Starting with the Best Foot Forward (FOR FREE)

The offers have been accepted and soon thousands of students will be commencing their Law undergraduate course. Well done for making it this far! Studying law, regardless of the university, is a competitive and challenging choice. You may already feel completely overwhelmed with information but it’s important that you take the time over the next few weeks to get as prepared for your studies as possible.

Before I commenced my degree last year I was keen to ensure I knew as much as possible about the basics of law. It is of course easy to think of law as ‘administering justice’ or ‘giving a voice to the voiceless’ but the practical out workings of law in England & Wales isn’t quite as neat as that. Law has built up over hundreds of years and it’s not something which you can simply rote learn and move on. As such, I would recommend you take the time to look at the following resources. I am aware that maintenance loans have not yet been received (only nine days to go!) and that not everyone has disposable income to spend on lots of books, so all of these things are completely free!

The Secret Barrister Blog

An excellently written blog exploring the current legal issues hitting the press. The Secret Barrister breaks down the issue and systematically applies the law to help anyone reading understand the limitations of what the law can and cannot do in each situation. The writing is funny but extremely informative, and focuses on criminal law issues.

Blog: https://thesecretbarrister.com/

You can also follow the Secret Barrister on Twitter (@BarristerSecret) or buy their book (‘The Secret Barrister’).

Watch Supreme Court judgments

And no, this isn’t only for those who can catch a train to Parliament Square at a moments notice, this is for anyone! Supreme Court judgments are recorded (video & sound) and put on their website. Judgments last between 6 – 10 minutes and will explain the facts of the case and the decision of the court. At first, it is difficult to understand the judgements however part of your studies will involve reading judgments so it’s a great way to start getting familiar with legal terminology and judicial language.

Additionally, all proceedings in the court are also recorded so you can watch these too if you’d like to watch the best barristers in the country presenting a case. These last much longer (up to 2.5 hours) and so these are a bit more of a time investment. But there’s nothing stopping you simply watching 15/20 minutes just to get a feel for it.

Check out the decided cases here: https://www.supremecourt.uk/decided-cases/index.html

Go to any local court

By nature of our justice system, the public are able to attend almost all trials – the exceptions are trials involving children or vulnerable witnesses. This means that you can walk into a court, sit down, and see solicitors and barristers advocating on behalf of their clients. Different courts run different trials, so check out the court online before you go to make sure there will be something of interest happening.

You may be daunted to walk into such a formal setting for the first time, but I can assure you that it’s unlikely anyone will even notice you going into the public gallery. The only thing you need to make sure you do is that you sit quietly throughout the proceedings and you do as the clerk tells you (e.g. rise (stand up), clear the courtroom, etc).

It is always worth checking if they have any restrictions on what you can and cannot go with. The Old Bailey (or Central Criminal Court) is particularly strict to the point that you cannot even take a large back in, or your phone even if it’s switched off.

You can search for your local court here: https://courttribunalfinder.service.gov.uk/search/

Have a read of mcbridesguides

Written by a Cambridge Law lecturer, mcbridesguides are a useful resource for covering some of the basic topic areas and points of contention which you will face in your undergraduate studies. Nicholas McBride has an excellent way of written about legal theory in an engaging and information tone. You may wish to revisit this site once you have commenced your studies as having the basis of the subject areas can help with making the essays more digestible.

The mcbrideguides can be found here: https://mcbridesguides.com/

 

All of these resources won’t necessarily teach you what you need to know for your undergraduate studies, but with so much new information all at once it is exceedingly helpful to have a basis of familiarity with the realities of the legal world. Studying and reading with the context in mind is very helpful and makes things fall into place much quicker. Some of the Supreme Court judgments I have watched have actually ended up coming up as part of my assessment.

Best of luck as you commence your studies. And if you have any questions, pop them in the comments section below.

Tomas C

My First Taste of Legal Work Experience

As originally posted here: https://www.fionabruce.co.uk/blog-archive/work-experience-blog-post-by-tomas-canning

All law students are told from week one how important it is that they gain relevant work experience. There are two main reasons given for this: (1) how do you know that’s the career you want to do if you’ve never tried it, and (2) it will show future employers that you are passionate about the job and have some experience of it. When I was given the opportunity to complete a week of Work Experience at Fiona Bruce Solicitors, I was excited to gain an insight into the legal profession and see some of the things I had learnt about in real life situations.

It is often said that university doesn’t provide you with the necessary skills and knowledge to do well in the work place. Whilst to make this statement generally may be unfair, there certainly is some truth to it. Having completed the first year of my law degree, I knew I didn’t know it all yet but I did feel that I had some insight into the relevant laws for certain practice areas and how they would be applied in real life. But what I had never had to do at university was complete a form for court proceedings or for a Lasting Power of Attorney. I opened the form and looked at it blankly. This is an important part of any solicitor’s role yet university had never even mentioned a requirement to complete court documentation to be able to bring a claim.

I was fortunate that Fiona Bruce Solicitors offered such a wide range of practice areas to experience. I sat in client meetings concerning writing their Will, completed research in relation to a particular issue in Trust law, and sat in other meetings concerning Employment and Family law matters. As I was still very open as to which area of law I was interested in working in, seeing all the various areas was insightful and useful. It raised the point for me that it isn’t necessary to complete a Vacation Scheme in a Magic Circle law firm to be able to get a varied and hands-on insight into the role of a solicitor. In fact, being able to meet the clients and sit in the room as they discussed their case with the solicitor was an invaluable experience which highlighted for me just how much work, energy, and time goes into each individual situation.

The perception of lawyer’s working hard is one bolstered by media and horror stories, yet the solicitors at Fiona Bruce Solicitors were consistently managing to complete the work to a high standard, within deadlines, and leave the office at a reasonable hour to see their friends and families. It was encouraging to see that practising as a solicitor need not be an all-consuming career where 15-hour days are the norm and you forget what your partner looks like. It also showed me that when you are knowledgeable about what you do, and have had sufficient experience, the issues raised can be dealt with effectively within your working hours. This isn’t to say that the occasional late night or weekend working doesn’t happen, but they’re definitely the exception rather than the norm.

The opportunity to meet solicitors and discuss with them the realities of their work was invaluable. Through conversations I learnt about the skills you need to effectively manage a case load, how to ensure clients feel heard and understood, and how to tackle the problems that you haven’t dealt with before. People’s individual situations are unique, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to being a solicitor. Finding ways to best assist the client within their legal rights and boundaries was skillfully researched and honestly discussed with the clients.

These soft skills of client management and work load management aren’t things covered at an undergraduate level. You may of course learn how to effectively balance your study plan with your social life but it felt like a completely different ball game when it was someone’s real issue in your hands. The clients coming through the door are coming to the office because they need help, and perception is important. Without being trained or taught, how would anyone be able to know what you can and cannot say in meetings; how much you’re able to commit to the client; and how to manage their expectations. Only through experiencing all these things first hand have I been given ideas on how to do it well and it will be hugely beneficial to my career in the future.

Completing my work experience at Fiona Bruce Solicitors was an insightful and enjoyable experience. The people I met taught me a great deal, and also gave me a lot more to consider. I am truly grateful to all of the staff at Fiona Bruce Solicitors for taking time to answer my questions, allowing me to sit in their meetings, and letting me have a go at various pieces of work. I have learnt in this week how it looks to apply law to real life situations and how to operate effectively with clients, something which university would struggle to teach me. Having had this experience it has confirmed for me that a career in law is the route I want to take in the future. Now it’s time to decide which practice area!