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Archive for June 1st, 2010

Matt Muttley, managing partner of Muttley Dastardly, has returned from from a two week business trip to America.  In the partner’s boardroom at their City offices are ten partners and 25 senior associates.  The partners are seated at the boardroom table on a raised dais. Muttley sits in the only chair with arm rests, an affectation he designed into the furniture after being shown The Cabinet Room when Tony Blair was prime minister. This chair is in the centre of the  black polished ebony boardroom table.  The associates stand by the wall facing the partners. Muttley’s PA, Eva Braun stands behind Muttley dressed in a black skirt suit, white silk camisole and five inch heels, her expression impassive.

“Listen up. This game’s in the refrigerator! The door’s closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard and the Jell-O is jiggling … I’m pleased to report that the partners have had a good year. In fact we have managed the quite remarkable feat of increasing our profit per partner by 28.5% despite a downturn in revenue of 18.2%.  This is, in part, due to the great cull of last Summer and in part to increasing your billable hours requirement.  Two of you have failed to meet those targets and your desks are being cleared by security now. Levison and Edmondson, I’d be grateful if you would make your way to reception… the game is over for you.”

Muttley paused while the two shocked associates left the boardroom. No-one spoke.

“We’ve had a change of government and the new clowns have already lost one guy who couldn’t read the rules, or chose not to, or chose to give the rules a different spin to others. This is what happens when people don’t check with lawyers about rules. The new clowns are going to slash budgets, slash spending and in all likelihood there will be strikes ahead.  We’re beefing the Employment division.  There will be some fairly spectacular business failures as well… football clubs and airlines are worth a look and don’t be surprised if BP litigation comes our way.  I’ve been Stateside and I can tell you… it is going to be a turkey shoot.  Big Law are alternately wetting and crapping themselves. One CEO…. their ‘word’ for managing partner, I spoke to was calling for oxygen at one point so excited was he at the prospect of work when he took a call from The White House while I was there.”

Muttley sipped some Perrier from a glass to his right, put his hands together and continued.

Let’s take a look at the markets.  I’ve been doing some key reading, a guy called Paul B. Farrell of MarketWatch.  Let me summarise, using his rather colourful language.   Are we heading for the bear or is the bull going to run? I quote...“…you decide: As you stare from high up in the nose-bleed bleachers watching the game, staring at a Dow that not long ago was above 11,000 and heading for 12,000. Now the Dow’s sitting on the bench, ready for the showers, weak after a couple air balls around 10,000. No more timeouts. “This game’s in the refrigerator……

Main Street lost 20% last decade … yet like sheep keep going back. Yes, if you’re channeling Chick, here’s your “mixed metaphor” cue card: “This game’s in the refrigerator … Wall Street won (proof, Goldman’s $100-million-profit trading days and Blankfein’s $68 million bonus) … Main Street’s headed for another losing streak … Congress’ lights are out … the refrigerator door’s closing on financial reforms … the lobbyists are laying some rotten eggs, poisoning capitalism … the Tea Party-of-No-No ideologies are hardening … the bull’s Jell-O is jiggling to a flat line … and this market’s going into hibernation, with the bears … run, don’t walk, to the exits, folks.”But will Main Street exit? Will we ever learn? No……

Economist Gary Shilling said price-to-earnings ratios are at a “nosebleed 22.5 level.” The Dow was around 11,000. Money manager Jeremy Grantham recently said the market’s overvalued 40%. That could mean a collapse to 6,600. Last week in Reuters’ “Markets Could Be Derailed Again,” George Soros echoed a “game over” warning with a “stark warning … that the financial world is on the wrong track and that we may be hurtling towards an even bigger boom and bust than in the credit crisis.”

Now Dow Theory’s Richard Russell is warning the public of an imminent crash: “Sell … get liquid … by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country.”

So… are you feeling confident that Danny Alexander, a man who has absolutely no experience apart from sending PR bull out about somewhere in Scotland For fuck’s sake and negotiating a coalition with a group of grasping, desperate, politicians who would short-sell their mothers if they hadn’t already done it while in opposition?!  Cable is simmering like a tin of beans on the back burner with about as much effect.  We know nothing about Osborne.  The good news is that they are going to cut legal aid budgets to buggery, slash spending on the courts, and encourage Tesco and the Coop to package and commoditise legal services.  It’ll be a car crash… we’re probably looking at the equivalent of Emmerdale Farm or Pot Noodle… an emollient but hardly exciting.

Muttley paused to look at the sleek iPad beside him.  He looked up and spoke in lowered tones, forcing the associates to lean forward slightly, expectant.

“What does this mean for us..and when I say us, I mean of course the partners of this firm? We gear up on insolvency and taxation – the clowns are going to ‘simplify’ the system.  When governments say that there is always work for lawyers.   We talk to a few senior barristers and get them into our version of a Procureco. Where there’s money there’s barristers as my father used to say.

We’re going to look at buying a few small regional firms, or rather, turn them into an alternate business structure and go for the very lucrative personal injury market.  We’ll use our Megaladon Direct brand for that.   The good news is the idea of banning referral fees has been kicked into touch.  This will give us an edge. This will also irritate the hell out of The Law Society and The Bar Council who have both been pressing for abolition.  This could keep both these august bodies frothing for months. Again, good for us because their eyes will not be on point on other reforms to ‘suggest’ to government.  Our black psyops unit is putting out articles on blogs and in the legal media about  the future of the legal profession…. lawyers love this stuff and it is always good to get our competitors a little worked up and frothing.  I’m pleased to report that our Twitter presence will soon sow dissent in the profession so we may reap the rewards of keeping lawyers busy responding to our nonsense.  It is amazing how lawyers like to engage on twitter when they should be at the coal face digging coal for their partners. We won’t need to trouble any of you with this.  Eva Braun has found five or six people to put the word out and stir things up a bit.

Finally… let’s put the squeeze on the law schools. We are hiring 125 trainees next year.  50 will make the cut, 20 may even survive the first year PQE.  We are paying far too much for our LPC training.  The law schools are getting greedy.  This is fine for law firms, but most inelegant in the public consciousness when it comes to legal education.  We’ll place some psyops about the fact that we’re looking to partner with a law school for our LPC training.  The water should froth a bit at that and then we’ll send in a team to have a look at the facilities, the staff, do a bit of teeth sucking and promise a three year deal on our terms.  As you know, we are specialists in shark repellent, exactitude and ‘zone of uncertainty’ clauses which will deter any law school from suing if we want out.  I would hope for at least a 40% discount against their published rate her head on the LPC.  This saving will, of course, go towards the partner bonuses.

You know what you have to do.  Same time next week. Oh… and remember…. “Sell … get liquid … by the end of this year the clowns won’t recognize the country. That is all.

***

I would like to point out, for members of the public who are fortunate enough not to need the services of  Muttley Dastardly LLP or Megaladon Direct that the event described above was, in ‘its entirety’, a fiction.

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The Independent reports:

Diana, Princess of Wales was killed because she planned to expose senior members of the British arms trade involved with land mines, a leading lawyer claimed today.

Michael Mansfield QC, who represented Mohamed al-Fayed in the inquest into the death of his son Dodi and the former royal, said Diana claimed she had an “exposure diary” in which she was going to unmask the people most closely involved with the British manufacturing of land mines.

He told the Hay Festival in mid Wales: “I think everyone remembers she raised the profile of the land mines.

I don’t have a problem with a senior, respected, lawyer making serious allegations of this nature – provided he has proof.  I read the article carefully.  I can see no proof in that article.  Perhaps Mr Mansfield QC will be making further revelations?

Did I see that he made this statement at Hay?  Is that not a book selling festival?  Didn’t Mansfield have a biography out recently?

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In our rush for pragmatism and to see the new coalition work, tinged with  sympathy for a man doing an important job for the country and his personal affairs, we may have pushed aside the fact that former Chief Secretary to The Treasury David  Laws may be found to have committed an act of fraud – which is usually regarded as a disqualifying act for high office, not a requirement (HT The Fat Bigot – below)

This possibility has been put forward by The Fat Bigot, a retired barrister, with his usual clear and effective style.

….Indirectly Mr Laws did deny his homosexuality by claiming reimbursement of rent because rent paid to a sexual partner could not be claimed under the rules as they were at the time. (I refuse to sink so low as to refer to any such partner as a rent boy.) By claiming reimbursement of rent he was asserting that the person to whom it was paid was his landlord and not his “partner”. That was untrue. He obtained money by asserting a falsehood. That is fraud. That he might have been entitled to claim the same or more money by telling the truth mitigates the offence. Indeed it might be such strong mitigation that no fair minded prosecutor would think it sensible to pursue criminal proceedings against him. It might even be such strong mitigation that a return to a senior position in government will be possible within a short period of time although I hope not, a propensity to fraud should be a disqualification for office not a requirement as it has been for the last decade.

Mr Laws’ choice was to preserve his privacy and forgo money or to forgo his privacy and receive money. Preserving his privacy and receiving money was not an option without acting fraudulently and jeopardising his whole career. It is a shame he chose the corrupt option but he has now done the right thing and resigned. And all for £40,000 he now has to repay.

It may be difficult, as Mr Laws himself admitted that his conduct left him no option but to resign, for the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to come to a finding other than fraud.  Will Mr Laws be charged if this is made out.  Unlikely?  Should he be, if fraud is established?  Yes, if the rule of law is to have any meaning for the activities of those involved  in Parliament?

Free speech – the gloves are off

Times: Lord Lester QC has tried to win libel reform with high-profile cases for this newspaper. Now he’s going in for the kill

Lord Lester writes: “In the 1960s, when I began to practise law, there was no positive right to free speech in English law. Free speech was a strong British political value, but as a matter of English law it was merely the space left by the criminal and civil law — official secrecy, fair trials, contract, confidentiality, copyright, defamation and the rest.

The full article is worth reading providing, as it does, powerful argument for the need for reform of libel law to balance the needs of reputation and free speech more effectrively than the present law does.

Family death ends insider dealing trial of City lawyer

The Times reports: A lawyer on trial for alleged insider dealing was excused from prosecution yesterday after his brother was killed in an assault. Andrew Rimmington, 40, who is accused of making a £40,000 profit buying shares in NeuTec Pharma after a tip-off from another lawyer, was discharged at Southwark Crown Court. His two co-defendants remain on trial. Judge Peter Testar told the jury that Mr Rimmington’s brother had died on Wednesday after an attack on May 15. The judge said he had concluded that it would be “unfair to expect Mr Rimmington to continue” and ordered the jury to discharge him.

It is still open for the FSA to seek a re-trial because Mr Rimmington has been discharged, not acquitted.

Officer charged with child sex offences

Independent: A police officer who headed a child abuse investigation unit has been charged with six child sex offences.Detective Inspector Glen Boulton, of West Midlands Police, is accused of offences involving two girls aged under 16, which were allegedly committed when he was aged between 12 and 17.

NHS trust may operate on cancer patient by force.

Times: A leading judge gave an NHS trust permission yesterday to sedate a cancer patient with a phobia of hospitals and needles and perform a hysterectomy considered necessary to save her life. The most senior family judge, Sir Nicholas Wall, granted the unnamed trust a declaration allowing it to use force if necessary to treat the 55-year-old woman, named only as PS. Sir Nicholas, who as President of the High Court Family Division also heads the Court of Protection, said that the trust sought permission “to ensure that PS undergoes necessary surgery”.

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