Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Proportionality, theme of the day: Gaza, Iraq, and the Civil MCT.

The situation in Gaza is very sad. We will be entering the new year with the situation in the Middle East no closer to resolution. For every Israeli killed by a Hamas missile, 100 Palestinians have died. Many further are wounded, and have no access to humanitarian aid.

Indeed, because of the blockades around Gaza, no-one can get in and no fuel, food, medical supplies, trade, or indeed anything else can get in. People lie dying and destitute in a ghetto situation. We complain of the economic crisis over here, but any economic life has been at a standstill for a long time in the Gaza strip.

Discussions on the subject of the middle east are the sort of thing that is best avoided in polite conversation, fraught with sensitivity and difficulty as it is. But this should not mean that the plight of innocent people should be forgotten.

International opinion is split on what the eventual solution should be. There seems to be some sort of consensus that current Israeli strikes are out of proportion, and it is massively objectionable that one of their stated aims is to rebuilt the image of the Israeli army after its surprise defeat by Hezbollah.

Whatever your opinion on the rights and wrongs of the actions of each side, international law is of assistance on these points:

- the taking of land during time of war is contrary to the well established rules of war. All lands taken in the 1968 war were taken in contravention of international law, therefore and it follows that settlement on these lands is unlawful.

- By a 14 to 1 one decision, the ICJ ruled on the illegality of the Wall. Preventing access to food, fuel, and movement of people in Gaza is fundamentally objectionable.
(The ICJ also found that compensation needed to be paid for damage done by construction of the wall, but clearly long term damage such as the total destruction of the Palestinian economy is not likely to be compensated for).

- States are allowed to act in defense of their land, and people under International law. Thanks to the actions of the US, the UK, and Israel itself there is even a developing principle of 'pre-emptive self defence' in international law. However, proportionality is key. A death toll of 100 to 1, and firing directly into civilian properties and densely populated areas must be in contravention of the protective principles.

People often get caught up in saying, a two state solution must be found as if that is the end to a discussion on this matter. Surely that's obvious - no-one really considers that you can wipe Israel off the map, despite hyperbole from the likes of Iran. Similarly, those uber-Zionists who wish to return to Biblical borders and refer to the land of Judea instead of talking about Gaza, and Lebanon must be considered nuts. Obviously, a two-state solution must be found - but international law takes us pretty far in delimiting where we should go, if only people would pay it some attention. Clear the settled lands, stop blockades, compensate people for lands taken and damage done- and then maybe we will start to see fewer civilians dying.


Another sad mess in the Middle East is Iraq, and it is expected that 2009 will see the end of a British presence in Iraq. I heard a comment on the radio that by then the Iraq war will have lasted longer than WWII. And yet, have we felt like a country at war?

In one of my bouts of random Wiki-searching yesterday I came upon a page on Lynndie England , who was the female soldier seem in those pictures of torture and mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. She ended up serving 521 days, and is now free.

This seems like a very short amount of time for the crimes she originally plead guilty to. She had pleaded guilty to several offences, and was looking at a sentence of more like 11-16 years, but this was 'tossed out' when it was found that she didn't realise that the "actions were wrong".

I have a couple of comments about this. Firstly, isn't it a basic principle of law that ignorance is no defence? Second, I seem to recall that there were a couple of deaths at Abu Ghraib, and several instances of what we would call GBH and ABH. In the states which carry the death penalty, torture or other felonies (such as Grevious Bodily Harm or rape) are aggravating factors which render murder death eligible. I'm not suggesting that she actually murdered any inmates, but it does seem that these soldiers were involved in at a minimum the negligent deaths of inmates. If memory serves me right, where someone dies as a result of intentional GBH that's murder as well, is it not?
In my usual round-about way, the point I'm trying to make is that had she committed these crimes in a civilian context and been sentenced in a civilian court it is hard to see how she would be in possession of her liberty today.

This contrasts well with the situation of the chap who threw his shoes at Bush - and is likely to be behind bars for a lot longer. The legal systems of both countries seem to have messed up monumentally.


Finally, having just about finished with the eating of various poultry, mounds of chocolate coins and shinily wrapped sweets, my mind must now turn to doing some actual work. The Civil MCT is in a week, and the manual must be memorised by then. Only 350 odd pages, easy peasy! Dull, mind you.

Happy New Year to all!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Hope and change in 2009

2009 will mean, at some point, the end of the BVC and all the joy that comes with. It will hopefully mean a fabulous new job for Boy, but more momentously for the rest of the world we will be saying buh-bye to Bush.

News story today about his farewell visit to Iraq covered the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at the outgoing President. The most amusing element for me was that the BBC felt the need to comment that in Arab countries, this was a sign of extreme contempt. I'm no anthropological expert, but I feel like this would be somewhat insulting in countries beyond the Gulf and the Maghreb!

Couldn't find a picture of the said throwing of shoes, terrible shame.

Thursday, 11 December 2008


I'm still taking every possible opportunity to rant and rave about how much the BVC is poor value for money, and I hate the way it's organised. I'm still by no means doing enough work- I think it's definitely a case of getting as much as you put in this year. With upcoming assessments, I'm not feeling too confident.

I am looking forward to taking on my first FRU case however, I've eventually managed to get all my training bits and bobs done - training day, check; passed the test, check; and visit to the Employment Tribunal, check! Now it's just a case of actually getting on with a case - which given the upcoming assessments may be tricky.

I may spend some of Christmas looking at training contract applications. I'm horribly intimidated by several of my more accomplished and more diligent colleagues on the BVC.

My advocacy seems to be improving however, to end on a positive note.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Top two things you shouldn't do

-- Ignore letters from credit card companies and banks.

-- Look up the CVs of people at your dream chambers.

In particular, when combined, you may be struck with the awful feeling that you've saddled yourself with a lot of debt because you were under the very mistaken impression that you, too, could ever make it in this job.

The kind of debt that will take a great many hours to work off at the minimum-wage job you will actually end up in.

Barristers, episode 4.

Leaving aside for a minute the fact that this programme annoys the hell out of me, I was watching the finale episode tonight.

'Tenancy decisions are subject to ratification'. Sorry, WTF?

Because there's not enough hurdles in this crazy profession.

Friday, 14 November 2008


Passed the New York Bar exam!

Realised the pass rate for foreign students like myself is only about 50% - glad I didn't know that when I went in.

Feeling very relieved!

ETA: Heard unfortunate news of a friend, or friend of a friend, who took the Bar Exam this July as well, but didn't pass. This was his third attempt having also failed in February 2008, and July 2007. Very sad as not only is he spending $3500 and 3 months on each attempt, most law firms will only really give you two shots to pass the Bar and so job prospects significantly reduce at this point, or so I'm told anyway.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The joy of advocacy

Seems to be very quiet on the blogging front - is everyone hibernating?

The biggest surprise for me on the BVC so far is how bad I am at advocacy. Shockingly bad. I lead in examination in chief, can't move questioning along without useless questions, don't ask 'tight' enough questions in cross and generally don't seem to be too convinced by my own submissions.

This is a surprise to me because, having gone into the BVC because I was attracted to advocacy I may have assumed I would have some sort of natural talent. Alas, no!

I may also need to work harder at it. Natural talent would only take you so far, in any case.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Made me laugh on a bleak Monday morning-

I googled 'ICSL' and 'FRU' and my own blog came up as the third link - not what I was expecting! And yes, I realise I clearly haven't honed my research skills, but google is always worth a click or two to see what you find.

I'm applying, as you may have gathered, for the FRU option at ICSL/City Law School. I have to demonstrate why I should be on the course, and what I bring to the course. Not quite sure! Mad skilz, clearly.

To be honest, I intend to do FRU whether I get on the course or not (24 places only), and so being on the course will just enable me to do more FRU work than my schedule would allow otherwise. Not sure if that's something I should mention that bluntly.

Things seem pretty quiet on the blog front, which is hardly surprising as the weather gets colder, and wetter and everyone harbours a partial desire to bed down and hibernate for the winter! Not much going on at this end either, just getting to know my group, and getting on with the course. I don't think I've managed to impress anyone yet, with my stunning advocacy which involved my getting up there, saying 'errrrrr' for a long time and then freezing stock still. Better luck this week, ay!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

BVC Week 2 - grumbling over

So, grumpy as I was last week to have to be dealing with tube travel, and unpredictable London weather patterns again, I'm now much happier on the BVC.

I think the work is going to be manageable, although I'm going to have to push myself to stay on top of it (having been a chronic last-minuter in previous years) as I don't think a last minute cramming will cut it this year!

My group seems a cool bunch, and so we should be able to muddle through the year and maintain a sense of humour. There's a smattering of different accents from around the world, different ages (well, a couple of mature students), mix of lasses and lads, northeners and southerners, and even a bit of totty. (I think that's the word the kids are using these days?)

I heard some girls talking behind me in a lecture the other day (sorry, Large Group Session) about the dismal romantic prospects on the course which I found highly amusing. I had not given this any consideration. It seems there are only 2 men on the course worth anything. I felt rather offended on behalf of all the other lads on the course. I've chatted with a good handful of nice men on the course, so I think some people need to stop judging books by their covers!

Talking of books, having been given a stack of College manuals we are now advised that we are not to use these in classes, but only to refer to the practitioner's manuals in class. Whilst there is some merit in this (it's a good idea to not get in the habit of referring to an ICSL idiot's guide to Criminal litigation in court) I can't help but feel that the motivation is more to try and maintain this idea (for the benefit of the Bar Standards Board) that the course is a Master's/ LLM level course. Given that it seems clear we are to use the ICSL manuals for background reading, and that we are being spoonfed in all other respects, it seems highly doubtful to me that it is infact being taught at LLM level.

As I missed the first week and the first advocacy tutorial I'm only coming round to my first advocacy session this week, eek! Getting butterflies in my tummy just thinking about it. Can't wait - I love that feeling.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Start of the year blues

So I'm settling into the BVC and have been to my first Inn function. I've met a few nice people, and the diversity on the BVC is a pleasant surprise.

It's hard to face another year of uni (effectively) though. Paperwork and assignments. I must say I'm very unimpressed with the BVC so far - it seems to be a case of just stating the very obvious. Write clearly. Speak clearly. Learn the rules. Why this needs to take an entire year, I don't know. I feel like the Provider throws a lot of terms at us, and makes the learning of core skills very structured so that we feel we're getting value for money, but frankly I don't think it is.

I'm marginally annoyed that I have to give up relatively few days off (when I was hoping to work) in order to go on Court Visits and then fill in the silly questionnaire (about Court decor or something) afterwards. I have been in court as a mini-pupil, as a clerk, as a member of the public observing, and as a juror. I've sat in criminal court, in family court, in commercial court. I've even seen courts in different countries and been in chambers with a judge. Short of being a barrister, or a judge, I'm not sure what other view I could have of a courtroom. Thus, I'm not convinced of the usefulness of these court visits - but I'm open to the possibility of being proved wrong.

Still, I shall throw myself into this and hope to be a better advocate by the end of it! I did have a rush of 'first day at school' excitement when I first walked in, so maybe there's hope yet!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

A girl walks into a bar is back...

Melina is back from a long trip, beautiful wedding, and a few missed flights and is ready to kick some BVC ass! Soon as I can get myself registered...

Hope all's well in the blogosphere!

Friday, 29 August 2008

First week of the BVC...

Despite my earlier post about there being no posts for a while, yesterday's trip to ICSL has left me in a bit of a pickle.

I'd gotten the term dates a bit messed up (the information I was given ages ago was out by a week), so it looks like I shall be missing some of the first week - if the Registrar even lets me register, apparently I can't possibly hope to get through the course if I miss a single induction or tutorial. Hmm.

I've been reading other people's post on the first few BVC days (Android, yours has been really helpful :) ) but I know that different providers may differ.

Is there really that much to the first few days/ week of the BVC? I don't mind missing introductions anyway, I have the common sense of a dingbat and so invariably end up wandering around aimlessly not knowing where I'm doing with or without the induction!

*sigh* Must do better.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008


I find myself being dragged away to lie on a Thai beach with a Singapore Sling or five, and so I shall be unable to post for a wee while. I shall return when the BVC starts - in a few short weeks.

I have been reading the comments on a Facebook 2008-9 BVC group and my, my - I simply cannot wait to be in the company of such types as Ms A, who left comments thus:

-'Hello all, I just won X scholarship from Y Inn. I'm very pleased.'
'-I want to find out about options, because I didn't like my options on the BCL. That's the one at OXFORD'.
-'Oh I would like to do that option, they didn't have that option on my BCL at Oxford'.
-'Actually I'm deferring for a year to go do the LLM at Cambridge. Ciao'.

Actually, I am looking forward to the BVC and like to think I've developed a high threshold for over-plumped egos. Hope all is well in the rest of the blogosphere.


PS - Any holiday read recommendations (or good reads in general) would be welcome!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Thoughts on a shorter BVC

I'm trying to get a feel for how the BVC will be, through Facebook groups, other blogs and the Provider's website. One of the discussions I came across concerned the length of the course itself.

It had been suggested that the course ought to be made shorter, so as to reduce costs and...well I'm not quite sure why else. Perhaps so that hopeless candidates waste less of their time, and people can see earlier one whether they will obtain pupillage etc. I understand that this has been periodically considered by the Bar Council as well, alongside other proposed BVC reforms.

I'm not sure what my position on this is. Indeed, in the States the Bar Exam is a 2 day exam and prep classes offered only run for 2-3 months before the exam itself. This is all conducted immediately after completion of final years exams, and so by August a student will have graduated from Law School and hopefully passed the Bar.

But the Bar exam is fundamentally different there. No advocacy, research or drafting skills are taught - the whole endeavour is an exercise in memory and exam skills. There are no opportunities to moot or do pro bono work, which may be of more relevance to non-law graduates who have not had an opportunity to moot before. The Bar Exam is the bare-bones of basic legal knowledge; a basic test of competence in that if you can't even get the hang of memorising a few Civ Pro rules you probably shouldn't be allowed to practice. I don't think that the US Bar has the same aims as the BVC.

I get the impression that the BVC has broader aims - to prepare a student for the Bar, develop various skills (as mentioned above, negotiation, drafting, research). Perhaps the longer timescale is needed therefore. The US Bar does not cover these skills and the approach is that new practitioners will learn these skills on the job.

I am told by many graduates of the BVC that there is little point in learning these things on the BVC, because you un-learn or re-learn them in pupillage and thus they support a shorter, pared down BVC. However, I see two problems with this approach:

1- With hindsight, it is easy to play down what you have learned and forgot that the process of learning is as important, at least, as the knowledge and skills you have gained. Even if you do learn to do things in a different way as a pupil, I think intuitively that the BVC must have provided the necessary foundation for this. An analogy for this would be learning Spanish when you have already learned French to a high level; it is much easier than just starting from scratch with Spanish or Italian because you will recognise a lot of the vocabulary and understand how the rules of grammar function, even if they are different rules.

2 - If more of the training is left to Chambers in pupillage, surely this will make this even harder to attain pupillage? I imagine this to be so based on the fact that available pupillages dropped once minimum funding was introduced and so it became costlier to provide pupillages. The costlier it is, the lower the number of pupillages available it seems. In the US, if no-one will hire you it is relatively easy to set up shop on your own. This is not the case here.

These are just some thoughts, I otherwise find the idea of a shorter BVC attractive - the costs of self-funding are lower for a 3-6 month period than for the academic year, and I could do other things in the rest of the year- work, travel, internships etc. I might have already done the BVC by now if it was a short course.

Finally however, depending on the make-up of a shorter course timing would have to be considered. Following a tough third year immediately with a Bar course that requires anything like real brain work would be very tough physically and emotionally. I could see the fatigue in the eyes of my colleagues on the New York Bar exam. I imagine people would adjust to this, they always do, but it is definitely something to consider.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Fighting talk and Resolutions

Being back at my dull desk job leaves me lots of time to look up things on the 'net that I would rather be doing than amending client bills. And so I have made some decisions.

I am going to apply for some LLMs - prob to Oxbridge, the BCL just for the hell of it (won't get in, but you never know) and to some schools in New York - specificially the International Law programme at NYU. That is my current dream. If I really enjoy the LLM, then I can then consider a Phd but it would be silly to commit myself to that now.

It's very competitive and everybody and his uncle wants to do international law these days. So what- what's the point in working so hard if you're not even going to aim for what you love? If I had a passion for wharbling or tapdancing, I'm sure I'd be wanting to be on Pop Idol or something. I have a passion for international law, and really the Bar is a sort of professional pop idol, is it not? (With about equal chances of success, it might be said).

And then, I will actually apply for pupillage. At those dream sets, where I have a 1 in a zillion chance of getting in. And then I will apply everywhere else, where I have a roughly 1 in 4 chance of getting in. And yes, everyone does think that they'll be that 1 in 4.

But I got onto my uni degree - and 3,000 people applied for 150 places. Out of the people offered places, 50 of those were interviewed for a particular degree course with only 4 spots, and I got one of them. So I've fought those kinds of odds before and made it.

Anyway, isn't the foolish pursuit of dreams and desires what being young is all about? With this in mind, and also because it has always made more sense to me to make resolutions at the start of the academic, rather than the calendar year, here is my action plan and list of goals for the year ahead:

What I will do:

  1. Pass the BVC. Perhaps even do well.
  2. Get a job which will pay for the BVC.
  3. Do lots of FRU. It's been about 2 years ago now that I did that induction day...!
  4. Learn a language. Or rather go up a level in one of my existing languages.
  5. Apply to LLM programmes - on time!
  6. Do some other law work - volunteering or research or something - and some minis (which I have yet to do).
  7. See some of europe - it's so close after all!
  8. Read more - I used to read voraciously but seem to have lost the habit since the LLb taught me to feel guiltly when reading non-law.
  9. Get fit and eat healthily, work on my posture. Generally be fitter, happier, more productive.

Hmm, there should be a No. 10. Maybe I will moot too - and deal with Olpas.

Things I will not do:

  • Get home every night, watch some telly and fall asleep. Or go to bed and watch tv online...
  • Become a couch potato (who am I kidding, I mean remain a couch potato)
  • Fail the BVC (!)
  • Miss deadlines the way I usually do (but I like the sound of them whooshing by so...)
  • Similarly, win gold in the Procrastination olympics as I have done in previous years

Have I missed something? I think those are all do-able. No sailing down the Amazon saving orphans or writing a small country's constitution, but you have to start somewhere!

Monday, 18 August 2008

NY Bar questions

Legally Ginge asked me a couple of questions re the New York Bar qualification which I thought I would answer in a new post rather than in the comments thingy in case it was helpful to anyone else. By the way, if anyone has any questions feel free to ask. Not that I'm holding myself out as knowing anything about anything!

Here goes:

1. After qualifying are you now able to practise in the states, immediately or do you need to do some kind of TC/Pupillage equivilent.

  • After taking and passing the New York Bar Exam and the MPRE - the Professional Responsibility exam, which is held 3 times a year (to the NYB's twice a year) you then need to apply to be admitted to the New York Bar by showing fitness, character etc, much in the same way as joining an Inn.

    After that point you are free to work as an attorney, and subject to professional responsibility rules you can even set up shop as a sole practitioner - if you so desire. So, no, no TC pupillage element is required.

2. Is there a time limit after doing the qualification by which time you must have practised?

  • I actually don't know this one - I don't think so, but there is a requirement to keep up CPD points and pay Bar fees and the such in order to stay a member of the Bar.

3. Do you need a visa sponsor as a Brit to work there?

  • Yes you do, that's where the tricky part comes in - finding someone to sponsor you. In the main it'll be a H1B type visa, which is valid for 3 years and starts every October. It can be extended for 3 year periods, and the employer bears all the costs. Or you can find yourself an american boy and become a citizen that way!
4. You mentioned the course you did was mainly DVDs etc, does this mean the course held in London by BarBri is the same?

  • I had a friend taking the course in Hong Kong by video, in New York you had the live or video option, but I imagine the Barbri course would be the same - you'd have to ask them for specifics, I didn't really look into the course in London much before I signed up.

5. When you took the exam was it the level you expected or harder?

  • Well I found the exam really hard physically 'cos I had a stonking cold, but it varied in difficulty. There's an essay portion, a legal writing portion, and multiple choice portion. The Multiple choice stuff was hard, the legal writing ok, and the essays were ok as well. I think the course prepares you fairly well for the exam, so it wasn't too much of a surprise on the day. The multiple choice questions I remember being much harder than anticipated on the morning, but then the essays were easier - so I guess it evens out.
    If you follow the course you should be fine, it has a really high success rate. The NY Bar itself in July has a 80% pass rate, which is high. In the main the people that fail are those that study on their own, that don't study at all, that have been practising for years and so know old law, and I imagine a fair few foreign students.
  • Conceptually the exam isn't hard, it's just a case of memorising everything - which is dull but not hard. Having said that, I don't know if I passed or not!
Hope that helps.

Sunday, 17 August 2008


I feel I'm at a crossroads. Indecision all around me. Let me apply some Fiddler on the roof style reasoning:

On the one hand, I think I should probably get a job somepoint soon because I don't want to be a student forever.

On the other hand, there's no rush to get to the Bar, more experience and qualifications will only help (to get pupillage, to get better work, and generally to have more life experience before I start work proper).

On the other hand, I don't want to dilly dally about too much before working - and I can't face another 3-4 years studying.

On the other hand, I really do want to do some more studying - at least an LLM.

And then, I'm advised (by Daddy dearest) that I should really just go straight into a Phd or DPhil. This makes sense given the area of law I'm interested in (international law, human rights etc) and the fact that I would like to be able to straddle academia and practice.

But then, on the other hand, that seems like a lot - surely an LLM would be enough? Maybe I should do the LLM, work for a bit, then consider a Phd?

But then - it all matters on where I get into anyway - there's no point doing anything that isn't at a decent place.

But then who's going to pay for it?

But on the other hand it would be an investment in my future...

But do I even have anything I could even write 100,000 words about? Do I even have the stamina, the ability for it? I do like to spend 5 hours a day watching Rab C Nesbitt on Youtube and 3 hours a day eating/cooking... and another 10 sleeping, which doesn't leave much!

But then, if I want to change the world and help people and stuff I should think that I'd have plenty to say - and I did really enjoy my dissertation. In a painful/pleasurable kind of way...


ETA: Perhaps I should go for the safer option given my apparent lack of any usefulness or common sense. I managed to miss the old alarm clock this morning, waking up at 9:24 (when I should have been at my desk at 9:30, an hour and a bit away). Eventually got in looking like last night's dinner, and forgot to put my contacts in. Which means I had my glasses on - which I normally only wear at home, or when I'm doing a face mask.

French Clay mad be very good for the skin, but globs of it on one's spectacles are not a great office look! Oh dear, oh dear...

Friday, 15 August 2008

Modern Education, Grade Inflation

The combination of the A-level results yesterday, and Simon Myerson QC's recent blog has me thinking about education both in terms of my own experience, and how its general approach has changed over the years.

I went to school during the years where we weren't 'taught' grammar, or at least weren't taught things in terms of the 'past participle' and the 'reflexive verb' etc.
When I have cousins over from France (as they pop over every now and then to work on their English) or foreign friends who ask me how to say a particular thing, they will often frame it in all the grammar lingo. My response will usually be - give me an example?! I think I know how it should sound but I don't really know any of the rules. So, all those books I've bought on how to improve your writing etc (ok, the one book) aren't much use because I barely understand the different between a noun and a verb.

I don't imagine I'm unique, I probably learned more grammar and punctuation from reading voraciously as a child than actually in the classroom, but I think that period of teaching english in schools has hampered both my generations ability to write 'correctly' and our ability to learn foreign language. It's a bit tricky to master the past historic in French if you have no idea what the correlating use would be in English (there isn't one actually). Teaching grammar in a more free way (by not teaching it, but by allowing students to pick up the rules in a more childlike, natural process) only really works for English, I think, because it has so many exceptions to rules. It certainly doesn't work for continental European languages.

In one respect then, I do think that losing some of the traditional elements of education (like teaching grammar in a strict, rules focussed way) has been to our detriment. I think they have changed policies since I was at school though, if my siblings' school experience is anything to go by. My sister still wouldn't know a semi-colon if it dropped in her tea, but there you go!

I am terrifically bored by the perennial A-levels debate however. The fact that A-level passes improve every year must mean that A-levels are getting easier - or that kids are getting smarter. Both positions are clearly wrong in my mind.

When I started my A-levels I remember my Chemistry teacher telling us that A-levels were a game, and in order to do well you had to learn the rules. That isn't to say that it was easy, but in to succeed you had to master the exam style, and learn how to project the information you knew to an examiner audience.

It seems natural to me that in this style of examination, as years pass on, students have more past examinations to rely on, and teachers become more adept at teaching towards the examination style that results will improve. The examinations are not getting easier, but our approach to them is more focussed.

And indeed, I believe the students themselves are much more focussed. Did you need 3 A's to get into university 10 or 20 years ago? Prince Charles certainly didn't and still made it to Trinity College, Cambridge (although perhaps that's a different phenomenon altogether). There was either less competition, or the perception of competition. People who do A-levels largely have already decided they want to go to university, and people are realising that they need good grades much earlier on - at GCSE and A-level level. Look at America, where students who are determined to get into the Ivy League universities will be worried about their 'Grade Point Average' very early on, from perhaps the age of 13.

Having said this, when you consider who sets and chooses the exams it may be that grade inflation should be a concern: the exams are in the wrong hands. The people who select which exam boards to take have an interest in choosing the exam board with the highest rate of success (the students and teachers) because it serves their interests. The exam boards (the AQA's and the Edexcel's) have an interest in having high success rates because this is what the students and teachers - their buyers- are looking for.

The universities (or employers, but generally the universities) however, have an interest in accurate results in order to select the truly brightest and best. Students, teachers and the Exam boards do not stand to lose by inflation of results (not on a short term basis at least) and as long as they are in control of setting the exams, and selecting the exams, there is no incentive for grade inflation not to occur.

The answer would of course be to put the examinations in the hands of those who have an incentive not to inflate results, because they are interested in accurate results. Unis have long done this, with Oxbridge entrance exams, entrance exams for Medicine and Law etc. But the problem with that of course is self-selection - students will only take the LNAT at X Redbrick if they think they are capable of getting into X Redbridge, and students from non-traditional backgrounds (the working class, ethnic minorities, and those without a family history of higher education) will not enter for those exams. So University set exams might deal with the grade inflation issue, but they bring up a whole load of diversity and fairness related issues.

I do think however that the A-level debate largely overlooks the fact that A-levels today are just not the same kettle of fish as a decade or a generation ago. And not because society is going to hell in a handcart, and all our youth do is text message each other about Britney's latest lack of panties, or whatever. It is a different world, in education and in work. A-levels are less focussed on knowing bare, dusty facts than they used to be but more on understanding basic principles, communicating clearly, and writing for a particular audience. These are important skills that employers are always crying out for more of - the ability to work from basic principles, and communication skills.

In short, they test 'softer' skills than they used to, but I don't think they're soft exams. We may still have to get the balance right, but isn't application generally to be preferred over memorisation?

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Back to the grindstone

I got back a couple of days ago, and have since been...basically lazing about. Managed to fit in some cooking for my Dad, a whole season of Mad Men and a lot of sleeping. I'm jetlagged! Look, I know it's only a 5 hour difference and I spent the last week there lazing as well but.... ok, ok, ok, I'm just plain lazy!

I thought I might not do any temping work until I start the BVC...because I'm going on holiday in a couple of weeks (look, I've never been to Asia and when will I have the time again?!) but my agency called me and I'm really bad at saying no, so looks like I will be back at work next week. I was sorta hoping to go from a New York happy daze to a sorting things out at home and chilling daze to a girly holiday in a place that has really cheap scarves daze, but alas looks like I will have to get my pencil skirt on and get dictating.

Shame I can't dress like the secretaries in Mad men do, that would be fun! I was born in the wrong decade, raging sexism and pointy bras sound like a lot of fun!

In other news, my kid brother made his Uni offer to study physics - go bro! And hence the pic above :)

Back in Blightie!

This was spent...packing and cleaning! We had to get out of the flat, and we stayed in my mate's flat for the last night. We had 40 pounds too much in luggage so it required some inventive use of hand luggage allowance and a lot of repacking (and ditching some stuff) to get it all home.

We had a bit of a dodgy final experience with a private (non -yellow) taxi driver who wanted to charge us $20 just for carrying all the bags- not like she helped or anything! And then she was wittering off in spanish to the guy at base, clearly saying something about us only speaking english or being english - she was annoying. And when we protested, saying she couldn't just make up prices, she went on some guff about how she had a camera in there and the 'other boss' would watch how many bags went in, would work out the cost accordingly and then would let her know how much by flashing lights whether to go up or down?! It's all a bit Bruce Forsyth for me, I'm afraid dear. I may be a Brit, but I wasn't born yesterday.

Anyway we got her license plate and registered number so HAH. Screw you lady!

Other than that, last day was fine - we just chilled out in the evening with Pizza and some films. It was too rainy to go anywhere, and in any case 8 hours of cleaning and packing I was a bit tired.
The person we leased from didn't seem to notice the burn stains and gave us back the entire deposit, which was good. Overall, that was a good experience - I think you have to be careful with Craigslist things, but if you use your common sense and get a good feel for someone it can work out ok.

So, by midnight I was back in London. I've missed home, family and friends- but, blimey the weather's crap!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Final New York Days

And so my last week in New York comes to an end. Friday I had the MPRE (professional ethics exam) which I'm pretty sure I failed, but will find out in 5 weeks - not too fussed if I have although it will slow down my admission to the NY Bar, and will have to come back and take it again. It was quite tough taking another exam after the relief of finishing the main bar exam!

Anyway, I was much more focussed on actually having some fun this week, with no studying (well, see above anticipated failure - there may have been some studying I should have done, but whatev...) and me and Boy having recovered from our respective colds/manflu.

And so we went - to breakfast, to lunch, to dinners, to the American Natural History museum (dinosaurs and lizards!), the Brooklyn Botanical gardens (pretty trees and flowers, lovely!), Wednesday I visited some chums, Thursday, the Brooklyn Museum - which was a real treat, lots of Egyptian Antiquities. Actually they have an amazing collection, I didn't really expect that (in little old Brooklyn) but it's actually up there with the Met and the Natural History Museums - 3rd best collection, or best museum or something in the whole of the US actually! It has trouble attracting people from Manhattan actually - I guess people have the same prejudice/ misinformation.

So for a lovely day, off the beaten track I strongly recommend a visit to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the Brooklyn Museum next door. They're both at the top of Prospect Park, in the lovely Park Slope area - and it won't be full of other tourists. If you like Ancient Egyptian or African stuff you'll appreciate it. We just watched Cleopatra (the Taylor/Burton version - not that there's another there?) so it was quite a good point to visit.

I must say, NY museums are quite pricey- I can't imagine going as a family with kids, which is often when you'd want to go, surely, to somewhere like the Natural History Museum? - at generally about $20 admission plus extra for special exhibitions, you're looking at over $100 for the average family - before you've even stepped foot in the cafe or the gift shop! Some museums do have suggested admissions so you can give less, and some have free days once a month or so, but it does make me appreciate the great resource that is London Galleries - all fantastic and free!

Yesterday, our penultimate New York day, was also Boy's birthday. Now for various reasons, we've never actually spent a birthday together in our many years, and given we'd just finished this round of tortuous exams, this was an occasion not to be missed. I asked Boy what he most wanted to do on his birthday - and he said ride bumper cars.

By which I assumed he meant bash the hell out of me in a bumper car, but I was game. And so after gifts in bed, and a fantastic brunch in Downtown Brooklyn (Eggs Norwegian with perfect poached eggs and chips, solid cup of tea (rare, round here - why do they always give you a cup of hot water and a tea bag? Don't they know you need boiling water to make a decent cup of tea? So if you give me a cup of hot water it's likely to be far below boiling by the time it gets to me and I can actually dunk my teabag? And why put the milk in the water if I ask for milk and thus make it worse in two ways - by making it even colder and mixing the teabag with the milk - which is obviously and MORTAL tea sin? DON'T you understand how I need a decent cup of tea? And wtf is with the flipping non-dairy creamer, don't you know that stuff is crap?! And don't you have anything other than Liptons which is just brown floor dust?!! Is PG tips or a Tetley too much to ask?!! -

Woah, serious tangent. Ok I feel strongly about tea. But seriously, know that milk in with the teabag is wrong. Where was I?

Yes - so brunch, mimosas and an excellent (I'm told) corned beef hash. Yummy. Sated and happy, we headed to Coney Island - a tacky seaside area - not quite Blackpool or Margate, but maybe that's just because it was a gorgeous, sunny day and so it looked nice. But otherwise, not a great piece of urban planning - spoils the lovely beach view! We went on the big ferris wheel - with swinging cars that made my poached eggs consider a reappearance - and the bumper cars, where I bumped and was bumped equally.

After some icecream (massive triple-baller, naturally) and a walk along the Boardwalk, we headed back to change and drop off shopping from the morning. Then to Central Park and a dance show - we had thought we were seeing something Mozarty but it actually was a Samoan interpretive dance show inspired by Mozart's Requiem. Yes. Exactly.

Now, consider how much sense interpretive dance usually makes. Now frame that in the context of a foreign language - well poetry in a foreign language, and different cultural references and norms as to movement, music, sound and physicality generally. Add in the fact that we got there just as it was starting and so had no time to look at the programme, it was a tad baffling. Mostly people shuffling about the stage very slowly, or in a quick stepping way that reminded me of our mouse...but very interesting even if we had no idea what was going on. I assumed it was about death, and I think that was in there somewhere!

We had time for a night-time walk through Central Park, which really is a magical place. You really have this feeling of being in the middle of something - somewhere important, and somewhere important in Central Park, and Manhattan generally. Or New York city generally. Then we crossed Manhattan to get to the Brooklyn Bridge, which we planned to walk over to get to our dinner reservation. It was full of Frenchies, and to be avoided if you're afraid of heights (look down through the gaps in the boards and you will see down onto the motorway or the water) but a lovely view of the Brooklyn and Manhattan skylines.

We dined at the lovely River Café, which was lovely. Even though I nearly landed on my face walking to our table on their nightly waxed floor (and on leaving, but we were the last couple to leave so by then it was empty). The staff were attentive and helpful, we had a window seat and a view of the entire Manhattan skyline (think of the view they always show in films - or on Friends - lovely) and the food was amazing. Lobster out of the shell (how they managed it in one piece I have no idea), cooked in butter and I don't know what else - crack, I presume, nothing natural can taste that good). Unfortunately, the floor was a bit overwaxed for my soles' liking and I nearly face planted...on the way in and out.

Oh well - luckily I'm not easily embarrassed any more!

And so we got a taxi back to the flat, then had a nice candle lit glass of wine before going to bed...unfortunately we kinda fell asleep and started smelling burning. A big pillow/cushion thing on the bed had caught aflame...Boy helpfully tossed it on the floor, not realising the drop and roll thing wasn't really intended for synthetic items - and so natch, we had to dump the cushion, and leave burn marks on the rug and floor - slightly affected the ambience as well!

Still, no injuries and overall - a fantastic day, that really captured the magic of a good New York Day. It's a big, dirty grimy, expensive city like any other, so I'm sure that bad New York days really suck. But I can't help wanting to return- and soon. I will definitely look into an LLM programme there.

If only to be able to taste more buttery-crack sautéed lobster!

*sigh* - as they say, I think:

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Dreaming of Bonfires

Had my final class yesterday - on Professional Responsibility, I have a final exam on Friday.

I have one more book to add to my mountain of books - I'm not going to take them back to London, but I have to hold onto them until November, when the results come out.

At which point I can either give them back to BarBri and get my book deposit back - I think not - or I will probably sell them on. They will give you back $250 and scare you by saying that if you sell the books it's a breach of copyright or something - but people often sell them on Ebay etc. I think for about $700, which is much fairer given that you pay $1500 for the books themselves. From this year to next, February or Jan little will have changed (February's Barbri lot use the same 2008 books in fact) so I should hopefully recoup some costs. So now that I've sold the fantastic Albany experience, I'm sure I can entice someone to buy some second hand lovely law books!


Boy is pushing for a sacrificial pyre disposal method. I think this would be unwise at this stage.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Visiting Albany

Sunday (21,234 calories, 1 unit alcohol, no cigarettes- though I could have done with some.)

. don't worry, I don't go in for that Bridget Jones rubbish. (except for the Mr Darcy bit, obviously!). On the Sunday before the exam, I started to get sick. Seriously hampered my last minute cramming ability as there were several of the small areas I still had to learn - like Corporations, Agency and Partnership and Conflicts. And Federal Jurisdiction.
Ok, by Sunday I still had a lot to learn. I don't think I ever finished the mouse story - I caught the second one on Sunday night as well - which was good as we didn't want to come home to either a kitchen crawling with mice, or the tempting perfume of dead mouse caught in a trap!

Monday I felt a bit better, but it was just a lull in the storm as I would find out. Monday we also took the train up to Albany, which was about 2 and a half hours into upstate New York. Really nice scenery going up there, and the trains were nice and comfy. The river views were spoilt on me though, my brain was so Bar exam-embroiled that when I saw the river all I could think of were the different theories of riparian rights (natural and prescription, if you're interested...).

And so to Albany. It seems every one else had decided to take the same train, because it was full of people cramming Property and New York Practice. We got to Albany station and were shuttled to our hotel. No 5 star splendour for us - all that was left was a Holiday Inn, 4 miles from the testing location.

You see, the majority of people taking the Bar are funded (in the same was as Firms pay for the LPC) by BigLaw lawfirms. And so as the lawfirms do this every year, they book all the hotel rooms (and Albany is nothing but hotel rooms, but more on that later) up way in advance - by January/February you're hard pushed to get a room downtown during Bar exam dates. And so when the self-funded schmucks like myself come round to booking, you get stuck in a Holiday Inn 4 miles away.

Now, don't get me wrong- I'm no snob about hotels or nuffink. But as we were to find out, this town was not ready for 20,000 exam applicants to descend upon it. Taxis would not guarantee times, because everyone wanted one. When you managed to order one to the hotel, people stole it (the morning of the exam). The hotel's 'free' shuttle service? All booked up - and also totally useless, and the staff were no help. This is where staying in a posh hotel helps, because you basically pay for them to get crap done - and be nice to you!

And so, on Tuesday, the New York day of the Exam, we had ordered a taxi, which someone stole and then waited around. When another taxi pulled up, and we got in with another couple to split the ride, she informed us that it would be $12 each. Which is not much, granted, but it sounded fishy. Upon later investigation - i.e. asking a nice taxi driver later - she had indeed ripped us off, and should only have charged us $12 for the 1st person, $2 each after that, and that we should contact the Dept of Commerce! (there were 5 of us in there, it was a big car). It's not the amount that counts here, it's the fact that someone is ripping you off because they know you have to get to a Bar exam and you have no choice.

Waiting to get into the exam hall, was like hell. Winding lines of people who had no idea where they were going, but somehow we knew we were destined for a common evil. Except once you got inside, rather than being hot - it was freezing! We had been advised to bring layers, but I hadn't anticipated needing a bear fur to get me through it! We were presented with green bracelets on entering the room, that were not to be removed for the 2 days.

And so by lunchtime, Albany - normally a dead capital town, with only state politicians wandering around - was filled with thousands of students with green armbands, carrying their belongings in transparent plastic sandwich bags. It's an incredibly anonymous experience.
As for actual lunch, I counted 1 cafe, a Starbucks and something like a Subway. To cater to us all.
The exam itself on Tuesday, was hard. We were 2 to a table, about 200 in my room, which was a small room. I'm glad I wasn't in one of the massive lecture halls. I think I did ok, there was about a 1/3 of each question that I had no idea about, but I think I did ok in the rest of the questions. I did mess up a little on time, spending too long on the first question, and then writing my answers in the wrong booklets (doh). In the afternoon I also made a massive boo-boo by not reading carefully and so my answer was 1/2 wrong in the MPT task. Which would explain why I ran out of time! By the last 5 minutes, I was writing so hard and fast that my writing was illegible and I could hear my neighbour tutting as the table was shaking!

I was one of those people that you hate in exams. Getting up constantly to go to the loo, sniffling, and dropping my pen. And asking for more paper.

But by Wednesday I was worse. Add coughing and sneezing, and a fair bit of groaning to the mix. My cold was hitting its peak of general ickyness and fuzzy-headedness - which was great on the multistate day, which requires you to be able to think fast on those multi-choice questions. The morning was tough, and people looked dazed by lunchtime. I did not like my chances of being any higher than chance on that portion. The prep I had done did not seem to have prepared me at all, the MCQs were so hard!

Luckily, the afternoon seemed easier - which is just as well as I had real problems thinking straight. They were shorter and more straightforward, so I didn't need to spend as long on each. Which for me, meant I could spend longer just trying to get my eyes and brain to focus. Halfway through the afternoon I thought I couldn't carry on because I just wanted to curl up and sleep and/or die - but I powered on until the end. And I was done with the Bar exam!

I walked down Capitol Hill to go find Boy and collect our bags. We were getting the hell out of Albany! The people were unfriendly, the food sucked (the last two days we had had Holiday Inn for breakfast, where the eggs and the hashbrowns tasted identical. As did the coffee and danish, and in the evenings the only option was a Sports Grill bar which just served fried stuff, the most of which I couldn't eat (being a semi-veggie and all)) and you couldn't find a taxi.

We had to wait for a while at the train station, and then the train stopped in the middle of nowhere for ages, and then the subway took frigging ages (as it was late night by then and it was stopping at all the stops) but eventually, we were back to NYC, if a tad dazed and confused, and back to our little corner of Park Slope. Where there are vegetables, friendly shopkeepers and taxis aplenty.

Now it's done with, I think it went ok ish. I think I have an equal chance of passing or failing - MCQ is really not my thing. I'm not too fussed, to be honest.

Just as long as I never have to go back to Albany!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

10907 you may leave the exam room

Finished the exam...less than an hour ago. Waiting for a train back to NYC now.

May I never have to set foot in the Gehenna that is Albany!

Blow by blow account of the horrors to follow. I just plan to sleep for 18 hours or so first....

Monday, 28 July 2008

Walking into the Bar exam

Bar exam is tomorrow and Wednesday. *gulp*. I'm developing a cold, which should be in full swing tomo/weds. Murphy and his sodding law!

I feel ok ish with Wills, NY Practice, Crim Pro, some of Property, Domestic relations, maybe contracts...I still need to do some work on Corporations and some of the minor subjects (conflicts, Federal Jurisdiction) for the New York day, and then tomorrow night I'll do last minute Multistate questions on the big 6 topics (Crim law/ Pro, Evidence, Real Property, Constitutional Law, Contracts and Torts). I know you're not meant to study the day before, and the night of an exam - but desperate times, desperate measures. Even if it doesn't help it's not like not studying is going to help me. Boy and I have been quizzing each other most of the weekend, interspersed with my moaning 'I'm not weellll, it's not fair....' (you can see the attraction, can't you?). a few short hours up I go to Albany, where I will be staying in a luxurious Holiday Inn for the exam days. (Everything is booked up well before I thought to book). I will still have to get a taxi to the exam as a result, which is a pain, rather than being able to walk in if I'd found a hotel in the conference district. Anyway, no biggie!

Most people (myself included) assume that a big city like NYC is the state capital. Wrong - crappy little towns elsewhere (Albany, NY, Olympia - Washington (instead of Seattle), Salem - Oregon (instead of Portland) etc) are selected as state capitals in order to boost the fledgling economy there. As a result, the only thing you would go to Albany for is: a conference, the Bar exam, or maybe to file a corporation certificate in person?! I don't know.

Will update on the flat florae and faunae situation - fairly funny story - later!

Wish me luck! Adieu, mes amis!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Eek! A mouse!

So, I was having dinner with my girlfriend the other night. She had had a big bust up with her bloke, and swanned off for a night in a posh hotel - and naturally she needed my help to fill up the huuuuge fluffy bed and nick all the toiletries. A friend in need is a friend indeed and all that!

So, we were at dinner, and as a pair of London lasses in the Big Apple we were talking about London things and New York things. My friend was just moving into a new flat, in the Upper East Side, an area she had chosen because a lot of the flats and condos were new and didn't suffer the same infestation problems you get in old places, all over the city. Cool places like Greenwich Village, Soho are particularly bad because of the combo of old buildings, and lots of restaurants throwing out a lot of rubbish. So the place is teeming with rodents and roaches. Lovely.

I thought then how lucky I had been to not be somewhere infested, I would not be able to sleep a wink in a house with roaches!!

The next day, it was a dog hot day - I took about 50 showers, incl one just before going to bed. I get out of the shower and head to the kitchen for a cool glass of water when Boy stops me.

"Don't come in here"

"Why?!" (I'm getting ready to get a bit bolshie - no one tells me where to go)

"There's a mouse"

At this point I note Boy's position, sat on a chair with his legs pulled up.

Indeed there are two mice, scampering round a corner of the kitchen, he tells me. He adds that he thinks they're mice... but they could be rats...

You think I jinxed myself at dinner?!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Bill of Rights? I scoff in your badly drafted face

I hate constitutional law.

No, I love constitutional law. Ethics, principles, right and wrong and all that. Helping people and making society a better place. Good stuff.

I hate AMERICAN constitutional law. Because it is stupid. Really, it is.

The gradual, so called 'protection' and 'rights' that have been developed haven't been done in any principled way, which is what I expected of a country with a written constitution. I'm used to things like the ECHR which says you know - Right to life, in section ('s been a while) blah blah, and lo and behold there you will find the right to life, and close by all the other rights, sitting quietly together and eating croissants (they're european init?).

Where will you find rights protected in the Constitution? Under the Privileges and Immunities of Citizenship clause? Not really, that store is all but empty apart from a few dusty right to travel issues. Maybe under the Equal protection clause? Kinda, except only against the local government, not against the big, federal government.

No, you'll find civil rights protection since about, er, all of it (what little there is, but that's just me being snarky) under the Commerce Clause. Yes, the commerce clause. It's like the Supreme Court and congress and academics have sat and thought 'Hmm where's a good place to put this that I'll remember easily, that makes sense?' and then shoved it in any old nook and cranny, like a wayward teenager cleaning his room by just shoving everything under the bed.

Or a senile aunt putting the phone in the freezer and not remembering until she goes to defrost a chicken. And also finds the cat there. American constitutional law is as logical as the mind of a senile old biddy.

It's doing this senile biddy's nut in! Maybe I can plead the 5th in my exam - now, that's either the right to not incriminate myself by (filling in wrong answers), or the requirement that everyone sing the national anthem, hand on heart at ballgames. There's no way to know which...

Monday, 21 July 2008

Will do better next time

I don't know about anyone else, but I've always been a bit of a last minute person. School projects done on the last night, tutorial reading done on the tube or trying to blagg it in class. Prepping for a moot half an hour before each round, promising myself that next round I would do more prep. Even when I got to the final round, when there wasn't a next time.

Anyway, try as I might I simply haven't been able to get rid of this awful habit of not getting anything done until the 59th minute of the 11th hour. Which is why I ended up writing an essay for submission to Barbri for marking on the subway....

There was some logic to this. I thought, rather than spend the full 90 minutes (it was an MPT which is all about 'lawyer skills', not substantive law) I'll do it without looking at the handout and see what I can produce 'naturally', i.e. what I would be able to do if all else fails in the exam. It arrived in the post yesterday - I passed! I found this rather hilarious.

Unfortunately the MPT is only worth 10% - still that's 5% I can count on in the exam. Not sure I can say the same about property at the moment...I'm drowning in vested contingent interests and remaindermen :S Whoever they are.

Next time I take the Bar I really will work harder....!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Anti-social pre-exam jitters.

A while ago, I met a good friend's new girlfriend. She had been the year above, or a couple of years above me, and upon meeting her I realised that she was the rather surly, serious looking girl I had sometimes seen at uni. Which was fine, all 3rd years seemed quite serious (when I got to 3rd year, I realised why). What did not impress me was that she had once shushed me loudly in the library, when I was talking. I was trying to help some foreign students find their way! So it wasn't a great first impression, as I thought that was frankly a bit uptight.

And now I have become a wretched parody of that. In an attempt to make a dent in the recommended 12 hours minimum work a day (!!!!) set by BarBri (which for me is prob very necessary as I haven't been doing the 6 hours a day to date...) we've been going to the Brooklyn Public Library. Which has a very pretty facade, and is nice and cool inside. But stress makes me irritable - with the result that every slight noise, smell irritates the heck out of me.

Americans seem to think that it's an infringement on freedom to not have 24-hour access to food, so to this end people eat on the train, in lectures, in exams, and even in libraries. Now I think the latter is plainly wrong ( I mean eating in the subway just seems like a bad idea - it's basically an open sewer) but in the library I really do not want a large woman chomping her way loudly through a basket of oranges in my face. Especially when she's dribbling and the smell is distracting.

I mean gahd. And someone in there was BREATHING REALLY LOUDLY. Did they grow up in a barn?!*

If exams achieve one thing, it's to make us Scrooges!

* that part was a joke, Kinda. But the food thing was annoying.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Domestic Relations, monkeys.

Had my last lecture today - Domestic relations. All about how Harry and Wanda (H + W) get married, have kids, and what happens when things go wrong. Pretty easy going stuff, as the lecturer noted, we are more than familiar in today's society with family break ups and stuff. And a day spent watching crappy daytime tv will probably educate you in all elements of adultery, paternity conflicts, maintenance and child custody spats...!

A suitably low-brow note to end the course on. Bar exam is 2 weeks today - eek! I'm feeling ok about some subjects - Wills and Dom Rel (above) have seemed more straightforward that I was expecting. So I may be ok on the New York (essay) day - which was the day I was really worried about after all, still have lots of work to put in though because there are lots of subjects - Civil procedure remains the impenetrable behemoth!

On the multiple choice side - it's proving tricky with subjects like Torts, where all the answer choices could be right depending on how you judge the situation. I hope in the exam they are clearer instances of e.g., negligence or non -negligence than the practise q's I've done so far reflect!

Post exam- I'll have about a week free to really explore NY. Thinking of a trip up to Niagara Falls, that would be cool. (Or down...? Don't actually know where they are!).

In the meantime I have been listening to the Arctic Monkeys on constant repeat on the old Ipod these days...must download some new music to help stave off the crazy. Am I the only one that needs loud music to dance about like I'm having a fit to in times of stress?

This is when an extra room in the flat would be really helpful, Boy's peals of laughter are somewhat inhibiting! :P

Talking of monkeys though, the BarBri people keep telling us how in many respects, monkeys trained to use 2B pencils could pass portions of the exam, and we are infinitely more qualified than monkeys. Some days I'm really not so sure!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Identity fraud

Looks like someone has hijacked Minx's blog! It can now be found here.

This is a horrible world we live in. Reading the newspaper yesterday brought me to tears. In one, slim daily section this is the selection of stories covered:

-- Guantamano Bay - How prisoners who are appearing pro se are not being allowed paper (to write motions on). Yay for due process.
-- Wiretap laws in the US
-- Darfur - NGOs and other charities being kicked out of the country because they are accused of 'talking to' the ICC and the UN. Human rights extinct like the dodo.
-- Zimbabwe
-- Iraq - see picture above. Man crying over his father's body after a bombing on Thurday. 4 others were wounded.
-- Number of US soldiers killed in Irag to date- 4110.
-- Fraud by a Housing official in New York, who was selling housing vouchers for profit (the vouchers are intended to go to poor people who can't afford housing in NY, so they only pay a proportion of their salary for rent and the govt picks up the rest. So she was screwing over the government, the poor people paying her, and the really poor being denied the vouchers).
-- Iran, nuclear weapons and falsification of pictures.
-- Story on how Israel won't let 3 Fulbright Scholars out of the Gaza strip to take up their scholarships in the US. They have passed US security checks - several times, (and it's bloody hard to get a Fulbright) but Israel has deemed them a 'Security threat'. Right.
Everyone in Gaza is still not allowed out, and nothing is allowed in. And I thought ghettos were out of fashion these days...

Yes, it's a lovely world. And now everyone's identity is being stolen and all. Great.
No wonder people read Heat and the like. Much easier to think about who has a boob job than consider that today is the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Not a pleasant valley Sunday

Yay - paper didn't get nicked today.

Nay - had to be out of the house by 8 to get to an all - day mock exam.

Yay - only a mock, so still a few more weeks 'til the real thing.

Nay - realisation that I didn't even know what area of law some of the questions were about.

Yay - umm. My timing was alright? Managed the 200 multiple choice questions in plenty of time (suggested 1.8 minutes per question, I was a fair bit faster than that but then again going 'eeny meeny miny mo...' is a bit quicker than actually than actually thinking it out.

Nay - I have the answers here ready to self-grade and tot up my score. Maybe I'll leave that for the morning, easier to take bad news when the sun is shining...!

PS - Boy made me laugh when I got home. Commented that there was no food in the fridge. But I just did a big shop yesterday?! I said, and then reeled off all the things I'd bought.
'But those are just ingredients!' he retorts. Haha. Guess the healthkick starts (again) tomo. Darn having a pizzeria round the corner. That delivers...


Ashamed to post this. I totted up my scores and I got...90 out of 200. Okay...89. I think anyway, I scribbled down my answers really roughly on scrap, and some may have gotten mixed up. Either way, it's 90 give or take a few. Well short of the 105 national average.

I mean it's understandable given I've done no work. Actually I was expected closer to 40. And I still have 2 Property lectures to make up so I couldn't have answered 2/3 of 33 questions with anything but guesswork. And for some reason Con law would not go in my head. There are 80 easy questions, 10 aren't marked (test questions for the next year), 20 are really hard, and the others are in between.

A passing mark in the exam is 125... so I have a fair bit of work to do. Just looking roughly, I mostly got questions wrong in Property, Constitutional law, and a few in Torts - surprisingly, cos that's an easy subject. Evidence and Crim I did ok in - which makes sense, as the lecturer in that subject was good, and they were one of the very first subjects. Whereas a week in I already wasn't paying attention I reckon.

Anyway, there's 12 hours of analysis to listen to online...better get cracking!!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Itchy Feet

Not for want of hygiene, my feet are often itchy. Especially when I see things like this. Isn't it brill?

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Hard at work

The title of the post unfortunately doesn't refer to me, although by now I really need to kick my ass into gear. Slight mixing of metaphors there, but go with me.

Rather, the other day when in the library and I noted someone snoring loudly in the corner, I poked Boy to say 'Look, he's working as hard as you are'. At then we went back to working (or surfing the web, as the case may have been...) for a bit. 10 minutes later, a loud crash is heard and the guy who had been snoring had fallen off his chair. People rushed over, but it became apparent that he had actually just fallen off his chair whilst sleeping. At which point it became a bit funny.

He may have had a couple of drinks, looked a bit worse for wear. In which case it seems a bit odd to go to a library, but there you go.

Yesterday I had a Trusts class, with a rickety old professor who lectured while sitting down (this still all on video). I've actually only got another 3 classes to go, eek! So I learned a few things about trusts.

In fact I probably learned more about trusts than I ever knew. I may have mentioned but I never really 'did' trusts in uni. The night before the exam, I was sure that I could learn it all in a night but then swiftly changed my mind when it became apparent I couldn't. As it was a combined Land Law/Trusts exam I was able to wing it on land law and scrape by somehow.

So I'm not in the best place to tell you what is different over here with Trusts, but a couple of things did strike me:

- the lecturer kept saying that Constructive Trusts and Resulting Trusts weren't really trusts, but equitable remedies. Well, ok in a strict sense maybe, but surely the Constructive Trust was the 'original' trust? Richard the Lionheart and people going off to the Crusades and leaving their property in 'trust' with others and all, wasn't that how it started? (I always listened when it seemed like we were going to get a 'story' in class).

- the Totten Trust. A cheap way of creating a trust, by opening a bank account in your name 'on trust for [Someone else]'. When you die, whatever is left in there goes to them. Until then you can take out, put in, shake it all about whichever way you like, with impunity. I thought that quite nifty. Maybe all this study (or not) is making me soft.

Currently listening to a Constitutional Law for Foreign Lawyers lecture online. It's full of the interesting stuff, the Federalist papers, separation of powers, individual rights, make-up of the Supreme Court, all the big cases (Brown v Board of Education, Miranda, Madison, etc). Constitutional law makes up 1/6 of the multistate exam, and so it's an important area, but those are all multiple choice questions.
Answer choices along the lines of:
X situation is:
a) Constitutional because XYZ
b) Constitutional because PQR
c) Unconstitutional because ABC
d) Unconstitutional because he is wearing a hat.

Riveting stuff. The other essay based exam won't have hardly any Con law in it, because the Board Examiners shy well clear of anything 'contraversial'. I.e. interesting. Only the dry, settled law would be covered. Yawn!

Supreme Court just handed down this week a judgment about the individual right to 'bear arms'. They came down on the side of constitutionality. Hardly surprising given the conservative nature of the present Supreme Court. Anyone catch Justice Scalia on 'Unreliable Evidence' a couple of months back? I nearly ground all me teeth off!

Haven't seen many guns in NYC mind. Prob just as well, I fear the Bar Exam will only get bleaker...:P

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Where there's a will, there's a way/ I heart Brooklyn

Don't get me wrong, Manhattan is v cool. I love going out to all these cool little bars and lounges in the Lower East Side. But this part of Brooklyn is great, I left my flat this morning, walked up my street where there were a couple of guys on the other side of the road fixing up a car, and a bunch of cute little Latino kids playing with a ball. They stopped as I was passing so as not to hit me, and waited until I was well out of reach before starting again - so polite. The cafe I'm in now serves proper tea, in a proper tea cup, is playing Erykah Badu and has big comfy armchairs, air con and no other customers. I like living in a neighbourhood.

Perfect way to laze about on a Saturday. And no-one nicked the paper today.

Unfortunately, I have to catch up on yesterday's Will's lecture which I could not make head nor tail of (as I had missed Wills 1 on Thursday - so all the lingo meant nothing to me). Also it was deadly dull. Deadly, deadly dull. What you can and can't do etc in a will.

Most of it obvious - you can't screw creditors (e.g. Visa) because they take priority, always. Interestingly however, you also can't screw your spouse. Ever. (Unless you're divorced or had the marriage annulled, in which case they're no longer your spouse I suppose).

If you try and screw them out of your estate, they can elect to have the will rejigged so that basically they still get a third. So you can't ever leave them less than a third.

You can however screw your kids in the will. (I think in France you can't even do that actually, but may be wrong). I guess I'll find out next year what the UK Law position is.

Which brings to mind a recent article in the NY times - a millionaire who went through life seemingly hating his kids, but left all his money to poor kids in Panama

Naturally his wife is disputing the will, and his lawyer is being accused of some dodgy dealing. Amusingly though, there is reference to the curmudgeon laughing when his will was referred to (i.e before he died) telling his step kids that they would laugh when they saw his will.

I'm afraid all this girl has to leave the world are a few bits of jewellery and a laptop - nothing to get litigatory over!

Friday, 27 June 2008

Arias in the Park

Last Friday's Opera in the park event was lots of fun. In Prospect Park, which is Central Park's Brooklyn cousin - and a hop skip and jump from my flat. I hadn't realised the pair of opera singers were actually married, they were v cute. They did a bunch of great arias, and then 5(!!!) encores, which was great. Covered all the favourites, La Traviata, Madame Butterfly etc.

We took a picnic, as it seems did the other million (or so it seemed) people in the park and had a very nice time. There were a bunch of bats (what is a collection of bats called?! A herd, a school? A battery?!) dancing in the air to the music, which amused Boy no end. Boys seem to like fighting games, machines (incl cars) and dangerous animals. These things elude me.

Classes nearly done with -woohoo. This week was Torts (Mon - wed). I think torts lecturers get an easy ride, because it's so easy to be a funny, entertaining lecturer with a subject that deals with cases focussing on people's stupidity and negligence. This guy was no disappointment, I'm sure the lectures would have been half as long without his anecdotes and jokes but they certainly made it less painful.

Wills today- not sure it will have the same humour potential!

Yesterday was a bit frantic, had to get all my documents in to the New York State Board of Examiners. I must say the fetish for paperwork here is almost as bad as in France - and that's saying something! I was waiting on a letter from my old seat of learning. I had requested this in April, May and again this month and yet it seems to have slipped them. So I woke up at 5am to call them early London time and insisted they send it over ASAP. Once I'd had a writing sample notarised, I had everything ready to send off.

I had to write only a short paragraph by hand in front of the notary, but my hand wasn't liking it. This doesn't bode well for a 2 day written exam! I suppose I have become too reliant on the old laptop...

Monday, 16 June 2008

Week 5 - No good every came of an accordian.

Blimey, this is the start of my fifth week here. Where on earth does the time go?

It always makes me feel incredibly old when I comment on time flying by- because that's what old people (i.e. adults and parents) would say when you were a wee bairn. Do you remember summer holidays, that would stretch on for ever? Good times.

So this week will be all about the music. I'm into my music, although I have neglected it for many years. I plan to see a fair amount of live music here, and really should see more when I get back to London. I don't like massive massive shows (saw the Rolling Stones at Twickenham a few years ago - I was stewarding, and it was so big everything seems to get distorted. In that case, I'd rather be at home with a cup of tea listening to it...I really am old at heart!).

Last night however, we saw a fab show, quite by chance. We went along to a venue in Park Slope, Brooklyn - not far from our modest summer abode - planning on seeing a comedy show that was well rated in the Time Out. It had obviously been wrongly listed, as it was actually a music show. In a basement bar, we heard the incredibly talented Theresa Andersson play. She's from New Orleans, by way of Sweden. Well, that was the way she put it but surely it's the other way round as she moved to New Orleans when she was 18. Either way, the influence on her style of music was clear - she had a fantastic, soulful singing voice, in the higher registers there was a Jeff Buckley esque-ness (I'm not music writer), and had some great songs. (Although I had a listen to stuff online and it was deff better live).

What was absolutely mental about the show, and elevated it beyond your average talented singer with a guitar was that she did all this looping stuff, with drums, guitar, violin, and backing vocals so that she started a song, built it up by putting in the bass line, rhythm, background singing, harmonies etc seamlessly, with the result that it sounded like you had a full band of 5/6 people on stage. Her final song was a cappella ; sounding very much like a spiritual. She had so much energy on stage it was great.

As someone who studied music all the way up to the lofty intellectual heights of the GCSE I was amazed at how she kept all these different rhythms and things going on. Everything (to me anyway) seemed to be in excellent time and pitch, and it was all controlled with her feet, with knobs and dials whilst she was singing her heart out!

Didn't have any cash on me (not enough for a CD anyway, I'm too used to sticking everything on card) but I'll definitely be going to her website to get a copy.

She was the headline act and was then followed by an all girl group. They were called the...walking Hellos or something. Now, as much as I try to not judge people on appearances, their look didn't really match the sound*. I think 'The Librarians' might have been a better name, they had floral chintzy style dresses on, unkempt hair (not the bedhead, toni & guy look, more a family of sparrows live here). And definitely look like they looked after cats. The lead vocalist wasn't too bad, but was drowned out by the accordian player, who stood centre stage, bow-legged and looking like she was on a different planet. She was certainly working to outerworldly musical scale, that's for sure.

If there's one thing I know it's that, indeed no good ever comes of an accordion. Hopefully we won't be seeing any Friday night - which is when I shall be attending an Opera in the Park event - that's Prospect Park, not Central Park. It was designed by the same people as Central Park, a few years ago (so once they'd ironed the kinks out :P) and is located in Brooklyn, about 4 blocks from me. The Opera will be in the North of the Park, and I've managed to get some tickets - looking forward to it, should be great!

* Boy said the sound was of 26 chickens being strangled in a bathtub by a bad guitarist. I thought that a tad unkind.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Some bastard...

...nicked my paper this morning. How low down and dirty! And it's raining out, don't really fancy getting another one just yet.

Stealing another's Sunday paper is unforgivable. Sundays are all about the lazy brunch and buckets of coffee, a paper big enough to give the paper-boy a hernia, and not getting out of your robe until you get ready for cocktails in the evening... Right?

I hope he gets a really bad paper cut.

Week 4 - Chinatown, Moma

Having not posted for a while, I apologise profusely and shall now spoil you with a veritable deluge of posts.

I am trying slowly to get around the sights and sites of New York City. It's a bit tricky with the classes, and all the reading I'm meant to be doing...and my innate laziness. I suppose it's a bit different being here for a summer rather than 2 weeks, you feel like you have a lot longer and so you push yourself to do a bit less.

So I haven't been out and about every day, but I have seen a fair bit. Partying in the Lower East side a few nights- reminded me of some cool places in Hoxton if you know that neck of the woods. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be a clubbing scene here, it's more of a bar and lounge place. Now that's very cool for 90% of the time, but my girlfriend and I want to get our boogie on to some lame-ass music (you know, the kind that tells you to shake your booty/junk/etc and otherwise offends my feminist, empowered thinking?). I am informed by New Yorkers that 'clubs' here are more full of people standing around posing in sunglasses. I had enough of that in Paris, no thanks!

Chinatown the other night - that was great! My experience with chinese food has been a bit hit and miss and so I tend to be a bit wary of it. I don't eat meat, really, and I'm not a big fan of really greasy, msg-filled food and seeing as the usual offerings are plates of greasy, msg pork, I've tended to be put off. However, there are some really great Chinese restaurants here, and the waiter was really helpful (telling me when I pointed to something on the menu, no, 'pork inside'...'pork inside'...'pork inside') and we ended up with some v delish food. Very fresh, perfectly cooked scallops, yummy squid. And baked red bean buns - I am addicted to these now:

These ones are steamed, rather than baked like the ones we had but still - yummy.

Friday night after class, we went to the Museum of Modern Art. I like my modern art, to be honest (excepting the building itself) I preferred the contents of the Pompidou Centre
to the European Paintings in the Louvre (I know, blasphemy). But a lot of modern art is just about the artist. Usually naked. Some great installations though, and it was a really short trip so didn't see the lot on offer. Recognized a few things - the Warhol, Shrigley, etc. They have a Rothko exhibition on it seems, but somehow managed to miss that. There was a great installation close to the entrance - a fan attached to the ceiling, swinging in arcs, impossible to know (except by complex geometry I suppose?) where it would swing next. It was positioned high enough to not actually hit anyone on the head, but by an optical illusion when it headed for you it seemed low enough to come close to knocking your noggin off, which was slightly disarming!

I don't think that picture is the same atrium at MoMa. We'll have to go back another evening to see more. It's free Fridays, which is why we chose that day.
We had a very classy meal Friday night...a kebab from a street vendor. The variety and ubiquity of street food here is quite amazing. I suppose people are too busy to wander into a cafe or shop!

We're started getting the NY times delivered this weekend, I love love love this newspaper. I'm generally a Times or Guardian girl, sometimes the Indie too, but the NY times seems to cover a lot more in the way of World events.

This really is a country of two halves. One half is the fried chicken, country singing, redneck 'America' that we often mock, and yes there is a vast deluge of dumbed down, diluted and crass food and entertainment on offer. Times Square for instance - is just a tad tacky with the neon and all the chains of not so great restaurants and pizza joints. But for people who read, who take an interest, who are interested in food - there's some of the best food on offer, amazing culture etc, and I think the New York Times and Washington Post probably outdo our papers at home. No? I might just be overly enamoured (enamored?) with the way that the NY Times uses lots of commas in its article titles.

So, a slightly rambling, random post - but life is a bit rambling and random these days! Shall now visit everyone else's blogs to see what you've all been up to!

ETA: Well done on getting to the of the BVC people, (and the GDL Swiss Tony) - good luck for pupillage interviews Minxy and Android! Dream set indeed, you deserve no less!

The exam itself

Has been a bit of a while since I posted. Not sure why - the first week or so I suppose I was busy, and after that it was 'oh I must post'...but I haven't anything interesting to say, and after this gap it should be interesting. Hmm. I've opted for just posting!

So, I'm about 3 weeks in to Bar classes. I haven't gone into much detail here so far about the course, but I suppose here is as good a place as any to do that. So far I've had classes in Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, New York Practice (i.e. Civil Procedure), Corporations law, Real Property, Constitutional Law and Evidence.

Actually, I missed 2 of the Real Property lectures (out of 3) because my lip blew up to massive proportions. Seriously, I could be an Angelina Jolie lip double on a normal day, but this was ridiculous. It just kept getting bigger and bigger on one side, until I looked like I'd been a few rounds with Tyson. (Ok I'm a wimp, it would have been more like half a round). When we went out to join the gym a few blocks away, Boy noted rather worriedly that he hoped people didn't think he was hitting me! Anyway, I couldn't possibly go out looking like that so no classes for a couple of days.

Lips back to normal size now. I still have these classes to go:

Conflict of Laws
Federal Jurisdiction and procedure
NY professional responsibility
Secured transactions/Commercial Paper
Domestic Relations
Worker's Comp

I think that's it. Gosh that makes me realise I'm actually quite far in to the course. I forgot to mention Agency and Partnerships - had that lecture, the lecturer was great. The kind of bizarre that you start off thinking 'oookay then, he doesn't get out much' and by the end you're nearly in tears with the cumulative effect of his quirks. And that isn't me being mean, he was clearly a comic genuis, exaggerating his quirks for comic effect (he noted that he was 'very weird' by the end). Some other lecturers have been dire, making really awful jokes and puns or just having really bad voices. Corporations guy sounded like a gameshow host (I didn't think people really had those voices) and Real Property lady had the whiniest, most nasal voice I've ever heard. Tres New york. In the main though, they've been pretty good.

We are provided with a 'Paced program' (see, look up Enrolled Student Center if you're interested, I can't link to it directly) which advises a few hours of work each night. Admittedly I haven't been doing much of this. The distraction of wandering around Brooklyn, or going to the cinema, or indeed anything else has been too great. However, I am here to study and it would be fantastically stupid to fail this so I really must. My last lecture was Evidence on Friday, and the lecturer noted that if we hadn't started was the time.

The stuff really isn't hard, conceptually. A lot is obviously, completely new to me (degrees of culpability in crim law, all the civil and criminal procedure stuff, evidence, constitutional law, other subjects I didn't study at uni) but it's not hard to get your head around. The content however is fairly staggering. We are provided with handouts for lectures which covers the bare minimum that we need to know for the exam. These usually run to about 40 pages per lecture. I think there are 40 lectures in total, so 40 x 40 = 1600 pages. That can't be right?! Ok, so that's what I will have to memorise. Otherwise, I imagine it's very similar to stuff that people have covered on the BVC/LPC (minus the 'skills' stuff).

There is a difference when it comes to the exam though. Both in terms of how the exam itself is structured and how we are advised to respond. It works like this:

Day 1: One Multistate Performance Test (MPT) question (worth 10%), five NY essay questions (worth 40%) and 50 NY multiple-choice questions (worth 10%).

AM session (3 hours and 15 min.): 3 essays and 50 NY multiple choice questions.

PM session (3 hours): 2 essays and one 90 minute MPT question.

Day 2: MBE (worth 40%). 100 multiple choice questions each in the AM (3hours) and PM (3 hours) sessions.

And in plain English that means: Multiple choice questions in the main.

In the essay questions we have been told not to use cases (yay, cos I don't know any (apart from Roe v. Wade ) nor Statute references, except to refer to for example the CPLR (the Civil Procedure Law and Rules, equivalent to the CPR). We can refer to the acronym without detailing , or indeed even knowing, the full name. Any terms of art, e.g consideration, must be explained. I'm not used to doing that, so I may find that a bit tricky. That's a bit more like Philosophy or Geography - people I knew studying those subjects at uni had to define everything whereas we lawyers could res ipsa loquitor with impunity.

It looks like I may finally have to learn what a trust is. I managed to get through my entire law degree without knowing... !

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Law & Order & 19th Century Yobs - NYC Days 7 & 8

First, the yobs. 19th Century toffs who scratched their names into ancient relics in Egypt. I say toffs because it was only the very rich who could afford to travel back then. And naturally, they thought they owned the world and could go around plundering as they wished. (I have a great picture of an example of such graffiti on my phone, but haven't the capacity to get it onto here unfortunately! - 'Patterson 1821' etched onto a block excavated from the pyramids in Ancient Egypt- he might as well have written 'I woz ere' )

The Met is great, beautiful building. I don't know anything about architecture butI loved it. The stuff on exhibition is obviously great, and interesting and all that, but I wasn't really in the mood to really ponder it much. And having been to the Louvre in Paris, the British Museum, museums in other parts of Europe...I'm at the stage where I can't just look at things and say 'oh that's pretty, isn't it amazing that it's so well preserved?'. I need to actually read some stuff before I go to look at things. So I plan to buy some books and then go back several times to the Met, spending days in there soaking it all up.
Yesterday though, I mostly wandered around just appreciating things on an aesthetic level. A few things stuck in my mind, the pillars and recesses of the building, the beautiful marble floors, stairs and walls, some of the really large exhibits like the Chinese garden and a big re-built Egyptian...actually not sure what it was! In the chinese area, there was this gorgeous wardrobe, dark wood, huge hinges, doors that looked like they weighed a tonne. It looked modern, but was from the Ming dynasty (C16th). Amazing, I wish I had ceilings high enough (and a bank balance to match) to accommodate something like that.

Walked up and down Park Avenue, 5th Avenue, Madison Avenue etc. It would be so amazing to live there, but there are downsides. For example the 'corner shop' (ok, restaurant) served a $20 open sandwich. Which really means half a sandwich. Though I suppose if you like on Madison Avenue you wouldn't baulk at spending $20 on half a sandwich.

And I went back to the Union Street Market where we sampled organic jams, ciders, and the yummiest brownie I've had for a long time. Some really nice fresh produce and stuff on offer, all local etc.

Friday afternoon's lecture was Criminal Procedure: warrants, double jeopardy, trial rights etc. The lingo was (for me) reminiscent of all those American lawyer programmes- Law & Order etc. Some interesting aspects - like how even if a warrant is deficient in scope or validity (in the context of the 4th Amendment right against unlawful search and seizure) it can be 'remedied' by the Good faith of the executing police officer. Riiiight, cos that's a sufficient protection! In my head I kept saying, but PACE allows for this and this...etc etc.

The lecturer told a funny story (to illustrate the point that a magistrate approving a search warrant needs to be free from bias, otherwise the warrant is invalid) about a magistrate in Georgia (I think - might have been Virginia). The State decided that it would be a good idea to pay her no base salary, but then pay $25 for each warrant issue. Lo and behold this particular magistrate ended up having a significantly higher than normal percentage of warrants issues (when considered against the number sought, and issuing percentages of other magistrates in the area).

However, in some instances US Law seems to offer better protections that UK Law. For instance, the 5th Amendment (right to silence so as not to incriminate yourself) attaches to any proceeding, civil, criminal or regulatory in nature. And a prosecutor or jury is not allowed to draw adverse inferences from a defendant's decision to 'plead the 5th', which I believe is no longer the case in the UK. (Of course whether in fact jurors do actually draw adverse inferences is an entirely separate issue- but the fact that judges cannot direct them to do this is important.)

Finally, it's a gorgeous sunny, memorial day weekend - which means no more classes 'til Tuesday, woo!