Archive for February, 2009

Today I am talking to Carl Gardner, barrister, ex government lawyer and author of the Head of Legal blog about Jack Straw’s use of the veto under s.53 Freedom of Information Act 2000

Listen to the report with Carl Gardner | Version for iTunes


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Greed is good?

Legal Week reports that three London law schools are raising their tuition fees

The Legal Week article states: Three of London’s law schools have considerably increased their Legal Practice Course (LPC), despite the widespread cost-cutting measures currently being implemented across the profession. BPP Law School has hiked annual fees for its London LPC students by more than 9% to £12,500, a move that means it remains the country’s most expensive law school. The college’s branches in Leeds and Manchester will see a more modest increase of 4.7%, from from £9,550 up to £9,995. Meanwhile, arch-rival The College of Law is set to introduce a fee increase of 8.8% as of September, meaning the LPC will set back a trainee lawyer £11,250, up from £10,340….”

I am particularly interested in your comments and views on this issue.  Let me put a number of points to reflect my own thoughts on this.

1.  Inflation is coming down and is set to be at the 2% mark fairly shortly.

2. Law firms are set to cut around 10%, possibly more, of their headcount – partners, associates and support staff – when the 2009 figures are compared with 2008.  This has been well reported in the press and need not be rehearsed further here.

3.  Britain and the rest of the world is facing possibly the worst recession since the 1930s.

4.  There is a general re-structuring of pricing in the profession, legal aid is being cut back severely and lawyers who practice in the fields of crime, family law and general common law, particularly,  are facing a severe reduction in fee income from public and privately funded work.

Against this background it is extraordinary, verging on unconscionable, that the leading law schools are hiking their fees so high. They cannot possibly be facing inflationary pressure from their teaching and support staff in these days when jobs are at a premium.  It is unlikely that they need significant bank funding, or any bank funding.  The accounts for  BPP Holdings PLC (owner of BPP law School) show strong growth.  Thompson Financial reported in August of last year: “BPP Holdings Plc. reported a 10 percent rise in pretax profits for the first half on brisk revenue growth across divisions and said momentum in the business remains strong and that it expects to report a good full-year result despite uncertain economic conditions.”

The College of Law is a registered charity and one assumes, not unreasonably given their success and market penetration that they too are showing growth in revenue and are well run and well funded.  Kaplan Law School is part of the very successful Kaplan group in the States.

It may be that these law schools, offering high quality courses, deserve their success and should not be penalised now just because the financial world has gone into meltdown because of the greed, venality and stupidity of the banking sector and a failure of governments to regulate. However, that being said, the fee rise proposed by these schools may well stick in the craw of the consumer… the students, let alone the City, Magic Circle and other large law firms who pay for their trainees to do the GDL and LPC.  I cannot for one moment imagine that law firm managing partners, who are currently shedding staff with the enthusiasm of a hungry rice farmer in a padi field, will embrace  these fee hikes with quite the same enthusiasm as the law school directors.

Giles Proctor at Kaplan has this to say: “I do not think we will see discounting, because students are increasingly demanding higher quality in their course provision. Students are customers, so should act like customers, and know exactly what they are getting in terms of higher quality offerings.”

Yes… students are customers and should be treated like customers – but they don’t have much bargaining power, they don’t have a great deal of choice of provision because even the traditional universities are in on the wonderful game of raising high revenues from law courses in these difficult days of government funding – so they have to pay the piper’s fees or go without.

LPC and BVC fees are soft targets for fee rises. For my part?… I think this round of fee hikes needs a bit more justification and explanation  than bland PR pushed out by these law schools. It may well be, of course, that there is a perfectly plausible and credible reason why these law schools have to increase their fees susbtantially above prevailing inflation each year and, of course, they too are welcome to comment on this post.

Over to you – I am definitely interested in what you have to say… in the comments section below…

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27th February: Daily law news and news podcast up on Insite Law – and it is a big update on the UK blawgs section.

See also the Insite Law Blog – where all the news items, podcasts, and UK blog posts featured on Insite Law each week are archived.  The value of the Insite Law Blog lies in the searchability of the news and blog items. So if you want to catch up on the weekly news or what has happening in the UK blawgosphere – the Insite Law blog will be of some use, hopefully.  Have a look?


You may want to get the weekly legal news, law reports, blog posts, news from the Bar, the Law Society and The Ministry of Justice delievered straight to your in-box.  If so, then sign up for my free weekly newswire.  Have a look at Issue #4 from last week to get a feel for what is offered.

Sign up for the free weekly newswire?

A number of enthusiasts have given a great deal of time to covering developments in the law and discussing the issues of the day. Have a look – and if you feel like contributing with posts or discussion – they will welcome your contribution. Visit the board

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Blawg Review, set up by the anonymous and mysterious Ed is an institution, a carnival of law bloggers with a different blawger hosting it each week.  This week Ed celebrated the 200th edition and wondered if the end was nigh?  I can’t see the death of Blawg Review imminent or otherwise.  It is a wonderful resource and while US centric to some extent, this is changing.  A number of bloggers from the UK, Canada, Australia and elsewhere have hosted.  I’ve enjoyed doing two:  #141 at the beginning of 2008 and #193 at the beginning of 2009 (The Lord of Misrule)

While children sleep in their beds and lawyers pore over their briefs and papers…. the Prince of Darkness himself will host Blawg Review on March 16th… the theme day of my favourite god, Bacchus.  Lawyers in the American mid-west ‘may’ tremble at the prospect after the Prince revealed himself in Blawg Review #666 last year – a truly astonishing peroration on no theme at all by the holder of the Tourette Chair of Legal Blogging at F%$chester University.   This year… who knows what GEEKLAWYER will do.   I cannot wait!

I interviewed Geeklawyer who likes to remain anonymous. This explains his Ninja outfit.  He has just been in Canada for a month, living high on the proceeds of fees from his grateful punters.

Watch the movie to see what he has to say about his forthcoming Blawg Review.

PS: Colin Samuels, author of the Infamy or Praise Blawg picked up his fourth Blawg Review of The Year title (in succession) for his excellent Blawg Review on the theme of The Ancient Mariner. His previous Blawg Reviews took Dante’s Inferno as the theme. I am pleased to say that Colin Samuels is now my co-author for the West London Man series of social satires modelled (loosely) on Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress.

Watch the movie to see what he has to say about his forthcoming Blawg Review.

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Love is in the lair?….

Ageing middle aged roue, lawyer, blogger and professional Rioja drinker seeks attractive, amusing woman who does not spend her leisure hours reading Rayden on Divorce or stripping newsagent shelves of Bride Monthly.  Tax and Trust lawyers or those with off-shore expertise need not apply. Smokers encouraged and drinking is compulsory.

Despite the fact that I have been married  so many times I now have an ASBO prohibiting me from going within 200 yards of a Church, Register Office or other licensed place for the purpose of committing libertarian suicide, I am not, contrary to the *advert* above, looking for love or a shag.

No… I am assisting my good friends over at LawandMore with their latest idea, cooked up possibly after work at a decent wine bar.  Their idea?  The Dating Game…

This is what I received from the most amusing editor (she who set fire accidentally to my chest hair while I was a guest of LawandMore  at an excellent lunch last summer)

Are you single? Is the person sitting next to you single? Is James from IP single?

Law and More, after numerous requests, has finally got round to introducing
Lawandmore Dating. The section will work much as you find in The London Paper/Metro but, obviously, we’ll be sending out hot lawyers out on various escapades around the capital – wine tasting, slap up meal for two, dancing lesson etc ( also happy to organise any requests)  (all expenses paid, naturally) . All we require you to do is a. have fun b. to write up a smart and sassy review of the evening and any intricacies that evolve! You can, of course, remain anonymous should you so wish. All we require is the name of your firm/chamber/practice and a few photographs of the evening which can be altered to preserve confidentiality. Of course, as this section is totally new, we are very much open to any ideas you may have to make this section fly.

We are currently inviting all singletons that work within the legal profession (and would like to go on a date with a foxy peer) to submit a very short resume stating: Sex,  Age, Orientation, Interests, Position within firm,Looking for/interest/ideal partner, Recent photo, Ideal date/ activity

We’ll than match you, hopefully, with your kindred spirit and send you on an all expenses paid date in the Capital (regional to follow) Please forward this email on to any of your single peers that could do with a fabulous night out and someone to call their ‘own’.

Please submit entries/requests/feedback/ideas to Vwozniak@lawandmore.co.uk and Sabreena@lawandmore.co. – all material will be handled with the utmost discretion.

Editorial Note: Having said that… if anyone would like….. no….. no…. enjoy yourselves.

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I am doing a podcast soon with Steve Hynes, Director of The Legal Action Group (LAG) as part of my current series of podcasts on civil liberties and human rights.  We plan to focus on Legal Aid (or the lack of it) in civil cases and access to justice issues.  LAG has a book on Legal Aid coming out in mid-March and e’ll certainly mention that in our podcast.

Steve is the director of the Legal Action Group (LAG). LAG is a charity that through its publishing and training services plays an important role in increasing lawyers’ and advisers’ knowledge of the law. It also carries out policy and campaigning work mainly focused on publicly funded legal services, advocating for the voice of the end-user to be heard.

Other Lawcasts on Civil Liberties in the series so far :

Roger Smith, Director of Justice on civil liberties and human rights

Michael Burdett, Unbalancing the Scales of Justice

Carl Gardner, on the Qatada judgement

Carl Gardner on Freedom of Speech – the Geert Wilders exclusion

Ian  Parker-Jospeh, Leader of the UK Libertarian Party

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25th February: Daily law news and news podcast

25th February: Daily law news and news podcast up on Insite Law

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Lawcast 108: Michael Burdett

Today I am talking to Michael Burdett, a solicitor and consultant with HCL Hanne & Co in London. He is a past-president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors Association and founder committee member of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association.

In last week’s Law Society Gazette, Michael Burdett wrote an article entitled UNBALANCING THE SCALES OF JUSTICE –  the sub headline for which was “The Legal Services Commission is colluding with ministers to undermine the the rights of suspects and defendants….”

Listen to the podcast with Michael Burdett


Podcast version for iTunes

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24th February: Daily legal news and podcast up on Insite Law

Round up:

Lawcast 106: Roger Smith, Director of Justice, on the erosion of civil liberties.

Lawcast 107: Peter Crisp, CEO of BPP, on the new LPC and legal education.

Lawcast.net: A new website dedicated to podcasts.  If you are a law podcaster and wish to be included in the listings and have your podcasts promoted on Lawcasts – please email me

Free Email newswire delivered weekly

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It has been some time since I had The Queen over to Charon TV. Tonight she talks turkey about government and then talks about the cricket, Slumdog Millionaire and Sir Allen Stanford, the Texan Billionaire.

Watch the movie

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Lawcast 107: Peter Crisp, Dean and CEO of BPP Law School on the LPC and legal education today.

Today I am talking to Peter Crisp, Dean and Chief Executive of BPP Law School and Alison Wells, Director of the LPC programme, about BPP’s new LPC plans and the state of legal education in these recessionary times generally.

Listen to the podcast with Peter Crisp and Alison Wells


Podcast version for iTunes

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Lawcast 106: Roger Smith, Director of Justice, on civil liberties and human rights.

Today I am talking to Roger Smith OBE a solicitor who has been director of JUSTICE since November 2001. He has been director of legal education and training at the Law Society; director of the Legal Action Group; solicitor to the Child Poverty Action Group and director of West Hampstead Community Law Centre. He is an honorary professor at the University of Kent and a visiting professor at London South Bank University.

Roger Smith explains what Justice does… but we then discuss the concerns raised by Lord Phillips, the former Chief Justice and now senior Law Lord, and the concerns of Sir Ken McDonald, David Davies, former MI5 Chief Stella Rimington and even David Blunkett, a former Home secretary only today,  that our liberties are being eroded needlessly.

Listen to the podcast with Roger Smith

Justice Website


Podcast version for iTunes

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23rd February: Daily Legal News up on Insite Law – large news update and addition of a new Ministry of Justice news section on Insite.

The latest issue of The Insite Weekly Newswire is up on Insite Law (If you would like your copy to be emailed to you weekly, please sign up – top right Insite Law front page).I have added a new Law Reports section at the foot of the front page of Insite Law.

Charon interviewed by Natasha Phillips of Divorce Manual blog:

NEW: LAWCASTS.net. I have set up a new website to focus on law podcasts – my own and others from around the world.  If you would like to be listed, please contact me

Congratulations to Blawg Review for reaching 200th Edition
It is a good one written by the mysterious Mr Ed himself. Congratulations also to Colin Samuels for getting Blawg Review of The Year 2008 – his fourth straight win. Read Blawg Review #200

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I began my day early this morning, well before the sun was up and, as is often the case, went on to Twitter after clearing the work side of my life. My first post on Twitter came as dawn was breaking.  It read: “Bonjour…another day begins in London… not many people about. All is quiet. Waiting for the sea gulls and cormorants to fly by.”

The gulls did come… many hundreds, possibly over a thousand of them, like wave after wave of bombers from the war over British skies, save that their mission was peaceful.  They were on their way towards the West to have their breakfast on the river further upstream. I watched them, sipping a mug of hot tea and smoked a few cigarettes.  It was a good way to spend fifteen minutes or so. Breakfast for me was a toasted chicken sandwich – a rather bizarre choice you may think and you would be right to think that.  I am now on a chicken sandwich obsession.  Months ago I depleted the seas of smoked mackerel fillets until I could not face another mackerel for months to come. Soon, I shall tire of chicken sandwiches and move on to some other fad.

Be that as it may… there are serious matters to report in my letter to you this week.

I don’t give interviews very often, not that I get asked that often. I suffer from cyber-schizophrenia… never entirely sure whether I am my alter ago and pseudonym Charon QC or the other bloke.  But.. tonight I was interviewed by Natasha Phillips of the Divorce Manual Blog and I managed to try and be sensible for part of it, at least.  If you would like to listen to me be being *Tango’d* – Natasha did a very good job.

In defence of our Civil Liberties…

Where does one start? Like many, I have had enough of the erosion of civil liberties which continues remorselessly under Prime Mentalist Brown’s unlected tenure of the office of Prime Minister and First Lord of the Empty Treasury. So… I have started doing a series of podcasts (or Lawcasts as I like to call them now after my early morning Rioja.. more of this later)… on civil liberties. I began with  *Lawcast* with Ian Parker-Joseph, leader of the UK Libertarian Party and tomorrow I do a lawcast with Roger Smith, Director of Justice, the human rights and law reform organisation.  I intend to invite othe commentators with a view on Civil Liberties and who knows… maybe a politician or two may be prepared to be interviewed?  One can but ask.

Today, I set up a spin-off website to my Insite Law mag siteLAWCASTS.net as a site for my own “Lawcasts” and podcasts from other bloggers and lawyers.  If you are a blogger, academic or lawyer and you would like to promote your podcasts – please let me know and I will give you your own space/link on Lawcasts.net

On the subject of podcasts… the modern Rake’s progress continues in West London Man with George in custody at La Guardia airport, New Yoork. He is visited by his lawyer who turns out to be a serious real criminal defense lawyer, Scott Greenfield, author of the excellent Simple Justice Blog. Lawyer Greenfield puts up with no nonsense from George.  The script was largely written for this episode by Colin Samuels of the Infamy of Praise blog with advice and guidance being given by Scott and ‘Charon’. Gonzo journalism gone mad?  Possibly. Listen to West London Man 25: The La Guardia Archipelago

Insite Law newswire

My weekly newswire seems to be of some use to users.  Although I publish it each week on both Insite Law and the Insite Law Blog – you may find it useful to have your own copy by email.  If you would like a copy of the newswire delivered to your in-box – please sign up here. If you would like to see what #4 contained – click here

I’m orf for a chicken sandwich. I may be back later.  Have a good week.

Regards as always,

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I have set up a new specialist website for Law podcastsLAWCAST.Net – for my Charon podcasts and podcasts on legal subjects from the Uk and around the world.  If you produce podcasts and would like to be included (FREE)  in this podcast specific website – please email me

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West London Man 25: The La Guardia Archipelago

Following his arrest at La Guardia Airport  in New York City (Episode 24), George has been relieved  of the diamonds and jewellery he received from financier Bernard Madoff and is now a guest of the American authorities in a nearby detention center. As an Englishman with refined cultural and culinary sensibilities, George considers these austere surroundings akin to an outer circle of Dante’s Inferno or perhaps to Scotland. His defense counsel, the well-known New York lawyer Scott Greenfield, shepherds him through the American legal system while his wife, Caroline, secures matters on the home front.  Although storm clouds continue to gather, George has resolved that he will not be broken by his present circumstances. Allowed writing materials by his captors, he has begun to compose an epic memoir….

To find out what happened you’ll have to listen to the podcast or download the script. The podcast has great music and sound effects as well as some pretty ‘classy’ acting!

Listen to the podcast (14 mins 21 secs)

Download the script in pdf format

West London Man 25 was written by Colin Samuels, Scott Greenfield and Charon.  Colin Samuels and Diane Jankiewicz played the parts of the La Guardia Detention Centre guards.  Lawyer Greenfield was played by Scott Greenfield, a well known criminal defense lawyer in New York and author of the Simple Justice blog

Other episodes of West London Man

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Newswire #4 22nd February 2009

Insite Law Free Newswire #4 22nd February 2009 now up on Insite Law


Please sign up if you would like to receive the free weekly Insite Law Newswire each week by email.

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Today I am talking to Ronald J. Baker who started  his accounting career in 1984 with KPMG Peat Marwick’s Private Business Advisory Services in San Francisco. Today, he is the founder of VeraSage Institute, a think tank dedicated to teaching Value Pricing to professionals around the world

Listen to the podcast with Ron Baker


Podcast Version for iTunes

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Podcast 104: With Ian Parker-Joseph, Leader of The UK Libertarian Party

Today I am talking to Ian Parker-Joseph MD of Parker-Joseph Consulting, crisis management, and elected NCC member of the Libertarian Party, UK which he now leads.

Listen to the podcast with Ian Parker-Joseph


Podcast version for iTunes


Ian Parker-Joseph Journal/Blog

UK Libertarian Party website

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Binge drinking is part of our national Zeitgeist

I am grateful to fellow blogger and Twitterer Diane Levin of The Mediation Channel in the US for drawing my attention to a seminal article about the work of academic  Binge drinking mavens at Teeside University – a seat of learning in the North of England.  (Overseas readers and Londoners may find this geographical referencing of some value)

Are there positive aspects to Binge-drinking? Professor Anna van Wersch asks the people of our sodden isle. I quote from the article: “Prof van Wersch explained that while official data tends to quantify binge drinking as five consecutive standard drinks in one sitting for men and four for women….”

I suspect that I speak for many in our profession when I suggest that researchers and government busybodies confuse official definitions of binge-drinking in quantitative terms with what many of us regard as merely ‘opening the batting’ for a decent evening out. Although, to be fair, the researchers did qualify their remarks… ” the researchers explained to participants they were using the term ‘binge- drinking’ to mean ‘a drinking occasion leading to intoxication’.”

To an experienced top order drinker, two bottles not out is, of course, a perfectly respectable score, but it has to be said that some of the greatest batsmen and batswomen of the  “beautiful game of drinking’ often go on to a higher score before being stumped, declared leg before wicket or clean bowled.  Now that Sir Allen Stanford has been arrested by the FBI and sundry other law enforcement agencies for alleged Ponzi style activities in Texas, we cannot really hope for any sponsorship for the Olympic Binge Drinking Games in 2012 – a side event being organised by enthusiastic topers as an anti-dote to  the Olympic games – an event of little interest to many in this country… since the authorities got shirty about banning performance enhancing drugs.

Prof van Wersch, whose findings are published in the Journal of Health Psychology, says we are more inclined to “drink to get drunk” while our continental cousins “simply enjoy the taste of a glass of wine”. She said: “People in England are more high achievers than the Dutch. The quality of their work has to be perfect and their performance is much higher. “There’s a lot of pressure to do well and to behave appropriately and control one’s emotions and that can be stressful..”

While I am delighted by Professor Van Wesrch’s findings, which, for the most part I accept and shall be encouraged by – there is also an element of monumental bollocks in them.   The British,  high achievers, under-achievers and the terminally cool simply like to get pissed.  It is one of our skills, part of our history, our tradition and goes with our disdain for authority and over government….. May I have a government research grant please?  A large one, if you please?   I think this subject needs further analysis.

Terms of reference for Further research
I extract one of Professor van Wesrch’s findings for further analysis: “There is a marked contrast to drinking alcohol in a ‘dry culture’ like Britain, where many people do not drink during the week because they have got work next day and don’t want to suffer from a hangover.”

This latter finding is clearly a fallacy and, viewing it from the legal perspective, verging on defamatory of the people of this over-governed isle….  and  could, if this gets out, lead to 10,000 drinkers on the streets with flaming torches demanding  an apology.

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