Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Day in the Life of a Law Student

From Lawstudent.tv 15/01/09:

This quirky video was compiled by a US law student who took shots of himself every 30 seconds throughout the day.  Give or take a few I guess.

I can certainly sympathise with the moment he banged his knee and also how tediously long the property lecture seemed.

Oh that takes me back!

Sloppy Writing Habits

essay plan It seems like I’ve done more writing during this academic year than any other and I can’t help feeling I’ve developed some rather bad habits – right when I needed them least. Perhaps I’m just becoming paranoid or over-analysing things, but it just seems that my style of planning, writing and editing essays has become very inefficient.

Although, I’m doing a lot of research at the outset, I think the ‘planning’ stage for assignments has been lost – it’s somehow merged into the research and writing stages. On the LLb I used to force myself to take the time to write a coherent plan and would refer to it throughout the writing process. On the LLM, though, I’ve found myself doing this less and less. And when I do produce a plan, I seem much more inclined to veer off at tangents and not refer to the plan again. Not good.

I think modern technology is partly to blame. I’ve found myself relying heavily on writing key phrases as reminders or key elements of my paper straight into Word or Onenote (if I’ve used that in the research process). That used to be reserved for refining arguments part way through an essay. Now, though, I’m using this as my actual essay plan.

Because it’s so easy to manipulate and amend these ‘digital’ plans, I refer to them less than I would a plan roughed out on paper. Writing essays on the fly can be much more efficient than the old fashioned ways but, left unchecked, I think it can result in bad habits too. Perhaps I should make more use of mind mapping software, or simply force myself to get that pen and notepad before I touch the keyboard? On that subject, I think I should flag-up a recent great find - Mindmeister. This seems an excellent mind-mapping solution that keeps your plans in the cloud which you can even share with others. Best of all, it’s free.

The level of study affects things also. I think at this level of academia, the essay content can change dramatically during the writing process. It’s not feasible to aim to finish the research stage entirely before writing; there’s just too much material and too many nuances to that material for that to be possible. The whole cohort has been continually assured that this is ‘normal’ for LLM students as the material being dealt with is extremely complex and multi-faceted.  And because of this, it’s natural for opinions to evolve during the process and to form a rigid thesis at the outset will necessarily exclude the inclusion of key refinements in the paper.

Comforting as this might be, it doesn’t help me much right now. I think a much more disciplined approach might be in order.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

You know it’s been a bad day when...

I found this tragically funny anecdote over at the Times in an interview with their ‘Lawyer of the Week’:

What was your worst day as a lawyer?

I was due to give a closing speech at Harrow Crown Court. As I got out of my car, I dropped the papers, stooped to pick them up, my glasses slipped off and I stepped on them. The only other pair I had were very large tinted sunglasses. I sought permission to address the jury wearing them, hoping the judge would refuse. He agreed. Despite my best efforts, the jury convicted.

Oh boy. Can you imagine it?barrister sunglasses

Printer Brat

Anyone who’s had experience with printing can surely relate to this.  The printer in the video looks suspiciously like an HP Deskjet 930.  I had one of those beasts and it gave me no end of trouble.

Cracking video though!  :-)

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Pre-Easter Update

LLm Assignment And I thought vacations were for a bit of downtime when work levels, you know, dropped off a bit. Now the Easter vacation has started proper, though, it seems I’m busier than ever.

In the run-up to the end of term, I had to complete an IT law paper, a Corporate Governance paper, a presentation for Corporate Governance and my dissertation synopsis. This was on top of the preparation required for seminars (though, I’d turned the revs down on that front for the final few weeks). Thankfully, I just about managed to get it all covered, although I had to take a rain check on the two remaining company law lectures. 

I have two IT law papers to complete, yet another one for Corp Gov and then, thank God, that’s it – except for the two exams and dreaded dissertation. On that note, I did opt for a title concerning the regulatory issues plaguing virtual worlds – pretty much exactly as I had intended from last October. In essence, it concerns examining the role criminal law can play. In the last week of term, I also scheduled a second last-minute dissertation meeting with the unit leader who gave my dissertation synopsis a resounding thumbs-up so I can relax somewhat on that front until the exams are over.

So Easter is looking like a busy period for the Michael. I’m hoping to pick up some overtime at work in the next couple of weeks which would bring a much welcome boost to my finances. I’ve also got to help out a former employer with a couple of projects in the next 3 weeks or so and, it’s just dawned on me, prepare for that final company law seminar in the first week back. After next month, I’ll be able to happily report that my tuition fees are fully paid and I don’t intend shelling out for any more courses in the foreseeable future. 

Perhaps most importantly, I also need to find time to get out and buy Quantum of Solace on DVD.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

GoogleMaps Streetview Silliness: A Double Bill

GoogleMaps From The Independent 21/03/09:

The Internet giant Google has been forced to remove dozens of images from Street View, its controversial mapping service, after complaints from users who felt it breached their privacy.

After launching in Britain on Thursday the service, which gives 360-degree three-dimensional views of 25 of Britain's biggest cities, immediately drew criticism from people objecting to invasions of privacy and offensive imagery.

Among the images pulled within the first 24 hours – even though faces were blurred – are a man vomiting on the pavement in Shoreditch High Street, east London, another man in shorts and T-shirt entering a sex shop in Soho, and a man being arrested behind a security cordon in Camden, north London.

"When we launched the service, we explained how importantly we take the service and explained how easy it is to remove pictures. We have received a few removals in the past 24 hours but less than expected," he said. "The tools are there for users to remove pictures they are not happy with. We are pleased the tools we developed are working well."

Okay.  I don’t ‘get’ the problem here. Google seem to have taken a wholly proportionate and responsible approach, balancing the need for the usefulness of the service to continue while respecting people’s ‘right’ to privacy – such as it is.  On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between being snapped by the ‘Google car’ and inadvertently being caught in the frame of someone’s holiday shot on a street somewhere.  Let’s remember, the chances of you being caught on camera by the ‘Google Car’ are relatively miniscule and even then, the likelihood that you’re recognisable is even less.  In the unlikely event that you are – and you have a problem with it – Google offer a means of resolving the problem by obscuring your identity.  So, seriously: what more can they do? 

For my money, I think there’s a certain amount of truth behind the notion that a person will only be bothered about this kind of thing if they were somewhere (or doing something) they shouldn’t have been. 

From Outlaw.com 19/03/09:

A privacy campaigner will launch a legal challenge to Google's Street View service, which was launched today. Simon Davies of Privacy International says that he will pursue "a test case" against Google.

"There still hasn't been a formal complaint put to the Information Commissioner, but we will [file one] now on the basis of prior consent being needed for this service," said Davies. "I think there is something of a test case in this. We are arguing that a line has to be drawn to empower the individual to make a conscious decision whether to allow his or her images on to such a system."

The UK's privacy watchdog the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) endorsed the service last summer.

"We are satisfied that Google is putting in place adequate safeguards to avoid any risk to the privacy or safety of individuals, including the blurring of vehicle registration marks and the faces of anyone included in Street View images," said an ICO statement.

Err, yes, Simon Davies.  Good luck with that.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Keyword Quirks

Keywords Search Terms I’m always keeping a close eye on the ‘stats’ for Law Actually and I’m often reminded of the wacky things that people punch into Google.  Those who ask search engines ‘questions’ usually rank as the funniest search terms of all.  Sometimes, far better than hitting the search button, users would benefit from taking a step back and really THINKING about what it is they’re searching for.  The last couple of days have been particularly fruitful on the wacky keyword front so thought I’d share a few with you, faithful readers:

- “are all cameras actually speed cameras” ….Probably not!  For instance, I’ve got an old Polaroid somewhere that I’m pretty sure isn’t one.

- “blog my struggle to get a training contract” Oh come on!  Chin up and all that.

- “is l.p.c a qualification in its own right” Just stop it! I don’t want this can of worms opened again. 

- “company law topics for dessertation”  Oh boy.  Your ‘dessertation’, eh?  Hmm… good luck with that one.

- “is the iphone good for law students” I don’t know.  Is it?  Either way, surely you’ve got something better to spend you money on.

And my absolute favourite:

- “what did charlotte dymond say as she died” I don’t know…  Ouch?

After ‘going to press’ I came across another couple of keyword brarmers.  I’m still trying to figure out why there are so many rich pickings at the moment.

- “sex in looe” I’m no huge fan of Looe, granted, but this search just seems to defile an innocent Cornish town.  Shame on you, you ‘smutty Googler’.  Or maybe they meant 'sex in lieu’.  The question then, of course, becomes, ‘in lieu of what?’ 

- “dissitation and breach of confidence and human rights article 8 and 10” OK, at the risk of stating the obvious, the fact you’re struggling with spelling ‘dissertation’ doesn’t bode too well for the prospects of you turning in a killer paper!  Far be it for me to ‘diss’ you though.  Or is that ‘dissit’?

- “the law on cameras in the toilet” Oh honestly!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Is gaining a legal qualification still worth the cost?

Having stupidly subscribed to the ‘Junior Lawyers’ e-mail list at some point in the distant past, I stumbled across this rather interesting poll earlier today:

 Cost of Legal Qualification copy

Wow: 61% voted No.  I knew sentiment was strong out there regarding the exorbitant qualification fees for the legal profession but, I have to admit, I was predicting the ‘Yeses’ to have it – if only by a narrow margin.  To be clear, scanning through the comments on the site, most seem to refer to the LPC rather than ‘academic’ law degrees which has clearly shaped their thinking in the cost versus gain equation.  I’m sure there are many BVC students lurking out there who share similar sentiments regarding the perceived value of their professional qualification. 

For what it’s worth, the comments, such as they are, seem to pretty much stem from mature students with hard-luck stories.  While I guess the nature of their general situation is a little different from that of the masses, there’s no getting away from it: there’s a lot of dissatisfaction out there.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Google Earth helps lead roof thief plot crimes

From The Independent 16/03/09:

“The highly detailed satellite images provided by Google Earth opened a unique window on the world when it was launched in 2005, one that proved all too enticing for roofer Tom Berge; he used the website to hunt down a fortune in scrap metal on the roofs of historic buildings near his home in London.

Berge, 27, stole lead worth £100,000 from schools, churches, museums and other large buildings during a six-month spree that began in September last year. He used the website to identify the lead roofs by their darker colour. He was sentenced to eight months in prison – suspended for two years – after confessing to more than 30 offences.”

Google Earth- Lead Roof copyThis reminds me of that classic Only Fools and Horses episode – you know, with the miraculous weeping statue which turns out to be rain dripping through (caused by Del Boy pilfering the lead from the roof).   Admittedly Google Earth didn’t form part of the storyline but it was back in the 70s, I guess. 

Seemingly innocuous technology has always been, and always will be, put to mischievous uses.  That’s just plain old human nature for you.  There’s not a great deal that Google could do to regulate this either.  Still, I sure there’s somebody out there in the ‘sphere who will be clamouring for Google to pixelate or otherwise obscure the roofs on web-base map services etc etc.  You’ll be pleased to to hear, though, faithful readers, that that somebody isn’t me.  

Friday, 13 March 2009

Funny Domain Names

funny domains I actually discovered this link months ago – I’d just squirreled it away in a long-forgotten folder somewhere deep in my bookmarks. 

--UPDATE—After initially posting this, it occurred to me that this could serve as my ‘do something funny for money’ thing for Red Nose Day this year.  Just without the ‘money’ bit.   There was, in fact, a book sale at work earlier this month with all proceeds going towards Comic Relief and I had the idea of trying to flog my old statute book from the LPC containing the 1985 and 2006 Companies Acts.  I sensibly decided against this in the end, as I can’t see there would have been many takers.  For what it’s worth, I’m still prepared to sell it for Comic Relief.  So… any takers?

“All of these are companies that didn't spend quite enough time considering how their online names might appear - and be misread...

  1. Who Represents is where you can find the name of the agent that represents any celebrity. Their Web site is
  2. Experts Exchange is a knowledge base where programmers can exchange Advice and views at  www.expertsexchange.com/
  3. Looking for a pen? Look no further than Pen Island at
  4. Need a therapist? Try Therapist Finder at
  5. There's the Italian Power Generator company,
  6. And don't forget the Mole Station Native Nursery in New South Wales,

Etc.  Check out the site for the full list.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Another Assignment – Another ‘Legal Space’

I’m currently busily occupied cracking out the 2nd of my 3 Corporate Governance assignments – due in the middle of next week.  Happily, I’ve been able to tick-off from my checklist the IT law assignment and dissertation synopsis – both of which were causing me no end of trouble.  I’ve got a bad feeling about my IT law paper – more with the flow of the essay than the content – but it’s too late to worry about it now, I suppose.  I definitely find it much more difficult to whittle the range of material down in that subject – probably due to my ‘boundless enthusiasm’ for cyberlaw in general.

Not much has changed in my ‘legal space’.  Different assignment – but still reasonably tidy.  I got on with a bunch of filing on Monday (while Zetoc was down – a very, very sore subject with me at the moment) so cleared the backlog previously cluttering my desk. 

Fun fact: it’s not coffee in my ‘coffee’ mug – it’s tea.  Unusual because I’m not much of a tea-drinker.

While adjusting the curves (contrast to the non-technically minded) of the image in Photoshop, I created this inverted, rather freaky version:


I kind of like it. 

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Wings of Copyright in the Internet Age

Copyright Wings Here’s a great quote on copyright in the internet age courtesy of photographer Thomas Hawk:

“When I make an image it belongs to me. It belongs to me while I take the photo. It belongs to me while it sits in my camera. It belongs to me while I process it on my Mac. It belongs to me while I let it sit in an archive folder waiting to be uploaded to the internet.

Then I upload it to the internet and it’s like I’m taking a bird and opening my window and letting it go. Off she goes. Her song to be enjoyed by the entire world — certainly no longer mine.”

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

“The missing detail in YouTube's media blitz”

(or short-sighted, sensationalist bias)

The whoevers

From Helienne Lindvall over at The Guardian’s Digital Content Blog:

YouTube, by pulling music videos off its site in the UK, is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, punishing innocent songwriters in the process. (Oh right, baddy number 1 then).

Google, the site's owner, accuse the Performing Rights Society of being greedy in negotiations, but what they conveniently fail to mention is the pittance that they pay for the professional content on YouTube. (That’s baddy number 2 identified).

The PRS is not a big corporate giant like Google – it doesn't have shareholders that need to see a profit - it's simply a society set up to collect royalties on behalf of songwriters for the use of their compositions and to represent them in negotiations. (Ah, bless them).

In the agreement Google made with the PRS in 2007, they tied the collection society to a confidentiality agreement [what a cheek!!] which means that they're not even allowed to tell their own members the details of the deal. But, as a songwriter myself, I can tell you that most songwriters haven't seen any income from YouTube at all, since a music video has to be viewed hundreds of thousands of time, to take it over the required threshold where you even get a payment.

Some argue ... that music videos are promotion, so songwriters shouldn't get paid at all. But it's becoming apparent that streaming - instead of owning - is how more and more music fans choose to enjoy their music, as they don't want or need to clog up their hard drives with huge catalogues of songs.
(Simple solution then: have the music industry stop making promotional videos, if that’s your argument Helienne. While you’re at it, why not go and dust your busking bowl off if you’re feeling that hard-done-by).

Sunday, 8 March 2009

“Law school is a factory for depressives”

Law School Depressive From The Brazen Careerist - Don’t try to Dodge the Recession with grad school:
It used to be that if you had a law degree it was a ticket to a high salary and a safe career. Today many people go to law school and cannot find a job. This is, in a large part, because law school selects for people who are good with details and pass tests and law firms select for people who are good at marketing themselves and can drum up business. Law firms are in a transition phase, and they have many unfair labor practices leftover from older generations, for example, hourly billing and making young lawyers pay dues for what is, today, a largely uncertain future. Which might explain why the American Bar Association reports that the majority of lawyers would recommend that people not to go into law.


While some of this might smack of hyperbole, there is a degree of truth in it too. Law has long been seen as a sure-fire ticket to ride on that elusive gravy train – in the UK just as much as the US.  I remember noting in my first year as an undergrad that half the people on my LLB course were ostensibly doing it for the ‘wrong reasons’, based loosely on perceptions of money falling from the sky and into their greedy pockets with that ‘qualifying law degree’ behind them.

So is law still a good bet in the current climate? There are worse things that you could be studying out there, that’s for sure. And, as ever, I think it’s a good background to have for a lot of other career paths. As for those hell-bent on a career practicing law, God help you, the ‘over saturation’ of the legal job market that has been an issue for years now is arguably made worse by the effects of the credit crisis coming through with full vigour. But it doesn’t end there: for those that do manage to secure an elusive position, the productivity pressures bearing down on them have surely never been higher, nor the likelihood of their services suddenly being deemed surplus to requirements.

With all this in mind, I entered the LLM course feeling understandably uncertain about taking on extra debt and financial commitments. Thus far, though, I’m very pleased I did so and feel I have derived considerably more value from this course than any other I have taken. Getting a job does worry me, but rightly so – it’s tough out there.

I think the Brazen Careerist’s advice that seeking to educate your way out of recession or un-employability is not necessarily advisable. Education is usually always a good thing, but now more than ever, it has to be done for the right reasons and as part of a coherent career plan. Potential students also need to be realistic: with grade inflation and a career market dominated by a supply-demand equation which has never looked so unfavourable, a number of hard, searching questions need to be asked as to whether this is really going to add to your career prospects.

Friday, 6 March 2009

25 things I hate about Facebook

Compared to last year, I’ve been Facebook-bashing considerably less of late so when I came across this gem earlier, it was an obvious ‘must post’.  Enjoy.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

My ‘Legal Space’ – Part 1

My Legal Space 1Paying heed to the adage ‘if you can’t beat them – join them’, I thought this would be a good opportunity to document what is my ‘legal space’. I first saw this over at No. 634 – a US law student blog which is well worth checking out as it happens– who in turn got the idea from someone else.

I guess all of our working practices differ markedly and I’ve certainly seen some strange sights in law school libraries over the years. I’ve actually witnessed much more startling (and at times worrying) student study habits – including bizarre laptop positions - in previous universities where food and drink and general demeanour is less rigorously regulated than at my current and  very ‘traditional’ university.

Here, in all its raw, unaffected glory, is the natural habitat of a postgraduate law student in the midst of a pressing assignment. I should perhaps qualify the terms ‘raw’ and ‘unaffected’ here: my desk is currently considerably tidier than it has been of late owing to one of my girlfriend’s tidying fits that she is afflicted with every now and then.

Reflecting on it, my ‘legal space’ isn’t very ‘legal’ at all; in fact I could be studying almost any subject judging from the items littered on my desk. My textbooks and other legal goodies are stowed at haphazard – or as I’d rather think of it – strategic locations all around my office. Being without a suitably sized shelving unit to fit within arms’ reach of my desk, most of my folders are stowed behind me, leant up against the wall. I guess they form part of my ‘legal space’ too. Pictures will probably follow.

For the time being, here’s my legal space checklist: 

· Coffee mug – check.

· Textbook - check.

· Papers – check.

· Computer – check.

· Lamp – check.

· Friendly leather frog – check. Yep, he’s sitting on the lamp base. Don’t ask!

So there you are: everything a hard-working law student needs.

Strangely, no pens are visible: they’re probably buried under the papers though there is a stationery organiser behind my monitor.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Citibank Identity Theft

I first saw Citibank’s series of hilarious commercials back in 2004 when I was out in the US over the summer.  While Citibank – like all banks at the moment – aren’t faring so well, this might be just the time for a light-hearted blast from the past.  Who said bank commercials can’t be fun?

Yes, the Sun’s out

SunBut, NO – it’s not summer yet.

It’s not that I’m anti super-happy people per se; I just don’t like overly cheerful ones. That’s particularly true when they  burst out into hyperactive episodes like a child whose consumed a few too many e-numbers simply over a bit of sunshine.  At the risk of appearing an inconsolable grump, it’s an issue I’ve been contending with all day and just had to voice my pent up aggression somewhere. 

Just for the record, a phrase to the effect: “ooohhh, I can’t wait for summer” uttered when it’s not even spring yet just kills me. I know summer is good – despite invariably failing to live up to the hype - we get one EVERY year!

At the risk of pointing out the obvious, it’s only the 2nd of March – there’s a fair way to go yet! Nevertheless, as we approach spring, society has to brace itself again as the more brazen citizens of the UK start to gear up for the warmer weather by showing as much pre-summer flesh as possible.

It’s always the ones who break cover first that I find the most annoying: you know, while the rest of the street is buttoned-up to the neck in winter coats, he or she is parading about like it’s mid August and they’re sweating like a P-I-G.  I’m sure we can all identify with that type of person– also known as the ‘they’ve-got-to-be-damn-well-freezing-in-that’ person who usually becomes ‘I-hope-you-catch-a-chill-because-you-deserve-it’ person.

I know: I’m all sweetness and light.

But if, God help you, you’re already looking out that sun tan lotion, here’s the clincher: it’s meant to be raining tomorrow.