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Archive for February 17th, 2007

MEMO TO ALL STAFF

From: Matt Mattley, Managing Partner

Re: Inappropriate behaviour

1. On or about Wednesday 14th February I received a Valentine’s Day card from a person(s) unknown.

2. The envelope, addressed to me personally, had been franked, using the firm’s franking machine. There is no record in the new electronic fees system of this postage cost being attributed to a client of the firm.

3. The card was inscribed with the message “Hi bigboy…. we know you like to give the opposition a hard time. Would you like to give me a hard time 2nite?”

4. The card was accompanied by a bunch of roses and foliage of varied types.

My response to this is as follows:

We have spent a great deal of (otherwise chargeable) time and money positioning ourselves in the market with marketing and what some of our competitors are now referring to as ‘piracy’. As you know, it is my practice to read The Lawyer to see who is acting for whom and then pop over to ‘whom’ and do a bit of negotiation on fees. We have also invested heavily in our innovative and highly popular ‘Trainee Blog’ – which, I am bound to say, while not meeting with universal approval, is very appealing to prospective applicants to our firm and, therefore, ensures that our firm is able to compete with the other leading firms and recruit suitably educated trainees who will contribute to the wealth of the partners. Please bear this in mind. We have to set an example. I would not wish to get up on a Friday morning and find our firm being mocked on RollonFriday.

As to point 2 of my memo: The cost of the postage of the card, while modest, has not been ‘attributed or allocated’ to a client. The cost is, therefore, a drain on the wealth of the partners. This is an important principle. It is also theft under s.1 Theft Act 1968. There is a difference between a ‘toppy bill’ and downright dishonesty in appropriating property belonging to the partners with the dishonest intention of permanently depriving the partners of that property.

As to point 3 of my memo: While I take no personal exception to the statement recorded in the card and may well follow up on the invitation when our internal security unit find the originator of the card, it is important to bear in mind the free advice provided by competitor firm Peninsula in their illuminating Valentine’s Day briefing (we are always grateful when rival firms provide us with knowledge which we can then re-sell. ) Peninsula point out that such a remark could well be construed, to those of a sensitive disposition, as ‘an unwanted sexual advance from a colleague.’ and amount to harrassment – which can be very costly these days – quite rightly. You will, through our excellent CPD programme, be familiar with the right of Employment Tribunals to make ‘uncapped awards’. I also quote Mr Mooney’s comments from the Pensinsula briefing – which sent a shiver down my spine: “And the cost of losing a High Court case for harassment can sometimes run into the millions.”

As to point 4 of my memo: The sending of any product likely to result in physical or psychological injury could well lead to personal injury litigation. I quote from the Peninsula briefing: “In the most extreme example, bosses can even get into trouble if one worker is sent a large bouquet of flowers on Valentine’s Day.

The leaflet says: “If you have one employee who has bad hayfever, or a similar allergy, sat next to a member of staff who receives a lot of flowers, the employer could be in breach of their duty to provide an amenable working environment.”

I hope that I have made my point? If you have not seen the Peninsula Employment Law briefing, you may view it here

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What a ‘spliffing time’…

With the continuing Press interest in David Cameron’s ‘spliffing time’ at Eton as a boy, I just could not resist this excellent popart poster ( I have ordered one for my office).

I was smoking Silk Cut and drinking espresso at a pavement cafe in the only non-middle class area left in ‘Haute-Chiswick’ this morning, when I came across a story in Private Eye (No 1178). William Hague, it was reported, came to the aid of his beleaguered (and increasingly less popular) leader by saying that “we all did things that we regret.” The Eye went on to state that Hague told a story that ‘when he was a lad’ he had a holiday job as a driver’s mate delivering beer. Apparently, it was the driver and Hague’s practice to have a pint at every delivery stop. With ten stops a day, I am surprised the driver had not come to the attention of traffic police. Journos, keen to probe the veracity of Hague’s story (picked up in 2000 by GQ magazine), Eye reports, contacted Tory Central Office to be told by ‘indignant staff’…and I quote:

“We can get you firm evidence he drank 14 pints. He used to regularly come home completely plastered.”

Excellent.

Rather more interesting – Private Eye had a story about the Visa Waiver Scheme rules in the United States. Convicted ‘felons’ are refused entry to the USA. One assumes they have enough of their own and do not need any more. These rules also exclude anyone who “has been arrrested, however briefly, for any reason whatsover, even if no further police action followed.” Eye makes the point, obliquely, that it would be most inconvenient for Tony Blair’s future on the lucrative US gravy train if he was arrested in the cash for honours scandal – even if no police action followed. Getting a visa to sup from that trough would, in the event of arrest, be rather difficult. The US Embassy website warns potential arrestees and felons: “such visa applications are subject to a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past.”

I just happened to allow my mind to wander at this point to a ‘What if scenario”. This is how my mind went – What if, I thought, Tony Blair was arrested, but no further police action followed? Blair would be subject to the close scrutiny of the US Visa authorities if he wished to gain entry to the USA. US authorities would look into his past and find that he may have started an illegal war in Iraq. The Americans don’t like people who engage in unlawful military activity or acts of terrorism. Game over. Yes – preposterous analysis. We know that the war in Iraq is lawful. The Attorney-General has told us that it is. So no point in further idle speculation.

And finally, for this post…

A sculpture of hands feeling The Queen’s breasts has provoked outrage among royal watchers and experts. The Sun’s royal photographer Arthur Edwards said: “This is quite obviously the work of a lunatic. I don’t see this as anything more than a cheap stunt.” [Curiously, despite the reservations expressed by the photographer (who, presumably travelled all the way to Madrid to be outraged), The Sun has got a picture of the sculpture which you may view here – if you wish to do so. Those of a nervous disposition may wish to avert their gaze.]

Even more curious – as the Sun reported: Spain’s King Juan Carlos did not seem to have a problem with it — he opened the show.

It is not known whether King Juan Carlos drinks more Rioja than I do.

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