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How to Be Forthcoming About Previous Legal Transgressions

How to Be Forthcoming About Previous Legal Transgressions

In my final days of law school, I made a mistake that could have cost me a career. After enjoying just a few too many at one of the numerous graduation parties, I made the decision to drive home, and was actually pulled over for suspicion of DUI. Having blown .11 (.03 over the legal limit), I was taken to jail, fingerprinted, and then released with an order to appear in court. Being just a few days from graduation, I was well versed in the Arizona DUI process, but I opted against representing myself in favor of a more experienced attorney. Where hubris lost, I won. I was able to plea down to a 90 day license suspension, community service, fines, and the conviction would drop off my record after 18 months.

My mind started to wonder at just how much trouble I’d be in when it came to actually using my three years of law school in order to get a job upon graduation, or worse yet, would I have any serious repercussions with the State Bar of Arizona?

Luckily, I managed to get by my previous transgression wiped, and ultimately ended up at a great firm representing clients that are the victims of workplace accidents, malpractice and other injuries. I knew from the time I entered law school that I wanted to end up with a firm that handled accident and malpractice suits. I guess if I had to choose what made me want to get into the slip and fall type accident space, it’d be just the amount of money floating around in the space that injured people are entitled to. One local firm specializing in this sort of “slip and fall” legal practice, Goldberg and Osborne, has received more than 2-billion dollars in settlements for their clients–and that’s just one firm. While money is great, my primary intention is to make sure my client gets as much of that as they should be receiving from insurance companies who would like to pay next to nothing for what often amounts to gross negligence by another party.

But in order to practice in the area of my choosing, first I’d need to clear this cloud hanging over my head. I sought advice from everyone I knew on just how to handle the matter when it came to applying for positions in local firms, and it can all be summed up in three little actionable bytes:

Be Honest

It turns out that legal firms know an awful lot about the law, and are very good at seeing if and when you broke it. If you lie during your interview, they’re almost certain to find out about it at some point. Maybe they won’t pull your record before hiring you, but inevitably it can and will come up at some date in the future. I was advised to just be forthcoming about the matter to all future employers, and to explain that it was a one time mistake, and that I wasn’t going to let it define me, or my career. It was something I had learned from, and didn’t expect to repeat.

Explain the Situation and What You Learned From It

In my case, it was a pretty simple explanation. I had had one drink to many, and I blew slightly over the legal limit. Now, the degree by which I broke the law isn’t an excuse, in fact had I only blown slightly over the legal limit I would have, in fact, still been breaking the law. I explained to them that I was wrong, and that even though it was only slightly over the legal limit – a mistake that anybody can make – I wasn’t justifying my actions, and that I accepted full responsibility. I explained that I learned a valuable lesson that day, and now I don’t drive at all if I plan on drinking, even if it’s just one drink with dinner. In short, I’m a better person because of it, and I’ve certainly learned my lesson.

Be Willing to Take What’s Available In Order to Prove Yourself

As good as all this advice was, and as much as I want to tell you that the firms I applied at took pity on me and gave me a chance, I can’t tell you that. You see, the legal field is a competitive one, and each year some of the best and brightest minds graduate law school and attempt to find a job. The problem is, there are far more new lawyers than there are jobs, and as such, the firms have their pick of a number of quality candidates. While my grades were good, and I had excellent recommendations, it seems that it just wasn’t good enough to cover up the fact that I had made a mistake, and a costly one.

So, I ended up taking a job as an attorney at a non-profit, for a fraction of what I could have made at one of the big firms. After my DUI was expunged from my record 18-months later, I began the process all over again and sought out the job in my chosen niche, accident law. I was still forthcoming about the legal issue, but I explained that it was my first offense and that it had since been wiped from my record. After my third interview, I was offered a job, and now I’m happy to report that I’m practicing law in my chosen niche.

The lesson here is that a lot of doors are ultimately going to be slammed in your face when you have legal issues, but want to work in law. Obviously the best course of action is to avoid the trouble in the first place, but if you’re unlucky enough to end up in my situation it’s important that you persevere. Knowing where you are, and where you want to end up are keys to success in this profession, and with the right amount of willpower, a positive attitude and the willingness to prove yourself after these sorts of transgressions, you can and will get to where you want to be.

Health and safety considerations when designing an office

Keeping an office environment healthy and safe involves paying attention to equipment design and potentially hazardous materials. Psychological factors should also be taken into account, as well as aspects of the physical environment such as humidity, temperature, noise and ventilation. A well-designed office will allow employees to work comfortably without undue stretching, bad posturing or exposure to physical hazards.

Unsafe or unhealthy working conditions are not, as is commonly believed, confined to building sites and factories. Whether the workplace is outdoors or indoors, potential hazards may be found anywhere and everywhere.

The cost to employers

For workers, the direct costs for illness or injury may include pain of course but also loss of income and the possibility of losing their job altogether, coupled with healthcare costs. For the employer too, the costs of illnesses and occupational accidents can be significant. For a small business just starting out, the consequences of even one accident can prove crippling. Direct costs include:

  • Compensation and medical payments
  • Payment for work not carried out
  • Reduction or halt in production
  • Negative morale impact on other workers
  • Repair or replacement of equipment

There may be indirect costs as well, such as the recruitment and training of a new worker, time allocated to obligatory official investigations, form filling and report writing. Workplace accidents often also affect worker–employer industrial relations, and public relations can also be negatively impacted if word get out that this is not a safe environment for workers.

Office design

Ergonomics, in relation to selecting the most appropriate office furniture to avoid the multitude of potential hazards in any office environment, relates to the interaction between the employee, chair, desk and various computer interfaces. Employers should carry out a preliminary assessment using various combinations of these before ordering the best ergonomic office chairs for a particular environment, for instance.

Tidy space

A spacious office environment is widely viewed as key to the creation of a creative, productive and happy working environment. Workers should be able to get from and to their personal workspace without finding themselves obstructed by furniture and other objects, or by other workers in a cramped space. There should be free and unimpeded access to well-placed toilet or kitchen facilities.

The upshot of all this is that if an employee cannot move freely around the office or easily access equipment such as photocopiers and printers, there will be a detrimental effect on their job satisfaction and productivity, and this will, in all likelihood, lead to the employee taking sick leave.

To summarize

Running a safe and healthy office environment makes sense from all angles, and cutting corners on design, selection of equipment and the choice of appropriate office furniture can prove damaging for employers and employees alike in both the short and long term. With such a wealth of constructive advice out there, and research results freely available online, there’s really no excuse not to have the happy, productive office space that is in everyone’s interests.

10 Scholarships for Lawyers

If you are a person with both abstract reasoning and problem-solving skills, then you’re probably thinking that a career in law might be right for you. Well, law is really an appealing and interesting career because aside from the competitive income, it also provides a lot of opportunities for personal and career development.

Legal Scholarships

However, the road to becoming a lawyer is not easy. It is very demanding and challenging. It not just requires a significant amount of investment in time, expertise, and energy, but in money as well. Luckily, there are plenty of scholarships available to help students ease their financial burden. If you really want to become a lawyer, you should check out these available scholarships to help you fund your education.

  1. ABA Legal Opportunity Scholarship Fund. This scholarship provides financial assistance to ethnically diverse students. Twenty successful applicants will receive $15,000 worth of financial assistance over the course of their three years in school of law.

 

  1. TruFit Good Citizen Scholarship. This type of scholarship awards financial assistance to high school seniors and current students who demonstrate commitment to doing great deeds in their communities. It provides $50,000 worth of financial assistance annually to deserving students who have been accepted to a federal-accredited college or graduate program.

 

  1. Donald W. Banner Diversity Scholarship for Law Students. Banner & Witcoff offers this scholarship to support the development of intellectual property lawyers from diverse backgrounds. It awards $5,000 worth of financial assistance to students who meet their requirements and have entered into a JD program at an ABA-accredited school in the U.S.

 

  1. Anheuser-Busch/NLF Presidential Scholarships. The NAPABA Law Foundation offers this type of scholarship to law students who demonstrate particularly outstanding leadership potential to serve the Asian Pacific Community. Two selected applicants each year will receive $7,500 worth of financial assistance.

 

  1. George H. Nofer Scholarship for Law and Public Policy. This type of scholarship program offers financial assistance to law students with hearing loss. They offer a minimum award of $5,000 to selected applicants.

 

  1. Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles Scholarship. The WLALA offers financial assistance to law students whose past and current activities, as well as future plans demonstrate a commitment to helping women and/or children. To be eligible, you should be currently enrolled in a law school accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State of California, and have plan to practice your profession in the said state.

 

  1. United Negro College Fund (UNCF). UNCF offers numerous scholarship programs and grants for students who want to attend college. All their scholarship programs are open to all ethnicities, but most of their recipients are African-American.

 

  1. Leonard C. Horn Award for Legal Studies. The Miss America Organization offers this award for women who are competing at a national, state, or local beauty pageant and are pursuing a career in the law field.

 

  1. New York University Scholarship Programs. New York University offers numerous scholarship programs to students who want to pursue a career that promote justice and have exceptional academic and leadership accomplishments. Their scholarship programs are able to provide up to full tuition assistance for three years in law school.

10.  MCCA Lloyd M. Johnson, Jr. Scholarship Program. The LMJ program provides scholarship to diverse students who have outstanding academic performance and interest in corporate law. Fifteen students are being selected annually to receive a $10,000 worth of financial assistance for their first year in law school. Additional award may be given to students for their second and third year in law school.

 

So there you have it! If you want to pursue a career in law but don’t have enough funds to pay for your education, then consider these scholarship options. If you are looking for other types of scholarships, check more here.

Challenging a parking fine: what you need to know

Challenging a parking fine: what you need to know

Motoring in the UK is fraught with predictable costs: fuel, insurance, MOTs, road tax, but it’s the unexpected costs that really get to drivers. Regular servicing from specialists such as T W White & Sons can help keep repair bills to a minimum, as can driving sensibly and safely. And keeping on the right side of parking inspectors.

One thing often said about the English is we don’t like to complain, but when it comes to parking fines, that would seem not to be the case. Over 70,000 motorists appealed against their supposed infractions in 2012-13 and half of them won their challenges. No-one likes returning to their vehicle to find a ticket tucked under the wipers, especially if it’s unwarranted. So if you feel your parking fine ought to be challenged then it’s always worth appealing against it through the official process.

Now, as any comprehensive guide will tell you, the grounds for appealing, and the actual process, are varied and lengthy. I’m not going to go into any great depth here on how to actually go about challenging your ticket, I’m going to focus more on information you need to know in order to stand the best chance of success.

1. Don’t pay. If you pay the fine, this is viewed as an admission of guilt. This doesn’t apply of course if your car has been towed or clamped and you need to pay to get it back.

2. If you’re planning to appeal you need to act immediately, but once your appeal is in the system be prepared for it to drag on for some time, perhaps even months. Consider if this is really worth the hassle.

3. Who issued the fine? There are four agencies that can do so in the UK: the police, local authorities, Transport for London, and private companies. Knowing which was responsible helps you determine if you’ve got a criminal or a civil fine (as well as the police, local authorities also issue criminal fines, although it’s usually civil). Criminal fines are more difficult to overturn.

4. You need to assemble your evidence. Use your phone to take photos of your car’s position, road marking, signs, anything relevant. Are there any witnesses who can corroborate your argument? Keep hold of your parking ticket if you had one, and any correspondence between yourself and the agency. If you have extenuating circumstances, proof of this will be needed. Fines issued by post are more troublesome, as the offence will have taken place some time previously, so in this case your best bet would be to check if the area you parked is covered by CCTV.

5. Remember that it is the registered owner of the car, not the driver, who is at fault. So if your son or daughter picks up a fine and doesn’t tell you, you may have difficulty appealing later on. If you’re driving a hire car then you will need to let the company know if you intend to challenge.

6. Assuming you have a civil fine, you begin with an informal appeal to the council. If this fails you can then make a formal appeal (this is the first step if your car was clamped or towed.) Finally, you can make an appeal to an independent body. If you pass through every stage and still have no luck, then you may as well give up. Pay your fine as soon as possible to avoid it rising by 50%, and move on.

7. If you received a fine while in a private car park, the process is different. The owners set their own rules, and you will be appealing instead to POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals). The operator will need to be in breach of the British Parking Association’s Code of Practise, or Contract Law. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can just ignore this kind of fine, it could end up costing you dearly.

What can you find out about a company through Companies House?

What can you find out about a company through Companies House?

Companies House is the name of the registration office for companies in England and Wales. Companies incorporated in England and Wales must register and submit certain documentation to Companies House, who make most of that information available to the public.

Every day, many individuals and firms need to access the records held by Companies House in order to find out information about companies they are directly advising or companies their clients have dealings with. Among the professionals that frequently search information about companies are accountants, tax advisors, business consultants, solicitors and notaries (see, for instance Vanner Perez Notaries).

A company search may be required for a variety of reasons. The person making the search may need to find out or confirm details such as whether the company is currently active, when it was incorporated, who are the shareholders and directors, etc. The information publicly accessible via Companies House also includes information about mortgages and other charges and, crucially, the company’s annual accounts. This information can be very useful for those interested in how the company is doing, such as creditors, competitors or potential investors.

The register is searchable by anyone, not only professionals. Companies House’s website offers a general search facility, called WebCheck, as well as a subscription service called Companies House Direct. They have also recently developed a free app that can be used for easy searches through mobile devices.

What type of information about a company can be found via Companies House?

Companies can be searched by name or number, and with a couple of clicks it is possible to find out basic details about the company, including the following:

– Current and previous names

– Registration number

– Registered address

– Type of company (e.g. private or public)

– Date of incorporation

– Current status (e.g. active, in administration or dissolved)

– Nature of business (only if the company has provided this)

– Relevant dates (e.g. when the next accounts are due)

– Mortgages (classified as outstanding, satisfied and part satisfied)

A separate section gives the names of the company’s directors (and secretary, where there is one), including their contact addresses, their dates of appointment and, in the case of past directors, the date they resigned. In fact, it is also possible to search the whole register by director name. This brings up a list of all the companies of which that particular person is, or has been, a director or a secretary.

Furthermore, for a small charge it is possible to access the various documents that the company has submitted to Companies House and that form part of the public file of the company. These documents will include the memorandum and articles of association of the company (containing their internal regulations), the annual accounts, certain resolutions regarding events such as a change of company name or an increase in share capital, and the annual return (this is a snapshot of the company submitted every year to Companies House which gives up-to-date information about the shareholders, directors, etc.). From these documents it is possible to obtain useful information about the financial affairs of the company, the identity of its shareholders and directors, and any major events affecting the life of the company.

Apart from the simple copies that can be downloaded from Companies House’s website, it is also possible to order certified copies that will have the signature of an official acting on behalf of the Registrar of Companies. These certified copies may be used, for example, to provide evidence about the company to foreign authorities, which may be required for procedures such as setting up a branch, opening bank accounts, registering a trademark or suing a debtor.

It is also possible to order a document known as a ‘certificate of good standing’, which will confirm that the company is active and up to date with its filing obligations. This certificate can be useful to satisfy foreign authorities that a company is ‘healthy’. The certificate can include any relevant information requested, such as the registered address, previous company names, directors’ and shareholders’ names, share capital, etc.

There are other sources that may be used to gather information about a company. The University of Reading publishes a useful list of directories that can be useful to find other company details, both in the UK and abroad.

Had an accident at work? Here’s what you should do

Had an accident at work? Here’s what you should do

Who’d have thought it? Even in some of the most banal workplaces, accidents happen with a huge frequency. In fact, government body the Health and Safety Executive report that over 27 million working days were lost due to work-related illness or injury. That amounts to more than 73,000 years!

Indeed, if you’ve ever tripped, slipped or taken a bad turn at work, you’ll know that, some of the time, it isn’t really your fault. A lot of the time, the blame lies with an employer who doesn’t have the wherewithal to conform to health and safety legislation.

That’s not to say that your boss is necessarily a horrible person. They might be a perfectly amiable, tweed-wearing, soft-spoken sweetheart. But no matter how pleasant they seem, the temptation to skimp on the appropriate safety measures for their employees can be too great for even the nicest of people.

When you’re lying at home with a cast on your leg or a burn on your arm through no fault of your own, there’s one thing you should do – pick up the phone.

A guide to your legal process

You’ve all seen those injury solicitor ads on the telly – “HAVE YOU HAD AN ACCIDENT AT WORK?” they boom at you, usually pointing an incriminating finger in your direction.

But these solicitors aren’t just about provocative ads. If you give them a call they could put you on track to gaining compensation from your injury.

On the phone, they’ll ask you to detail your case and, if they think it has a leg to stand on, you’ll be asked to provide as much evidence as possible for your solicitor to examine.

How much evidence do you need? Well, how long is a piece of string? Evidence could mean anything, including CCTV footage, witness testimonies, doctor’s reports, emotional impact and proof of shirked safety legislation. Essentially, the more you can dredge up, the higher the likelihood of you winning your case.

After this, your representation will get the litigation ball rolling, sending out a letter to your employer informing them of the claim. If your employer accepts it, then a settlement could be made. If they don’t then your solicitor will contact a judge to pencil in a date to prove your claim.

It’s by this point that you’ll have to put your full trust in the professionalism of your legal representation. They’ll represent you in your case, so all you have to do is help them in any way you can.

Whether you win or lose your case, the important thing to remember is that the legal system gave you a fair hearing. Without someone to point the finger when health and safety legislation isn’t followed, many more employers would see what they can and can’t get away with it.

So, have you had an accident at work? Then pick up the phone!

Ways to Successfully Settle Employment Claims  

Ways to Successfully Settle Employment Claims  

Employment claims can be brought about for any number of reasons. Often it could be that the employer has terminated a contract of employment that the employee wishes to contest. Or, it may be that the employee feels that they are being mistreated in the workplace. Whatever the reason, going through with an employment claim can be hugely stressful and is not something that should be taken on lightly.

If things cannot be amicably settled between the two aggrieved parties there may be cause for the case to be moved on to an employment tribunal. All employment tribunals are independently judged and can result in the employer paying compensation to the employee should they win the case. However, since the introduction of employment tribunal fees in July 2013, the need for a solid and legitimate claim is more important than ever so the employee should not initiate a claim purely on a whim.

Settling disputes

When there are legitimate grounds for grievances to be heard there are three main ways that, with the help of a neutral third party, these can be brought to a satisfactory resolution. These are:

  • Mediation – An impartial third party will sit down with both the employer and the employee and look at the problems that exist between the two parties involved. Generally a solution can be reached at the mediation stage, but the mediator cannot push either the employer or the employee into accepting a resolution. It is prudent not to use the service of a mediator should the case be of a discriminatory or criminal nature.
  • Conciliation – Conciliation, just like mediation, is also voluntary. Both the employer and the employee must agree to the conciliation in order to progress. Conciliation is usually brought about when the employee believes that they have an entitlement to lodge a claim at an employment tribunal or if they have already previously made a claim.
  • Arbitration – Arbitration is where an independent, neutral third-party assesses the case and makes a decision based on the facts presented. Once all of the issues have been looked at both parties must concur to the arbitrator’s judgement being legally binding. If either party does not agree then there is still the option of an employment tribunal available.

Compromise agreements

Often referred to as settlement agreements, compromise agreements are legally binding and can be used to end disputes that may occur when an employment contract is terminated. Compromise agreements can be bewildering to the layman so it is vitally important that you employ a competent and reputable solicitor.Rodney Hylton-Potts, who has worked on high profile cases such as the Polly Peck trial in the 1980’s and the 2008 judicial review of the smoking ban, is well versed in compromise agreements and could help you get the desired outcome for your case.

Compromise agreements will, more often than not, end with an offer of a financial settlement. This means that should an agreement be reached between all parties concerned a full and final settlement will be offered and the case will be brought to an end.

Your rights on the road

Your rights on the road

Part of the excitement of growing up is getting a driver’s license. However, don’t be quick to speed away. Know your rights on the road, because accidents can happen to even the most careful driver. It is important to know the process of determining who is at fault in an accident as well as the process of making a claim when you incur injuries in an accident.

Always drive defensively. Defensive driving is the easiest way to minimize risk and avoid collisions. Of course, if you have a valid driver’s license, you will know the formalities of road laws regarding where, when, and how you can drive on the roads, but do you know your rights when stopped by a police officer? Do you know what to do if you are involved in an accident?

If a police officer pulls you over for no apparent reason, they are not allowed to search your car. They must have probable cause. For example, if you’ve been pulled over for speeding or having a broken light, only then can a police officer search your car. However, you do not have to pull over immediately, only when it is safe to do so. It is important to know your rights.

What happens if you are involved in an accident? 

If you are involved in a major or minor accident, do the following:

  • Stop your car. Make sure the engine is off and determine if there are any major injuries among the parties involved.
  • Call your local emergency services if anyone has been severely injured.
  • If no one is severely injured, phone your local police in order to file a report and if the accident is blocking the road. Normally, you will have a 24-hour period to contact your local police.
  • Start getting the names and addresses of everyone involved in the accident, in order to follow up with insurance claims, etc.
  • Write down number plates and take photos of vehicle damage.
  • Try to write a recollection of what happened leading up to the incident. Include factors such as weather, road conditions, etc.

Try and keep these tips in the back of your mind, though it may not be easy during the chaotic aftermath of an accident. The main thing is to try to record as much information as possible while on scene, because this information will be especially important as you try to get the vehicles involved fixed and payments sorted out.

How to determine who is at fault in an accident

First, try to remember what traffic violations occurred at the time of the crash. Whoever has broken the law will be held largely responsible for the accident.

If the driver has rear-ended someone, it is usually his or her fault. The same goes for someone making a left-hand turn.

Always record what each driver says after an accident. Sometimes drivers can inadvertently admit guilt right after the accident has occurred.

An investigation should be undertaken after the accident to see who breached driver duties and responsibilities. The police will usually undertake this step.

How to claim when injury occurs in an accident

In order to claim compensation, the plaintiff must have incurred injury. After the accident, you will receive medical support as well as a full medical report. With this medical report as well as the help of an accident claims attorney, you should be able to receive some form of compensation, depending on the severity of your injuries. A number of considerations will take place when trying to claim for injury, including:

  • The type of injury you have suffered
  • The amount of pain you feel, and how regular it is
  • If the injury has impaired your ability to work
  • How it has affected your daily life
  • The nature of the treatment required

In order to be fully compensated for any injuries you have received, be sure to hire legal representation. Doing so will increase both your chances of winning a claim as well as the amount of compensation you are likely to receive.

There is a time limit in which you can claim for damages. If you wait too long, your case becomes weaker. It is recommended to file within three years of the date of the accident. Remember that when trying to gain compensation from someone else for an accident, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff. In a court of law, the jury or judge will always come from a stance of “innocent until proven guilty.” The accident may very well be the other person’s fault, but it is up to you to prove that.

how to find a good lawyer in london

How to find a good Lawyer in London

Big cities like London can be a magnificent place to spend a few days taking in all the sights as a tourist. However, if you’re looking to find a good lawyer for a case, then this can prove to be a nightmare.

There are literally thousands of lawyer firms in the capital as lawyers rush to the city. With so many to choose from, it can be an immensely difficult task to find one that’s suitable for each individual case. Usually what happens is that one offers you expert advice, but charges very unreasonable prices, while others are very cheap but don’t know the first thing about your type of case.

The majority of the city’s firms are located right bang in the middle of the city. Bond street in particular is always pebble-dashed with ladies and gentlemen in fine suits all going about their daily routines and work.

Just because you are in London though, it does not mean that you have to pay through the roof for some decent, solid legal advice. In order to find the best lawyer for you, the most important thing to do is compare the different price ranges against the different firms.

There are many Lawyer jobs in London to be found, so if you are qualified, then it’s definitely the place to be (in the UK anyways). Just like finding a good law firm involves researching, so does finding a good law firm to work for.

Unless you are extremely lucky, you will not get the best deal when you contact your first lawyer. By putting yourself in the position of contacting loads of firms, you will get a better idea of what’s available and ultimately get a better deal.

The two best methods of finding a suitable firm, is by either “word of mouth” or by searching on the internet. Online is by far the most efficient method, and the one that will yield the most results. There are a plethora of relevant websites out there for you to spend a few solid hours researching, so you shouldn’t have too much hassle.

Make sure you do an analysis on which of the firms can provide the most experience that pertains to your case. This alone will give you a lot more confidence is establishing whether or not you stand a chance of winning the case in court.

Remember that at the end of the day, just because the lawyer may work in London, it doesn’t mean that he needs a bigger slice of the money pie to do a good job!

 

understanding european law

Understanding European Union Law – A Short Introduction

European Union Law can sometimes be a daunting topic, it has as all legal traditions, been forced to develop over time and as a result of codified laws and legal cases. In this sense, European Law can be seen as somewhat of a mixture between civil and common law systems – while at the same time also maintaining elements of international law.

To understand the basis of European law you must first be familiar with the treaties. These, the most recent of which is the Lisbon treaty, have codified to a large extent the general principles and frameworks under which European law operates and functions.

The jurisdiction of European law is also somewhat difficult to arrive at. Although European law always trumps national law, it can only do so when the issue relates to European legal matters. In this sense, although the European legal framework is vast, the European court cannot impose itself in all national realms.

Other than the treaties, regulations and directives based on the treaties – but arising separately, also help to inform decisions and rulings. Although this is the case, because these regulations and directives are based on the treaties, they can still be described (and are in a legal definition) as secondary to what has been codified in the treaties.

The treaties are an important aspect of European law as they are accepted by all member states individually and must be arrived at through consensus. This has been important in the development of European law as past attempts to create a European Constitution were rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands.

Although France, and to a smaller degree the Netherlands, are countries where civil law (based on codified law and constitutions) is part of their legal tradition, a European Constitution seemed a step too far. Perhaps it is because of their own constitutional and codified traditions, however, that these nations decided to reject a European one that would override their own national system. This aside, European law is still primarily based on case law and the decisions arising from it.

Although the treaties are the legal basis for European law, if you will, case law and legal precedence play a far larger and more dynamic role in creating and influencing the legal debate and even the creation of new laws.

Because the European Court of Justice acts so independently, it has come under criticisms from member states that believe it has perhaps gained too much power. The main argument against this however, is that European law only has an impact on European issues. Furthermore, all treaties – which are the legal basis for European law, are willingly signed by the member states that must therefore abide by them.

Whatever the political future of the European Union may be, its long legal tradition that began long before the Union was even created has continued to adapt and change. With a growing number of cases and jurisdiction, it will be interesting to see how European law moves forward in the coming decades.