A couple of weeks ago, on eBay, a woman listed an Ede & Ravenscroft barrister’s wig and gown for sale. “Condition: used,” she wrote. In the item description, she added: “After five years’ hard slog and penury, I (i.e. MasterCard) purchased this wig, gown and collar for about £650 at Ede and Rip-off. Reflecting the sorry state of my legal career, the wig was hardly worn, although a few hairs have been pulled out of place (as pictured), no doubt in frustration at the sorry state of life at the junior bar…If you… would like to try [the profession] out, the same can be achieved by running yourself about £35,000 into debt and arranging for someone to shout at you in public about cases you haven’t read because you only got about half the papers about 10 minutes ago. Cancel your social life… To get the full effect, spend copious amounts of time on trains and buses with periodic crying into laptop…I do not recommend you pursue a career at the bar unless you absolutely love the work so much that you are prepared to do it for nothing.”

Julia Llewellyn Smith in the Telegraph writes about the crises that the UK Criminal Bar is facing as a result of legal aid cuts, the empowerment of solicitor-advocates and the potential outsourcing of ‘legal aid contracts’ and criminal defence to the cheapest bidder; firms such as those set up by companies like Tesco or HGV hire firm Eddie Stobart. Such proposals, particularly outsourcing to the cheapest bidder, is deeply troubling since, as the Telegraph reports, “While until now defendants have been able to choose a lawyer, under the new proposals they will be assigned to the first available, regardless of whether they are experienced in that area of the law or not. Prosecutors, however, will be selected from a group of lawyers with expertise in the relevant area of the law, giving the prosecution an advantage from the outset. Firms will be paid the same whether they win or lose a case, meaning the pressure will be paramount to turn it around as quickly as possible, making it in their interests to persuade clients to plead guilty, whether that is in the client’s interest or not.”

One criticism, quoted in the article, echoes a sentiment that I hold about in-house counsel: “I don’t want to sound snobbish, maybe some of these people will be very good and try their best, but every barrister I know is worried that if they’re no longer self-employed, their motives will no longer be to try their best for their client, but to make a profit for their boss.

– Morshed,
Dhaka

The UK “Visa Bond” Scheme

Visitor bond schemes are not the answer to the problems of immigration

As some of you may know, the UK Government is considering piloting a visa scheme where citizens of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kenya and Nigeria have to pay a GBP 3000 “bond” to be granted a visa of over 6-months in duration. While the specifics of such a scheme have yet to be detailed, the backlash from the Commonwealth has been tremendous with many politicians and policy-makers demanding that reciprocal arrangements be put in place for British tourists. If such a scheme is trialled by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, it will not only alienate potential tourists, who may not have GBP 3000 to spare, but also Commonwealth students and residents in the UK, who would not be able to have their family and friends visit if they wished to. 

This Guardian article rightly points out, in further detail, why such a scheme is not a good idea in its present, nebulous form.  

My personal, non-legal feelings about such a scheme: If you’re so keen to restrict the number of “illegal immigrants” overstaying in the UK, why not implement exit controls for Non-EU/EEA passport holders instead, as they do in Germany? I would think that would only require a couple of more counters, personnel and computers at Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, etc.? As this article points out, would a GBP 3000 ‘visa bond’ really deter someone who wants to overstay? They’d just think its another overhead incumbent in the migration process. On a more sinister note, it would allow human traffickers to charge more for their ‘services’.

– Morshed,
Dhaka

Surviving Your First Advocacy Class: 5 tips

A blog, similar to mine, but from the perspective of a UK domestic student! Useful tips on Advocacy, the BPTC, etc. Do check it out.

– Morshed,
Dhaka

Confessions of a Bar student

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Know your case

I cannot stress enough the importance of ‘knowing your brief’. When you receive your papers for your very first advocacy class read them, and then read them again! Make sure you are familiar with the facts of the case. I would suggest making a chronology of the key dates and moments in the case to give you a clearer picture of your brief. Do not go to your advocacy session without reading the case! Nobody is expecting you to memorise the brief word for word, but you should know (1) what has happened, (2) who you are representing, (3) who are the key witnesses, (4) the evidence you have e.g. CCTV and (5) what you are asking the court for i.e. a bail application, plea in mitigation etc.

Know what you are going to say

Plan your submission and know the points you are going to make…

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My article in this week’s Law & Our Rights

Law Vision: Workers’ insurance law can ensure equitable compensation

The title has been changed and some of the sentences have been omitted, but it looks largely intact: my article on workers’ compensation in this week’s Law & Our Rights. This article is a product of the research I had done in May and June, 2013 to write the ‘Note’ that I had posted on this blog on 27 May, 2013.

Morshed
Dhaka