Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Guest Post: Creating the perfect legal CV

legal job CVA CV is the first opportunity to show a potential employer that you are qualified for a role and getting it wrong can mean the difference between a job offer and not even making it to an interview.

While there are many specifics to consider when writing a CV for a legal role, there are general points which should be kept in mind – it sounds simple, but making sure any contact details given on a CV are correct is key. You don’t want a wrong phone number or email address to mean an interview offer is given to another candidate, so check, double check and then check again.

As well as this, remember that it is your responsibility to present information about yourself in the best way possible. By putting something at the top of your CV you are telling a potential employer that this is the most important thing about you – so make sure it is something like experience relevant to the role, and not the fact you have a GCSE in Art!

When writing your CV you should also make sure that you can explain and justify absolutely everything it includes, from gaps in your working life to roles you have taken which took you off your career path. Remember, if you took a day-long course in a certain aspect of law two years ago then you should not write as though you are an expert in that area, as you could easily be tripped up by an interview question.

When it comes to writing a CV for a legal position there are some specifics which can help your document to show your skills and personality in the best light.

Always start with your relevant qualifications, including where you took your LPC and what grade you achieved – pass, merit etc. Follow this with your current role and a brief bullet point list of your responsibilities.

After this include any cases you worked on which demonstrate that you have the skills asked for in the new role you are applying for.

Examples could include liaising with partners throughout the country and overseas, running a team, coordinating meetings between offices, giving training, drafting contracts and preparing claims.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Fighting back against the PI claims scandal

The personal injury niche generally comes in for a lot of bad press – deservedly so at times. As well as the infamous ambulance-chasing antics, sketchy client care and extortionate success fees, the dubious business of cross-referrals can badly impact the credibility of firms which work in this area.

Perhaps most pernicious of all is the practice of insurance companies selling potential claims to the firm of solicitors with the highest bid. (Think of it as exploiting claimants via e-Bay). 
Be right back

In response to some of the more dubious practices exhibited by their peers, Spencers solicitors have decided it’s time to bring these antics out into the open and have set up a dedicated site along with an eBay page.

auction injury claimsLook at ‘im…. poor sod

“The bidding is open to you to claim your share of compensation from this man's horrific plight. The odds of a large and successful claim are virtually guaranteed, so don't miss the boat. Get bidding on this man today.

Remember, the highest bidder wins!”

...Ooh – I hate them all!!  Surprised smile

If that raises your blood pressure (and let’s face it, virtually anything to do with insurance is prone to do that), stress relief is on hand in the form of an interactive game at injury auction. What could be more therapeutic than lobbing wooden gavels at potential bidders for PI claims.

The only thing missing is the sound effect:

Pow, right in the kisser” ... “Pow, right in the kisser

pow - right in the kisserPow – right in the kisser!!

take that you money-grabbing harlotTake that you money-grabbing harlot!!

Strangely satisfying!  Why not try playing the game yourself?

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Solve wasted heat and office greenery in one

From How to Geek:

I can’t exactly recall when the idea came to me, but at some point I started wanting to use the heat from a computer as a way to warm the soil and help with germination/growth.  I became hooked on the idea of using computer heat as a way to control the soil temperature of some sort of living plant life.

The result is a rather clever design that uses acrylic cylinders filled with soil to draw heat up to to the planter in the top of the case. Hit up the link below for a very detailed run down of the project including results from various temperature tests.

green computing - literally!Most office workers have desktop PCs churning away all day every day (well, throughout the working week, anyway) which brings office temperatures to the high seventies by mid-afternoon.

Equally, most office workers (particularly solicitors it seems) like to be surrounded by greenery, plants and other nick-nacks better suited to a greenhouse. Personally, I’ve never seen the attraction with indoor plants; I couldn’t even get jazzed by growing cacti.

So, what could be better than a computer-mounted mini garden which uses heat generated from the PC to enhance growth?  Better than a Tupperware box full of seeds left to germinate on the office window sill, right?

And please: no comments on health and safety. If water leaks through causing the circuit to short and the thing goes up in flames, so be it. It’s a good metaphor for what’s happening to the planet if nothing else.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Hitting back at the text-walkers

texting injuryFrom the Metro 15/05/12:

People texting while walking in Fort Lee, New Jersey, could be slapped with an $85 (£53) fine after police decided to clamp down on the activity.

It’s better than me slapping them I suppose.

The Fort Lee Police Department has issued 117 tickets for reckless walking in the past month, with offenders being forced to pay the penalty.

Officers pointed out at least 20 pedestrians who had been hit by cars while texting and walking to justify the fine.

Police chief Thomas Ripoli said: 'Pedestrians aren't watching where they're walking, they're not aware.'

However, people have only been fined if they are ignoring traffic signs or jaywalking because they are too busy looking at their phones, with walking along the sidewalk apparently still above the law.

Remember this? Sometimes falling into an open sewer just isn’t deterrent enough.

I’m still astounded at the number of people I’ve personally witnessed walk head-on into obstacles, crash into other people, trip up flights of steps and generally go sprawling all because they’re too engrossed in whatever’s on their frickin’ phone.

What’s wrong with pulling off to the side (“when it’s safe to do so” – ahem) and sending that damn text?

Most pedestrians are always far too quick to think that a) the Highway Code doesn’t apply to them and, b) other road users are the ones who should take responsibility and save them the trouble. As my old driving instructor used to say, “it takes two to have an accident”. I’m not sure that’s universally true, but I take the point.

I just wish your average text walker did, too.

Maybe criminalising text walking is the way to go over here, too?

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Best exam advice ever

Judging from the stats on my blog at the moment, there are a lot of students (and not just law students) who are desperate (I mean really desperate!!) to find some kind of magic answer to:

  • how to revise super-effectively and craft great answers in exams;
  • knowing what’s going to come up in their exams;
  • fluking their exams with or without any revisions if all else fails; and
  • ending the months (years?) of studying torment because, you know, it’s all got a bit too much.

Hmm - must be that time of year or something! Be right back

This year, there's been a big focus on question spotting for some reason.

Trying to question spot and limiting your preparation is always a dangerous practice. I didn’t do it for any of my LLB, LLM or LPC exams and I’m still thankful I had the sense not to try.  I remember my biology teacher at A level bizarrely boasting that “we’re in the business of question spotting” (I think he fancied himself as a bit of an expert at it).

Sadly he proved to be wildly myopic (and I think was looking the wrong way down his binoculars).  When the class’ results came out it wasn’t pretty. 

Weren’t A levels just the worst?!?

So, really, don’t shoot yourself in the foot by trying to question spot. It’s just not worth the risk.

Still, if you’re a poor desperate student cramming for all you’re worth and fancy giving it a whirl, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

question spotting

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Stock photos – the generic face of today’s law firm


I’m no branding expert, but I know when something’s wrong. And I see a lot of things wrong with the websites of law firms out there.

When you want to stand out, it’s counterintuitive to plaster your website and promotional materials with the same default stock image of a lawyer or other professional in a fricking dark suit.

That girl             her again

But it happens ALL … THE … TIME.

There’s nothing quite like a sea of generic looking websites all selling legal services that look so similar you can’t tell them apart. Firms (or their web designers) seem to have a love of insipid, lifeless and inaccessibly corporate stock photos (usually one of the brunettes above) plastered across their sites as though it’s a badge of honour.

I saw an ad in the Metro the other day (yes, the Metro!!) for a firm whose strapline was, “no ordinary law firm”. Naturally it featured a generic stock photo of (you guessed) that same brunette in a dark suit. Ordinary?  Ordinary? Well, maybe their legal services aren’t, but their ads certainly are.

Where’s the personality gone? Lawyers might not be the most photogenic bunch, but surely the staff of a firm can’t be so un-photogenic that they simply cannot be shown to prospective clients under any circumstances.

Yep, I realise people move on and firms don’t want to be put to the hassle and expense of updating their images whenever a key member of staff leaves, but they can still be used for the background, ‘atmospheric’ shots (you know, of the team hard at work trying to win their client’s medical negligence case like it’s the only file they’ve got open).

I just give up.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Coffee trips, slips and spillages

coffee accidentThere’s nothing worse than a soggy bourbon!

(Most) lawyers love coffee. In fact, I have heard it said there is a direct correlation between the greatness of a lawyer and the blend of coffee he or she drinks. I’m not so sure about that, but anecdotally at least, I think it’s a fair statement that the majority of lawyers love their coffee.

I’m sure we’ve all had a mug miscalculation at work which results in stained trousers and a damp crouch for the rest of the afternoon. Ahem. Well, I know I have. 

Walking back to your desk with hot mug of something can be hazardous too (and not just for the office carpet).  Thankfully, a new scientific study may help to reduce the risks (I’m glad the UK taxpayer hasn’t forked out for this wondrous insight, though).

From 09/05/12:

Ever wondered why it's so hard to walk with a cup of coffee without spilling? It just so happens that the human stride has almost exactly the right frequency to drive the natural oscillations of coffee, when the fluid is in a typically sized coffee mug.

New research shows that the properties of mugs, legs and liquid conspire to cause spills, most often at some point between your seventh and tenth step.

So says a pair of fluid physicists at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Coffee drinkers often attempt to walk quickly with their cups, as if they might manage to reach their destination before their sloshing java waves reach a critical height. This method is scientifically flawed. It turns out that the faster you walk, the closer your gait comes to the natural sloshing frequency of coffee. To avoid driving the oscillations that lead to a spillage, walk slowly.

Forget science and fluid dynamics; just let common sense prevail. Sprinting back to your desk with a cup of hot liquid isn’t smart in any circumstances.   I don’t know that we needed Professor Nescafe to tell us that!

Secondly, watch your cup, not your feet.

The researchers found that when study participants focused on their cups, the average number of steps they took before spilling coffee increased greatly. Krechetnikov and his graduate student Hans Mayer, the primary author of the study, suggested two explanations for this result: First, focusing on one's cup tends to engender slower walking; second, it dampens the noise, or chaotic sloshing, in the cup.

Yes, focussing on your cup is a kind of ‘flying on instruments’ approach. Coffee cup

Third, accelerate gradually. If you take off suddenly, a huge coffee wave will build up almost instantly, and it will crash over the rim after just a few steps.


Well, thanks for the tips.  Who me?

Now claim conscious lawyers can walk about their offices carrying cups of hot coffee safe in the knowledge they’re less likely to go A over T scalding a colleague in the process and, much more importantly, denying themselves their caffeine fixes.

I can sleep soundly tonight!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

It’s getting kind of quiet around here…

I’ve just been clearing out / sorting some more of my Google Reader subscriptions.  What the hell has happened to the ‘blawgosphere’? 

The legal bloggers who I always regarded as ‘old timers’ are looking a bit thin on the ground suddenly, and those who are still about, haven’t updated in a while.

I’m scared to speak too loudly in case it echoes!  Eye rolling smile

You’ll be telling me there’s tumbleweed rolling down the road next…

legal blogs tumbleweed

Ah – crap!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Clinton Cards - Another one bites the dust

Clintons - because it mattersFrom the Telegraph 09/05/12:

In 2009 it made a pre-tax profit of £24.1m on sales of £345m, an operating profit margin of 7pc. Last year it made a loss of £10.6m on sales of £364m. The change in its fortunes has been swift.

But it has been building up for a while. The company for too long was dismissive of the threat from email and e-cards, claiming most people enjoy sending and receiving real cards through the post. That may have been true a few years ago, but with high quality smart phones and slick competition from upstart rivals like Moon Pig, Clintons was in trouble. Who really wants to take a trip to an out of town retail park to buy a birthday card?

Actually, on sales of £364m, an awful lot of people, apparently.

The company reacted by launching its own e-card business. Maureen Hinton at Verdict, a retail analyst, said it was too little, too late.

Clintons has also found its business model – plastering the high street with its shops and buying up its rival Birthdays – to be catastrophically out of date. Its rental bill, at the last count, was £80m a year.

Ouch!! You’ve got to sell a lot of ‘Get Well Soon’ cards to offset that.

But that’s only part of the story, of course. Clinton’s problems are as chronic as they are endemic: the rising cost of post, the gradual decline of sending greetings cards generally, unwisely moving to the lower-end of the market in terms of quality of products, overwhelming competition from other stores (particularly supermarkets) and a staggering lack of investment in IT, their delivery infrastructure and in improving the appearance of many of their stores.

The shopping experience has been lousy for a while (as confirmed by Mary Portas did a rip-snortas). Several of the branches I’ve visited obstinately boasted a decor from the early 1970s as though it was something to be proud of. Given the events of the last 48 hours, it looks like their business model dates from the same period as well.

The shelves seem to be increasingly chocked with Taiwanese tat and there are so many promotional stands you can’t walk around with a tube of roll-wrap held widthways without colliding with something.

My last visit also had a sting in the tail at the till. What shopper wants to be guilt-tripped into buying a breast cancer pen as an add-on when you’ve just nipped in for a birthday card? (Anybody else had that recently?!) What I really want to know is what happened to the Wacky Weasels that used to be writhing about the floor like angry vipers waiting to strike unsuspecting shoppers on the ankle? wacky weasel

Current CEO (of Starbucks fame) Darcy Bussel (ahem) Willson-Rymer has had a bit of a thankless task on his hands and, in retrospect, it proved to be the proverbial exercise in rearranging deck chairs on a sinking ship. Not only was he unable to find a buyer for the ailing sister chain, Birthdays, but Clintons has gone to the wall during his tenure as well. Everything else he has or hasn’t done at the helm there seems a bit academic now. I bet he’s wishing he’d stuck to coffee.

But hey-ho. If American Greetings buy them out, trim the fat and implement some of the IT and infrastructure changes that are decades overdue, maybe Clintons has a fighting chance of surviving for the long term. I hope so; I really want them to make it. The high street can’t take much more pummelling.

It’s grim out there, folks.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Lee Mack and Magic Eye chins

As a kid I could never “see” Magic Eye prints (I mean, random dot autostereograms).  Then again, I kept failing my colour blindness tests at school because I got it into my head I was looking for a tiny little black number somewhere in the big multi-coloured circle of dots.  Once I knew what I was looking for, I passed with flying (ahem) colours.

Yep, I wasn’t very observant, but I like to think I’ve improved on that front.

My girlfriend’s take on that story is that I was stupid, not colour blind.  Charming.  Quite possibly true, too. 

Thinking smile

Anyway, I stumbled across the following picture on Digg under the heading “Attention to Detail”.  I’m not sure what kind of person spots these things just watching a show, but I know I wouldn’t have spotted it

Lee Mack - Magic Eye ChinThink of a number: what’s Lee got on his mind?

Thursday, 3 May 2012

A Jury of Your Pyrs

I’ve found StatCounter to be an excellent way of discovering new content in the past. Sometimes a site links to Law Actually totally unbeknownst to me and when a visitor swings by via that link, it’s logged in my stats, so I take a quick look.

Earlier in the week, I spotted a few people had dropped by via My Muse Calls which, it turns out, is a fascinating blog of a hobby artist.

Anyhow, it seems that the author, Judy, was doing some research into her latest work – a legally themed masterpiece and stumbled across Law Actually. I see that the “Daddy of the Blawgosphere”, Charon QC, was mentioned as well, who, coincidentally, is quite the artist himself.  (Who could forget his legendary F**kART series?!?).

Lord Alverstone, Sir James Eyre, Rumpole and Kavanagh all featured in Judy’s research; happily, she stopped short of Judge John Deed. That would’ve really been scraping the barrel for legal inspiration!

The fruits of Judy’s researches (and labours) is brilliant.

A-Jury-of-Your-Pyrs (Small)A Jury of Your Pyrs:  The View from the Dock

Other than the title being a clever play on words (“pyrs” instead of “peers” ((obviously!!)) referring to the breed Great Pyrenees), the atmosphere of the court she managed to capture is amazing.  The thumbnail above doesn’t do it justice.  Here it is in all its full-sized glory.

I was also rather taken with the fact that the judge’s robe was a shade very similar to ‘Law Actually Red’. (Maybe Dulux would be interested in commissioning a new shade with that title – I’d want Royalties for use of the name, of course!!). Funnily enough, I’m planning on redecorating my office in Law Actually HQ over the summer and quite fancy having the feature wall that hallmark shade of Law Actually Red. I’ll keep you posted how it goes.

Anyway, in the meantime, be sure to check out Judy’s blog.  Smile

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

iJudges and practising law the Apple way

From the New York Post 29/04/12:

It’s an order from the court — send me an iPad!

New York City judges are gobbling up Apple iPads, iPhones and computers with taxpayer cash.

Not another expenses scandal?!  Surprised smile

The Apple gadgets were the favorite purchases of judges who enjoy a $10,000-a-year allowance, according to a review of 2011 reimbursement records obtained by The Post.

Judges also used the money for Internet service at their homes — and sometimes vacation homes, for newspaper deliveries, cellphone costs and travel to conferences as far away as California and Puerto Rico. They bought GPS navigation systems, judicial license plates and water coolers and refrigerators for their chambers and charged it to taxpayers.

legal licence plates

Some judges, like Manhattan Civil Court Judge Jennifer Schecter, spent every last penny. Schecter bought a $1,785.83 Apple laptop, a $106.95 printer from the Apple store and a $889.51 Apple iPad with a protection plan and case. She was reimbursed for just $517.51 of the iPad costs because she had exceeded the $10,000 limit.

Oh come on?! What’s a judicial Apple fanboi to do? And let’s not judge (ahem) them too harshly; some trials can be frightfully boring. It’s only right judges are given access to the latest and greatest shiny Apple products to help combat that boredom.

There’s nothing like a session on Angry Birds during tedious court proceedings. I’m sure members of the judiciary often wish it’s the defendants and claimants they were launching at great speed from a giant slingshot rather than virtual feathered fowl!!

angry birds lawyer

Housing Court Judge Maria Ressos bought an iPhone and an iPad, paying an identical $759.29 for each, she claimed in records. She was reimbursed for only $740 because she had maxed out her limit.

I believe that’s known as the full meal deal! Maybe judges don’t need to act judiciously then.