Just recently I have been checking out a number of other blogs written by trainees, paralegals and interns across the world in regard to their time working for a variety of law firms. Of recent I was pointed in the direction of a blog written by Andrew Powell who is currently completing an internship at Vorzimer Masserman, a law firm in Los Angeles, as part of the Pegasus Scholarship. We all dream of warmer climes so it would appear that Andrew has landed on his feet in this respect. As I read the blog a number of interesting things jumped out at me and I thought it would make an interesting blog post to compare the experiences Andrew is gaining in Hollywood to the realities of working in the legal profession within the UK.
Vorzimer Masserman appear to be a law firm not unlike Stowe Family Law LLP in that they are highly specialised within the area of family law. Andrew obviously experienced the nerves anyone would get starting at a new firm, but he also had to deal with an alien city. I have visited Los Angeles myself and I can vouch for the fact that it is a little overwhelming on arrival and very different to any city in the UK. Andrew thus threw himself in at the deep end and in order to get used to the city hired a car and went for a drive, something I would have to commend him for. I think I would start with a walk, at least then there is less chance I would cause an accident.
On his first day at the law firm Andrew spent the morning trying to decide what to wear, every job you start has a slightly different dress code and you always want to make a good impression. Here in the UK white collar workers, including those who work within law firms and chambers, are expected to dress, well, in white collar, that is to say in a suit. So Andrew was a little surprised, and I have to say I would be too, to find that upon turning up at the office suited and booted everyone was dressed casually. He rightly states, however, that it is ‘better to be overdressed than underdressed’. I suppose wearing a suit could be classified as very British and traditional and I have to ask if it could really be classed as overdressed within the full sense of the word. I think Andrew was right to go in a suit and as one of the comments on the blog reads ‘overdressed?… Just very British and Temple. Rock that look.’
Andrew apparently survived week one and his next blog post details his second week in the office. It sounds like he is somewhat living the dream with a welcome lunch and a weekend sailing trip with a new colleague, something that in Los Angeles calls up images of crisp blue waters, refreshing winds and radiant sunshine. However, if we transpose the activity to the UK it instantly conjures up images of choppy angry waters, grey skies, high winds and pouring rain, followed, if you are me, by an intense feeling of travel sickness. I never have found my sea legs, as they say.
Vorzimer Masserman focus a lot of their work in the areas of fertility and surrogacy. Something I have yet to encounter in the UK. It is an area of law that involves a large cross over between family law and contract law, something that Andrew is experiencing first hand. The legal progress in surrogacy involves two stages: ‘1) the contractual phase and 2) securing parental rights.’ With ‘the first phase being largely transactional and broken down into a number of stages: matching the intended parent(s) with a surrogate mother, a process undertaken by a certified surrogacy agency. This entails medical and psychological screening and drafting contracts to be sent to the intended parent(s) – the contracts detail all of the legal rights and obligations of each party to the agreement.’ Like any contract, surrogacy contracts are dependent upon the parties involved and can vary from one party to the next. There is a financial element to the contract and this is generally governed by the surrogacy agency. The second step, securing parental rights, is largely procedural according to Andrew. ‘An interim hearing is listed to name the intended parent(s) as the legal parents of the unborn child (a pre-birth order). Prior to that hearing, lawyers on behalf of the intended parent(s) submit papers to court, usually at a point when the surrogate is 20-25 weeks pregnant so that a hearing can be listed for a pre-birth order to be obtained by the time the surrogate is 30 weeks pregnant. There is an emergency procedure available in the event that the surrogate gives birth before the expected due date.’
The surrogacy cases that Andrew is now becoming involved in, cross the states of America and often go beyond its borders to the UK and Europe. This is a topic that I find extremely interesting and which can be cross compared with a previous blog post of mine entitled ‘A seven month old baby boy and Surrogacy: finances and the inconsistencies between policy and law’, which can be found here: http://www.stowefamilylawllp.com/2014/01/22/a-seven-month-old-baby-boy-and-surrogacy-finances-and-the-inconsistencies-between-policy-and-law/
Andrews’ most recent post talks about Yorkshire Tea, something which I am sure is close to the hearts of many of my readers. It would appear that it is also close to the hearts of Andrew’s new colleagues, with it becoming an ‘anticipated occasion each afternoon’.
I am sure that I will be following Andrew’s blog on a regular basis both for entertainment value and to cross compare life at a Los Angeles law firm to that of a UK law firm. Both of which are excellent places to learn and within both I am sure you gain excellent experiences, even if Andrew gets to gain these experiences in the beautiful Los Angeles whether whilst I get stuck with the rain and cold of Yorkshire. I suppose one good thing about being in the cold of Yorkshire is that I have unlimited access to Yorkshire Tea.
To read Andrew’s blog and to keep up to date with his life in sunny Los Angeles, please visit the below link:
Photo by Miroslav Vajdic via Flickr under a Creative Commons license