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I am not a LPC tutor. I am writing this blogpost as a matter of goodwill for students doing the Legal Practice Course. Current students should at all times be guided by their current SGS supervisors and examiners. This blogpost is only to provide a very basic introduction; and of course answers should be completely tailored to the question (not all items below will apply in any one question). For the civil litigation question, the key document will either be the particulars of claim (most likely), defence (much less likely but possible), or witness statement (much less likely but possible).
Particulars of claim
Students are usually told to assume that matters had progressed and A had started legal proceedings against B in the High Court. Students were then provided with draft Particulars of claim and were ask to identify and amend any errors in the draft document. This question requires students to identify any errors in the draft particulars of claim provided and to draft any paragraphs (or parts of paragraphs) that students considered were missing. A few students, apparently, also only identify the errors and missing elements of the particulars of claim and comment on them but do not draft the corrections. The instructions required students to identify any errors in the particulars of claim AND to draft any paragraphs (or parts of paragraphs) they considered were missing.
For students to gain high marks in this question they needed to:
- correct all typos and incorrect information;
- identify the missing elements in the particulars of claim and draft these elements; and
- correct and draft appropriate parts of the format of the document.
Some students answer this question well, but many finf this question challenging (a euphemism for saying sometimes the marks for this question are overall). In critiquing the particulars of claim, a methodical approach should be adopted to ensure it contains all the correct formal parts, all typographical or factual errors are corrected and the elements of duty, breach, causation and loss are dealt with.
There are some very good answers to this question by students who adopt a methodical approach to ensure that all the elements of the claim were dealt with.
Most students pick up marks by identifying some mistakes and missing formal parts in the document which might include some of the following, for example:
- description of claimant incorrectly as “claimants” when it was a company;
- description of defendant incorrectly as “defendants” when it was a company;
- formatting errors in the heading;
- general denial of relief paragraph was missing;
- in relation to the interest / damages paragraphs contained within the summary of remedies section, the cross reference to the relevant paragraph within the body of the draft particulars of claim was wrong;
- including a further implied term (e.g. fit for purpose);
- including an interest paragraph;
- incomplete description of the parties;
- incomplete list under Particulars of Breach;
- incomplete Prayer;
- incomplete Statement of Truth on the basis that it had been drafted by the solicitors;
- incorrect amounts;
- incorrect court (High Court of Justice);
- incorrect date references;
- incorrect interest paragraph;
- incorrect loss figures;
- incorrect name of the claimant;
- incorrect name of the defendant;
- incorrect title of the document;
- incorrectly shortened prayer paragraph;
- name of the firm was missing;
- neither party’s role was referred to as the first paragraph of the document as it should have been so this needed to be drafted in and the subsequent paragraphs re-numbered;
- no claim for the loss of reputation which had been suffered (if applicable);
- no proper causation – i.e. no linkage wording of the breach to the loss;
- no reference to the breach for either the express or the implied term;
- no reference to the express and implied term (e.g. fit for purpose);
- no reference to the express oral term;
- no reference to the relevant division of the High Court of Justice – i.e. the Queen’s Bench division;
- non use of a defined term for the word “Customers” which consistently was used with a capital letter throughout the document;
- not attaching the contract which is required by the CPR;
- reference to the first names but not the last names of the people acting on behalf of the claimant and defendant;
- stated that interest would be awarded ‘at such rate and for such period as the court thinks fit’;
- the authorisation by the claimant company was omitted from the statement of truth and the statement and should have concluded ‘I am duly authorised by the Claimant to sign this statement’;
- the defendant’s role was not referred to in the beginning of the document as it should have been;
- the interest paragraph referred to the wrong statute (the County Court Act which would only have been correct if the case had been in the County Court); it should have referred to section 35A Senior Courts Act 1981;
- the statement of truth needed an authorisation statement as the claimant was a company;
- the statement of truth should not have been on a page by itself;
- the summary of remedies or relief prayer should be in the claimant’s name and not the defendant’s and in relation to the interest paragraph contained within this section, the cross reference to the relevant paragraph within the body of the draft particulars of claim was omitted; and
- the wording “at such a rate and for such a period as the Court thinks fit” was omitted from the general interest paragraph;
The majority of the available marks are, however, available for correcting content errors and many students do well in this area by identifying that the duty was correctly set out, the breach was set out and correctly particularised and linked by causation to the losses suffered.
The errors normally include some of the following, for example:
- a copy of the contract has been omitted from the draft particulars of claim;
- a line needed to be added to show the causal link between the breach and the damage: i.e. ‘As a result of the breach of the…’;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted to deal with a further consequence of the defendant’s breach, the claimant’s loss to its reputation;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted to et out the implied term of the contract that the shower heads supplied would be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted to deal with the fact that as a further consequence of the defendant’s breach, the claimant was claiming damages for loss of reputation;
- failing to draft the interest paragraph or statement of truth properly;
- failing to link the breach back to the duty/term;
- the estimated loss of profit has been omitted as a head of damage and should be included with a revised total to the calculation inserted, as a result;
- the wording “and damage” has been omitted from the end of the first sentence;
- it was also necessary to clarify the breaches of the other terms of the contract (i.e. other express terms and the implied term) and link them back to the relevant paragraphs;
- it was necessary to add in a new paragraph to state that the defendant was in breach of the express term of the contract;
- it was necessary to state a term referred to was an express oral term of the contract;
- omitting the express oral term;
- omitting the implied term or including an incorrect implied term
- reference ithat the term of the contract was an express term;
- the particulars of loss and damage did not include an amount for the cost of a component and this needed to be added in and a new total loss amount calculated; and
- there were further particulars of the breaches which were not stated and should have been.
Common student errors or weaknesses in the drafting answers are:
- a copy of the contract has been omitted from the draft particulars of claim;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted that set out the implied term of the contract that the defendant would carry out its services with reasonable care and skill;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted to deal with a further consequence of the defendant’s breach, the claimant was claiming damages for future profits;
- a new paragraph should have been inserted to state, for example, the several customers had confirmed to the claimant that they would not be placing further orders with the claimant in the future (reasonable anticipated consequential loss);
- Inserting the names and addresses (including the company number) of the claimant and defendant – this information is provided on the Claim Form;
- it was necessary to add in a few words to state that the defendant was in breach of both the express and implied terms of the contract linking them to the relevant paragraphs above;
- not pleading the implied term of fitness for purpose and satisfactory quality or pleading a different implied term such as reasonable skill and care;
- not redrafting the statement of truth;
- not spotting that there had also been a breach of the implied terms of the contract (in addition to the breach of the express terms);
- only identifying some of the errors in the formal parts of the particulars of claim such as only considering the heading but not considering the end of the document and the statement of truth;
- pleading in a narrative style, which is more appropriate in a witness statement than a statement of case;
- removing key parts of the document when it was unnecessary to do so; and
- there were further particulars of the breaches which were not stated and should have been.
Students were asked to assume that a letter of claim was sent to A, and A responded indicating that it intends to defend the claim and that it accepts that the High Court in London has jurisdiction over the dispute. Further, students were told to assume that: a claim form was issued and deemed served together with the particulars of claim on a particular date; the relevant pre-action protocol was complied with and this has been stated on the claim form. Students are given a copy of the particulars of claim served by B. Students are provided with a first draft of the defence and they were asked to identify any errors in the draft defence provided and to draft any paragraphs (or parts of paragraphs) that students considered were missing. This question required students to identify and correct any errors in the draft witness statement considered in the previous question by marking them on the draft witness statement. Common findings are otherwise as above.
In critiquing the witness statement, a methodical approach should have been adopted to ensure it contained all the correct formal parts, all typographical or factual errors were corrected and the necessary elements of a witness statement in support of a summary judgment application were included. There are some good answers to this question by students who dealt with all of the above. Common findings are otherwise as above.
Most students pick up good marks by identifying some mistakes and missing formal parts in the document including:
- no corner marking;
- the witness’s details and relationship with the claimant was not referred to in the first paragraph of the document as it should have been;
- ]the wording at the start (“make oath and say”) was not appropriate for a witness statement and should have been amended to “will say as follows”;
- the “information and belief paragraph” was missing and needed drafting in;
- the meetings log should have been exhibited (as this confirmed the meeting which took place between the parties at the relevant time) and referred to in the statement properly marked as FS1;
- a paragraph referring to the summary judgment test should have been included including a formal request in for the Honourable Court to grant the order;
- the statement of truth was in the wrong form for a witness statement i.e. needed to be in the first person and did not require authorisation by the claimant.
Good luck! The assessments in the electives differ from the core practice areas in that invariably all drafting is done from scratch (i.e. you are not asked to amend any documents; you’re given a completely blank of sheet of paper.)
This blogpost is to provide with some clues about what you might expect for the BLP assessment for the Legal Practice Course. They are unofficial observations on the main three hour paper for BLP (the second paper is a multiple choice paper which is much shorter).
The aim of the main three hour paper is to offer you a series of fact patterns; and the aim is for you to make diligent assessments of the documents provided, for example, budget sheets or articles of association, to provide accurate advice for your client. A typical paper might consist of about seven questions, varying in length and contribution to the overall quantum of the paper. But there are certain favourite topics, which you would do well to be aware of. Please note that this blogpost should not be used as indication of what will be in your examination. The coverage of the entire syllabus has been pretty complete. For example, one of the questions not listed below is on business accounts, but you could find yourself discussing the impact of various commercial decisions on parts of the budget sheet. Any of the calculations you covered in the business accounts SGS could appear too. Please note that there can be variants of questions; for example the procedure plan might be focused on redemption or buy back of shares following some need to remove a director, for example, or the lead examiner might be much more interested in questions on setting up the original private limited company (exploring topics such as choice of business medium, or relative advantages or disadvantages of debt and equity finance). The main intention of the BLP exam is to ensure competence for aspiring solicitors to be regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, though the assessment will also provide ample scope for working out who the distinction level candidates might be. It might be that the lead examiner might feel that certain topics, such as private acquisitions or employment, are best reserved examining in detail in some later point for elective options.
I am not a BLP tutor, so please don’t take any of the below as other than well meant hints and tips. Thanks.
1. Corporate insolvency
The question on corporate insolvency could carry as much as about 15 marks.
In this question, for example, you might be informed that a company is in financial difficulties with a particular ‘fact pattern’. You might be told of a specific scenario, such as the company had recently disposed of an unused storage unit to an unconnected third party at a discount to its current market value.
You might be asked to advise what the implications were for the company (or its creditors) and for the directors of the company, for example. You might be expected to apply the “every step” defence preventing disqualification of a director, for example:
- undertaking regular financial checks;
- calling regular board meetings and raising concerns there;
- taking independent advice from an insolvency practitioner;
- speaking to the shareholders; and
- suggesting savings to be made in the running of the business.
You will need to apply carefully the statutory law, and include if relevant possible defence steps.
More than offence could of course satisfy the fact pattern. You should however be very careful about considering other issues which on the facts are not relevant to the question being asked. This is not only a waste of time, but also does not produce any marks.
The candidates who do well on this type of question will methodically apply the relevant statutory provisions concerning such transactions to the factual scenario, giving precise and accurate statutory references. They analysed the proposed transaction, with frequent reference to the statute, and outlined the potential consequences for the client if the creditor went into liquidation or administration (namely that the court could order the transaction granting the preference to be set aside), in the same manner as they had considered such issues in the SGS.
2. Removal of a director
This might be quite a quick scenario for about 10 marks.
You might directed to consider some Proposed Articles, and, for each of three proposed articles, explain (i) whether that article was legally permissible, and (ii) whether it was commercially and practically suitable for a proposed limited company.
You might be given a fairly typical scenario of documents that had been served on the board of a company seeking the removal of a particular as a director and advise the board on the steps it should now take and the likely sequence and timing of events.
The question normally students to advise on the procedure to remove a director under s.168 and ss. 303-305 CA 2006. You might also be presented with the perspective of how a director could protect himself or herself from such an action.
Most students answer this type of question very well, but weaker students tend to give vague, generic answers on the commercial points rather than applying the given facts to the details of the question.
3. Procedure plan
Such a question might expect candidates to prepare a procedure plan to implement the appointment of director A, the resignation of director B, the entry into the service contract of director A and the issue and allotment of shares to director A.
This is quite often the most significant question in the main BLP paper, attracting about twenty marks out of 80, i.e. one quarter of the total marks available for the overall BLP examination. The question also asked students to consider all post-meeting matters, to specify the order in which the steps must be taken and who needs to take each step. Students are told normally not to consider the written resolution procedure.
The majority of students will manage to achieve the marks available for basic points by setting out and explaining the board meeting, general meeting, board meeting sequence and standard resolutions required (e.g. board resolution to approve notice of and board resolution to call the general meeting). The question also asks students to consider who would take each step and to list the requisite filings and other post-meeting matters. Students are normally told not to consider the written resolution procedure.
However, there are often several distinct areas where weaker answers do not provide any or sufficient analysis, particularly if the procedure plan involves issuing shares; for example the detail of the procedure for issuing shares can be lacking in answers. Students need to focus on the five-step process for issuing shares in order to establish which resolutions, if any, would be required to score highly. Some students will lose marks by not giving full statutory references, e.g. MA 17(1)(b) to appoint a director, and MA 9(1) in relation to calling a board meeting. Some answers did not show sufficient attention to detail, for example by failing to state what would happen, in the correct order. Some students said that the existing directors would resign before the replacement directors had been appointed.
There are various ways in which distinction answers might excel themselves. For example, distinction answers might describe how the issue of ordinary shares would affect the voting rights of the existing shareholders and would enable individuals to block special resolutions whereas the preference shares did not carry any voting rights.
This could be asked about in a number of ways.
Students might be asked to identify any typographical, grammatical or formatting errors or inconsistencies and any incorrect or inconsistent use of defined terms. This part of the question tested students’ attention to detail and their knowledge of the conventions of good drafting.
Most students made a fair attempt at this part of the question. Students who scored poorly on this part of the question did not take sufficient care in spotting some obvious errors (which included spelling errors, naccurate cross–referencing and use of singular vs. plural terms, inconsistent use of the definitions, inconsistent punctuation within the sub-clauses of clauses, inconsistent numbering of clauses and errors in the cross references to clauses).
Students who earn good marks on this part of the question were those who paid close attention to detail and were therefore able to spot a wide range of errors. Weaker students will not pay sufficient attention to detail and fail to spot basic grammatical errors and other inconsistencies such as incorrect use of definitions, inaccurate cross–referencing and use of singular vs. plural terms.
A few students will fail to read the question properly and either re-drafted the clause or commented on the substantive drafting rather than identifying typographical, grammatical or formatting errors.
A student might also, for example, be provided with a “blue pencil” clause, to examine whether a student can assess a clause is likely to be too onerous or unlawful.
5. Substantial property transaction
This question might carry 10-15 marks, and might typically be in two parts.
A first part of the question might ask students to identify any statutory provisions that should be considered by a company, in connection with a proposed substantial property transaction, and state how the statutory provisions should be complied with
The facts might, for example, point to a substantial property transaction (applying ss. 190(1)(b) and 191(2)(b)) between a company and a person connected to one of its directors, the director’s father (ss. 242(2)(a) and 253(2)(e). High-performing students made specific reference both to the elements of the relevant sections and the facts provided in the scenario, to back up this conclusion.
A second part of the question asked students to explain the consequences for the company and its board, if the relevant provisions were not complied with. For example, most students would correctly cite relevant subsections of ss. 195 and 196: credit was awarded both for stating that the transaction would be voidable (not ‘void’) and for identifying individuals who, in this scenario, could face personal liability.
Students are given information about an individual’s financial affairs and told that the client is seeking advice about her income tax and capital gains tax liability.
In the aternative, Corporation tax can be asked in a number of ways, such as how anticipated losses could affect corporation tax liability, or how “straddling” comes about, when a company’s accounting period does not match the financial year.
You may also be asked about the specific scenario of the tax condideration of a ‘close company’ covered in SGS.
Your client, for example, has requested advice as to whether or not it should invest as it had been told it was a “very good bet‟.
This has not only been covered in the BLP SGS but also in considerable detail in the ‘decision tree’ worked examples for the PCR SGS.
You might be asked a question related to the proposed acquisition of A by B and asked, students to consider the advantages and disadvantages of structuring the transaction as a share sale, from say B’s perspective. Students will generally given credit for sensible points, including the following:
This question might alternatively ask candidates to consider whether a company could pursue a claim against the Seller in respect of problems with vehicles it had indirectly acquired following its purchase of shares. Most candidates , foe example, would therefore be expected to suggest that the company should review:
- the due diligence information it had received (for example any responses to any due diligence questions regarding the condition of the vehicles);
- the share purchase agreement (to identify any warranties or indemnities the Seller had made with respect to the vehicles and any vendor protection clauses the Seller had included to limit its liability); and
- any disclosure letter (to identify any issues disclosed with respect to the vehicles which might preclude a warranty claim).
About the BPP Legal Awareness Society
The BPP Legal Awareness Society was founded in January 2011 at BPP Business School, The City, London. The aim of the Society is to consider how key decisions are made in corporate strategy by corporate clients, and to consider further the importance of commercial and corporate lawyers in promoting business success.
Whilst currently based at BPP Law School in Holborn (as of January 2012), the Society continues to generate much goodwill and a good reputation across the whole of England, in part due to its very active efforts in the social media. The Society prides itself on inclusivity and accessibility, and is therefore open to all past, current, and future members of BPP, in all disciplines, across all sites.
How to contact the BPP Legal Awareness Society
To contact the Society over anything, please e-mail us at: legalaware1213@gmail. Alternatively, tweet Shibley, the Society’s current President, directly at @legalaware. We should be particularly keen if you would like to offer input into the ‘Corporate Client Strategy’ project, described below, if you, as a lawyer, are interested in how business strategy is taught at GDL/LLB(Hons) or LPC level to law students, or if you would like to take part as a guest in the podcasting project; you do not have to have trained or taught at BPP to be able to contribute.
The ‘Legal Aware’ flagship blog
Our blog contains up-to-date corporate and commercial news, as well as educational videos (http://legal-aware.org). You might find it useful in preparation for training contract interviews, inter alia.
The BPP Legal Awareness Society as in previous terms will be holding fortnightly meetings during term time at BPP Law School. For timetables of previous meetings which we have held please go to the following links: Jun – Dec 2011, Jan – May 2012, and May – August 2012. You will notice that our meetings consider in detail common practice areas of international commercial and corporate professional legal work, and also the online psychometric verbal reasoning tests used by the majority of City law firms in their selection process.
These provide information about how to get involved in activities of the Society:
This is a brand new initiative which we are launching for the 2012/3 academic year. The aim is for students who are current members of the Society to research in detail the corporate strategy of clients of their choice using only information in the public domain (these may be firms that they may be dealing with in their training contracts, for example). Then, these students give mini-presentations on their findings, suggesting how commercial and corporate law can be used innovatively to create competitive advantage for the corporate client, thus maximising shareholder dividend. We anticipate that students who are yet to secure a training contract may seek to be involved with this new project, as evidence of ‘commercial awareness’ for the training contract application form.
Blogging is an excellent mechanism of knowledge sharing, and creating networks of like-minded individuals. Our popular blog is read by people from a number of different backgrounds, including junior and senior lawyers, professionals in business, finance and economics, and current, past and future GDL/LPC/LLM students. The blog is currently updated virtually daily, and we are looking for a small team of writers to take responsibility for producing accurate, intelligent and thought-provoking articles based on the contemporary commercial and corporate news, for publication on the blog. All authors will be given their own admin credentials for the blog, and there will be minimal editorial input. All posts will necessarily conform to the current SRA Code of Conduct (LPC student edition).
The BPP Legal Awareness Society executive committee runs on the basis of the ‘cluster’ basis of management. These means that executive committee members tend to have defined roles, such as internal publicity across various sites, liaising with internal stakeholders, arranging meetings at Holborn, taking responsibility for podcasting (see below), but will participate in running the society according to demands of the Society within BPP. This allows flexibility according to our needs, and encourages teamwork amongst our team members. We will this year be asking students to prepare a short CV of their relevant background, education and/or experience, at the least, as we should wish all members of our committee to pull their weight and not to require prompting to do things.
In this academic year, we are especially keen to produce podcasts and widely distribute them. If this project is successful, we wish to make our Legal Aware podcasts available for free subscription on the internet through the iStore. The podcasts are produced by members of our podcast team, who research and discuss topics of their own choosing. This is our last podcast (from the last academic year) on the changing nature of legal education, in response to the ongoing ‘Legal Education and Training Review’. This initiative relies heavily on the competences of attention-to-detail, proactivity, commercial awareness and teamwork.
Verbal reasoning psychometric tests for training contract applications
The Society has also been involved in an initiative for law students to improve their performance in verbal reasoning psychometric tests for training contracts (“Legal Recruit”). This initiative is entirely separate from the teaching provided by BPP.
25 September 2012
The case of Dong Bang Minerva (UK) v Davina  must be the greatest name of a legal case ever – #LPC examiners have been able to accept “Ding Dong” as an abbreviation, with even one generous examiner, it is rumoured, able to give a mark for “Ding Dong Bang” from a student in the ‘heat of the moment’.
What is more amusing is what the definition of ‘reasonable fees’ might be, referred to here in the judgement delivered in the Chancery Division of the High Court:
“The tone of this letter clearly offended Mr Bharat Amin. The material part of his reply dated 26th August 1993 was:
“I strongly object to your statement that our fees are unreasonable. The fees are based on estimated time and quality of professional services — lease, rent etc. The make up of the fees is as follows:..”
And in fact the Court of Appeal judgement is equally amusing for similar reasons.
“Held, dismissing the appeal, that although it might be acceptable for a landlord to require an undertaking as to his reasonable costs before consenting to an underlease, in the instant case the estimated fees were unreasonable and the landlord was in breach of its statutory duty.”
Anyway, according to this case it is felt that the landlord bears the onus of proof and must show that the time within which consent was given or response provided was reasonable; that any condition attached to consent was reasonable and if consent was refused it was reasonable not to give consent. If the landlord fails to discharge its obligation a claim may be brought for breach of statutory duty and the landlord may be liable in damages. What is considered a reasonable time depends on the facts of each case but generally is measured in days or weeks, not months (Go West Ltd v Spigarolo  EWCA Civ 17).
s.1 Landlord and Tenant Act  applies to all leases and to all forms of alienation. Where a tenant applies to the landlord in writing for consent to assign or sublet, s.1 LTA provides that the landlord must given written consent within a reasonable time. In the “Dong Bang” case, it was considered that 28 days from receipt of the notice of the application and references by the landlord was a reasonable period within which to inform the tenant of the decision.
Meanwhile, the effect of s.19(1)(a) Landlord and Tenant Act  has no effect on absolute covenants prohibiting alienation. It, however, assists tenants by converting a qualified covenant against alienation into a fully qualified covenant. What is the definition of reasonableness of the landlord in withholding consent here? A number of interesting cases have allowed greater clarity of the statute.
International Drilling Fluids v Louisville Investments (Uxbridge)  provides that a landlord is not entitled to refuse his consent on grounds which have nothing to do with the landlord and tenant relationship. It must be something to do with, for example, the proposed assignee’s ability to pay rent, or bad references. Yet again, it is quite amusing how the principle of legal precedent might have inflicted this dictum on that court:
“(2) As a corollary to the first proposition, a landlord is not entitled to refuse his consent to an assignment on grounds which have nothing whatever to do with the relationship of landlord and tenant in regard to the subject-matter of the lease (see Houlder Bros & Co Ltd v Gibbs (supra), a decision which (despite some criticism) is binding on this court; Bickel v Duke of Westminster QB 517).”
Moss Bros Group plc v CSC Properties Ltd  provides that a landlord is reasonable in refusing consent if the proposed assignee’s business does not fit in with the landlord’s tenant-mix policy. A report by the CISCexplains why “tenant mix” is so important as follows: “The variety and location of retailers within a group of shops, known as tenant mix , has been identified as a critical factor in the success or failure of purpose-built shopping centres. There have been numerous studies made of the impact tenant mix can have on profitability, but less is known about the way in which landlord investors approach the allocation of leases within shopping centres. This study aims to increase understanding of how they perceive and manage tenant mix.”
In Ashworth Frazer Ltd v Gloucester City Council, the House of Lords confirmed that where a landlord believed the a proposed assignee intended to use the premises for a purpose which would give rise to a breach of covenant, it was reasonable for the landlord to refuse consent to assign. Quoted in that judgment is a critical passage in the judgment of Stamp LJ then follows, from the decision of the Court of Appeal in Killick v Second Covent Garden Property Co Ltd  1 WLR 658, and one which, again, that present Court felt bound by:
“Mr. Priday, on behalf of the landlords, submitted that a landlord may reasonably refuse consent to an assignment if the assignment would necessarily involve a breach of covenant, and I will accept that submission as being well founded. But whatever view one takes as to the construction of the user covenant, I cannot accept that, if the landlords did consent to the proposed assignments, there would as a necessary consequence be a breach of the user covenant. As a result of the assignments Primaplex would step into the shoes of the lessee and underlessee and would thereupon become subject to the user covenant. The landlords would be in the same position, neither better nor worse, to enforce the user covenant as would be the case if the present underlessee was itself proposing to seek planning permission for use of the premises as offices and proposed so to use them. On that short ground I would hold that the landlords’ withholding of consent is unreasonable.”
There is a further statutory intervention in s.19(2) Landlord and Covenant Act (1927) which implies into a qualified covenant against improvements a proviso that the landlord’s consent is not to be unreasonably withheld. Lambert v FW Woolworth  provides the leading case about what constitutes ‘improvements’, and they are generally construed widely as works which improve the property from the tenant’s perspective. Compared with the interpretation of “unreasonable” in the context of s.19(1)(a), there is less case law, but s.19(2) allows the landlord to require as a condition of giving consent, payment of compensation for a loss in value to the reversion caused by the alterations, reinstatement of the premises, and payment of the landlord’s expenses in giving consent. The case facts were so well known that even LJ Slessler seemed bored with them…
“The facts of this case have been so often stated during the protracted litigation which has taken place between the parties that I do not think it necessary in any detail again to repeat them.”
I have a steady stream of Twitter comments all day, many of which are interesting as I follow interesting people! It’s a happy coincidence that I follow most people who follow me.
I love certain types of joke on Twitter. I particularly like jokes of this very variety, by experienced #legaltweep @charonqc:
So my mind has been wandering in the last few hours while I’ve been listening to back-to-back Business Law Practice lectures on the Legal Practice Course.
Frustrated with spending all week highlighting my Butterworths Company Law handbook in yellow highlighter pen, this was the best (only) I could come up with.
Either way, leaving you with a positive worthwhile message for this blog post, I suggest the following for @BPPLawSchool LPC students of Business Law Practice (“BLP”):
It’s really hard to match the elegance of @charonqc‘s humour in fact, as I am sure many of you will have noticed!
I am writing this post completely independently of BPP. As a current LPC student at BPP Law School in Holborn, I was very interested to read a recent article about a pilot of a new course to commence in September 2012, thought to be the first of its kind, called “MA (LPC with Business)”. The LPC of course has a formal name in itself ‘Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice’, so it makes complete sense to ‘top up’ LPC modules with further modules to constitute a degree-level course.
I think the critical thing about this new course is that it allows students to study both business and law concurrently. I am one of the few people in the UK to have done postgraduate qualifications in law (LLM) and business (MBA), though there are some very senior people who have done both. I therefore studied business and law separately, and it took me around three or four years in total, but I think a combined Masters for future trainee lawyers is a very good idea.
Most of the general public do not have a good understanding of what business is. The tragedy is most people on completing the GDL do not either, and even the exposure to management theory and practice is limited on the compulsory practice area ‘Business Law Practice’ on the Legal Practice Course. This is limiting, as I believe that corporate lawyers benefit from understanding the business motives of their clients. I don’t believe this is the same thing at all as necessitating a psychiatrist should have a history of severe depression, but I think it’s more similar to a cardiologist wishing to help a patient with his depression so that his heart symptoms get better. This analogy brings out a problem of this relationship – the patient does not probably wish to come to see a cardiologist about his depression, and would prefer to see a specialist psychiatrist anyway about his depression.
You learn things in business management which you simply do not learn in the business law practice course in the LPC. There are too many to list here in this brief personal opinion, but a clear example is how to draft up a business plan. Business students also learn in depth about organisations and culture, corporate strategy, operations, leadership, marketing, economics and (sometimes) innovation. More specifically, there are “learning outcomes” which are clearly beneficial in this context (see for example module 1 of the SJ Berwin “Masters in Law” with Business programme prospectus):
- assess the relevance of concepts of economic theory to the competitive context within which a business operates;
- apply techniques of business and market analysis;
- analyse the determinants of competitive advantage and the techniques for assessing strategic potential;
- examine a range of techniques used by commercial organisations as the basis for formulating a business strategy and creating a strategic plan for leaders in a business;
- consider the challenges presented in implementing a business strategy and achieving organisational alignment; and
- critically assess business practice in relation to risk management, corporate governance and corporate social responsibility.
Likewise, you can learn things in postgraduate legal studies which you don’t learn in business, like how to draft up commercial legal agreements, the details of intellectual property and their protection, and the regulation of financial activities in the City. In my LLM (done at the College of Law), the course providers were at pains to ensure you could ‘read’ a complicated commercial law case, knew how to pitch legal services to a client through an oral presentation, and knew how to draft complicated agreements. I have not done these activities to such a detailed level on the LPC.
I don’t think it’s a problem that I never studied these concurrently, however. For example, the award-winning Simmons and Simmons LPC/MBA course allows you to study these subjects side-by-side. Either way, I feel hand-on-heart it’s a brilliant strategy by BPP to offer such an integrated specialised training, which I can see as very appealing to the corporate clients of BPP. As I am clearly not doing these courses myself, I hope you will allow me my strong endorsement of them!
Libraries are great whether you’re an anorak, or not! I love the smell and feel of real books, as well as my tablet – there’s a fantastic bookshop on Fleet Street where you can browse through books across a diverse range of legal subjects (even those which are not directly relevant to your course). Maybe you’ve encountered the author or their Chambers on Twitter, for example? Anyway, the remainder of this post is about the library facilities at BPP Holborn Law School Holborn, though will probably equally apply to the other excellent law schools in the UK.
The Legal Practice Course is a bit of a whirlwind – every week there’s for me a small group session in each of the core subject areas, which are civil and criminal litigation, property law practice and business law practice (including business accounts and revenue law). Drafting and writing have been pervasive skills in all three of these. We also have had teaching and assessments/mocks in advocacy, wills and administration of estates, practical legal research (PLR), solicitors accounts, and interviewing and assessing.
I have all my course materials on my #ipad3, and I must say I rarely use this. I was in conversation with a LPC student on Twitter yesterday, and my fundamental issue is that I prefer navigating big lever arch A4 files as it helps me visualise all the material and I much prefer annotating text by hand (rather than making electronic annotations on my tablet). Who knows where the future is heading on this.
I am doing the Full-Time programme (non-accelerated) at BPPLawSchool Holborn, though I suspect my experiences are similar to those of friends or colleagues at the College of Law (and elsewhere). It’s really has dawned on me how brilliant the teaching has been at both these institutions, although my LLM at the College of Law (entirely supervised online S mode) was a very different course. There’s a big notice on both entrances for non-members of BPP to report to Reception to show ID (this is essential even if you’re visiting a friend at BPP, as we’re in the heart of London). This is a picture when it’s not busy with students; bliss!
Whilst many people will be packing their bucket and spade to go down the A23 to the beach in Brighton, I quite fancy spending some days going to Red Lion Street in the BPP Law School library at Holborn. Here is a picture of their opening hours – as well as a bit of the noticeboard beneath it offering useful news for students.
The Library is on Twitter (@BPPHolbornLib), run by Mark Haines and wonderful colleagues. They give me a huge amount of support daily with various learning support issues; the printing account is easy to operate, and it’s actually quite nice working in the computer zone of the library when you’re a bit fed up of sitting at a book for hours! That said, books are very important, and I’ve really warmed to them while doing the ‘practical legal research’ part of the LPC.
I am of course a huge fan of electronic resources, having completed my LLM and my MBA at BPP Business School entirely using electronic book or journal references, but on the PLR of the LPC it’s clear that they don’t mind you using electronic and/or traditional references. I have enjoyed looking up Harvey’s, Halsbury’s Laws, Tolleys’ etc. in printed form, and apparently on the PLR it’s essential to use up-to-date references in producing your assessed work (which has to observe other criteria obviously, such as conciseness of advice, relevance of advice, writing etiquette, citations presented correctly, and the such like). I think in fact I have understood the relevance of a library even much more than my 3 year doctoral thesis at the University of Cambridge.
So please do join @BPPHolbornLib on Twitter! You may be a student at BPP, a member of staff at BPP, a law librarian, but please note that the tweet timeline also covers topics which you may also find interesting. It’s a very young Twitter account, so I don’t think many of my pals on the GDL/LPC/LLM at BPP have heard of it yet, so please it would be great if you could bring it to their attention (if relevant)!
And if you get bored – don’t forget to have a wonder downstairs to join Jill in the BPP Student Common Room café (which also has brilliant Wifi reception for reading the learning materials haha!)
Have a lovely Easter break.
Roll over “outcomes-focused regulation” being implemented by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The current core syllabus for the Legal Practice Course, the stage of legal training prior to the training contract, provides for a “objects-focused curriculum’.
Inevitably, the bread-and-butter of law will be the documents. Indeed, the Business Law Practice glides effortlessly through the documentation required to ensure shareholder dividend for an English company, and even completes the story by describing the document required for a company to end. People aren’t involved in business and solicitors accounts obviously; numbers are.
People are an occupational hazard in civil and criminal litigation, civil litigation taking pride-of-place of course in the context of what happens when individuals sue companies or companies sue companies. “Objects-focused curriculum” is in a world of own of course when land is considered for an entire subject.
It is no wonder that the English company and inanimate objects figure prominently in the Legal Practice Course. However, law indeed has to respond to some of the problems of society in general, which includes – but does not include exclusively – companies. There is absolutely no doubt that professional ethics, practical legal research, and other skills should be part of the new-look Legal Practice Course, but it would be nice if the Legal Practice Course did not take an agenda which is entirely shareholder-focused.
It is pitiful that a law student can get to the training contract, if he is lucky enough to be offered a training contract at all from a large corporate, without knowing a basic minimum of information about immigration, asylum, welfare benefits or employment? But these involve stakeholders don’t they? They’d be rather out-of-place in an ‘objects-focused curriculum’.
Here are some other nice objects, anyway…
It’s been a great first year for Legal Aware, the official blog of the BPP Legal Awareness Society (here it is on the official BPP Students website developed by Madelaine Power and Laila Heinonen).
On February 26 2011, I introduced my blog for the first time. I announced that blog would be centred around ten topics, and indeed I have largely stuck to this list throughout the year. Actually, I have expanded the list as my interests in the corporate legal news grew, and I started blogging on non-corporate topics, as my interest in pro bono welfare benefits developed. I have worked for five months in a law centre in London, in a post which was first advertised through the BPP Careers Newsletter.
Shortly, after announcing some meetings, I reviewed the plagued Rio Tinto and Riversdale transaction, one which had been plaguing Linklaters for months and which had an unfortunate conclusion. I invited people to join the brand new BPP Legal Awareness Society, which they did. Maxinutrition was sold to GSK through Marcfarlanes in an interesting transaction, and I reported on the forthcoming implementation of the Bribery Act. Onto the legal landscape, it was becoming increasingly recognised that professional legal services had to be run as businesses, and the nature of commercial law continued to interest me.
U.S. firms were fast adapting to the commercial opportunities of social media, and this was a theme to recur in the whole of 2011. For example, in May 2011, I reported on lessons in the UK industry for my social media strategy which had been very much made up on-the-hoof. In June 2011, Victoria Moffatt would later consider whether junior lawyers should participate in LinkedIn. By that stage, I was gaining a much clearer idea of what the BPP Legal Awareness Society was about, and that was to explain the relevance and critical importannce of law and regulation to shaping the competitive advantage of businesses. The regulation of the banking industry was beginning to bcome important as a theme, and I first brought up firewalls. The SRA spelt out 10 new principles in its Code of Conduct, and members of my Society discussed the use of ‘Second Life’ in law and legal education.
Slaughter & May LLP removed what they called a ‘clearly offensive advert’ widely reported in the blogosphere, including “Roll on Friday”. I was becoming very interested in my MBA on how corporate social responsibility should pervade the business strategy in corporates, and I reported on a recent experience from India. Back in the real world, I was doing pro bono, and I wrote about a test in welfare benefits law which interested me – the cooking test. Motor insurance was hitting the headlines, whilst international arbitration saw two bits of ‘big news': arbitration over nuclear power in Russia was becoming important and a new ‘Arbitration Ordinance’ was introduced. The effects of the global financial crisis were becoming clearer, as law firms sought to find solace in Islamic Finance in diversification of their range of legal services. The effect of other issues, climate change, continued to be a source of legal work for the City, RBS considered a international expansion strategy into China through the joint venture mechanism. Amazon Inc continued to explore the intellectual property issues surrounding their “1-click patent”, and Google Inc meanwhile had their hands full with problems over AdWords. The High Court also saw another interesting IP dispute over the name of Lotus in motor racing.
The impact of media law was beginning to become known as England discussed the need for a privacy law whilst free speech on the internet became under scrutiny and Charlotte Harris, a partner in Mischon de Reya LLP, tried to discuss superinjunctions and anonymised injunctions on BBC’s Question Time. Lord Prescott indeed managed to achieve a win in the High Court over phone hacking. Finally, the impact of technology and the breaking of superinjunctions hit the limelight as ‘the Streisand Effect and that footballer’, and I dutifully did not break the superinjunction as I have student enrolment from the SRA.
“Roll on Friday” mooted the notion that I and various others at BPP were in fact suffering from “Stockholm Syndrome”, whilst I considered how my Society could help to overcome “the silo effect” in business and legal education. I moved the CSR debate onto a discussion of Bhopal in our Society’s meeting on CSR and international corporate strategy, and the general importance of marketing and CSR in corporate law’s “competitive advantage”. The changing landscape of the world generally was further manifest in the ongoing discussion of the impact of the Digital Economy Act, now in the arena of whether it offended human rights.
Meanwhile, Ken Clarke presented his new legal aid and sentencing bill to parliament, and BAILLI realised it was having trouble securing funding. Microsoft took a critical look at the role of entrepreneurship, Compass looked at ‘ethical banking’ in the banking regulatory reforms, and Steve Hynes wrote a brilliant letter to the Guardian on the impact of the legal aid cuts, whilst the Government produced its official response to its consultation on legal aid. Meanwhile, discrimination reared its ugly head, some would say quite literally, in a ‘battte of the cornrows‘ at the High Court. My passion for social law was intensifying at this point in this year, as I went to a brilliant meeting organised by the Islington Law Centre about what the legal aid cuts would mean. Again, I only found out about this meeting through the BPP Pro Bono Unit.
I revisited the subject of my LLM at the College of Law – cloud computing – in attending an interesting one-day conference on it at the HQ of Microsoft in which we discussed possible regulatory avenues for cloud computing. Frank Jennings argued at this meeting that cloud computing offered a myriad of opportunities, particularly for cloud computing providers to “stand out”. The highlight of the month, and possibly the year, was our #tweetup organised by @ShireenSmith of @Azrights at “The Yorkshire Tea”, just a stone’s throw from the BPP Law School in Holborn. I was highly amused at the various antics of Magic Circle Minx, and this interview description made me laugh a lot.
As the training contract deadline was drawing to a close, I blogged about the online application form based on a meeting done by the BPP Careers Unit at Holborn. I was in the middle of studying leadership for my #MBA, so I wrote about Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” iconic speech.
I got easily bored, and discussed how Yogi Bear should be ‘legally aware’, and I even likened the training contract interview to the driving test the following month. I gave a well received presentation on the employment support allowance for my student society, whilst the full impact of the phone hacking at the ‘News of the World’ was becoming more widely known and what effect our statute law might have. This was the birth of the #Leveson inquiry which would be a dominant feature of recent months. Phone hacking was now a very active area of debate in the Houses of Commons, which was to be the case for the months which followed.
I became increasingly interested in the methods that legal recruiters use to select people for interview for corporate law firms. I had in my sights the ‘situational judgement test’ where applicants have to make a decision ‘what they would do’ in that particular corporate situation; I made my own version up, and so far over 100 people have taken it providing me with clear answers, surprisingly.
On 1 September 2011, Alex Aldridge published a thought-provoking article, “Disabled lawyers still face discrimination” in the Guardian.
I commented as follows:
I’d very much like to thank @AlexAldridgeUK for writing such a constructive and positive article on a topic, in my personal opinion, which has become somewhat of a ‘white elephant’ for law firms and legal education.
I agree that all of the firms mentioned in the article have really ‘meant it’, when it comes to widening access to disabled students in the legal profession. I am mentioned in Alex’s article above, and I tweet at @legalaware. The article generated much-needed debate, and I hope that it begins to forge a path for the future, where all stakeholders can bring their views to the table equally validly. For example, I have always found @SundeepBhatia2 very encouraging in supporting me. Sundeep is a Law Society Council member, and is extremely committed to the values of equality and diversity, in letter as well as in spirit.
Although I have now passed my LLM in international commercial law and I am about to commence my LPC in January 2011 here in London, I now run the BPP Legal Awareness Society during my MBA, a student-run society to promote the importance of law to business, and business to commercial lawyers (our news and educational videos are located at http://www.legal-aware.org). This time last year, however, I went to the http://www.open-to-you.com/ (OPEN 2011) event which was immaculately organised.
It was a great opportunity to meet face-to-face legal recruitment experts, other law students, and, most importantly, lawyers generally at Managing Associate or Partner level. I’ ll be strongly encouraging my friends at @BPPLawSchool and@BPPBusiness, where I hope to be increasingly involved in our disability strategy at a personal level. As I am physically disabled myself, I think such an event is wonderful for introducing law students to issues such as reasonable adjustments in legal recruitment, and ongoing training. There was a brilliant session on interview techniques which I loved.
I happen to believe that a much more ambitious debate needs to be had, however. Disability is not simply about law firms meeting future employees face-to-face once-a-year, which I dare suits meets requirements of all those concerned. We need a decent acknowledgement that disabled people aren’t there simply for marketing purposes; disabled citizens are potent members of society. and can indeed secure “competitive advantage” for law firms in a directly relevant area of law such as real-life application of the Equality Act 2010 (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/contents).
Crucially, all disabled lawyers can exhibit remarkable skills in completely different areas of the entire range of corporate law specialities, such as share acquisitions or joint ventures, as indeed you’d find out if you were to attend the ‘OPEN 2012′ event. I believe that many disabled lawyers are also happy in high-street ‘social law’ in professional legal services firms offering specialist advice.
I couldn’t agree more with Tim’ s comment above: especially the need to ‘walk the walk’ as well as ‘talking the talk’ when it comes to inclusivity and diversity. This extends to all forms of legal recruitment, including careers fairs.
Tim is deaf as stated in his comment, and I have mildly impaired walking ability, as indeed also stated correctly in Alex’s article.
I feel intuitively that partners promoting disability in ‘top law firms’ (a term used in helenfcooke’s comment above), especially if they are not disabled themselves, could ‘do no harm’ ln listening extremely carefully to the views of people who live with disabilities.
This is, I suppose, what the people like me might call ‘face validity’ (cognitive neuropsychology was the subject of my own Ph.D., hence my somewhat late interest in psychometric tests for legal recruitment).
Ideally, I don’t feel it would be a bad thing if there were more disabled lawyers at Managing Associate or Partner level in these ‘top law firms’, anyway as I feel that there are few role models for disabled law students like me.
Furthermore, the proportion of disabled people in the general population is not altogether insignificant, so there is arguably no legitimate reason why disabled citizens should be underrepresented at senior level in such ‘top law firms’, or any law firm for that matter.
A new intake of students arrived at BPP University College. I hotfooted back from the party conference season to display my stall at Freshers Fair with Majid. During my conference, there were many interesting topics which I blogged on. Having already done pro bono work as a law student for several months by that stage, I attended a major event at the Labour Party Conference on the perils of the legal aid reforms. I concluded that the proposals did not constitute ‘justice for all‘. At some point during the year, probably inspired by two academic economists Prof Paul Krugman and Prof Joe Stiglitz, who both won the Nobel Prize in economics, that the Coalition policy was wrong and profoundly anti-Keynesian; I disagreed with Vince Cable’s interpretation of it in a blogpost I wrote on the “paradox of thrift“. I felt I had to tie in the notion of ‘economic rent’ and Ricardian economics in discussing bankers bonuses, however.
Later that month, I decided to make my own platform to help law students, particularly those with dyslexia and visual impairments, become good at the online verbal reasoning test; this is an obstacle for many law students getting even an interview for a training contract now. I wrote an introductory post on this here.
I became increasingly interest in how psychometric tests had managed to gain such an elevated status in legal recruitment; in fact, at one point, I reviewed the history of the situational judgement test, with a view to considering what the future holds.
On 14 October 2011, Alex Aldridge published an article in the Guardian entitled “Is the law degree an ass?”.
I commented as follows:
I really enjoyed attending this debate at UCL on Tuesday for two main reasons. Firstly, as a law student (about to study the BPP LPC in Holborn in January 2012, having successfully completed my GDL, LL.B.(Hons) and LL.M. as a mature student), I was interested to hear how academics answered the question “Do lawyers need to be scholars?’. This is particularly since I have received academic scholarships from three well-known institutions including Cambridge. Secondly, UCL is in fact where I did my own post-doc, and I have fond very memories of the place. I
I would like to thank the organisers @LexisNexis and UCL who took great care over the many delegates. I was able to sit near the front, due to my poor eyesight. I hope very much that @LexisNexis hold an event in the near future, with panel representatives including ‘real’ law students. I hope particularly @kevinpoulter will be involved as he is an experienced legal commentator who communicates well. I sat with fellow ‘legal tweeps’, @colmmu from the College of Law, and@legalacademia, a legal academic originally from Cardiff. It has been interesting for me (as @legalaware) to read the general feedback following the event, which converges on the notion that the scope for discussion about the issues was too limited, and drawn from people who were perhaps too senior. Notwithstanding these issues, I am very much looking forward to the outcome of the review to be conducted by the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR).
I have written a blogpost based on my own personal experience of this panel discussion on our ‘LegalAware’ website, the official website of the BPP Legal Awareness Society. On a positive note, Mr Bickerton explained his personal belief that the purpose of the degree is fundamentally not supposed to teach people how to be good at the law – his firm are rather looking for aptitude, interest, and a need to pursue law as a vocation. However, I found a bit alarming his relative disinterest as to what should be in the legal curriculum compared to the well-reasoned thoughts of the academics in the panel, in that the trainee recruitment of the Clifford Chance was of acceptable standards anyway. Ironically, it is perfectly possible for the Graduate Recruitment Team at Clifford Chance never to discover that you are a “scholar” if you do not meet their benchmark in their situational judgement test or verbal reasoning test. However you choose to define what a “scholar” is, most reasonable people would not define it as simply producing an arbitary mark in a psychometric test.
Personally, I found the views of Prof Richard Moorhead the most compelling. Prof Moorhead is at the University of Cardiff Law School (profile here). According to Prof Moorhead, lawyers ‘needed’ scholars, otherwise it would not be clear where the knowledge was coming from; scholars researched the key issues, and there is a key interdependence of lawyers and scholars – without scholarship, the advancement of knowledge would slow. The curriculum therefore needed to be exciting and innovating.
Interesting. I’ve had entirely positive experiences as a postgraduate student at BPP Law School, BPP Business School and College of Law doing my LLM, LLB(Hons) and MBA – but please bear in mind I’m bound to be happy at anything surviving a 2 month coma due in meningitis in 2007. i am also mindful of ‘advertising’ legal providers in this new ‘age’ of ‘expansion’ of legal services and legal education providers.
I did spend a lot of time at Cambridge, close to ten years in fact, as both an undergraduate and postgraduate student at Cambridge. I think @BaronessDeech is possibly being a bit tongue-in-cheek in her views about Cambridge, but I have always had a huge amount of respect for the jurisprudence FHS at Oxford.
I am now myself disabled, and I have passionate views about improving access for people like me who are visually impaired. Indeed, I have a chance to air them in the Comments section in a different article by @AlexAldridgeUK recently. I once had the enormous pleasure of meeting Prof Jim Harris. If you read his obituary, you’ll understand why,
I didn’t study the Law Tripos at Cambridge – but I think i can understand where your impression of it as ‘stifling’ came from from my limited understanding of the organisational behaviour of faculties at Cambridge, @alienat. I think Cambridge suffers from a lot of very clever academics who don’t talk to each other when designing the Tripos, meaning that the Tripos is totally overloaded. As is usual in academic interests, they tend to be protective about representation of their own research interests in the undergraduate courses (and their examinations),
This was certainly my experience in an altogether different Tripos.
I would, however, be a bit disappointed if the Law Faculty (which does have an amazing research record, for example in criminology), were not able to input constructively into design of the law curriculum. They must however be extremely careful not to overload the curriculum (different from syllabus, by defintiion) with their suggestions, however.
Interestingly, since my comment was published, Clifford Chance have decided to discontinue their use of the Situational Judgement Test (they set exactly the same test in 2010 and 2011). I assume that this is not related to my comments above.
In the final three months of this year, I wrote more about psychometric testing (for example in the proposed BCAT and psychometric tests for training contract applications), human rights (for example the future of the Human Rights Act as discussed in a meeting of ALBA at the Inner Temple), and book reviews (for example on affect and legal education and happiness).
However, in these three months, I did become very interested in disability issues, accessibility and inclusivity.
The BPP Legal Awareness Society published its timetable for meetings to be held at the BPP Business School, St Mary Axe. We held all these meetings successfully in October – December 2011, including flotations, debt finance, international arbitration and joint ventures.
In October, I started blogging, in addition, for ‘Legal Cheek‘, an alternative blog look at the legal education and legal life in general. I wrote an article outlining my feeling that disability is the legal profession’s white elephant.
In this article, I argued that embracing disability was a good way of improving the quality of law schools.
All law schools deserve to be scrutinised very carefully in their response to the government white paper entitled, ‘Students at the heart of the system’, over the issue of whether disabled students are seriously disenfranchised. The formidable white paper, which was published in June, sets out proposals for a higher education sector which is sustainably funded, delivers a “better student experience”, and contributes fully to the efforts to increase social mobility. The ability of a disabled student to get a job is a massively significant factor in that individual’s social mobility; virtually all individuals do not aspire to sustain themselves through the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) itself. An adverse effect of the legal aid cuts may be to put off disabled applicants from applying for the DLA. Good law schools will wish to embrace theNational Student Survey, and participate in it to the full.
In November, I argued in an article for ‘Legal Cheek’ that the term ‘diversity’ is an unhelpful one, not least because it means different things to different people. My conclusion was follows:
I believe that an useful first-step in advancing the diversity debate would be to phase out the word ‘diversity’ from the terminology, because, far from encouraging individual differences, clumping people together – inappropriately – inadvertently abolishes key individual differences.
Continuing the theme of disability, I developed the argument that law schools could take practical steps to make the wellbeing of disabled students much better:
The agenda for disabled law students under the government’s new framework is very much set by the law students. One way of getting involved is through the National Union of Students’ recently-launched petition calling for the establishment of a national advocacy service for disabled students (disabilities usually include long-term illnesses, mental-health conditions and specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia). In fact, if you’d like to set up your own disabled students’ group, you can email them for advice:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Still, I also feel it is up to the individual learning provider to be pro-active in responding to what disabled law students aspire to. At the bare minimum, they can simply comply with the white paper. But learning providers which wish to add social value may wish to do more to understand what disabled students aspire to and are legally entitled to. Certainly, it would reflect well on them to do so.
Meanwhie, back on the LegalAware blog, I was becoming acutely aware that the overlap between law and politics was becoming much closer. The legal aid cuts agenda remained at the front of my mind:
‘Sound off for justice’ and ‘Justice for all’ maintain that their campaigns are not political. However, senior people I talk to in law centres in London come to a conclusion that it is not possible to divorce politics from legal aid funding. Poverty unfortunately is political, as the Shadow Attorney-General, Emily Thornberry MP, suggested yesterday on BBC’s ‘Any Questions’. It happens that access-to-justice could disproportionately affect people on the basis of their income, in that cases of access-to-justice could become much harder to obtain for poorer people for certain problems. With many law centres set to shut down altogether, the legal services for immigration, housing and asylum, and welfare benefits, look set to be affected. The question is whether the poor will suffer disproportionately. Rich people will possibly be able to afford superinjunctions as before, as the evidence that the top 1% of the population have been affected substantially by the recession is lacking. This top 1% includes some (at least) well-paid lawyers in London.
However, colleagues of mine found it hard to discuss the political issues in an open way, but the funding of legal aid had unfortunately become a political isssue.
Whatever – I personally think all legal practitioners should be given support, acknowledging that funds are limited. but funding bodies will have to prioritise unfortunately. In fact, a focus on funding may have the beneficial effect of providing better precision to all stakeholders in their strategy and core competences of their legal services, whatever sector they are in. However, fundamentally, I most agree with the observation that, at this late stage, arguing over a sense of entitlement is totally unhelpful. It is desperately important that we fight until the end for our common purpose in protecting legal aid. I would find it very hard to support law centres if they wished to campaign at the expense of CABx or other stakeholders, but they should think about how they differ from other stakeholders when applying for London Borough grants for community investment or structural upkeep, I feel.
By December, I had come to the conclusion that a more radical solution had to be developed to improve access to the legal profession
It’s my fundamental belief that people are written off far too early in England and Wales at present. We have an education system that seems to punish certain bright people who fail to get perfect grades at GCSE and A-level. It doesn’t help that students are forced to make very specialised educational choices for their 16-18 studies at an age where they may not be totally convinced about their career choices.
I feel that the education and assessment environment needs an overhaul to prevent recruiters from using arbitrary academic achievement to ‘sift’ candidates out of sheer laziness. Talented people are being deprived access to jobs in the legal profession. Instead, we should be encouraging people to learn how to learn for themselves, and know where to find relevant information.
To this end, I feel law firms should be able to hire people straight out of school, if they wish, but also to take advantage to a greater extent of the enormous breadth of experience from other spheres of life mature candidates might offer. Unfortunately, we’re not in a place where that sort of flexibility can happen.
What will the future hold? 2012 has now begun.