Careers in Law - BFUWI Legal Workshop Sat 14 November 2015
Last weekend many law students, lecturers and seasoned lawyers gathered in the Mike Goldstein Auditorium at the Coventry Law School for an afternoon of sharing and discussion on opportunities in the legal profession. This Legal Workshop was organised by the Coventry Law School in collaboration with British Foundation for the University of the West Indies (BFUWI) and the Global Leadership Programme, under the theme ‘Careers in Law: Global Options, Local Opportunities.
Conceived by practicing barrister Susan Belgrave of the 7 Bedford Row chambers this event was part of an ongoing program of intellectual discourses put on by the BFUWI for the benefit of the UK Caribbean Diaspora and other communities interested in pursuing academic programmes at the University of the West Indies. This discourse was designed specifically to showcase the wealth of talent that can be found within the UK legal community.
The main objective of the event was to enable the attending students to not only glean from a cadre of highly skilled legal practitioners from diverse backgrounds the challenges they faced on their journey to the top of their respective fields; but to expose the students to opportunities that exist nationally and internationally within different and unusual areas that might otherwise not be known to the students.
Following registration the event started promptly at 13.30 with an enlightening introduction by Professor Stuart Weinstein, Head, Coventry Law School who is an expert on legal education, legal risk management, governance and compliance and financial services law. He is a qualified solicitor and attorney at law in California, District of Colombia and New York. The professor encouraged the participants to pay rapt attention and absorb as much as possible as the cadre of presenters was historic and should be seen as a unique opportunity to learn.
Professor Augustine John, University College London, Institute of Education and member of the African Union’s Technical Committee of Experts, tasked with working out the modalities for making the Global African Diaspora the Sixth Region of Africa; followed Professor Weinstein by reiterating to the students and guests his predecessor’s comments about the value of the programme and the importance of the level of diversity in terms of gender and race achieved by the organisers in establishing the three panels. He congratulated the organisers.
Senior Lecturer in Law at Coventry Law School, Mr. Terrence Wendell Brathwaite took the podium and delved straight into the importance of students cultivating a healthy attitude toward learning to work through personal experiences. He introduced and explained the concept, ERGONAGY which is essentially the art and science of helping people learn to work, the Underlying Teaching and Learning Principle of the Legal Workshop. Mr Brathwaite commented on how people are naturally prone to remain in their comfort zone as a matter of course rather than challenge themselves to explore and seek out opportunities. To illustrate this point he spoke of the predictable attitude of fleas in a controlled environment. See experiment below:
He asserted that part of the challenge of being relevant in this dynamic world is to re-educate ourselves through learning to work. That ERGONAGY is a school of thought that:
- Is about promoting a re- education that will acquaint people with ‘REAL LIFE’ – not only through vocational training, but by closely relating school, college, and university with ‘REAL LIFE’ experiences.
- Life , indeed is the true school, and our schools, whether of general legal education or vocational legal training, should be auxilliaries of ‘REAL LIFE’.
Mr Brathwaite implored the students to ‘Be The Change That You Want To See In The World’. He cited an Ancient Indian proverb, “What the elders see while sitting, the young may not see even standing on their toes”, to make the point that the students should appreciate their disposition in life and avail themselves to learning from the wiser among them.
Lecturer in Law, Coventry Law School (Chair), Mr. Juan Antonio Caldero introduced the first panel speaker, former Senior Lecturer at Inns of Court School of Law, Mr. Colin Bobb-Semple who has published extensively in the fields of Criminal Justice, Racial Equality, Legal History and Human Rights has been very candid about the need for law enthusiasts to first have the right approach to life through strength of character and mind. He was also quite explicit in his response to a student’s question about the future of the legal profession by saying the abolition of legal aid is tantamount to the profession being under attack and does not augur well for the profession.
Accomplished Paralegal, Mr. Ian Rajaratnam from Leigh Day & Co Solicitors who has a particular interest in race discrimination law was unapologetic about his preference to remain as a Paralegal rather than becoming a barrister or solicitor. He claims he’s having tremendous fun and getting enormous job satisfaction, a statement that provoked visible shock and amazement from many participants.
Ms Suzanne Reece – solicitor and trade union health and safety representative and employment law specialist spoke about her varied skills and qualifications. She shared that she didn’t have a childhood wish to become a lawyer or study law but was persuaded by a friend to do so and hasn’t looked back having eventually been a BPTC lecturer at City University London.
There were excellent presentations by Mr. Richard Wilson QC – Head of Chambers, 36 Bedford Row who is reputed for being cogent and determined in court having made apearance in the UK Supreme Court, the House of Lords, the Court of Appeal and the High Court; Mrs. Dawn Brathwaite – Partner, Mills & Reeve Solicitors, who advises the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority, the organisation that regulates fertility clinics in England; Mr. Paul McFarlane – Partner, Weightmans, who specializes in advising on industrial relations disputes, age discrimination, working time issues and senior executive terminations. Paul provided the second shock for the day by notifying the audience that one does not need to have a law degree to enter the legal profession.
The presentations of the following were equally illuminating and memorable; Mr. Lewitt Nurse – Attorney at law – Santander Global Markets, Mrs. Rosemarie Cadogan – Legal Adviser, Commonwealth Secretariat, who has 15 years transactional experience on projects in West Africa, the Caribbean, Australia and South America. Rosemarie advocates that law graduates move around gaining varied experience until the right area of law presents itself. Mrs. Vanessa Rizzioli – Founder and Principal of Cranwicke Consulting, formerly of Nova Capital, she’s also an entrepreneur having had active interest in a number of business ventures, including a London start-up trading business in the restaurant sector. Vanessa drove home the fact that their are no short cuts to success and graduates must be prepared to make appropriate sacrifices.
The final panel comprised Susan Belgrave, Penny Carballo-Smith, Director of Future Think and Lorraine Moses-Copeman , senior solicitor at Wolverhampton Council. They were scheduled to discuss the future of the profession and answer students’ questions. There was a lively discussion and a reminder to students that they should try to follow areas of interest to them as lawyers’ hours were long and unsociable.
There were many opportunities for internships and training via in-house positions. Speakers also reminded students of the dramatic changes which technology was bringing to the profession with many routine tasks being standardised and computerised. They were encouraged to read ‘Tomorrow’s Lawyers’ and the recently published ‘The Future of the Professions’ both by Professor Richard Susskind to gain some insight into predicted changes. They were advised to be flexible and adapt to changes in the ways of working, to embrace rather than be afraid of technology.
In the Q&A session one guest from the Birmingham area, Mr Tony Kelly was quite passionate about the issue of ethics in the profession highlighting the fact that many a solicitor are caught in fraudulent activity resulting in them being disbarred. The organisers acknowledged this as a legitimate concern and reiterated Mr Kelly’s concern to graduates imploring them to focus on providing a valuable trusted service and the money will come.
In recognition of the value achieved by student Elena Geamanu, President of the European Law Students’ Association (Coventry local chapter), she provided the following summary statement :”I have hundreds of thoughts in my mind, but it was the humbleness which the speakers expressed in their statements that they also had something to learn from the event. This brings me back to my thought that they are in positions to which most of us dream of. Yet, they never stop learning; they do not live with the impression that they have such an important position that they know everything. We should all take our hats off to these distinctive persons and to have in mind this valuable lesson.”
The event was supported by an elaborate array of Hors d’oeuvres and drinks adequate for all. Comments all around indicate that this event or Legal Workshop has achieved its main objective to ‘showcase the wealth of talent that can be found within the UK legal community.’ it has also widened the scope of possibilities for students interested in pursuing careers as lawyers both locally and internationally.