IT’S RISKY BUSINESS – Being a lawyer?
Diary of a Diploma Student week 16

What a great week at the Diploma in Legal Practice at the University of Glasgow.It is finally starting to get lighter at nights and for once, in what seems like such a long time; it was bright at 4pm. Now that makes me smile.

As another week draws to a close I find myself on cloud nine as I have just had some exam results back for 3 of my 4 (first semester subjects) and I am delighted to have passed them all.Woo hoo.

An overview of how week 16 of the Diploma has gone.
First class of my week is Advanced Civil Litigation and Mark Ralston of Wright & Crawford delivered a brilliant lecture on Legal Debates in the Civil courts.

He reminded us that there is no part of the conduct of a case which demands more careful attention than preparation for a debate. Mark took us on a journey throughout the preparations for a debate and discussed what happens at a debate.

We then watched a video of a debate which would help us all in the preparation for our pleas in the tutorials this week and next.
Attention was paid to incorporating documents into pleadings brevistatas causa , Notes of argument and how to make use of good reference to authorities. Mark articulated the fun that a ‘legal geek’ might have negotiation and applying the complexities of legal argument within a debate. His tips to us ‘newbie litigators’ is to keep a folder of case-law and to keep up to date with legal changes that will help us in our cases. He explained how a ‘lacuna’ in a case can be amended and gave us some top tips of cases we should be aware of. Mark was a skilled and lovely speaker and enthralled us with tales of court.

After the aperitif that was the lecture us ‘newbie’ lawyers faced the tutorials with an opportunity to present a preliminary plea on relevancy and specification. It was a lot of fun and Tutors Julie McKinlay and Michael Heaney gave us tips and pointers towards perfecting our skills which we will need for the oral presentation next week together with the skills required in drafting a Note of arguments which will form 40% of our course mark.

Tuesday and Wednesday are my Advanced criminal days and on Tuesday we had a guest lecture from Advocate Depute Gillian Wade Depute Head of the National Sexual Offences Unit. Gillian discussed the changes to the Law in Scotland in relation to sexual offences and drew particular attention to S275 applications. This will form part of our course work for the next week so was relevant and very interesting. We are very lucky on the Diploma to have to fantastic guest lectures from speakers such as Gillian and the class was delighted and honoured as she had travelled over 100 miles to talk to us.

In Advanced criminal tutorial the group moved on to our third summary trail and I had two parts to play this week . I adopted the position of the Procurator Fiscal in cross-examining a defence witness and our tutor Peter Gilletley also asked me to sum up for the defence. (I secretly delighted in this ) as I was able to address the matter of the courts lack of jurisdiction in preferring an alternative charge. Plus I like to try to think on my feet. At the beginning of the class when the first Procurator Fiscal stood and addressed the court the judge said he could not ‘hear her’ , she raised her voice and repeated what she was saying and the judge said ‘I still can’t hear you’ then we all realised that she hadn’t put her gown on – it made us all chuckle. (The court can only hear one who wears the gown).

On thursday we had an upbeat lecture from Alistair Sim of Marsh who discussed a topic all new lawyers need to know Professional indemnity insurance and Risk Management and this led into our tutorial with @Brianinkster where we split into groups to discuss ‘risk’. Sure seems to be a ‘risky business being a lawyer’ It was a fun exercise discussing possible ‘disasters’ that could occur in a law firm from an associate breaking his leg playing rugby to a fire destroying the office and everything in it. My tutorial group are all really friendly and keen and it was good turning our minds to different situations. Brian was as always a great tutor , providing us with ‘chocolate’ .

Friday is my corporate class with 3 hours of classes covering Statutory books and registrations and in class we were told that trainees are usually asked to complete these as part of our jobs . I must say it was pretty straightforward but fun. Looking at shareholders, transfers and annual return the skills are really practical for company and corporate law.

The week ended on a high as the exam results were released during Friday and as we move towards completion of the Diploma I am delighted that I have no re-sits to do. The civil litigation marks will be out next week.

My diary would not be complete without a mention of the wonderful ‘Life in Law’ event held at the University of Glasgow on Thursday night.This is a series of talks by legal professionals about their own personal experiences of their lives in Law .This weeks outstanding and highly motivational speakers were two extra-ordinary woman who were trail bazers in the legal profession and motivate me even more to want to go to the bar. Sheriff Rita Rae QC and Frances McMenemin QC mesmerised us with tales of standing up for being a woman in the legal profession to breaking the glass ceiling. They held the room captive with real stories and it was an up close and intimate setting as us new lawyers listened attentively . I did feel that they were both talking only to me as I was focussing on how they had loved the law and the life it brought them. I was delighted to be invited to shadow one of these ladies and yes I will be following up on that offer ( they don’t come round that often you know)
It certainly was the highlight of my week and I would urge anyone who gets the opportunity to attending an event like this to do so.

Thanks for following my journey through the Diploma in Legal Practice at The University of Glasgow.

Michelle l. Hynes

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