The world is not enough

The map of the world that most of us are familiar with, isn’t strictly accurate. The popular Mercator projection map of 1569 inflates the size of land mass moving away from the equator. As much of the developing world lies near the equator, these countries appear smaller and less significant, like the continent of Africa for example which appears the same size as Greenland. The Gall-Peters projection map of 1973 by contrast provides a far more accurate interpretation, correctly reflecting areas of equal size on the globe, and thereby restoring less powerful nations to their correct proportions. This clip from The West Wing sums it up brilliantly:

Returning goods to stores made easy

Attempting to return goods to a store in this country can be an infuriating and drawn out process. However if you exude confidence, understand your legal rights and follow through on what you say, you shouldn’t have any problems at all.

When you buy something, pay for it and leave the store, the transaction may be complete but the contract is ongoing. In other words just because you’ve returned home or kept an item for a few weeks, you haven’t automatically completed your end of the contract, and you might still have an option to return or exchange something with which you are dissatisfied.

The question is: are you are dissatisfied with the item because it is faulty, or for some other reason?

If the goods are faulty, not fit for purpose, not as described or not of satisfactory quality, then you are entitled to a full refund. You do not have to accept a repair, a credit note or replacement, although you may want to consider this if you have had the goods for some considerable time.

If you have purchased the wrong item, changed your mind or the item is an unwanted gift, then you are not entitled to a full refund. More often than not however, the shop will give you a refund out of goodwill, but you may have to settle for an exchange or credit note if it’s outside of the store’s discretionary return period (usually 28 days).

You should always act quickly and return items as soon as possible. However if you are attempting to return faulty goods, then you have a “reasonable amount of time” within which to do so, irrespective of what the store’s policy is. So for example, it should to be perfectly fine to return a pair of faulty straighteners after about 6 months if they begin to singe your hair, because if you’ve spent more than £100 on them, you would expect them to work properly for a lot longer than 6 months.

However items which are not fit for purpose, not as described or not of satisfactory quality, should be returned fairly quickly, i.e. within a couple of months, because it would be not reasonable for the buyer to decide 6 months down the line for example that a pair of trousers were wrongly labelled as a size 34, but in-fact measured up as a size 28.

It is always best to have a receipt, but it’s also worth knowing that shops aren’t actually obliged to provide you with a receipt in the first place and under English law, you don’t need to show a receipt when you’re trying to return something. You are just as legally entitled to use a bank or credit card statement to prove the date and location of where the goods were purchased. In-fact simply having a witness who can verify your version of events may also be fine but it’s probably best avoided unless taking legal action.

Whatever happens, don’t take no for an answer, don’t tolerate silly excuses and don’t allow the shop to pass the buck onto the manufacturer. It is the trader’s responsibility to rectify the problem and it is up to them to go back to the manufacturer. If an item is faulty then you should quite simply have no problem in getting back your money from the shop where the item was purchased.

If you don’t get anywhere with the person at the counter, you could asked to speak with the manager. Remind the manager that he/she must surely be familiar with basic consumer law and the Sale of Goods Act, and that you would like the matter to be resolved immediately and without a fuss. If the store manager doesn’t cooperate, take the names of all the people you spoke with as well as details of the company’s head office (if applicable), and leave the store with your head held high.

It is then up to if you wish to take matters further, and you would have several options open to you. You could get in touch with their head office (if there is one) and outline the nature of your dissatisfaction. You could do a Companies House search online, get the addresses of all the Company Directors and then write to them individually. And of course you could always sue the company in the Small Claims Court, if the damages sought are less than £5,000, however this would be time consuming and probably cost you a few hundred pounds.

Overall just remember that you’re not a criminal for taking something back to a shop and wanting a refund, despite how the sales assistant looks at you. Just stay calm, be confident, polite and professional, and then when you feel the full weight of the English legal system behind you, just lean in and gently ask… “may I speak with the store manager please?”

THIS BLOG MUST NOT BE RELIED UPON AS LEGAL ADVICE

Brain’s Got Talent

The human brain is absolutely astounding. As far as I am aware, there isn’t anything else like it in nature, and science has yet to build a computer that even comes close.

Putting aside for a moment any deeper philosophical discussion on the differential between the brain and the mind, it strikes me that we are living in extraordinary times, evolving in a way that nobody had foreseen. For the first time in Earth’s 4.5 billion year history, all the component members of an entire species the world-over are able to communicate amongst themselves, with ease.

Admittedly perhaps this build-up over the preceding few sentences for the humble Internet was a tad dramatic, but when you sit and think about the fact that we now have a global infrastructure in place to potentially connect up and harness the energy of more than 6 billion human brains, well, it’s enough to blow your mind.

Humanity really is on the cusp of a new era of scientific discovery. Sequencing the human genome was a big step in the right direction, and within the next two decades I predict that our collaborative human effort will eradicate all diseases, and develop a way to treat other health problems at a sub-atomic level.

Far sooner than that however, I predict that social media will advance to such a level, that willing participants will be able to integrate themselves into a kind of hive-mind “Borg” collective. That is to say, voluntarily undergo medical procedures to connect organic brain tissue, with technological circuitry for the purpose of communication.

Human beings will eventually be able to communicate with not much more than the simple power of thought. Our collective human consciousness is about to be unveiled in a way that we could never have imagined. These are very exciting times in which to be alive.

The A to Z of BlackBerry: a beginner’s guide

Applications

Think of your BlackBerry as akin to Microsoft Windows, and think of “applications” as akin to different software packages. These applications can be downloaded (either for free or for a fee) from BlackBerry Apps World. There is an ever expanding variety of useful applications.

BlackBerry Messenger

This is a brilliant feature available on all BlackBerry handsets. This application allows you to create a permanent live connection with fellow BlackBerry users. You can then send and receive free instant messages, files and photographs to one another, anywhere in the world.

Calendar

The BlackBerry calendar feature is very user friendly and similar to your Microsoft Outlook calendar. It can also be synchronised with your Microsoft Outlook calendar at work. You can change the view settings and alert times, and you can run several simultaneous calendars.

Documents To Go™

Documents To Go is a suite of applications akin to Microsoft Office: Word To Go (Word), Sheet To Go (Excel) and Slideshow To Go (PowerPoint). The basic application allow you to view documents for free, but you have to upgrade and pay to be able to create and edit files.

Emails

You can set your handset to receive emails from virtually every email account that you hold. Emails are usually forwarded to your handset instantly. Your handset should also reconcile itself with your various email accounts, so that sent and deleted emails are synchronised.

Flashing LED

Although the flashing LED indicator can be switched off, it is probably best to keep it switched on. It flashes red when you have received an alert. It can also be set to flash green for when you do not have any alerts. When you are using Bluetooth it flashes blue.

GPS

Most handsets now come with GPS as standard. You can use BlackBerry maps and other applications to locate your position or plan a journey. Some applications rely on this feature to be able to give you relevant localised information, i.e. weather reports, cinema listings etc.

Handsfree / speakerphone

Like most phones you can plug in a handsfree kit or use a Bluetooth headset with your BlackBerry. Whilst on a call, press the key with a small red megaphone (above the $ key), to put your phone on loudspeaker. The volume controls are on the right of the handset.

Internet

Your BlackBerry needs the support of a server to function. It can either use a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (if your company has is set up), or more likely it will use your network provider’s server. You can access Internet sites on your phone by clicking on the globe icon.

Just for fun

Every BlackBerry comes with a number of basic games. These are contained within the folder with a small blue games controller icon. The media gallery contains all your music, videos, ring tones, pictures and voice notes. This folder has a small CD, photo and musical clef icon.

Keyboard

Numbers are in red on the left side of your keyboard. To type a number, press “alt” together with the relevant key. Press “symbol” to find less frequently used letters and symbols. When checking texts or emails, press “T” to scroll to the top and “B” to scroll to the bottom.

Locking handset

Press and hold key “A” to lock your handset. To unlock the handset you have to press the star key, followed by the green call button. For added security there is a new application which allows for “remote self-destruct” of all data, in the event your handset is lost or stolen.

Media Card

Most handsets come with an added media card as standard. They usually slot into the left side of the handset. A media card provides additional memory space on to which excess data can be stored. This is particularly useful if you have lots of music files on your BlackBerry.

Navigation

Most BlackBerry handsets come with either a trackball or trackpad to navigate your way around the handset. All individual icons can also be moved around, depending on your preference. It makes sense to have your 6 most commonly used icons on the top row.

Options

Options are located under the small spanner icon. Here you will find a variety of options to check / amend the settings on your handset. Clicking on Status for example, tells you the battery life on your phone, and Memory tells you how much free memory you have left.

Profiles

A BlackBerry comes with several standard profiles, i.e. Normal, Quiet, Vibrate etc.. You can also create your own profiles. You can programme your handset with different alert tones for different messages, and this helps to distinguish an email from a text message, for example.

Quick keys

When checking texts or emails, there are a number of quick keys you can use. Click “N” for next and “P” for previous, click “R” for reply and “F” for forward, and click “T” to scroll to the top and “B” to scroll to the bottom. Clicking “S” give you the option to perform a search.

Reboot

You can reboot your handset by briefly taking the battery out of it. This needs to be done after removing an application from your handset, although you do get prompted. It is also advisable to reboot at least once a week, to maintain the performance of your handset.

Speed dials

You can assign a speed dial to every key on your QWERTY keyboard. The easiest way to do this is to press and hold a particular key, and then assign the speed dial when prompted. Speed dial “Q” is usually assigned to change your profile to vibrate. “A” usually locks phone.

Text messages

Like most phones, sending and receiving SMS (texts) and MMS (picture messages) is relatively straightforward. This feature has a small mobile handset and envelope icon. You can also save text messages and emails, which are then stored in your saved messages folder.

USB Port

All handsets come with a USB port and data cable. Installing the BlackBerry desktop software onto your computer is essential. This allows you to perform backups and restorations when required. The file structure on your BlackBerry is very similar to that of Microsoft Windows.

Video / Camera

All handsets come with a built-in camera and most have a video recorder as well. The video camera feature has a camcorder icon, and the camera feature has a camera icon. Video clips and photos are stored in the media gallery, along with music, ring tones and voice notes.

Wi-Fi

Although most handsets now use the 3G network to browse the Internet and download data, utilising Wi-Fi is by far the quickest method. Your handset can connect to the web on the back of any unsecured Wi-Fi signal, although setting up your own secured Wi-Fi is the best option.

Xtras

There are a number of other useful features on your handset, including: alarm, calculator, stopwatch, maps, task scheduler (a to-do list with alarm), and voice recorder (for dictation / voice notes). Helpful features include: manage connections, search, help, and standby.

Your PIN

Your PIN is unique to your handset. It is particularly helpful when trying to connect with someone on BlackBerry Messenger. It is also far more secure to give out your PIN to somebody, than your mobile number. To find your PIN click Options, and then click Status.

Zzz…

In the unlikely event that you want to switch your phone off, simply press the standby button and wait for about 30 seconds. You can also set your handset to switch off / switch on automatically. This feature can be found under Options, and then under Auto On/Off.

Junior lawyers inspired to take action

As the national representative for Leicestershire, I have the distinct honour of representing my home county on the national committee of the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD).

At our last full committee meeting, we received an inspirational briefing from Simon Baker, a member of the JLD’s executive committee. He briefed us all on The Milburn Report, a document published last summer by the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, and chaired by the Government’s social mobility czar Alan Milburn.

The report identified law as a “closed profession”, with 50% of lawyers coming from private education, whereas nationally only around 7% of people attend private schools. Barriers to entering the profession include the cost of higher education, lack of work experience opportunities and poor careers advice in schools.

Simon also briefed us on a conference he had attended in late 2009, entitled “The Future of the Legal Profession”, where Mr Justice Vos was a keynote speaker. Mr Justice Vos spoke of the need to get young lawyers into schools and to act as role models and careers advisers, particularly to children from less privileged backgrounds, for whom having existing connections to members of the profession was a rarity.

The whole ethos at the Junior Lawyers Division and indeed the firm that I work for, is to take action, and work hard to make a difference. Thanks to the inspirational leadership of our executive committee officers, I decided to take action and to try and make a difference in my community. A few days later I applied to become a School Governor, and a few weeks ago I learnt that my application had been successful.

I am now a Governor for a modern, vibrant college here in the city of Leicester, and whilst no meetings have yet been held, I’m very much looking forward to investing my time and energy into this school, and working hard to try and make a difference for the children that study there.

I know there are other junior lawyers up and down the country with the drive and determination to change our society and to work to improve the lives of those less fortunate. My advice is to get out there and take action. The next generation is relying on us, now more than ever.

Welcome to my world

A BlackBerry is not just a mobile phone. To think of it as such is akin to labelling Leonardo Da Vinci a good painter and decorator, or the Great Wall of China a sturdy fence. No, a BlackBerry is a “life organiser”. A modern day Triquarter that can neatly press, fold and deliver the sum of all human knowledge to ones fingertips with all the sophistication of a Mercedes Benz. If sliced bread could talk, it would use the invention of the BlackBerry as a benchmark.

This extraordinary device has, if you’ll pardon the pun, taken the legal profession by Storm. A cacophony of legal applications are now being rolled out, with hybrid software that can already record dictation, edit and view Office and PDF documents, and capture billable units from calls and emails, to name but a few examples.

However the biggest appeal for lawyers surely has to be the way in which a BlackBerry simply gets on with the job, without faffing about. The language is clear, the features are straightforward and the integrated technology is effortless. Indeed the whole BlackBerry resin d’etre could probably be defined in three words – simplicity, efficiency and ingenuity – and this is something that more and more law firms are beginning to clock on to.

And when it comes to keeping up with business trends, we all know that any lawyer worth their salt needs to have a decent online presence, in order to build relationships with fellow professionals and potential clients. Thankfully a BlackBerry can easily integrate a multitude of social networks with the robust functionality of a Swiss army knife (although the Facebook application is admittedly rather poor).

So why do I have a BlackBerry? Well for a start I want clear, concise and accurate information without delay so that I can make quick informed decisions. I also want to be able to plan my next hour, day or week in seconds, not minutes, and spend as little time as possible entering details into my phone, learning how to operate some new fangled software or going back and having to correct a dozen mistakes, courtesy of a grimy unreliable touchscreen.

The truth is a BlackBerry has your best interests at heart. It understands how you work and it’s on your side. It’s not going to try and sell you applications you don’t need or games you’ll never play. It’s not going to make you feel out of touch if you don’t happen to have the latest version. And it’s not going to suck money from your wallet like some kind of vibrating leech should you happen to drop it.

What it will do however, is give you what you want, when you want it. A functional, professional and reliable personal assistant, ready to synchronise your world, maximise your productivity, and free up some much needed time. Case in point, I’ve just written this on my BlackBerry sitting on a packed Piccadilly Line train, somewhere under West London. Welcome to my world.