‘Your Law Time’ is a series of Guest Blog Posts being launched today on The Time Blawg. The Guest Bloggers will tell you about their personal past, present and future in or associated with the Law.
I am delighted to have Miriam Said as my first Assistant in The Time Blawg Tardis to tell us about her Law Time. I know Miriam (@miriamsaid) from Twitter where her Avatar is Chilly Willy (the Penguin) and her Bio reads: “Occulator and peruser of Twinternet. I ogle your tweets. Frequent multiverse traveller. Purring puddle of humanoid plasma and smiler. I go bump in the night.”
Now you get to see not only a “very rare pic” of Miriam but also to learn that there is a lot more to Miriam than that bump in the night. Do now enjoy Miriam’s very own past, present and future Law Time:-
I Tweet often on Twitter and I follow a few Lawyers. One of those Lawyers is @BrianInkster.
“Are you a Lawyer?”
My response was….
“I’m not a lawyer…yet”.
It was my greatest delight to be asked to do a guest post for The Time Blawg .
I have had a passion for The Law, since a very young age. In my teens in the 80’s I wanted to go to college to start studying The Law, but was restricted by financial and family circumstances. At the age of 16 I was the only earner in our household and I come from a very large family. So at a tender age I had quite a lot of responsibility placed on my young shoulders, but I never lost my passion for The Law or the dreams I had of becoming a Lawyer or Barrister.
I continued to buy Law books on any Legal subject, ranging from Family Law, to Employment Law, to, Property, Contract, Housing and Benefit, and any other Legal area that was in print.
From a working class backround, although I abhor the class system that is still alive and well in the UK, my next chance to go to college was at the tender age of 25.
I went to college. I was learning The Law, when half way through the course, sadly, the Law Tutor had a nervous breakdown; the college couldn’t replace the Tutor and the course was cancelled. So, once again, due to circumstances out of my control, my dream took a knockback so I found employment instead.
Some time after this I found myself unemployed and I fell into debt, which meant the rent payments also fell behind. I was forced to claim Social Security benefits.
Unable to afford the services of a Lawyer, my first port of call was the local Citizens Advice Bureau. They helped with as much advice as they could, checked which benefits I was entitled to and if I was claiming them and pointed me in the direction of some local Law Practices that accepted Legal Aid Clients.
I visited 3 different Lawyers, with each of them offering either the first half an hour or the first hour of legal advice for free. I was advised that they could help further under the Legal Aid Scheme, which is/was means tested at that time.
Two of them gave me very basic Legal advice, which was about the same advice that I was given by The Citizens Advice Bureau, and which I had already learned in my persuit of learning about The Law in my spare time, and one gave me the wrong advice and didn’t seem to understand Housing Benefits.
Other factors for not instructing any of them were, that I seemed to know a lot more about The Law in regards to my situation than any of them seemed to, one knew about Housing Law, the other about Benefits, neither of them seemed to be able to overlap these areas with regards to advice and that the time factor of the pending court date for eviction was scarily speeding towards me and none of them had any Lawyer available to take on the case at such short notice. I place no blame on any of these Lawyers or Legal Practices as many quite often specialise in a particular discipline of Law.
So basically, without any “really useful” legal advice, or instruction, I decided to represent myself at court.
It was the most scary thing I have ever done in my life. It was the most rewarding thing I have done in my life.
I am not advocating self representation in court for every one who is not a Lawyer or Barrister. It can destroy you, both mentally and physically. Which is why I have a very high regard for Lawyers and the Legal Profession.
In this instance, I had no other choice and was only confident enough to be able to take this on because I had been learning about The Law for years, through books and other media, oh and Keeping a level head and not getting too emotional also helps in such circumstances.
I successfully self represented myself in court over two hearings, and was not evicted. The first hearing was in public, with an audience and I was also commended by the Judge at the second hearing, which was more private.
Once this high pressured case was done and dusted another court letter landed on my door mat a few weeks later. This time it was a debt case and the court date mocked me to dare to have another go at self representing myself in court.
I was also successful at self representing myself in this debt case as well. Thankful that I had learned about Contract Law and Business Law as it concerned my former business accountant and their complaint.
I went to college again at the age of 35. I passed my courses and applied to University to study Law, but competition meant I missed out by a hairs breadth and I didn’t get a place.
I continue to learn about The Law, wherever possible and Twitter is invaluable for this. I have been soaking up information on Libel Law from @DavidAllenGreen and also learning about freedom of speech and The Legal ramifications of the #twitterjoketrial.
I have also had some amazing Twitter conversations with the legendary @Charonqc regarding The Law.
Twitter really is invaluable for making contacts and learning from their expertise. It is also going to be invaluable for Lawyers of any Practice to grow their client base and find new Legal talent to recruit in the future.
The Legal services providers
Twitter, the Internet and blogging will become really important to Lawyers and Law Practices because of a number of factors, the primary one being that potential clients are more likely to search the internet for Lawyers, rather than use the telephone book. The secondary factor being cost/expense for both the Legal Profession and their potential Clients. The third factor, I see as an issue, is diversification of disciplines and collaboration with other Law Firms.
Also, due to the coming years of financial constraint which every person and business must surely suffer, I do not see very many “ordinary” people beginning to self represent themselves in Legal matters, although there may be a slight upsurge of this happening as Legal Aid becomes more scarce along with the Law Firms able to offer this service to it’s clients, especially in the areas of Debt, Employment, Housing and Family Law.
I also see Citizens Advice Bureaus around the UK closing down because they are no longer able to fund Lawyers due to cuts to the Legal Aid sytem and the closure of many small law firms will be seen because of the new requirements in being able to practice within the constraints of Legal Aid. This will inevitably cause a restricted access to justice and many people being evicted from their homes or without debt advice remedies.
However, there may be a small ray of hope, I advise everyone to read the conditions of their House/Contents Insurance as I have recently been doing. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I am covered for Legal costs up to a finite sum, with the exception of Employment Law matters. This could possibly be a lifeline to those of restricted finances who require Legal Advice from Lawyers in the future and could also be a lifeline to small Law Firms which need business.
On a personal note
Because my love affair with The Law continues, and I continue to learn, I could be described as a Layperson with regards to The Law. With this in mind, in the very near future, I am hoping to become a Magistrate and serve my community and my love of all things Legal.
I also hope to get to University to gain a Legal qualification within the next few years.
I am not a Lawyer….yet.
I’m still on the outside, looking in.
Thank you for taking the time to read my guest post and I would like to thank Brian Inkster for inviting me. It has been very rewarding.
[Update – 10 April 2011: Miriam Said has today launched her very own blog with her first post: Welcome To The Awesome]