Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Mini-pupillage – Day One

Arrived at Chambers for a 09:00 start – met with all the clerks and was shown around the place, meeting with lots of different members and people on the way. It’s a great building with a terrific vibe of work in progress, people on the move and justice to be served. I was told that for each of my five days, I would be with different barristers in different practice areas so as to get as broad an experience as possible. This sounded like just what someone in my position needed to decide whether the Bar is somewhere you could see yourself working in.

I was introduced to the barrister that I would be shadowing for the day. She – Shantarra – was the most recent addition to the member’s list of the chambers having completed her pupillage there last year. We set off for the County Court for a case that was scheduled for some time in the morning. The dispute was about the sale of defective goods. Shantarra was acting for a foreign manufacturer of the goods who had sold the goods to a company in the U.K. The U.K. Company had then sold the goods to what would be the end-buyer. All that is know for sure was the goods were defective – everything else, including where the defect occurred, was unknown. We talked about the case during our journey to the court; at court I had time to read through the case file in full. According to the U.K. Company, a previous court hearing had taken place in which they were ordered to recompense the end-buyer the full sum. Strangely, though, they were not forthcoming with any documents that would support their claim. It seemed as though they simply paid off the end-buyer without involving the European manufacturers and were now seeking that sum from the manufacturers. The manufacturers, however, had a clause in their sale agreement with the U.K. Company stipulating that they had 7 days in which to ensure that the goods received were of a good quality. This was not used.

What happened next was that we went before the judge who had already read the case-file and was satisfied that the claim of the U.K. Company could not stand. Shantarra put forward a very well-organised and forceful argument that was a pleasure to observe (I told her so afterwards, but she wasn’t very forthcoming in accepting the compliment – in fact, I think she ignored me completely.).

In our walk back to Chambers we talked about my career situation. I told her that was in between places really: keen to go to the Bar, but as yet with no place on the BVC because of a late application. Then we talked about the Chambers and Shantarra herself which was far more interesting. It seems to me that the route to gaining pupillage and tenancy, whilst very difficult, does allow for people to have some great additional life experiences. This was the case for Shantarra too. We talked about pupillage applications including who was involved in selection, what the application process involved etc. Its all quite typical really: there are a couple of rounds of interviews and there is an interview panel whom conduct the interviews. I asked whether Chambers currently had any Pupils and was told that there weren’t any. Before I could ask the obvious question I was informed that Chambers had not been impressed by any of the applicants in that year and so did not even take on any one for Pupillage. “Oh”, I said without further ado and a face which suggested, as best as I could, that I was not in the least bit perturbed.

The afternoon was very interesting too. I would be back in the County Court with a different member of Chambers to observe a road traffic accident case. I didn’t think this would be particularly interesting when I first heard about it but actually it turned out to be quite something. The case involved a collision which occurred at some point on a roundabout. Both parties were saying that their opposite collided with them; there was no consistency in which direction the parties said they were travelling (even though they both claimed to use the roads regularly for the same journey); worse still, there were no photographs of the damage done to both cars (which could, I believe, have helped understand better the circumstances leading up to the crash). The time in court was quite long. The judge insisted on hearing what happened from both sides (who were present in court) through their respective representatives. I particularly enjoyed the time each side spent cross-examining the other. By the end of the final speeches from both sides, I calculate that there must have been (what each side knew had happened on the day, what they told their respective counsels, what the judge understood at different points throughout the hearing and of course what actually happened). It was absolutely fascinating to watch. Obviously, one of these sides was lying. I couldn’t decide myself who I believed more. The judge did what I had hoped, as an objective observer, he would do – he accepted facts which were agreed by both sides, tried to understand the physical damage to the cars as best as possible and based his decision on that. Although the advocacy on both sides was forceful, I don’t believe it could have made that much of a difference to the end result.

That was it for the day. A great day, I thought, in which I had learned a lot. Four more days to go!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Murat wins big Libel payout

Robert Murat, it will be recalled was the first official suspect named by the Portuguese police investigating the claim of the disappearance of Madeleine McCann.

I vividly remember the day when this news story broke. It was a good few weeks after the disappearance of Madeleine and whilst I was sitting my second year Law exams. In fact, Sky News broke this story one evening during the week. I was due to sit an exam the next day and watching this news story actually helped me keep awake that night to do some last minute revision.

Obviously, all these newspaper headlines were libellous and it is surely right that they have had to pay out. Apparently the sums that Murat has received are quite large. The total amount he received is in the region of £500,000. This from a string of newspapers including: the Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Star, Daily Mail, London Evening Standard, Metro, Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror, News of the World, Sun and the Scotsman.

I have glanced at the headlines that these newspapers ran and I can't believe how all Murat received was £500,000. These claims must have had a terrible impact on him. His status as a criminal suspect still hasn't been lifted by the Portuguese police. Of course, I can't claim whether it should be removed or it shouldn't be removed. That's not a problem for me.

There is a problem for me though and that relates to the way that Sky News ran the story that night. Tensions were running high, you won't have forgotten the numerous photographers that were queueing up outside the Madeleine villa. All the leading reporters were there too from all the major news-outlets. That night, for Sky News though, the leading reporter that was standing in front of the camera was what I will term a junior reporter. This reporter knew Murat, as it happened, as she had attended the same school as him whilst he was in England in his earlier life. If I recall correctly, she had bumped into him at a supermarket in Portugal whilst the Madeleine investigation was on-going and Murat was not, as yet, arrested. I just couldn't believe my ears when police had only just begun investigating Murat and this reporter was painting a very bad picture of Murat. What happened to reporting all the facts objectively when they become known? Would it have killed Sky News to have waited until daylight to get more facts and then put their asset before the cameras. She was a Sky News reporter for God's sake. If she was going to break an exclusive, she would be fired. Amongst those listed that will pay Murat damages is Sky which is surely right.

Of course, I don't know whether Murat is truly innocent. However, the way Sky News reported the story was wrong, for me; and that is what stops me from believing anything other than he is entirely innocent.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Can you believe this?

Very interesting news story that I have just been reading about, which I thought I would share with you.

It looks as though the word “gullible” is not going to appear in this year’s edition of Collin’s English Dictionary? Can you believe this?

What have I learnt from my time at University?

With graduation happening shortly, I’ve been thinking about my time at university and how beneficial it has been for me.

At the outset, I should state this fact: I am the first one in my family to go to university. None of my grandparents, my grandparent’s grandparents, or even their grandparents even went beyond a secondary school education. Accordingly, I was also the first in my family to go to college; which is, of course, a lesser achievement, somewhat.

The above, in a way, makes redundant any chance of me concluding that my time at university has not been beneficial. As is to be expected, my family is very very very proud of me. I cannot count the number of people that have congratulated me after being told by members of my family that my university education has been successfully completed. Its all quite overwhelming actually.

Now, enough of that. This state of affairs was always going to be the case, no matter who was the first in my family to graduate from university. Be it one of my children or my children’s children’s children. What have I actually learnt?

Obviously, the results that I have achieved in the respective areas of the law I have studied speak for themselves.

Aside from this though, I have been thinking about what else I have gained from my time at university.

Firstly, as always is the case, there are the people that I have spent a lot of time with. I have had the privilege of making some great friends. I can’t say for sure whether they will last throughout my lifetime. Nonetheless, it has still been a privilege to study alongside these people; and this, itself, warms the heart.

I will not go as far as to say that all of my relationships have been successful. They haven’t – and this fact will haunt me in years to come, I’m sure. Principally this is a case of Love’s Labour Lost. What I thought would turn out to be a long relationship of friendship and then some; in fact turned out to be a calamity. My heart was torn from my body and stamped upon by the high-heels of someone whom I thought of very dearly. The way girls are inclined to do, I have since learnt.

Perhaps the greatest attribute I have developed at university is that of maturity. I can say with 100% certainty that I have matured a lot over the past three years. I can’t really describe in specific details how I know this or why this is the case; but I am very certain that it’s the case. I can’t also add what part of university has allowed me to develop in this way: it wasn’t part of the syllabus, that’s for damn sure. Perhaps its somewhat due to the level of independence that one has over their studies and way of living.

Aside from that, the other skills I have developed are all part-and-parcel of studying Law at University level. Undoubtedly, the soundest, the bestest and the hardest thing one can study at undergraduate level! I do think a lot more than I used to; I do analyse things more than I used to; and, I do understand things better than I used to.

I am sure that I will have that same feeling going through my body that I have had at a lot of many junctions in my life. That is: if I had my time again, I’d do it different and I’d do it better. However, I hope that this won’t be the case this time. I hope that with my new found mature level of thinking, I will be able to say that I did my best and my damned hardest. I am inclined to think that its better if my performance wasn’t the peak in my life – that there will be times in the future when I can do better and times after that when I can do even more better.

I hope that I realise that graduation is only the beginning and that bigger challenges await me in the future.

Monday, 7 July 2008

What is going on with the world…

…when young people are being stabbed to death in London in unprecedented repetitive acts of aggression?

It saddens me, when every time now I turn on the news I have to listen to gruesome details of another stabbing for absolutely no reason. The same question keeps re-emerging: why is this happening? What is fuelling such tragedies? Hell if I know the answer. There’s not a lot that anyone can say with certain when answering this question. What I will say though is: its not because there aren’t enough evening social clubs for young people; its not always because there is a reason for it either; the problem is much bigger than that – it’s a larger societal problem.

On a not completely unrelated note, a recent headline in my regional newspaper saddened me even more. It was about a twenty year old female student, L.G. L.G. was a third-year Biochemist at University. She was intelligent, beautiful and someone who everyone enjoyed being around. L.G. suffered from Bulimia, depression and a tendency to self-harm. In a seemingly happy period of her life – when her family and friends were doing lots of fun activities with her – she hung herself in her apartment until she died. She left a note, to be found afterwards, addressed to no one in particular, which said: “If only…”. She either didn’t want anyone to know why she did what she did; or she didn’t know why she did what she did.

Perhaps its because I have been a University student too, that explains why I was struck by this news story. I have seen fellow students go through very tough times. Its not the rigours of their academic study that is the cause – that’s the only thing keeping them there – instead, it’s the inability to keep themselves happy. It’s a very strange phenomenon; especially because most students characterise their university-years as “the best years in their life”. Anyway, that’s that. R.I.P. L.G.

Epic Wimbledon 2008 Men’s Final

What a game. I watched it from beginning to end. From the start, I thought the match would last five sets. I guessed correctly that Nadal would take the first set; however, I thought that Federer would take at least the next two sets. Instead, he took the third and fourth – both after a tie-break.

What I love about tennis is just how easily a game can just go on-and-on with players being where they started after three hours of play. I like the passion and energy that goes into every point. The game can go to the edge: you can win a game, a set, a match and a tournament all in one point or you can lose that point and have to play for another two hours and end up losing the game. This is Wimbledon, so there are the added elements of luck, atmosphere and rain! It can go for you or against you. At the beginning of the match, I was rooting for Nadal – whom I mistook to be the underdog. There was no underdog. Federer may have won the tournament the previous five times, but Nadal had momentum on his side after winning in Roland Garros and Eastbourne. I didn’t realise this, though, until Nadal was two sets up. Thereafter, I was 100% for Federer. The tension was increased when Federer was able to claim the second set after benefiting from a well-earned break because of the rain. Only just though! Federer could not break Nadal’s serve until he was made to in do-or-die fashion at the end of the third and fourth set when it was 6-6. Nadal’s strength was the key though: with a strong serve and a commitment not to drop in his service games, he managed to hammer home a win against the reigning champion.

Whilst watching this match it dawned on me that tennis matches are the equivalent of a football penalty shootout – albeit a longer and more drawn out version. As in football penalty shootouts: tensions are running high with the shooter (the server) not wanting to lose a point, the goalkeeper (his opponent) trying to go one up by saving the shot. The way it often works with Nadal in particular is that he can find a suitable corner to squeeze the ball into – perhaps with one of his passing shots which leaves his opponent looking on. The game, as a spectator, suddenly seems like so much more to me now than it has done in the past. It’s about who has the bigger heart; who is it that wants to win more? For Federer, his confidence typically provides his passion for winning; but with Nadal, and in a Wimbledon final, he too met his match. Right then, right at the end – when it mattered the most – Nadal wanted it more. That is all that there was to distinguish between these players.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Call me unpatriotic but: “Damn you, Andy Murray”

When it comes to British sports persons and British teams competing in any sports competition that I am interested in, I usually don’t support them. I am British and I am a patriot – at least I satisfy my own definition of patriotism. Yet, there I was, supporting Croatia to beat England in the Euro 2008 qualifier. It hasn’t always been like this for me. If I recall correctly, the last major sporting event that I watched closely in which I did support England (a lot, I should add) was the Football World Cup in France 1998. I don’t know what it is that has changed but I just can’t support the British in sporting events any more.

Yesterday, I continued this trend. Watching an update of the tennis scores whilst on the Internet, I then decided to switch on the T.V. instead to watch (hopefully) Murray lose when he was two sets down and tied in the fourth set. I hung in there right until the end (mostly because I wanted to watch Criminal Justice afterwards). I absolutely hated every minute of it and was supporting Gasque all the way. Now, I like Wimbledon. I like watching the drama in Centre Court when there is a tough match being played out. I like how resilient players are able to come so close to losing the match before turning it around and winning. This is, of course, exactly what Murray did. In the particular game in which this occurred, I have to admit, he hit a rather fantastic shot from outside the lines of the court. Above all else, what I didn’t like, was the Wimbledon crowd that treated every winning shot by Murray like a 5-0 win over Germany in football. I didn’t like how Gasque was repetitively taunted and booed during the crucial stages of the match. Now some will counter that this atmosphere was to be expected where the match is being played on the player’s own turf – but this simply isn’t the case. Of the four main tennis grand slam events – I follow them all on T.V. except the U.S. Open. I haven’t seen a similar atmosphere being repeated in other events where a foreign player has to undergo similar experiences. I have to say though, I think I fully understand why this is happening. It’s a consequence of a British sportsperson not being successful in such a long time. When someone as promising as Andy Murray comes along, he is undoubtedly going to stir up strong emotions.

This morning I read Boris Johnson’s weekly article in the Daily Telegraph. He talks – in the context of football, not tennis – about how the British need to be more like the Germans. We need to work harder, develop a tougher character, show some decorum and leadership skills. Its no coincidence, in my opinion, that these characteristics are present in the numerous Russian women who have partaken in this year’s Wimbledon tournament. What about the Spanish? Champions of Europe in football and a possible Wimbledon winner in Rafael Nadal. Britain needs to raise standards. Until it does, I hope Nadal slaughters Murray in the semi-final.

Obama to visit the UK

Very exciting news. As part of a tour of Europe and the Middle East, Barack Obama will be stopping off in the UK too. Yipppeee! The trip will be taking place in the next few weeks - before the Democratic National Convention, I think. I imagine it will be his last stop on the way back from Afghanistan (probably) and Iraq (probably) and Europe.

Maybe if I stand outside the entrance to Downing St long enough on the right day I will get a glimpse of my idol.

This is exciting!