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Archive for February, 2007

I write from my staterooms in West London

Tonight, I attended a quiz nite. I was not able to assist the quizmasters in their enquiries into the cash for honours farrago. I told them this and they seemed quite happy with my answers. I was able to tell them that I was doing my best not to have an affair or ‘liaison dangereuse’ with a lawyer or other person(s) outside the confines of the legal world. The chief quizmaster (who reminded me of Inspector Morse) smiled wryly and gave a view that it was quite an extraordinary co-incidence that the private lives of senior law officers should feature so prominently in the news at this particular time. He did ask me if the word ‘Granita‘ meant anything to me. I must have looked a bit baffled. It was too morse for me.

The quizmaster smiled.…and asked ” You weren’t educated in Scotland, by any chance?” I said that I did not have the good fortune to go to Fettes – but was able to tell him that I had seen a future Lord Chancellor wandering about the place, during ‘recreation’ when I was serving out an early ASBO at Glenalmond. I explained that I wasn’t in the same House so was not able to give any background on whether Falconer showed the makings of a good Lord Chancellor from an early age or not. Falconer’s legacy will be written in time – but, I suspect, that he will survive the Gordon Brown succession – particularly if he sticks to John Reid and enlarges the DCA with oversight of all the things  John Reid wants to offload. The chief quizmaster nodded, looked at his watch – a thoughtful expression on his face – and thanked me.

*

“Mind how you go, Mr Charon.” It reminded me of my childhood and Dixon of Dock Green.

It may interest you to know that I did have to visit Chiswick Police Station some time ago – to report the theft of my motorbike. It was good to see a picture of Dixon of Dock Green hanging in the reception area. Who says the Police can’t do irony? … seems to me that they are rather good at it.

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Lunchtime brief…

Verdict on The Verdict: As it happens, I quite enjoyed watching the verdict. Unfortunately, I missed a bit of footage because I was detaining myself at my own pleasure at The Bollo – but, The Times Online comes to my rescue. I tend to agree with the comment made by John Cooper ” What this programme showed was that if the public were allowed to watch a trial their faith in the process would be considerably enhanced. What better argument for allowing cameras into the real courts?”

Not having served on a Jury, I have no idea whether the film represented the style of discussion. Portillo exercised majesty, Archer prevaricated, a footballer talked far too much and an actress did not, as far I could glean, contribute much of real value. I missed the bit where Alex James of Blur pointed out that many young girls these days are trying anal sex to avoid pregnancy. I’m not particularly sorry that I did.

I do miss not eating Liver and Mash: I am at The Bollo eating their ‘Lunch special’ – braised beef, today. They have removed Liver and Mash from the menu. It is surprisingly relaxing to do a bit of blogging, catch up on legal news, answer emails – all from the comfort of a pub, which has Wi-fi, over lunch. Makes a change from my office where I spend far too much time in splendid isolation

The old LPC chestnut (tailored firm specific course versus open to all course) gets another outing – this time from Phil Knott of Nottingham Law School. Makes sense but could be a bit limiting. Contrast this with the article on Legal Week which suggests that students are being turned off by firm specific courses.

I am not having an orgy of TimesOnline posts… but it is Tuesday..and as we all know. Tuesday means Law in The Times – and here is Anonymous Assistant talking about the tribulations of practice in a City Law firm.

I appear to have overdone the Law – so, to change the pace – You may now buy Britney Spears’ hair (she chopped it all off) here – should you be so minded. (And the can of Red Bull, a lighter…..)

Well…there we are – lunch over. Back to the office.

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The legal system…

In but a few short weeks we have heard that the legal system is in ‘crisis’, various law officers and senior members of the profession are having affairs,  the prisons are full and barristers are briefless.

However all is not, by any means, doom and gloom. Lawyers are blogging and I’d like to draw your attention to a blog which I have been reading recently: BabyBarista

While it may be a fictional account of life as a pupil (There is much for the student and intending barrister) it has nuggets of information in pretty well every post.

I particularly enjoyed this piece… and I quote:

“Reminded me of the apocryphal story of a recruiter for an investment bank who randomly picked up half of the application forms and threw them in the bin. “Well”, he answered, “we don’t want the unlucky ones.”

One wonders how recruitment departments at the big law firms sift through the mountain of applications for traineeships every year. Matt Muttley would certainly approve. Meanwhile Geeklawyer has been reflecting on the common sense of the biker who filmed himself doing 100 mph on his motorbike in a 30 mph zone, posted the video to YouTube and then wondered why he was prosecuted by the police.

I was minded to comment on Geeklawyer’s comments section for that post : “Thankfully – no-one has been stupid enough to post a video on YouTube about getting a peerage in return for cash / loans etc etc … that would have been most inconvenient.”

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Spring is in the air…

Judging by the number of press reports about the extra-curricular affairs involving senior law officers (Another one reported in the News of The World today – but his wife knows all about it and it is in the past) and other senior lawyers, I am beginning to wonder if global warming is having, hitherto, unreported effects – increasing the libido of ageing lawyers. A tablet of El Nino anyone?

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But…as I have said before, I will make no direct comment and move on to other matters…

One of the pleasures of blogging (at least in the field of law) is coming across an eclectic mix of thinking, writing, views, opinions, humour and subversion. Here I am, at The Bollo [free Wi-fi] on a Sunday, a glass of Rioja to my right, an espresso and Silk Cut to my left… on my laptop – looking at the blogs on my blogroll.

I quote a passage from Dan Hull’s What About Clients? which I enjoyed : “The study of law is one of the great intellectual adventures of our time. True, there are many who mire it in the rote, the mundane and the simple-minded. Yet for those who look past the shallows, the depths of law offer excitement and wisdom. Those who learn these nuances gain a particular authority in modern culture. They become effective citizens in the modern state.”

Yes… I was inspired… much as I am when listening to ‘Jerusalem’ when England play cricket… but… then I asked myself the question: What is an effective citizen in the modern state? Lawyers rank below estate agents (save for Foxtons. See: BBC ‘Whistleblower’ coverage) and journalists in the BBC Radio 4 surveys most years – we are seen as part of the ‘Holborn Massive’ and not even David Cameron wants to hug us.

Thankfully… the staff at The Bollo are still prepared to bring me a glass of Rioja. Cheers…

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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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“More than an occupational blog, charonqc.wordpress.com shows admirable distaste for writing about the workaday nuts and bolts of life as a lawyer. This rioja-loving “blawger” provides crisply commentary and dry wit about life and pressing news in general. Whether declaiming on liver and mash, Asbos or David Cameron, he is never less than compelling.”

Many thanks… TimesOnline.

I’ll be watching my typos (and content?) on my late Friday night Rioja inspired blogs!

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