Friday, 15 April 2011

It's just not the same in real life . . .

If like me you fancy becoming a lawyer when you grow up you've no doubt seen a few TV shows or films over the years which have made it all look like great fun. It's hard to deny the appeal of being a lawyer like the ones on the telly, especially the fun ones like Denny Crane or Allan Shore from 'Boston Legal'. I do however sometimes wonder if there's any value in having a fictional lawyer as a role model? The more I learn about the law, both academically and from a practical point of view, the further away those fictional lawyers seem.

I'm sure that's due in no small part to geography and status. The life of a senior partner in a fictional American law firm like 'Crane, Pool and Schmidt' is no doubt very different to the life of a partner in a real world Scottish firm.That gap widens even further when looking at the life of a newly qualified lawyer or trainee. The TV shows are cool, sexy, funny, edgy and even a little political from time to time but do they have anything to offer over and above pure entertainment?

I think there are a few things to be taken from the fictional lawyers out there. Lets start with the TV show Boston Legal. Who wouldn't want to have at least some of the attributes of Denny Crane, the septuagenarian senior partner of a law firm who has been massively successful in business and has never personally lost a case? OK maybe a little far fetched and too much to hope for. I very much doubt that there are any lawyers out there who've had fifty years of practising law, during which they've never lost a case, but surely it's something to aspire to as a lawyer working in an adversarial system? Personally, my favourite fictional lawyer is Atticus Finch, from Harper Lee's classic To Kill a Mocking Bird. Intelligent, hard working, honest to a fault, full of integrity and compassion, a man of high moral standards who is unwilling to break the rules while being faultlessly professional.

I may an idealistic law student and somewhat naive but I often find something of interest in the fictional lawyers I encounter. The legal tales they populate may not always give a solid reflection of how the law works, what's likely to happen in real life, or even what's possible within the bounds of the law, however these characters often have some attributes which I feel I could learn from.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Keeping the balls in the air . . .

I like to juggle, I can bust out a pretty tidy mills mess for any juggling enthusiasts, but like many of my hobbies it's taken a back seat over the last few years, specifically from September to May. My University course runs form September to May, coincidence? I think not! In order to pay my way through the LL.B I'm working full time. I'm worried about having a CV that's not brimming with legal experience so I'm trying to pick up as many extras as I can. To that end in my 1st year I volunteered two afternoons per week at a law firm, in 2nd year I joined the mooting society and made the quarter final of the internal competition, hurrah! The thing is, it's not easy, being committed for so much of my time is, well, time consuming!

In essence this post is about time management and motivation, for me the two are closely linked. It's hard to get anything done when you're not motivated, and with so much to do in so little time it's also hard to get anything done without being organised. When I'm organised and have a schedule I feel a lot more motivated, It's circular.

I learned a lot about time management a few years ago, I was working for a large company in an incredibly entrepreneurial environment. I often found myself working 65+ hours per week and doing a wide variety of tasks, from conducting seminars and talks to having meetings with clients and organising my staff. The biggest thing I learned, and this probably won't come as a massive surprise, was the importance of a well kept diary. As smart phones were in their infancy, I used a palm pilot, an electronic diary/organiser which was fantastic, until one day it crashed. I was utterly lost, from that day forward I've been a big fan of using a paper diary. The battery never dies, it'll never crash, and it's a lot cheaper to replace if you loose it!

When I've got a pretty full list of jobs demanding my attention, and I'm trying to work out what one to do first I try to always go for the one I want to do least, that awkward niggley one. I do this because getting it out of the way can be very liberating as the sense of dread is gone and the rest of the jobs feel much less of a chore! Another legal blogger Michelle Hynes calls this swallowing a frog, a name which I quite like!

I like to try to work/study with other people, which is yet another thing to organise. The benefits of group study are massive, it can often allow you to see things you'd miss on your own as well as help your understanding through discussion and interpretation of other peoples perspectives, but that's not all! I find it's a good motivator, I don't like being the one who's shown up empty handed so before a group session I'm more likely to get some work done. Also I'm quite competitive and I think my study buddies are a little more high flying academically than me, so it forces me to raise the bar on myself to keep up.  

And that's it, don't procrastinate, keep a good diary, work hard in good company and you can't go too far wrong!