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London Coffee Festival 2017

 The Legend

Legend has it, that a herdsman named Kaldi on a sunny day noticed that his trip of goats was more sprightly than usual having grazed on a dark green bush with red berries. The trip was tripping so to speak. Curious, Kaldi tried the red fruits for himself, Bear Grylls style, and he too felt a rush of energy. Upon witnessing this strange behaviour, a curious monk took the berries back to his monastery. There, it was discovered that these red berries were particularly useful for staying awake during the long nights of prayer. The all nighter fuelled by coffee was born. Or so the legend goes.

This weekend, although there were no monks, or goats present (that I know of, unless you count the hipster beards) not only did we get a rare glimpse of blue sky, but it was also the London Coffee Festival 2017!  The event was held at the Old Truman Brewery Brick Lane, with different stalls set over three floors. A festival dedicated to the magical elixir that powered me through many a stressed induced studying sessions and pretty much what holds me together most mornings.

The Low Down

I was able to attend the industry event on Friday 7th April prior to it opening to the general public. Mostly thanks to having made good friends with the baristas that fuelled me through my degree. Not only am I forever in their debt, but I do owe them thanks for teaching me the difference between coffee and COFFEE.

Apart from being sure that I had officially reached peak hipster levels, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect for my first time at the festival. As much as I was tempted to pretend that I was opening up a hip and edgy cafe somewhere in east London adorned with succulents, that served food only on enamelware and used old cassette tapes as coasters or something, it was clear that I was surrounded by experts, no blagging here. Besides, I was more than happy enough to just collect the free samples and take in the surprisingly vast displays of dedication to this magical bean and listen to the expertise and ideas being shared.

To say it was overwhelming would be an understatement. To some, coffee is just dirt water (they are doing it wrong) and to others, it is more than that. All levels of coffee lovers were present; from the pioneers, manufacturers and suppliers of all coffee related paraphernalia, to the roasters, the baristas, coffee drinkers and cafe owners. It wasn’t surprising considering that this is the largest gathering of coffee lovers in western Europe. As a side note, speciality teas, water and juices did also make an appearance, but it was most definitely a coffee event.

Throughout the venue, there were various stalls, activities and immersive workshops taking place such as the live roasting demonstrations held by Union Coffee, Latte Art showcases hosted by various world champions, and The Lab which offered a well rounded programme of demonstrations, talks and debates that guests could interact with.

To bean or not to bean

Personally, I found it interesting that this beverage with such a rich history had gained enough of a cult following to warrant not only a festival but a three day extravaganza where over 30,000 people attended over the same weekend last year. Obviously it’s thanks to millennials and their avocado brunch instas, but clearly also to the dedication of these magicians chasing the God shot (the perfect espresso) and working to build a sustainable industry and profession.

For example, who knew that the future of speciality coffee pods is a contentious issue within the industry- (page 48, Issue 26, Caffeine magazine). That there have been great debates and trade secrets built on what the perfect brew ratios are: the perfect amount of coffee, water and contact time needed to create the perfect cup. Or that plant based milks don’t always foam as well to create those aesthetically pleasing insta worthy latte art that we all appreciate, creating a gap in the market for better alternative milk- there is such a thing as ‘professional milk’.

Mini representation of the cold brew liquor being made

Like any industry, it seems like coffee is also experiencing a revolution; open to innovation with new tech, techniques and mixtures being concocted to satisfy the best of coffee snobs and dabblers alike.  Complete with its own trends, for example cold-brew coffee is currently the hottest new kid on the block. My favourite variation of this being the Mr Black Cold Press Coffee Liqueur.

Additionally, issues such as whether the profession is inclusive and how it should be defined, or ways it could be more sustainable and ethical are being debated. In a magazine provided in the goodie bag received at the event, it was interesting to see the results of a survey that had been conducted, exploring issues such as whether the moniker ‘hipster’ deserved to be attributed to the industry, or whether technology and the threat of automation would make baristas obsolete and so on.


The Art of Coffee

What struck me the most however, were the parallels to wine and nowhere was this clearer than in the Coffee Masters competition. Over the weekend, 20 baristas competed for the coveted title and a cool £5,000 prize in a head to head knockout battle format. This year, the crown went to James Wise, having seen one of his rounds, I wasn’t surprised, watching the contestants at work had been impressive.

The challenges involved; blind test tasting different varieties of coffee in order to identify their taste profile, selecting the correct brewing method for a chosen coffee that would maximise its taste and presentation, identifying how it was produced and brewed through the taste test, identifying the fragrance and flavour and so on.

In other events, Grind (also a great brunch place) hosted a pop up restaurant presenting the perfect coffee and food pairings. It is comforting to know that two of my favourite poisons are so similar.

Clearly, the world of coffee is ‘ever-evolving and ever expanding, making it an exciting place to be.’


When my hands weren’t filled with freebies I did try and take some photos, check out the gallery below, and if you were there too let me know what you thought!

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The new reality in the legal profession

This month’s post comes from Julia Rosińska, a second year law student, aspiring to specialise in international arbitration and commercial disputes. Julia is passionate about exploring the impact of technology on the legal profession, self-development and also works as a Life Coach.


Has the role of a solicitor changed in the last 20 years? How does one become an outstanding candidate in such a competitive market? How do changes within the legal profession impact current students?

All of these issues were discussed in a recent seminar with Craig Sharpe, Marketing Manager at Darlingtons, a full service London law firm. Taking part in the discussion with Craig was a valuable experience. He came not to discourage, but to raise awareness of what being a solicitor in the 21st century means. These days the legal profession is challenging and requires future solicitors to think in a broader context about the legal profession. The catalyst in this is the number of practicing solicitors – which from 1960 has rapidly grown (The Law Society, Entry to the solicitor’s profession 1980-2011). A competitive market requires current students to not only be commercially aware and attain high grades, but to also keep up with technological advances and to invest in self-development.

What’s more important – tech or trust?

Surprisingly, magic circle law firms are not the only leaders in implementing technology. I was recently impressed with Darlingtons Solicitors, a West End London law firm, that has been adapting various technologies to meet not only their needs effectively, but their client’s as well.  I saw that smaller law firms may have the advantage of working more closely and personally with clients by which it is easier to create a trust relationship, and later on find the best possible solutions in the most cost-effective way.

People skills now paramount

The legal market is changing rapidly. People skills have always been an important part of legal practice but never more so and there are implications for students as law firms increasingly look not only for evidence of people skills at an earlier stage, but the ability to be innovative.

As a law student, I have often found that in order to get ‘there’, each individual has to make themselves stand out, but there is no map to detail how to get ‘there’. It is considered by students that high grades are the key to success however in his talk, Craig highlighted other important aspects, that are often taken into consideration when prospecting candidates. Passion, drive and motivation are necessary ingredients, as well as being able to think outside the box and also retaining some individuality. The ability to develop people-skills, be an excellent listener and teamwork are key attributes the ‘ideal’ candidate should possess.

Last week’s talk positively influenced my perception of pursuing a career in the legal profession despite increased competition and the impact of technology taking a firmer grip. In my view, artificial intelligence is making the role of lawyers easier by freeing up more time to focus on more important tasks, such as better understanding a client’s needs and coming up with creative solutions rather than being tied up with research that can be easily automated.

Moreover, I became aware of the possibilities and potential difficulties to consider. Mostly, attending Craig’s talk opened my eyes to the ways I should broaden my target law firms to apply to work at. In smaller firms such as Darlingtons, there are often earlier opportunities to develop knowledge and key skills. I definitely feel more motivated now, I have a sense of direction, and what is more I now possess a clearer picture of what to expect if I become a solicitor in the future.

Getting Things Done with the Bullet Journal

I was recently featured in a post by Gradstrategy on how keeping a journal or a planner can help you in being more productive. Check it out here on Gradstrategy.com

I talk about how throughout my time at university, I used something called the Bullet Journal method which I have stuck with since.

What is it?

In the words (roughly) of its creator it’s an analog system for the digital world. The beauty in the method is that all you need to start is a notebook and it can be as simple as you want it to be or as elaborate as you would like it to be.

The flexibility and freedom afforded by the method makes it a very personal process, compared to buying a ready made diary and through it, I have been able to adapt the method to my needs over the years. For example, I was able to easily incorporate principles I learnt after reading Getting Things Done by David Allen, a process that helped me build up a consistent habit of being proactive about my productivity.

I can definitely say that having and keeping a Bullet Journal contributed in some ways to how well I performed in my final year. Through keeping a consistent schedule and constantly reviewing it, I was able to go through my final year of law school without a single all nighter even as deadlines approached.

The method also appealed to me as I quite like creative projects and it has given me many excuses to go to Paperchase than I would normally have. An extra roll of washi tape never hurt really.

How to get started

I could write more about this method but I think the best place to start is the official website itself: http://bulletjournal.com.

I would encourage anyone to look into the method and there are many communities out there on Pinterest, Tumblr and Instagram you can check out for inspiration.

To read more about how I used the method, don’t forget to check out Gradstrategy.com.

If you would like to know more about how it helped me during my studies or any tips or advice, as always feel free to drop me a message or a comment. Here’s to productivity and less stress.

Article 50: A question of principle

This month’s featured blog post comes from Alex Diggens. He is a recent law graduate from UCL who is now currently studying for the Bar where he will specialise in a Commercial chancery set upon completion.

Panic in the court room

Late last week, the High Court issued a judgment that shook up Britain’s political landscape. In R (Gina Miller & Dos Santos) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European, three senior judges – The Lord Chief Justice, The Master of the Rolls and Lord Justice Sales – ruled that it would be unlawful for the Government to activate Article 50 without first getting Parliamentary approval.[1]  With that, the process of Brexit has become an even more difficult task for the government.

Alongside the political fallout, the decision has developed important constitutional principles, reasserting the dominance of Parliamentary Sovereignty and clarifying the boundaries of the powers of the executive. It deserves to be looked at closely.

A question of principle

The case was brought against the Government following the shock referendum result, where 52% of voters voted for Britain to leave the European Union. Multiple parties were joined together in rolled-up proceedings. British citizens Gina Miller and Deir Dos Santos were the first and second claimants, alongside various interested parties and interveners. The parties were led by an assortment of impressive QCs and noted juniors, with Gina Miller represented by Lord Pannick QC, an intellectual titan of the public law bar.

It is important to stress – particularly as some newspapers have wilfully ignored this fact – the apolitical nature of the case, and both parties accepted the justiciability of the issue. Regardless of the alleged motivations of the claimants, the case was argued and decided solely on the constitutional question: which branch of the state has the power to activate Article 50, Parliament or the Executive? The claimants were not contending that Brexit cannot occur, or that it should be stopped, merely that Parliament must legislate for it. Conversely, it was the Government’s position that the power to activate Article 50 fell squarely within the Royal Prerogative (the name given to the residual powers the government exercises in the name of the Monarch).

“It is important to stress – particularly as some newspapers have wilfully ignored this fact – the apolitical nature of the case, and both parties accepted the justiciability of the issue.”

The arguments

The claimants advanced a number of arguments, but the primary argument was that the Royal Prerogative cannot be used to remove citizens’ domestic law rights, a principle going back to the Bill of Rights 1688 and The Case of Proclamations (1610).  Specifically the claimants contended that the rights granted by the European Communities Act 1972 (ECA) would be inevitably lost once Article 50 was activated. The ECA brought the EU treaties into domestic law, and with them created a number of rights for British citizens, such as the ability to stand and vote in European Parliament elections, and the rights of workers under the Working Time Directive, as well as innumerable others. The claimants argued that these rights, brought into force by statute, can only be taken away by statute.

The defendant asserted the settled constitutional principle that the making and unmaking of treaties is a power that resides with the Executive as part of the Royal Prerogative. The defendant argued that to rescind that power requires express words, that nothing in the ECA or subsequent EU statutes rescind that power in relation to the EU Treaties, and therefore that the Government retained the power to take the UK out of the EU.

The Decision and its Impact

In a damning unanimous judgment, the court rejected the Government’s case without even needing to accept the specific submissions of the claimants (see especially paragraphs [94]-[95] of the judgment). The court’s key finding held that:

“Parliament intended EU rights to have effect in domestic law and…this effect should not be capable of being undone or overridden by action taken by the Crown in exercise of its prerogative power.”      [94]

The court held that as a matter of statutory interpretation, the ECA does not reserve to the Crown the power to effect domestic law, including by giving notice under Article 50.

Two significant points can be made regarding the decision.

Firstly, the Government’s legal argument was constrained by political considerations. As accepted in paragraph [10] of the judgment, it was common ground that Article 50 was irreversible once activated. This was politically necessary – the Government could not risk the uncertainty of Brexit being reversible at any point – but made the legal argument more difficult. The claimant relied on the argument that, though Article 50 does not remove rights immediately, because it is irreversible it is the inevitable consequence that it will remove rights. The government was politically forced to accept this, but it was no legal necessity. Lord Kerr, who led the drafting of Article 50, believes it to be reversible, and in argument the Lord Chief Justice wondered aloud whether it was a settled question.

Secondly, there are wider potential ramifications of the case outside of merely the ECA. As commentators have already wondered, the decision may mean that the Executive could not, for instance, withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights without Parliamentary approval, because it conveys legal rights on citizens (the right for them to take the matter to the court in Strasbourg, analogous to what the Court called a ‘category III’ right). Though the European Union is a sui generis legal institution, it is certainly at least arguable that other agreements, given domestic effect in the UK, have an impact on the legal rights of British citizens, and the decision could significantly impact the powers of the Executive.

What Next?

Despite the resounding victory for the claimants, the case is not over. The Government has announced it intends to appeal the decision (using a leapfrog procedure to skip the Court of Appeal), and the Supreme Court has already set aside a few days in early December to hear the case. The entire 11-member bench of the Supreme Court will hear the case, a first, with a view to judgment out possibly before Christmas.

If the Supreme Court allows the appeal, then this will turn out to be a minor obstacle successfully overcome; politically, it means Theresa May will be free to activate Article 50 ‘by March’, as scheduled. If however the Supreme Court upholds the High Court’s decision, the Government will have no choice but to introduce legislation that must then get through the Houses of Parliament. And then the fun begins.


Alex Diggens

[1] Union [2016] EWHC 2768 (Admin)

Working in a Family Law Firm: What You Can Expect

This month’s featured blog post comes from Clayton Miller, a founding member of KMJ Solicitors who specialise in family law. To learn more about their work and what they do, visit their website 


Whether you’ve just graduated from law school or you’re looking to change areas, you might be thinking of going into family law. More than just dividing up furniture, a solicitor in family law can be involved in some of the most complex and emotional cases imaginable.

Family law solicitors work with clients during some of the most emotional moments of their lives: marriage, civil partnership and divorce. Clients can be difficult, but that makes an empathetic, well-trained and experienced family law solicitor all the more important. Here’s a rundown of the ups and downs you can expect if you choose a career in family law.


Long hours in the courtroom

If you decide to become a solicitor in family law, then expect to spend long hours in the courtroom. Cases could involve defending a victim of domestic abuse, or a child abduction case, or an argument over a will by relatives of the deceased, or a fight over who keeps the yacht. Court is not as exciting or dramatic as TV programs would lead you to believe. Much time is spent waiting or negotiating with the other side.

Although family law is a very people-orientated area of law, with a lot of time spent in the courtroom and a lot of change day-to-day, there’s also a lot of paperwork. With new areas of family law opening up and developing, like cohabitation agreements and same-sex marriages, people have never needed family law solicitors who excel in their field as much as now.

If you’re a law student in London, try this: make a list of the best commercial lawyers you know in London, and then make a list of the best family law solicitors in London. If you’re somewhere else, then change this to your city. Which list is longer? Although family law doesn’t suit everyone, it can be a chance to make a real difference and make a name for yourself in law while you’re at it.


Emotional work, but rewarding work

In the midst of their disintegrating marriage, or negotiating the future of their children, it is highly unlikely that your clients will be at their best or most rational when you’re in contact with them. As a solicitor in family law, you will need a cool head and a sympathetic ear, while also knowing what’s best for your client legally and financially. Tensions and emotions can run high in a family law solicitor’s office. If you’re setting up an office in a family law firm, consider adding a child’s play area and rooms suitable for roundtable meetings with several parties.

If you enjoy counselling, then becoming a solicitor in family law could definitely be for you. Expect to spend a lot of your time advising people on the next step in what’s best for them and their children, and also mediating between them and their spouse in divorce battles. Many family lawyers undertake additional training to become a family mediator. A top tip for working within a family law firm would be, make sure that you don’t burn out; dealing with disintegrating relationships every day can test your faith in human nature more than most other areas of law. But the rewards can be so much greater.


Become an expert in your field

Family law isn’t a career that many solicitors choose to specialise in, so if you really dedicate yourself to your practice, you can become one of the best London divorce solicitors with a reputation that precedes you.

Equally, if you become an expert, it opens more windows of opportunity to you, like working in non-profit legal service organisations. Working in a non-profit organisation, you will be representing low-income clients in various family law matters, and you will find yourself working on cases such as legal representation for children who have been neglected or abused. If you have a strong desire to give back, this can be highly rewarding, altruistic work. While draining, if you entered law hoping to help people and make a real difference in people’s lives, look no further than becoming a solicitor in family law.

If you decide that family law is for you, start by seeking out the best family law solicitor in London, or wherever you’re based, and find out about internships and work experience. Family law is something that you either love or hate, so make sure you know it’s for you before committing to it. Alternatively, try and find some court cases where litigation is open to the public so that you can sit in on the case and get a better understanding of what’s involved. If it is for you, then you have a challenging and rewarding career ahead of you.


Author bio:

Clayton Miller is a founding member of KMJ Solicitors — a highly sought after family law firm in London. Legal 500 describes Clayton as being especially able to “assimilate and master the details of complex financial cases and keep on top of them”. Clayton is dual qualified in both Australia and the UK and is a member of the dual-qualified Family Lawyers and International Bar Association. He has over fifteen years of experience as a family law specialist, including divorce and separation as well as offshore trusts, prenuptial agreements and cohabitation law.