LLM students through to semi-finals of prestigious Moot competition

Two Birkbeck LLM students are set to compete in the semi-finals of one of the most prestigious and popular mooting competitions in the UK, led by Mooting Co-Ordinator Jonathan Thorpe from the School of Law.

Lewis Aldous (pictured, right) and Daniel Cullen (left), both post-graduates on the LLM Qualifying Law degree programme, are through to the semi-finals of the Oxford University Press (OUP) and Inns of Court College of Advocacy National Mooting Competition.

Moot competitions are an ancient method of training lawyers in the art of advocacy, an essential skill for those wishing to practise law. Moots involve two teams, competing in a fictitious appeal case, but in front of a real judge. Teams are scored under several headings – on their ability to interpret and use the law, their skill in presenting legal arguments, and how they deal with questions from the judge during the moot.

Birkbeck Law School runs its own moot training programme each academic year. from which students are selected to compete externally, against other universities, in the major UK moots.

Over the past few years, Birkbeck Law School has had considerable success in the national moots, but LLM students Lewis and Daniel have done exceptionally well this year, beating three highly reputable law schools in legal problems ranging over criminal law, contract law and contempt of court, to reach the semi-finals of OUP.

Further congratulations are due to Lewis, who was recently awarded a full scholarship by Inner Temple Inn of Court to study to be a barrister.

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New Foundations: Re-designing the Academic Stage of Legal Training

This post was contributed by Joanna Hartl, a first-year student on Birkbeck’s three-year LLB.

Day three of Law on Trial made me think:  “Why do lawyers spend so much time arguing ?” The answer is obvious: “Because they can’t help it!” Besides which –  how do you define an argument? Is it a heated discussion, or just people who have different views, perhaps the word “debate” would be better. Or is it because in the heart of every lawyer there lies the innate desire to always challenge the person with the opposing viewpoint, yes perhaps there we have it! The adversarial technique… is it genetically inherited? /environmentally cultivated? /developed through peer pressure? /caught like a virus? / or does it infect you like a Trojan Worm, so that once it has got itself into your system, it seems to be self-perpetuating forever and ever? A lawyer’s lot is not a happy one it seems, when they are studying or teaching something which they would rather not be.

The Alternative Law Degree

I thought I was already following a pretty alternative course. Since coming to Birkbeck I seem to have spent more time studying history, politics, economics and the welfare state, than it seems I have spent on studying the law itself, but then the law is purely a product of all those anyway. I don ‘t know about anyone else, but I think I ‘m already on the Alternative Law Degree. So at the end I may well end up getting an LLA (LLAlternativa!) But to be honest with you, I have totally enjoyed myself in the process, and like somebody said tonight, no one has yet dared to actually lay down what categorically comprises the content material/exact syllabus of the core subjects. We ‘re all going to be happy with “violence” and “environment” instead of criminal and land law.  In any case, it’s only the words you choose to define things. The things you are defining will still be there, whatever words you use. Your job as teachers is to instill in the student the ability to think critically, and for this Birkbeck deserves a FIRST PRIZE and a GOLD STAR. Education is not about just getting a first,  it’s also about discovering your own abilities and developing them, in order to change society, and I think that Birkbeck is doing its level best to make that happen.

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Legal Education: Socialist Survivors

This post was contributed by Joanna Hartl, a first-year student on Birkbeck’s three-year LLB.

On the second day of Law On Trial, things livened up a bit, with quite a lot of audience participation. Professor Bill Bowring chaired the panel, consisting of two young, dynamic and recently qualified lawyers, Stephen and Natalie. Both gave excellent punchy presentations, putting their point across as Socialist Lawyers, and trying to show that the Legal Education System which exists in the Northern Hemisphere is very much supporting the continuity of the established capitalist status quo. The inadequacies and irrelevancy of the professional training courses necessary to practise law in the UK i.e. the B.P.T.C and the L.P.C were highlighted, and the cost of the B.P.T.C. in particular was seen as prohibitive to the majority of those present, so much so that one aspiring young lawyer has already decided to continue her studies in Nigeria, where the whole course equivalent to the B.P.T.C. costs only £4000 and no pupillage is required. Dr Oscar Guardiola-Rivera was happy that such an interchange should take place, but the student felt that it was for the wrong reasons, as it was not an economic option for her to continue in the UK! As well as highlighting the plight of individual impoverished Law students, and their fight for the right to continue their studies amidst continuing funding difficulties and  economic barriers; other key areas were also explored, which are of current topical and political interest, in particular the government’s legal aid cuts, and the pending impact this will have on many high street law firms. It will mean closure for many, as well as an end to the funding of neighbourhood law centres. Strike action was encouraged, which has already taken place, with both barristers and solicitors on strike against Legal Aid Cuts. We were exhorted to sign the petition against the cuts, which is called “saveukjustice”, and to join The Haldane Society, which is open to anyone interested in Law (you don’t need to be a qualified lawyer) and Socialism. The ideas of Peter Kropotkin were espoused by Stephen, and women were encouraged by Natalie to read the book by Baroness Helena Kennedy ” Eve Was Framed “, which will form the subject of discussion of a reading group at the Haldane Society. The evening was rounded off by Bill Bowring with a call to the Bar (on the 4th floor) for anyone wishing to continue the lively discussion. It was an extremely thought provoking, and stimulating evening, and well worth the effort of attending. I wil certainly be there again tomorrow!

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