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End of Year Two and a Debating Competition

The Debate-Ed Programme held its second annual debating competition on Saturday 11 March 2017 with support from Lanyon Bowdler, Shrewsbury Business Chamber and Pure Telecom. This was the conclusion of a year working with some schools as part of the core Debate-Ed program.

The Core Programme

The schools involved were Meole Brace school, Prestfelde school and the Priory School. Students from Shrewsbury Sixth Form College were trained to deliver fun and engaging workshops to students. The students at Priory School got a crash course in debating, while the students at the other schools had an intensive 10 workshops exploring different topics and helping them to develop their analytical skills and their presentation skills over a number of sessions.

In total, 32 students from Prestfelde school, 120 students from Priory School and 50 students at Meole Brace School took part in the programme this year. We also had eight students from Shrewsbury Sixth form College engaging in the scheme along with an alumni mentor from Shrewsbury Sixth Form College who acted as a Senior Mentor.

97% of the students said that they had enjoyed debating in their workshops. A number of the students commented on how fun they had found it to debate views with other people and to learn about public speaking and the wider world. Others commented on how good the mentors were and the efforts that the mentors had put into making their sessions fun and engaging. When asked if they would like to do debating again, 80% of students said that they would like to, with one student stating that they ‘had never been interested in debating, but now find it more fun and interesting’. This is really encouraging as debating is a great way for students to develop confidence and persuasive skills which will help them both throughout their academic careers and in the workplace.

Competition

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In total there were 40 students at the competition from Wrekin College, Moreton School, Meole Brace School and press felt school. It was a really great day with the judging panel consisting of Amanda Moorghan from the English Speaking Union, Judge Tindal, a local Judge, the Mayor of Shrewsbury and representatives from Greenhous and Lanyon Bowdler. We were also joined by the mentors from Shrewsbury Sixth Form College who got into the swing of things by both debating and judging throughout the day.

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The competition was great fun with a variety of topics being debated. The first topic the students tackled was whether weight loss surgery, such as a gastric band, should be paid for on the NHS. A number of judges commented on how maturely and sensibly students dealt with this topic and the issues arising from it. We then moved on to more topical issues which in this case was whether or not Donald Trump should visit the UK. Students were really enthusiastic about this topic and came up with a variety of reasons why they felt he should or shouldn't be able to visit the UK. They were able to consider the wider implications of denying him a visit and how this might affect our economy and standing in the world.

The final topic for all the students to debate was whether or not super heroes were good role models. They came up was really creative and interesting points, with some arguing that they are good role models as in essence a superhero's job is not that different to that of a fireman or police man – they simply use their gifts to help people. They also commented on the importance of having a role model and how this can inspire children to challenge themselves and develop. Other students argued that super heroes are poor role models as most of them are vigilantes of some sort and pay little to no regard to due process and law and order.

After these three lively debates, the finalists were chosen and went on to debate whether a second referendum should be held before we exit the EU. Teams from Meole Brace School and Moreton Hall made it into the final. The ultimate winners of the debate were Barney Cansdale and Louis Morris from Meole Brace School, who impressively won all of their rounds during the competition.

Unfortunately, I had my own Oscars moment as due to a data input error a team from Meole Brace, comprising of Finn Pearson and Eli Jones, was denied a place in the final. They had a public apology on the day once the error was brought to my attention, and have received their own finalist certificates and prizes.

Next Year

The Debate-Ed programme will now officially draw to a close for its second year. However we will shortly be looking to recruit additional mentors from Shropshire colleges to take part in Debate-Ed Year Three.

My Internship with Lanyon Bowdler by Alex Spanner

I remember during my final year at university, whilst pondering what on earth I was going to do next; the idea of applying for an internship always seemed to come with a negative connotation. Would going straight into a grad job be a better option? Would taking an internship just mean that I end up working really hard for a short period with little to show for it at the end? These were the sort of questions I was asking myself before I accepted an offer of a position.

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However, in an increasingly competitive jobs market the idea of internships and short-term contract work is gradually becoming the preferred option to undergraduates taking their first steps into the big wide world. In July I started my two-month internship with Lanyon Bowdler, and now eight months on I am still here, so I like to think I’m doing a decent job. So here, in all its glory, is my advice about how best to promote yourself during an internship, making you useful to a business.

The best way to think of an internship is that it is getting one foot in the door of a business, and having the chance to prove yourself as the sort of employee they would want to take on full-time. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg (albeit a long time ago in their cases) are some of the most famous examples of people using internships to begin their careers, and success stories similar to theirs are only likely to increase in the future, given the growing amount of internships being offered by businesses.

So how should you make sure that you give the best impression of yourself whilst you are at a firm?

Attitude is key

I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you, as an intern you are never going to be given the most enjoyable or most glamorous work, as this is saved for those above you who are being paid the big bucks. This is the same as being in your first few years at a grad job, so there are no worries there. You will likely be given tasks which are simple and repetitive, and as you grow into your role these will increase in difficulty. The best attitude to take towards such tasks is to be as hard-working and professional as possible. Even a simple job, if done efficiently and professionally, can impress an employer. Attitude, consistency and work-rate are some of the key characteristics employers are looking for.

Say yes to any task, no matter what

This point is linked to the first; however it is just as important. No matter what you are asked to do, within reasonable grounds, say yes. Obviously if your employer asks you to help him hide a dead body then you should probably decline and contact the proper authorities, however any reasonable office-based task should be done with a smile on your face. Just an hour before I started writing this post my boss asked if I would help him move seventy pots of charity jam from his car into the office. I agreed without a second thought. I didn’t bother asking why do you have so much jam? or could I help you when I have got a moment?, I just did it. I am pretty sure if I look through my contract nowhere in my job description does it have the words ‘jam-transporter’ in it, however I was very happy to do so and he was appreciative of the help. Again attitude is key, and showing that you are willing to help your colleagues in any way possible goes a long way.

Make friends with your co-workers

For the record, no one can walk into the office on Day One and become friends with everyone. This one can take time, however an internship becomes much more enjoyable when you get along with the people you work with. The little things go a long way in making people like you, and it also makes you a more memorable and an integrated member of a business. Use your social skills; say hello to people in the mornings, if you bump into someone in the corridor then ask them how their weekend was, or if someone is having a bad day at the office just make a bit of idle chit-chat with them to cheer them up.

In the Ludlow office I was even given the unofficial title of Head of Office Team Morale, which unfortunately doesn’t come with a wage increase, but does show the benefits of being positive within the workplace. I am lucky enough to work for Lanyon Bowdler which has some fantastic people working there, who I genuinely consider as good friends, and I regularly socialise with my colleagues both inside and outside of work. This shows the importance of building good office relationships and how it can benefit your life outside of the workplace too.

Additional Tip: Make friends with all the secretaries

They are some of the friendliest and chattiest people in the workplace, and have an extremely high ratio of being excellent bakers too. Some days at work I feel like I am in an episode of the Great British Bake Off there is so much cake in the kitchen!

So to summarise, my advice at the end of the day is relatively straight-forward. Just work hard, make a good impression and be nice to people. It’s hardly rocket science is it? Even if you do not get a job at the place you are interning at directly, a good reference from your employer could make all the difference going forward.

World (post) Cancer Awareness Day

On 4 February we had World Cancer Awareness Day, a campaign with the aim of uniting millions across the globe in the on-going battle to beat cancer. But how does a cancer patient go about beating cancer, and what about what happens next?

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Rise to four million

So many people are touched by cancer in one way or another. Cancer Research statistics suggest that every two minutes someone is diagnosed with cancer in the UK. Macmillan estimates the number of people living with cancer in the UK has increased by almost half a million people in the last five years, and that by 2030 the total amount of people living with cancer in the UK will rise to four million.

Each of us can probably name someone we know who has experienced cancer, a friend of a friend, a colleague, a family member. Less of us perhaps have experienced the day to day ins and outs of someone’s fight to beat cancer. For those of us who are fortunate enough to have little to no experience of this process, we might tend to think of the treatment involving chemotherapy, or radiotherapy, where the person is sick for a time but then is, hopefully, better once this has ended. Better still, the prognosis might be good. The person has “won” their battle.

Individual battles

Everyone’s experience is unique, but the battle does not end here. A lot of emphasis is placed on the diagnosis, the question of mortality, and perhaps less on the daily ins and outs of fighting cancer and what happens after the stage of active treatment. Many, if not most, cancer patients have to have time off work, often for extended periods. Coming back to work, and even re-integrating into certain social settings can be a massive challenge for cancer patients. Not least because of the physical symptoms they may experience, whether from the cancer itself or as a long term or permanent consequence of the treatment, or because of the psychological impact the battle has had and continues to have on them. Some cancer patients have been known to suffer from PTSD after going through the treatment and the whole experience. Some have to live with anxiety over the prospect of a recurrence and with regular monitoring and reviews; it can be difficult to ever shake off this feeling.

Everyone’s type of cancer, and individual battle, is unique and will not always end on the day they receive the “all clear”. There can be no doubt that cancer is a life changing experience, for all closely affected by the disease. There seems to be a lack of, or inconsistency, amongst health care providers with regards to offering support for moving forwards after treatment, and a lack of signposting to organisations that may offer this type of support, with the onus on the patient to find out for themselves. Perhaps awareness needs to be raised, and more focus placed on how we can support people during the aftermath.

Supporting sufferers

Macmillan estimates the number of cancer survivors in the UK is expected to increase by approximately one million per decade up to 2040. Let World Cancer Awareness Day also be a reminder to think about how we can support those affected by cancer, not only during the treatment phase, but afterwards too.

Mock Trial

Lucy Speed and I recently assisted Shrewsbury School in holding a mock trial at their school. This involved preparing a case study, including numerous witness statements, and providing detailed instructions and feedback to the students throughout the process.

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Thirteen students in total were involved in the project. The format allowed both the Prosecution and Defence Teams to deliver opening speeches, followed by the examination and cross-examination of witnesses (which the students played the role of) and concluding with closing speeches from both sides.

The students did exceptionally well throughout the trial demonstrating excellent public speaking skills, teamwork and case analysis. Stephen Scully, a motoring offence specialist and member of the Criminal Team at Lanyon Bowdler, assisted with a practice run and commented that he was very impressed with the level of preparation the students had put into their roles.

Personally, I was really pleased to hear that the students enjoyed the experience and felt that they had gained useful skills. I am particularly grateful to Darcy Smith, a Shrewsbury School student, who provided invaluable support in organising the event.

Ironically, shortly after helping run a mock trial, I was a participant in a mock trial as part of Professional Development Course that trainees need to undertake. The combination of these two activities has consequently inspired the following list of lessons I have learnt.

Make sure you come up with a Case Theory

It is important when you approach your case you take the time to analyse it thoroughly so that you know what it is you need to prove, and which facts will help you prove this. For instance, the student’s case study revolved around a bungled mugging that had resulted in murder.

The Prosecution needed to prove the suspect was at the scene that night and was the man identified by witnesses. Their important factual evidence related to one witness who identified the Defendant. They needed to prove that this witness was credible and had correctly identified the Defendant.

The Defence in contrast needed to establish the suspect was not there and had been wrongly identified. Their important factual evidence related to the Defendant and his brother who both said that the Defendant was with his brother at the time of the murder. Proving the credibility of this evidence was crucial for the defence.

It was essential both teams understood what they needed to prove so that they could investigate and present the evidence in a focused and persuasive manner.

Do understand who your witnesses are and what they add

Once you have decided on your case theory, you need to analyse the evidence provided by the witnesses and establish which important facts they will help you prove. Once you understand what they add to the case, you will also hopefully understand what elements of your case they do not assist with and would be a waste of time to explore further.

For instance, the case study in my advocacy course involved a failure to give an appropriate warning in relation to the stacking of containers to a customer resulting in a breach of contract. The containers were stacked too high by the customer and disintegrated. One of the witnesses was a customer who would have bought the containers if they had survived and potentially would have placed further orders as well. Her true value to the case was establishing whether a claim for loss of future profits was credible.

On the stand this witness changed her testimony and stated that she would definitely have placed further orders, but for the accident. Whilst this was helpful to the Claimant in one respect (i.e. the assessment of damages), it ultimately didn’t matter, as it didn’t help them to establish the essential issue in dispute which was whether a warning had been given. Consequently, it was important for the advocates to recognise that other witnesses were more important in the context of this case.

Asking non-leading questions is really hard

You must avoid asking leading questions when examining your own witness. Leading questions are questions that suggest an answer to the witness. This includes obvious examples such as ‘You didn’t see the Defendant at all, did you?’ as well as more subtle examples such as ‘What time did you meet the Defendant on Thursday?’, which suggests that a meeting occurred.

In practice, it is difficult to avoid asking leading questions as they are often a normal part of the dialogue. It is a real challenge to try and ask someone about a meeting they had with someone on a particular day without giving them the person’s name, the date they met or the details of what they probably discussed. As such it is worth thoroughly preparing your questions before commencing an examination in chief and being conscious of your language throughout in order to avoid leading questions.

Do try to avoid ‘Verbal Tics’

Verbal tics are little words or phrases that you habitually use throughout speaking. Typical examples include ‘um’, ‘uh’, ‘like’ and ‘ok’. My own tics include ‘essentially’ and thanking witnesses for their answers.

These are phrases which we normally use to fill spaces in conversations or speeches, but which can be off-putting or distracting for a listener. The best thing you can do is to be aware of your own tics and to try to reduce the number of times you say it as best as you can.

Think through the possible answers and how you will deal with them

When examining a witness, there will normally be a range of responses they might give. In order to assist the witness in giving the best possible evidence, it is a good idea to have thought through which answers they might give and how you should respond to each possible answer.

You also need to be listening to your witness and to know your case well enough that you are able to respond if they say something completely unexpected. For instance, during the mock trial, I participated in it was important to establish that the Claimant found the Defendant’s representative attractive as this added weight to our argument that he was distracted during their meeting and consequently ignored the warning about stacking the containers.

Despite the fact that the Claimant had described the representative as attractive in his witness statement, I was unsure if he would admit it while on the stand. If he did admit it, then I wouldn’t need to ask more questions along these lines. I planned however that if he didn’t admit it, I would respond by directing him to his witness statement, quoting his comments about the representative’s appearance and suggesting that he does, in fact, find her attractive. This preparation meant that when he did deny it on the stand, I was able to quickly respond and he quickly accepted that he did find her attractive.

The Collaborative Approach

Following Lisa Grimmett's blog about Shropshire Collaborative Lawyers, She was invited to talk to Eric Smith, who hosts BBC Radio Shropshire's breakfast show, about how the collaborative approach works.

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Lisa explained the differences between mediation and collaborative law and how often the collaborative method helps with maintaining good relationships for the sake of children.

Thanks to BBC Radio Shropshire you can listen to the interview here.

Superwills!

Because I am a little obsessed with superhero films, I thought it would be fun to imagine what kind of will someone like Tony Stark (a.k.a. Iron Man) might need. As a superhero, he faces a high degree of peril every day. It would therefore be particularly important for him to have arranged what should happen in the event of his death so that his family, friends, employees and team mates were all provided for in accordance with his wishes.

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There are a number of considerations that should be taken into account when creating your will, and I have highlighted below the special considerations that would need to be taken into account in Iron Man's case. Please note that for the purpose of this blog, I have assumed that the will would be created under and be subject to English Law.

Business & Personal Assets

Tony Stark, presently unmarried, is one of the richest superheroes in the superhero universe, with an estimated wealth of $12.4 billion according to the Times (more than Batman!). This level of wealth makes things easy in the sense that Tony can probably give tremendously generous gifts to everyone he has ever met and still have plenty left over.

However, this level of wealth will also result in a high level of tax liabilities. This means that it would be sensible for Tony to review how he holds his assets to ensure that he minimises the potential tax bill. Assuming that he has to pay inheritance tax on the whole of his estate under the usual rules and that no assets are held in trusts or owned by his company, he would have to pay inheritance tax at 40% of the value of his assets over the threshold of £325,000 (i.e. nearly $5 billion!). However, given Tony's philanthropic nature, he would likely want to take advantage of charity relief by donating 10% of his estate to charity (roughly $1.2 billion), resulting in a tax rate of 36%.

I considered whether Tony might have more nil rate band to play with after the introduction of the Residence Nil Rate Band in 2017/18. However Tony's wealth is so great he would be disqualified from using this new allowance.

Special Assets

Probably the most interesting and important asset that Tony owns is his armoury of iron suits. Tony also assumedly owns the intellectual property rights to the technology behind his suits and other gadgets.

He will need to think carefully about what should happen to these when he is no longer around. Would he want to bequeath the suits and technology to a trusted ally such as James Rhodes? If he did, would he want Rhodes to have complete control of the suit and be able to give or leave it to anyone? What would he want to happen if Rhodes died before him? He could of course leave a long list of heroes who will inherit the suit if their predecessor passes away.

It might be easier to instead create a trust with the power to award the suits to whoever is worthy and to equally take them away from those who are not. He would have to think carefully about who the trustees should be in order to ensure that they would be able to carry out his wishes.

An alternative would be to leave instructions that all of the suits and technology should be destroyed immediately following Tony's death. He would have to ensure that clear instructions were given as to how the suits should be destroyed and that he provided the executors with access to whatever resources were needed to destroy the suits.

Dependents

Obviously Tony would want to ensure that his long-term girlfriend Pepper Potts was well-provided for. He also seems to be the principal funder of the Avengers and will probably want to ensure that they continue to be provided for after his death. This would raise a number of difficulties as he would have to define what 'the Avengers' are. He could choose to list the specific team members that should benefit in the event of his death. He would then need to consider what should happen to that team member's share if they died before him. For instance, assuming that he awarded $1 billion to the Avengers consisting of Hawkeye, Hulk, Thor, Black Widow and Captain America and then Hawkeye died, would he want the $1 billion to be split between the surviving members or for Hawkeye's share to go to Hawkeye's children?

Listing all the individual members would also not allow for the continual changeover of members that is traditional with the Avengers. Assuming that Tony's aim is to ensure that the Avengers continues to function as a well funded organisation, rather than to give specific gifts to his team mates, it would probably be sensible to set up a trust for this purpose, the terms of which could allow for the change of members/beneficiaries, including the power to add additional members to the Avengers Team where appropriate.

It would also be worth finding out whether the Avengers could be considered a charitable organisation. To claim charity tax reliefs and exemptions, an organisation must be established for charitable purposes only, subject to either a relevant Court in the UK or EU, registered with an appropriate regulator (where applicable), run by fit and proper persons and recognised by the HMRC as a charitable organisation. There are 12 possible charitable purposes set out in the Charities Act 2011, which include pursuits such as preventing or relieving poverty, advancing education and crucially in this case, the advancement of health or the saving of lives. It could be argued that the crime fighting pursuits of the Avengers would be considered a charitable purpose as their main goal is to prevent unnecessary loss of life and/or human suffering. If Tony could successfully argue that the Avengers are a charity then there would be no inheritance tax due in relation to the gifts for them.

However, we might not be able to successfully argue that the Avengers are a charity. After all, the Charity Commission recently decided that the Temple of the Jedi Order should not have charitable status (see LB blogs passim).

We also have not set up anything to help Tony make adequate provision for his girlfriend. My colleagues came up with a clever real world solution to this fictional problem. This would involve Tony marrying Pepper Potts, which would mean he could leave her his estate and this would be exempt under the spousal exemption. If the property left to Pepper Potts was placed in a trust and she was given a revocable life interest in the trust funds, it would initially benefit from the spousal exemption. Later on, the trustees could revoke Pepper's life interest and 'drop down' capital from the Trust funds to particular beneficiaries (e.g. Captain America, Hawkeye etc). These would be potentially exempt transfers. Assuming that Pepper lived for at least 7 years following these gifts being made, no inheritance tax should be due.

 

PEEL

Session three of the Debate-Ed Programme focuses on the tools the students will need to help them make effective arguments. One of the main tools the programme teaches is PEEL which stands for: Point, Example/Evidence, Explanation and Link.

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For every argument they make, the students need to:

  • Make an articulate and relevant point. For example in a debate about bringing back the death penalty, their point might be some crimes are so awful that no other punishment would be proportionate.

  • Give an example or evidence that supports their point. For example crimes such as those perpetrated by Myra Hindley and Ian Brady or acts or terrorism such as the Paris attacks or 9/11 attacks. They would need to explain why these crimes are considered worse than other murders eg multiple victims, presence of planning and pre-meditation and lack of remorse shown by the criminal.

  • Fully explain their point and why it is powerful enough to convince people to agree with them. The trick to this is to continue to ask yourself ‘why does that matter?’ If you successfully keep answering that question then you will have explained your point fully. For example; ‘It is important that crimes are punished in a proportionate manner as this deters others from committing crimes, and shows the correct level of condemnation for the act committed.’

  • Link their point to the overall debate. This can be as simple as a couple of sentences in most case and is essentially a concluding remark, which shows why your well-explained and developed point should persuade the audience that your side of the debate is correct. For example; ‘Because it is so important that crimes are punished proportionately, and as the only proportionate punishment in horrific crimes is the death penalty, we should bring back the death penalty to be used in these specific cases.’

Why use PEEL?

Simply put it is an easy structure which ensures you cover the points you will need to in order to be persuasive. It can be used both when speaking to an audience and when writing exams or essays. It can either be used later on in life when you are pitching to a company, discussing something with a client, arguing with loved ones or even writing an advert.

For instance, if you look at some of the adverts produced for Black Friday and the January Sales, you will see that most of them make their point (eg 50% off), give an example of a product or deal which you might want to purchase, and provide evidence/explanation of why it is a good purchase (eg the price it used to be compared to what it is now) and then makes a concluding remark to encourage a hasty purchase today (eg limited stock/offer expires in X hours).

Knowing how to be persuasive and use these skills gives the students the skills they need to progress both within higher education and the workplace.

 

 

Marks & Spencer Employment Tribunal Case Published in National Press

A client of Lanyon Bowdler has had her success in her Employment Tribunal claims against previous employer Marks & Spencer published in the national press.

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Will Morse and Kayleigh Hunter, part of Lanyon Bowdler’s employment team based in Hereford have provided Mrs Roach with support and legal assistance throughout the Employment Tribunal process and are delighted that the Employment Tribunal has found in her favour.

Mrs Roach had worked for M&S for most of her working life and loved her job and so the decision to dismiss was extremely upsetting for her. It has been a long and, at times, challenging process for Mrs Roach and we hope that she is now able to take some comfort from the Employment Tribunal’s judgment.

Goodbye to the Law

This is a farewell blog as on 2 December I am leaving Lanyon Bowdler after 10 years of working for the firm. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank my bosses and colleagues for the experiences and opportunities and to share with you some of my memories.

My dream was becoming a reality

I had wanted to be a lawyer for as long as I could remember and after four long years of legal study at university, I yearned to be back in the mighty Shropshire. Training contracts were few and far between in the county and in my opinion; there was only one worth having! I was interviewed by Garry Richards and John Merry and was delighted when Lanyon Bowdler offered me a job. Finally, the dream of becoming a solicitor was to become a reality.

I received a letter to say that I would start my training in the personal injury department under the wing of Neil Lorimer. At first I wasn’t convinced that it was the area of law for me but that soon changed. In my first 12 months, I travelled far and wide for inquests and court hearings, attended conferences with some of the best QCs in the country and was involved in the settlement of a multi-million pound brain injury case. I was hooked!

A mutual love of numbers

Around two months into my training contract Neil asked me to have a go at drafting a Schedule of Loss on one of his big cases. I spent weeks pouring over the files of documents; adding in all of the invoices, reading ‘Facts and Figures’ and getting my head around multipliers for the first time and I loved it. Since then, drafting Schedules of Loss has become something of a speciality. The biggest schedule totalled more than £10m!

And so it was our mutual love of numbers (and Manchester United!) that got Neil and I off to such a good start. Upon qualification, I accepted a role in the personal injury department, working along side Neil and assisting him with his high value claims, as well as operating a case load of my own. I have been very fortunate to be able to work on top quality cases from day one.

Love a good courtroom drama

Neil also introduced me to cross-border litigation, and the Grenoble Coach Crash cases presented me with an amazing opportunity to learn the ropes in this very specialised area of law. We acted for over 20 Claimants, including one with a serious brain injury, in a group action. I have never forgotten the Claimants from those cases, many of whom were children at the time and I have stayed in touch with some. It was this case that first brought me to the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Our barrister Bernard Doherty, gave me a tour of the courts. That was a very special day for me. Thank you Bernard!

Another highlight was the week Neil and I spent at trial at the High Court in Birmingham on a lower limb amputee case with Johnny Jones (now QC) and the late Ralph Lewis QC. I was in awe at the brilliance of Ralph’s advocacy and enjoyed the backroom banter. I love a good courtroom drama and this was the best I had ever seen. We had a fantastic result and it was an experience that will stay with me forever.

More recently we settled a 1960s birth injury case. It was one of the most legally complicated cases I have ever worked on and it settled for £1m. The Claimant and his family were the most deserving of clients. They keep in touch with the firm and it’s lovely to see what a difference the money is making to their lives.

I’ve also married and had two children in the time I’ve been at Lanyon Bowdler. I have worked part time since having my daughters and I am very grateful to Lanyon Bowdler for allowing me to work in a way that met my family’s needs, but also allowed me to continue to develop as a lawyer. It is difficult for modern mums to strike the right work/life balance but Lanyon Bowdler have always done their best to support me with this and for that I am very grateful.

My own business Music Heroes

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And so a new opportunity has presented itself and I am saying goodbye to the legal profession to pursue something very different. I am also a musician and I am going to be running my own business; “Music Heroes”, providing instrumental tuition to primary school aged children. I am a classically trained pianist but also play the violin, guitar and ukulele. Being able to play a musical instrument is a wonderful gift that has far reaching benefits both in terms of academic achievement and also mental wellbeing.

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The Music Heroes ethos is to make instrumental tuition fun; learning and play songs that you know and love. Watch this space…..!

So this is it….Thank you to Lanyon Bowdler for the memories. I will miss you. Thank you Neil Lorimer for putting up with me for 10 years and teaching me everything I know. I wish you and the firm every success for the future.

 

Penalty Points to Increase for Drivers Caught Using Handheld Mobile Phones

It is likely to go largely unnoticed in light of the UK media’s obsession with overnight news from across the Atlantic, but, following consultation, the Government has now confirmed that the Department for Transport will be implementing the following proposals in respect of handheld mobiles whilst driving:

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  1. The number of penalty points issued will rise from 3 to 6 for all drivers.

  2. The fixed penalty notice fine will double from the current £100 to £200, applicable to all.

  3. A remedial course that has previously been offered to offenders caught for the first time, as an alternative to prosecution, will no longer be available.

Pondering - Make Your Will

I’m sitting in my garden looking at the sky
Thinking I’d love to be up there, if only I could fly

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I’m sitting at my table just working out some things
The cost of living’s rising, and I worry about such stuff

I’m pondering my life right now wondering what went wrong
Been dealt so many duff hands, I know I shouldn’t moan

I shouldn’t be so gloomy; I’m healthier than some
But watching deterioration of people you love is a very hard thing to do

Now I have been pondering, I hope it makes you too
I’ve put in place my Will, so people will know just what to do

Just in case you’re sitting in your garden just like me
Pondering about your future or that of your family

It may not be a subject that everyone likes to address
But make sure you don’t leave your family a loading of flipping stress

Don’t just sit there pondering about life’s ups and downs 
Make a Will, be sensible – it may just save on any moans!

Constructive Feedback - Top Tips

One of the important skills that the mentors learn as part of the Debate-Ed programme is how to give constructive and positive feedback to students.

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Throughout the workshops, the students are encouraged to volunteer answers, speak up in front of their peer group and, through trial and error, to improve their skills. All of these activities can be very daunting so it is important that they receive positive reinforcement at every turn, whether this is simply an encouraging smile or prizes such as sweets.

As well as providing positive reinforcement, it is important for the mentors to give the students constructive feedback in order to facilitate their learning. This should be given throughout the lesson as well as at the end of activities.

Of course, the ability to effectively provide constructive feedback is a key skill in many walks of life as it helps ensure that the people around you know what is expected of them and also feel appreciated and acknowledged. Consequently, I thought it would be helpful to share some top tips on how to give constructive feedback.

DO praise improvement

It is important to acknowledge and praise improvement as this helps reinforce the positive behaviour making repetition more likely. You should always be able to sincerely praise something about the person’s performance so make sure you do so.

DO suggest one or two ways to improve

It is useful for people to have at least one thing they can actively work to improve on. However, don’t be tempted to list numerous ways to improve as there is only so much that anyone can take in and actively work on at any one time and, also listing more than one or two flaws can make the student feel like they didn’t do anything right.

DON’T give vague or unclear feedback

If the feedback is vague or unclear (eg It just could have been better), then it is difficult for the listener to understand what problems they need to fix or how they might go about this. Make sure when giving feedback that you can identify one thing they need to do better and perhaps have an example of this (eg Your speech trailed off at the end which lessened the impact of what you were saying. Next time, make sure you have a solid conclusion to finish with).

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