Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Assessment results

"Dear Mrs Barmaid,

We are pleased to inform you that you are truly a remarkable student, such as we have never seen before, we are therefore pleased to announce that you have achieved very good marks in both the Legal Research and the MCT assessments.

Yours sincerely

BVC Provider

p.s. It is April Fools day you prat, looks like you are going to be busy over the summer

Saturday, 28 March 2009

V is for Virago

Virago - n - a loud, violent, and ill tempered woman.

A cannot for the life of me think of anyone who I could describe as a virago, perhaps Barman knows someone who fits the description:-)

Well, I'm just about there with this month's homework and must admit that I've found it all quite tedious. I desperately need to practise my advocacy, which I decided yesterday was a load of jumbled rubbish, so I hastily re-worked my skeleton to give it a better flow. An application for an interim payment isn't the most exciting thing to be doing and because it's so dull, I'm finding it impossible to inject any passion into it. I'm sure that in real life it's quite different and has more excitement, but this scenario has an air of silliness about it, which makes it all quite difficult to take seriously.

I get my Legal Research results next week, just before the study weekend, so I'm quite nervous about it, particularly as it's my first BVC assessment result. I'm unsure, but seem to think that I will also receive my civil/criminal MCT results at the same time. On second thoughts, perhaps I do know someone who is a virago!

OLPAS has been ignored for a few days because it is such a tedious task and I find the whole process a bit strange. Having worked for myself for many years, it is quite difficult for me to get to grips with what is basically an application for a job. Oh well, they will either like me or they won't and there is not a deal I can do about that one, but I do keep imagining the perplexed look on the pupillage committee's faces when they get to my application:-) I did wonder about the questionnaire section that asks whether the applicant is: gay, straight, single etc., perhaps if I tick the 'other, please specify' box and then write 'I'll be whatever you want me to be', maybe this will do the trick and clinch me that precious interview? What the hell is 'other' anyway? If you are not straight, gay, bi-sexual, single or married, what else can you be? Cliff Richard perhaps? Perhaps I should put 'hermaphrodite', perhaps not, Chambers might tell me to go f**k myself by way of a polite response to my application.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Pupilgate - Who's to blame?

Thought I'd joint the melee regarding the recent and much talked about 'pupilgate' scandal. Unfortunately in adding my opinion, I will probably also manage to offend a good many fellow bloggers because my view is not (it seems) shared.

I have just listened to Charon Q.C's podcast with 'John', who is a spokesperson for the internet company that offers the 'cash for applications/essays' through its various websites. Before I give my take on this state of affairs a little background might set the scene.

Lesson 1
So where do I begin? Law school seems a good place, it's where most aspirants to the legal profession begin the journey to their chosen vocation. My experience of LLB was probably a good deal similar to many others, with the exception that in being a 'grown up' (allegedly anyway), I had to study part-time due to financial constraints. My yearly syllabus consisted of 7 or 8 essays (some being 'bogof', so perhaps 10 in all) submitted to my tutor, followed by a 3 hour, closed book exam at the end of the year. There was little contact with the tutor in between monthly tutorials and an email begging for help might get a response, or might not. Each year we were allocated a different tutor.

A theme started to emerge during LLB, the beginning of year riddle in how to please the tutor. There was the tutor who liked the splinter-non-sitdownius, ie. whatever you do, don't ever reach a conclusion, if you do, you will lose 20 marks, just discuss, students aren't supposed to have an opinion. There was the tutor who would deduct 20 marks if you didn't reach a conclusion - "your going to be a lawyer, don't sit on the fence, or else". There was the tutor who didn't like to mince words and would simply write "I disagree" all over the submitted essay and if he didn't disagree, would write nothing at all. So the first two or three submitted essays each year were a matter of finding out how to 'please tutor' and in doing so, marks would be lost. Pleasing tutor was more important than actually knowing the subject and I'm still amazed at a near perfect mark I attained for a European law essay, despite not having a clue as to what 'horizontal direct effect' actually meant, but I had cottoned on as to how to please tutor.

Lesson 2
How to please provider? Difficult one this, I'm still learning myself, but a theme is emerging. Paying fees on time seems to be a good point scorer, Barmaid was nearly relegated to second division for allegedly being late in making her first BVC payment (an allegation she vehemently denies and has the overdraft to prove it). It seems that another guessing game is emerging, provider likes to up the stakes without actually telling us so, adds to the excitement it seems. "Why hasn't anyone done a proper Conference plan?" The answer was of course that no-one knew we had to and furthermore didn't know how to. But at least the uniform 'not yet competent's' dished out to SGS group were a stark warning that telepathy is a useful skill in how to please provider. Neurotic emails now flow between group students, just in case one of us has indeed received divine notification as to what providers next surprise might be. Oh and by the way, the phrase 'develop your own style' must at all costs be ignored even if it's good style, whatever you do, slavishly do as provider does, not what provider says.

At this point I should point out that accents can be a problem to certain tutors, bit too posh for one tutor, deduct 20 marks, bit too regional for another tutor, deduct 20 marks. Don't worry you'll soon get the gist of it, it's just a matter of ticking boxes. Agreeing with tutor about everything is always a good standby for a high v.c./outstanding if you're in any doubt.
Lesson 3
Of course at this point you are all wondering what the hell all of this waffle has to do with 'pupilgate'. Ticking boxes, that's what. "The Bar encourages diversity". Does it hell as like. "What we want to see is something different". Do they hell as like. Just so long as you go to the right school, the right uni, do mooting (or debating), get a scholarship from your Inn, do 6 or 7 mini pupillages (anymore your a mini pup. tart, any less your not committed) and do FRU.
Do something different, my foot!!! "Yes, well last year I decided to climb mount Everest in a bikini and in doing so raised £50'000 for Shelter, which I think shows initiative, determination and steadfastness" "Mmmm but have you done any mooting? Next"

And this is where my argument regarding pupilgate finally begins. In order to gain pupillage, it seems that you have to be a clone, don't deviate and try and do something different, even if it's brilliant, it's just not cricket is it old chap. You have to APPEAR to be the same, ticking 10 boxes that perhaps show aptitude, ability, flair, passion and success just won't cut any ice, it's got to be the conformist box that is ticked in order to get that pupillage interview. This is where the money is to be made for internet companies offering application advice for cash. A Bar aspirant knows that in order to 'please Chambers', certain boxes must be ticked, but which boxes is a bit of a mystery. At this point it should be noted that 'pleasing Chambers' is a little more serious than pleasing the tutor and one's very solvency and sanity might depend on it. Little wonder that students feel compelled to turn to these companies for help.

Who's to blame then? Those who allegedly provide a ticking the right boxes service for debt ridden students or those Chambers who insist that no other boxes will do?

Have I? Nope. Would I? Nope. But then I haven't been offered a pupillage interview either!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

U is for unicameral

Unicameral - adj - of or characterised by one legislative chamber.

I've never heard of 'unicameral' before, but speaking of Chambers, isn't OLPAS wonderful. It let me in a few weeks ago to register, decided that I really wasn't their type and refused to let me back in again, so I had to start the registration process from scratch.

Having spent hours filling in my very first OLPAS application, I decided that it looked quite pathetic, but sent it anyway. There is something very depressing about filling in application forms and I firmly believe that we shouldn't do our own applications, but instead do someone else's as it's always easier to wax lyrical about another's attributes.

I received my first non-OLPAS rejection a few days ago, first of many I guess, but I will persevere.

The BVC homework this month is not being completed at any sort of speed or to any sort of satisfaction and I'm afraid that my initial BVC enthusiasm has waned to the point of zilch. Thank goodness that it will soon be time for the Summer break, I'm whacked and need a break from it all. It will also be nice to spend more time working 'proper' and to earn a few bob.

Bit of a mixed bag as what areas of law we are covering this month. I have to prepare a Conference plan for a sexual assault, Advocacy for a model who is refusing to cough up for her wedding because the Registrar called her by her 'real' name 'Maud' throughout the marriage ceremony, another lot of Advocacy for a contractual dispute involving a salt sculpture, an Opinion for a claim under Occupiers Liability concerning a petite woman who fell into an open grave and was stuck there until rescued some one and a half hours later, a Particulars of Claim involving a cowboy builder and a meddling DIY enthusiast and finally another lot of Drafting that I haven't even dared look at yet - beam me up Scotty.

I'm still waiting for the results to my first 2 assessments and as time has gone by, my expectations of doing ok have diminished somewhat to the point where I'm now resigned to failure.

You may be wondering what the picture at the top has to do with 'unicameral' or OLPAS or pissedoffitus, well nothing, but following on from Minxy's Lusty blogpost, our Mr Darcey is rather dashing don't you think?

Saturday, 14 March 2009

O is for OLPAS

OLPAS - abbrev. for - Old Lady Perplexed at System

It's like trying to cram a square peg into a round hole.

I mean, one of the first sections is about school! Hardly relevant for an old timer like me, who's secondary school doesn't exist anymore.

"Nope sorry Mrs Barmaid, we are unable to offer you a pupillage, you see we were unable to verify with your form teacher just why you thought it was part of a science experiment to stretch cling film across the staff room toilet." "We don't care that you have matured a little from those days, those damning school report remarks 'has a tendency to be rather silly at times' are somewhat indicative of a person who just isn't suitable to join a profession that prides itself on being sensible and sombre and grown up, and quite frankly we just can't take the risk that during an examination-in-chief, you wouldn't use a pea shooter to try and put orf the other side and in doing so, bring the whole of Chambers and indeed the legal profession into disrepute". "Orf you go Old Dear and mind the step on your way out".

Sunday, 8 March 2009

T is for Tomfoolery

Tomfoolery - n - foolish behaviour

Ok, so last week, due to impending Bar exams, I had to miss out on what transpired to be a really good 'girls night in' at friend's house. At these do's there is always an abundance of alcohol and tomfoolery and cake and gossip and temporary loss of memory the day after. But for once I had to be sensible and decline the invitation, but had a chance to make amends this weekend when I took 2 guests to my Inn for dinner, plied them with cocktails, wine and port and a good night was had by all.

Not to be outdone, friend was hosting a birthday party for her daughter last night, and as is often the case out here in the sticks, these do's tend to expand into a general celebration of anything that springs to mind and a local knees up ensues.

I get a lot of 'good ideas' when I've had a bevvie or 2 and it seems that at some point during the evening, it was a 'good idea' to show off my equestrian skills and have a go on the daughter's birthday treat, a mechanical bucking bronco. The thing is, and being an expert in hindsight, it is best to fall off bucking bronco as soon as possible, because the longer one stays put, the faster and wilder the bucking bronco goes. So today I have a stiff hip, a sprained left wrist, a sore right hand, a black eye and street cred (according to all and sundry under 16 who witnessed the sorry spectacle). When will I ever learn?

Sunday, 1 March 2009

S is for slattern

Slattern - n - a slovenly woman or girl.

My slatternliness (yes there is such a word!) let me down a little this weekend. Having spent so much time preparing for the MCT Criminal/Civil exam, my Conference and Advocacy were somewhat neglected and as such, I was marked accordingly. It seems to be a continual game of catch-up and no sooner have I taken on board feedback from the previous month's tutorial, my provider ups the stakes yet again. This week I chose the wrong court for my pretend client, I thought Magistrates was best, provider thought Crown Court. I completely missed the point on one or two things that should have been dealt with in much greater detail (well ok, one of them I didn't deal with at all), and as such I'm going to have to up my game once again. Still, I didn't fail, so it's not too gloomy and it's all part of the learning process. The pretend clients were played by actors who'd been briefed to be quite grumpy and unco-operative, it seems that 'real' clients can be like this too:-)

How anyone can graduate from Bar School with their post LLB/GDL arrogance retained is quite beyond me, they must be extremely thick skinned, or extremely, amazingly bright!

I'm still pitching too high in Advocacy, it seems that Barmaid still can't do subtle, but the 'judge' did have a smile about it and said that I stood up well to the judicial intervention.

The MCT was ok and when I say ok, I mean ok. I don't think I've failed, but there were quite a few questions that I was unsure of and one or two that had me stumped completely. The revision was tough and tiring, but I'm so relieved that it is over. Although the revision for Civil Litigation seemed to be easier than Criminal Litigation, I've a feeling that I scored better in the latter? Not sure when the results are out, but I'm guessing April. The exam post mortem was painful and I got that sinking feeling when realising that I'd picked the wrong answer to one or two stinkers, oh well too late now. I'm amazed how many people whizzed through the exam in about half of the allocated time and I did wonder if they are true geniuses or perhaps they thought "bugger it, I'm off down the pub"? Whilst hanging around in the corridor I noticed the MCT results were posted up for the full-time BVC students and there were a fair few fails in there, which of course set off the post exam jitters.

I had the results from my mock Opinion this weekend and did ok for a first attempt. I will take encouragement from it because it was marked as though it was the real exam, so there is plenty of time to improve before the real thing next year. It helps when the tutor is good, and luckily mine is excellent, she leaves no stone unturned, but the criticisms are dealt with methodically with advice on how to improve.

This coming month looks heavy, but fingers crossed, April and May look much quieter, so I'm gearing myself up for a final slog towards the finishing line. My mood has changed too, for the last 2 months I have been quite despondent, particularly when the study workload basically cancelled out any sort of Christmas break, but I'm now feeling as thought the worst is over and I may even get to have a life of sorts in the coming months.