Having been to an array of events held by law firms over the 3 years of my undergraduate study, none have quite compared to the personal and down to earth approach taken by Craig Sharpe when providing us with insight into Darlingtons LLP. From my personal experience, I feel as if many undergraduates are likely to be attracted to international firms due to their generous salaries, secondments abroad and fancy glass buildings. Tunnel vision here ultimately leads to many undergraduates overlooking small/mid-sized firm. The events held by regional firms are quite robotic in that they often begin with a short presentation on the overview of the firm, a question and answer panel and some networking. Oh, and let’s not forget the free drinks. The problem with these events is that even though you get to meet and talk to a variety of individuals in the firm, you’re just a face in a crowd of many students and so it can be hard for you to stand out.
What made the event at Darlingtons special was that Craig took a more personal and informal approach. He didn’t give the usual speech on how the legal profession has become very competitive, instead he took us through a journey of his 30 years working in law and gave us a comparison of what he found good and bad about working at big firms and as a lawyer in general. He then moved on to give us an insight into how he sees the legal profession will evolve to be like in the future and gave us a visual representation of on the number of lawyers who have received there right to practice. The presentation given didn’t just focus on Darlingtons as a firm. It allowed enough information for a general overview of the profession in addition to advice for doing well in an application to a law firm. Not only did this give some context towards the profession, it also allowed to appreciate the benefit and disadvantages of being a solicitor whether it be in a big or small firm.
The legal profession has stereotypically been labelled as quite mundane and boring but the event held by Darlingtons broke that stereotype. It was a very social and enjoyable presentation with plenty of time for asking questions and enough information to help students to make an informative decision about their steps after university. One thing that would make the talk even better would be to have another member or even a trainee of the firm share their experience as a lawyer so students get a more broader view of the legal profession as well as the firm.
-Aadil Shara, University of Westminster
I chose to study at the University of Westminster because it offers the unique opportunity to study a law degree and the Legal Practice Course in a seamless, four-year course.
I am grateful for the friends that I have made at the University. I feel that studying in the city has given me the opportunity to meet a more diverse range of people from all different walks of life and from different parts of the world. We have shared our experiences – both the high’s and the low’s – and watched as each and every one of us have progressed and discovered which area of law or which career path we wish to go into. There is a real sense of community at the University and the tutors are always there to offer their support and guidance, especially now that we are approaching the final stages.
The thing that I have found the most challenging throughout my degree was drafting coursework to the standard required at undergraduate level. At the start, I struggled to focus my research on the essay title and instead, found myself including irrelevant and unnecessary points. In order to improve on this, I found it helpful to speak to my tutors to discuss my work. I also decided to make use of the legal skills textbooks available in the library, as well as signing up to any tutorial classes for Westlaw or LexisNexis. By seeking help, I was able to identify my weaknesses. I believe that University is about being self-motivated throughout the entirety of the degree and to make the mistakes at this stage so that you can learn from them in the future.
Over the past four years, I have spent a lot of time applying for various positions. Initially, I was not overly picky with where I wanted to be placed; I simply wanted to build on my C.V and gain practical experience. Although I think it is important to show consistency throughout your C.V, I feel that by keeping an open mind about the law firm in which I wanted to be placed, and the sector that I wanted to work in, I was able me to make a well-informed and reasoned decision about my chosen career path. I have gained a wealth of experience in different legal sectors; from local law firms specialising in both private and commercial law, to completing a mini-pupillage in Chambers. For me, it all culminated in my work experience at Eversheds LLP. From the moment I walked through the door, I knew that this was the law firm for me. I decided to apply for a training contract with the firm, and after an emotional and stressful 6-month process, I was delighted to hear that I had been successful in securing a place. What is even better is that, because I am currently studying my LPC, I have been asked to start my training in September 2016, rather than in 2017.
Looking back, I feel that what set me apart from other candidates was my enthusiasm towards working for the firm. I showed a real interest in the work that the firm does and an understanding of the key principles that the firm as a business, and the lawyers as individuals try to uphold. One principle in particular is that Eversheds is renowned for applying its’ innovative flare when it comes to delivering its’ products and services to clients around the world. Knowing this, I made sure to give examples throughout the process of when and how I have demonstrated this characteristic.
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It seems one cannot live without lawyers. As anxiety over the legality of the Greek Private Sector Involvement (PSI) deal was abating, Cyprus Popular Bank (Laiki) filed an investment arbitration claim at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) against Greece, claiming billions of euros in compensation for losses suffered in the 2012 Greek bond haircut. Laiki is a known enthusiast for Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and is involved in another action against Greece, this time for the provision (or lack thereof) of Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) to its Greek subsidiaries during the events of 2012 that led to the resolution of Cyprus’ two biggest banks.
The PSI deal, forming the core of this action, has been a key component of the Greek Bailouts and is equally blamed and celebrated for moving the burden of any potential sovereign default from private hands onto public coffers. The PSI deal worked by offering to swap in early 2012 Greek bonds with new ones of a lesser value, a reduction of 53.5%. Why would anyone, however, voluntarily agree to accept such a significant haircut? Bondholders were offered this choice after Greece enacted retrospective legislation inserting what are known as Collective Action Clauses (CACs) in the bond contracts. Such clauses provide that if the majority of bondholders in any given bond issue vote in favour of accepting the offer, then all bondholders are obligated to participate. CACs in other words make bonds similar to shares in corporations: if the majority of shareholders vote for a resolution, an objecting minority cannot block it. A significant number of bondholders roped into this deal through the operation of CACs sought legal redress arguing that their investments had been forcefully expropriated.
One group protesting the PSI haircut consisted of 7000 small-holders, who joined a class suit against Greece arguing expropriation under the Greek Constitution and violations of Human Rights provisions under the European Convention of Human Rights. These arguments were tested in the Greek Council of State in March 2013. The court found for the Greek government arguing that losses were due to the activation of CACs, not by the state act that retrospectively inserted the CACs and found no violations of Article 1 of the Protocol to the ECHR.
A second challenge to the PSI came at ICSID from a Slovakian bank. Poštová Banka and it Cypriot subsidiary Istrokapital argued that, under the Greece-Slovak Republic and the Cyprus-Greece bilateral investment treaties, they were entitled to compensation for losses they suffered due to the PSI, amounting roughly to half the invested amount of €504m. The Poštová claim was the first challenge under Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and is similar to the new case brought on behalf of Laiki. The objective of an investment treaty, Poštová argued, was for the signatories to create favourable conditions for investments. As the Treaty offered standards of protection and a mechanism for dispute resolution when those standards were violated, ICSID was the appropriate forum to discuss any claims arising out of PSI. BITs are aimed at encouraging foreign investment and for that reason make a series of binding promises to investors. They may, as a result, offer a more varied menu of options to someone wishing to sue, than mere reliance on domestic constitutional and human rights provisions. ISDS clauses in BITs have faced criticism for offering a parallel legal system that exists beyond the reach of domestic courts. Concerns has been especially pronounced in the context of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. Greece prevailed at ICSID as the Tribunal found that for a variety of technical reasons it did not have jurisdiction to hear the Poštová claim. This finding ended the process without an examination of the substantive claims.
Is the Greek PSI deal in danger after this latest challenge? The short answer is yes. It is unlikely that the advisors of Laiki would have brought a claim if they thought that their client will have the same difficulty on jurisdictional grounds that led to failure in Poštová. While Greece won two challenges on the PSI, one in domestic courts and one in ICSID, the Argentine precedent is not a good omen. The Abaclat case, where a number of Italian bondholders sued Argentina, is illustrative of the sort of action that is becoming more common in the Greek context. While the case is still pending, we have a decision on jurisdiction accepting that the claim comes within BIT provisions and can proceed for consideration on the substantive grounds. Is this the sort of answer one should expect in the new case against Greece? Poštová lost on jurisdiction because of the exact wording of the BIT it was relying on. Investors from one of the other states Greece holds BITs with may have better luck. Bondholder BIT arbitrations remain a danger for Greece.
Dr. Ioannis Glinavos: firstname.lastname@example.org
A conversation between Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Chris Ancliff (Warner Music Group) and Paul Pacifico (Featured Artists Coalition) on the evolution of the artist/record company contract.
Westminster Law School was very pleased to host a Law Commission symposium as part of the review of Firearms Law.
The Law Commission published a scoping consultation paper on Firearms Law on 21 July 2015 and the symposium was organised to give stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the issues examined in the paper.
More details about the Law Commission symposium on firearms law.
Professor John Flood on The Rule of Law: are lawyers necessary or even the most capable of maintaining it?
Distinguished faculty lecture followed by reception, 29 September 2015, 5pm.
The central argument is that the legal system and the rule of law are now the domain of the legal profession. Professional ethos, which was once based on a compact with the community, has effectively been broken asunder by the entrenchment of neoliberalism. This has entailed justice being subject to economic tests such as cost-benefit analysis and gradually being divorced from any moral force within society. The spirit of Beveridge has been lost. Can we recover this? If so, how? To begin a debate on this I turn to anthropological studies of acephalous societies to show how the law jobs in society could be done with partial help from lawyers and a re-engagement with community.
All welcome, admission free, please register online.
This is a personal message to our Greek students. As of 29.6.15 Greek issued bank cards do not work abroad (for transactions or ATM withdrawals) due to the imposition of Capital Controls.
If you are a University of Westminster student, currently in London and you are experiencing a cash problem (for instance you have no UK bank account and have been relying on a Greek bank card), please get in touch with me so we can coordinate the provision of assistance.
I wish you all the best in this difficult time for Greece.
All the best
Westminster Law School will organise a one-day conference on the economic crisis, to be held in London in September 2015. The aim of the conference is to gather high quality research on the impacts of legal reforms in response to the crisis on economic rights. The aim of this enquiry is to delineate the boundary between individual freedoms and social objectives in seeking legal answers to the challenges of global and regional economic governance.
We invite submissions from academics and practitioners on all aspects of economic related rights in European and International Law. Papers covering the following topics are particularly welcome:
- The Sovereign Debt Crisis
- Investor actions in national and international courts and tribunals
- The impact of increased EU competences on national economies
- The evolving powers of the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve
- Austerity and conditionality
Interested authors should submit an extended, detailed abstract in PDF format to Dr Ioannis Glinavos email@example.com by 1 August 2015. The authors of accepted papers will be informed by email by 15 August 2015. Accepted papers will be considered for publication in a special issue of the Manchester Journal of International Economic Law.
Is the European Union a source of justice, or a source of injustice? The crisis in the Mediterranean has given new urgency to this question. It’s a question which is considered in a new book Europe’s Justice Deficit? published this month. The book is a collection of essays by EU scholars, myself included, which dwell upon the just or unjust nature of the EU (Europe’s Justice Deficit? eds. Gráinne de Búrca, Andrew Williams and Dimitry Kochenov, Oxford: Hart, 2015).
Academics in the fields of EU politics and EU law are long accustomed to considering the EU’s “democratic deficit”: but this book is perhaps the first in which EU law scholars have collectively engaged with whether there is a “justice deficit”. It may seem surprising that academics have not convened in the past to consider this matter. The omission owes much to the almost unanimously non-critical stance which prevailed in EU law (at the time, EC law) since the birth of the European Communities in the 1950s. EC lawyers were delighted that the Court of Justice of the European Communities was fashioning a federal-type legal constitution: the enforcement of EC law seemed so much stronger than “weak” international law. EC law academics were cock-a-hoop about the creation of the doctrines of supremacy and direct effect. They took the substantive content of the EC Treaty to be incontestably good, right and just: the European project was above politics. Scholars’ quasi-religious faith in the EC Treaty meant that EC law scholarship was, in the main, not about being critical. Instead it largely focused on analysing the true meaning of the latest holy writ being handed down by the Court of Justice.
In the early years, this role for the academic as defender of the EC faith might have seemed just about comprehensible. Originally many people assumed that the EC was merely a technocratic fix. Detailed questions of trade and competition policy did not seem the stuff of partisan politics. No-one was going to mount the barricades over the finer details of customs duty law.
Slowly but surely, however, this illusion started to crumble. A strong consensus developed among the global political elite in the 1980s in favour of neoliberalism – the ideology which favours privatisation, competition, free trade, light-touch regulation of corporations, a reduced welfare state and a relaxed acceptance of growing social inequalities. As a result the power of the corporations started to grow. Already implicit in the EC Treaty, EU law’s commitment to neoliberalism was, over time, made increasingly explicit – being entrenched by treaty revision, legislation and jurisprudence.
In this regard the EU’s decision to establish a single currency, the Euro, covering both strong and weak economies, and the ensuing crisis, has led to intense argument over what’s just and what’s unjust, as reflected in the splendid posts on this blog by my colleague Dr Ioannis Glinavos. The seminal and protracted nature of the Eurozone crisis should help scholars to fully let go of the assumption that the EU treaties represent justice and instead politicise the debate on justice by recognising the multiplicity of views on the subject.
The recent tragic events in the Mediterranean Sea – part of a no less protracted saga – also raise forceful questions of EU justice. At its highest level of generality, is it compatible with justice for the EU to make such a strong distinction between EU nationals and non-EU nationals? Is it fair to make such a sharp differentiation based on accident of birth – and with its thunderously racist implication?
The Eurozone crisis and the disaster in the Mediterranean necessitate the fiercest possible controversy in the academy, as elsewhere, over what’s just and what’s unjust in the European Union and its law. It is to be hoped that the publication of Europe’s Justice Deficit? represents a significant shift in the focus of EU law scholarship in this regard.
Professor Danny Nicol is Professor of Public Law at the University of Westminster. He is the author of EC Membership and the Judicialization of British Politics (2001), and The Constitutional Protection of Capitalism (2010). He has published widely on public law, EU law and the UK Human Rights Act.