Navigating the infamous Californian penal code

“Government is the greatest combination for forces known to human society. It can command more men and raise more money than any and all other agencies combined.”

David Dudley Field II.

The California penal code is well-known for being very long and complex, making it difficult to understand for everyday, non-legal clients. This means it requires specialist lawyers to navigate its complexities, who are more familiar with its changing nature and frequently added new sections.

In order to be able to adapt to situations like these, such lawyers must develop keen analytical and research skills. They will also have to possess great memory power, which is largely down to the fact that the California penal code is referenced by its section number alone. This is unlike some other sections of the United States code.

As a lawyer, being able to navigate your clients through some of the most complicated aspects of law prepares you to handle any situation. Dealing with some of the more challenging criminal codes in the world gives you a comprehensively strong grounding in law that you can then use to build a successful career. This article explores the historical nature of the California penal code, its complex exceptions, as well as its ever-changing nature through its constant additions.


The history of the California penal code

The code originated in 1872 as one of the original four Californian codes, being derived from the Field penal code that was named after David Dudley Field II. He was one of the original code commissioners for the New York code commission.


David Dudley Field II - Wikipedia
David Dudley Field II.

The California penal code contains six different parts, which are then subdivided into titles, chapters and sections. The code’s job is to organise criminal acts and their respective punishments. Therefore, it comprises of a very long list of offences, which are then themselves broken down again into sections leading to further information on subcategories.


Exceptions not covered by the penal code

Some particular criminal acts are recorded separately from the California penal code. Namely, there are two other codes which cover all of the other criminal activity and areas of the law.

The first of these is the California Health and Safety Code, which is where all drug laws relating to crimes and their respective charges are kept.

The second is the California Vehicle Code for anything relating to motorists, motor vehicles and traffic matters in the area.


New additions to the California penal code

As previously touched on, the code is constantly evolving. The California penal code is a leading example of a criminal code that adapts as the legal system and the world around it changes.

For example, the code was an early adopter of cyberbullying laws, detailing various laws and regulations surrounding anti-bullying laws initially, which were then later followed up with cyberbullying-specific additions.

The above is just one example of the code’s many additions over the years and, as such, it is a fairly expansive and thorough set of enactments for a lawyer to get to grips with. There is no doubt that there will be more additions to come in the future that they would also need to study to stay on top of its shifting nature of law.


Concluding remarks

The California penal code is a good reference point and example of what a complicated set of legal regulations looks like. Familiarising yourself with a system like this, as a lawyer, can enlighten you as to what other criminal codes from around the world look like – and how one can navigate them if they were required to.

Lawyers who are specialists in interpreting the California penal code can help defendants immensely, who would otherwise be overwhelmed by its complicated nature. They are a leading example of professionals who are able to put fantastic legal brains to use so that they can quickly adapt, recall information and stay on track of its changing laws.


Accident? What You Can Claim Compensation For

“Accidents—you never have them till you’re having them.”

Eeyore.

We’ve all seen the adverts and listened to the cold calls asking if we’ve been in an accident that wasn’t our fault. In fact, we all know that there is potential compensation on offer should that actually happen. Negligence and accidents that could be avoided happen in the thousands, each and every day. For some, it’s a minor scrape and a lucky escape, but for others it can have a significant impact on their life and have a lasting effect.

In many cases, accidents such as motor collisions or sports injuries are down to human error or bad health and safety procedure and leave people needing a large amount of healthcare. A study by Newsome Melton found that those who were involved in an accident and damaged their spine spent an average of 12 days in hospital and 37 in a rehabilitation center following that. On top of that, only 11.5% of those injured are back in work a year after the accident, which can really take its toll both mentally and financially. 

The stress involved in accidents is significant, which is why so many people seek compensation for injuries that were not their fault. What you can claim for varies depending on the accident and circumstances, but there are a number of common expenses which are covered by it. So, if you ever do have an accident feel you deserve to be compensated, you can seek financial remuneration for the following.


Lost Wages

Naturally, while in recovery you will almost certainly miss out on a large portion of work, particularly if your role involves manual labour. You can seek compensation to make up for all the lost wages you have suffered as a result of the accident.

Wallet, Credit Card, Cash, Investment, Money, Financial

Medical Care

Medical care while in the hospital after the accident (as well as any future care required due to the incident) can be claimed for, such as prescription drugs, rehabilitation, physiotherapy and more. If you require medical aid in some capacity for the foreseeable future, you can claim for it.

Syringe, Pill, Capsule, Morphine, Needle, Liquid

Care Givers

If permanent care is required, you can make a claim in order to pay for this. This could potentially be due to a family member having to give up work, or you having to pay a professional carer to look after you on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Computer, Business, Office, Technology, Laptop, America

Support for Family

As well as support for yourself, you may also find that your family needs support either emotionally or to become more informed on the injuries and be able to help effectively. This can often be costly, as they may be required to go on courses, take time off work (unpaid) and more.

Beach, Family, Fun, Leisure, Ocean, Relaxation, Sand

Travel Expenses

Specialists can often be based hundreds of miles away, meaning there’s no option but to travel in order to get the best care and rehabilitation programmes. Petrol, bus tickets and taxi costs can be covered for medical care, should you claim for compensation through the courts.

Petrol, Gasoline, Diesel, Gas, Automotive, Prices, Oil

The above are just some of the many more factors that can be expensed for depending on your circumstances. By seeking a lawyer, they will be able to help you understand exactly what you can and can’t claim for based upon the specifics of the accident.


Jaysen Sutton #LawyersOfLinkedIn

“A huge part of succeeding is simply showing up and taking small, specific baby steps to work towards your goal. If they’re even just a tiny bit outside your comfort zone, you’ll be growing.”

Jaysen Sutton.

Today’s #LawyerOfLinkedIn is trainee solicitor turned entrepreneur Jaysen Sutton. Having previously worked in the world of commercial law, Jaysen decided to change career paths shortly into his Training Contract and start his own business – The Corporate Law Academy (TCLA). Having previously spoken on Jaysen’s ‘Trainee Talk’ podcast a month prior, I decided to reverse roles and ask Jaysen about his initial motivations to become a lawyer, why he instead founded his business, as well as his thoughts on the current application process for Training Contracts and the future of the profession generally.


Why did you initially want to be a lawyer?

JS: “I really like the law as a subject. When I was younger, I used to think of the law as a rigid set of rules, which tells you what you can and cannot do. I found it interesting to learn how it’s actually instead pretty fluid, always open to argument and opinion.

I didn’t want to become a commercial lawyer until a lot later. I actually used to find finance and business very intimidating. It was only when I threw myself into the subject and tried to understand the commercial world from the ground-up that I realised how interesting it is. It’s a bit like a jigsaw – on its own, the different financial terms can seem quite confusing and isolated, but when things click, I find it really satisfying. You really learn how interconnected everything is.

The ‘sensible’ advice would have been to stay in law, at least until I’d finished my training contract. However, I left life as a commercial lawyer very early. I really liked the firm I was at and the work I was doing, but I didn’t think practice itself suited me. I woke up one day and realised that really bothered me. It arguably would have made sense to ‘wait it out’ and I’m sure I would have been fine, but I eventually made the decision to leave.”


How did leaving your Training Contract lead to you founding your own business, TCLA?

“When I left, I knew I wanted to start a business. I had tried a couple of times before and I found working on something I had made myself really satisfying. The conventional wisdom for starting a business is to simply ‘make something people want’. With that in mind, I realised the best way for me to do that was to make something I would have wanted when trying to secure a training contract.”


Moving from the conventional rigidity of a typical office job to the world of entrepreneurship is a brave step to take. However, its becoming increasingly common within the legal sector. With the allowance of Alternative Service Providers (ASPs), the ongoing development of legal technology and the flexibility that collaborative cloud working allows, innovative new approaches to working within the legal industry are being created every day.


“I wish I could say I had more of a concrete outline of what I was going to do, but honestly, I didn’t. I had spent so many years preparing to work at a law firm and now I was quite lost. Being a law student and then a trainee solicitor was my identity. Now that I had left, I didn’t really know who I was or what I was doing. I only knew that I was going to put everything into The Corporate Law Academy (‘TCLA’) to make it work. I worked crazy hours when I started, mostly because I was compensating for a lot of the guilt I had for leaving my law firm.

Now I would say I wasn’t working completely blind. I personally felt there were gaps in the application journey I had undertaken. Dealing with rejection after rejection is such a blow to your self-confidence, and I felt the journey didn’t have to be so competitive. The TCLA forums were made to be a place where aspiring lawyers could support one another through such struggles.

I also felt there was a big gap between leaving university and your first day at a law firm. I realised we could help teach aspiring lawyers to better understand the financial markets, commercial news and how law firms work as a business, and I could do this online to build this at scale and reach far more people. “


Speaking of that ‘gap’ between university studies and a TC, what surprised you the most about the interview and application process?

“It was learning that performing at an interview is a skill

In my first series of interviews, I wasn’t very good and I’d always think I could never be as good as other people. Over time, I started to become more confident in selling my ‘story’, responding to challenging interview questions and defending my point of view. 

I realised that while some candidates may come across as more polished, they’d just had the opportunity to practice more, whether that’s through mock interviews, debate clubs or being surrounded by people who regularly discuss world events. 

This was a big surprise because, until then, I had thought I was always going to be bad at interviews. The big lesson was that the skills and minimal confidence I had weren’t fixed, that I could get better over time.”

TCLA’s Video Interview Simulator tool allows candidates to practice their interview skills before the real thing

The importance of these skills can easily go overlooked when it comes to preparing your applications. Legal ‘letter-of-the-law’ knowledge is of course important, but transferable and ‘soft’ skills can be just as essential in a client-facing, team-based role.


The challenge of having a broadened skillset is already persistent for many aspiring solicitors. But what is the biggest difficulty that their employers – law firms themselves – will face in the future?

“First, let me qualify this by saying I’m speaking as someone on the outside looking in. But I’d say talent. I wrote a post recently on the disruption of the partnership model, the gist of it being that, for a variety of reasons, the incentive to work your way up to become one of a small number of equity partners to reach the top doesn’t have the same grab it used to. 

Our generation of lawyers are going to be far more willing to jump between firms. The challenge is that law firms need to work out how to attract and retain lawyers, and that’s beyond salary and remuneration. Even though many London-based firms are engaged in a wage war at the moment, I think it’s unsustainable and ultimately doesn’t fix the problem.

Once law firms accept that, junior lawyers are going to be different. I do think initiatives like flexible working will make a big difference. If you build the right systems and manage it properly, lawyers could be far more productive (and saner!) working one or two days a week remotely.

That leads me to mental health. Work phones, incessant emails and long hours cause serious anxiety. This can’t be fixed directly with a quick-fix, because the type of clients we’re talking about will want their lawyers to be accessible. That’s why I think it’s about investing in stress-management tools. I don’t mean one-off meditation classes, but I do mean real investment in an open, supportive culture – where mental health problems are treated as important as physical health. While many senior lawyers are incredible, there are also others who aren’t great on this. This needs to be fixed, no matter how reputable a partner is.”


Jaysen echoes the sentiments of many other legal professionals in the industry. The practice of law is mentally taxing for a multitude of reasons and the dangers of a lack of mental health support are severe to say the least. If you’d like to read more about mental health within the legal sector, you check out my article on it here.


So, to finish, what is your number one piece of advice for aspiring lawyers?

“Be consistent. A huge part of succeeding is simply showing up and taking small, specific baby steps to work towards your goal. If they’re even just a tiny bit outside your comfort zone, you’ll be growing. 

Want to better understand law firms? Go to open days and firm events.

Want to develop your commercial awareness? Read a few business stories every day.

Want to develop your interview technique? Practice answering challenging questions aloud or with a friend. 

Put your time in, day in and day out, and you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.”


I’d like to extend a big thank-you to Jaysen for contributing to my #LawyersOfLinkedIn series, as well as allowing me to speak on his podcast a month ago. If you’d like to get in touch with Jaysen, learn more about TCLA, or check out the ‘Trainee Talk’ podcast, you can do so below.


My ‘Trainee Talk’ with The Corporate Law Academy

“Everybody and their mother has a book and a podcast these days.”

Loren Weisman.

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak with Jaysen Sutton, founder of The Corporate Law Academy, in his ‘Trainee Talk’ podcast series.


TCLA aims to assist aspiring commercial solicitors in their journey towards a Training Contract, providing a number of guides, resources and mentoring contacts. The online learning platform is full of really useful information that is invaluable to helping you through the application process for commercial firms – from online applications right through to assessment centres and interviews. TCLA also runs a number of networking conferences and events, designed to help you learn more about what a trainee’s responsibilities are, learn more about a certain sector of commercial law, or to simply develop your professional network.

Their podcast series, ‘Trainee Talk’, interviews current and future trainee solicitors at various law firms on a broad variety of topics. During my podcast episode, entitled “Leveraging your Unique Selling Points”, I spoke about:

  • My journey into the world of Law and securing a Training Contract
  • The development of this blog and my plans for it in the future
  • Mental health and wellbeing within the legal sector
  • The benefits of meditation and mindfulness – especially for Law students
  • My advice regarding networking, drafting an application and interviewing

…and much more! You can find links to the podcast episode and TCLA below.


Commercial Awareness Resource List

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

– Dr Seuss.

When wanting to get started on developing your commercial awareness, it can be a little tricky figuring out which sources to turn to first. In this (non-exhaustive!) list, I’ve outlined some of my own personal favourite sources that I feel helped me build my commercial awareness habits. Enjoy!


Digital Sources

LinkedIn Daily Rundown

This was my initial go-to source for keeping up with business developments. LinkedIn curate and publish a quick daily 5 minute breakdown of some of the most impactful happenings over the last day or so across a variety of topics. Whilst the industries and topics chosen can at times be extraneous to the world of commercial law, major news stories are nearly always covered and summarised in just a few sentences, with links to further reading and analysis.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/dailyrundownuk/


Finimize

Finimize drops a daily newsletter into your inbox which explains and summarises what’s happening in the world of finance and politics. It’s very handy for getting links to analysis on the latest news stories, with only 30 seconds of brief reading required by you once the email arrives. Plus, it’s completely free!

https://www.finimize.com/


Lexology

Lexology provides a number of resources, including a blog, conferences and events that are all geared towards keeping you updated in the legal world. Their website contains an immense number of articles (850k+), so you’re nearly always bound to find commentary on the topic you’re searching for.

https://www.lexology.com/


Google/Ecosia

All search engines share a number of common pitfalls that sites like Wikipedia have always faced, such as confirmation bias due to your search terms or not knowing where the information you find has been sourced from. Used effectively, however, search engines are an extremely powerful tool for subscribing to the latest developments in the commercial world, whilst being able to filter and add greater specificity to your search results. It can prove extremely useful when attempting to find out more about firms’ recent deals, as there will often be multiple news sources citing the relevant information. Browse wisely!


Print Sources

Financial Times

Whilst its language and format can be quite technical at times (pardon the pun), the FT provides unparalleled high-quality articles with some fantastic editorial insight. 


The Economist

A personal favourite of mine, The Economist covers a broad range of topics, articles and sectors in an enjoyable reading format. 


Forbes

Both the digital and print copies of Forbes cover a huge variety of topics, with all of the latest news updates and editorial commentaries you could want.


Law Firm Reports/Releases

Quite a lot of firms will often release annual, quarterly or monthly reports detailing their business performance over the last period. These often contain really useful statistics, such as their growth rates or trainee retention rates, whilst often featuring more in-depth articles on their notable deals and achievements. A great way to learn more about a specific firm.


Academic Reading

Throughout my ‘Law in the Business Environment’ module at University, I was taught how firms operate as businesses and companies. Everything from profits through to leverage and business models to SWOT analysis can be learnt through the medium of textbooks and academic commentary. I’d personally recommend Christopher Stoakes and Stephen Mayson, who are both considered to be experts when it comes to the workings of firms. I’d recommend the following reading list of their books:

  • C. Stoakes, Commercial Awareness (2015/16)
  • C. Stoakes, All You Need to Know About Commercial Awareness (Longtail 2011/12)
  • S. Mayson, Making Sense of Law Firms: Strategy, Structure & Ownership (Blackstone Press 1997)
  • S. Mayson, Law Firm Strategy: Competitive Advantage and Valuation (OUP 2007)

Audiovisual

The audiovisual format is increasing in popularity for educational content. Podcasts, documentaries, YouTube videos and live events are all an excellent medium for learning, either at home or even while on the move. I’ve curated some of my personal favourites of these audiovisual resources into a list below: 


Spotify Podcasts (or Apple)

I love using Spotify or Apple podcasts, as they’re portable and can cover a broad variety of topics, length and styles. My personal favourites include:


BBC News

Even 15 minutes of watching the news in the morning with breakfast can be a great habit to build for your commercial awareness. You’re able to see any breaking developments as they happen and each story can be quickly covered and summarised (often live from the event’s location) in a matter of minutes.


I hope the above helps – feel free to get in touch if you have any other recommendations to add to the list!


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