with the team members and the team leader.
- When working as a team leader, facilitates developing team goals with team members’ participation.
- Motivates the team members while working as a leader of the team or even when working as a member of the team, building up high team morale; creates a sense or feeling of cohesiveness among the fellow members.
- Is good at resolving the conflicts that might arise due to diverse personalities of various team members.
- When the members seem to err from the shared mission, goals and priorities, brings them back on the desired focus.
- Seeks for each and every member’?s active and enthusiastic participation all the time and accordingly motivates the members who seem to be getting disinterested or tuned out from time to time.
- Makes every member feel that each one’?s work or contribution is equally important.
- Shares credit for success of team with all the others in the team.
- Celebrates the team’?s success together with all the others in the team.
- Makes sure that the various teams do not become islands in themselves and form unnecessary boundaries around them.
? Defining qualities of the candidate
What can you tell us about yourself that sets you apart from other applicants, and which are convincing reasons why we should recruit you?
In a sense, your answer to this question is to some extent governed by your personal qualities not covered elsewhere in the form. Here are some further competences which might be relevant here.
A trainee will be expected to upholds the principles of the current SRA Code of Conduct. Some aspects might include:
- Holds to a laudable value structure all the time and in all the situations.
- Practices integrity while dealing with everyone and therefore is regarded as trustworthy person.
- Does not turn and twist the information to gain something or to score a point in an underhand manner.
- Uses confidential information confidentially. Does not divulge the confidential information even under any pressure.
- Does not indulge in any kind of corruption or corrupt practices.
- Motivates others to practice integrity by being an example to others.
Some aspects might include:
- Can envision the advancement and growth opportunities.
- Possesses abilities for high degree of conceptualization, strategising and analysis.
- Demonstrates high achievement orientation. Therefore, emphasises commitment, accountability, action orientation and results.
- Adept at interpersonal relationships and puts emotional intelligence in action.
- Excellent communicator.
- Uses his excellent influencing skills for bringing out the desired consensus, decisions and actions.
- Very good at decision making processes and once decisions are reached, displays firmness and decisiveness in implementation.
- Displays required flexibility and adaptability in different situations and times.
- Is great team builder and team player. Provides necessary support and cooperativeness.
- Possesses high commercial awareness and business acumen.
- Develops many next line leaders.
? Communication skills
All solicitors at [X] work with a wide range of people so need to be able to persuade, influence and display effective communication skills. Describe a situation when you have had to communicate effectively.
You should think of various forms of effective communications, e.g. oral presentations, written papers, written papers, drafting, interviewing or advising (on the LPC), practical legal research (on the LPC), blogging, participating in podcasts, and how you have adapted your method of communication according to the target audience. Your answer is bound to be more compelling if you can give concrete examples. Some related specific competences are given as below.
One scenario where persuading skills can be important is the job interview, but the following tips are valuable in many other settings.
- Focus on the needs of the other party. Take time to listen to them carefully and find out about their interests and expectations. This shows that you are really interested in them and they are then more likely to trust and respect you. It will also make it easier for you to outline the benefits of your proposal in terms they understand.
- Argue your case with logic. Do careful research on your ideas and those of your competitors (if there are any) and make sure that any claims you make can be verified.
- Use positive rather than negative language: instead of saying “?You’?re wrong about this”?, say “?That’?s true but ….”?, “?That’?s an excellent idea, but if we look more deeply …..”? or “?I agree with what you say but have you considered ….”?.
Some aspects might include:
- Believes that listening strengthens the quality of communication, interpersonal relations, human relations, emotional intelligence, conflict management and team management.
- Every interaction requires one to respond and since the quality of response depends on the quality of listening, tries to improve quality of his listening constantly.
- Thus, listens to understand the other person and not just to react, reply, control or manipulate the other person. By understanding the other person properly, can respond or act in the best possible manner.
- Generally respects other people and demonstrates openness and trust through his body language and spoken words.
- Then, paves way to influencing the people in right directions by diagnosing the issues and concerns of others in a better way for effective problem solving.
- Promotes a more participative style of managing by involving people.
? Conflict and pressure
The success of [X] is built on the self-motivation and applied effort of all its employees, as demonstrated by their ability to work through setbacks coping effectively with conflict and pressure. Describe a situation when you have had to deal with conflict and pressure. Which other people involved? What did you learn about yourself?
Some aspects might include the observations that the law student:
- Recognises the fact that conflicts are quite natural in any organization and yet these need appropriate redressing to move on with apt solutions, thereforeis willing to take up the responsibility of managing and resolving the conflict.
- Can think through clearly in a conflicting situation.
- Keeps his eyes constantly on the desired goals and therefore, does not drift away from them despite conflicting arguments and points of views.
- Listens well and patiently all the conflicting arguments and presentations.
- Controls the people and their communication patterns in the discussions that takes place when resolving a conflict.
- Facilitates the innovative and creative thinking of the people caught up in the conflict.
- Does not take sides of any particular set of people or their thinking. Rather, tries to facilitate working out genuinely appropriate and optimal solutions.
- Contributes his own inputs, ideas, creativity and analysis to supplement the missing or erroneous information and thus uncover the real issues and reasons that led to the conflict. Then proceeds to help find the answers.
- Gains agreements without leaving behind any bitter taste or disrupting the human relationships.
- Is proactive and as far as possible anticipates the conflicting situations and dissolves them well before they turn into conflicts.
? Commitment to excellence
Describe an occasion when you have demonstrated commitment to a task or project that resulted in you exceeding expectations either for yourself or others. What steps did you take? What was the outcome?
You will be able to achieve the excellence in any skill or competency only if you rehearse or practice the learned skill a large number of times. Knowledge alone is no guarantee for achieving great levels in skills or competencies. For example, only if you start swimming, you will become a swimmer; mere knowledge of swimming or great theories of swimming will not automatically make you even an ordinary swimmer. Knowledge surely helps and is a must but without doing, it is of no use to you. Implementation of knowledge is the name of the game. Wisdom is in knowing what to do and how to do but the virtue is doing it.
It’s said that you should become both consciously and unconsciously competent in your strive for excellence. Consciously competent means gaining the knowledge about the skill to be mastered and begin practicing the knowledge gained (example: gaining knowledge on how to swim using proper styles of swimming and start swimming using the right styles of swimming). On the other hand, unconsciously competent means keep practicing the knowledge gained till you gain mastery in the skill (example: you have now become an expert swimmer since you have been swimming using the proper styles of swimming over number of hours and you can now give yourself 9 on 10 or even 10 on 10). For greater success in life, you should try to reach the unconsciously competent level in the skills required by you for your professional, personal, family and social activities/tasks/projects.
? Personal challenge
Describe a significant challenge that you have faced outside of your academic studies ideally from the last 2 years. How did you initially analyse the challenge? What approach did you take to solving it? What did you learn from this challenge?
- Successful answers to these sorts of questions need to be as concrete as possible. Supply specific detail on the situation, the actions taken and the results achieved. Figures can be particularly useful in this context.
- Your example need not be very “significant”. Go for something you genuinely believe to be a real achievement rather than give them something you think they want to hear - it’ll be more convincing. The important thing is to set it in context. Explain why it was significant to you - if you’re unsporty, uncoordinated and broke your leg six months previously, learning to stay upright while sliding a few hundred metres downhill may well have been a major achievement.
- A useful device is the Trojan horse technique, which allows you to smuggle in other examples as in “ I considered selecting one of several achievements, including x and y. However I have chosen z because…....”
Aspects of a convincing answer might include the following.
1. Recognises Lack of Success:
Acknowledges areas where expectations are not met, and provides reasons which may or may not involve self.
2. Remains Positive:
Re-energises after loss or failure or after encountering a significant hurdle to readdress the situation and to overcome it; approaches new situations with continuing positive outlook, despite previous disappointments.
3. Takes Responsibility:
Acknowledges personal responsibility for outcomes, even when not all elements of a situation are within direct control but could have been personally managed.
4. Learns from Mistakes and Successes:
Analyses situations on an ongoing basis to improve own performance; designs a personal action plan to address own issues constructively and decisively.
5. Shares Learning with Team:
Deals openly with failure by bringing team together to define specific problems and present solutions; may involve team in diagnosis and in developing solutions to effectively transfer knowledge into the organisation.
? Mitigating circumstances
Are there any important mitigating circumstances why you feel the exam results you have listed do not fully reflect your abilities?
There may be good reasons why you ‘underperformed’, due to recent bereavement, or illness and disease, and these should be set out with reference to documentary evidence where possible.
If applicable, please state any additional information which you think is relevant and supportive to your application or which you think has not been covered adequately in this form.
This is a good opportunity to do precisely that!
At first, nobody knew what he was going on about. David Cameron appeared to have some weird pathological obsession with Len McCluskey of UNITE, like somebody who acts oddly around someone that find deeply attractive. It is of course a tried and tested weapon of the Conservative Party; the notion that the Unions have secret ‘beer and sandwiches’ in Number 10, and they periodically hold the country to ransom. And yet, the truth is that David Cameron is quite unable to party as if it is 1979. Cameron’s attempts to capture the atmosphere of a Nation at ease with itself was simply returned with derision, as no-one clapped for him, in contradistinction with other names, when a long list was read out at the Wimbledon Gall Ball this year. The ‘Cameron brand’ has, despite the best attempts at mitigation against re-toxification, been tarred with the corruption brush, in the perception of many, with the close relationship between News International, Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks. Cameron has kept reminding us he saved this country from the brink of bankruptcy, when the fact is the economy has done extremely badly in the last three years. This is all about the political process and the economy.
Conveniently enough for Ed Miliband, the political process and the economy constitute two thirds of Jon Cruddas’ extensive policy review for Labour (the third leg of this tripos being society.) Whilst Falkirk was bad, the public is not altogether pleased with the extensive lobbying which appeared to culminate in the Health and Social Care Act. Private US ‘not for profit’ “health maintenance organisations” appear to have infiltrated the language of senior health policy wonks, and yet the problems of trade unions in private healthcare providers have not gone unnoticed. The main problem for David Cameron is not many people actually object in principle to the idea of democratic representation through Unions, and as for the idea of groups of people ‘holding the country to ransom’, the effect of the 1 Trillion Pound bailing out of the investment backing sector is not a trivial one. Boris Johnson and others proudly continue to ‘defend the competitive advantage’ of the City, with the Serious Fraud Office visibly impotent to deal with alleged LIBOR fraud offences in the City’s own back yard.
It is not so easy to argue that there should be a no special relationship between Labour and the Unions, as Labour historically was invented as the vehicle to represent working class citizens in parliament. Members of Unions can of course ‘opt in’ to any political party they wish, but why should they wish to have the protection of the Unions in the first place? David Cameron would be onto a winner if Unions were unpopular, but the unpalatable fact for him is that Union membership is actually on the increase. The protection of employment rights, with the Unions in a pivotal rôle to bargain for the rights of workers, has never become more relevant. With the eligible time period for unfair dismissal having gone up form one year’s continuous service to two years, and with the quantum of the unfair dismissal having gone down, there has never been a better time to protect the worker. The worker is of course part of the ‘One Nation’ economy that Ed Miliband wants, it is part of the notion that we all have something to contribute to society in One Nation, and the process of participation politically of members of Unions (not whole Unions) has been approved.
Unions matter because they can speak up for the living needs of workers, whether this is the national minimum wage, or the living wage which is widely predicted to form part of the 2015 Labour manifesto. Members of Unions are much more accountable than the private equity shareholders who have profited through the rent seeking opportunities of the Health and Social Care Act. Unions could also be pivotal in bridging the gulf between the most extremely well paid and the worst paid. By having members of Unions on the renumeration committees in public companies and private limited companies, there will not only be an apparent perception of participation of the workforce, but there will also be active participation of the workforce in decisions promoting the ‘success’ or profitability of a company. This has already been working well in Germany, and Ed Miliband and Lord Stewart Wood are already most familiar with this aspect.
To be honest, this was a ‘cheap shot’ for David Cameron and it was inevitable it would explode dramatically in Labour’s face. While the BBC’s Nick Robinson will wish to chuck water on frying oil, his case is weakened by Tony Blair’s remark that Ed Miliband has shown remarkable leadership; and we know how much ‘they’ love Tony Blair. As usual, Ed Miliband will be called ‘weak, weak, weak’, but fundamental to all this is that the “political class” grossly underestimate the level of insight which ordinary voters have. It does not matter how this is all packaged by the BBC any more. Labour members think the way the country has been run stinks. Even hardcore Conservative voters are finding it hard to learn to love Cameron any more. Cameron’s in deep shit. And he knows it.
The BPP Legal Awareness Society is a flagship leader in the BPP Students Association community.
The current brochure is available at: http://www.bppstudents.com/clubs/item/229/start/0/num/10/
As you’ll be aware, I myself presented 4 workshops on commercial awareness earlier this year in Holborn. Successful delegates who attended my workshops nationally were awarded a certificate of attendance.
As I hope to be leaving BPP soon, with much sadness, the last thing I should do is to appoint a new President and new Committee for next academic year (2013-4).
*The positions are: President (in charge of events, internal stakeholder meetings at BPP), Vice-President (assisting the President), Publicity Officer (self-explanatory), Events Co-ordinator (self-explanatory). Please feel free to propose an Officer for an ‘unmet need’.*
The selection committee will consist of me, Sonia Goodman (President of the BPP Commercial Awareness Society, London), and a member of the current student engagement team at BPP.
To be eligible to apply for any of these positions you must meet all of the following selection criteria:
1. A student enrolled on a BPP course of any discipline, at any site, for the substantial part of academic year 2013-4.
2. A commitment to hosting Society meetings of any nature, consistent with student conduct at BPP and with the stipulated aims of the BPP Legal Awareness Society. The Committee will be responsible for organising hosting of these meetings through room bookings at BPP, and will be responsible for all security at meetings.
3. The President and Committee will specifically extend the strategy of promoting commercial awareness, and endeavour to promote this value both locally and nationally.
All applications for any of the posts on the Committee must be received by 4 pm on this email address by Friday 12 July 2013.
Please do not hesitate to contact me on email should you have any inquiries. To apply send me an email as well. The email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Submit a brief statement containing
1. Name and relevant correspondence details
2. Educational past and present
3. Explain, in no more than 150 words, why you would like to become a student representative of the BPP Legal Awareness Society.
4. Why do you think commercial awareness, or an insight into how companies function, is important in the legal profession, and how can it best be promoted? (Please do not write more than 200 words.)
5. What position would you like to apply for and why do you think you are suited for this rôle? Please provide brief reasons. (Please do not write more than 100 words.)
6. What positions of responsibility have you held before? Also list any relevant extracurricular activities which you feel may be helpful. (Please do not write more than 200 words.)
7. Please add any further information which you feel will be useful for your application. (unlimited)
Shortlisting will occur in the week beginning Monday 15 July 2013, and students will be invited for interview on Wednesday 17th July 2013. We will be unable to contact unsuccessful applicants.
Interviews will be held on Monday 22 July 2013. It is likely that I will interview with Sonia Goodman or Shabnan Aziz, incoming Chief Executive of BPP Students, if either of them are available. Appointments will be made on that day.
Best of luck!
Shibley, BPP Legal Awareness Society President 2011-3.
Response from Shibley, President of the BPP Legal Awareness Society, to the Legal Education and Training Review
The Legal Education and Training Review 2013 report can be viewed here.
There was much to welcome from today’s publication of the “Legal Education and Training Review” , from our perspective of the BPP Legal Awareness Society. It is one of the biggest student societies across all campuses and all disciplines at BPP, and we are totally independent of BPP University College itself and its various schools. This allows us to pursue our own projects our way.
BPP is a unique institution, based in a number of centres in England. I myself graduated from Cambridge, and did my research degree there. I have just, however, completed 7 (non-continuous) years at BPP, having done my Graduate Diploma in Law, Bachelor of Laws, Master of Business Administration and Legal Practice Course with them. They are one of the few places in the country with specialist units in both law and business. However, BPP is very much “a profession-facing organisation” which specifically trains people in behaviours, skills and knowledges bespoke to the legal, finance and business professions. There is therefore a high density of skills within our particular network. Students at BPP have been very keen in the last two years to devote their time voluntarily to supporting our activity at the BPP Legal Awareness Society.
We hold our fortnightly meetings at BPP Law School, Holborn. The LETR (“Legal Education and Training Review”) advised that it does not wish to make ‘commercial awareness’ a formal requirement of the academic part of legal training, regulated for solicitors by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). However, it did wish to promote its importance in the overall legal curriculum. BPP Law School Holborn runs the traditional and accelerated Legal Practice Courses (LPC), and is therefore well suited to host also this entirely student-run activity. With my committee, we host meetings discussing recent transactions and general trends in commercial and corporate law.
I personally have also completed a Master of Law in Professional Legal Practice, covering six big areas of commercial and corporate law, at the College of Law. I therefore, on behalf of our society, where I am President, welcomed very much the emphasis on “commercial awareness”. I feel the Report, published today, went a long way to explaining why lawyers might benefit from such a training.
Not everyone will end up for the whole of their careers in a large commercial or corporate set, but it is essential I feel for all professional law firms to understand why and how all businesses fail. Some law firms unfortunately fail. This could be due to poor marketing of products and services, poor strategy analysis and implementation of a business model, inability to apply commercially innovative approaches, inability to forecast, budget or cost basic processes, and so it goes on. Understanding this at an international level is essential for some work. The legal profession faces substantial opportunities and challenges both here and abroad in the next 20 years or so, and the LETR was able to provide a compelling reason why commercial awareness is essential.
In my own society in January 2013, I hosted four workshops for law students from all over the UK, providing one hour sessions in each of marketing, strategy, innovation and leadership. These were very well received, and each student received a certificate of attendance. You can even view the talks and download the materials here. Whilst I myself have a disability, I think communication is a vital skill. There’s no point instructing a highly intelligent and capable lawyer if he or she cannot communicate basic concepts well. Students who attend our meetings become conversant in the language of business, and understand why it is so important, beyond their application forms for training contracts. In an informal setting, we are able to lay the foundations for a lifelong commitment to continuous professional training, and develop skills such as problem identification and solving in a pleasant way.
We always talk about issues that simply are not covered in the core or elective parts of the Legal Practice Course, and students who have attended our meetings in the last two years have provided us with very positive feedback. I was interested to note the existence of societies from other legal providers, but I really do feel we are a leader in the national student community when it comes to many competences of the lawyer of the future the LETR introduced us to today. Commercial awareness is very much at the forefront of these.
Shibley, BPP Legal Awareness Society
June 25th, 2013
Verbal reasoning tests are designed to identify an individual’s level of ability to understand and respond to questions about information provided in a passage of text. A candidate is advised to read a given passage of text and then consider the questions which are presented as statements corresponding to the passage. They are then required to decide whether the statement given is true, false, or whether he or she cannot say, given the information contained in the passage.
Consider the following passage about Chris Grayling and “price competitive tendering”:
Price-competitive tendering for criminal defence services will be introduced this autumn under accelerated plans revealed by the justice secretary this morning. In a written ministerial statement, Chris Grayling announced an eight-week consultation on the plans will begin in April – but said that the tender for contracts will open in the autumn. The government expects the first contracts to go live in the autumn of 2014. In a statement issued in December 2011, the government said it would consult on the introduction of price competition in autumn 2013. However Grayling said today: ‘Given the need to achieve savings as quickly as possible, we have decided to accelerate that timetable. The Labour government had sought to introduce price-competitive tendering, but abandoned its proposals after strong resistance from the profession, especially from smaller firms. Grayling said that, through the Legal Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, the government had already sought to reduce legal aid spent on civil cases, but he said that criminal defence represents by far the largest element of the remaining legal aid spend, accounting for over £1bn a year.
The first thing to note that the length of this passage is about 180 words. The length of passages vary in verbal reasoning tests, but this would be a reasonable length. It’s unlikely you will get a story which is politically charged, involving law, or from the news; so this type of article would definitely not be used in a verbal reasoning test.
However, I should like to use this passage and a number of worked examples to illustrate techniques used by people who set these tests.
Chris Grayling is the first Lord Chancellor to hold a Doctorate in law.
No information is given about Grayling’s qualifications in this article. You may know that he studied history as an undergraduate student at Cambridge, and indeed holds a degree in that. However, this is inside information. The answer is therefore ‘CANNOT SAY’, as nothing in the passage leads you to say it is either true or false.
Chris Grayling announced a four-week consultation.
This statement is DEFINITELY FALSE, as the passage states clearly that Chris Grayling announced an eight-week consultation.
According to Chris Grayling, Labour abandoned its proposals after strong resistance from the profession, including from larger firms.
This is difficult as we are told that Labour, “abandoned its proposals after strong resistance from the profession, especially from smaller firms.” Larger firms might have protested against the said proposals, for all we know, so the statement is, as far as the candidate is concerned, NEITHER TRUE NOR FALSE.
According to Chris Grayling, the government has already sought to reduce legal aid spent on civil cases, but he said that criminal defence represents a very small element of the remaining legal aid spend.
The second half of this statement is clearly false, given the information given at the end this passage, making the entire statement FALSE. If part of your statement in the question is FALSE, that makes THE WHOLE STATEMENT FALSE.
The government expects the first contracts to go live before 2016.
Given that the government expects the first contracts to go live in the autumn of 2014, it must be true that the government expect the first contracts to go live before 2016.
Good luck! And just remember – if you pass that verbal reasoning test thanks to this – just remember that it was Chris Grayling who helped you take your first steps into the legal profession!
It never fails to amaze me how certain policy strands run in parallel along a disastrous course, but silos in journalism mean that you’ll never get people joining the dots.
One example of this is the competitive tendering in legal services which Chris Grayling MP is currently shoehorning through, despite overwhelming opposition from lawyers including QCs. Everytime the unemployment figures up, or we have another revival in youth employment, Chris Grayling used to be the guy on TV saying that ‘every statistic is of course a personal tragedy’. Curiously you never get this phrase said about any excess death from the NHS which happened out of the ordinary. The concept that it is impossible to measure excess deaths at all will be alien to any professional in clinical negligence, who will be able to follow through the well-worn logic of duty-of-care of a clinician, failure of that duty causing breach, and that breach causing damage provided that there is not remoteness. We all know that the media is prone to hysteria, and indeed John Prescott once advised me not to believe everything written about ‘one’ in the papers. And an issue undoubtedly is that some are using what happened at Mid Staffs for their own agendas. You’d be forgiven for thinking some reports have the sole intention of shutting down the entire NHS as a national health service, blow all its credibility to smithereens, and to prepare its purchase price for the lowest bidder in a Government which has relish in outsourcing and privatisating the State infrastructure.
However, the sensationalism which was embraced whether there were any ‘excess deaths’ or not is perhaps distasteful at best, and frankly rude at worst. Mortality ratios are supposed to be the ‘smoke alarm’, but now that the inferno has happened, it is not time to remove the batteries from the smoke detector. The public inquiries at Mid Staffs I feel were essential. I don’t feel that this is an issue which could have been discussed behind closed doors ‘in camera’. It might be feasible to hold no-one accountable as the ‘culture’ is so widespread, but that has not led professionals to escape liability ever before for fundamental breaches in care, such as poor note-keeping, unprompt investigations, poor conduct and communication, from the professional regulators. The frustration has been there appears to have been very little accountability, and this is significant whether one feels the role of the justice system should be fundamentally restorative, retributive or rehabilitative. A certain amount of hysteria has instead engulfed proceedings at Mid Staffs, with the recently reported hostile behaviour towards Julie Bailey, remarkable campaigner and founder of ‘Cure the NHS’.
However, Julie has never wanted to ‘Kill the NHS’, but is deeply hurt about what happened to her Mum. Deb Hazeldine is very hurt about what happened to her mum. Any reasonable daughter would. These are times for reports of personal tragedies. Whilst we all have to move on, it is important to acknowledge accurately the distress of what happened, and this is precisely what we achieved in the Francis Inquiries. The accounts in those Inquiries are not figments of anyone’s imagination. It is even possible that we may have to learn from what happened there for other NHS Trusts. There is a trail of logic which goes that ‘efficiency savings’ were in fact cuts which included relative staff shortages, despite more being spent on the NHS budget overall including for salaries for certain personnel; this meant that key critical frontline staff were overstretched, there were genuine clinical events in patient safety which went beyond ‘near misses’, but they were not adequately dealt with. The Francis Inquiries should not be used to draw closure on the matters for the Labour administration, which I broadly supported. The reaction to the situation, a real one of personal tragedy, should not in my view a retweet of a blog which says that standard mortality ratios are unreliable, however correct that blog might be. This for me is not in any way personal – I like and respect very much people on all sides of what has been a highly charged discussion. I have known some of them for ages, and I will continue to support them publicly and in private.
We are not at the end of the solution of what happened in Mid Staffs, and for the time-being we should honestly recognise that.
Why would you want David Cameron not to take a holiday? Perhaps you think that he should be chained to MI5 or MI6 24/7. Maybe you have some especial thing about him wanting to spend time with his wife or his family?
This “mean-mindedness”, about individuals feeling that it is their business to deprive David Cameron of a small break, beggars belief. More’s the point, it is even more astonishing that they inflict their views about this unimportant manner in such an impersonal public manner. It is a characteristic of all organisations that there is enough people in the team for operations to run smoothly. I am not saying that David Cameron, as Prime Minister, is simply a manager and we can run the country without him. But to think it is worth spending time writing about how he should not have a holiday, or even criticise him for his choice of destination, is petty, when you consider the real choices that this country faces. Should the UK government seek to crack down on aggressive tax avoidance unilaterally or is it simply an extension of shareholder primacy under the company law of many jurisdictions, not just ours? Should we seek to have more NHS services run by the private sector, so that they possibly can be run not at a loss, but to seek to deliver higher quality or value, even if returning a profit? Whatever your ideological viewpoint, these are more interesting questions that all parties need simply not to sit on. Labour didn’t do anything for years on tax avoidance, and contributed in introducing the private sector to the NHS. This may upset you: but David Cameron’s holiday is none of your business. That’s why you won’t find his holiday snaps in the newspapers, because it would be an unlawful invasion of his privacy.
A third of people will like you whatever you do. A third of people will dislike you whatever you do. A third of people will be completely indifferent whatever you do. The fact that people are concerned about David Cameron’s holidays, in the news, is more of an artefact that the media choose to report this, say, ahead of events in Syria. Or, even better, they have finally become exhausted by their own reportage on UKIP. The enthusiasm of scrutiny on this parallels the amount of disproportionate interest given to the Eton Entrance Scholarship examination past paper. The general paper is not testing the tenacity of bigoted right-wing beliefs, deeply engrained in the education system. Nor is it testing whether people are ‘fit to rule’ the country. Such paranoid beliefs simply serve to confirm what the Left hate being criticised about – the politics of envy. They also show deeply prejudiced opinions which reasonable people should find deeply worrying.
What, though, is weird about this entire thing is that people writing newspapers are generally not working class, not even in the Daily Mirror. And some of the people protesting the most loudly about class issues have graduated with good degrees from the University of Oxford in an arts based subject such as English. It is not long ago that black and ethic minority candidates, from relatively disadvantaged backgrounds, felt pressurised to study a vocational subject such as engineering, law or medicine, to maximise their chances of succeeding in life. But taking this argument to another extreme, nobody would wish for Oxford graduates in English to avoid deliberately discussing these topics on class or lifestyle which deeply interest them. Freedom of expression is extremely important as a qualified human right, and so long as listening to somebody exerting their freedom of expression is not automatically taken to mean ‘tolerance’ of those views, it should be a right to be defended strongly. It is clearly worrisome if professional politicians should wish to censor those people with views which are extreme, but not unlawful or illegal.
But then again this is not the first time that this country would get its knickers in a twist about the difference between the law and ethics. Tax avoidance is actively frowned upon by the professional bodies of accountancy, and everyone knows it’s complex. All sorts of people making tax decisions for entirely personal reasons, including ISAs. People’s tax affairs are none of your business. You can argue that the tax affairs of Google, Starbucks or Amazon impact upon society, but, so long as it is legal, it is strictly speaking, it is none of your business. If you have a serious gripe against the economy, tax, or the NHS, you can remedy your grievance by voting for a party which more represents your views on May 8th 2015. However, if you are interested in David Cameron’s holiday, or Eton scholarship exam questions, just realise it’s pontificating. Lazy journalism. “Entertainment”. It’s nothing interesting, or intelligent. It certainly doesn’t make this country a better place.
The last few years have seen a much welcome progression, for the better, for dementia policy in England. This has been the result of the previous Government, under which “Living well with dementia: the National Dementia Strategy” was published in 2009, and the current Government, in which the Prime Minister’s Dementia Challenge in 2012 was introduced.
Dementia is a condition which lends itself to the ‘whole person’, ‘integrated’ approach. It is not an unusual for an individual with dementia to be involved with people from the medical profession, including GPs, neurologists, geriatricians; allied health professionals, including nurses, health care assistants, physiotherapists, speech and language specialists, nutritionists or dieticians, and occupational therapists; and people in other professionals, such as ‘dementia advocates’ and lawyers. I think a lot can be done to help individuals with dementia ‘to live well'; in fact I have just finished a big book on it and you can read drafts of the introduction and conclusion here.
It is obviously critical that clinicians, especially the people likeliest to make the initial provisional diagnosis, should be in the ‘driving seat’, but it is also very important that patients, carers, family members, or other advocates are in that driving seat too. I feel this especially now, given that there is so much information available from people directly involved in with patients (such as @bethyb1886 or @whoseshoes or @dragonmisery) This patient journey is inevitably long, and to call it a ‘rollercoaster ride‘ would be a true understatement. That is why language is remarkably important, and that people with some knowledge of medicine get involved in articulating this debate. Not everyone with power and influence in dementia has a detailed knowledge of it, sadly.
I am very honoured to have my paper on the behavioural variant of frontotemporal dementia to be included as one of a handful of references in the current Oxford Textbook of Medicine. You can view this chapter, provided you do not use it for commercial gain (!), here.
I should like to direct you to the current draft of a video by Prof Alistair Burns, Chair of Psychiatry at the University of Manchester, who is the current National Clinical Lead for Dementia. You can contact him over any aspects of dementia policy on his Twitter, @ABurns1907. I strongly support Prof Burns, and here is his kind Tweet to me about my work. I agree with Prof Burns that once individuals can be given face-to-face a correct diagnosis of dementia this allows them to plan for the future, and to access appropriate services. The problem obviously comes from how clinicians arrive at that diagnosis.
I am not a clinician, although I studied medicine at Cambridge and did my PhD on dementia there too, but having written a number of reviews, book chapters, original papers, and now a book on dementia, I am deeply involved with the dementia world. I am still invited to international conferences, and I personally do not have any financial vested interests (e.g. funding, I do not work for a charity, hospital, or university, etc.) That is why I hope I can be frank about this. Clinicians will be mindful of the tragedy of telling somebody he or she has dementia or when he or she hasn’t, but needs help for severe anxiety, depression, underactive thyroid, or whatever. But likewise, we are faced with reports of a substantial underdiagnosis of dementia, for which a number of reasons could be postulated. Asking questions such as “How good is your memory?” may be a good basic initial question, but clinicians will be mindful that this test will suffer from poor specificity – there could be a lot of false positives due to other conditions.
At the end of the day, a mechanism such as ‘payment-by-results’ can only work if used responsibly, and does not create an environment for ‘perverse incentives’ where Trusts will be more inclined to claim for people with a ‘label’ of dementia when they actually do not have the condition at all. A double tragedy would be if these individuals had poor access to care which Prof Burns admits is “patchy”. In my own paper, with over 300 citations, on frontal dementia, seven out of eight patients had very good memory, and yet had a reliable diagnosis of early frontal dementia. Prof Burns rightly argues the term ‘timely’ should be used in preference to ‘early’ dementia, but still some influential stakeholders are using the term ‘early’ annoyingly. On the other hand, I wholeheartedly agree that the term ‘timely’ is much more fitting with the “person-centred care” approach, made popular in a widespread way by Tom Kitwood.
I am still really enthused about the substantial progress which has been made in English dementia policy. I enclose Prof Burns’ latest update (draft), and the video I recorded yesterday at my law school, for completion.
Prof Alistair Burns, National Clinical Lead for Dementia
Me (nobody) in reply