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Archive for January 25th, 2011

With a bit of time on my hands tonight, and in the mood to wander about the net looking at law blogs and the legal press, I thought I would bring you a few interesting stories I found….

Warming the bench for solicitors – from the Law Society Gazette: Frances Kirkham, a senior circuit judge and JAC commissioner writes about a joint plan to support more solicitors who wish to join the judiciary.  She notes – “What is disappointing is that the analysis also shows there has been little difference in the percentage of solicitors applying for most roles over the past 10 years.” Read….

I can understand that City lawyers may not be attracted by a judicial post (and would they really be that good in the broad nature of Circuit judge cases, given the highly specialist nature of their work?) but it must be in our interests to draw judges from a wider pool than we have done in the past?

And I did enjoy reading about lawyers sinning…. Legal professionals reveal ‘sins’ in survey.  Unfortunately, it was not salacious….. “One in four lawyers and legal professionals does online shopping at work, while one in eight confesses to doing something at an office party that they later regretted, a recent survey of 500 members of the profession has revealed. Research by twosteps online job board also found that 50% of legal professionals said they would be ‘helpless’ without their iPhone or Blackberry.”

Helpless without their iPhones or Blackberry?….. Indeed.

MI5 and MI6 secrecy move ‘threatens press freedoms’

A rather more serious topic from Guardian Media: “Lawyers representing media outlets argue against government efforts to bring ‘special advocate procedures’ to civil trials. Proposals by MI5 and MI6 to extend courtroom secrecy to civil trials would unfairly restrict the right of the media to act as the “eyes and ears” of the public, the supreme court heard today.”

And… on the subject of….Obiter J has a fascinating post…..

Secrecy in Civil Cases … (Mis)use of Libel actions … Law Commission report

And above is Bentham in all his glory stuffed in a glass case at UCL ….complete with head at his feet.

And… over to the UKSC Blog – an excellent  resource for analysis of Supreme Court decisions

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

The former leader of the Conservative Party has claimed today that “more and more decisions are being made by unaccountable judges”. Essentially making the ‘green light’ argument that judicial intereference with politicians’ decisions should be limited in scope, Lord Howard said: “Judges are unaccountable and unelected and ought to be very reluctant indeed to set aside decisions of this kind”.

I’m afraid I always conjure up this wonderful cartoon by Steve Bell when I read about Michael Howard.

Tachetastic….?

After nearly 30 years of suit and brogue wearing while I carried out life in a previous incarnation…. I took to growing taches a couple of years ago.  I get bored soon enough and shave them off… but at Christmas last, given that it was snowing… snow on an apocalyptic scale, snow that Chancellor Osbore would reveal today on BBC Radio 4 and sundry other media outlets…was the wrong kind of snow for the 0.5% contracting British economy…. I grew a tache.  This picture (in fact taken by @Geeklawyer eighteen months or so back – which I fiddled with in Photoshop to get that film noir look ) – shows the tache roughly as it is today.   I think I shall keep it for a while…. I am speaking on a few panel discussion group evenings…and a blawger needs a tache to do that…. trust me.

I didn’t have time to blog yesterday. Work got in the way… although it was enjoyable work. Done a bit more today…below… so… on to the morrow.

Sláinte – for Burn’s night…..

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.

Some hae meat and cannae eat. Some would eat that want it. But we hae meat and we can eat. Sae let the Lord be thankit

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Lord Taylor of Warwick guilty

The BBC reports: Ex-Tory peer Lord Taylor of Warwick has been found guilty of making £11,277 in false parliamentary expenses claims. The 58-year-old peer claimed travel costs between his Oxford home and Westminster, as well as subsistence for staying in London. He claimed he had made the false claims “in lieu of a salary”, and had been acting on the advice of colleagues. But a jury at Southwark Crown Court found him guilty by an 11-1 majority verdict. He has been released on bail pending sentencing at a date to be confirmed.

 

I did find this quote from the BBC report astonishing: “Lord Taylor said it had been a common practice among peers to claim for fake journeys and enter expenses claims with a false address as a main residence, and he believed it was acceptable to do this provided there was a “family connection” with the property.”

David Allen Green writes in The New Statesman:

I’m not a criminal lawyer – will Taylor be jailed?  I suspect so, given the circumstances and the guidelines. How long?  Any criminal lawyers prepared to offer a view?

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No one could accuse Duncan Bannatyne on Burn’s Night (or, indeed, any other night) of being a ‘wee sleekit cowrin tim’rous beastie’… in his business dealings, although some may take the view that he can be a beastie on Twitter: here and here.

Bannatyne, or Duncan Genocide as Harry & Paul parody him on Dragon’s Den,  has another fight on his hands and on this issue I have some sympathy for him.

Duncan Bannatyne considers legal action against TripAdvisor

The Firm reports: “Dragon’s Den panellist and fitness and leisure entrepreneur, Duncan Bannatyne has launched an outspoken attack on the website TripAdvisor, which he described as ‘despicable and cowardly’.  Bannatyne said he was considering spearheading a campaign against the website, as well as suing it, after it compared one of his own hotels to Fawlty Towers.”

Briefly: Tripadviser (40 million hits a month) allows people to publish reviews of hotels etc on their website.  Itb is clearly influential.  Bannatyne took exception to a review which compared one of his hotels to Fawlty Towers and is reported as stating…” TripAdvisor, he said, should commit to removing fraudulent or defamatory reviews, rather than simply giving management a right of reply.”

As the UKSC Blog notes in their review of The Supreme Court in 2010: Joseph v Spiller [2010] UKSC 53.  Another first: this time the Supreme Court’s first defamation case. The Court considered and expanded the scope of the “fair comment in the public interest” defence – now re-named by Lord Phillips as the “honest comment” defence.

The Drum contacted Campbell Deane, partner in law firm Bannatyne Kirkwood France & Co (no relation) to get a legal perspective on the situation – worth a read.

Bannatyne may well have a more difficult task in defamation. There are dangers, however, with successful businesses and disgruntled customers.  We do have a tall poppy syndrome in this country – it is a national sport to build people up only to cut them down and few successful organisations will have a 100% satisfaction rate.  A bad review can be damaging – and while  a review may be ‘honest’ under the law of defamation,  it may well be written with other motives – a refund for example. While I prefer to pay people to go to the gym for me these days so that I can keep fatuous New Year resolutions, I am told by friends that Bannatyne’s gyms are good so I can sympathise with Bannatyne and his irritation here.  Bannatyne does a lot of good work for Charity, is resident in Britain and he hasn’t built up solid businesses by providing a bad service.  I might find him abrasive on Twitter but he has been good value in the past on Dragon’s Den – if a bit too direct for some of the contenders. Publicity can be unfair sometimes.

There are, however, dangers in taking successful websites onThe Streisand effect; comment on twitter et al, some accurate, some perhaps not so, can have a far more damaging effect.  At least Tripadvisor appears to give a right of reply unlike the Solicitorsfromhell website which, if I recall, offered to remove reviews for money!

Sometimes, discretion be the better part of valour….or, indeed… the old aphorism…never apologise, never explain may be valuable on occasion.

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College of Law to offer two-year undergraduate law degree

Interestingly, both BPP Law School and The College of Law are now going head to head with leading Russell Group universities by providing law degrees.  The College of Law LLB degree will run initially in the College’s London, Birmingham and Chester offices from September 2012.  The Lawyer reports that the fees will be £18,000 – right at the upper point of fees which may be charged by traditional universities in the new post-Brownian era.

CoL chief Nigel Savage told The Lawyer: “I’ve said consistently that the undergraduate law degree is no longer fit for purpose and should be more in line with medical degrees by combining the right amount of law with the right amount of context.”

I have my reservations about the current craze for describing law degrees as ‘not fit for purpose’ and await the results of the review by the legal profession regulators to see how their vision of legal education pans out.

Both BPP and The College of Law run sophisticated offerings for the LPC and BPTC, with equally hefty fees, so it will be interesting to see how they compete with traditional universities who have far more experience in running undergraduate and postgraduate law degrees and a very different research based ethic. Both law schools have the financial muscle to invest in high quality education and both are well aware of the need to be client focused.  They don’t always achieve this, judging by some of the comments on the various student forums on the net, but no institution can please all the people all of the time.  Nevertheless, it would be folly to discount or ignore criticism from fee paying customers – and these customers are paying a lot of money for their legal education.  The traditional universities will also start to feel the bright light of student fee payer power when their fees rise.

BPP and The College of Law have enjoyed primacy at  the vocational stage of legal education.  They will have to start at the bottom of the reputation ladder when it comes to competing with the top UK universities offering law degree programmes.   For my part?  I would say that it is not unreasonable to suggest that the deans of traditional Russell Group universities will have to keep an eye on their backs and up their game to stay ahead.

I am doing a series of podcasts on legal education – which is ongoing.  You may be interested in hearing the views of those I have interviewed thus far?

Lawcast 175: Professor Gary Slapper, Open University, on the reform of legal education

Lawcast 172: On the reform of legal education with Scott Slorach, College of Law

Lawcast 171:  Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law

Lawcast 170: Professor Richard Moorehead, Cardiff Law School, University of Cardiff

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