The Scots Law Student

The SLS : Life and trials of learning law in Scotland

Tag: times

Obsolete technology lives on

I spotted an article from the 17 July 2009 on the Times website on places where you might not expect obsolete technology to have held on.

For example, says the article, the NYPD spent $432,900 on typewriter maintenance last year (and nearly $1 million the year before).  They use typewriters to fill out forms – for seized property mainly – and for backup in case a catastrophe takes the digital side of the force off-line.

I completely agree with this idea, it’s a very good one.  I’ve got into the habit of often filling out forms on my typewriter because it’s capable of black capitals and it’s neater than I could previously manage.  I also typewrite the addresses on my postal envelopes.

Other technologies in the list include tapes (audio cassettes) which are used in prisons in the US because CDs are often banned because they make such effective weapons if shattered.  The story reports that cassette sales to inmates is one of the few growth areas in a physical media music industry that is in decline.

Another example is the telegram – something I admire as an event more than as a means of communication, just imagine if the Queen sent you a text on your 100th birthday?  This one is very interesting from a legal perspective because in the USA if you send a telegram with some juicy piece of intellectual property to anyone, even yourself, you can use the date and time on the telegram as evidence in a copyright trial.  This is a good stop gap measure while you are waiting for any formal copyright processes to be completed.  It is also a useful means of extremely quick recorded message delivery, useful for contractual purposes.

One final point for me microfiche.  I think microfiche is one of those products that are fun until you have to use it. I quite like, now and again, reading the newspapers from historical events and these are now generally only available on microfiche simply because of the size savings.  That sort of interesting and different way to spend an afternoon in the library would very quickly lose its charm if I needed the information, and particularly if I needed it quickly.  Keyword search may not be perfect but you’d miss it if it was gone.

I think that technology is only obsolete when it is no longer useful to you.  Typewriters, audio cassettes and microfiche are all perfectly effective at what they do, they were replaced because the alternatives had benefits but that doesn’t mean they stopped working at the same time.

http://timesonline.typepad.com/comment/2009/07/10-places-where-old-technology-lives-on.html

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Times Law Student Competition

Every year since 2006 the Times newspaper has sponsored a competition for law students – this is open to all A-level, LLB, LML, LLM and Diploma/LPC students throughout Britain.

Even though the contest is open to older students with more qualifications the contest appears to have been friendly to students at university for the last few years. The idea is to write an academic, engaging essay on a topic of the Times’ choosing. It’s is always a hot button, topical issue – the contention between human rights and counter-terror actions, for example. This year, to commemorate the Mosley v The Sun libel case it is “Should people in the public eye have a right to privacy?”

Presumably, given the fallout which has hit the Express and the Sun this year alone, this is a legal issue which the Times is very interested in itself.

New students shouldn’t be put off by their inexperience – the very first case I and many other student were introduced to on starting law school was the case of Douglas v MGM which is a hugely important privacy case involving the wedding photos of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, you’ve already been exposed to it and remember that the Times site also provides a very useful basic foundation to the subject to build on, your university’s law library will as a matter of course have textbooks on the subject and it is just a case of reading ahead to get the material you need.

The format is a short essay – no more than 1000 words, only about twice as long as this post – which is double spaced and emailed to One Essex Court on the subject of privacy law as it affects public figures. It is to include legal authority, remember that in law it is equally important who said something as it is what the content actually is, and discussion and is written just like any other piece of coursework.

The difference between the Times law student competition and your coursework is that the entrants to the Times competition are competing for up to £3500 for the first prize, £2,500 for the second and a prize of £1,500 for the third. Even after this, three runners-up will still walk away with £1,000 each – a nice wodge of book money. There’s also an awards dinner for the winners which is a highlight of any student’s essay writing career.

Anyway, I once listened to a former director of BBC Scotland describe the job of a lawyer in a media organisation and it sounds like one of the better positions that a practicing lawyer can get a hold of and there’s probably a benefit as far as informing a group of newspaper men dealing with reformed defamation laws, and a highly respected Chambers, that you know your way around both a pen and the law as it relates to privacy, isn’t there?

Law students have until the 28th November 2008 to enter their views on the subject.

Useful links

[TimesOnline Article] http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/law/article4944261.ece
[One Essex Court] http://www.oeclaw.co.uk/

Blog Recommendation – Baby Barista

There are many different blogs in the world with very different takes on their many different subjects – as law blogs go Baby Barista manages to be one of the scariest to read.

Baby Barista is the fictionalised account of a trainee barrister as he goes through his pupilage at Chambers down in Oxford. I originally started reading it because it is written by a real world barrister and I hoped it might show me some of the things that training involves, at least in England, and what common problems do advocates and barristers suffer. As I read on, however, I found myself utterly terrified at the attitude of many of the characters of BabyBarista.

I have often said that anyone who manages to become a lawyer in today’s climate is razor sharp, hardened, determined and you can be assured has never failed a test in their life, and in one sense this is extremely good – even if you have a young lawyer that young lawyer will have worked staggeringly hard to get to a point to be able to represent you, but it also raises the concern that the young lawyer has almost literally fought off hordes of his peers to be able to represent you.

The English Chambers system for barristers means that the number of positions for barristers is practically nearly as fixed as that of the judges they appear before. Chambers are literally the offices in which barristers work and are often truly ancient. (In Scotland the system is a lot more open and instead of a stone Chambers building an advocate receives the use of a pigeon hole in the upper court in Edinburgh which means that they are much more flexible as far as numbers go.) Places often open up only on retirement of a current member and competition is terrifyingly fierce for tenancy in the most renowned Chambers.

Needless to say, BabyBarista is competing for tenancy in the one of the most renowned Chambers – one so elite they refuse to have names like “Shawn” on the members list outside and there are 4 or 5 candidates willing to spend years competing for the single tenancy spot at the end of the process. The author even points out that in every other field an interview of hours or at most days is considered perfectly able to select the right candidate for any number of roles. Only barristers (and advocates) have this process of years of fighting just to be selected for the job. Any similarity to Sir Alan Sugar’s “The Apprentice” is not wholly undeserved.

As BabyBarista himself says, if the system was set up to encourage cooperation he’d cooperate better than anyone but the system’s set up for a fight, so they’ll get one. So, rather than justice and wisdom we see a group of stunningly specialised professionals fighting with each other and any weapon is acceptable (even to the point of hiring a “girlfriend tester” to blackmail one of the other candidates). It might be dramatised for entertainment purposes – and it works, the blog is nothing short of enthralling from my perspective – but it makes altogether too much sense.

In contrast, there are the stories given by OldRuin, the “grandpupilmaster” of BabyBarista who appears periodically to give a snippet of wisdom and humanity. His stories are wonderful, touching and disturbingly come across as idyllic, he stands out from the rest of the crowd by simply being the decent, ethical professional most of us wanted to be at university but he seems to be a distinct minority in these Chambers.

As an aside, the character of TheBusker really interests me – this is a barrister who does the job as an art not a science and seems to benefit enormously from it, from the point of stress alone, and it may just be how positively he’s described but that’s who I want to be, the artful, eloquent, ruffled but just about still acceptable professional.

I think that would be fantastic.

BabyBarista is found at:
http://timesonline.typepad.com/baby_barista/