BIALL Legal Foundation Course: a review

An SLLG member applied for an SLLG bursary to undertake the BIALL Legal Foundations Course. This is their review of the course.

I started a new post as librarian with Dundas & Wilson in January 2013. It had been 21 years since I worked as an Assistant Librarian at the Faculty of Advocated library, but I was amazed at how quickly I remembered the basic principles, the names of all the standard texts, and was delighted by how far LexisNexis online had developed.

I was responsible for answering enquires from the Dundas and Wilson Edinburgh, Glasgow and London offices, and after a few months, realised felt unsure about the English law enquiries, so decided to do something about improving and extending my knowledge in this area, to make me feel confident I was providing a good service.

I applied for a SLLG bursary to do the BIALL Legal Foundation Course offered by the University of Westminster, and was pleased to be awarded the full amount. I managed to attend the Induction afternoon in London in the University of Westminster, and met many of my fellow students, most of whom were based in London, and were starting out in their careers as law librarians. I found it more useful to meet the staff, especially Avis Whyte the course leader.

The course is a distance learning course, lasting from Oct to April, covering 17 topics over 23 weeks. The topics are designed to cover all aspects of English law and range from ‘The English legal system’, Tort, Contract, Sale of Goods, Criminal, Employment, EU, Immigration, Human Rights, Wills & Probate, Civil procedure, Family IP, Media, Land, Company and Banking.

There is a lecture a week which, depending on the person giving the lecture, lasts between 60 to 120 minutes. There is then a multiple choice test at the end of each section or lesson. To be awarded the certificate of completion you are required to get 100% in each test. Luckily, you can do the test as many times as required, and you are given four weeks for each lecture. If you miss any lectures, there is another chance to catch up at Christmas, and at the end of the course.

I set myself the goal of doing the course every Monday evening from home, and tried not to back-slide. With trepidation, I started my first course (it has been a long time since I did any formal education!) and I found it to be really interesting. I started looking forward to my Monday evenings and absorbing the content – some more than others – and the challenge of getting 100%. I found some to be challenging e.g. Corporate and company law, and others surprisingly familiar: IP, family, immigration and criminal law. I think I read too many detective books!

There were the usual disgruntlements you will get with any course – inaccurate/out of date slides, people talking to fast or too slow; presuming you have too little or too much prior knowledge of a subject, and the usual technical problems, but on the whole it was really good, and I would recommend it to anyone who has to work with English law, especially those at the beginning of their career.

I found the history and the interpretation of English law very interesting and instructive, and quite challenging and also Tort, because it is so different. It introduced me to the basic ideas and the main legislation, and detailed the major cases, the options for the judges, the different approaches, and also the constantly changing aspect of the law e.g. sale of good catching up with online shopping.

It proved to be far more relevant than I ever imagined it to be, when the merger of Dundas & Wilson with CMS Cameron McKenna was announced at Christmas. From May 2014 onwards I have now been answering research enquiries as part of the CMS Cameron McKenna library team from staff all over the world (but mainly England). It has given me much more confidence in my understanding of enquiries, and in my ability to find and present the relevant results to enquirers.

Many thanks to the SLLG committee for awarding me the bursary to complete the course.

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