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It's all too easy to dismiss Miliband's attack on energy prices. It fundamentally blasts Thatcherism.
Virtually all attacks on Ed Miliband regarding energy prices begin with the statement ‘Ed Miliband is right but…” That the Conservatives might be wrong on their basic economics is politically very worrying. And yet Ed Miliband has not sought to frame the article like a convoluted Oxbridge economics tutorial. Long gone are the days of Gordon Brown using logical inferences to explain why financial recapitalisation was needed to avert an even bigger global financial crisis. Nobody seemed to care. What did George Osborne wish to do exactly about Northern Rock. He didn’t say, and it didn’t seem to matter. Labour, the allegation, spent too much, and yet staggeringly George Osborne wanted to spend as much more. When asked to identify what it was about Labour’s economic policy which was so fundamentally awry, Tory voters invariably are able to articulate the answer. When further pressed on how the Conservative Party opposed this fundamentally awry policy, there’s a clear blank.
Ed Miliband and his team can explain how the market has failed, perhaps going into minutiae about how competitors end up colluding, except nobody can prove this. They therefore rig the prices, it is alleged, so that they can return massive shareholder profit, while the prices endlessly go up. The Tories will counter this with the usual reply that the profits are not that bad, and it was Miliband’s fault for introducing his ‘green taxes’. Anyone who knows their economics at basic undergraduate level will know the problem with this. It’s all to do with the definition of ‘sustainability’. Sustainability does not simply mean ‘maintained’, although you’d be forgiven for thinking so, on the basis of the mouths of PPE graduates from Oxford. It’s all about how a company can function across a time span of very many years, acting responsibly in the context of its environment.
It’s instead been framed as ‘the cost of living crisis’. The problem with the national deficit, while a useful tool in giving people something to blame Labour for supposedly, is that when somebody goes out shopping in a local supermarket he does not tend to think of the national deficit. Likewise, much as I disagree with the ‘Tony Blair Dictum’ that ‘it doesn’t matter who provides your NHS services so long as they are free at the point of need’, voters will tend not to care about NHS privatisation unless they have a true ideological objection to it. NHS privatisation as such makes little impact on the ‘cost of living’.
Energy prices are an altogether different bag. It is perhaps arguable that the State should not interfere in private markets, but surely this acts both ways? Should the banking industry, and more specifically bankers, be ‘grateful’ that they received a £860 billion bailout from the State as a massive State benefit to keep their industry alive? Or did they not want this money at all? Even you brush aside the need of the State to interfere legitimately with prices, it is commonplace for the State through the law to interfere with unlawful activities to do with competition. The prices are the end-product of an economic process of faulty competition, poorly regulated.
And there’s the rub. Ed Miliband’s ‘attack on energy prices’ is not just a policy. It is actually a political philosophy. It is more tangible than responsible capitalism or predistribution, although one may argue that it bridges both. The attack on energy prices, on behalf of the consumer whether hard-working or not, is indeed a political philosophy. Margaret Thatcher may have gone to bed with a copy of ‘The Road to Serfdom’ by FA Hayek under her pillow, and all credit to her for fundamentally believing, most sincerely, that the markets could be ‘liberalising’. With this attack on energy prices, Miliband effectively in one foul swoop demolishes the argument that markets are liberalising. In Thatcherite Britain, consumers are suffocated by the business plans of big business. Miliband’s discourse is not a full frontal attack on any business; it specifically targets abusive behaviour of corporates. And the energy prices are symbolic of much of what has proven to be faulty many times before. Andrew Rawnsley concluded his article at the weekend, advancing the theme that the current Conservative-led government is a bad tribute band to Thatcherism, by saying simply that we know what happens next. It’s not just gas; it’s everything which has been privatised, including water, telecoms, and so it goes on. Authors in the right-wing broadsheets can go on until the cows come home evangelising how privatisation is a ‘popular’ concept, but the criticism of the abuse of privatisation is far more popular.
And Ed Miliband doesn’t want to issue ‘more of the same’ as before. John Rentoul is so exasperated he is now left to write articles on how being called ‘Blairite’ is not actually a term of abuse. But these are yesterday’s battles. The battle over energy prices is a massive explosion in the world that the market knows best. Its shock waves are to be felt in how Labour conducts itself in other policy domains, putting people primacy ahead of shareholder primacy. And there’s a plenty of evidence that this is the Most Corporatist Government yet – ranging from the reaction to Leveson to how to allow ‘market entry’ in the newly privatised NHS. The public were never offered an antidote to the Thatcherite poison from Tony Blair, and, even after 13 years of Blair and Brown, many Labour members had been left mystified as to what happens next.
The beginning of that answer definitely seems to be end of Thatcherism. The answer seems to involve a new post-Thatcherite ‘settlement’ about politics, society and economics. Whilst distinctly populist in feel, it fundamentally blasts Thatcherism to the core, and is highly deceptive. Whilst easily dismissed, it intellectually is a lethal weapon.
Nick Clegg is bound to defend the Tory record, as he's a Tory. It doesn't matter to us.
It is beyond delusional that Nick Clegg is proposing to the voters of Britain that British voters are better off with a coalition government, with him as a permanent fixture as the Deputy Prime Minister. It may be spun that ‘behind the scenes’ he is known to favour David Cameron as he has worked with Cameron, but seriously? You must have surely worked with people that you’ve come to hate? It is, rather, well known that Nick Clegg is a Tory. He is utterly spineless, and has no liberal principles of his own. That is why many people serious about Liberal values have left in droves – or rather hundreds of thousands. Liberal does not mean snoopers’ charters. Liberal does not mean control orders. Liberal does not mean secret courts. Liberal does not mean propelling competition to be the overriding principle of a NHS which outsources as much as possible to the private sector, when the Liberal Democrats’ own constitution emphasises the principle of collaboration.
The question is: what will it take to get rid of Nick Clegg finally? Thanks to the legislation of the fixed term parliament, we already know that he will have to honour his promise to go the full distance. Vince Cable may offer sunny uplands in the form of the Coalition early, but it is merely a mirage. Many activists are worried about armageddon, which is widely predicted for the European elections. Oakeshott will be there to tell you he told you so, and Nigel Farage will yet again be the new messiah. However, none of this fundamentally changes anything. Nick Clegg is a Tory, and what he wishes to do after May 8th 2015 is utterly irrelevant.
Do people really care whether he wants to be in a Coalition with Ed Miliband? I strongly suspect Ed Miliband doesn’t wish to work with Clegg in a million years. The practical issue is inevitably how Nick Clegg is going to lead his party to vote with Labour to reverse a series of legislative steps from the present Coalition. It is inevitable that Labour will have to repeal the Health and Social Care Act (2012), and given the strength of feeling one cannot conceivably imagine LibDem MPs will now be whipped to vote against the legislation they originally delivered. Whilst it is common currency that most politicians are ‘professional’ and do what they are told, irrespective of what the country feels, Norman Lamb had no problems in implementing a £3bn top down reorganisation of the NHS when the political priority should have been to implement as soon as possible the Dilnot recommendations over the future of social care.
Say you’d submerged the Concordia, would you attempt to take credit for lifting it out of the waters? Say you’d driven a high speed train in Spain off the tracks, would you attempt to take credit for finding the ‘black box’ recorder? Nick Clegg incessantly criticised the economic policy under Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling in the dying days of the the final recent Labour government, and did his best totally to misinform the public. It could be the case that Labour did a dreadful job in explaining how the £860 billion was deemed ‘necessary’ in keeping the banks afloat, whilst maintaining a record level of satisfaction in the NHS. However, Nick Clegg, Simon Hughes and Danny Alexander did a splendid job in a coalition of lies with George Osborne and David Cameron in arguing that Labour had bankrupt the UK and we were close to the Greek situation. It is therefore not a great achievement that we have a feeble recovery. The argument that ‘Ed Balls does not even agree with Ed Balls’ has not reached lift off despite the best peddling from Tim Farron and Nick Clegg, and the BBC, because the facts speak for themselves. Whilst they proudly boast that the UK economy did not have a double dip or triple dip, it is incontrovertible that the UK economy had actually been recovering in May 2010.
So what Nick Clegg wants is irrelevant. In as much politics can be personalised, Clegg has become a figurehead for anger amongst a wide variety of issues important to Labour voters. While Clegg maintains his stuck record mantra of ‘lifting people out of poverty’, the list of cock ups from Clegg is truly lamentable. It is impossible to know where to start – but you could try the UK economy, the scrapping of the employment support allowance, the shutting of libraries, the scrapping of Sure Start, the scrapping of ‘Building Schools for the Future, and the destruction of the network of legal centres in England. Clegg’s horrific, even if he is a ‘great reformer’ of sorts. He represents all that is fundamentally sick with unprincipled, undemocratic politics. He is a sickening ‘career politician’ who built a brand of ‘no more broken promises’, while breaking a promise he publicly signed a pledge for regarding tuition fees.
Ed Miliband continues to be slagged off by the Liberal Democrat hierarchy, though less so by some on the left of the Liberal Democrat Party. Why should he particularly wish to embrace them as part of the progressive left? The reason he might is that Ed Miliband is a social democrat who doesn’t particularly mind standing up for principles he believes in, even if this means antagonising the Blairite press such as David Aaronovitch or John Rentoul. He called out ‘irresponsible capitalism’ in an universally panned conference speech in Manchester in 2011, much to the ire of the Blairite critics (surprise surprise), but nobody can dismiss how this important concept, passported from the seminal work of Prof Porter at Harvard, has taken root. The ‘transformation’ of ‘reforming’ the public sector in outsourced services has been incredibly unpopular with the general public, who are much better informed than the Coalition politicians would like to believe. You’d have to be on Mars not to be aware of the fraud allegations of A4e, Capita, Serco or G4s.
The public will not give credit to the Liberal Democrats for the economy. They might conceivably give some credit to the Conservatives. And yet the picture of the UK economy is not clear. The total number of people in employment has been rising consistently for many years now, irrespective of who is government. The Conservatives will have real problems in establishing living standards, as the cost of living has risen exponentially due to privatised utilised creaming off profits in the utilities industries. These utilities industries are typical ‘oligopolies’, where the product is virtually the same for the end-user whoever the provider is, prices are kept artificially high by all the providers (but proving collusion by the competition authorities remains virtually impossible), and shareholder profits are shamelessly high. Norman Tebbit have dug out a trench in no foreign ownership of Royal Mail, but there is no such legislation about foreign ownership of the utilities nor indeed the NHS.
Nick Clegg may have been the future once. But he’s now finished.
Is this agreement a contract?
This article is published in good faith. ‘Legal Aware’ is not responsible for the truth or accuracy of this information in the English jurisdiction, but is to the best of his knowledge a substantially correct account of the law at present. It does not constitute professional advice, for which the advice of a practising barrister or solicitor should be sought.
Meaning, and basic elements of a contract
Save for lawyers, only a handful of people perfectly understand what makes an agreement a contract; thus, making it legally binding and enforceable in a court. This article is intended to explain the fundamental principles better.
A contract is fundamentally an agreement between two or more parties, intended to create legal relations, which the law acknowledges as legally binding and will enforce in the event of a breach.
We live in a society where we must interact and in our day-to-day interactions we cannot help but enter into agreements. However, even though contract law evolved to regulate this aspect of human endeavour, thereby ensuring that parties to a contract fulfill their promises, and contractual obligations, this arm of the law will not concern itself with mere agreements, meaning agreements that do not have a binding nature must not be fulfilled. In the event of a breach of such agreements the law will not enforce it.
For example, a court will not enforce a promise made by a man to his son to buy him a car if he learns to cook in the event he does not fulfill his promise. Once again, the law does not recognize promises and agreements in which the parties did not intend to create legal relations. Furthermore, for a contract to be legally enforceable it must include the following: consent of the contracting parties, consideration, parties capable of contracting, and a legal object.
Consent of the contracting parties: The existence of this element is a prerequisite for a valid contract, meaning for a contract to actually exist, consent must be sought and obtained. Both parties to the contract must communicate to each other unambiguously, the nature of the contract, the terms, the subject matter, and everything else that is relevant to the contract. This is usually referred to as a “meeting of the minds”. There has to be an offer by one of the parties (referred to as the offeror) and an acceptance by the other party (referred to as the offeree). A counter offer does not signify acceptance.
For instance, if an offeror proposes to sell his car for a certain price and the offeree counter-offers, this would signify rejection of the initial offer, and should the offeror sell his car to a different person at a different price, the offeree does not possess the right to enforce the initial offer as no contract was made.
Any consent that is obtained through fraud, duress, misrepresentation, undue influence, mistake is not out of freewill, thus, voidable. Apparently, if I sign a contract because I was deceived, I never consented to it in the first place, therefore, I can rescind it. A lot has been written extensively on this. Sometimes, cases regarding this are usually not that straight forward, but do not be dismayed, it is the role of the courts to interpret each specific or particular case. It is advisable to always contact a lawyer before you enter into a contract.
Consideration: This is equally a prerequisite for all valid contracts. This is the price for which the offer is bought. For instance, in a “buyer” and “seller” situation; the buyer receives the goods and the seller receives payment. All parties to a contract must make gains. If Mr. A sues Mr. B for breach of contract without proof that he had furnished consideration (proof that Mr. B had gained something), he will not succeed, because Mr. B has not received any consideration. Sometimes, cases bothering on this issue are always not that open-and-shut. It is usually the role of the court to decide.
Parties capable of contracting: The law prohibits minors, people of unsound mind and drunken person, illiterates from contracting. The contract must identify the parties, first by their names. And sometimes, titles like “Buyer” and “Seller” could be used to further describe the contracting parties. Copious materials that extensively explain this subject, have been documented.
Legal Object: The object or subject matter of a contract must be legal. A contract for the sale of stolen vehicles will not be enforced by the court should there be a breach.
It is important to know that whether your contract is a written or an oral contract, it must include the elements stated above for it to be legally binding and enforceable. Thus, an oral contract can be enforceable if it meets these requirements. However, the validity of certain contracts is hinged on the fact that they be in writing; in such cases they must documented to be legally binding. However, you will be well advised to always document your contracts. It is advisable to always insist that the contract is in writing for evidential basis.
A written contract always serves as a proof that a contract exists in the event of a breach. Always seek the advice of a lawyer before you append your signature to contract papers regardless of how simple the contract is, or how small the contract amount is.
(c) Aniebiet Ubon 2013.
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Aniebiet D. Ubon LL.B (Hons), BL (in view) is an independent writer and researcher in the field of law, with special interests in contract law, international law and human rights. He also writes about issues regarding world peace, Education, Politics, Human rights and societal development; He is also a Radio/TV commentator and analyst legal, education, political and societal development.
Ubon is the Founder of the Qualitative Universal Education and Legal Literacy Initiative (QUELL), an movement for young citizens campaigning for the right to free, compulsory primary education for all; the development of secondary and tertiary education available and accessible to all; and the improvement of the quality of our educational system. QUELL also aspires to promote legal awareness.
Contact email: email@example.com. Twitter: @aniebiet11
Labour has become the Samsung to the Conservatives’ Apple (or vice versa)
You don’t especially need a ‘focus group’ to tell you as many different views as you have participants. “Big data”, whilst flavour of the month, is not necessarily ‘best’. A recurrent theme that Labour regular voters find themselves returning to is the question of why bother voting Labour, when they simply seem to be a “Tory Lite”.
A member of any political party is worth his or her own weight in gold. Patrick O’Flynn, Chief Political Correspondent for the “Daily Express”, recently nailed his colours in the UKIP mast. In his recent speech to party members, O’Flynn’s love of his Party was obvious. A particularly effective line in his speech, which was more than a pithy soundbite, was his remark, “We are not a party of Little England – we are a party of Great Britain.” This in marketing terms known as ‘strategic positioning’, when you think about what your product is offering that is so distinct from other people on the market.
And that’s as far as I wish to push the ‘lessons from marketing’ narrative. Many grassroots members of Labour are totally exasperated about the ‘new lick of paint’ approach to politics, perhaps embodied by Mandelson’s rebrand of “New Labour” or Cameron’s reference to Ronseal. The practical problem that Ed Miliband faces, nonetheless, is that his ‘crisis of confidence’ could be a problem fundamentally with the song (Labour party policy) or the singer (him). As for the singer, attention has been given to his onstage demeanour and singing style, as this might seem like a worthy train of enquiry. The wait for policy details has been exasperating. One suspects there might be less criticism of the singer if the song were better defined. For example, the method of delivery of low-paid workers from Europe undercutting domestic English workers might have been more successful if Miliband had a song with clearly defined lyrics concerning a living wage in the first place.
When you ask people ‘what the perceived problem is for which the solution is the Conservative Party’, some people churlishly say ‘The Labour Party’. This is not as trivial as it first seems, as the idea of bin liners not being evacuated from the streets of our cities is deeply entrenched in the minds of some voters above a certain age. Some voters have genuine concerns about the Unions, and the relationship of the Labour Party with the Unions. Labour is in a position of being damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. It can have wish to have a dialogue with the voters on hedge funds leading English NHS privatisation behind closed doors, but will find itself ever-frustrated if the media refuse to cover the issue at all.
It could be that Labour has simply lost a sense of its values. The argument that Labour lost the plot, and changed from a socialist party to a social democratic party, is often instantaneously rebutted by the argument that ‘But Tony Blair was the best election-winning machine which Labour ever had.” To which point, many invariably stipulate that Labour began to lose its core support as early as 2002/3, long before Labour finally relinquished office in 2010.
This perceived lack of clarity is linked to Ed Miliband’s performance as a leader. Miliband is quite good doing ‘reactive’, but Miliband often seems at his best when responding to a crisis, whether this is phone hacking or horse meat. The UK does seem to have been a perpetual state of crisis since the General Election of 2010, but Miliband does impressively appear to have ‘called the right shots’. This does not make up for a lack of policy, or ‘vision’. The usual argument that ‘we are two years away from the election’ merely confirms the idea that Labour is in no particularly hurry to outline a clear vision of settled values and principles on which it can progress. It instead confirms a notion of Labour making policy ‘on the hoof’, whether this is, for example, a ‘response’ to a ‘buy to let’ housing policy or a ‘response’ of vans which are allegedly racist.
There is possibly no single more significant policy plank than the UK economy over which there is genuine concern as to whether Labour is following or leading. It is possible that the economy is making a feeble recovery, over two years after it was also feebly recovering in 2010. It is possible that this new recovery is being fuelled by a temporary housing boom in London. There are many events which can be identified as to why the UK economy has been given a turboboost in the opposite direction by the Coalition. Ed Balls’ policy is perceived as ‘cutting not as deep, and not as fast’, and yet Balls seems fully signed up to a path of austerity. Balls seems as if he wishes to ‘have his cake and eat it’, criticising the Coalition’s economic policy while simultaneously supporting it.
If the economy does go into a sustained recovery, it is possible that the Conservatives will receive a ‘bounce’ for being more trusted on the economy. Voting data do actually provide that both the Conservatives and Labour Party are equally mistrusted on the economy. Labour seems to have been wishing to act ‘butch’ on the economy, hoping that voters will ‘learn to love’ Labour on the economy. This doesn’t add up. The Labour Party, in the style of an overcomplicated Oxford tutorial or Cambridge supervision, have failed overwhelmingly unconvincingly to establish a need for a £860 billion bailout. This failure means that the Conservatives still have some mileage with the fraudulent message, “Would you return the keys to the people who crashed the car?”, blaming the State for the global financial crash not the bankers in the City.
Labour’s problems are further compounded in that it doesn’t seem to offer anything much distinctive. Labour has become the Samsung to the Conservatives’ Apple (or vice versa). Labour supports PFI and Nicholson’s “efficiency savings”. The Conservatives do. Labour appears to support generally free schools or Academies, partly depending on what day it is. The Conservatives do. Labour seems to support acting ‘tough’ on illegal immigrants. The Conservatives do. Labour seems up for ‘modernising’ public services, and privatising what it can from them. The Conservatives do.
The truth is that politics, like the market which it has tried to copy, has become alarmingly homogenised. There is an illusion of choice, but there is a cigarette paper now currently between the main English political parties. When will Labour reverse “the Bedroom Tax”? And so it goes on. The frustration with Ed Miliband is as contrived as is the frustration with David Cameron. It’s a general malaise about the political process, though people generally are very articulate and passionate about many societal issues conversely. Labour’s approach appears to be to ‘play safe’ so that people think it’s ‘safe’ to vote Labour, rather than offering anything exciting or distinctive. If it pursues this strategy, it is more likely to find itself in ‘hung parliament’ territory rather than having a large working majority. But Tony Blair had a huge majority in 2007, and his legacy is still being fiercely debated.
All universities are needed for the public good
I still remember my time at Cambridge with fondness. I am a Scholar of my College there, as I was awarded the second highest First in the whole University in finals (“Part II”) in 1996. I think it’s very hard to be overtly or covertly disloyal to any educational establishment you have attended, unless you truly had a terrible time. I remember being supervised by some outstanding academics, a few even Nobel prize winners. It’s crazy to think I once sat next to César Milstein, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology for physiology and medicine, for his invention of monoclonal antibody technology which has subsequently produced massive benefit and outcomes for the medical profession as regards therapeutic value. I also remember sitting next to the Head of Interpol at a conference on economic crime, as we raised a ‘Floreat’ toast to the Queen.
Cambridge then, in the mid 1990s, had too its fair share of appalling lecturers. Paid by one of the ‘best’ Universities globally, some University Teaching Officers were completely incapable of giving a one-hour lecture. At worst, I had almost post-traumatic stress disordered memories of paper aeroplanes and chicken noises during an explanation by a Professorial fellow at Caius College on ‘Starling’s Law of the Heart’. Lectures might over-run, there might be totally illegible acetates, or the sound of delivery was just too awful for words. Ultimately, it did not as such matter, as Cambridge tries hard to allow people to leave with at least a II.1, thought of (and assumed possibly unfairly) by many employers as a badge of merit. At Cambridge, I worked out before my undergraduate time was up that there was a schism between what was lectured and what was subsequently examined. I stayed on at Cambridge to do my Ph.D., where I published on a seminal finding in behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia, which has since been replicated many times over. It is even in the current Oxford Textbook of Medicine.
After my health took a turn for the worst, I ‘started again’ in a private learning establishment, known as ‘BPP Law School’ at Waterloo, London. I undertook to do the Graduate Diploma of Law, which is the qualification regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to provide academic competence in the foundation subjects of the English law. BPP Law School’s learning officer, Fiona Dymond, was always at the end of the phone when my late father used to ring her up when he was worried that I was unconscious for yet another day at the Royal Free ITU due to bacterial meningitis. In negotiation with BPP Law School, I changed to the part-time weekend distance learning mode in due course. My late father used to wheel me to lectures in the wheelchair which I used for mobility between 2006-2008.
I received my Graduate Diploma of Law from BPP Law School in March 2009. The graduation ceremony was held at the Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn. This was an extremely proud evening for my mother, late father, and me. After that, I then successfully was awarded a Commendation in my Master of Law from the College of Law in December 2010. That course was a course which I did entirely through distance learning, but it was a difficult time for me as I was newly-disabled and starting my recovery from a common mental illness, alcoholism. The pastoral support I received from BPP Law School, which became BPP University this week, and the College of Law, which became the University of Law, was second to none.
My Master of Law in international commercial law, which I did at the College or University of Law, was very tightly focused on international practitioner skills. I was then kindly given permission by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to study the equally “practice facing” Legal Practice Course, after carefully discussing with them the personal troubles I had experienced with alcoholism. In the meantime, I had enrolled to do a Master of Business Administration at BPP Business School, which I completed in early 2011. I don’t regret learning about behaviours, skills and knowledge from the business and legal world for a moment, whatever I decide to do in the future. Giving clear advice (and I probably know how to argue convincingly both sides of any argument now thanks to any legal training) is a totally different skill to evaluating evidence critically for an hour for your finals at Cambridge.
Enough about me, me, me. Enough’s enough. I just wanted to say that if I had my time again and I wished to be a barrister or solicitor I would go to a private university such as BPP or the University of Law. This is because the course materials have clearly been refined to teach the behaviours, skills and knowledge needed to practise the law. I also think the link between the assessments and course is much clearer, but this could be an artifact of the course being so carefully regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. I am clearly not in any hurry, as I am a person who lives ‘just for today’. However, BPP trains up the vast majority of accountants in England, and successfully trained many of those who ultimately go onto be called to the Bar or admitted onto the Roll of Solicitors. I am, though, a card-carrying academic, and wouldn’t swop what I know now for anything.
I have written this fairly short article, as I am very loyal to three Universities where I have been educated, Cambridge University, BPP University and the University of Law. I think the purpose of the law is exactly as Prof Michael Sandel describes it for the US jurisdiction in his seminal lectures on justice at Harvard. I think a superficial purpose of law is for a correcting mechanism for misdemeanours in all spheres of life. A second more absorbing purpose of the law is to enable the ‘public good’. Any person who is truly inclusive in philosophy, and I am a card-carrying socialist, will believe in the need to find value in all agents of society. If there is intense competition for places, as will be evidenced in England this thursday by UCAS in ‘clearing’, with people aged 18 wishing to pursue a University education for the next few years, we should as a society be welcoming the different educations which they all have to offer. No learning institution is wishing to undermine anyone else, so any feeling of suspicion is totally unmerited. Having now completed 8 degrees and my Legal Practice Course, at the age of 39, I wish everyone going up to University this Autumn the very best of luck. Private universities, like public universities, have a critical rôle to play for this public good. What you learn in life, though, will be probably just as valuable, if not more!
Ed Miliband needs Labour to have a "differentiation strategy" of its own
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.
Making the initial training contract application to the graduate recruitment officer
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!
How talk of the Unions went very Pete Tong for David Cameron
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.
Now recruiting – new President of BPP Legal Awareness Society (closing 17/7; interviews 22/7)
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.