Studying your reflection

Our students are encouraged to reflect on their experiences in Student Law Office. We believe that reflection is what turns experience into learning, and we are keen to develop our students as ‘reflective practitioners’. In this blog post, Katie reflects on her experience of reflection so far. 

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As with any career, personal development is a key aspect of the legal profession.  Reflection allows lawyers to analyse their experiences and improve their practice.  Whilst students in the Student Law Office may find the prospect of writing formal reflections daunting, the benefits of doing so greatly outweigh temporary fears.

Whether it be spontaneous or retrospective, reflection allows us as lawyers to identify our strengths and weaknesses.  Once we start looking at everything we do with a contextual and critical eye, soon we are able to question what went wrong, what went right, or what could have been done to obtain a better outcome.  Did I not plan enough?  Was I unprepared and caught off-guard?  Did I plan too much? Was I inflexible and not adapting to the client’s needs?

Talking to others

Reflection does not have to be a sole activity, especially at the start of your legal career.  Whilst it is important to be able to analyse your own experiences, it is also beneficial to bounce ideas off your peers.  Have they done something that you did not? Would you have approached something differently?  How was their outcome different to yours?  Reflection is all about learning from a variety of situations so you can deal with and adapt to unfamiliar scenarios in the future.  Consulting with others simply broadens that pool of experience.

Reflecting as a group can also stretch the boundaries of your own beliefs.  Alternative  opinions will challenge your own thinking and values.  It can introduce you to methods of practice that you had never considered before and also promote tolerance and empathy.  For example, speaking to a peer about different experiences could provide insight into a client’s behaviour.  Where you might have thought a client was acting unreasonably, a colleague may be able to help you consider their position from a different perspective.  This is especially important in a time of constant cultural change.

How does it benefit our careers?

Reflection is something we will be expected to do all through our legal careers. Starting early in the Student Law Office means we are able to develop these skills and step into a firm ahead of the game.  Not only that, but by nurturing our ability to reflect we are able to take so much more away from university.  There are countless opportunities for self-improvement during higher education that would go unnoticed if we did not take time to reflect on them.  Being reflective practitioners teaches persistence and hones our ability to think on our feet.  Over time we establish strategies of dealing with the unexpected, utilising our range of legal skills, and evaluating alternative methods to produce better results.  Reflection is an ongoing process; a constant mission for self-improvement.  Working in the Student Law Office facilitates our personal growth and ensures that we are the choice candidates when seeking legal employment.

Photo by Ashim D’Silva on Unsplash

Katie HThis blog post was written by Katie Hutchinson, a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University.  After graduation, Katie hopes to secure a training contract in a commercial law firm and enjoys skiing, art and fashion in her spare time.

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Entrepreneurial Business Management meets the Student Law Office

On Wednesday 1st November 2017, a select group (including myself) from the Student Law Office business & commercial firms were lucky enough to visit the Northern Design Centre to meet with a number of Entrepreneurial Business Management (EBM) students.

SLO Northern Design Centre

Business & Commercial firm students at the Northern Design Centre

Similar to the SLO, the EBM students take a real hands-on approach to their studies and even get to start up their own businesses as part of their degree! They work in teams, like the firms we have in the SLO, and have the opportunity to experiment with a number of projects under supervision. This provides them with valuable experience and allows them to hit the ground running when they go out into the working world, just like us.

I spoke with a number of first years who had only just started the programme and was very impressed by the knowledge and business acumen they’d already gained through the process. Everyone had an idea for a business and many were in the process of bringing those ideas to life, a pressure which I could imagine to be very daunting. Yet the EBM students were calm and excited by the whole idea. I got the impression this was due to the fact they receive great guidance and support at all times. A luxury which the SLO students also have with their supervisors.

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EBM and SLO students working together

Like the students in the SLO they were all very passionate and driven. They had a clear mindset about what they wanted to achieve. The business ideas ranged from starting a clothing line to selling confectionaries.

In terms of what we brought to the table, we offered a lawyer’s perspective on some of the opportunities and challenges business owners can experience. We spoke for some time about the type of legal advice the business & commercial firms can offer.

We’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the EBM students again in February 2018. I look forward to see how they have progressed with those great ideas and hopefully they can notice the development in me and the other SLO students.

Let’s hope this is the start of a fruitful relationship.

Stuart

This blog post was written by Stuart Blair. Stuart is a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University. Stuart has a Newcastle United season ticket and “enjoys” going to watch them play with his Dad and Brother.

Hello and welcome – from the 2017/2018 business & commercial firms!

It’s a new academic year, and the business & commercial firms are full with individuals who have a passion for this area of law and who cannot wait to get stuck into the Student Law Office.

Many of them, like myself, have been waiting for the opportunity to put into practice what we have been taught during the last three years here at Northumbria Law School and the Student Law Office is a fantastic place to do so.

Beth's firm EC2

Beth’s firm in the Student Law Office (L-R: Zeeshan, James, Stuart, Hyndie, Shauna, and Beth)

There will be many blogs posted after mine, like Stuart Blair who will be writing a piece about the commercial students getting to mingle with the Entrepreneurial Business Management students, so stay tuned for that and much more!

I’ll speak to you again soon!

Beth Carr2

 

This blog post was written by Bethany Carr, a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University. In her spare time, Beth likes to snuggle with her three cats and binge watch Netflix series.

Do law students need to network?

The phrase ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ is something which I have heard many times throughout my education. Yet I am not sure if I ever really understood the importance behind the meaning, until I began to think about my career prospects.

Networking should not be overlooked in any industry and as law firms are becoming increasingly business orientated, having links is a necessity in order to open doors in a competitive market.

So what is networking?

Networking is best described as making a collection of associates and keeping this connection active. This can be achieved by regular communication and is for the mutual benefit of all parties involved. Networking is not based on what you can get but how you can help.

For many, networking is not considered to be one of the most important attributes when preparing for a job and a lot of prospective employees will put their experience and qualifications necessary, above the power of knowing people in the industry. However, being acquainted with people in that industry could set you apart from everyone else.

Over 60% of jobs are being filled in a ‘hidden market’. This means that, unless you know someone in that company, you will not see a job advertisement anywhere.

However, networking is not just for people who are looking for a job, it is applicable to all professionals who want to expand their links and ultimately stay in a competitive industry. According to Lexis Nexis, networking can allow you to:

  • Enhance your profile in the industry;
  • Share and gain information and thoughts;
  • Get insight into other opinions so that you can take those on board and make changes.

Who should I network with?

It is not just about networking with people in Law. Networking can also be applied to people in professions other than your own. It can be helpful to know people in areas such as accountancy or business in case you need to refer clients to different people and, in turn, those connections can refer clients to you.

As a student what should I be doing?

Whether you are a fourth year student or a first year student or even a post-grad, it is never too late to begin networking. Networking events are running all of the time, you could volunteer at an organisation or join a student society and there are plenty of law firm networking opportunities. For example, Ward Hadaway recently hosted a networking charity quiz night. This is a perfect opportunity to make some links with a top law firm.

So what should you do before you turn up to a networking event?

In order to avoid awkward silences you should do some research beforehand. Try to find out who will be attending and prepare some questions which are relevant to their field. Questions are a really important part of networking as people enjoy talking about what they do and it shows you are interested in their personal careers.

How can I catch people’s attention at an event?

Preparing a short pitch can help you keep other people’s attention. Your pitch should include who you are, what you’re studying and what you want to do after university.

Business cards

A business card is a useful tool, but do not hand these out unless somebody asks for it! However, if a professional gives you their business card, use this to search them on social media and send a follow up email or tweet.

Good luck!

Charlotte P

This blog post was written by Charlotte Padgett. Charlotte is a final year MLaw student at Northumbria University currently working in a business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. In September, Charlotte is planning on working and volunteering in Australia for one year. Her interest outside of law include animal welfare and travelling.

Sky’s the limit for OpenWorks!

This year has been particularly exciting for students Elena and Dan who have been lucky enough to work with a group of British engineers who are set to take the security and counter terrorism markets by storm.

OpenWorks Engineering Ltd, founded in July 2015, has invented a system that offers security operators a ground-breaking alternative way to defeat nefarious drones. The company has now presented the official launch of their SkyWall100 drone defence system at the 2016 Home Office Security and Policing event and we can expect to see the first SkyWall100 systems in use before the end of the year.

SkyWall100 Front Shot

Chris Down, Managing Director of OpenWorks, said:

“Authorities around the world have been looking for a system like this and we are proud to continue the tradition of British innovation in the security industry.”

Providing OpenWorks with free legal advice and documentation at such an important stage has been a unique opportunity for Elena and Dan to develop their legal skills. Working with Roland Wilkinson, OpenWorks’ Financial Director, Elena and Dan drafted terms of use, a cookies policy and a privacy policy for the company website, and advised on general corporate governance issues. The work has provided a thrilling insight into the issues facing young businesses and the latest developments in the technology and engineering sector.

Elena and Dan said:

“Working with OpenWorks was a wonderful experience. Not only did this allow us to develop our legal skills with a commercial client, but, importantly, we were able to spend time really getting to know the business. We were inspired by their innovative personality, ambitious aims and strategic future plans and we are excited to work with other young businesses in the future.”

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Dan and Elena in the Student Law Office

Roland Wilkinson, Financial Director of OpenWorks, said:

“As a young start up, OpenWorks Engineering was looking for some legal guidance on website policies. The Student Law Office took on the whole process, delivering complete policies ready to publish with minimal input from myself. Elena and Daniel were professional and knowledgeable with prompt updates throughout. For appropriate legal counsel, I would thoroughly recommend the Student Law Office.”

The Student Law Office would like to wish OpenWorks every success in the future and we look forward to following their progress with SkyWall100.

This blog post was written by Elena Cross and Dan Watson. Elena graduated from Northumbria University this summer. Elena has secured a training contract with Bond Dickinson LLP in Newcastle for September 2016 and is excited to get started! In the meantime, Elena will continue to work as a bridal consultant in a wedding dress shop and enjoys spending her free time cooking and socialising. Dan also graduated from Northumbria University this summer. He has aspirations to become a commercial lawyer and outside of work has passion for playing and watching sport.

Farewell from the 2015/16 firms!

It’s that time of year again where students who have been working in the Student Law Office begin to prepare for life after university. Following on from Abbie’s welcome post in November, it seems fitting to reflect on the work we have completed this year – and what a year it’s been!

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We have been dealing with queries ranging from website policies, terms and conditions and intellectual property issues from many different clients including an engineering business, a sole trader service provider and even a university business clinic.

Our time in the Student Law Office has given us an exciting insight into commercial practice. We have also reflected on how our work may have long-lasting benefits for clients who are able to invest funds elsewhere and continue to progress in a thriving business community.

The experience has undoubtedly enhanced our career prospects by providing us with a year of unique practical legal experience and an increased level of commercial awareness.

On a personal note, we felt an amazing sense of achievement when we saw that our client has successfully implemented policies we had drafted onto their company website.

Below, some of our fellow students reflect on their experience and what they have enjoyed the most.

Robyn Heeran says:

“Throughout this year in the SLO I have really enjoyed the hands-on learning experience. Knowing that a client is depending on you to advise them on real life issues ASAP is really motivating and rewarding.”

Perri Byrne says:

“I have really enjoyed working with real clients, especially being given the responsibility to hand and manage their cases.”

As well as our client work we have been lucky enough to be involved in the Student Law Office in other exciting ways, including:

  • travelling to London to give intellectual property advice to a client;
  • leading our own firm meetings (this included playing Jenga and Pass the Parcel!);
  • networking at the Inspiring Entrepreneurs event;
  • receiving a visit from a member of the University of Strathclyde’s Law Clinic; and
  • raising an enormous amount of food for Newcastle West’s foodbank!

The experience has been truly unforgettable and the lessons learnt will stay with us throughout our professional lives. We hope that next year’s students and clients have an experience as enjoyable and rewarding as ours!

This blog post was written by Elena Cross and Dan Watson:

Elena and Dan


Elena is a final year MLaw student currently working in a business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. Elena has secured a training contract with Bond Dickinson LLP in Newcastle for September 2016 and is excited to get started! In the meantime, Elena will continue to work as a bridal consultant in a wedding dress shop and enjoys spending her free time cooking and socialising.

Dan is a final year MLaw student who is currently advising commercial clients in the Student Law Office. He has aspirations to become a commercial lawyer and outside of work has passion for playing and watching sport.

 

Solicitors and the Code of Conduct

The legal profession encompasses many different roles and the term ‘lawyer’ can be used to mean a plethora of job titles. In simple terms, there are two key types of lawyer: barristers and solicitors. This blog post is solely focused on solicitors, and the varying roles commonly found within a typical solicitors’ office. Legal professionals, such as solicitors are overseen by governing bodies and must adhere to various rules in order for them to continue to practise. This post will focus on the professional conduct rules for solicitors, and the different job roles you might find in a solicitors’ firm.

Code of Conduct

Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The SRA is responsible for regulating everything from training to be a solicitor, to dealing with how solicitors firms are run. Within the SRA Handbook, 10 principles are set down which are mandatory and apply to everyone who is regulated by the SRA, as well the Solicitors Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct section includes Outcomes which must be achieved, usually by acting in light of the Indicative Behaviours.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority website can be found here:

The Solicitors Regulation Authority Handbook can be found here:

Chapter 1 of the Code of Conduct, within the SRA Handbook, is concerned with Client Care. This chapter is about providing a proper standard of service, taking into account the individual differences of each and every client. This includes ensuring that the client is given all the information they require to make informed decisions about the services they require, how they will be delivered and the costs involved. This chapter also deals with complaints handling.

The Outcomes which must be achieved in this chapter are lengthy. Examples of the Outcomes include:

  • Outcome 1.1 – You treat your clients fairly.
  • Outcome 1.4 – You have the resources, skills and procedures to carry out your clients’ instructions.
  • Outcome 1.9 – Clients are informed in writing at the outset of their matter of their right to complain and how complaints can be made.
  • Outcome 1.12 – Clients are in a position to make informed decisions about the services they need, or how their matter will be handled and the options available to them.

This list is non-exhaustive and includes 16 individual Outcomes, all of which must be satisfied.

The way in which a solicitor acts can suggest that they satisfy the Outcomes. These are known as Indicative Behaviours which accompany each chapter of the Code of Conduct. For example, one of the Indicative Behaviours for chapter one is:

  • Indicative Behaviour 1.3 – Ensuring that the client is told, in writing, the name and status of the person(s) dealing with the matter and the name and status of the person responsible for its overall supervision.

Many solicitors firms include these details in their client care letters. These are usually the first correspondence that you would receive from a solicitor, and tend to include information on client care.

Different roles with a law firm 

The aim of this section is to briefly highlight the various roles which are commonly found within a solicitors’ firm.

Partner: Law firms are generally partnerships and are therefore owned and managed by a partner. Partnership tends to be the ultimate ambition of an individual entering the legal profession and can be considered as the highest step on the career ladder. Partners are the owners of a firm, and therefore take a proportion of profits generated by the firm.

Associate/Senior Associate Solicitor: An associate is a fully qualified solicitor who is an employee of the firm. This usually means that this individual is working under the supervision of a Partner, or a more senior associate. These solicitors tend to work on a fixed salary. This role can also be considered to be a ‘fee-earner’, in that the work that they do generates the income of the firm. Levels of seniority are usually dependant on how much experience or expertise in an area that individual has. As a newly qualified associate in a firm, the next logical step would be increased seniority to become a ‘senior associate’ (if such a role exists within that particular firm), followed by partnership.

Trainee Solicitor: In order to become an associate in a law firm, an individual must secure and complete a training contract, or a period of recognised training within a law firm. An individual in the process of completing one of these will be known as a trainee solicitor. A period of recognised training tends to last 2 years and involves the individual ‘rotating’ around the various areas of law which the firm offers.

Paralegal/Legal assistant: This role is essentially that of an individual who carries out legal work that does not strictly have the status of a solicitor as they have not completed a training contract.

Chartered Legal Executive: Chartered Legal Executives are individuals which usually have the same expertise as a solicitor, but have simply chosen a different route to qualification.

Legal Secretary: Legal secretaries carry out administrative work for solicitors. Legal secretaries aren’t required to have any official legal qualification.

This post was written by Robert Bayles. Robert is a final year MLaw student currently working in the business and commercial firm in the Student Law Office. On graduation Robert aspires to secure a training contract within an in-house legal department of a company. Outside of law, Robert enjoys everything related to football specifically, as well as most other sports.