We do tend to treat prisoners and felons in a much better way now than centuries ago. I was watching a documentary the other night about how we used to pack ‘criminals’ off to Australia and other far flung spots for the most most rediculous things. There were no lawyers to represent the poor man or woman. No one to actually look at the social consequences of the grinding poverty and inability of the lower classes to claw their way out of their unjustly miserable lives. Today we do it better. When someone is apprehended after enough evidence has been collected, they’re cautioned and charged, at this point legal assistance is sought for their court appearance. If it’s a really serious offence, high court with prosecution and defence teams fight the case in front of a jury of 12 unbiased men and women who effectively decide guilty or not guilty. So much fairer.
When someone starts out at university, they have ideas of what they want to achieve once they get that much desired degree. More often than not though they only have the vaguest notion of what to do next. The world of work becomes a reality and it’s not always easy to find employment that actually uses the degree at all. I can think of several under graduates who have secured even a fantastic 1:1 but not really used. One chap had done a 4 year spanish course – he spent a whole year in the country on a work placement to enhance the spoken language. He now works in a bank in our local high street. Others realise during the first year they’ve chosen the wrong degree course and change horses – one very successful solicitor did just that – swapping from history to law. Very happy she is too as a solicitor specialising in employment law. Taking law opens up many career opportunities.
There are many stories in the press and on social media about young folk who get into some kind of trouble on their first ‘wander’ around the big wide world. I have been reading up on a young woman who was in Thailand at a well known student community meeting stop over. she was fresh out of uni, on her first solo adventure. Seeing the swimming pool inviting her to cool off, she didn’t look around sufficiently – so did not see the notices advising shallow water – no diving. She dived in and broke her neck. Her insurance company – a cheap and cheerful no frills one, has refused to pay out because she took part in a risky activity . . . . it’s not clear at this stage whether it was just diving into a swimming pool, or not seeing the warning signs before diving in. Anyway she has needed legal help. The general public have donated enough to pay her medical fees so far and get her flown home.
There are a few families for whom Christmas is not the happiest time of their year. The propensity to over indulge with alcohol does have a damaging effect on family happiness and the chances of arguments and fights occuring increases by 100 percent. Very often this can include neighbours – perhaps a silly disagreement over who should be allowed to park where outside properties. Maybe someone has their music blaring out a little too loudly. Keeping the family dog out in the garden for hours, so the poor thing gets bored and barks for ever . . . . . that’s enough to start a mini war. All these irritations can boil over and before long someone is in deep trouble for violent behaviour. Knowing where to get advice and assistance in such cases is critical for the well being of the rest of the family. Comprehensive household insurance often includes legal cover – very necessary in getting help in such dire circumstances.
Many careers have a multiple routes to follow and when a youngster is asked what they want to do when they leave school, they will have only a very basic idea of what they think they’ll be doing in five or ten years time. Very often they’ll be doing nothing of the sort but there are some very dedicated families with career paths laid out. Law is one such path. However, there are many ways of achieving a profession in the law. Going to law school and becoming a jobbing solicitor is one major step – then if the correct, very formal steps are taken, it’s possible to get a training contract to become a barrister – in court being referred to as ‘my learned friend’ etc. Later on after a hopefully illustrious & unblemished career, a good barrister can be selected to be appointed as a judge. The most senior judges are Lords and Ladies of the high court.
The one thing about the legal system in this country is it’s ancient traditions. Very few folk mind the strange outfits the judiciary don, particularly when they’re attending the annual gatherings with the Queen or prime minister – they are seen in their silks and ermine atopped with a small wig. It does look rediculous but these ceremonies are all part of the deal. Tradition and the way we adjudicate over here in the UK have been recognised world wide as a very fair and just way of behaving. Our solicitors are trained to the highest level at law school within universities. They practice and get expert in particular fields. Some barristers become celebrities through winning high profile cases or highlighting civil liberties. On the whole, when you engage a legal team, you can be sure they will do their utmost to win you a very satisfactory outcome. Having worked in one sector, I know how unbiased those judges are.
I was talking to a group of ladies recently and it turns out that two of them work as radio control officers at different police headquarters. The chance of that happening seemed quite unusual – if they’d worked at the same county HQ you would understand them knowing each other but they hadn’t med until this function. Both ladies came from completely different jobs in the past. Neither had been connected with police work before but they both felt their job was one of the most important in the world of law enforcement. They take calls from members of the public and legal teams. There is a great deal more to it than appears on the tv cop shows. There is no educational preparation as such, just a good all round ‘can do’ attitude and relevant people to people skills. A calm, firm, reassuring voice helps diffuse a lot of situations that are kicking off too.
I was out recently with a chum who I’ve known for many years – we volunteered together as school governors, after our children had moved on up the system, bringing independent and unbiased common sense to an often fraught and self interested set comittees. There is a problem with governors selected from too many parents of current children – they can’t always see past their own expectations and desires to get to the bigger picture. This is something young folk must practice – learning everything they can in each post, as it will lead to bigger things later. This pal’s daughter has just taken up a post as a project manager in a government department – she had risen through from junior to senior team leader outside in the real world and never expected to join the establishment. But this new post offers much more responsibility and future prospects, with excellent pension and other benefits.
One of the things that I never expected when I took a job as a ‘pin money’ little number to fill in until retirement, was how many different avenues it would open up. I had been in normal private industry all my working life, never exposed to the ways of working of public bodies. There was never any unions involved in our firm. I didn’t know it then of course, but our boss was breaking every rule in the book. But because we were a happy band of boys and girls, no one ever felt the need for recourse in any action against the firm. Then after that disbanded, I found my little post within the legal side of a government department. This eventually led to my using my best skills – being a private secretary, with the needs of the judiciary. I loved the responsibility and the challenges. If only I’d known about it years before!
Years ago I was in a union – as were most of my colleagues. Only twice did things get strike action actually get balloted and called. The first time I did take part, armed with placard and flyers. I felt self conscious outside the court and one or two lay members with whom I’d previously been on good terms were really amazed and upset to see me join colleagues. We won the point of issue and everything eventually settled down and good working relationships resumed. The second time I did not strike as I fel the union had massaged the voting results to call the strike. In fact only 35% of the total union membership had cast votes with 52% of those voting for strike action. Out of possible 275,000 members, less than 46,000 had voted yes. The law changed after that to set a minimum number of votes being cast to be considered a valid ballot. Law working as it should.