Legal Cheek roving reporter Cat Pond reviews yesterday's Weber Shandwick 'Social Media & the Law' event, where Twitter Joke Trial silk John Cooper QC and several other high-profile guests spent an interesting morning
Armed with cups of coffee, the assembled attendees at yesterday’s 'Social media and the Law' breakfast seminar took their seats. The panelists had a mere 15 minutes each to impart their wisdom – a timeframe that was rued by the opening speaker, 25 Bedford Row's John Cooper QC, who is used to getting rather more time on his feet in court.
Nevertheless, Cooper – of Twitter Joke Trial fame – still managed to draw a fairly comprehensive outline of the state of the law in relation to social media and how its rise has impacted on the work of media lawyers. Cooper also considered the developing employment law in relation to social media, explaining – in what came as a shock to me and other attendees – that the intended audience of an online post often has no bearing on whether the writer can be dismissed from their job or not. Food for thought for lawyers using Facebook.
Until recently LPC student Cat Pond was an empathetic, liberal type, but the law has changed her...
At the start of my GDL contract law course, the tutor told us to try and visualise the room and all the objects within it as connected by a web of contracts. The coffee cups sat in front of us were prime examples. As contracts for the supply of the cup, coffee beans and milk were both essential to its production. Then there was the contract we had entered into by purchasing the coffee. The tutor joked that we’d soon start seeing the entire world in this manner. Well, so far I haven’t quite ended up with Matrix-style powers to see legal symbology instead of reality, but a legal education certainly puts a particular spin on things.
As a graduate of the GDL who has now reached the half-way point of the LPC, I have studied contract, tort, land, EU, public, business and litigation law, so it might be fair to mark me as slightly elevated above ‘layman’ status in the legal hierarchy. The main symptom of this, to date, has been the higher incidence of violent rage I feel towards the Today programme these days. Every morning now I shout rowdily at a kitchen radio as James Naughtie’s latest victim tries to pretend that they’re "doing all they can"; my feelings heightened because, having studied law, I have a far better understanding of the framework surrounding these issues than I used to.
LPC student Cat Pond doesn't fancy joining the Sloanes, but what are the alternatives for a wannabe lawyer?
Lawyers are victims of a huge array of stereotypes. The media perpetuates unrealistic depictions of, either, the downtrodden but crusading advocate facing up against impossible odds, or, the blood-sucking corporate lackey interested only in money. Meanwhile, jokes about the legal profession’s collective lack of soul are commonplace, as are perceptions that the work undertaken by lawyers is nothing more than glorified arguing.
But what of a far more insidious and rarely talked about stereotype that seems to be present in the minds of many law students as they take their first steps into the profession? I speak of a rather unfashionable subject: class. In London, at least, it is fair to say that the top law schools seem to contain more than their fair share of Oxbridge graduates, the wealthy, and the connected. Expensive clothes, skiing holidays, tales of exotic gap years and nights in the capital’s priciest hotspots are everywhere - and the effect on new students is telling.
When sharing their first experiences of law school, students who do not come from privileged backgrounds often talk with unease about classmates whose style of life might be entirely alien to them. The barrier of money can stop friendships forming - or worse, exacerbate insecurities at the time when a student needs all their confidence.
Law graduates' transferable skills give them an advantage in the non-legal job market, says Cat Pond
If you study law, you go into law. Simple enough, surely? Well, not to the growing number of law graduates currently branching out into a variety of different sectors.
A glance at a selection of university surveys on the destination of legal graduates, and a chat with my fellow law students, reveals a wide range of jobs taken after the completion of their studies.
Finance has an unsurprisingly large presence, but the property, marketing and voluntary sector are all well represented. Of course, there are the more unusual onward paths taken. One survey showed graduates becoming ski chalet hosts and taking on animal husbandry roles.
Other than a short-lived campaign to occupy the Inns of Court, there are few examples of law students engaging with issues affecting the legal profession, says LPC student Cat Pond
During the recent public sector strikes, I was struck by the size of the turnout and the vehemence of the strikers. For many of them, this was the first time they had ever gone on strike - the government’s programme of cuts seeing them to take that final step of walking out.
The strikers’ very public expression of militant discontent started me thinking about whether the same drive to protest could lurk somewhere within law students. With the exception of 'OccupyTheInns', a law graduate who recently wrote several posts for Legal Cheek, I’m not aware of any law student campaign trying to affect change in the legal profession. In some ways, this is surprising. Surely it would follow that in exchange for engaging in the arduous legal education process and training contract or pupillage hunt, law students would want a say in the running of the legal profession?
First, the bar’s awful ‘Pupillage Portal’; now the solicitors' regulator has run into criticism for its handling of students' online registrations. Cat Pond investigates
A key obligation of the wannabe solicitor is the requirement that they register with the Solicitors' Regulation Authority (SRA). Strict deadlines are enforced and the nervous Legal Practice Course (LPC) student is told sternly that non-compliance will result in ejection from the course.
This process will likely be the first brush many have with issues like professional conduct and suitability, as well as with the regulator itself. And they do say first impressions count.
Sadly, the impression myself and fellow classmates have received has been far from positive. The process this year has been marred by what appeared to be a series of blunders, leaving many students stranded in bureaucracy during the busy time at the start of their courses.
Lawyer-to-be Cat Pond is relieved to put the ten-month Graduate Diploma in Law behind her
A collective sigh of relief was heard in the corridors of the College of Law after the last Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) exam finished in June. Apart from the location of the nearest bar, the one topic that my classmates were discussing, though, was the Legal Practice Course (LPC) that we all aimed to start in the coming September.
We’d been told it was a different beast altogether, and various theories were thrown around – from the course being easy to downright impossible. Now, a month and half in, I decided it might be time to take stock of the reactions of newly-minted LPC students to their classes. A quick poll came back with some surprising findings.
The GDL was generally seen as a necessary evil, due to its intense seven-subject structure and emphasis on memorising things. One friend told me she felt that her intellectual curiosity had been stifled by the GDL teaching method, where every class is regimented to the last minute to fit in the required subject matter for that day. Any questions that did not fit in to the pre-approved structure – known as the “outcomes” to achieve – were often brushed off. The idea of reading around a field and engaging with your learning on your own terms seemed lost.