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.