Sunday, 28 November 2010

Sponsor a law student

sponsor a law student

Tuition fees are very much in vogue at the moment, given the prospective hike in fees which UK students can expect to be paying soon.

If attending a collegiate demonstration and rocking a police van from side to side with your peers isn’t quite your thing, you could always try different tack. Why not take a leaf out of US blawgger Ruth Carter’s book.

I was fascinated to read a post from a her blog, the Undeniable Ruth, which appeals to her readers for sponsorship to help her pay her law school fees. Whatever your feelings about this approach, it’s certainly an interesting idea. From my perspective, I’m not sure whether this counts as evidence of good entrepreneurial flare, a quirky idea to help cover the spiralling costs of tuition or brash impertinence.

Ruth, who’s a law student at Arizona State University, describes her sponsorship scheme as follows:

When I applied to law school, the average debt for a student graduating from my program was ~$50,000. Today, the average debt is over $89,000! That’s insane! How did my education get $40,000 more expensive?! I have one semester left, plus studying for and taking the Bar. I’m reaching out to the online community to help me pay for it.

Sponsor A Law Kid gives anyone who wants to the opportunity to sponsor my legal education for a day. It will run from January 1, 2011 until July 27, 2011 – the last day of the Arizona Bar Exam. Each day can have one sponsor.

The cost to sponsor January 1st is only $1, and the price for each subsequent day goes up by $1 (Jan. 2nd = $2, Jan. 3rd = $3, Jul. 27th = $208).

Why should anyone give up a couple bucks, or a couple hundred bucks, to help pay for my education? In exchange for your sponsorship, for each day that I’m sponsored, I’ll publish a blog [post] that tells the world how awesome you, your organization, and/or your products are. Also, it will give you a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you’re part of something awesome.

So besides spiritual fulfillment and a general sense of philanthropy, is that sufficient ROI for a cold-hearted commercial sponsoror? Probably not, but, let’s face it, that not who this is really aimed at.

Maybe one of the UK blawgers who still ‘in education’ could try this idea. Anyone? I can’t see many law firms queuing up to part-sponsor a student through their legal education but you never know. Nothing ventured, nothing gained and all that. It’ll be an interesting experiment if nothing else.

Ruth has taken a lot of flak for her sponsorship plan with a lot of strong views expressed in the comments on the post. Opinions seem to range from, “how very dare she” right through to accusations of polite prostitution. But there are a lot of supporters out there as well.

I advised Ruth that I thought she would stand a better chance just monetising her blog in a more conventional way - through paid texts links at a monthly rate. I also feel it would mean she would gain a more sustainable, ongoing revenue stream rather than from the rather bizarre pricing structure she proposes in her post.

Ruth replied in the comments saying she’d considered this but didn’t have the readership or traffic levels.

But I think she’s a smart cookie and is more than capable of using her blog to at least partly pay for her legal education without any advice - least of all from me. Actually, I’m curious as to whether this was her plan all along and that ‘sponsor a law kid’ was just a publicity stunt to gain readership and increase her pagerank with a view to cashing in on in paid links. Whatever the truth, it certainly seems to be working.

I know the UK are pretty lukewarm on the US blawgopshere, just as I’m sure they are about us, but I’ve always enjoyed keeping abreast of the developments t’other side of the pond. Ruth’s is one of the best: well designed, well written, and regularly updated. We could do with a few more of them and I’d strongly recommend checking it out.

Her sponsor a law kid idea is quirky, left-field and rather provocative. But that’s pretty much what the ideal blawg should be, right?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Why should blog spammers get a free lunch?

your chums are fighting why aren’t you

Although spam has been one of the scourges of the internet for several years, most spam filters are now good enough for you not to have to worry (or even think) about it.  That’s certainly true of Gmail.  Spam comments on blogs, however, are a very different matter.

All bloggers must be hit by this menace – I know I am.  Most of us make use of word verification technology to help prevent spam attacks from bots but this does nothing to stop somebody sitting in India who’s being paid to repeatedly add spam comments to a blog post for SEO purposes.  For whatever reason, today’s been a particularly bad one on Law Actually; they’ve been spamming the s**t out of me.

Unless and until the spam filter functionality which blogspot recently started featuring gets a lot better, the only effective way of combating it is a very manual approach - by deleting the offending comments.  That’s not great, but doing nothing is definitely not an option.

I’ve always regarded a blog as more of a dynamic conversational thing compared to a static webpage, so the readers’ comments are just as valuable as the post itself.  Rather than me having to approve each and every comment before it goes live on Law Actually, I just make commenters jump through the word verification hoop and once done, their contribution appears for the world to see.  That way, it’s a less stilted, more real-time flow of ideas. 

But every bloggers secret weapon should be email alerts. I get an alert every time a new comment is made on any of my posts and I’ll delete any I regard as spam immediately.  Sometimes, it’s an endless battle but as fast as these irksome spammers hit on me, I delete their false and link-ridden ‘comments’. 

In spite of the warm glow of victory having momentarily defeated a spammer, blog comment spam really winds me up.  Why should bloggers give away a valuable commodity to the parasitic businesses who want to freeload on our respective pageranks as a means of boosting their own Google rankings?  I’ve no objection to those who are willing to pay for it, but I realise that some bloggers feel that monetising their blogs somehow sullies them.  I’m less concerned about that; my overriding feeling is that I simply hate people who are always looking for something for free.

The attempts of some spammers to segue their seedy links into the post topic are hilarious, but most are just offensive through their sheer stupidity.  Comments to a blog post are really not the place to ‘thank me for sharing’ followed by whatever random link(s) the spammer is touting.  Nor are they the place to tell the world that XXXX are the best personal injury lawyers in [insert name of town/city/locale].  And if you offer cheap and fast conveyancing, I really don’t want to hear about it in the comments section on a blog.

But there’s another reason why all bloggers should make a concerted effort to combat the scourge of spam comments.  There’s nothing more depressing than seeing a blog plastered with text and links filling up half of the comments on any post.   It makes it look cheap, uncared for and with a dirty habit.  It’s the blogging equivalent of having track marks up your forearm.  Surely you wouldn’t want that for your blog? 

So please, learned blawggers of the ‘sphere, if you haven’t already set up en email alert for comments, do so now, and as far as spam comments are concerned, operate a shoot-to-kill policy.

Together we can kick these spammers where it hurts!

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Relaxation techniques for lawyers - relax-a-law

relax a law graphic

Introducing relax-a-law.  Over 6 hours of recorded audio comprising 101 deep breathing and relaxation exercises designed specifically for busy lawyers.  Now available for digital download.

Crazy long hours?  Manic case load?  Clients screaming for results? Hounded by the Solicitors Regulation Authority? Close your mind to all these worries and more and just drift away on a sensual journey into the unknown, with the soothing voice of Johnny Squaharlow.

Relax-a-law deep breathing exercises can be done anywhere: at your desk, in the boardroom, on the train - even in open court.

So the next time you’re stuck on a dreary conference call that seems it’ll never end, just stick them on mute and bung in your earphones.

Comes with a complementary set of massage oils.

Customer Testimonials:

“It’s brilliant, I feel so much more relaxed thanks to relax-a-law.  (I did get some funny looks from co-workers, though, with my heavy breathing.  Actually, they’ve reported me to HR.  But still, I’ll be much more relaxed for the disciplinary hearing).”

“It made me forget the misery of being a lawyer.”

“Johnny Squaharlow makes my skin crawl.  But my anxiety attacks have all but stopped”.

“relax-a-law totally changed my life.  After a relaxation session with the free oils, my colleagues won’t talk to me, I’m in the middle of a messy divorce and my career’s on the skids.  Thanks relax-a-law.”

Monday, 15 November 2010

Secret Santa Arrives Early

secret santa

The office is gearing up for the Secret Santa draw later this week. I’m actually going to miss the Christmas ‘do’ this year due to travel plans but I thought I’d show willing by participating in the secret-santa-yankee-swap routine. As painful as it might be.

Whilst secret santa exchanges tend to be a universal disappointment throughout offices the world over, heaven help anyone who tries to avoid them by pleading poverty or some other excuse. Worst still, never, ever say you’ll do it and then try and pull out. The organiser has decided to try and get participants to sign a gentlemen’s agreement to prevent a bevy of withdrawals late in the day.  Good luck relying on that one.

And who said the spirit of Christmas was dead?

Anecdotally, it seems that people have started Christmas shopping earlier than ever this year. It’s still not quite hitting my radar yet, but I don’t think I’ll be able to ignore it for too long.  Plus, the infamous Coca Cola ‘Holidays are Coming’  ads have already starting airing so that’s another turn of the screw each and every evening for the next 6 weeks.  Lovely.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Flying Pasties – Don’t let them see you naked

Airport Scanners graphic - flying pasties

Given my Cornish roots, (and clearly innocent mind) I was initially slightly puzzled as to how the use of ‘pasties’ would be of useful application in shielding your modesty whilst going through airport scanners.   After all, hot pastry snacks and underwear, seldom go hand in hand – even in Cornwall.

Anyway, if you’re not up to speed with exactly what a ‘pastie’ is in this context, here’s the deal.

I naturally took the concept of Flying Pasties as a spoof initially.  On closer inspection, clearly it is not.


Flying Pasties are rubber pads that you place over your nether regions so that anyone reviewing your image on a full body scanner doesn't see anything that you wouldn't want to expose without first being taken out for dinner.

Flying Pasties aren't stickers or paper cut-outs. They're 2mm thick pieces of rubber that adhere to your skin to cover your breasts and genitalia. According to the manufacturer, when your image appears on the full body scanner monitors, areas of skin covered by the Flying Pasties will not be visible to the security agent.

The pasties come in sets for women including two breast pasties and one bottom and one bottom piece for males.

They are emblazoned with text such as "Private" and "Only my husband sees me naked." The company does offer the option to customize the message your pasties.

Oh goody.  I bet this has been a constant source of amusement for the staff working on the bespoke pasties.  Any good ideas for customised messages? 

But I’m curious about what the Department for Transport make of this. The UK brought in a trial of body scanners in Heathrow and Manchester airports earlier this year, through powers conferred under the Aviation Security Act 1982.

From the current code of practice released by the department for transport:

“If a passenger declines to be scanned that passenger must be refused access to the Restricted Zone, with the result that the passenger will not be able to fly.” 

So does that include a passenger who is happy to be scanned but refuses to remove his or her pasties?  What happens in that situation?  

According to Liberty,
“Passengers are selected for scanning randomly or on the basis of undisclosed criteria. There is no alternative: if a person selected for scanning refuses he or she will not be permitted to board their flight.”

The biggest question, perhaps, is just how these are going to go down with airport security officials? What if a terrorist sought to hide a potent weapon behind their pastie? - (something all gents would no doubt like to lay claim to!!)  Or what about drugs / other contraband?  Could a terrorist hide a sufficient quantity of explosives behind a set of pasties to carry out his or her evil deed? In theory, sniffer dogs should still detect these things without difficulty. At least, one would hope so.

For contraband/explosives carried internally, is there the potential for pasties to be used by criminals as a further means of putting scanners/ sniffer dogs off of the scent?

Yes, savour that image.

Moving swiftly on, I bit the bullet and emailed the Department for Transport about their stance on these products and they kindly answered my email a couple of days ago. They said:

“If as a result of a security scan the security officer is not satisfied that the image enables him or her to make a through [sic] analysis of the potential for threat items located on the body, the passenger may be asked to explain any apparent anomalies in the image.

The security officer may decide that it is necessary to resolve this concern with a detailed physical search.”

“Explain any apparent anomalies”.  So would they be satisfied with, “oh, that’s just my pastie, officer”? 
Be right back

And what does a detailed physical search’ involve here?   Would the pasties need to be removed?  Like any self-respecting government department, any information released tends to raise more questions than answers. 

Curiously, I’m heading to the states for Christmas next month, so maybe I should order myself a flying pastie and give it a go, naturally posting a review of my experiences on Law Actually afterwards. 

According to the Flying Pasties website, the 2nd generation pasties are currently in production.  Here are the designs:

2nd Generation Flying Pasties

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Parcel Delivery Guide for Postmen

Given that today is a potentially historic day for Royal Mail, I thought ‘posting’ this would be particularly apt! ;-)

I’m sure we can all relate to it:

parcel delivery guide


Originally seen here.

That said, I don’t think it tells the full story in the case of UK deliveries. I’ve heard it rumoured that certain posties are in the habit of leaving householders a P739 card, (more commonly known as a ‘sorry you were out’ card) when, in fact, they hadn’t left the house all morning. This isn’t due to the postman’s quiet knocking, nor a malfunctioning door bell. Rather they sneak up to your house with all the cunning and stealth of an SAS sniper and leave the card before creeping away because they haven’t got your parcel with them at all. It’s back in the depot!! On busy days, they only take a portion of the bulkier items on their rounds to help spread the load over the week.

Sneaky. (If it’s true, of course!) 

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Law Actually Mailbag: Jennifer without a G

law actually mailbagThe following email plopped into my inbox a while back but I’ve been a little slow in answering it.  To partly cover up my tardiness, I though that rather than just giving my own views on this, I might throw it out to the whole blawgosphere – as one of my ‘mailbag’ features.

So, what did law graduate Jennifer have to ask?


I am jennifer XXXX from india.I have currently finished my bachelors in legal sciences. I have the option of transferrin my credits and joinin law school in the uk. The issue is that it is very expensive. Will i be able to repay a loan with a part time job? Mostly i should be studyin in london. Is it really worth all the trauma? I mean emotionally,mentally and physically. Out of 10 how much would you rate the course as tough? Considering i am a little gullible is it ok to come there? Will i  get an oppurtunity to  grow or will it  blow me away in the very beginning? Also if the environment is going to be extremely negative due to the competitiveness then please do give me a  special warning.

I really want the exposure the law schools have to offer there but the downside consequences should not be unbearable.

Jennifer “

I wasn’t sure if Jennifer was missing off the letter g each time on purpose. But oh no:

“Ps: pls do not mind the way i have written the letter it is 5 in the mornin over here and my button g is not functionin.
so i can only paste it these many no of times. ya pls reply asap.thnx.”

Honestly - you really couldn’t make this stuff up!

Once I’d calmed down from the burst of hysterics which hit me upon reading about Jennifer’s keyboard woes, I didn’t quite get why she couldn’t paste the ‘g’ every time. I still don’t. Oh well.

What also struck me when I first read her email was that she seemed to be fairly well aware of the issues likely to affect her as a law student trying to cut the mustard in the UK.  In fact, it almost seemed as though she was talking herself out of it by asking me to confirm her fears.

So, distinguished members of the blawgosphere, is there any particular advice you’d give to Jennifer (apart from getting a new keyboard)?  Is it worth her taking the plunge into legal education UK-style?  Or is she crazy for even contemplating it?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Lyrical Testimonies: Looking for burglars under the bed

burglars under the bed

From the Metro 03/11/10:

A police marksman has been accused of putting song titles in evidence he gave at the inquest of a barrister shot during an armed siege.

The Metropolitan Police firearms officer, known only as Alpha Zulu 8 (AZ8), allegedly mentioned [song titles] during his verbal testimony on the death of Mark Saunders

It was not confirmed what the song titles are said to be. However, a review of the evidence has led to speculation about examples.

Ah – so it’s speculation then…

At one point he used the phrase ‘enough is enough’, – the subtitle of single No More Tears by Barbra Streisand and the name of a track by US band Stick To Your Guns.

He also said ‘point of no return’ – a Duran Duran hit – and used the words ‘line of fire’ recorded by rock band Journey.

He declared in one sentence ‘I am kicking myself’, which is the title of a song by New York rockers As Tall As Lions.

The officer described how ‘in quiet moments I think if there was another way we could have done it’. Quiet Moments is the title of a song by Chris de Burgh.

The Metro, such as it is, goes on to suggest other, even more tenuous possibilities. These are all common turns of phrase and it seems to have escaped common attention that this may have been pure coincidence.

If you cross check any testimony against the list of song titles ever released, I’m sure there would be a lot of matches.  Couldn’t this possibly be the case of an unfortunate collection of phrases and perhaps a colleague with a grudge who’s spent a bit of time Googling song titles?

As it is, I’m not convinced either way.  For the officer’s own sake, though, thank goodness ‘hit me baby one more time’ didn’t feature.

What’s clear is that the full circumstances need to be investigated before anyone starts calling for heads to roll. But even if it was deliberate, who’s to say this wasn’t symptomatic of this officer’s coping strategy for deaths which occur as part of his work? People suffering from post traumatic stress disorder have certainly been known to do more bizarre things.