Monday, October 25, 2010

Fast and furious

One thing which strikes me as I study the law is the amazing increase in the number of laws and regulations. However even more than this, I am amazed by the overall fast and furious pace of change in the entire legal system. I can only imagine what it must have been like to study the law back in the early eighties as opposed to now. To be sure, common law traces its roots back hundreds of years but without a doubt the last thirty years has seen an exponential growth in the legal web which ensnares us. Not only does statute after statute fly out of the halls of parliament, but the amount of delegated legislation expands so rapidly one needs to be a specialist to keep up. Sadly it seems to me that the expanding use of laws and regulations pushes personal freedom ever further and further into a small corner. As parliaments feel the need to act to solve all of the woes of humanity, individuals seem to slowly but surely lose their freedom to act. Power is continually funneled down from the omnipotent lawmaking body into the hands of ministries, bureaucrats and unelected officials, many of whom have the power to act arbitrarily. What does the future hold if we keep up at this pace? Will there be anything left which is not legistlated or prescribed?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cut to the bone

The Con-Lib government yesterday came out with their long awaited and well feared comprehensive spending review. As expected, there was blood everywhere from the deep cuts imposed over the next several years. Perhaps nowhere were these as keenly felt as in the Ministry of Justice where budget savings are expected of over 25%. Obviously 25% saving cannot be achieved with 'economies of scale' or 'cutting the fat'. To reduce costs by 25% the Ministry is expected to close prisons, put less people in prison, slash legal aid, close courts, cut staff, reduce the CPS, put those already in prison out to work and sell off property. All of these steps might just bring them close to meeting their savings target. One of the most interesting comments however came from Ken Clark the Lord Chancellor who said that it is nigh upon impossible to rehabilitate a person who is sentenced to prison for under a year. Obviously the notion is that with the cost of every one person in jail to the taxpayer of about 40,000 pound a year it is better to have lesser offenses dealt with by income generating fines or some form of community service. More importantly perhaps is the acknowledgement that short term prison sentences are far more retributive in nature than rehabilitative. Personally, I believe the punishment should have a strong retributive aspect, if not for deterrence, then for the mere fact that criminal behavior should be punished. However maybe some creative thinking is involved in seeing what actually might be the best punishment for those convicted of crime. I will give some thought to it and should you have any suggestions I would love to hear them…

Monday, October 18, 2010

How good are you?

I seem to be bumping my nose against this question this week. Despite all the studying and all the essay writing, I still don't really know how good my performance is while studying the LLB. Am I doing work which is good enough for a First? An Upper Second? Hard for me to really judge. I don't think that my fellow students have the necessary skills either to give my work a proper grade. What's left then? To hope for the best and just keep on giving it my all? To splash out and pay to have some of my work reviewed by a professional? Usually, one is able to get feedback from professors in order to gauge how things are going. They are experts in pointing out what areas are strong and where improvements need to be made, however in this LLB course I do not have teachers whom I can draw upon. I am on my own. Normally this would not be too much of a problem, and I doubt seriously that I would actually fail a course (ha! I am sure that such arrogance will come back to haunt me). However the problem is that the access to the legal profession seems to narrow significantly for those with a 2.2 or below. To be sure, one can break into the profession even with a pass I suppose but the going is quite tough and the 'rebuttable presumption' is that you are not good enough for the law. So this rambling takes me back to the initial question - how good am I? I suppose the only way is to get out there and prove it. To be as active and involved as possible, interested and actively learning. To dive into competitions when I can find them and to get feedback as much as I can from others and be open to what they are saying. Hopefully at least with all of these things I will find that I am good enough for myself.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A room with a view

I have to say that one of the joys of being a law student is the voyeuristic pleasure derived from the glimpses into private lives through law cases. Where else but in the case of Tabassum (2000) could we learn of one man's overwhelming desire to fondle women's breasts? Little did he know that thousands of future students would then read about his escapades and the role which identity plays in consent. Or the sadomasochistic play in Emmett (1999) in which Emmett's partner willingly gave her consent to have lighter fluid poured upon her breasts and set aflame? Undoubtedly Emmett never expected this little episode to come to light (pardon the pun). Yet now we not only read about it but also take notes on the legal principles applied by the court in his case and how the common law develops as a result. I suppose that there are literally thousands of examples that one could draw upon that expose private dealings to public scrutiny. Could it be more than just a matter of chance whether or not we one day find ourselves as a case study?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Down the slippery slope...

A few weeks ago I wrote about how one small town was recuiting residents to monitor traffic speed in the town, now more disturbing news is out about a proposal to lower council tax for those who volunteer their services to the police. The notion is that those who volunteer as 'special constables' could have their tax bills halved for their efforts. Believe it or not these 'special constables' are not paid, but wear identical uniforms to sworn officers and can make arrests.

Just how are we going to develop a police state? Is it not enough that the government can hold you without charge? That CCTV cameras are everywhere? That you can receive a tailored anti-social behavoural order prohibiting you from doing almost anything under pain of criminal offense? Where are we to find liberty and privacy these days? When I was writing about having someone to spy upon others in a block of flats or in a school class I thought it was an example of something extreem, now I fear that it may be much closer to reality....

Monday, September 27, 2010

Work it, work it...

So I've been hard at work gentle readers over the last few weeks on the LLB. Actually, I had a good session the other night with some other students on contract law of all things. Have a look at the attached and let me know your thoughts:

On Monday, Albert inspected Betty’s car at her house in Woking and offered to pay £10,000 for it. Betty wanted £12,000. Later in the day, Betty wrote to Albert and stated that she would take £11,000. The letter was received by Albert at his home on Tuesday morning. At 4.00 pm on Tuesday afternoon, Albert at his office in London wrote a letter to Betty accepting her offer. On his way to post the letter Albert met Cuthbert who told him, ‘I gather that Betty has finally sold her car.’ Betty had, indeed, sold the car. Albert posted his letter and, upon arriving home at Woking, discovered a message on his answer phone from Betty. The message had been left at 3.00 pm; Betty had stated, ‘I withdraw my offer.’ Albert bought a similar car for £12,500. Advise Albert.

In the situation above, Albert is £1,500 worse off due to the actions of Betty. The question is whether Betty could reasonably withdraw her offer in the manner in which she did or was there a binding contact between the two of them for Albert to buy Betty’s car for £11,000?

Albert’s case rests upon the strength of the postal rule as first established in Adams v Lindsell (1818) and Household Fire Insurance v Grant (1879). Under this exceptional rule, acceptance of an offer is completed when it is posted. This Albert did during the course of Tuesday afternoon sometime after 4pm. As seen in Quenerduaine v Cole (1883), it was reasonable for Albert to rely on the postal means of communication despite its old-fashioned nature, due to the previous letter which Betty wrote to him offering to sell her car. Thus the use of the post was reasonably contemplated by the parties.

Albert will have to contend against Betty’s claim that he knew the car was sold because he was informed by Cuthbert. While Albert did hear from Cuthbert that the car might have already been sold, this was no more than hearsay as there is no supposition that Cuthbert was reliable and authorized to communicate for Betty as set out in Dickinson v Dodds (1876). In advising Albert it should be clearly necessary to review with him if Cuthbert ever said that he was acting for Betty by telling him this information. If not, it could be reasonably disregarded.

Perhaps the most difficult point for Albert to contend with is that there is little clarity on what to make of Betty’s withdrawal of her offer on a voice mail message at 3pm. Albert would need to reasonably argue that voice mail does not fall under the postal rule exception to communication, thus it is valid when received. As
Albert’s posting of the acceptance to Betty’s offer was prior to receiving the notice of her revocation then the postal rule should apply and Albert should have a reasonable claim for £1,500 compensation.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Under pressure

Sad story in the New York Times today.

which takes a look at a study done of those who have confessed to a crime which they did not commit. I have to admit while sad and tragic that innocent people confess to crimes they have not been involved in the study itself is brilliant and sheds a lot of light on an area relatively unexplored. Why would an innocent person confess? Not only to minor crimes but also to charges such a murder and rape. I mentioned only in passing in an earlier blog post about the pressure one must feel to confess. In my case it was to just have done with a simple parking ticket. By would such feelings really hold true to those threatened with incarceration? Apparently so, in at least 250 documented cases. Many of these involved defendants who had some limited mental capabilities, in some cases they were young, but more than anything the confessions seem to be driven by the investigators. They were not merely "I did it" confessions but detailed descriptions of the acts and facts surrounding the case. In almost all instances this information could only have come from the examining officers who "helped to describe" how the crime took place. It makes chilling reading especially given that a confession usually closes the book on a defendant's case. Beyond the miscarriages of justice why is the relevant? Well the UK is considering reducing sentences of offenders who confess their guilt, not only before trial as currently happens, but at the earliest opportunity when apprehended by police. As this study makes clear, such a path may open the door to more false confessions and greater injustice.

You can access the study here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Oh the joys of cricket

Whatever you might think of Lord Denning you have to enjoy the opening of his opinion in Miller v Jackson [1977] QB 966:

In summertime village cricket is the delight of everyone. Nearly every village has its own cricket field where the young men play and the old men watch. In the village of Lintz in County Durham they have their own ground, where they have played these last 70 years. They tend it well. The wicket area is well rolled and mown. The outfield is kept short. It has a good club house for the players and seats for the onlookers. The village team play there on Saturdays and Sundays. They belong to a league, competing with the neighbouring villages. On other evenings after work they practise while the light lasts. Yet now after these 70 years a judge of the High Court has ordered that they must not play there any more. He has issued an injunction to stop them. He has done it at the instance of a newcomer who is no lover of cricket. This newcomer has built, or has had built for him, a house on the edge of the cricket ground which four years ago was a field where cattle grazed. The animals did not mind the cricket. But now this adjoining field has been turned into a housing estate. The newcomer bought one of the houses on the edge of the cricket ground. No doubt the open space was a selling point. Now he complains that when a batsman hits a six the ball has been known to land in his garden or on or near his house. His wife has got so upset about it that they always go out at week-ends. They do not go into the garden when cricket is being played. They say that this is intolerable. So they asked the judge to stop the cricket being played. And the judge, much against his will, has felt that he must order the cricket to be stopped: with the consequence, I suppose, that the Lintz Cricket Club will disappear. The cricket ground will be turned to some other use. I expect for more houses or a factory. The young men will turn to other things instead of cricket. The whole village will be much the poorer. And all this because of a newcomer who has just bought a house there next to the cricket ground.

Any doubt on how he ruled?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The sweet smell....

Dear gentle readers, I'm very pleased to share with you my first true legal success. As you may recall, a few weeks ago in my post "Breaking the law" I described how I was charged with an offence. Today I am happy to let you know that the charge against me has been dismissed and I have been successful in overcoming this injustice. Its nice to think that at least in this case justice has been done. I suppose it points not only to the need to follow the law but also how important it is to be able to show that you are following the law and to fight for your rights when required to do so. To be honest, I did think about just paying the penalty and having done with it. Especially since the reduction is 50% if you pay quickly. In fact I felt some pressure to do so. However I did not deserve to be fined in the first place. I can only imagine how those who are hauled in for more serious offences may feel. You are banged up in jail and presented with options about how you may proceed with your case. One suggestion put before you is to plead guilty at an early stage in order to avoid a trial and a harsher sentance. If you are innocent and told that if you plead guilty you can avoid jail otherwise at a trial you may find youself sentanced to spend time in the clink. It seems to me clear what many would do.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I've found something really worthwhile in my studies - ELSA. No not some nubile princess but rather the English Law Students' Association . As you may recall from pervious entries on this blog, when I started the LLB I was keen to join a law society at my university. I thought that it would be a good way not only to keep in touch with the practical side of the law but also to develop relations with other law students. Learning on my own at a distance from others can get a little lonely at times so I thought that within a law society I would be able to bounce ideas off others and learn. Well it turns out that there is no law society at my school oddly enough. Apparently some time ago the students at the university did publish a law journal with some success but as far as I can tell it faded away soon after it got started. Searching a bit further, I found that there are international, European, and English law student associations. ELSA seems by far to be the most organized and well structured. They run a number of programs for law students from a variety of schools in London and are active with a number of footprints on the web. I’ve been in touch with them and it looks like I will actually even be able to help play a role with coordinating the students at my university and those who are studying ‘virtually’ in London. I’ll keep you posted on how it develops.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stand and deliver

I came across a somewhat distressing story today:

It seems as if residents in one village have been so put out by cars speeding through they have decided to take action. The plan is for a volunteer crew to be positioned near speed cameras, monitor cars whose speeds are excessive and then pass their tag numbers along to the police who would send a threatening letter to the offending driver.

To be sure, one can see the danger of cars speeding through a village. I, like many others, have been shocked to see nutters far exceed the speed limit near where I live. Those who have been injured or have lost loved ones to such motorists know how dangerous such behaviour can be.

However is the answer really to have an army of big brothers watching for every misstep? Do we really want to create a culture of informing on one's neighbor? Britian already has almost every step we take monitored by CCTV, do we need more eyes on the job? Should we move to the habits that used to be common in communist countries? People who report to police on the going-ons in a block of flats? Or perhaps students who can pass on to police information overheard from other students about late night shennanigins? Both of these measures could possibly help to keep crime rates low but how much would we lose? Not just of our liberty but perhaps also of our humanity.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A case of privilege?

Here's an interesting case that I came across yesterday.

Three former MPs and a peer were accused of making false expenses in the scandal that rocked parliament last year. In their defence they claimed that parliamentary privilege protected them from prosecution and that their fate "should lie within the hands of parliament".

The judges were told that the challenge was not an attempt to "take them above the law", but to ensure they were adjudicated by the "correct law and the correct body". It was said by the defendants that submitting an expenses form was part of the proceedings of parliament, and therefore protected by parliamentary privilege. Interestingly, they based their claim in part on Art 9 of the Bill of Rights 1688 which declared that “the Freedome of Speech and Debates or Proceedings in Parlyament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parlyament”.

The defendants claimed that parliamentary privilege operated so that the courts had no jurisdiction over any words spoken in Parliament by a member, and by way of the Bill of Rights 1688 art.9 it provided that proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place outside Parliament. They submitted that the claims for expenses constituted proceedings in Parliament pursuant to art.9 and that the criminal charges constituted an infringement of art.9. They also argued that privilege should attach to any dealing that a member might have with the House, or that the administration and decision-making process of the expenses reimbursement system itself should be subject to parliamentary privilege.

What do you think? False expense claims privileged or not?

The court of appeal ruled that parliamentary privilege did not protect them from prosecution. The decision upheld an earlier ruling by a lower court that they were not protected by parliamentary privilege. The four men, who all deny theft by false accounting, can still take their cases to the supreme court for a further challenge. The charges carry a maximum sentence of seven years' imprisonment.

Lord Judge, the lord chief justice, and two other judges rejected the argument put forward by the four and Judge said: "In our judgment no question of privilege arises and the ordinary process of the criminal justice system should take its normal course, unaffected by any groundless anxiety that they might constitute an infringement of the principles of parliamentary privilege." He went on to state: "It can confidently be stated that parliamentary privilege or immunity from criminal prosecution has never, ever attached to ordinary criminal activities by members of parliament." With the exception of the exercise of freedom of speech, he said, "it is difficult to envisage circumstances in which the performance of the core responsibilities of a member of parliament might require or permit him or her to commit crime".

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fact or fiction

Here is an interesting topic for discussion: the doctrine of stare decisis is a myth. When judges want to get around a case they do not like, they will always find a way.

Can a judge avoid stare decisis? If so how do they do it? One of the most commmon ways is the concept of distingusing. In distingusing, a court may regard the facts of the case before it as significantly different from the facts of a cited precedent, so it will not find itself bound to follow that precedent. Judges use the device of distinguishing where, for some reason, they are unwilling to follow a particular precedent. Law reports provide many examples of strained distinctions where a court has quite evidently not wanted to follow an authority that it would otherwise have been bound by.

A less common method is overruling. Overruling is the procedure whereby a court higher up in the hierarchy (usually the House of Lords) sets aside a legal ruling established in a previous case. Overruling should not be confused with ‘reversing’, which is the procedure by which a superior court in the hierarchy reverses the decision of a lower court in the same case.

In overruling, courts overrule longstanding authorities because they no longer accurately reflect contemporary practices or morals. Courts overrule authorities where they see them as no longer representing an appropriate statement of law.

One other new method which allows a bit of flexibility to stare decisis is the Human Rights Act 1998 which requires that courts interpet law as far as possible to fit it within the context of the European Convention on Human Rights. Thus courts may interpet laws in new ways sidestepping stare decisis in order to achieve this goal.

However, it is important to note that higher courts in the judiciary may take a poor view of a judge who attemps to avoid stare decisis and may reverse their decisions as happened to Lord Denning upon occassion...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fire without smoke...

When David was taken to hospital, he was given an antibiotic injection which reacted badly with the insulin he took to control his diabetes. He suffered a hyperglycemic episode during which he pushed his way into a laboratory, knocking over a Bunsen burner. This caused a fire which spread quickly and burnt down one wing of the hospital. Everybody was safely evacuated and nobody was hurt.

Consider the criminal liability of David.

Thought points suggested:
If David was charged with arson, upon what would a successful plea of automatism depend? If his plea for automatism was accepted would it amount to sane or insane automatism? Why? How are the distinguished? Is there any question of self-induced automatism in this case? If so what are the rules of this vis-à-vis criminal liability?

If criminal liability is brought against David, then he is most likely to be charged with arson. Arson is a crime of criminal damage by fire: sections 1(1) and 1(3) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. This offence is committed if by fire; D intentionally or recklessly, and without lawful excuse, destroys or damages property belonging to another. The prosecution could charge that David committed arson when he knocked over the Bunsen burner. They would seek to prove that his pushing into the laboratory was deliberate and argue that knocking over the Bunsen burner was at least reckless based upon his prior deliberate actions. A claim of aggravated arson would rest upon David’s intentionally setting the fire, in this case, as he knocked over a Bunsen burner, the prosecution would most likely seek to an offence of basic intent with the arson as a result of David’s recklessness.

The actus reus consists of damaging or destroying property by fire and clearly David did so.

The mens rea for arson comprises two elements: firstly that D recklessly damaged property, and secondly that he was reckless as to endangering life. In this context, recklessness bears a ‘subjective’ meaning; that is, the prosecution must prove that David was aware of a risk that life might be endangered and it was, in the circumstances known to him, unreasonable to take that risk (R v G [2003], overruling Metropolitan Police Commissioner v Caldwell [1981]). Note also Cooper [2004] in which the Court of Appeal held, applying R v G to a case of arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, that if D had been aware that there was a risk but had dismissed it as a negligible risk then D is not reckless.

David’s defence against the charge is most likely to be strongest if he asserts a lawful excuse – that of automatism (some may argue that automatism in fact absolves him of the necessary mens rea). However for a claim of automatism to fully succeed as a defence in absolving him of liability or possible hospital commitment, David should be able to claim that there was a total loss of control; that it was sane automatism, and that automatism was not based on some prior fault of his. He must seek to establish his innocence as Lord Denning outlined the defense in Bratty v Attorney General for Northern Ireland (1961).

David’s total loss of control can be established by medical facts as he entered a hyperglycemic episode. Such episodes have been successful used in cases to support a claim of automatism such as in Hennessy (1989).

However hyperglycemia is often related to insane automatism as it is seen as a disease of the mind (see the comments of Lord Lane in Hennessy (1989)). To qualify as sane automatism, David must therefore demonstrate to the court that his automatism as a result of the hyperglycemic episode was brought on by an external factor not related to the disease of the mind, something unique and quantifiable. David should be able to show that the antibiotic injection (which was indeed unusual and not in the normal course of events) was the external factor which caused his hyperglycemic episode and led to a loss of control. There is also a practical benefit to raising the defense as sane automatism versus insane automatism. The burden of proof of a claim of sane automatism once raised remains on the prosecution to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. While if a claim of insanity is raised by the defence, then the defence must prove it based upon a balance of probabilities. Thus for the defence it is easier to raise a reasonable doubt.

Turning to the last point, David should be able to demonstrate that the automatism was not caused by some prior fault of his. In crimes of basic intent, such as arson, which require only recklessness, prior fault of the defendant may be sufficient for a conviction if the defendant should have known the danger of their actions. The defence can reasonably claim that David did not have any prior fault in this instance. His actions in the laboratory were clearly related to the injection David received when he was in hospital. He was treated by staff of the hospital and given an antibiotic injection which reacted badly with the insulin he took to control his diabetes. David could argue convincingly that such treatment was not his fault (one would imagine that the decision was taken by the doctors based on David’s medical history, indeed one might suggest that the staff giving him the injection should have been aware of such a possibility to enter into a hyperglycemic reaction, however it is unlikely David would have been and as the injection was given by professionals he would likely be correct in following their advice.)

If David can raise reasonable doubt based on a claim of sane automatism supporting the notion of a loss of total control and with no prior fault of his own, then he should be cleared of the charge of arson likely to be laid against him.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Breaking the law...

So I am less than pleased to report that I have had my first face to face encounter with English law! Yours truly, during his recent holiday in the UK, was charged within the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead with an offense against The Traffic Management Act 2004, s.78; Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) General Regulations 2007; Civil Enforcement of Parking Contraventions (England) Representations and Appeals Regulations 2007. Quite dramatic don't you think? Well before you run off to call a defence attorney or abandon me altogether in shame, I will be happy to let you know what this offense is in layman's terms - a parking ticket. Basically, I was in a 'pay and display' parking lot in Windsor and got a ticket for being 'Parked in a car park without clearly displaying a valid pay & display ticket or voucher or parking clock'.

Needless to say this completely ruined my day for several reasons. Firstly I had bought a ticket and put it on my dashboard and it covered this period. Secondly I came back and bought yet another ticket before I found the fine on my car. Thirdly I now have to deal with this issue. I plan to protest my innocence obviously but I feel the hand of pressure upon me. The fine is 50 pounds but if you pay quickly only 25. So today I must go on line and begin my campagin to uphold my honor. Wish me luck, I will let you know how this step into the legal system goes...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Concrete criminal...

Over the past week or so I've dug into my criminal law course and I'm pleased to report that I've hit concrete. After several weeks of focusing on common law, it seems to me that criminal is much more structured and orderly. The principles of criminal law seem straight forward, the rationales behind judgments seem to follow a logical pattern and the study is really engaging.

I understand that it is commonplace for law students to be attracted to the study of criminal law. I would imagine that we are drawn to it for a number of reasons. We are exposed to the high drama of the courtroom from our earliest years watching TV. Also so much of modern society focuses on violence that a basic knowledge of criminal law seems to be almost a prerequisite. Finally somehow we seem to be attracted to tragedy, much as we can not resist the urge to have a look when we pass a car wreck, so we seem to be drawn to the tales which unfold in the cases of criminal law.

So overall a good start, I know for sure that I will be back with rants and raves in a few weeks but for now I am content...

Monday, July 19, 2010


I'm reading once again about the various courts, their structure and jurisdiction and who presides over each. I continue to be amazed by the Magistrates Courts and the magistrates. These courts are the backbone of the court system and handle most of the legal cases (supposedly 95% of the criminal cases in England and Wales). While many come unrepresented to these courts or benefit from a McKenzie friend, in order to stand before the court and represent a client one needs years of legal training and then acceptance into the legal profession. Yet what are the qualifications to sit in judgement? The following is an extract from

You don't need formal qualifications or legal training to become a magistrate.

However, you will need to be able to demonstrate six key personal qualities:
good character
understanding and communication
social awareness
maturity and sound temperament
sound judgement
commitment and reliability

Huh? Well let's read further...maybe there is some rigorous training program in place...

You will undertake a training programme to help you develop all the knowledge and skills you will need to serve as a magistrate. This is given locally by your Justices' Clerk (legal advisor) or a member of his or her team. You will be in a group with other new magistrates recruited at the same time as you. Training will be given using a variety of methods, which may include pre-course reading, small-group work, use of case studies, computer-based training and CCTV.

Excellent that is defiantly good to know. Sounds like it will be pretty intense...let's see if there is any information about how long a magistrate will need to undergo this course work....

The initial induction and core training will normally be for the equivalent of three days (18 hours) and may be delivered over a long weekend, in a series of short evening sessions over several weeks, over three separate week days, or as a residential course. It is recognised that magistrates are volunteers and that their time is valuable, so every effort is made to provide all training at times and places convenient to trainees.

Three days? Am I missing something here? Is that all that is required to sit in judgement?

I recognize that these are unpaid part-time positions but I would be really interested in reading about whether or not we would be better served by paid full time justices of the peace rather than part-timers with limited legal training. I am not trying to be smug and suggest a better way (I know for example that most who come before a magistrate are pleased with the justice which they receive) but still it does strike me as unbalanced that so much effort and training is required from a legal profession yet a judge may be layman. Feedback welcome...

Friday, July 16, 2010

What is this bramble bush?

Recently a friend of mine who had a look at this LLB blog asked me what exactly I meant by the subtitle about me plunging into a bramble bush...oddly enough it comes in part from a Mother Goose nursery rhyme called 'Man in Our Town':

There was a man in our town,
And he was wondrous wise,
He jumped into a bramble bush,
And scratched out both his eyes;
But when he saw his eyes were out,
With all his might and main,
He jumped into another bush,
And scratched 'em in again.

The rhyme was in turn picked up by a prominent American legal scholar by the name of Karl Llewellyn and 'The Bramble Bush' was the title of an early work of his. Still quite popular today it is intended mostly for and as a reflection on the first year of legal studies. The notion is that as you enter the study of the law, as bright as you might be, you find yourself a bit in the dark. Your eyes are "out" as the rhyme says. You feel that you can not find your way in the maze of the law and that the way is in fact quite painful. The trick is to push on, to move forward with all your might into the thicket of the bramble bush. Only by doing so will you actually be able to "see" again. Words of inspiration to the beginner like myself stumbling along...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Using all my senses...

I was exploring some more the online features of the school and I found a brilliant thing - they have recorded lectures from the instructors which track the study guide. Really well done. Admittedly, I think the side presentations could be a bit more robust and the voices are not exactly the most engaging, yet overall I think it is a big help in drilling the material home. I also must confess that I am getting more support and better materials from the school than I expected. So far it really seems like a good value for money.

One of the other features of their online learning environment is a very extensive law library. While I have not explored it very much, probably not even scratched the surface, I did log in to Westlaw and completed their tutorial. A superb resource I have to say and once you get the hang of it by completing the tutorial it is easy to use. I used it a bit for my paper for that competition to dig up a few cases and it contributed a lot of value.

So far so good as we go deeper into the brambles...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Conflicting rights?

Recently I submitted an entry to a competition on whether equality laws trump freedom of conscience. I thought that I would share my entry with you and see what you think of it:

The recent ruling in McFarlane v. Relate Avon Ltd [2010] I.C.R. 507 gives rise to concern by many that freedom of conscience has been trumped by equality laws. Some would even claim that laws prohibiting discrimination oppress those who hold particular religious beliefs. Yet this is an oversimplification of the issue at hand. Few would argue that Thomas Hobbes’ definition of a free man “he, that in those things, which by his he is able to do, is not hindered to do what he has a will to do”[1] could be readily applied to society today. Most would agree instead with Sir John Donaldson that:

“The starting point of our domestic law is that every citizen has a right to do what he likes, unless restrained by the common law or by statute”.[2]

After the horrors of World War II, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) was written to secure certain fundamental rights of citizens under the law. Freedom of conscience, religion and thought are protected by Article 9 of the ECHR and were incorporated into domestic legislation by the Human Rights Act 1998. However, Article 9 goes on to state that manifestations of those rights may be limited in a democratic society for a number of reasons. One of those reasons is to protect the rights of others. Freedom of conscience is thus a limited right.

Article 14 of the ECHR however provides an absolute right – to be protected from discrimination. Many would argue it is in fact a positive right which places obligations on the state to ensure that individuals are protected from discrimination. The increase in the number and scope of equality laws since the Human Rights Act 1998 supports this view.

It has fallen upon the courts to balance the rights protected by Articles 9 and 14. When manifestations of freedom of conscience, religion or thought conflict with equality laws, courts have found in cases ranging from Sahin v. Turkey (44774/98) [2007] 44 E.H.H.R. 5 to Ladele v. Islington LBC [2009] EWCA Civ 1357 that freedom from discrimination takes precedence. Freedom of conscience, thought and religion remain intact. It is discriminatory manifestations of a belief that may be prescribed by the state.

[1] The Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes, p 145
[2] A-G v Observer td [1960] 1 AC 109

Thursday, July 1, 2010


While I am not taking contracts this year, I am in a study group with a number of people who are so I decided in sympathy to follow along. One of the good things to come of the group is the notion that we will exchange practice essays for feedback. Here is my first, any constructive feedback is more than welcome...

Question 2:
Cyril, a stamp dealer, had a rare Peruvian 5 cent blue for sale. He wrote to Davina, a collector who specialises in Peruvian stamps, asking whether she would be interested in purchasing it. Davina wrote in reply, ‘I am willing to pay £500 for the “blue”; I will consider it mine at that price unless I hear to the contrary from you and will collect it from your shop on Friday next week.’ Advise Davina as to the legal position:
a) if Cyril disregarded Davina’s letter and sold the stamp to Eric for £600
b) if Cyril put the stamp on one side in an envelope marked ‘Sold to Davina’ but Davina decided that she no longer wished to buy it.

Question two asks us to advise Davina on her legal position, to do so we must first determine whether a contract exists between the offeree Cyril and the offeror Davina. In this case, Cyril’s letter to Davina may be taken as in invitation to treat. Davina may believe that a contract exists based upon her posted reply in which she states that she is willing to pay £500 for the stamp, however there are a variety of issues which arise from her letter. The first concern is the formation of Davina’s offer - in Felthouse v Bindley (1862) the judges held that the offeror cannot impose an obligation on another to reject one's offer and that without specific acceptance a contract is not formed. Thus when advising Davina on point “a” of the question, she would most likely not have an actionable case in the event she wished to claim she had purchased the stamp and Cyril did not have the right to sell it to Eric for £600. However, the situation in point “b” is more complex. Cyril did not communicate his acceptance of Davina’s offer which is a supporting point in Davina’s favour should she wish to revoke her offer, yet Cyril’s conduct indicated to some degree his acceptance of it. Is Davina bound by her offer? In Carlill v Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. the court held that a unilateral contract existed when one party makes an offer if the other party does something fulfilling the conditions, but the other party need not agree to do that thing. Davina needs to be able rely more strongly on the finding of Felthouse v Bindley that the key element of a contract, that of formal acceptance is of greater weight than Carlill and that this was not in fact a unilateral contract.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Back in town...

Apologies for a bit of a delay since my last post, I was on holiday and did not want to risk getting sand in my computer on the beach. I did however manage to mix in a bit of studying with all the sun and fun. I took one of the textbooks from university with me - Politics of the Common Law. I have to say that overall I am quite disappointed with it. I will admit that I managed to get only about 60% of the way through it but still it was rather a poor read. I would tend to blame the editors rather than the authors however for allowing the book to get out of hand. For example - there is a lot of talk about what is going to be covered, and then the material is not covered until much later. Not much value in continuing to tell you what is going to be covered, better to just get on with it. Also, how many times do we have to be hit in one chapter with the word "trope"? I am the first to admit that I am not 100% sure of the meaning but do I still need to be assaulted 5 times in the course of 20 pages? Finally, there is something in the book that I really find inexcusable - the use of the first person singular "I". Far too many personal musings of one of the authors which serves no purpose other than to take us down memory lane to his time at university. Really a big disappointment. I should say that the book is not entirely without merit, I do really enjoy a number of the in-depth case analyses which they present. Overall however I can not really see the merit of this book being included in the curriculum, I would hate to speculate that because the authors also occupying places of authority in the university they are motivated by some self-interest, I will leave that up to you to decide.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

When the doors open...

So yesterday I received the famed "box" from university. As I might have said, this is forms the basis for my studies of the LLB. It contains study guides for my courses, text books, additional reading materials, online registration material for the courses and libraries, etc. I have to admit the box was a bit smaller than I expected and did not contain all of the material I was hoping for but this is merely due to the fact that I've registered so early. I will not actually sit my first exams until May of next year so many items are not yet prepared for students I would imagine. I did however get a few study guides, textbooks and the online registration materials. All of this is more than enough to keep me very busy for several months.

I've had a look inside the university's virtual learning environment for students and I have to say that it looks brilliant. Lot's of information there, the full learning materials for the course plus various online presentations which I did not know existed. Really good stuff. Also I've had a look at their online library - absolutely filled with databases and legal material. I used to work in a legal library when I was doing my undergraduate degree ages ago so I have some familiarity with the sources but is so full that I expect it will take me some time just to get oriented with what is there and how I can best use it. I did manage to find a journal article that Ashworth had written about ASBO's that I could not find elsewhere so I will consider than my small victory for the day.

Next post as promised I will try and do a rebuttal of the idea that fixed precedent is a valuable principle...

Monday, June 14, 2010

Now you see it, now you...

Here is an interesting quote from Slapper & Kelly: “These considerations raise the question that if the law, as represented in either common law or statute law, is out of line with current social beliefs and practices, then should it not be incumbent upon the judiciary to decide cases in line with the currently prevailing standards, even if this means ignoring previous decisions and interpretations?” This cuts to the heart of two issues of fundamental importance in common law: whether or not courts create law and principle of stare decisis.

In the UK, the Parliament is said to be sovereign. Law making powers are given to this elected body. While Parliament can delegate the power to make laws, such power has not been given to the judiciary. Yet, various methods of interpretation devised by the judiciary and tacitly accepted by the legislature allow the court leeway in applying the law. Resistance from the legislature usually occurs when the court is seen as “filling in the gaps” which they believe exist in the law. The doctrine of stare decisis provides that once an authoritative court has interpreted the law, the other courts within the judiciary must interpret similar cases in a similar manner.

However, what is the practical effect when the court reverses itself? Until 1966 and the Practice Statement [1966] 3 All ER 77 issued by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Gardiner, the court did not. It was the responsibility of the legislature to correct what it believed were interpretative errors by the courts. Indeed, Parliament showed that it was willing to address not only interpretative errors but also judgments which it disagreed with by passing new laws which the court was then obliged to recognize and apply, even ones with retroactive effect (see Burmah Oil Co Ltd v The Lord Advocate (1965)). Do not the courts themselves take on such authority when they reverse long standing precedents? If it has long been held by the courts that doing X is not a crime and then in one new case before it the court decides that social beliefs and practices have moved so far from the established precedent that they suddenly decided that doing X is in fact a crime have they not created a new law? What’s worse does it not appear that such a law was created with retroactive effect? The defendant had relative security that his actions at the time were legal. However does not the reversal of precedent belay such a claim? At least when Parliament creates a new law it usually not apply retroactively, people may adjust their behavior but in this case the defendant is held liable for actions which were previously not prohibited by law.

Interesting argument in favor of truly binding precedent, perhaps next blog will take the opposing view….

Thursday, June 10, 2010

After the sun is gone...

I've come to the realization that the bulk of my time for the LLB is going to be spent doing one thing - reading. The first few weeks have been filled with activity - enrolling, getting materials, meeting fellow students, putting together tools to study. I've done a good bit of reading but somehow it always seemed as a supplement to the other items, now I recognize that it is going to be the main focus going forward.

I have to say that it has been a real high getting back into school mode. It gives me a sense of freshness, optimism as I look forward to what comes, a feeling of excitement. I've always had such a feeling, even from the first days when I went to school as a child fresh with new clothes and school supplies. While the beginning is always a lot of fun, its when you actually dig into it and realize what lies ahead that the luster begins to fade.

It is now a bit more clear to me what to expect. The vast majority of the time will be spent alone with a book reading. I can only imagine how many hours I will spend this way. I've tried to look in the study materials to see how much I should study and the indications are something around 20 hours a week which I probably average now. I feel good about the amount which I have read over the past month or so. Even though it has been a bit eclectic it seems all to fit together. I suppose now the serious work begins and I need to start plowing through the material. I will try and start sharing some of the concrete cases and items that I come across in upcoming posts so you can see where my path takes me...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The elephant in the room…

One thing I am curious about is the new Supreme Court. I have to confess that none of the legal books which I have read so far have had much to say about this institution beyond the comment that it is due to be created in 2009. Through my own research on the net and also via articles in the law sections of a couple of British newspapers I’ve found that it was in fact opened at the end of 2009, is fully functioning, has heard many cases, and has delivered numerous judgments. However, most of what I’ve found does not really address the substantive issues of the court and its structure. Instead they seem to focus on the symbols of the court, the cost of the building and the pomp and circumstance associated with its opening. Almost nothing has gone into detail about the judges, the effect of removing the ultimate legal authority for the UK from the House of Lords to the Supreme Court. In fact the silence on this subject seems to be deafening. Obviously the reason I am thinking about this is due to the fact that all the learning materials point us to the Law Lords as the ultimate court of appeal. As this is no longer true and I would hate to be caught out by continuing to think of them as such. I suppose the key will be to search out sources that can provide information on the structural change and its effects. I guess they don’t call it ‘independent learning’ for nothing.

Friday, June 4, 2010

In sync...

One thing I really enjoy about the LLB studies are how all the pieces seem to fall together so well. No matter what I am reading it seems to have value and tie into several of the courses. For example, I'm working on the Slapper and Kelly book right now and it is really is clear and enjoyable. Much of the material overlaps with what is presented on the Open University's free internet courses on the law. In addition, I've had a look at a website which supports the Slapper and Kelly book and the material there also works brilliantly to build on what you read. Finally, I'm managed to find Slapper's column that he writes for The Times. It is a bit off-beat compared to what is found in the book (he writes about weird cases) but he manages to put an amusing turn on the material. All in all, it seems to be a strong foundation for learning.

In other news, out of the blue this week I heard from a friend who works in the finance department in a big law firm in London. It was great to catch up and he was also kind enough to pass me some information about the vacations schemes at his firm. I know it is most likely too early for me to be thinking about a vac scheme but I thought it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. I've got all the information and I will try and see what happens in the autumn. A number of firms have a one week programme around Christmas and that would be ideal. More articles to follow on this subject in the months to come.

Monday, May 31, 2010

One small step for man... giant leap for me. Today I received the official acceptance and enrollment papers from the university. I have to admit that while I was thrilled to see the package on my desk when I came back from lunch, I was slightly disappointed when I opened it. The actual acceptance letter is a photocopy of a photocopy and along the lines of “to whom it may concern”. Those documents which are actually personalized are “insert name here” types. Oh well, at least it is here. I am pleased as I’ve been eagerly awaiting it as you know. I look forward to reading through the booklet they sent about studying English law at the university. I’ve ready read through the first four chapters on their website but it will be nice to dig into the hard copy. I’ve filled in my enrollment form and fee slip and will shoot them back to the university tomorrow.

Over the weekend I read more in Turpin and Tomkins, finishing the chapter on liberty and then swinging back to start at the beginning. So far so good with the chapters I’ve read. I have also managed to get my hands on a copy of Slapper and Kelly’s English Legal System. I’m rather happy as it is the fresh 10th edition for 2009/2010. Gary Slapper is a professor at the Open University and flipping through the book I can see a lot of similarities with the free law courses that they have online which I did. All in all, I think it’s been a rather successful month for my studies and the blog.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I’ve thrown another book into the mix, British Government and the Constitution by Turpin and Tomkins. I have to say that I’ve done something that I normally don’t do – I’ve started not at the beginning but at the very end with a chapter on liberty. I admit that there are some things that I am missing out on which were referred to in earlier chapters but I could not resist. In part it is because I am working on a paper which focuses on the European Convention on Human Rights but also because I find it a really exciting area of the law. I strongly believe the rights of the individual need to be safeguarded from encroachments by the state. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a fundamentalist in this area but sadly it seems to be that individuals and their liberty are increasingly under threat. It’s interesting to learn more about notions of positive and negative liberty, absolute and qualified rights, etc. I touched on a number of these topics in my undergraduate in political science but obviously that was years ago. One of the items which I had suspected seems to be borne out by the readings - the deference of the courts to the executive particularly at the expense of individual liberties. Obviously the LLB focuses on common law in the UK and as an American I have a bit of a different perspective than most who study for this degree, but it does seem to be that having the executive based within the legislature limits the notional and practical aspects of the separation of powers. In addition, as an American we are used to speak of our ‘constitutional rights’ yet this term seems to be treated with a degree of suspicion bordering on scorn by some of the UK’s highest courts. Much is made of the fact that the UK’s unwritten or rather uncodified constitution is as robust as other countries' written constitutions however there seem to be precious few instances where the court errs on the assumed residual rights of the individual. Nowhere does this seem to be more evident than when the government puts forward a claim of national security. While there are noted dissents by Lord Denning and others who cry out for a greater respect for the rights of the individual, they remain dissenting opinions against a strong majority which hold for the government. Interesting reading indeed.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reading criminal law

I’ve started with Principles of Criminal Law by Andrew Ashworth. I have to say that I really enjoy it. It starts a bit quickly for me, perhaps because I do not have much of a grounding in the subject, but after about fifty pages it really brings everything together. I think it approaches the material in a good manner based on a reasonable set of principles. I have to say that I am very much in agreement with Ashworth’s views on the need to limit the state's power via criminal law. He gives a number of arguments on how certain measure seem to undermine the autonomy of the individual. I will keep moving forward with it for a few more chapters. I had to put Zander aside for a few days as it was starting to weigh on me.

With luck I should get a letter this week from the university with my acceptance. Apparently then I need to write back and confirm as well as pay my initial fees. Once I do that I will get the infamous 'box'. Supposedly a back-breaking package containing a number of books, study guides, CD's, passwords, etc. that we form the basis of my studies. I have a feeling that I will need to get cracking to reinforce those shelves on my bookcase soon.

Monday, May 24, 2010


No, not the website but my reaction today to one email which I've received informing me that my previous studies are recognised by the university and an Offer for the Graduate Entry route will be issued to me in due course. Yippee!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

More and more

I've been exploring various forms of legal associations for students. While I remain surprised that my university does not seem to have one, I have been able to find a number of international student associations that I could join. Its a bit difficult to get a clear picture of which ones have value and which are more designed to merely enhance a resume but at least by having a look at them I become a bit more acquainted with the various associations and I can see what is out there. I am quite keen to join at least one student law association as I believe there are a lot of benefits. I will let you know what I find.

Also I've found a couple competitions which are open to law students sponsored by various firms and institutions. While mooting competitions seem to be the most numerous, there are a number of competitions which are focused instead on essay submissions. I am definitely keen to try these as I think it would help to hone my writing skills for law school. So far the ones I have found have submission dates in about a month's time which is perfect. It will give me enough time to put an essay together and also get properly enrolled with the university as a law student.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

You are not alone

I’m pleased to report another development in my LLB quest – the first faint signs of camaraderie. Through one of the ‘social networking’ sites on the internet, I’ve managed to find a fledgling group of students who are studying in the same manner and at the same school. I’ve read various things about study groups to be honest, most of which seem to say that it is best when they are a small group of committed individuals. While I am sure they do have value, I guess the trick is to have them move beyond friendship to be of assistance in your studies. For sure I look forward to meeting others and knowing that I am not “alone” but it will be great to learn about various study aids, have others to exchange ideas with and also to review and critique essays. Hopefully it will go well and stand the test of time. In any event, I am quite excited about it and look forward to contributing and getting out of it as much as I can!

In other news, I’ve moved on in Zander’s Law Making Process. Now I am reading about various methods of statutory interpretation. I’ll be honest and say I like this section a bit more than those about the formulation of laws in Whitehall and Parliament. It is enjoyable to read some of the cases and see how they are interpreted by judges. I confess that when I first heard about the literal approach to interpretation it struck me as a bit far-fetched but after reading through some of the chapter, I can see the arguments in its favor. For example, it’s interesting to read the response from the House of Lords on Lord Denning’s proposition that the judiciary must “fill in the gaps” left by Parliament. Hopefully the book will continue more along these lines in the coming chapters.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The first clicks

The first learning ‘clicks’ are starting to appear! I was reading a blog this weekend which referred to the Carbolic Smoke Ball Company and I was actually able to remember the outlines of the case. Needless to say I was thrilled, surprised and very happy all at the same time. I believe it will happen more and more as I go forward and progress in my studies. Also I am pleased about the degree to which the three courses which I am studying for (criminal, common and public law) all seem to overlap. To be sure, criminal law less so than the other two but still everything seems to be blending together well.

In other news, I am reading a book called Law-Making Process by Michael Zander right now. I’ve managed to get through the first two chapters so far. I am surprised about one item - it is billed as an introductory law text for students. While it is definitely educational and moves through the law making process logically and in detail, it does not seem to present material in a manner that supports the learning. There is a structure to each chapter yet the topics which are covered are rarely touched on by the author. Instead they are developed via first hand extracts from others. This does present key insights for one to learn but it lacks a smooth and easy presentation. Certainly good material however and I look forward to starting chapter 3 tonight…

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The good, the bad, and this...

Well it is not quite the ugly that you might be expecting but there are two recent developments in my quest which seem worth sharing with you. I’ll start with the negative…

It turns out that we are indeed two nations divided by a common language. A recent note from the university informs me that I did not submit my ‘university/degree certificate’ and I should do so in order to proceed with my application. After a bit of back and forth it turns out that this document is what many Americans would call a ‘diploma’. I have to say that it is a bit odd that they want to see that piece of paper considering (a) I’ve already sent transcripts and (b) I would imagine such a document would be rather easy to fake. Nevertheless, I am willing to comply and so off it goes today. Hopefully I will see it again.

Fortunately the other development is positive. Last night I picked up from my friend who is back from London two of the recommended legal books. Hurrah. So now I am the proud owner of two very heavy tomes to begin my legal library (I think I am going to need to reinforce my shelves actually if this keeps up). The book I am rather excited about is on criminal law written by Andrew Ashworth of Oxford. From my small scratches on the surface of criminal law, he seems extremely well-recognized in the field. In addition, from what I can tell, his views mesh with mine on some of the issues within the legal system which concern me (such as anti-social behavioral orders). I am looking forward to reading this one. The other book is about constitutional law and is twice the size of the already large criminal law book. The good feature of the constitutional law book is that it contains numerous extracts from first hand sources so I am glad I will be able to examine the subject matter directly.

Monday, May 10, 2010

and for my next trick...

I am still waiting for my formal acceptance to the LLB program but you will be pleased to hear that I managed to finish off the introductory chapters of the study guides. Yippee! I fully expect that I will be rereading them a number of times, and despite the fact that I have not tried to complete any of the questions nor more than one or two of the readings, I feel a bit of accomplishment none the less. Also another small piece of good news is that a mate of mine returns from London tomorrow having purchased two of the recommended textbooks for the courses so I am looking forward to digging into those later in the week.

One bit of bad news however is that the school does not have a law journal. I was hoping to write for the law journal and also perhaps to get involved in it more deeply but it seems that law journals are not so common in Europe as they are at American universities. Even worse, it seems that a few years ago a law review was created at my university but shortly thereafter collapsed. Hmmm. Not a good thing and I would imagine that administrators at the school would not be too keen for having a go at supporting another. We shall see but that is definitely a minor issue for now.

One thing which I realized belatedly might be a point of concern is getting a reference out of the school. If I were to look for a vacation scheme (law work during vacation) or indeed apply to a traineeship (i.e. a mandatory two year training period), I believe that a recommendation from university would be important. But how does one get a recommendation if one never sees the professors? A question which will need to be posed...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Not quite waiting…

“I am writing to confirm that we have received some documentation in support of your application. We will be in touch in due course regarding the status of your application. Please do not reply to this e-mail.” Not exactly the ‘congratulations and welcome to the LLB programme’ that I was waiting for but at least an acknowledgement for which I suppose I should be grateful...

However you will be pleased to learn that I am taking control of my life, becoming the master of my ship, the captain of my fate, the lord of my destiny and pushing forward with my studies despite not even being accepted yet! How can you do such a radical thing you ask? The university is clever enough to put tons of information on their website to let perspective students take a few tentative steps towards learning before they actually enroll. There are the first few chapters to the study guides, reading lists for a number of classes, etc. Very cool. So I’ve downloaded most of these items and started to dig into them.

I am surprised that I was able to find not only the materials on the university’s website but also on the internet some of the books and articles which the study guide recommends. Not all of them of course, and not easily accessible, but for sure it is a good start especially when you consider that it does not cost anything. On top of this there was a brilliant article in the paper the other day about free university courses available on the internet. To be sure they are a mixed lot in terms of quality and cover a variety of subjects but I was able to find one university that has several good law modules. I’ve ploughed by way through a couple and I am surprised to see how similar it is to what I will be studying. Perhaps it is just that the starting ground is the same for the study of the law but I find it quite helpful. It is also useful for me because as an American I have a less intrinsic feel for the structure of English law than a native might.

In regards to the programme, I’ve decided to study over a period of three years (of course assuming they let me in). The university offers the possibility for those with a degree already (such as myself) to study either in two years or in three. However, given that nine courses are required for the degree (in addition to an extra piece of work to make it a qualifying law degree (QLD)) it seemed a bit too much to squeeze into two years. It’s more expensive studying 3 years compared to 2 but seeing as I am working full-time and there were various warnings about not trying to take on too much at the start, I’ve decided to be safe rather than sorry.

For the first year I plan to study common law, public law and criminal law. I am looking forward to it much more than the second year which holds contract, torts and trust law. The final year requires land law, EU law to satisfy the QLD requirement, and one elective. While I suppose it is already far too early to imagine which elective to choose, I am torn between company law and human rights law. While both are of interest, company law seems to be the more ‘logical’ choice for my background, while human rights law is definitely more from the ‘heart’. I will keep an eye on both and let you know what I decide when I get closer...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First Post

Welcome to LLB Blogging! With any luck, what you will find in this blog should cover several years of law school education. I've decided to begin this blog as I begin my studies. While the main benefit should be to help me retain my sanity and improve my writing skills, with any luck it will hopefully provide others with a small glimpse of one student's experiences and a bit of amusement along the way.

I would imagine, this being the first post, that an introduction should be the first order of business. After several years of slaving away, I've decided to 'go back' to school and get an LLB degree. Sadly, I believe I am what is termed a "mature student" although I will leave you to be the judge of that. I've been living and working in Europe for many years. I have a BA in Political Science that took me ages to get as well as an MBA in International Management. I also work full time in finance.

While I would imagine that if you are reading this you already know, but for those of you who are unaware (as was I until a couple of months ago) an LLB or rather a Bachelor of Laws, or perhaps even more correctly a Legum Baccalaureus to use the original Latin, is the standard undergraduate degree to pursue a career in law in the UK as well as in a number of other common law countries. This type of degree is new to me not so much due to a lack of interest in the law but rather because I am American and more familiar with the JD graduate qualification for the law.

So why would an American what to study for such a degree? Well my reasons are thus:
1) In a cliche to beat all cliches "I have always been interested in the law" but actually it is true, it seems that legal issues are so pervasive in our society you find yourself embroiled in them whether you wish it or not. However, for me it is more than that. Without trying to wax poetic, I've always thought that there was something pure, clean or right about that the law. I know that many of you are probably laughing at that and imagining all sorts of abuses, I will admit there are, but my feeling is more based upon the logic and arguments put forth during cases, the ideals of blind justice and equality of the law. Also from what I have read so far (very little) I have to say that there is a certain elegance to the law and a sense that the law is a civilising element to our society.
2) I've found a programme that allows me study on my own outside of the classroom. Sadly, I am not well-off enough to take time off from work and devote myself to study. However, after a bit of scouring the internet I came a cross a respectable school that offers a distance learning programme at an affordable price. Brilliant!
3) I feel that I need a bit of extra intellectual stimulation. I seem to find that my mind is racing these days down strange pathway in a frantic attempt to find something to wrestle with... so I've decided to throw it against an LLB and see who comes out the winner...
4) Finally there is a vague notion somewhere in the back of my head that I might want to work in the law someday and perhaps change my career a bit, I thought that an LLB might be a good way to see if it the right thing for me...

So here we post coming soon so be sure to tune in...