Guest blog: My Day at Clarke Willmott as Part of the Faculty Advisory Board Mentoring Scheme

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Guest blog by Noëlle Quénivet: 

The Bristol Business School and Bristol Law School launched at the inception of the 2017/2018 academic year a pilot Faculty Advisory Board Mentoring Scheme, the chief aim being to contribute to UWE staff’s personal and career development and provide further, external feedback on the 360 review that all senior academic staff had undergone in the past few years. Among, the wider purposes of this scheme are to create a culture of positive employee engagement and develop a broader understanding of external organisations and the dynamics within an external business so as to be in a position to engage at the right level in target organisations.

As someone who had never worked in a private company and teaches subjects that lead to careers in the public and charity sector as well as in international organisations the opportunity to meet with someone completely outside my world was incongruous, albeit intriguing. I signed up to the scheme and was allocated Karl Brown, a Senior Associate in the Commercial Property team of Clarke Willmott in Bristol, as my mentor. That was no doubt a full immersion into the private and commercial world! We arranged for our first meeting to be over the phone and used the 360 degree feedback as a guide to help kick off the discussions and identify some specific areas for discussion. Designed to be relatively informal this kind of mentorship works well. Whilst overall as well as specific expectations and objectives are set for such meetings, there is plenty of leeway to broach new issues, topics and challenges I am facing in the Bristol Law School, both as a researcher and a lecturer. It also gives Mr Brown, a member of our Advisory Board, the opportunity to get a glance into the academic world. Furthermore, such meetings are an occasion to exchange ideas and discuss the potential involvement of the private sector in academic life. In other words, it is a two-way street, not just a mentoring scheme.

At one of these meetings Mr Brown suggested I spend a day at Clarke Willmott to gain insights into the way a law firm works. He arranged for me to be placed with Richard Moore, a partner at Clarke Willmott working in its Commercial and Private Client Litigation team which focuses on commercial litigation and dispute resolution. The date was set for Wednesday 11 July, at a time when teaching/marking is off the table. Upon my arrival I was met by Mr Brown who gave me a brief tour of the law firm. I quickly realised the size of the firm and the breadth of the legal issues its employees covered. And this was only the Bristol office as Clarke Willmott has also offices in Birmingham, Cardiff, London, Manchester, Taunton and Southampton! I was then introduced to Mr Moore who presented me to his team and explained the type of work the team undertakes. I was then whisked to attend the compulsory introductory health and safety training.

When I came back from the training three folders had been placed on my desk. Mr Moore explained that it was probably the best way to give me an idea of the type of work carried out by his team. Looking at these folders very much reminded me of my internship at UNHCR London when solicitors would send by post huge folders accompanied by a letter seeking our assistance. I remember staring at my first folder in horror, wondering how I could possibly read this folder in a couple of hours. Indeed, some solicitors would inform us that their client would be deported within days and unless we promptly intervened on their behalf the client would be returned to their country of origin. I quickly learned which documents needed to be read first (or at all) and which sections were the most relevant and thus had to be read in full and with a keen eye for details. All this had to be done in light of UNHCR guidelines and the relevant legal framework. Here, at Clarke Willmott, the case I was given related to a company that had threatened another (and a large number of its customers) with patent litigation if it continued to use a particularly product for which it claimed it had a patent. My knowledge on the subject-matter being pretty much that of a laywoman I decided to focus on the procedure and the practical aspects of the case, eg how can a solicitor know whether a patent claim and counter-claim are genuine, why does a solicitor recommend their client one procedure over another (in this case the shorter trial scheme), how are experts chosen, how is information collected, is it standard practice to reply to a claim paragraph by paragraph (ie point by point), why are there track changes in some of the official documents, etc.? As Mr Moore came back from a meeting I had the opportunity to ask him some of these questions. My next opportunity to understand better the work of a commercial law solicitor was to attend a conference call with a client who had instructed Mr Moore on a variety of litigation matters at Clarke Willmott and his previous firm. Interestingly, he explained to me that some clients even follow solicitors who change law firms. Clearly, this must be an indication of the importance of trust and confidence between a client and a specific solicitor. That being said, Mr Moore also stressed that a hugely positive aspect of being employed by a large law firm is that clients can use the wide range of services offered by the firm and thus all their legal dealings stay ‘in-house’. The conversation indubitably showed this established trust relationship between Mr Moore and his client. The issue at stake was the misuse of a franchise and, sadly for the client, it was not the first time the client was faced with this problem. Mr Moore explained in a very honest manner the advantages and disadvantages of the range of courses of action available to the client. In particular, he pointed out that a change in the law meant that using a previously favoured course of action might not yield the results expected and might be more costly. He expounded his preferred solution which was to send a robust letter to the company in question and to avoid court litigation if at all possible. At first I was a bit bemused by Mr Moore’s attitude as it gave the impression that he was simply saying to the client that they did not need his help. Yet, this would be a flawed understanding of this conversation: capacity-building is part of building a trust relationship between a solicitor and the client. He was advising his client to undertake a course of action which would save them money on legal fees and was putting his client’s interests above those of his own law firm; principle over profit.

Another folder appeared on my desk: it was a pending case relating to fraud in a company. The information was of a different type from the previous case: company reports, interviews, accounting reports, etc. Having previously taught on the module Corporate Governance and Corporate Social Responsibility that is offered on the LLM programme at UWE (see eg LLM in Commercial Law) I was flabbergasted by this example of poor practice of corporate governance. In fact, I wondered whether similar documents could be used as the basis for a student assignment. After all it would neatly fit with the Faculty’s strategic priority to offer practice-led modules and programmes. And so, on my ‘to do’ list appeared the item: ‘need to talk to relevant module leaders and suggest this type of document to form the basis of scenario to be looked at in workshops or set for assignment’.

My last insight into the work of a commercial solicitor was fast-paced: it was a conference call from a known client who was wondering whether they could challenge a procurement decision. In a less than ten minute conversation Mr Moore first tried to get an idea of the relevant legal issues and the time-frame and then asked the client to send him the materials as soon as possible. As he put down the phone he informed his colleague who had attended the call to find out as quickly as possible whether suitable barristers were available for such a case (bearing in mind it looked like a week-end job) and to start the paperwork as soon as the client would send formal instructions to Mr Moore. It was interesting to see the beginning of a case with a team working against the clock and without any prior knowledge of the claim.

Overall I very much enjoyed my day at Clarke Willmott. It gave me the opportunity to reflect on the modules we offer and more specifically the design and assessment of these modules. Whereas an academic law degree centres upon the acquisition of relevant legal knowledge and skills procedural issues are hardly ever looked at. They are definitely more the focus on the LPC and BPTC, the professional courses we offer at UWE and prepare law graduates to become solicitors and barristers. The tasks Mr Moore undertook on that day were those taught on these courses, yet without a rigorous knowledge of company law and the law relating to copyright, patent and procurement he would not be able to deal with these cases. It is really a matter of building students’ knowledge step by step whilst giving them an insight into the next step. In fact, students who are taking part in the vast range of pro bono activities offered by the Bristol Law School benefit, like me on my day at Clarke Willmott, from a better insight into the procedural aspects of legal action; one might say, a better insight into the real world.

Jackie Jones addresses the United Nations on women’s human rights

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Professor Jackie Jones was one of only 9 representatives of all UK Non-Government Officials (NGOs) speaking at the United Nations in Geneva.

Professor Jones was author of the United Nations Wales Shadow Report on Women’s Human Rights that has been submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  The Shadow Report compiles  evidence from the Third sector (NGOs) on how well the Welsh and Westminster governments are complying with their international law obligations.

The report highlights some serious gaps, including, closure of courts, rape crises centres, lack of funding opportunities and increases in violence to name but a few. It also calls for transposition of the CEDAW into domestic law to ensure no regression in rights for women in the future. The report has been received by the Committee and is on its website.

CEDAW monitors the implementation of the Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (adopted 18 December 1979).  Countries who have become party to the treaty (States parties) are obliged to submit regular reports to the Committee on how the rights of the Convention are implemented.

During its sessions, the Committee members discuss these reports with the Government representatives and explore with them areas for further action by the specific country. The Committee also makes general recommendations to the States parties on matters concerning the elimination of discrimination against women.

In this instance, Jackie Jones was giving evidence to the pre-session of CEDAW. The Committee heard evidence about the compliance of the UK with its human rights obligations towards women.

Professor Jones focused on domestic transposition/implementation of CEDAW into UK law – and the effects of devolution on women’s unequal position in the 4 nations – as reflected in British society, policy and law.

For more information about the process, please see:

https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CEDAW/Pages/CEDAWIndex.aspx

PRO BONO: African Prisons Project – Life-changing experiences

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The Pro Bono Unit at UWE Bristol works with the African Prisons Project. The project sees UWE students assisting prisoners and prison warders during their Law studies. Kathy Brown has previously blogged about the project here.

Earlier this year, funding was achieved to allow a few students to undertake a summer internship in Kenya and Uganda for the APP. Below Kathy Brown reports on their experiences so far:

 Summer in Kenya … or not as the case may be!

On 2nd July I flew to Nairobi with three UWE law students as they ventured to start a ‘summer internship’ with APP.  Kelly, George and Lindsay were the first cohort of volunteers with Rad and Nakita arriving 18th July. Our first impressions after a 90 minute visa queue at midnight is that it’s cold, we are being choked by diesel and we are on a six lane highway heading into the centre of Nairobi!

It’s 4th July before we make our way to our first prison – Kamiti High Security Men’s prison (once notorious for beatings, excessive overcrowding and a prison officers resisted being posted to). 

We are met by a very different experience.  There’s no mistaking the blue and white stripe heavy cotton uniforms with bright yellow nylon sweaters to rage off the ‘winter’ cold but apart from that this prison is open – and inmates move around en masse with no obvious security. 

We are taken to the ‘Academy’ a shabbily constructed and maintained two storey block with partitioned walls to segregate English from Maths classes and History from Biology. 

Upstairs along the rickety iron stairway constructed by the students themselves is the preserve of the law students and others.  We make our introductions, which we have been warned are important and lengthy.  Two hours later it feels joyous and riotous. 

We’ve all been invited to Wilson’s anticipated High Court hearing on the 18th July following his legal challenge of the unconstitutionality of the Kenyan death penalty … watch this space.

Kelly Eastham attended the High Court to hear that Wilson’s death penalty for aggravated burglary 20 years ago is unconstitutional – he will be re-sentenced next week; this highly intellectual and learned undergraduate law student is likely to be released in view of his term served.  Sadly he has no family.  Kelly was his family today and visited him in the holding cell where he was un-cuffed to meet her.  Choking back the tears she offered her support.  Life-changing stuff.

 

 

Honorary degree awarded to Alderman Timothy Hailes, JP

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UWE Bristol awarded the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws to Alderman and Sheriff of the City of London, Timothy Hailes, JP, in recognition of his contribution to the legal profession and to public service.

The honorary degree was conferred at the Awards Ceremony of the Faculty of Business and Law at Bristol Cathedral on Monday 16 July at 10.30.

Tim is the current Aldermanic Sheriff of The City of London – holding an office that dates back to Anglo Saxon times and a pre-requisite to becoming Lord Mayor of the City of London; being established around 700AD. He became Sheriff at the age of 49. He is also a Managing Director and Associate General Counsel in the Legal Department of JPMorgan Chase & Co, which he joined as an Associate in 1999. Prior to joining JPMorgan he trained and qualified as a Solicitor, practising in law firms from 1993-1999 with a particular specialism in derivatives, securities and international capital markets.

Tim was educated at Bristol Grammar School, read a BA (Hons) degree in Medieval and Early Modern History at Kings College London where he was also President of the Students Union (1988-89), and then returned to Bristol to undertake his professional qualifications in law at UWE from 1991-93. He still considers himself a proud Bristol boy!

He was elected Alderman for the Ward of Bassishaw in the City of London in May 2013 having been appointed and sworn to the magistracy in the prior January. In 2017 he was appointed a Member of the Order of St John by HM The Queen.

In May 2014 he was named In House UK Finance Lawyer of the Year, was recognised as European Financial Services Regulatory Lawyer of the Year in May 2017 and was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to the UK In House Legal Profession in December 2017. He is widely acknowledged as one of the leading banking, financial services and regulatory lawyers in the country and has represented the industry to governments, regulators and supranational organisations all over the world.

Congratulations Tim!

Pro bono works

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In a series of blog posts Associate Head of Pro Bono, Marcus Keppel-Palmer will be sharing with us why Pro Bono at UWE Bristol works. In this first post Marcus shares research shared at the UWE Learning & Teaching Conference about the similarities between Law students and Journalism students:

Pro Bono gives students an opportunity to develop their professional identity as lawyers, allowing them to develop skills, confidence, ethics and professionalism outside the classroom.  I explored this at the UWE Learning & Teaching Conference jointly with Sally Reardon (UWE Journalism), who also found that journalists form their professional identity away from the gaze and strictures of assessment.

Students come to University with pre-formed views as to what Journalism and Lawyering is, views that are mainly formed by media images, often casting these characters as the hero of the story. Typical depictions of lawyers and lawyering can be found in To Kill A Mockingbird, The Rainmaker, and other John Grisham stories, whilst crusading journalists are depicted in films such as All The Presidents Men and The Post.

However, when they start to study, students are shocked that the reality of study is at odds with these romanticised images. Sally and I argued that students needed to see these professions in the round, creating an individual professional identity, and through that a coherent learning community. Professional Identity is the more than simply ethics and professionalism; it is the way a lawyer understands his or her role relative to all of the stakeholders in the legal system, including clients, courts, opposing parties and counsel, the firm and the legal system or society as a whole. Journalists of course play a valuable role within the courts too, but of course have a wider set of stakeholders and wider social impact to engage with.

In order to develop professional identity, students need opportunities to experience the complex interlay of professional behaviours, skills, ethics, and the relationships, whilst using their doctrinal knowledge. For law students and journalists that often requires participation in extra-curricular activities. Sally spoke about the Global News Relay, an annual event whereby UWE journalists collaborate with students from other countries around the world to compile a snapshot news programme across time zones and continents in one day. I spoke of the professional identity law students forge through participation in various strands of pro bono, such as the welfare benefits advice service, the Business Advice Clinic, and the Bristol Music Advice Service.

To find out more about the pro bono offering at UWE Bristol please see here.

UWE Law students win big at two national mediation competitions

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Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students, David Forster and Sara Harrison-Fisher, represented UWE Bristol at the Worshipful Company of Arbitrators Mediation Competition in London on 19-21 January, competing against teams from other Universities, trainee solicitors and pupils.

They walked away with prizes for the Best University Team and the Past Master Karl Davies Memorial Award which was awarded to the team with the Most Creative Solution.

Lucilla Macgregor who, along with her fellow BPTC tutor Sara Whiteley, mentored the pair in preparation for the competition said:

“David and Sara did extremely well in the face of stiff competition.  This is the second time in two years that UWE BPTC students have won a prize at this event, which gives them a fantastic opportunity to practice their advocacy and negotiation skills in front of accredited mediators”.

BPTC students and tutors

The following weekend saw Law undergraduates, Jade Trill, Callum Tucker, James Hathaway and Jack Kaczanowski, competing in the UK National Student Mediation Competition, held at ULaw in London.

The team won the awards for Best Mediation Team, Best Mediator (Jade) and Second Best Mediator (Callum), beating undergraduate and post-graduate teams from 16 universities around the UK.

Their coach, Rachel Wood, said:

“This is a fantastic achievement for the team, particularly as this is the first time we have entered the National Competition.  The students have studied mediation and practised their skills in our internal UWE Mediation Competition. It is wonderful to see their skills being recognised by professional mediators judging them in a national competition”.

UWE Bristol now expects to host the UK National Student Mediation Competition in January 2019.