One gold and one bronze in the battle of legal education titans

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Jun 23, 2017
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The UK's biggest law school received a much-needed fillip in the teaching excellence framework league table as it picked up a gold badge while its fierce rival bagged only a bronze. 

The University of law was one of 59 institutions to be awarded gold – 116 providers were handed silver and 56 bronze, including BPP University. 

The new ranking scheme sparked controversy when the main results were released on Wednesday as several Russell Group universities – including the London School of Economics – were given the lowest bronze rating. 

The awards panel – which consists of independent experts including academics, students and employers – praised the University of Law for having "well established and consistently strong links to employers and the legal profession which are developed within both teaching and extracurricular activities". 

It said the institution's course design and assessment practices provided "scope for outstanding levels of stretch" ensuring that "all students are significantly challenged to achieve their full potential". 

The panel also found that the university fostered "a culture of professional practice and teaching excellence which is embedded with academic staff continuing involvement in professional practice". 

While BPP picked up only the lowest hue of award, the panel's comments were far from excoriating. The university, which provides professional education in other disciplines apart from law, was said to have "a distinctive positioning as a teaching led, practice informed university that focuses on delivering professional development, which is supported by a broad range of professional accreditations". 

Andrea Nollent, the University of Law's vice-chancellor and chief executive, greeted the result enthusiastically. "The award is testament to our tutors, all of whom are qualified solicitors or barristers, together with our teaching approach, which focuses on equipping our graduates with the skills they need and employers want," she said. 

The institution – which has been sold twice since 2012 – has recently struggled, having lost several lucrative contracts to provide the legal practice course to City of London law schools. 

Likewise, in the past few months, BPP University law school has seen the departure or announced departure of its two senior officials. 

Kissing off a trademark application 

Lawyers often have their eyes so focused on the law that they miss a point that strikes laypeople as blindingly obvious. 

A recent attempt by Gene Simmons to trademark his "metal horns" hand gesture is a case in point. Simmons, whose original name is Chaim Witz, is an Israeli-American heavy metal rocker who is viewed as a deity by an ageing group of head-banging fans of his band Kiss. 

Intellectual property lawyers had built themselves up into a lather over the case, until Simmons dropped his application earlier this week. Sharon Daboul, a trademark attorney at the London firm EIP, went into overdrive to explain that a US Patent and Trademark examiner "would have considered whether the gesture was distinctive for entertainment services". 

She went on to explain that while "it is possible to register a gesture as a trademark in the USA, Simmons would have needed to show that the gesture was associated exclusively with him, by the public, and this would have been particularly tough". 

She then pondered: "The application raised questions as to why Simmons would want to register the gesture … and whether he could actually enforce it, in the unlikely event that it had been accepted." 

Before she eventually reached the conclusion that any Kiss fan would have sussed ages ago: "We may never know what benefit Simmons was seeking to gain from a registration covering the hand gesture, aside from the huge publicity that it generated for him." 

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