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, 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.