Calculate your Open University Law Degree classification

Some­time ago I post­ed a link to anoth­er blog con­tain­ing a link to a degree clas­si­fi­ca­tion cal­cu­la­tor for Open Uni­ver­si­ty degrees. How­ev­er, the way the clas­si­fi­ca­tion is cal­cu­lat­ed for OU law degrees is slight­ly dif­fer­ent. Luck­i­ly, it’s pret­ty sim­ple to work out.

The OU law degree con­sists of 4 manda­to­ry cours­es: W200, W201, W300 and W301. For W200 and W201, mul­ti­ply your grade (1–4) for each course by 60. For W300 and W301, mul­ti­ply it by 120 (to reflect the degree of sig­nif­i­cance for these cours­es). Take those four num­bers and add them togeth­er. Their sum will give your class of degree:

  • 630 or few­er — First class hon­ours
  • 631–900 — Upper sec­ond class hon­ours
  • 901‑1170 — Low­er sec­ond class hon­ours
  • 1171 or more — Third class hon­ours

There is one trick to this. If you have a poor result in either W200 or W201, you can replace half of it with a bet­ter result in one of the law short cours­es: W221, W222, W223 or W224. For exam­ple:

Grade 3 pass of W200: 3 × 60 = 180 points.
Grade 3 pass of W200 and a Grade 1 pass of W223: 3 × 30 plus 1 × 30 = 120 points

That can be enough to pull you up a grade!

Just for com­plete­ness — while you need to sit 360 points’ worth of cours­es, it is (with the excep­tion not­ed above) only the 240 points of the manda­to­ry law cours­es that count to your law degree clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

Source: (and a real­ly use­ful read for all OU law stu­dents) Choos­ing your path to an Open Uni­ver­si­ty Law degree: a guide

Case Comment: Fallows v Harkers Transport (Royal and Sun Alliance, vehicle insurance)

Mr Fal­lows’ car was dam­aged by a vehi­cle owned by the defen­dants. Lia­bil­i­ty was not an issue. Mr. Fal­lows’ vehi­cle was insured by Roy­al and Sun Alliance, who sought to recov­er their costs from the defendant’s insur­ers. The costs were £1825.53. Not a large sum. How­ev­er, the defen­dants object­ed.

The rea­son for the objec­tion was that Roy­al and Sun Alliance arranged repair via a whol­ly-owned sub­sidiary, which then con­tract­ed with a sub­con­trac­tor, who actu­al­ly repaired the vehi­cle. The sub­con­trac­tor billed the sub­sidiary the sum of £1542.78. The sub­sidiary added on fur­ther costs, and billed Roy­al and Sun Alliance.

In Rom­ford Coun­ty Court, the defen­dants ques­tioned the sum claimed. It was held that, giv­en the duty to mit­i­gate, the best evi­dence of rea­son­able cost of repairs was that which RSA’s sub­sidiary nego­ti­at­ed with the sub­con­trac­tor. There was no evi­dence that RSA itself could only nego­ti­ate a high­er price. While admin­is­tra­tion costs have been allowed by the courts in the past, there are no deci­sions allow­ing them to a sub­ro­gat­ed insur­er, let alone a sub­ro­gat­ed insurer’s sub­sidary. And in coun­ter­bal­ance, there are deci­sions where admin­is­tra­tion costs have been dis­al­lowed.

The Judge (Platt J) said:

Since RSAARL is whol­ly owned by RSA the effect of these extra charges if they are paid by defen­dants is sim­ply to boost RSA Group’s prof­its beyond the actu­al cost of repair by the mar­gins insert­ed by RSAARL. I can find no basis in law for say­ing that this is a course of action which a claimant insur­er is enti­tled to take [..]. On the evi­dence the defen­dant has clear­ly estab­lished a fail­ure to mit­i­gate on the part of the claimant.

Now that this judg­ment is pub­lic, the util­i­ty of this busi­ness arrange­ment to RSA is prob­a­bly moot. Oth­er insur­ers could use the same mod­el. This how­ev­er was found to be like­ly to lead to an increase in costs to the insured mem­bers of the pub­lic of some 25%.

RSA were held liable in costs to the defen­dant — exceed­ing­ly unusu­al in a small claim. Even though they were the claimant, they almost com­plete­ly failed to com­ply with pre–action pro­to­col and with the court–ordered dis­cov­ery process. For exam­ple, the exis­tence of a for­mal invoice from the repair­er to RSA’s sub­sidiary was not dis­closed, even once its exis­tence had become appar­ent dur­ing the tri­al.

Per­mis­sion was giv­en to appeal.

Judg­ment in the case can be found on BAILII at Fal­lows v. Hark­ers Trans­port (A Firm) [2011] EW Misc 16.

Your data in the Cloud is not secure from the US Government

Data stor­age in the cloud is clear­ly the where things are mov­ing just now. Giv­en the pletho­ra of devices peo­ple have — com­put­ers at home, lap­tops and tablets on the move, smart­phones in the pock­et, it makes per­fect sense for all of a person’s devices to use a sin­gle, com­mon repos­i­to­ry for shared infor­ma­tion. Ser­vices such as Apple’s forth­com­ing iCloud at the domes­tic lev­el, and commonly–used ser­vices such as Google’s Google Apps, Salesforce.com and Microsoft’s Office 365 all store your data in their own clouds.

You’d think that this would be done with respect to Data Pro­tec­tion laws. Wrong. If the USA wants your data, the USA gets it. My friends Simon Bis­son and Mary Branscombe have the details: regard­less of Euro­pean pri­va­cy direc­tives and the UK Data pro­tec­tion act, the US see the PATRIOT act over­rid­ing these for US com­pa­nies and EU sub­sidiaries of US com­pa­nies:

That means that US gov­ern­ment can (under the aus­pices of the act) request the data of any indi­vid­ual or com­pa­ny that’s using US-owned or host­ed ser­vices, no mat­ter where that data is actu­al­ly being held. It doesn’t mat­ter if you’ve geo-locked your data, and it only resides in Euro­pean data cen­tres, it can still be req­ui­si­tioned and tak­en to the US. Yes, it’s an issue of nation­al secu­ri­ty, but when results can be found by machine learn­ing and trawl­ing mas­sive data sets (the larg­er the bet­ter), there’s a temp­ta­tion for gov­ern­ments to take all they can and more.

Undoubt­ed­ly this will lead to much hand–wringing in the EU Par­lia­ment. How­ev­er, what can be done? It is unlike­ly that the USA will give up their pow­ers.

There­fore, the only solu­tion is in the hands of indi­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies wish­ing to use cloud ser­vices — only use cloud ser­vices from wholly–EU–owned com­pa­nies host­ing your data inside the EU. While the legal pro­tec­tions you will have in those cir­cum­stances are not huge, they are bet­ter than none at all.

Oh — an after­thought. How hap­py do you now feel, if per­haps you have just giv­en a whole heap of your per­son­al infor­ma­tion to Google, dur­ing the Google Plus sign–up process?

Back up your information in Google — Google Takeout

Wor­ried about the amount of infor­ma­tion you have stored in Google ser­vices? Fear not. Just launched today is Google Take­out — which allows you to take a local back­up of (so far, some of) the infor­ma­tion stored in sev­er­al of the Google ser­vices.

It’s not yet full–featured: it only allows back­up from Google Buzz, Con­tact and Cir­cles, Picasa Web Albums and from your Google pro­file. But the Data Lib­er­a­tion Front promise to add the abil­i­ty to back up oth­er Google ser­vices over time.

This is their blog post announc­ing the ser­vice. Remem­ber: back­up ear­ly, back­up often.

W223: Company Law — got a distinction!

That was unex­pect­ed! I got noti­fi­ca­tion yes­ter­day that I’d been award­ed a dis­tinc­tion on the Open Uni­ver­si­ty law course I did last win­ter: W223: Com­pa­ny law and prac­tice.

The dis­tinc­tion was an unex­pect­ed plea­sure as I thought I was only in 2:1 ter­ri­to­ry — I didn’t think I had quite the grade aver­age nec­es­sary across the marked assign­ments — the Open Uni­ver­si­ty gen­er­al­ly requires that your clas­si­fi­ca­tion for a course will be the low­er of your achieve­ment in the final exam / end–of–course assign­ment, and of the aver­age of your marked assign­ments through­out the course — though I knew I was only a per­cent­age point or two short.

So, lessons learned from this course:

  • Don’t over­ly con­cern your­self if you think you’re one or two per­cent­age points short. Don’t use it as an excuse to drop your stan­dards.
  • Take time on end–of–course assign­ments. Every­thing you need, fac­tu­al­ly, is there. What can get you the bonus marks is a mat­ter of look­ing a lit­tle fur­ther — research the cur­rent state of the law and aca­d­e­m­ic com­ment about the ques­tions at hand. Incor­po­rate these into your answer, and cite every asser­tion you make.
  • Make sure your bib­li­og­ra­phy and ref­er­ences are full and accu­rate: include every paper you read and found to be rel­e­vant, even if you didn’t use it. You nev­er know when some­thing has uncon­scious­ly slipped through.
  • And final­ly, again, take time. Whilst mak­ing sure you can sub­mit on time, use the last day for a re-read. Out loud. It’s amaz­ing how many lit­tle gram­mat­i­cal slips you can find that way.

I enjoyed this course, and didn’t find it a slog at any point. But have to admit I’m very hap­py with the result.

Calculate your Open University degree classification

I have just found this and though it worth a men­tion and link: Cleveret’s Open Uni­ver­si­ty Degree Class Cal­cu­la­tor. It seems to do all the hard work cor­rect­ly, includ­ing cal­cu­lat­ing the qual­i­ty assur­ance scores.

Very use­ful if you want to work out what grades you need — there­fore also what aver­ages you’ll need to achieve in your course work over the course of the year. Accu­rate­ly know­ing the tar­get you need to hit is pret­ty much essen­tial, I think.

Writing the assignment answer you want to

I’m back on the marked assign­ments again — I’m around a week ahead of sched­ule, which is good. Like the last one, this one too is one of tight word–counts: 800 for each of two ques­tions.

I have writ­ten 932 words for one of the ques­tions, and I am around 250 from fin­ish­ing. I’m also find­ing it the eas­i­est ques­tion I’ve attempt­ed in ages.

Nor­mal­ly, when answer­ing assign­ment ques­tions, I spend more time wor­ry­ing about the struc­ture and the edit­ing than get­ting the con­tent down on paper. Work­ing out what I need to say from what I want to say is a process that can dri­ve me into paral­y­sis. This time, I’m just not car­ing. Sep­a­rat­ing the writ­ing phase and the edit­ing phase turns out to allow me to write the answer I want to, then edit it into the answer that’s actu­al­ly need­ed for sub­mis­sion to my tutor.

This isn’t a tech­nique that will nec­es­sar­i­ly work well in exam con­di­tions, how­ev­er the tech­nique of writ­ing an answer plan first is sim­i­lar, if in reverse. But I am going to con­tin­ue to use it for the rest of my assign­ments, to see if it is a method to get around the paral­y­sis I often feel when writ­ing — what my friend Simon Pride described as my “inner cen­sor”. I hope it does.

BAILII needs help

My road toward the law has been long and not direct — but one web site in par­tic­u­lar kept my inter­est when I wasn’t sure what I want­ed to do. Giv­en my sci­ence back­ground and near–obsessive need for infor­ma­tion, you may not be sur­prised that the site is BAILII.

BAILII is a data­base of case law. It con­tains recent deci­sions for the full range of courts and tri­bunals across the UK, his­toric deci­sions, and deci­sions from oth­er juris­dic­tions. It is free to access, and the best way in the UK for the lay per­son to access case law, giv­ing the abil­i­ty to inform them­selves about things like legal mat­ters in the press, but more impor­tant­ly giv­ing the abil­i­ty to research and arm them­selves in sit­u­a­tions where there can be lit­tle oth­er help — a dis­pute with a pub­lic body, or an employ­er, for exam­ple.

Run­ning BAILII is nat­u­ral­ly not free. While a num­ber of firms have made com­mit­ments to fund­ing, more is required to guar­an­tee the con­tin­u­ing sur­vival of what, to me, is an essen­tial ser­vice. Frankly, I think it should be a publicly–funded ser­vice, but that is not like­ly in this day and age.

If, like me, you believe this ser­vice should con­tin­ue, please con­sid­er donat­ing to BAILII. It is a char­i­ty, dona­tions are man­aged via the Char­i­ties Aid Foun­da­tion, and are gift-aid­able (please do that if you can, it means an extra 25% to them).

News from the Florida Justice System

A man who killed two British tourists in Flori­da will not go to jail — even though he fled the scene and lied to the police. Ryan LeVin paid an undis­closed amount to the wid­ows of those he killed, and will serve two years house arrest.

The offences’ sen­tenc­ing guide­lines call for up for 45 years’ impris­on­ment.

His lawyer was the Judge’s deputy cam­paign trea­sur­er.

For all peo­ple com­plain about the UK jus­tice sys­tem, I’m glad that it’s pret­ty much as it is.