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Archive for January 20th, 2011

Happy Birthday to a good mate – and a good blawger – John Bolch at Family Lore…who has been blogging for five years!

Now we are five

As the man says….”I’ve just noticed that I’ve now been writing this blog for five years. I’m not sure whether this is a moment for celebration or a trip to the psychiatrist.”

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It has been some time since I did a Rive Gauche posting – a view from slightly left of field… but a number of things have caught my eye today meriting a bit of coverage without, perhaps, the more serious analysis of my Law Review posts which are designed give readers a quick overview of interesting legal issues of the day.

Ashurst ushers in 50-hour week benchmark for partners

Legal Week reports: Ashurst partner targets and steps to retain female lawyers assessed

Ashurst has upped the number of hours partners must commit to the firm, with all partners now formally obliged to carry out at least 50 hours of firm-related work each week. Partners must spend the equivalent of 10 hours each weekday on either billable client work or other firm-related activities – over 40% more than was previously required. The quota, which is measured on time sheets, is significantly higher than the 35-hour minimum weekly requirement previously in place…

Senior partner Charlie Geffen  commented: “This is an attempt to set a clear standard among partners – it is important that they set a positive example for all lawyers and non-lawyers across the firm.”

While I suspect that 50 hours is fairly normal for some in City firms – friends tell me that this is so – I cannot help but wonder if ambitious female associates (and more women than men are qualifying as lawyers now) who also want a family, quite reasonably, may find this 50 hour a week minimum culture less attractive than employment in other sectors in the City where hours are, they say, more flexible?   It would be interesting to hear from any women readers who practice in The City on this point.

I did enjoy this comment on the Legal Week article…

eh?

“This is an attempt to set a clear standard among partners – it is important that they set a positive example for all lawyers and non-lawyers across the firm.”

The “positive” example presumably being ignoring your family and friends so that you can spend more time chained to your desk. Oh dear. I think Mr Geffen and his partners might need some counselling on life priorities.

jack dee

I wasn’t able to get an audience or even a phonecall with Matt Muttley, managing partner of Muttley Dastardly LLP, but his PA, Eva Braun,  did phone me back to tell me that The Partners at Muttley Dastardly LLP did not disclose information relating to billing, rates or, indeed, anything, to members of the Press or itinerant blawgers. Eva Braun was able to tell me that if an associate at Muttley Dastardly LLP only managed 50 hours a week, an appointment with the in-house physician would be arranged in the first instance;  and if this ‘difficulty’ continued or was repeated, the associate would be provided with a black plastic bag and a career information pack from the Metropolitan Police Community Support Officer’s scheme.

IN OTHER NEWS….

Theresa May allows 28-day limit on detaining terror suspects without charge to lapse

The Guardian: Home secretary faces embarrassment as power to detain suspects without charge to revert from 28 days to 14 from midnight on Monday

“The home secretary, Theresa May, faces fresh embarrassment over the much-delayed review of counter-terrorism powers after the Home Office confirmed that the police power to detain terror suspects for up to 28 days without charge will lapse on midnight on Monday.”

The much vaunted reform of civil liberties laws seems to be on slow speed and, it would appear, that 28 day detention without charge has been replaced by 14 days by default rather than with a fanfare. No doubt, legislation will be forthcoming to provide a 28 day power for emergencies and….. the much vaunted reform of all those Labour government laws?

Parliament is a sausage-machine: the world according to Kenneth Clarke

Afua Hirsch, writing in the Guardian, reports: The balance of power in the constitution is no joke, but it’s still hard to take the lord chancellor seriously

Watching Kenneth Clarke give evidence to the House of Lords constitutional committee this week was an almost surreal experience. The lord chancellor has a level of confidence that can only come with such a seasoned career in politics. He never refers to any notes, declines to do anything that would involve extra work (opening and closing remarks were far too arduous), and was on incredibly chummy terms with the rest of the committee, his mates in the Lords, the inns of court, and doubtless various gentlemen’s clubs as well.

But what really sticks out about Clarke is that he manages to pull off both being the government’s senior minister in charge of justice, and appearing to think much of its work is a waste of time.

At the risk of putting a dissenting view, I am a fan of Ken Clarke; a politician of considerable experience and charm (although, as we know from Einstein, everything is ‘relative’), tasked with the unpalatable task of contributing cuts to the greater good of Cameron and Osbore’s vision of a Big Society and repayment of the deficit. While I have grave doubts about the wisdom of cutting legal aid for reasons I have given in earlier blog posts, I do feel that Clarke’s preparedness to look at the real politik of the prison system and punishment is to be welcomed.

Afua Hirsch commented…

The only thing Clarke did appear to take seriously, in fact, was the demise of parliament, whilst the judiciary has continued to gain power apace.

“Parliament has been made too weak vis-à-vis the modern executive and parliament should be strengthened,” Clarke said, in what felt like the most serious moment of the whole hearing.

“In my time in politics what has happened is the courts have become much more courageous and much more powerful and have invented and expanded judicial review to a quite astonishing extent.”

“Parliament has been very timorous towards the executive and has steadily allowed all its powers to be eroded and allowed the institution to be turned into a bit of a sausage machine,” he finished.

It seems Kenneth Clarke can only sound serious for so long.

Is this such a bad thing?  Given the sofa government of Blair, a very murky background to the waging of a war in Iraq, the growth of power of a cabal or coterie of ‘inner circle’ ministers (in both Labour and Coalition) I would have thought that strengthening the powers of Parliament and the  judiciary’s willingness to hold government to the rule of law is a good thing? ( And, I do think that the establishment of a UK Supreme Court – and separation from Parliament – is a good thing.)

Far fewer prisoners will now get the right to vote

The Guardian: Faced by a backbench rebellion, the government is to slash the number of prisoners to be given the right to vote, even though it is likely to increase the risk of successful compensation claims against the government in court.

While it may may David Cameron sick at heart to give convicted rapists, murders and sundry other criminals the right to vote, I can’t help but wonder if continuing resistance – appeasement to The Sun and ‘Middle Britain / Alarm Clock Britain The Squeezed Middle (take your pick) – to European Copurt of Human Rights judgments is a clever strategy.

Others have debated this issue in detail – notably The UK Human Rights blog and Carl Gardner.

Adam Wagner, of UK Human Rights blog has an interesting analysis: Prisoner voting and the £160m question

Adam Wagner notes: ” The Council of Europe is taking the issue seriously, and if the UK fails to comply it may seek to flex its muscles. And more claims may then follow, from the other 70,000 or so serving prisoners, which would cost the UK more. We shall see.

This is all fiendishly complex, and it is unsurprising that nobody, including the government, is quite sure what would happen once it has changed the law. Many, including legal blogger Carl Gardner, argue that the European court keeps moving the goalposts. That criticism has some force. But unless the current government swallows the bitter pill of prisoner voting reform now, it will simply delay the pain until later.

I tend to agree with Adam Wagner’s take on the matter.  I am also a pragmatist.  How many prisoners will actually bother to vote?  What percentage of the prison population will be ‘bovvered’?   There are, in my view, far more important and pressing human rights issues than resisting ECHR judgments on this.

The Legal Future by Legal Futures

I am developing a series of podcasts on the legal profession to be run from early February through to April.  I enjoy Neil Rose’s writing in The Guardian and on Legal Futures (His brainchild).

As a foretaste, if you haven’t read any of Neil’s writing, may I suggest you have a look at two recent posts?:

The themes of 2011, part 1

It is hard to resist the journalist’s natural inclination at this time of the year to fill space with predictions for the year ahead. But 2011 is a hard year to predict ….

The themes of 2011, part 2

Last week I highlighted alternative business structures, the Legal Services Board and diversity as three of the key themes I expect to pervade Legal Futures’ coverage of the market in 2011. Here are three more, again in no particular order: the Legal Ombudsman, professional indemnity insurance, and outcomes-focused regulation/the new Solicitors Handbook.

And..finally… some Charles Pugsley Fincher Esq for you…always worth a look…..

AND… IN LATE BREAKING NEWS FROM WESTMINSTER…ALAN JOHNSON RESIGNS AS SHADOW CHANCELLOR….


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