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Archive for March 10th, 2010

The concerns of our times!

College of Law Chief Executive Nigel Savage discusses the future of the legal services market in the wake of the Legal Services Act and questions the impact it will have on careers in the profession.

Max Clifford drops News of the World phone hacking action in £1m deal

The Guardian reports: “Tabloid accused of buying silence after persuading celebrity PR agent to drop case over interception of voicemail messages”

The News of The World appears to be rushing to stop a flood of litigation – as the Guardian states…“The News of the World was tonight accused of buying silence in the phone-hacking scandal after it agreed to pay more than £1m to persuade the celebrity PR agent Max Clifford to drop his legal action over the interception of his voicemail messages. The settlement means that there will now be no disclosure of court-ordered evidence which threatened to expose the involvement of the newspaper’s journalists in a range of illegal information-gathering by private investigators.”

Of perhaps greater interest to political animals, particularly those on the Labour or left, will be the effect this has on Andy Coulson, former editor of the News of The World and currently enjoying time in the sun as the Tory Party’s Malcolm Tucker/Alastair Campbell  communications supremo.

The Guardian notes: ” The case had potentially important implications for Andy Coulson, media adviser to the Conservative leader, David Cameron, who edited the News of the World at the time of the illegal activity and who has said that he does not remember any of his journalists breaking the law……..(NOTW Journos) – Goodman and Mulcaire were jailed in January 2007 for intercepting the voicemail of a total of eight victims, including Clifford and Taylor. The News of the World originally claimed that it had no knowledge of any of the illegal activity. Coulson resigned on the grounds that he carried ultimate responsibility.”

Hey ho…. but do have a look at Beau Bo D’Or take on the Max Clifford story….

I did enjoy this from Overlawyered…

From attorney Bob Ambrogi, on Twitter: “This felt wrong: Shortly after heated call with lawyer saying he’d sue my client, he sent me invite to connect on LinkedIn.” Related: Amy Alkon.

And this from John Bolch at Family Lore… “As humans, we need to evolve more” – John writes...”Nissenbaum explains how relationship breakdown brings out the worst in many people, especially where children are involved. “Every parent who has ever pushed for custody insists he or she is doing it out of love,” he says in his book. “Hate is more like it…. Parents throw everything they have at the other side, the more disgusting, horrendous and despicable, the better.” John ends…”Yep: been there, done that.”

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Civil servants ‘told to imitate answering machines’

The Guardian reports: “Civil servants who continued working during yesterday’s national strike have revealed they were told to pretend to be answering machines to cope with an overload of calls from the public. Staff at the Department for Work and Pensions in Carlisle said today they were given a brief script to read out before hanging up, in the style found on telephone answering machines.

The instruction by managers was initially leaked on Facebook after chitchat between strikers and colleagues who had stayed at work. One worker said: “To begin with, we all found it hard to keep a straight face, and occasionally, I slipped up and I ended up giving my name to the person who was calling.”

The staff said their fake-robot message was issued for peak lunchtime, between midday and 2pm. The script read: “Due to the high volume of enquiries we are currently experiencing we are unable to take your call. Please call back later.”

I wake each morning at 4.00 (ish), more often than not looking forward to seeing what idiocy has taken place overnight in politics, so I was not surprised to read in my RSS feeder this absurd story about the civil service. I am almost tempted, as I have to telephone my local council today, to pretend to be an ‘electronic digital telephone machine’  myself and say…

“Good morning… if you would like to know why I am calling, press 1…if you would like to know if I have anything sensible to say when you do speak to me…press 2…. if you would like to do some work for your inflation proof pensioned up salary and actually do something of value for one of your clients…me…press 3”


The Times reports: City law firms are preparing to raise millions of pounds from external investors as the British legal market braces for its own version of Big Bang. At least 20 firms are planning to raise outside funding under rules that will allow non-lawyers to own a stake in legal practices for the first time, accountants advising the firms told The Times.

Three of these firms are planning to raise a war chest for acquisitions of more than £20 million, either through an initial public offering or from private equity investors. The new rules, which will come into force next year, are expected to transform the legal sector, as deregulation did financial services in the 1980s.

Jeremy Black, a partner at Deloitte, the Big Four accountant, said: “It’s going to change the way firms look at the provision of legal services. Nobody will be untouched by these changes.”

There is no doubt that change is coming and the traditional view of law as a ‘profession’ will finally cede to the values and mores of the markets… where business is business.  This does not, of course, mean that lawyers will be any less professional…they will have to be even more ‘professional’ (but in a different sense)  because if they go the full route and list on the stock exchange they will be subject to ‘sentiment’…and sentiment can be a very hard task master.

I did like this paragraph from The Times…”Many partners remain sceptical. They argue that external funding will dilute their partnership culture and force them to give up too much control of their businesses.”

The writer forgot to add…“and too much of their profits”. It does, however, seem an attractive way of capitalising the business. Traditional law firm structures are ‘thinly capitalised’ given that partners withdraw much of the profit each year.  I suspect that full flotation may take some time…and a fair bit of ‘kicking and screaming’.  We shall, of course, see in time.

You may like to listen to a podcast I did for The College of Law Inside Track series with Sir Nigel Knowles, CEO of DLA Piper. Sir Nigel Knowles gave a very sanguine view of the future of the big law firms and the issue of external capital.

Bar Standards Board raps BPP Law School for taking on too many students

While I covered this some weeks ago, The Lawyer adds some interesting points about BPP plans to turn themselves into a fully fledged university.

Offenders who commit ‘grave crimes’ must be named, says judge

The Telegraph reports: “A judge said the public deserved to know the identities of offenders who committed ”grave crimes” as he allowed the naming of a juvenile who killed an innocent peacemaker with a single punch.

This judicial view does not, of course (hopefully), impact on the Venables situation where issues of a fair trial preclude identification.

Jon Venables could be killed if his identity is revealed, key judge warns

The Guardian reports: “Baroness Butler-Sloss, who granted anonymity to James Bulger’s killers, defends Jack Straw’s secrecy stance”

The Sun appears not to have anything on the Venables case this morning.  I suspect the bandwagon is moving on.. there are other more important stories for them t reveal to an adoring public.

It is not just the tabloids who are getting in on the ‘Shock’ act…

The Independent has this…

Paedophile ‘alarm button’ was rejected by Facebook, say police

And… if that isn’t enough to slake your taste for salacious titbits (with an intellectual spin)  this morning… they have this…

Jealous lover killed ex over web photos

Getting back to a bit of hard law….

Supreme Court rejects Christian registrar’s claim

The Independent reports: ” A Christian registrar who lost her job after she refused to carry out civil partnership ceremonies has been refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court. Ms Ladele, who became a registrar in 2002, said she could not carry out such ceremonies “as a matter of religious conscience”. She claimed she suffered ridicule and bullying as a result of her stance and said she had been harassed and discriminated against by Islington Council in north London.”

Yesterday The telegraph reported: “A pharmacist refused to issue contraceptive pills prescribed by a doctor because it was against her religion.”

Given that employers were not entitled to discriminate against these employees when taking them on for jobs where, presumably, they knew they would have to carry out lawful work which may be contrary to their religions it is puzzling why they applied for the jobs in the first place.  I have little sympathy.

Professor John Flod (RATs – Random academic thoughts) has an interesting film on legal education to look at…

UKCLE’s Ideas on the Future of Legal Education

“My friend, Julian Webb, is who is director of UKCLE and professor of legal education, has put together an interesting short film about the influences on the future of legal education in the UK. I think it also informs discussion about legal education elsewhere.”

Hat Tip to John Flood for picking up this cartoon from The New Yorker

The Fat Bigot has an interesting piece on recessions…

We must avoid the Japanese problem“Anatole Kaletsky wrote an interesting piece in the Times today highlighting the Japanese problem. In an attempt to stimulate its way out of recession in the early 1990s Japan increased government spending and borrowed to pay for it. This went on for several years and now, almost twenty years later, the cost of servicing the borrowing is so high there is no additional money available to repay the principal sums borrowed. Japan’s economy has, as a result, seen virtually no growth in GDP.”

Capitalists@Work are running with this... The end of free speech and flaming on the internet

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Cassons
I am delighted to report that a leading Accountancy practice, specialists in dealing with the tax and financial affairs of solicitors and barristers is supporting our free resource project at Insite Law Magazine.  Cassons for Counsel have a couple of articles which students and practitioners may find of particular interest

Will my pupillage awards be taxed?

There are differences in the tax treatments of pupillage awards from Inns as opposed to those from Chambers.  Read here for more details.

HMRC clampdown on barristers!

A specialist unit has been set up by HMRC to conduct investigations into barristers’ tax affairs. See here for the areas in which they are most likely to be investigating.

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