Sunday, 12 November 2017

Cross examination - a guest post by Dan Hoadley

I am thrilled to host this guest post from Barrister and law reporter Dan Hoadley. Dan works for the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting (ICLR) on Chancery Lane. The ICLR are responsible for the official and authoritative law reports used by students, academics and all of the nation's solicitors and barristers every day.


Dan lists his interests as Legal technology, open law and data science. Dan used to write a law blog, alongside his legal writing, but has interests in product development, software design, architecture, music and politics. As he so rightly says "It's good to be interested in lots of different things!" If you want to follow Dan on Twitter, you will find him at: https://twitter.com/DanHLawReporter

Dan was a former City Law School student whose advocacy tutor tells me "he was the most natural advocate I've ever taught" and "his cross examination was the best I've ever seen; he just got it, from the beginning".  Dan is a legal magician, and it is a pleasure to host his practical, perceptive and astute tips on effective cross examination. 


Dan's tips differ from those you find in the typical texts on advocacy, because he gets under the skin of courtroom tactics. Also, he advocates consciously altering your style to avoid predictability. He recognises that the advocate must not only take, but crucially, keep the lead.

Over to you, Dan!


My number one tip for an effective cross-examination is to take your time and resist the urge to rush through it. Taking your time opens up a world of possibilities that you will be deprived of if you rush.

At a basic level, slowing things down gives you more time to listen to the witness and observe their demeanour. You'll have more time to construct your next question and plan your line of questioning in response to what you're hearing and seeing. You'll have more time to check your note and the witness statement.

But at a more advanced level, taking your time gives you the scope to really explore and test the evidence. Cross-examination shouldn't always be a mechanical exchange (although, sometimes tactically it may need to be). You'll know, from thorough preparation, what you expect to achieve with any given witness. But, you can never really know exactly how things are going to pan out in advance.

The devil is in the detail. Give yourself time to deal with it.

A second tip, which worked for me, is to continually monitor and control the rhythm of the exchange with the witness. Break long exchanges of leading closed questions with non-leading questions where it is safe to do so. Changes in rhythm of your questioning can really help maintain your control over the witness and, if necessary, unbalance them if they're sticking in and acclimatising to your style of questioning.


My thanks to Dan for these tips which are the techniques used by high level advocates. He has not covered basics of preparation and questioning here, which would be the bedrock to be built upon before trying these advanced methods. Don't forget that case theory, case analysis and detailed planning of cross examination (including a calculated plan of the risks inherent in your cross examination) must form the basis of your preparation. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Evidence in chief - tips from former BPTC students



Evidence in chief is the process by which the barrister questions one of his/her own witnesses. The questioning is designed to help the witness tell the story of the relevant events, in a structured, logical way, bringing out detail when necessary. It is primarily used in criminal cases where all of the evidence is oral. In most civil cases, witness statements stand as the evidence in chief and there is only supplementary questioning. 


On the surface, it appears a simple task. However, it is a deceptively difficult skill to perform well. The evidence should come from the witness, which is why the advocate should not ask leading questions on disputed issues. The barrister needs to carry out case analysis and detailed planning of the evidence in chief beforehand. During the evidence in chief the barrister not only has to ask the questions, but carefully listen to the answers, control the witness and ensure that all the relevant evidence comes before the court, deftly avoiding anything inadmissible. 

You can read all about the theory of evidence in chief in the Advocacy manual (definitely worth reading), but what about the realities as a BPTC student? I asked my former BPTC students if they could help. 


Preparation – legal knowledge and research, case preparation and planning

Farooq Sher gave astute advice on the best starting point for any endeavour as a barrister; a full knowledge of the law.

“Know when not to lead! Know your rules of court, know your civil evidence act, enhance the positive elements of your case through the evidence of your witness. Breathe. Take your time. Speak clearly and follow a logical format.

Elicit the objective and subjective evidence according to the legal tests. Don't forget the burdens and standards of proof in a civil case.”

As set out above, you should not ask leading questions on disputed matters, so making lists of disputed matters as part of your preparation will help you. Knowledge of procedure and rules of evidence might not immediately seem relevant, but you must know what you can and cannot adduce and what the court requires.

Elizabeth Salmon emphasised the need for meticulous preparation. Knowledge of the case as a whole was paramount to her: 

“Snigdha, my advice would be prepare, prepare, prepare. Know what evidence you need your client to give in order to make your case and ask questions that will allow for that information to flow.”

The importance of background knowledge and thorough preparation cannot be overstated - too many students think all that is required of them is to ask questions based on the witness' statement, with no greater awareness of the legal framework or the law of evidence. 

Practical advice on how to prepare came from Prashant Sabharwal:

“Know your brief, read it several times and mark down any detail. Then, prepare the broad outlines of questioning your witness. Understand that your witness is human. If necessary, drill down the details through several targeted questions in quick succession. Most importantly, make your witness comfortable and willing to trust you.”

Preparation of an effective kind is key, and I wholly endorse Prashant’s approach. The elements of the offence, the events, the descriptions, the placing of people in the situation - the advocate must be on top of it all. Another highly significant element of Prashant’s advice is the need to “drill down” on details. The possible need for asking many questions to elicit a single piece of information is something many students do not appreciate. Students often wrongly think that if they ask "What did he look like?" they will get everything - face, clothes, shoes, hair colour.


Whilst full preparation is important, the plan you put together must be a flexible one. Something which is too rigid will not work when dealing with a witness. Witnesses are people, so you can expect a degree of unpredictability.



Mark Joseph warns about having too rigid a plan, stating:

“My view is 'don't over prepare it'! Focus on the facts you're trying to prove rather than listing a volume of questions. Add some natural flair!”

Sharid Sarwardhi has this advice on preparation: 


“My advise is try to memorise the whole chief in your mind and ask questions based on a pattern, which you can form earlier, then just keep on listening to the answers and keep on asking questions. I am not suggesting blindly memorising all the questions for the chief, because you could easily lose your track in the middle of the chief. I am just saying that you should remember your facts in such a way so that when you ask any question you will know what will be your next question after getting the answer from the witness.”

Travis Ritch brings together all of these ideas with his mature reflection based on his own practical experience: 

“Admittedly, I found this difficult on the course. But I think now it was put so early in the [skills] assessments (possibly first) because, however well you prepare (and prepare you must), your meta-skills of case analysis, fact management, and helping the finder of fact to find the facts you need to establish your case in law and win the day, take a leap forwards when you do this assessment. For that reason, those areas are perhaps the starting point. What has my client told me has happened, what am I trying to achieve for my client, what do I need my client to say in order to achieve that for him/her, and then, how do I plan to bring this information out without leading. 

Undisputed facts are particularly helpful, because you can state them yourself and use them to signpost. In practice, cases will range from those where all of the facts seem to be in dispute to those where all of them are undisputed and the judge has to decide a single question of law. The course won't give you either of those extreme scenarios; you will need your witness to establish some or most of the facts but not all of them. So, use the undisputed facts to full advantage, and then plan (but don't fully script) how and when you will ask the witness to say the rest of what you need. As a student, I did not trust my brain to think of the next logical question or to find another way of asking the same question while on my feet if I knew the finder of fact had still not heard from the witness what I needed them to hear. I wish I had now.”

Travis’ perceptive observations and searing honesty should guide you towards being an excellent advocate. His description of the relationship between case analysis and questioning is essential reading for students.

Questioning – avoiding leading

Mark Lafferty had this to say:


“I’ve just seen your request for advice on evidence in chief and the following snippet from a Rudyard Kipling poem sprung to mind. I think it's quite useful in a daft sort of way!

I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.

(Unfortunately, I think the rest of the poem is utterly irrelevant!)”


In response, I would say Mark’s advice is anything but daft. It is enormously helpful. Leading questions are only permissible on undisputed matters. So, learning how to carry out non-leading questioning is very important. Using the open question words set out in Kipling’s poem will help. You will need to practice this over and over again, because normal conversation doesn’t work this way; we nudge each other in conversations, using interruptions, leading questions, and other ways of pushing a story or conversation on.


Hannah Thomas warns against obsessing about leading and non-leading questions, as this can distract you from the point of the exercise:  

“The thing I personally found important to note, is not to overthink it. What you're essentially asking is normal, basic information, and it becomes overcomplicated by people trying to ask non-leading questions. Think of it like a fact-finding exercise- when you're asking anyone information you don't know you ask every question in a non-leading way and I think the pressure of tutors drumming 'non-leading' into your mind makes you forget that it is literally just normal question and answer like you would do with your friends.”

To an extent, you should endeavour to avoid leading, but if searching for non-leading questions is slowing up the witness handling, or the questions are becoming too vague and unspecific, then Hannah’s advice will help you refocus on what is important; the narrative and the facts to be adduced before the court. 

Practice makes perfect

Dana Munnings underlines that skills can only be learned through practice:

“All I can say is practice, practice, practice, and record yourself while doing so. You are your best critic. Play it over and over and see where you can improve. Project your voice, keep eye contact and PRACTICE!“

Practice always makes perfect. Any person who has learned any kind of skill, whether sporting, music, dance, art, craft (etc.), will know the importance of practice to both the building or maintenance of one’s skills level. But thoughtful practice is the most important things to engage in - with review and reflection in between. Watching your performances back and assessing yourself will be hugely valuable.

Prav Chandra has a very simple, achievable tip for all students: 

“Practise with someone who doesn't know anything about Bar studies. That way, you ask questions which are easily understood by the witness without trying to be too legal sounding. At the same time, you get answers that aren't ‘template-like’.”

I have often worried about students practicing with the same people too often. Fellow BPTC students will tend to try to be too helpful. They give far too much information in answer to a question, in a way which is not realistic. Go to court and you will see what I mean. Working with the same people will tend to mean your skill will evolve to suit those people being your witness. As a result, the whole exercise becomes "template sounding”. Once we fall into that template mode, we stop really listening to the answers and determining which facts have and have not been established. Get out of your comfort zone and learn to stretch yourself.

Listen. The importance of paying attention to the witness.


Komal Joshi raised the often ignored point that the witness should be heard, not just by the court, but by the advocate: 

“Don’t over prepare the questions - listen to the witness and let them tell their story. It not only makes it (the evidence) flow better, but also more key evidence can be drawn from them; going from set questions may make you pass over the comments that they make that may be key in the case theory! It also makes it more natural and convincing!”


Komal recognises that follow up questions are often necessary to bring out detail. You cannot hope to use this technique when you are not listening to the witness with great care. 
Small hints, little nuggets of fact can come out, which will need development. But only if you hear them!

Eloise Turnnidge supports Komal’s view with these brief, sharp and incisive points:

“1. Write a list of facts you seek, not questions to ask.

2. Make it conversational. Don’t be a robot.

3. Actually listen to the witness’ response and, if appropriate, adapt your questioning.”


A list of facts is better than a list of questions because you can use your pen to quickly cross out facts you have adduced, giving you an instant reminder of what you have left to adduce. A list of questions is risky, as the temptation is to read the list of questions, without keeping track of the actual evidence adduced by the witness. Adapting of the questioning to pick up the facts which are left on your plan will help you get all of the necessary facts out, allowing the court to decide on the basis of the best possible evidence. 

Be human. Remember the witness is human.

Eloise’s point about being conversational and avoiding being “robotic” set out above is part of a more general point about the need to be professional, yet human and recognising the witness is human too. 

Hesh Kumar takes this point up in his advice: 

“One piece of advice, which helped me a lot in the first few weeks: never forget that in XIC, it’s your witness. You’re on their side and they’re on yours. Be friendly, ease them into it. Students are always keen at the start of advocacy training to get into a witness and do what they’ve seen on minis/on TV/any other experience they may have, but in chief, a smile never hurts.”

Never forget that you only get to examine in chief the witnesses which support your case. Why would you want to give them a hard time? Remembering how stressful it is for a non-lawyer just to be in court, let alone giving evidence and getting grilled! A bit of politeness, kindness and charm is always more likely to get co-operation and helpfulness back. I couldn't agree more.

Jack Horlock reminds us that focussing on questioning technique often happens at the expense of being polite, natural and courteous to the witness. 

“I found it helpful to just think of it as having a chat with a friend about the particular topic. The formalities and other things for the exam etc. are easy to learn and commit to memory. However,  your manner with your witness comes naturally and if it's forced it's obvious!”


Oliver Bee is blunt, direct but astute:

“Just chill, Winston, or whatever your name is. If you sound like a clipped privileged twit barking your commands to the lower orders or a robotic staccato fartgun, that never plays well. Be conversational, you're eliciting a story, a credible narrative for the entertainment of the court.”

As barristers-to-be, you have the advantage of a good education, usually far in excess of that of your clients and witnesses. They are already intimidated by you, and your profession. There’s no need to ensure they know how intelligent and well educated you are. Help them do their job, and they will help you do yours. Oliver explains further “remember that you aren't just asking questions or proving a case, but dealing with another human being is very important. This is a communication based skill.” What we do and say in court has far reaching consequences. We would do well to remember that!

Marshall Harkins has this highly effective tip, which is genius:


“Asking how the witness felt or thought about important moments can be insightful and efficient.”

Advocates often focus on their own performance, forgetting that just watching back a video is only half the story. The witness is the vital other half; a living, breathing, thinking human who can tell you whether they were helped in telling the story by your questions. They can help you identify questions which are vague, unfocussed, unhelpful to ensure you avoid them in future. Sit down with the person you questioned and ask them for feedback. 

Chee Wan Yee brings all of these ideas together with her advice:


“I feel like the most important thing to remember in XIC is that you are dealing with an actual person who may be afraid of being at the stand. The witness' feelings are so important and many students fail to ask questions regarding how the witness felt at the time of the incident. It is also useful to imagine that you are in the scene when the incident occurred so that you have a clearer idea of what is going on. Do not bombard the witness with tough questions and properly read the brief before forming questions because students tend to ask irrelevant questions by thinking that more questions equals more points. Also, it is crucial to prepare the witness for XX!! Better to ask the questions early and let the witness explain themselves than to get caught out later on!”

Tom Jones puts things back into perspective. The star of the show should be the witness, not the advocate. Your time to shine will be in the closing speech of the trial. 

“I received an outstanding in my final assessment for XIC. My strategy was to let the witness do the talking. I think that you should trust your preparation; read the entire bundle carefully (and not just the WS of the person being “chiefed”) and practice asking the questions before hand. There's no shame in memorising your prepared questions so that you can maximise eye contact with the witness on the day.”

Conclusion

Planning is vital; know your law, rules of evidence, the elements of the offence, and all of the papers thoroughly. Plan using a fact led approach and don’t script your questions. 

Avoid leading, but don’t be obsessive. Try to get the story to flow.

Listen to the witness. Watch out for little clues and hints which could be followed up with further questioning. 

Practice frequently, with a wide variety of people. Watch yourself and be self-critical. Get feedback from the witness.

Don’t forget to be courteous. Remember your witness is on your side and is only human.


Finally

Deepti Bismohun has this final word:

“Snigdha. Just tell them to listen to your advice. It works trust me, I am a lawyer!!”

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Revision tips from former BPTC students for 2017



Dear Current BPTC students,

It is easy, when you’re revising at home, to feel alone and isolated. It is also easy to feel like no-one understands what you are going through.

But you have allies and friends among former BPTC students. Here are their learning tips, tricks, and techniques.

You don’t just have to take it from me, you can learn from people who’ve done the BPTC and made it through to the other side!

Good luck with your revision and exams,

With love

Snigdha

PS – this is a long blog post – but it is worth reading in full. This is the distilled experience of people who have survived the BPTC and are thriving now.



Josh Giddens advocates teaching the subject to a fellow student or friend, as it encourages deep understanding, which helps retention. He also recommends diagrammatic notes, using either spider diagrams, flow charts or procedure diagrams. He says:

“Teach a topic to someone willing to listen! At the end of each topic I draw a spider diagram as a summary to that topic and draw flow charts/process flows for procedural steps.”

Andy Horton, former CLS librarian, legal research guru and quizzing supremo suggests that after putting in good, hard work, you need to know when to take a rest.

“The most useful revision technique I happened on was to take proper breaks - and stop at the end of the day. Formed informal club of finalists who met in bar for one beer and chat every evening, marking end of day's revision.”

Travis Ritch is a student after my own heart and shares my views completely:

“Snigdha, you know what I'm going to say: read the syllabus! You cannot be examined on anything outside of it. This simple shift in perspective from ‘OMG! I have to be a QC by next week’ to ‘Hey, I can manage this’ is critical.”      

Travis goes on to explain in greater detail:

“Allow me to expand on why this mindset is important. The examiner is bound by rules. You on the other hand, while learning (and preparing assessments for submission), are not. In other words, you can approach the task in many ways - not suggesting anything unethical or against the course requirements - and always in the knowledge that you can't be ambushed by something you weren't expected to know. I'm taking into account cultural factors here too. Most BPTC students are motivated by fear of failure, whether they want or have offers of pupillage or they don't, and many feel uncomfortable in the environment or simply uncompetitive altogether. Every assessment you sit has a scope limited by the syllabus. Find out what it is, ensure there are no gaps in your knowledge, and what you get is a feeling of control, which is the same feeling a practising barrister wants to take to court. Read AROUND what you have to know and now you're really on your way. It can all seem so overwhelming - approaching the task from the perspective that your examiner has to play with a straight bat is a smart idea, because it's true. I can also strongly recommend a Sunday roast (being lucky myself to have prep on Mondays!)”

The importance of using the syllabus was seconded by Shireen Cotto, who was candid and honest about her experience (for which I am particularly thankful):

“I failed both criminal and civil until I followed the syllabus and ticked off each area as I went along. I highlighted and discussed the content with a library buddy and I ended up somehow passing both even after deferring a year and therefore having no classroom study for nearly two years. I also used a really well written revision book which followed the syllabus.”

Peter Khoury, a student who has always given excellent and practical advice, agreed:

“Review the syllabus as Travis suggests. Check that your notes address each syllabus topic. Ensure you have questions and model answers for each topic. Study buddies are a must. Re-write your notes on a whiteboard over and over again. Get your study buddies to erase various sections of your study notes on the whiteboard and then you fill in the blanks. Sounds simplistic but it is effective. Good luck!”

Shah Ali Farhad says you should not neglect your need for downtime.

“I would give one general piece of advice, rather than specific revision tips. This helped me greatly during my own time at the BPTC. Notwithstanding the pressure, one MUST take a day off from anything and everything related to the BPTC. Every 3-4 days should be separated by a day off. BPTC is mental and psychological workload. One must give the body and mind that crucial one day to recuperate 3-4 days of gruelling workload. This should be followed during exams too. Believe me, your studies and academic priorities will be benefitted, not hampered, by this time off.”

Yee Ling Cheah has advice on how to use practice questions and how to be self-reflective:

“How I passed the BPTC, being in a blur for most of it?! I got through by doing lots of practice questions and understanding what the question wants. practice after a few topics, or pick questions that are on the topic you've just revised. after you've done all the topics, do all the practice questions again, even if it means repeating a few questions. Marking your own answers, no matter how brilliant or ridiculous they are, forces you to see where you've gotten it wrong, and how to make it right.”

Please read the above advice carefully. Students tend to think practicing exam questions is purely done to see if you pass. This is only half of their purpose. You should use any practice questions, whether from LGS or SGS or from a mock to check your weak areas and examine how the questions are put together. Reflecting on your technique and efficacy is essential.

Joseph Seo began his invaluable advice by giving some general suggestions.

“I passed both civil and crim lit back in 2015. Two things I paid attention to: - The law was written for a reason (i.e. there's an underlying rationale to find and once you do, you can connect the dots and commit it to memory) - Also, understand that many things studied in BPTC come in components, and in an orderly fashion (i.e. the legal requirements to fulfil - which also explains why I make my notes in the form of tree diagrams.”     

These thoughts were picked up by Travis who I hope you thank as much as I do for the time and trouble he has taken to pass on the benefit of his experience:

“Completely agree with both of these points. Having studied jurisprudence helps with the former but is by no means necessary - just get your head around what the rule/law is there for and what contribution it makes. By doing so you will understand when it comes into play. Also, in practice, you really can use things like the overriding objective! Got me a 3 week adjournment once. People learn so differently (diagrams have never worked for me for example) but whatever you have to do to expose the underlying rationale is definitely going to pay dividends when you have to apply the knowledge to a set of facts.”

This is important stuff being highlighted by Joseph and Travis. The "rationale" is often the peg to hang your knowledge from. As children, we used to ask "why?". As adults, we become scared to ask such a basic question. But is it "basic" (as in superficial) or is it actually "basic" as in FUNDAMENTAL?

Joseph Seo went on to share his method of making notes. Here is the diagram he sent me:



Joseph explains the diagram:
“From left to right:
- Blue box for the law
- White boxes for breaking down the law into components
- Then orange to explain each component, often with an attached example”.

Joseph then explains:

“Once you've distilled the law into this, you can read the chart in reverse order (i.e. orange --> white --> blue) to see if it makes sense. And most importantly, keep referring to your chart in the course of your studies. Repetition helps to further commit to memory.”

Joseph’s method is simple yet effective. It is easy to learn, easy to apply, but has strong methodology behind it. It is highly transferrable. Because the main objective of this method is achieving understanding, it begins on a steady foundation. Too many students, in my experience, try to learn/memorise without understanding. Joseph’s technique puts understanding and comprehension at the forefront. This means remembering is much easier, as it builds upon the foundation of the understanding.

David Kemeny, one of my best ever advocacy students said:

“I found the best thing I could do for the heavy knowledge subjects was to find a few study buddies and teach each other parts of the syllabus. If I can explain something to someone else, I find the knowledge sticks more reliably.”

His advice struck a chord with past BPTC students, who added the following brilliant and constructive advice:

Matthew Rees made a very helpful suggestion, which I’m sure the Library or School office can help with…. Get a room!

“And book a room with a whiteboard (such as the one in City's Gray's Inn library) to go through past paper questions with others.”

Dana Munnings agreed with this advice. She said:

“This is the best piece of advice ever. I would learn topic by topic, write them down, call family members abroad and tell them about each topic. They got tired and didn't know what the dickens I was talking about, but it's like talking gossip, make it juicy and it sticks. Another thing I did was record myself explaining it and play it back on the tube, on the way to class, heading to dinner, everywhere. Even if you're not paying close attention, it stays in your subconscious mind.”

Dana’s tip is extremely helpful because it recognises some people are communicators and/or use auditory memory. Too often we think learning is visual, when the reality is that it is linked to all of our senses.

Picking up on this advice, we have more sound advice from Travis:

Trying to teach someone else is the real test of understanding and a great way to check whether you have it, as well as developing it because it will likely involve expressing your understanding at different levels of detail and abstraction and that does make it stick. Completely agree.”

I will confess, but truest and completest understanding of civil litigation came as a result of teaching it in my first year at CLS. After that, I could understand what I’d had to constantly look up in practice.

Travis’ team-teaching tip was supported by David Kemeny, adding his second valuable tip:

“Yep, particularly if your study partners then stress-test your explanations by slightly tweaking the fact patterns.”

Laura Hollingbery added her superbly honest and highly realistic advice:

“I found myself getting really distracted and procrastinating during revision. I decided to mix things up so I bought myself a whiteboard from Rymans, some coloured markers and mounted it on the wall next to my desk. It was great for drawing diagrams, testing yourself quickly and provided a welcome break from the monotony of pen and paper note-taking.”

I agree with Laura that revision can be dull and boring and I applaud her advice on keeping it interesting. Laura went on to say:

“I think teaching someone is often the best way of checking you've learned something sufficiently. With some of the topics that I found harder to grasp, I either pretended to teach a non-existent class or found some poor but willing, non-legally minded family or friend to explain hearsay and the like to them, forcing them to ask questions on anything they didn't understand. Payment in coffee usually does the trick.”

Faridah Hemani reiterated that if you are an auditory learner and a good communicator, use those skills. She was always good at explaining things and conveying her understanding.

“The best way to study for me was just listening to the lectures and then having group discussions.  Not disregarding the fact that we have to read, but it just makes more sense after the lectures as I personally found it easier to understand and retain the information.”

Suzanne Reece, my amazing former colleague reminds us all that we perhaps have to reflect on what kind of 
a learner we are. We are not all the same, and we won’t respond to different stimuli in the same way.

“Students have different learning styles.  Find yours and you will find learning and revising easier. Learners can be-read/write students (who love note taking). Visual learners love to draw pictures. Audio learners learn by listening and ‘doing’ learners learn by modelling.”

Mohammed Golam Kibria Shimul reminds students that fear, particularly fear of failure can be debilitating, particularly realising such fear can be a cultural thing:

“First, remove fear from you student mind; especially Asian students!! I found if I had no fear then even the BPTC was not that hard!”

Finally, this utterly wonderful contribution from Simone Perry emphasises that using many different skills and techniques together, changing approach from day to day and time to time keeps things fresh. I also totally endorse her comments about taking time to reflect each day.

“Hi Snigdha! I just wanted to tell you that several skills you've posted about on your fb really helped me through my BPTC, and are still applicable in my working life now.

One of it is the Pomodoro technique. It made me more efficient - I avoided procrastination. I found it fun to constantly try to finish a task before the 25 mins interval end. When I managed to get something done just before an interval ends, or if I manage to finish many rounds in a day, or when I reflect on my day and find that I managed to learn many things/get many things done in a day, it feels incredibly rewarding.

Another technique I picked up was to put everything into mind maps (I mean, really, everything). I believe we learn and memorise materials best through visualisation and association. The mind map really does not have to be pretty. It does not even have to be very concise if one is not good at doing it. But it just has to be in a map form, on a piece of paper. Putting certain materials in certain places help you visualise and remember what it is about.

I also found that reconsolidating my notes at least twice, reading them out as I do so, recording myself, and replaying the recording back to myself, helped a lot with memorising a big bunch of materials. Surprisingly, the materials also stayed in my mind for quite a long time.

Every day, one should always spend some time to reflect back and visualise/replay everything that one has learned. You can do it in the gym, in the shower, while eating, or lying in your bed preparing to fall asleep. Visualise it in your head -- remember where you placed certain materials in the mind maps you did, imagine yourself writing them out and also think about how to apply it in certain scenarios or how to put them in an essay/a piece of work.

Lastly, I am a strong believer in visualising your success. Set a goal. Write it down on a piece of paper, stick it near your bed, look at it every morning. Visualise how you are going to achieve it. Visualise yourself attaining it. For myself, all I had in mind when I started BPTC was to pass everything in one go and get called to the Bar in July. I had rather low expectations for myself after hearing about how some people had to re-do the BPTC several times. However, from day 1 after I set my goal, I started to visualise myself checking my final results, I visualised myself being happy, I visualised my family being happy, and most importantly, I visualised myself walking down the aisle of Temple Church and collecting my call certificate. I visualised many details; and I memorised the lovely and happy feelings I thought I would feel at the end of it all.

I replay all these in my head whenever I feel lost, worn out and want to give up. It certainly helped me put things in perspective again and helped me remember how much I wanted that end result.

All these certainly has helped me in many aspects of my life, not just the BPTC. I want to thank you for posting the things that you have on your facebook, they have enlightened me a lot. Of course, these may not be applicable to every single person. One just has to experiment and see what method of working suits them best. And whenever you meet lost and tired BPTC students, remind them that it is okay to feel a fear of failure, remind them that it is all going to be okay at the end, and if they make it, they are going to be so much stronger and better, and they will feel proud of themselves. It also does not matter how long we take to do something, as long as we get it done. Each person has their own abilities and timeline in life, and one really shouldn't beat themselves up for not being able to achieve something as fast as another person. Things will come to us one day when we work hard (and smart) for it.”

Simone’s visualisation tip is excellent. How about doing this – borrow a wig and gown. Take a picture of yourself wearing them. Get the picture printed out. Stick it to your bedroom door or bedroom mirror. Look at it every day to remind you of what you are working towards.

Thank you to all of my contributors. You are amazing.