Exam Success

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Hello all. I know that it has been a while since I last wrote to you, but rest assured I am still kicking and screaming my way into becoming a solicitor, and it starts with exams. I thought I should write to you all, since the exams are fast approaching, about some study tips you might find useful in these last few weeks of exam preparation. I have broken them down into four key areas – my strategy for exam success.

Time management

Managing your time effectively is going to be key to your success in the exam. Not only does it mean managing your revision time wisely, but also the time you have in the exam.

So for managing your revision time, it might be a good idea to create a revision timetable. Many of you will be doing more than one exam this month, so you want to make sure you give each module enough of your attention, no matter how far or close apart they may be. I am using a colour coded timeline which shows me what modules I should be revising on each day, and exactly when my exams are coming.

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It is so important to make sure that your modules are evenly spread apart (see Week 1) so that you are constantly recapping what you have learnt. This will ensure that you retain as much of the detail as possible. Also, be sure to take into account how well you understand the topics when allocating your time to your modules.

As for timing in the exam, your module tutors should provide you with rough guidance. But as I said, this is rough guidance and your ability in the exam will much depend on: what you know; how well you know it; and ultimately, how fast you can write. On that note, it is certainly a good idea to conduct your own little mock exam and see how well you can manage your time.

Technical ability

Law, as with many subjects, is certainly a technical subject. Examiners can tell when students memory dumb, and they do not like it as it shows little engagement with the module’s learning outcomes. If you want to score well in the exam, you really need to focus on your technical ability.

This includes not only understanding the legal rules, but how they apply in the scenario. Lecturers constantly emphasise on application because this is the only way they can see that you understand how the rules work. You can pick this up by reading through judgments, case facts, looking at similar cases which cite those judgments.

Good application

Weak application

The defence of loss of control is not available where there is a considered desire for revenge (s.54(4) Coroners & Justice Act 2009).

The fact that Sandra had bought the weapon on the day of the killing could suggest that she had a considered desire for revenge, and the court would have to take this into account (Ballie).

The defence of loss of control is not available where there is a considered desire for revenge (s.54(4) Coroners & Justice Act 2009).

Therefore Sandra may not have the defence because of the knife (Ballie).

I have learnt first-hand that being able to remember all of the relevant sections of the Coroners and Justice Act is, albeit very impressive, not enough to get you the top marks in the exam. Do not be discouraged to apply the law to the facts if you are pressed for time; you simply have to make the link between the law and the facts.

Information retention

 Many students, including myself, struggle to remember all of the little details. Lucky as we are that we do not need to remember the citation for every case – we still need to remember the case. Have you tried remembering Hirji Mulji v Cheong Yue or Tsakiroglou v Noblee Thorl GmbH?

Being able to show a balance of good application and accurate citation is part of the crusade of doing well in the exam. Therefore, you need to find ways that help you retain information.

Have you tried?

  • Coloured paper
  • Flow charts and mind maps
  • Flash cards
  • Audio recordings
  • Teaching your friends

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You should also enjoy the advances in technology – far disconnected from what our senior lecturers had ‘back in’t day’. There are some brilliant online resources out there, as well as the SmartArt tools in Microsoft Office and the voice recorder built in on most mobile phones.

Social life

Many students think that exams are a one-time thing and once they are over it will be all plain sailing. This is not true – throughout the rest of your career, be it legal or not, your employer is going to expect you to be able to maintain that work life balance. Having witnessed people who are very close to me go through this exact struggle, I am brave enough to assert that there is a real possibility that you may graduate into a career in which all seems to be ‘work work work work work work’.  It leaves you feeling empty and unfulfilled, and could even spark a ‘quarter life crisis’.

So at this stage, whilst you are a student, I urge you to use this time whilst you can to test out your limits and figure out where that line in your work-life balance falls. From my personal perspective, having a medical condition which creates symptoms that are aggravated by stress, I know just how important it is to take a break now and then.

Sure, we all want to make it to Allen & Overy and DLA Piper, but we are all human at the end of the day. So take a break – and if now is not the time, make it your incentive to be really productive now whilst you can. But also you have to be honest with yourself, because going for a drink or two with friends the night before the exam is not going to be helpful.

Conclusion

I hope you found my advice useful, and if you have any useful tips you would like to share, just post them in the comments below.

I wish every one of you the best of luck in the upcoming exams. To all those legal professionals who took the time to read this article, I hope it was a nice walk down memory lane for you.

Law Firm ‘Culture’

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No matter where you go in the legal industry, law firm culture is something you will have to be mindful of, even after you are a qualified and practising solicitor. This is something I have been thinking about in the past few months, building up to securing that training contract. But with it being such a vague word, we ask what does it mean and how does one measure it? I have teamed up with Shoosmiths’ own graduate recruitment manager, Samantha Hope, to explore this concept.

What is meant by ‘Culture’?

Culture is an umbrella term, referring to ‘the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society’. Swap the last few words with law firm and you are nearly there. You need to think beyond the salary, work, target hours, clients and health benefits which is the day-to-day information that you can find in the job description. The culture is how you feel about your firm, it is what makes working with your colleagues enjoyable, and it is what will make you get out of bed each morning, so it is very important to your future career.

Law firms are inviting aspiring solicitors past their reception desks and into their fancy seminar rooms, filled with all the canapés and posh refreshments that you could consume until you are blue in the face. The whole reason why they do this is so that you can get a feel for their culture, and hopefully, you will find the firm you can ‘settle down’ with. For them, it’s all about securing the top talent and retaining it!

You will have the opportunity to ask the recruiters, partners and trainees some questions, they get to ask you some back, and hopefully that sparks a meeting of minds. Firms set aside thousands of pounds a year and lots of time for all those prestigious events like Pure Potential and National Law Live, simply so that they can get young talent through the door. I do not mean to romanticise the situation, but it is a little bit like dating. It is definitely not a one way street and it requires an equal amount of effort from both sides.

Next you need to have a think about what questions you might want to ask firms. Unfortunately, this is not as straightforward as one might have hoped it would be. It all depends on what you want to know. Being able to think about some of the situations which would really make you want to walk away from a firm after completing your training contract is a skill which you can develop from meeting other trainees who have ‘been there – done that’.

My story

In March, I was fortunate to be invited to an insight evening at Shoosmiths. As usual before the event I was conducting my research into the firm, and as I was halfway into reading the ‘Our values & culture’ page, I paused for a moment, threw my head into my hands and thought to myself ‘sh*t’. The words were a muddle, the phraseology was all so familiar; it was all beginning to sound the same as every other firm I had researched in the past.

Taking a step back from that approach, I realised that this is exactly the problem which only open days and insight evenings could provide the solutions. So, not normally being a person who likes to ask questions to the panels at open evenings, I had a long think about the kind of firm I would see myself working for in the long term, and I manipulated those features into three simple questions which I wanted to know the answers to, and which I would be able to ask during the event.

  1. Do trainees have personal relationships with their colleagues, and what does the firm do to facilitate this?

I am not just looking for firms that send a nice joke in an email every now and then. I like to see that firms are celebrating individuality and holding events such as competitive sports and social outings to bring employees together.

  1. Do trainees receive appraisal for the work they do, and are they being motivated to hit targets and develop professionally?

Who really cares about sitting down once a month to fill in a PDP? What I really want to know is that supervisors are always within arm’s length, providing truthful and constructive criticism and giving thanks when thanks is due.

  1. Do trainees have access to the support they need, are there effective channels for communicating with the management?

Some firms will have an appointment based system, whilst others are usually happy to have a quick chat in their office as and when. What is important is that those lines of communication are clear, efficient and effective for getting the job done.

I was able to weave these questions into my conversations with partners and trainees at the networking session that evening, and I got exactly the answers I needed. I now had an insight into the culture at Shoosmiths and this allowed me to move onto the next stage with my application.

Shoosmiths’ Culture

Whilst speaking to Samantha Hope, graduate recruitment manager at Shoosmiths, at the event, she agreed that all law firms say the same buzz words; quality work, high client contact, supportive training, and a great culture – but that it really is meeting people that enables students to work out which firm is for them.

“It’s certainly a two-way street! In the same way that it can be hard to understand our culture from our website, nothing is quite like meeting you to bring your application to life.”

Shoosmiths tries to show its culture at insight events by providing an informal environment to network which makes students feel comfortable to ask any question, and they emphasised the importance of their values in their recruitment process from application stage to assessment centre.

The trainees talked highly of the supportive open-plan teams they work in every day, and how they felt they could ask anyone in their team, or office, any question knowing that they would receive an answer and would not be overlooked as “just the trainee”.

Shoosmiths only served soft drinks at the event using this as an opportunity to further emphasise the importance they place on attracting a wide variety of candidates to the firm, and in support of the recent health & well-being challenge the trainees have been set. “At some point you will need to decide the appropriate amount of alcohol to drink at a professional event, hopefully there’ll be lots of awards events to attend, but for tonight, we want to take away that decision for the attendees and be able to enjoy the networking without anyone worrying about whether they’re overdoing it, so instead we‘re serving a variety of smoothies, juices and retro pop!” Samantha explained.

So, whilst learning about the culture of a firm might not seem important to you now, it will be during your career, it really will be the difference between enjoying your job or not. Getting to know people so that you can understand the culture will be something which comes naturally to you as you attend more events in the industry.

Putting Yourself Out There

Samantha gave some of her top tips for students looking to embark on a career in law and she said

“Attend events, build your networks and put yourself out there. It can all seem a little overwhelming when you don’t know what the event will be like, and you might not know anyone, but the more events you attend, the more friends you’ll make and the more you’ll learn about what type of firm is right for you – and that won’t be all of them!

 You’ll become great at professional networking, and that’s a skill you’ll need right through your career, so it’s good to start now.

 Ross’ blog is a great example of a student going above and beyond to develop their own networks and to share tips and advice to his peers along the way.

 You can start by setting up a LinkedIn profile and a Twitter account, and start following some of your favourite companies and recruiters – then engage with them by asking questions, sharing posts and inviting your friends to get involved too. Perhaps you could start your own blog too. You’ll soon be able to work out which firms you want to learn more about simply by following them on social media, then you can attend their events and meet them in person.”

 My final tip for you to improve your understanding of ‘culture’ is be active in attending open days and insight evenings, I really cannot stress enough how valuable these will be when it comes to the next stages in the recruitment process. Now when I look back at the Shoosmiths’ website, I really can see that the culture and values are ingrained in the people and the firm. If I had not attended the event, I may not have realised that and would have just thought they were the usual culture-driven buzz words.

Special thanks

 It was a pleasure to work with Samantha Hope, who has taken time out of her busy schedule to contribute her thoughts in this piece. We are hoping to collaborate in the near future on my next article all about the use of social media to enhance career prospects!

Check out Samantha’s blog here

Business & Law Workshop

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Just as Preston College had thought it had seen the last of me, I returned again this year with long-established friend with whom I had also studied law with at the College. It was all thanks to a fantastic team effort that we managed to successfully deliver a quality workshop in a bid to persuade business students into the legal profession.

The afternoon session took place in the college’s new STEM building. I was camp as pink when I found out that we would be given the opportunity to use the new facilities to deliver this workshop.

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We’ve got some useful brochures courtesy of LawCareers.net

So the plan for the day was to first outline the role of a lawyer, break apart all of the LPC GDL BPTC jargon and then talk a bit about the practice areas. There was a heavy emphasis on the distinction between personal and business services, so as to cater for our students with a particular interest in business.

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What does a lawyer do?

 

We wanted to come up with a practical activity for the students so that they could get a real feel for what being a lawyer or law student is really like. So after hours of brainstorming on all sorts of topics which fall within contract law, we came up with this idea of a ‘frustrated contract’ scenario.

The students were provided with the abstract of some relevant case law, a general outline of the principles of contract law (Offer and Acceptance, Privity and Consideration), a Practical Legal Research template, and a bundle of documents with which we weaved our scenario into. In a nutshell, this was a hypothetical dispute between a college and a supplier as to the sale of furniture which was delivered late.

 

CaptureThe students had to analyse an email from a partner, a telephone attendance note, a letter before action, emails between the claimant and defendant and a purchase order. We wanted the students to use their skills of analysis and work with attention to detail to figure out what exactly had gone on. We moved around the groups to talk about some of the potential legal issues; we helped them to extract the ratio of cases and experiment with the potential outcomes each precedent might manifest.

The students had really engaged with the scenario and cases. In fact, we were so impressed with some of the discussions we had engaged the students in, to the extent that we really could not pick an overall winning team!

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Expecting 30 people at our Business & Law Workshop today!

It was so rewarding to see students engaging in material that I had created for them. They were provided with everything which I felt that I would have needed had I been in their position. We were able to outline LPC, MLaw and GDL routes and provided them with some practice of the basic skills expected of a lawyer.

With the help of multiple organisations, we were able to disseminate leaflets, brochures and information which would really help them to make an informed decision about a career in the legal profession. It was also a pleasure to have students come and talk to us at the end of our workshop.

We received some positive feedback from our liaison – formerly our law tutor (pictured below). We were pleased to receive an email shortly after our departure; “Thank you so much for today, it was wonderful […] I will get you back in next for the next A levels!”.

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Expecting 30 people at our Business & Law Workshop today!

I am hoping now to streamline our workshop, make the necessary improvements now that we move into a BETA stage, and ultimately return next year to deliver our workshop in front of the next cohort of students.

In summary, this has been an experience which has really paid dividends in respect of all the effort that we had collectively put in to the project. We look forward to our return – see you next year Preston College!

A special thanks to Humera Patel for all the support in this endeavour and to Rukhsana Ahmad for facilitating this event.

 

VIDEOS: EU Trip

Luxembourg

My first video captures some of the sights we saw during our guided tour of the city. Whilst it was a brisk morning, the sun was out and we got some brilliant shots of the small city!

The EU Legislature

Our second sunny day was spent in Brussels, on our visit to the European Parliament and European Commission. We were fortunate to see the Parliament in session, which you will see in the video. Just note the sheer scale of the place.

Chasing the Council

I am sure all those euro-sceptic individuals out there had noticed that just last week the European Council had met in Brussels to discuss Britain’s position in the European Union. We were fortunate enough to be in Brussels, just around the corner from the Council building in the hours before the arrival of François Hollande, Angela Merkel, David Cameron and many more.

This video presents exciting footage which was taken 15 minutes before their arrival. There were many blacked out vehicles with police escorts and helicopters. Perhaps one of the vehicles which passed us was Cameron himself?!

Brugge

This very quaint little location was our last stop before the long journey back to Preston. Though there were no European Union origins to see, this was a joyous end to a busy week. There were an array of Belgian Chocolate shops to visit, the smell of waffles around every street corner, and an array of big high street names.

City of Brussels

Brussels is, albeit not everyone’s cup of tea, one of my favourite locations on this trip. Whilst there were parts which brought memories of a night at Canary Wharf, there was much heritage and culture to this city. There were plenty of things to do!

I hope you enjoyed these videos as much as I enjoyed producing them.

我想去中國

The title reads ‘I want to go to China’10268890_140076496366473_1421773792_n

This is the biggest piece of news I have been looking forward to sharing with you all the most. I am delighted to announce that I have been granted funding for an internship in Chengdu, the business capital of Sichuan province. It has been a month now since I received the good news, and now that most of the reservations have been made I am eager to tell you all the details.

What exactly is the internship?

Generation UK funding, which is awarded by the British Council, is available to UK citizens to complete an eight week internship in their chosen field. However, there are some other eligibility requirements which you should read through on the Generation UK website. There are various seats, from commercial law firms to business consultancy agencies. There are three prime locations where internships are offered – Qingdao, Zhuhai and Chengdu. Interns share apartments during their stay with other interns on the programme, and are provided will full support from the agency. The GUK funding covers some of these costs. As we speak, the agency is currently sourcing firms from their panel for me to complete my internship with, so where I will be next summer I am still not quite sure (Big up Clare Pearson from DLA Piper, Asia!)

Who is Intern China?

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAV_AAAAJGQ2M2Y3MWE5LWU5ZWUtNDIyZC1hOWMzLWZlZjgyNzgxZWU5MgIntern China are one of two agencies (the other is CRCC Asia) selected by the British Council as an Internship provider. Whilst CRCC Asia focuses on the more westernised parts of China, such as Beijing and Hong Kong, Intern China offers opportunities in more cultural parts of China. They have an office in the UK, and an office in each of their destinations.

What is Chengdu like?

Chengdu is famous for three things: spicy food, pandas and rice wine. It has an urban population of eight million people and a suburban population of fourteen million. The economy in Chengdu is attractive; in 2007 Chengdu was surveyed by the World Bank and declared the “benchmark city for investment environment in China”. There are thirty of the Fortune 500 companies present in Chengdu, such as Microsoft, Nokia, Semiens, HP, Intel and IBM. These technology giants give Chengdu its position as a national base for the electronics and IT industry.

What about language barriers?

At present, I am currently using a mixture of textbook and software based learning for Mandarin. I am currently taking advantage of the Worldwise Learning Centre, which offers UCLan students access to Rosetta Stone. Whilst Mandarin is the worlds most natively spoken language, it is not the only language spoken.Man-woman There are many dialects in China, such as Cantonese and ‘Sichuanese’. But, the written language is consistently Simplified Mandarin, and most of the younger generation are fluent in Mandarin.

 

Mandarin is a language which is heavily dependent on context. Words can instantly change their meaning when more words are added to the sentence. As well as this, there are different ‘tones’ which change the meaning of a word. Just like when you ask someone a question, you bring the tone up by the end. There are four tones: mà mǎ mā and má. Note that all these words mean different things because of the tone. The pitch of the tone is the little line above the vowel, so for example ǎ, the pitch drops down and then rises back up again. Yes, it is all very complicated and I am nearly through to Level 2!

Why did you apply?

As a student with not so fantastic academics, I am what I like to call myself a ‘late starter’. Although my grades have been improving as my passion for a career in law grows stronger and stronger, it is because of my average A-Level grades that I am facing significant rejections from law firms for vacation schemes and training contracts. I do not think that rejection means time to quit, but time to find another open door. They say that “people who really want something always find a way to get it”, and I guess this internship opportunity is my way of finding a way around. I am hoping that this opportunity will launch me ahead during the next round of training contract applications, where I will be able to demonstrate to employers: a knowledge of another (and increasingly popular) legal jurisdiction; the soft skills  required of a good lawyer and more importantly my ‘well-rounded’ personality.

How do I apply?

CaptureNow I have recently spoken to the guys at Intern China, and I am informed that a high volume of applications for funding are coming through for the limited funding which is available. It might be a good idea to press on with your application as soon as possible, and if you get cold feet there is always an opportunity to back out before signing the paperwork. There are a few documents you need to have ready, including a reference and a valid UK passport. There are some other requirements and terms and conditions which you should always read through on the Intern China website. Do not forget to mention me in the ‘How did you hear about InternChina?’ section!

Apply here – Best of luck!

Please note that the above should not be construed as an offer and terms are always subject to change. Always to the official guidance notes on the British Council website.

NationalLawLive 2015

In early December last year, I was given the opportunity to attend the NationalLawLive conference. There were 138 delegates selected to attend this prestigious event. But unfortunately, that meant that many were unable to benefit from this opportunity. I am hoping that by writing this article you will gain an understanding of what the event had to offer, and that it encourages you to put yourself forward for future NationalLawLive and CityLawLive events.

A video from the day – can you spot me?

Who attended?

We were conveniently provided with a list of all 138 delegates attending. I have used this information to produce some interesting statistics for you all.

  • 10 MLaw Students attended (whoopy!)
  • 21 Non-Law Students attended
  • 21 Graduates

To my surprise, there was a very diverse pool of students contrary to what I had originally envisaged when I applied. As you can see, this event is not just for undergraduates, or law students in particular, so please do not be deterred from applying!

Conference

The morning session was with the keynote speaker Andrew Davies, a partner in DLA Piper’s finance and projects group. Andrew gave some useful advice on vacation schemes – what are they and how to secure them. He spoke of the training programme at DLA in Manchester. He felt that the training was of better quality as opposed to training in London where the all too familiar situation of being “tied to a photocopier” might occur. Andrew also reminded us all to “try and stay open minded” as there are “low lights” of commercial work. He commented on the disastrous situation of spending “38 hours in the same pair of shoes”. Andrew describes the firm as very client focused – growing relationships with clients and introducing them to other practice areas and other jurisdictions that DLA has to offer. He describes the firm’s culture as dynamic, enthusiastic, driven and fun. People at DLA are fun, there is a good quality of work even in the northern territory. You can find out more about Andrew Davies on the LawCareers.net website here.

Following our keynote speaker, we had a panel discussion with partners and firm managers from Addleshaw Goddard, Squire Patton Boggs, Irwin Mitchell and Osborne Clarke. This was a brilliant opportunity for the delegates to put forward their questions in relation to the future issues which the firms will have to tackle. Alternative Business Structures and BREXIT were some of the hot topics for discussion.

Firm-Led Workshops

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Each delegate was given the opportunity to select firms for morning and afternoon sessions. Every delegate was allocated to at least one of their first choices. These were:

Morning Sessions

  • DLA Piper – Corporate
  • Nabarro – Real Estate
  • Osborne Clarke – Litigation
  • Squire Patton Boggs – International M&A

Afternoon Sessions

  • Addleshaw Goddard – Banking
  • Eversheds LLP – Commercial Awareness
  • Irwin Mitchell – Personal Injury
  • Shoosmiths – IP and Creative Industries

Most delegates received pre-reading for the workshop via email. This was a brilliant opportunity to prepare for the workshop, and allowed us to move swiftly through each of the activities.

Nabarro on Real Estate

The Nabarro workshop was led by Maria Scott, a real estate partner who joined as a trainee in the late 90s. The workshop evolved around a practical due diligence task which required delegates to work in groups on a hypothetical transaction. As a second year law student with no expertise in land law, I was lucky to be allocated to a group of fabulous LPC students who really knew their stuff. We were tasked to look through a title register, heads of terms, memos and correspondence with the client and consultancy firms, to identify the issues the client might face as a result of acquiring the land. With the guidance of Maria and one of the firm’s trainees, we were able to identify the issues which the client might want to discuss with the vendor before purchasing.


Addleshaw Goddard on Banking

The AG workshop was delivered in groups by NQs with experience in Banking. This was essentially another due diligence activity which, in particular, demanded a high level of intellectual rigour. To break it down, a company sought to acquire another company, but it needed the funding to back the transaction. Finally the years of A-Level accounting were paying dividends! There was lots of lingo to grasp, from revolving credit facilities through to bullet loans. But, I assure, it all fell into place when put into practice. We considered the sources of lending, debenture agreements, the financial institutions and the implications which these elements of the transaction might have on the client.

Reflection on Skills

Throughout the day I had the opportunity to speak with partners and trainees about the culture, ethos and strategies of the firms. I had jotted down a list of qualities which the firms believed were valued in prospective trainees.

  • Show your personality – everyone will be trying the same tricks in their application, they want to know what makes you who you are.
  • Show a commitment – you need to be prepared to demonstrate your commitment to law, be it staying behind at the office, or turning out the grades.
  • Get to know the firm – law firms are similar in nature, but they all have their own USP, their own culture and their own strategy.
  • Do not exaggerate yourself – of course if you work part time, mention it and draw out the skills you have gained. But be careful not to exaggerate these examples, you need to back it all up with real situations.
  • Have stability and longevity – ultimately these are the qualities that will carry you through your training contract, so get organised and get a feel for the different practice areas.

Conclusion

NationalLawLive is a fantastic opportunity for students with ambitions vested in commercial work, but it has also opened eyes to commercial work in the north, a territory which is thriving and expanding. The important point is that not every aspiring commercial solicitor has to migrate south for exciting and stimulating work!

Unfortunately there are not enough hours in the day to talk in detail about every last detail. Nevertheless, I hope you found this article useful when you come to consider your career trajectory and I hope it encourages to you put yourself forward for future opportunities such as NationalLawLive!

Find out more about NationalLawLive here

A special thanks to LawCareers.net for making this opportunity available

And if you did not spot me in the video, here I am!

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Have I got news for you!

Hello avid blog readers! Thank you for your patience over the past month. January has been a hectic one as I have been preparing for some exciting international opportunities which I cannot wait to tell you all about in due course.

For now, below is a plan of works for the rest of Spring!

NationalLawLive Conference – End of this week

China Intern-ship in Chengdu – End of January

Reflections on Media Law – Mid February

UCLan EU Brussels Trip – End of February

Returning to Preston College – End of February

One Years’ Service at Victim Support – End of March

I will be in touch soon!