The Legal Side of Divorce

While divorce can be an emotionally draining experience, even in the best of situations, it can also be a complicated legal matter that affects both parties equally. No matter how long your marriage has lasted or how few belongings you share together, it is also best to involve an attorney in your divorce proceedings. With out legal representation your rights could go unprotected and you could end up in financial trouble or even lose custody of your children or possessions.

Once you have contacted an attorney for legal representation, he or she will walk you through the most common steps of a divorce. Depending on the circumstances revolving around your divorce, this process can either be very simple and straight forward, or very complicated and time consuming.

The simplest divorces involve parties that have not been together very long, that do not have any children and that have very few, if any, shared items to divide. More complicated divorces come about from parties with a lot of mutually owned property, young children, and non-agreement on the proceedings. Non-agreement can include such things as differing opinions on how to split up property to bigger concerns such one party not wanting to agree to the divorce.

The first step in any divorce is filing a petition to announce your intentions of divorce. Even if both parties want a divorce, only one party will file this petition. In the petition, you lawyer will list your reason for seeking divorce. He or she will also advise you on which reason is more acceptable for your situation.

After a petition has been filed, your lawyer may suggest that you file a temporary order. A temporary order is usually filed for concerns about custody and child support where one party will need financial support or the guarantee of custody until final judgment is made. These orders are awarded within days of filing and stay in effect until the court hearing in your case.

Once a person has filed a petition for divorce or any temporary orders, these petitions are served to the other party. Through this service, the other party is notified of all petitions against him or her and is given the chance to respond to the petitions. In mutually agreed upon divorces, the response is as simple as a comment acknowledging the petition. In cases of disagreement, the response may contain disputes covering anything from the grounds of the divorce to disagreements on the division of property, child custody or support.

If there is no disagreement once a petition has been filed, then both parties will proceed without a trial to the dissolution of their marriage. However, if there are disagreements, further steps will need to be taken to sort them out.

Depending on the type of disagreement, the court has many venues to use to help the parties reach agreement. In the case of custody battles, the court may order both parties to attend a mediation session where a third party can help them settle their difference. In some cases, the court might also order an evaluation with a social worker to ensure that any solution is in the best interest of the children.

If the disagreement concerns monetary or property division, the court may order a conference for both parties that is overseen by a lawyer or a court employee. In this case the third party will work to help individual compromise while still holding onto their rights.

If the parties still cannot agree on the terms or provisions of the divorce, a trial will be necessary. In a divorce trial, both sides will explain and defend their positions and then a judge will decide on all matters of grounds, property division, child custody and support. Once the judge has made his ruling an order of dissolution is granted.

An order of dissolution legally ends the marriage and sets forth the legally binding terms for the end of the marriage. The terms include the judgments ordered on property division and child support.

Since each divorce comes with individual concerns and many migrating circumstances, it is very important that you choose a competent and experienced lawyer to represent you and your interests.

Greening the Corporation – Advising Companies On Corporate Sustainability Requirements

For a growing number of businesses, implementing smart environmental policy aids legal compliance and promotes competitiveness. Gone are the days when the only companies concerned about environmental laws were heavy manufacturers. Recent developments in both the U.S. government and private corporate sectors have ushered in a new era of corporate sustainability, in which complying with environmental regulations is moving from a recommendation to a mandate for a wide range of businesses. Just as organizations must develop and enforce policies in the areas of governance, employment, and safety, many companies and public agencies are now required to track and report sustainability measurements to ensure legal compliance. Moreover, many forward-thinking companies are already implementing environmental policies to stay competitive, even though it is not yet a legal requirement. In-house counsel should be aware of the new corporate sustainability requirements and recommendations to advise organizations how to develop policies, avoid liability and succeed in the new green economy.

While 2010 began without a comprehensive U.S. federal climate law or legally binding international agreement, regulatory action and negotiations are ongoing. Despite the failure of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Denmark last December to produce any binding greenhouse gas emission (“GHG”) reduction laws, nations will continue working toward a global climate treaty. In the U.S., a bi-partisan bill being sponsored by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) could succeed in bringing the parties together and finally getting a new climate law passed.

In the meantime, businesses cannot afford to sit back and wait for definitive law in this area, since a new federal Executive Order, EPA regulations, SEC guidance and private sector programs have gone into effect which apply to a wide variety of companies and public agencies. All organizations that are subject to these new requirements should be incorporating them into their planning and taking steps to ensure compliance.

I. Executive Order 13514

On October 5, 2009, President Obama signed Executive Order 13514, titled Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance. This Executive Order requires all federal agencies to inventory their GHG emissions, set targets to reduce their emissions by 2020, and develop a plan for meeting a wide range of goals for improving sustainability, such as increasing energy and water efficiency, reducing waste, reducing fleet petroleum consumption, supporting sustainable communities, developing and maintaining high performance buildings, and leveraging Federal purchasing power to promote environmentally-responsible products and technologies.

Other environmental targets in the order include a 30% reduction in fleet gasoline use and 26% boost in water efficiency by 2020, and a 50% waste recycling and diversion rate by 2015. The 2030 net-zero-energy building requirement must also be implemented under the order. Each agency must appoint a senior sustainability officer responsible for complying with the order. The Chair of the Council on Environment will report agency goals and results directly to the President.

“As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the Federal government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use environmentally-responsible products and technologies,” President Obama said in a statement.

The Executive Order was intended to jumpstart a transition to a clean energy economy as climate change legislation works its way through Congress, saving taxpayers money in the process. The order will have a significant impact based on the Federal government’s sheer size: it occupies nearly 500,000 buildings and operates more than 600,000 vehicles.

Another key component of the Executive Order is a green procurement policy requiring 95% of new federal contracts and acquisitions to meet sustainability requirements which promote environmentally responsible products and technologies. This also carries a lot of weight due to the government’s huge buying power, which exceeds more than $500 billion spent on goods and services annually. The Executive Order charges the General Services Administration (“GSA”) with exploring the feasibility of tracking vendor GHG emissions. Recommendations could include requiring vendors to register with a voluntary GHG emissions registry and disclose their efforts to reduce emissions. Preferences or other incentives could be given for “products manufactured using processes that minimize greenhouse gas emissions.”

For the purchase of electronic products and services, the Executive Order requires the GSA to ensure that 95% of new contract actions, task orders, and delivery orders for products and services (excluding weapon systems) are energy efficient (ENERGY STAR® or FEMP-designated), water efficient, bio-based, environmentally preferable (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) certified), non-ozone depleting, contain recycled content, or are non-toxic or less-toxic alternatives where such products and services meet agency performance requirements.

The GSA announced in late January 2010 that it had already drafted energy service agreements with 18 companies to reduce its consumption through energy audits, monitoring and use of renewable energy.The GSA also took steps to make the federal fleet more efficient with the purchase of thousands of new vehicles last year using $210 million in stimulus funds. Roughly 6,500 of the vehicles — a mix of hybrids, flex-fuel and four-cylinders — are earmarked for the U.S. Postal Service, which operates the country’s largest fleet of alternative fuel vehicles.In 2008, the GSA estimated its purchase of 15,000 seats of power management software would save up to $750,000 annually.

Eventually, all federal purchasing will incorporate the measurement of GHG emissions as a contract requirement. The first step, which is part of Executive Order 13514, is the creation of a voluntary GHG emissions reporting system for government contractors and vendors. Contractors’ (and subcontractors’) ability to measure and minimize their GHG emissions and provide energy efficient products and services will become an important factor in winning government contracts.

II. SEC Guidance on Climate Change Disclosures

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued Interpretive Release No. 33-9106 on February 2, 2010 in order to provide guidance to public companies of the agency’s disclosure requirements regarding climate change issues. The guidance, which became effective immediately, applies to all public companies.

The release doesn’t create new disclosure requirements or modify existing disclosure requirements, but rather, was issued for clarification purposes. Specifically, the guidance addresses four areas that may trigger disclosure obligations under existing SEC requirements:

(1) whether the impact of proposed or existing climate change laws and regulations in the U.S. and other countries may materially affect the company’s financial condition or operations;
(2) whether international climate change accords or treaties will impact its business;
(3) whether a company is likely to face indirect opportunities or risks arising out of legal, technological, political and scientific developments regarding climate change (such as changes in demand for the company’s goods/services, increased competition, or reputational damage); and
(4) whether a company faces potential physical impacts of climate change on its business (such as disruption to operations caused by weather or supply interruptions, increased insurance, or water availability and quality).

The SEC guidance provides that these climate change disclosures may be required under the Description of Business (Item 101), Legal Proceedings (103), Management’s Discussion and Analysis (303), and Risk Factors (503(c)) sections of companies’ filings under Regulation S-K.

The SEC noted its concern that some companies had already been providing climate change information on a voluntary basis to third parties, and it wanted to ensure that similar disclosures were in SEC filings as may be required under SEC regulations. Independent organizations such as The Climate Registry and The Carbon Disclosure Project maintain corporate climate change data, while the most dominant reporting regulations are those of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Launched in 1997 with the goal of “enhancing the quality, rigor, and utility of sustainability reporting,” the GRI develops criteria that could eventually serve as the basis for generally accepted sustainability reporting standards. As of 2008, more than 1,000 companies from more than 60 countries registered with the GRI and were issuing corporate sustainability reports using its reporting framework.

The SEC expressly indicated in the comments to the guidance that it will be focusing on climate change disclosures in its review of company filings. As a practical matter, public companies are well advised to treat this guidance as binding; if they haven’t disclosed climate risks in the past, they’ll need to begin establishing disclosure procedures for all future relevant filings using these measures as a roadmap.

III. EPA Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule

Beginning on January 1, 2010, a mandatory EPA rule went into effect, which requires that all major GHG emitters track and report their GHG emissions data under a new system. The new rule applies to industries or facilities that emit over 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, of which there are currently approximately 10,000 in the U.S. Most emitters are required to install new monitoring equipment or at a minimum develop new GHG measurement protocols. Recognizing that not all of the organizations would be able to comply by January 1, 2010, the rule allows them to use their “best available monitoring methods” until April 1, 2010.

Affected entities will also need to have a written GHG Monitoring Plan, which must address the methods used to collect GHG data, specify the quality assurance, maintenance, and repair procedures for the GHG monitoring equipment, and assigned roles for facility staff to gather data. In addition, the rule mandates the implementation of GHG monitoring training and documentation procedures in line with the record keeping requirements. While the facilities do not have to send their monitoring plans to the EPA, they are required to maintain the plan at their facility and make it available should the EPA request to review it.

This new EPA regulation is just one of many international, federal, state, and regional programs already enacted or currently pending to address the issue of GHG emissions. While there is still a great deal of uncertainty regarding climate change matters and sustainability compliance, it’s not a question of whether most companies will eventually be legally required to monitor, report and reduce their GHG emissions — it’s only a question of when, and how.

IV. Private Sector Sustainability Programs

In the business community, despite the lack of uniform laws and regulations, the last several years have seen a great deal of climate change momentum. In October 2009, major corporations including Apple, Pacific Gas & Electric and Exelon left the U.S. Chamber of Commerce over its strong position against U.S. regulation of GHG emissions. Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates has recently been calling for making climate change our number one priority, and advocates a global effort to lower carbon emissions to zero by 2050 to avoid the damaging effects of climate change.

More companies are now voluntarily launching new efforts to reduce their climate impact. The steady increase in corporate action toward energy efficiency, renewable energy investment, carbon neutrality, and technological innovation stands in stark contrast to the stalled political action on climate change.

Perhaps the most significant corporate action addressing climate change and sustainability is that of Walmart, the world’s largest retailer. The company recently put into effect the “Walmart Sustainability Index,” which assesses all of its suppliers worldwide based on the lifecycle analysis and environmental impact of their products. Over 100,000 suppliers are now highly incentivized to increase their sustainability efforts in order to maintain a successful business relationship with Walmart and remain competitive in the marketplace.

Working closely with the Environmental Defense Fund (“EDF”), Walmart has also committed to reducing 20 million metric tons of carbon pollution from its products’ lifecycle and supply chain by the end of 2015. This equates to the annual GHG from 3.8 million cars — a significant impact.

Due to its sheer size, Walmart is in a unique position to cut carbon pollution across the globe. Its new commitments are bold because:

* Walmart’s supply chain is huge, so these initiatives will have widespread repercussions. Walmart’s new index encourages suppliers to reduce their emissions – which they might not otherwise do — resulting in positive energy efficiency efforts by tens of thousands of companies around the world.
* Walmart is prioritizing the products that create the most carbon emissions across their lifecycles as well as top selling products, and focusing on those first.
* The results are immediate, and not dependent on any particular governmental body to act, or any specific laws or regulations, which may be appealed or changed.
* In conjunction with the Sustainability Index and other measures, it clearly communicates a strong message from Walmart to its international network of suppliers that they must reduce carbon pollution.

Other major global companies taking aggressive action in the area of sustainability and climate change include Hewlett Packard, IBM, Ikea, Johnson & Johnson, Nike, Intel, Dell and Weyerhaeuser. Given their hundreds of thousands of employees, suppliers and customers around the world, these companies have the ability to be very influential in the development of green business practices.

Between the federal government with its more than a half trillion dollar procurement budget, the many companies subject to SEC climate change disclosure rules and/or EPA GHG monitoring requirements, and the private corporate programs such as Walmart’s index which in effect guarantee preferences to vendors who implement sustainable practices, businesses and organizations of all sizes, across virtually all industries, will soon be facing the need to increase sustainability efforts.

Further, these developments indicate that sustainability targets, once merely an option, will soon be mandated in both the private and public sector. Apart from the legal compliance requirements, from a corporate perspective developing sustainability policies now provides a competitive advantage in the marketplace and reduces costs.

V. Developing a Sustainability Compliance Program

Businesses should therefore carefully assess the legal threats and growth opportunities presented by sustainability initiatives. This assessment requires consideration of qualitative and quantitative information, since both strategic issues and corporate emissions levels drive the identification of climate change-related risks and opportunities. For example, certain issues mentioned in the SEC guidance, such as legal, technological, political, and scientific developments, can alter the competitive marketplace by creating new business areas or threatening existing ones, thereby triggering the need for disclosure in a company’s management discussion and analysis.

Depending on the organization’s specific business area and operations, companies should consider taking some or all of the following steps, with the goal of making sustainability a part of the overall culture:

* Establish a benchmark of your organization’s environmental performance. This is a critical step in establishing goals and developing a comprehensive sustainability program.
* If your company manufactures or supplies products, evaluate the products’ life cycle impacts. This can be done by completing or outsourcing a life cycle assessment (LCA). The LCA will be a valuable tool to help make any needed changes to the product or service and reduce environmental impacts and overall costs.
* Hire or appoint a corporate sustainability officer. Federal government agencies are now mandated to fulfill this job function, and savvy private companies are doing the same. One caveat: if you appoint a sustainability officer with little expertise in this area, they should receive training or consulting services from an experienced and credible agency (e.g., the Institute of Green Professionals).
* Establish cross-functional teams to develop sustainability programs for your organization. Pulling data from the benchmarking data should be used to assist the teams in setting realistic and achievable goals.
* Set initial sustainability goals that will achieve immediate success such as waste reduction and recycling. This will build momentum for the program and generate savings that can go towards the more difficult and long-term tasks.
* Provide sustainability training to those who need it in your organization as it relates to their specific job functions.
* Communicate information about the sustainability program to your shareholders, employees, customers and vendors.

There are a number of systems available to help companies assess their climate change related risks and opportunities, calculate their quantitative emissions information, inform them of the likelihood of potential costs from regulation, as well as highlight potential benefits, such as profits from the sale of carbon credits and opportunities for energy efficiency cost-savings. Participation in a voluntary reporting program such as the Climate Registry or the Carbon Disclosure Project is one way companies can begin gathering information on their carbon footprint and gain greater insight into where emissions are occurring in their operations. Companies may also be able to use the information they collect for these programs to assist them in creating other outputs, including 10K filings. The Carbon Disclosure Project questionnaire, or the GRI reporting system, can be used as a framework to begin internally assessing which factors within their business create climate change risks or opportunities.

Corporations can expect to see carbon management grow in importance as domestic and international regulatory activity continues in 2010. In tandem with this trend, the number of products and services developed to help organizations measure and manage their environmental impacts will expand, from startup offerings to more sophisticated enterprise solutions from industry leaders such as SAP, IBM and Microsoft. Enterprise carbon accounting software and sustainability consulting services sales will grow as companies seek detailed, real-time information about their climate impacts.

In addition, companies can obtain assistance in sustainability compliance from organizations which have been formed to share environmental technology and solutions. The Eco-Patent Commons was launched in 2008 by IBM, Nokia, Pitney-Bowes and Sony in conjunction with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to contribute environmental patents to the public domain. The organization’s mission is to protect the environment and enable collaboration between businesses that foster new innovations. There are now 100 eco-friendly patents pledged to the public domain through this venture.

The GreenXchange was created to enable companies to share intellectual property for green product design, packaging, manufacturing and other uses. Founded by Nike and other companies, the group is a Web-based marketplace where organizations can collaborate and share intellectual property, with the goal of developing new sustainability business models and innovation.

Similarly, last year the EDF launched an Innovation Exchange to encourage companies to share strategies related to energy, water, climate and a host of other issues. Like the Eco-Patent Commons and the GreenXchange, it hopes to publicize new technologies and best practices. The EDF included content in the Innovation Exchange that it developed during its 20 years of experience in working with Fortune 500 companies including Walmart, FedEx and McDonald’s.

Business counsel should familiarize themselves with the new corporate sustainability compliance initiatives being implemented by many of the world’s largest corporations, as well as the tools and resources available to assist businesses in developing their own environmental policies and procedures. Soon, legal departments will regularly be called upon to counsel management on how to handle the current and future mandatory corporate sustainability requirements, which will not only help their companies avoid liability but also improve their businesses and reduce environmental impact.

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get Into the Legal Profession?

“What is the Cheapest way to get into law?”

Entering the legal profession is without doubt one of the most expensive career options apart from becoming an airline pilot. It involves investing thousands of pounds in education that may or may not lead to a position at the end of the road.

Unfortunately there is no simple answer to which is the cheapest way to get in because there are all sorts of implications as to the different paths you choose to go down.

The Legal Executive route is the cheapest option. Quite a few people go down this particular route following on from an undergraduate degree, whether law or otherwise, or straight out of school. The Legal Executive route in terms of monetary cost is considerably cheaper than the Graduate Diploma in Law/LLB degree and the Legal Practice Course (the solicitor route).

We did a bit of research and the current cost in 2013 to complete both parts of the Legal Executive training (Part 3 and Part 6) is about £6,500 (course fees, exam fees etc..) The current cost of the Legal Practice Course at the University of Law is £11,000-£13,000. If you combine the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Legal Practice Court (LPC) the overall cost is about £18,000-£20,000.

If you combine the Legal Practice Course with the cost of completing a law degree then the usual overall price is around £25,000 to £30,000, which is gradually creeping up to around the £40,000 mark as law schools start to capitalise on the willingness and ability of potential lawyers to pay.

In the past people have been down the vocational course route or alternatively the New York Attorney route, but these are options that are now in the past because, as we understand it, the Law Society still require you to complete the LPC and a training contract or training contract equivalent, which makes it senseless to plan to do either of these two in order to become a lawyer.

So if you look at the different options, the cheapest one by far is the route through the Institute of Legal Executives and becoming a chartered legal executive before then either moving on to being a solicitor simply remaining a legal executive.

The various borders between all the different types of lawyer (legal executive, paralegal, solicitor and Barrister) are becoming distinctly blurred. Solicitors can now do work that was exclusively reserved for barristers. Barristers can see clients directly. Legal executives can gain the Rights of Audience that solicitors and barristers previously exclusively enjoyed. Legal Executives can now become partners of law firms and so can barristers. Solicitors can practice as Advocates without ever needing to take instructions from clients themselves.

However one thing remains very clear and that is that in the minds of lawyers themselves there is still a hierarchy in terms of both fee income and status.

At the bottom of the pile is a paralegal and this is very unlikely to change for a good few years yet simply because paralegals have no rights at all in terms of advocacy, and similarly cannot practice on their own without another type of lawyer being with them.

Second in the pile are Legal Executives who are starting to enjoy more status in recent times but similarly hold lesser standing in the legal profession as a whole than solicitors and barristers. It is partly because of the old-fashioned view that most people who have become legal executives are former secretaries trying to work their way up. this is still very much the case for some people and perfectly understandable as a very easy way in.

After all, being a solicitor requires you to do quite a bit of academic study at some point or other whereas becoming a legal executive is mostly something you can do on the job with a few evenings a week at night school or weekends at doing distance learning spread over a considerable length of time.

Second from the top are solicitors. Make no mistake, in the legal professional solicitors are definitely considered second rate by just about everyone including themselves, even when they are commercial lawyers earning considerable sums of money and more than the Barristers they instruct. Solicitors are seen more as wheeler-dealers and go-getters than actual lawyers, and the profession itself over time has determined effectively that solicitors are the monkeys to barristers’ organ grinders.

At the top of the pile are the barristers. The vast majority of barristers I suspect would class themselves as upper class. They are often very sharp, extremely intelligent, usually residing in exclusive villages or streets reserved for premier league footballers, doctors and senior businessmen and with cars to match.

Barristers see solicitors as a necessary evil as traditionally the solicitors obtain clients for the barristers and the barristers did their best for them even though they usually have not met the client before the date of their first hearing and have absolutely no interest at all in their welfare or personal situation.

Barristers are pure law at the end of the day and are not interested (quite understandably) in their clients’ welfare or wellbeing.

These are traditional views on the legal profession and the way it is structured. How you choose to interpret the above article is a matter for yourself, but it is based on my own experiences in law, whether as a lay person undertaking cases myself or as a qualified solicitor working with barristers and other solicitors.

The reason I put this level of detail into this article is to show you that if you decide to go in the cheapest way into the legal profession there is always a catch, and at the moment the catch is that your status for the remainder of your time in the profession will be diminished by the decision you have made now.

Once a legal executive always a legal executive. The lawyers recruiting you at the moment are usually “pure” solicitors. They will hold your status as a legal executive against you and probably for the remainder of your career. Your salary will often be affected as solicitors traditionally believe that legal executives are worth less money than qualified solicitors. I would estimate that over the time of your career remaining you will lose around £5,000 to £10,000 per year at the very least through your decision to go down the Legal Executives route, at least up until you have been in a solicitors job for 5 years min.

Furthermore, certain doors will be shut to you from then start. If you qualify as a legal executive you very often have to qualify into an area where legal executives are used and practice. This invariably means debt recovery, some types of employment – usually contentious, crime, family, conveyancing, wills and probate and sometimes commercial property. Whilst some of these are not known to be too bad in the long term – commercial property and wills and probate are not too badly paid at the moment – it does mean that the majority of commercial law for example is going to be outside your remit.

It is very difficult to move from one field to another once you have specialised in one particular area of law. So for example if you qualify as a legal executive undertaking crime work and have 5 years’ experience you cannot then use your legal executive status (or indeed your solicitor status) to move across and practice in corporate finance.

If you are an able student or graduate with excellent grades then you should almost always make an effort to go down the solicitor or barrister route. Going down the solicitor route is not as expensive as people think it is.

For example you do not need to pay the College of Law or BPP to do the Legal Practice Course or the Graduate Diploma in Law. There are far cheaper alternatives and regardless of what the more elite institutions tell you, the vast majority of law firms don’t care two hoots where you do your LPC because most qualified lawyers view these courses as burning hoops to jump through in order to qualify than any sign of your ability.

Employers are always interested in your undergraduate degree. For the rest of your career. Forever!

They are also interested in your A level grades. Forever!

This plus your A- Level grades will determine whether you are a student or graduate with excellent academics. If you have straight A’s at A Level or AAB or possibly ABB then you will be an excellent student to come into law.

If you have a 2:1 Degree in anything other than pop music or country dancing (my first degree was pop music), then you stand a very good chance of training and becoming a qualified solicitor.

If you have less than this then your life as a lawyer will be considerably harder to start out with. The Legal profession do not view 2:2 degrees as being something that entitles you to practice as a lawyer. It will go against you for the remainder of your career and there is no way round it. I suspect that if you are sat there reading this with a 2:2 degree you have been badly misinformed by anyone who has told you to go into the legal profession. It is not impossible – I have trained and coached many students and graduates who have 2:2 degrees (sometimes even a 3rd) and they have gone onto enjoy rewarding careers as lawyers in some capacity. However, their road into law has been considerably harder as a result of their inability to obtain a 2:1 degree.

So getting back to my statement that if you have excellent academics you should always consider becoming a solicitor so as not to damage your career in the long term by going down the Legal Executive route.

If you do not have excellent academics then you should always consider alternative options and one of these will be to go down the legal executive route.

However I would not recommend paying to undertake a legal executive course until you have legal work experience, you are able to use in the longer term to secure yourself a good legal career.

By this I mean that if you are a student or graduate you should definitely not go straight along to the Institute of Legal Executives and sign up for any legal executive course. If you are going down a non-conventional route into law then academic study once you have completed an undergraduate degree or your A-Levels is completely immaterial. Experience is what matters and nothing else will do. Legal work experience is the key to gaining a successful start into law.

You cannot skip this, circumvent or navigate round it as so many people try every year.

This is why academic institutions have been bought out by overseas companies looking to make a quick buck.

There are a lot of people out there undertaking postgraduate and undergraduate courses with no hope at all of ever finding a job in the profession they are going into.

Furthermore, there are lots of people out there who have the academic qualifications but lack any work experience or activities or interests who similarly are very unlikely to ever get ahead in law or get through the easy way.

No careers adviser will give you this advice, but the main thing to do to get into law is to get experience, more experience and even more experience. This may cost money in itself, and you may say that I have my fees to pay and I have to live. This gets me to my point that if you want to invest in your career then spending money on academic qualifications is not the way to go. Getting experience is and this in itself will cost you money.

To give you a quick example, as I write this a vacancy has come in from one of our central London law firms. They are looking for a fee earner to go and assist for a month or two with a load of admin work. They will pay well for this, and it is a job probably most suited for an LPC graduate.

I have one in mind.

It is not an LPC graduate with a 2:1 law degree or good A levels. It is not an LPC graduate with an LLM from a good university or some sort of summer school academic qualification. It is an LPC graduate with similar experience to that the firm are seeking.

The firm will not give two hoots what the LPC graduate has in terms of additional qualifications but they will study the LPC graduate’s work experience to date to decide whether or not to take them on for this particular role.

It is so important to understand this that when somebody says what is the cheapest way into law that there is no easy answer. You cannot just take a decision now that will affect the rest of your career simply on the basis that it may cost one or two thousand pounds more to go one way into the legal profession rather than another.

You will notice that so far I have not mentioned anything about barristers. This is because in my experience training to be a barrister is almost always a complete waste of your money and time. You would probably be shocked to hear this and perhaps put it down to my natural bias against barristers having been a solicitor myself. I would grudgingly accept that probably I am a little biased against barristers having run around courts for them, I’ve dealt with some pretty awful ones over the years (as well as some absolutely fantastic ones) but the barristers’ strand of the profession is pretty much tied up and it is very important to understand this.

The word nepotism could almost have been invented for this part of the profession. Let me give you an example.

Back many years ago when I had just qualified as a solicitor our practice used a local chambers which had a very good reputation in the area and was probably the top set of barristers by a considerable distance. I cannot remember any of their barristers being unsuited or incompetent and most being incredibly talented advocates.

At some stage in my first year after training I remember that they advertised for two pupil barristers to join them. There were a considerable number of applications, as you would expect because this was a top quality set of chambers, outstanding reputation with quality work coming in, in an area where there are not many barristers’ chambers.

I do not know how the recruitment process occurred but I do know that the two pupils selected were children of one of the senior barristers in chambers and one of the more junior barristers. I am afraid that the barristers’ profession can talk about diversity and equal opportunity to their hearts content but when recruitment like this occurs in a chambers of that size it is completely irrelevant.

It is always going to be the case that if chambers at that level recruit their own then anyone else will either have to set up rival chambers or alternatively work for a lesser standard of chambers.

It may be that the two children of the barristers already in practice were the best suited for the role, and I am sure they went on to be absolutely outstanding barristers but the point is these two people gained their pupillages with chambers to which they were already affiliated through their parents.

Without any sort or recruitment process that eliminates this (and after all why should it – I would have done exactly the same myself as a barrister if my children wanted to practice as barristers!) then this is not a strand of the profession to go into unless you have family or extremely good friends who are able to assist you in your search or pupillage.

The vast majority of people who complete the Bar Professional Training Course do not end up as barristers. They end up working as paralegals or non-qualified lawyers with a views to taking the Legal Practice Course at a future point in their career, costing even more money.

This is a false economy because the cost of completing the Bar Professional Training Course and the Legal Practice Course is verging on the ridiculous for the returns that you will get at a later stage in your career.

So in summary I recommend anyone coming into the profession to do one of two things.

1. If you have excellent academics and the ability to add legal work experience to your CV to bolster this then go and try and qualify as a solicitor. Do not go down any other route.

2. If you do not have excellent academics do not go down the route of qualifying to be a solicitor. You can go and get work experience and prove me wrong (and I hope you do) but you would be better suited to a life as a legal executive with a view to cross-qualifying at a later stage by competing the Legal Practice Course or simply being happy doing what you are doing as a legal executive.

Always think – why are you going into law? What do you want to get out of it? How much will you need to earn in order to get what you want out of life?