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Archive for February, 2011

If you have not listened – I can recommend this week’s Law in Action episode with Joshua Rozenberg. Wikileaks / Assange case – European Arrest warrant – The view of a US spokeswoman on extraditing Assange – Tweeting from court.  BBC Radio 4

Restorative Justice, Policing and the Big Society

I’ve also waded through this speech by Nick Herbert MP, Minister for Policing & Justice. Wading is the ‘operative word’.     Oh dear!   I shall do some thinking on this….that is not to suggest, of course, that Mr Herbert hasn’t…. he’s done enough to at least allow the speech parts of the human brain to kick in and  enable him to make a speech on these matters.  I wonder what professional criminal lawyers and other professionals in this field of ‘criminal justice’  will make of this? I found it rather thin and, to be frank, a bit of a waffle.

A taster….from Mr Herbert’s speech…….

The Big Society

This is about taking justice out of the narrow confines of the courts and putting it into the community. That is why I think the notion of the Big Society is so relevant and so important here.

This is a week where the Big Society has been talked about a lot, but I am passionate in the belief that the Big Society is a truly big idea. It is a big idea because it is an answer to the problems of the broken society, and it is those problems that have of course caused the high crime that we heard about.

Read….

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David Cameron faces criticism for ‘arms trade’ trip to Middle East

Metro: David Cameron is facing criticism for going on a trade mission to the Middle East with six arms manufacturers.

My Tweet of the Week… so far… has to go to US lawyer Brian Tannebaum and fellow tweeter… He writes a good Blawg Review as well….

 

And then US criminal defense lawyer  and blogger Mark W Bennett came up with this sardonic tweet….

 

 

Followed by…this RT on Twitter from Canadian lawyer and blogger Antonin Pribetic…

RT @mirriam71: RT @avinunu: The last leader to order such barbaric air attacks killing civilians in Libya was Ronald Reagan.

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Time for a quick look at some of the law blogs…

Simon Myerson QC, writing in his Pupillage and How to Get it blog considers Diversity…

Counsel Magazine has an interesting article by Andrew Neish QC, dealing with the lack of diversity at the so called ‘magic-circle’ sets. I’d like to link to it but Lexis-Nexis thinks I should pay to do so and, as I get my paper copy anyway, I won’t. If  you or your institution has an account then this is the link to the click-on.

The proposal is not one I like – to choose additional random candidates for interview. It strikes me that this is not so much diversity as tokenism. But at least the problem is being looked at, which is better than ignoring it, and an email address is provided for comments and contributions. However a more focussed, more interesting and more thoughtful examination of the same issue is Lawminx’s letter to a pupillage committee. Minx’s idiosyncratic style isn’t to everyone’s taste, but the Bar ought to read decent points made by non-traditional students. We might learn something.

Read…..

I considered this issue en passant yesterday in my weekly PostcardThe Legal Services Board has announced a proposal to quiz lawyers on whether their parents went to university in an attempt to monitor the level of social mobility across the profession.  I remain unconvinced as to whether this proposal is anything other than intrusive and, possibly,  patronising.  But I am, of course, happy to be convinced that it is a good idea.

“Building a growing army of enemies”

Neil Rose provides an excellent write up of the Inner Temple legal Education Conference…

Nigel Savage
Though not present at the seminar, the name of the College of Law’s chief executive was frequently bandied around, and not usually in a complimentary way. It is fair to say that the noble Savage has become something of an Aunt Sally.

Why is this? Perhaps it is continued talk of the size of his salary – an issue raised on Friday by Advocacy Training Council chairman Charles Haddon-Cave QC – or just his bluff, uncompromising style.

The College has gone from strength to strength under his leadership, but its aggressive expansion in various directions means the cost has arguably been diminution of the College’s reputation among some lawyers.

I’ve known Nigel Savage for over twenty years.  He is direct and to the point – but I have no hesitation in saying (even though he was a competitor when I was running BPP Law School in the early 1990s) that The College of Law was a bit of a ‘basket case’ before he took over:  They lost the support of the Magic Circle firms in the LPC stakes (I know this – I did the report for the Magic Circle firms on the LPC review at the end of the 90s which led to a few changes) and I believe, whatever Savage’s salary, that he has been instrumental in bringing good people in and building up the College of Law’s reputation and range of courses.  We have a horrible tendency in this country to build people up and then knock them down.  I won’t be part of that thinking. I don’t always agree with Savage’s ideas.  I am more than happy to be critical of his views  when the need arises  – This is what debate is about –  but we need a few rough diamonds and people who think out of the box and who do not toe the line. Savage does not toe the line.

The good news is that Charles Haddon-Cave QC is…”… fabulously good on his feet…” (Chambers UK 2008 Directory)..and…“has the Midas touch; he has almost a supernatural ability to win cases.”(Chambers UK 2007 Directory). I rather suspect that pot and kettle on the matter of remuneration or ‘compensation’ (as we now call earnings) is not an unfair comment to make in the context of comments about Mr Savage’s ‘compensation’ ?

Ben Wheway of Legal Week reviews last week’s Future of Legal Blogging conference at 1 Crown Office Row – an event which I had to miss, sadly, because of injury: Blogging – can it help your legal career?

Nearly Legal on No admittance :

Sharon Horie v the United Kingdom – 31845/10 [2011] ECHR 289. Back at the end of 2009 we reported the Supreme Court case of Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs v Meier and another, which upheld the use of a quia timet injunction – a prospective possession order – against a group of new travellers, preventing them from occupying any land owned by the Forestry Commission in the area. Sharon Horie, one of the new travellers, applied to the European Court of Human Rights. This is the decision on the admissibility of the application.

For those of you in the intellectual property world, IPKat needs no introduction, but the team’s More Monday Miscellany is worth a read to keep you on the money.  “They thought it was a bicycle — but it was just a great ruse for importing Bauhaus chairs across the Italy-Germany border” I liked the graphic.

And… a quick Happy Birthday to Law Actually – 4 yesterday!

Futurology is very much on the minds of many practitioners at the moment, given the times we live in and the impact of The Legal Services Act.  John Bolch of Family Lore asks… Is there a future for family lawyers?

The newspapers have been full of prisoner votes, ‘perverts’ (The Sun, Daily Mail et al)  being allowed to come off the sex offender register and now, to inflame the blazer wearers of middle England, the outrage of leading murderers and rapists using the ‘hated European Human Rights laws’ to get benefits while in prison.  Carl Gardner, author of The Head of Legal blog brings analysis to the fore with his question and blog post… Have lawyers really “cleared” the government to defy Strasbourg over prisoners’ votes?

I enjoyed Lallands Peat Worrier on... Judicial quotation of the week…

Eccentric litigants seem to have been keeping their futile but entertaining petitions from the doors of Scotland’s appeal courts of late. The dearth may now be lifting. Idly fumbling through the electronic annals of Parliament House, the humble case of Daniel Cox v. Procurator Fiscal, Aberdeen caught my eye. The details themselves are perfectly quotidian. Mr Cox was convicted of driving at 49 miles an hour in 30 mile per hour zone by the Aberdeen Justices of the Peace Court. He received three pips on his driving licence and was fined £250. Clearly not a fellow to pinch his nose and swallow his legal medicine, Cox appealed his conviction on the basis that old peculiar of Scottish evidentiary jurisprudence, the corroboration rule.

The Bizzle muses…. “There are days (and I’m sure that every in house lawyer has them) when it seems like nobody is listening to me. When my client nods politely as I advise on the problems with their project, and then goes off and does exactly what they were going to do anyway. Or, even worse, when people don’t want to hear my advice in the first place.  The Bizzle has a solution: Give ‘em the hard word; and other influencing strategies

I enjoy Test Cricket….. and so does Ashley Connick who has managed to find a way of combining his passion for cricket and law within one blog post: Contempt of Caught? How the ICC upheld the Rule of Law

GC Tom Kilroy, who has joined the blogging world, writes: “Imagine yourself back in the Spring of 2007. Everyone was feeling pleased with themselves. The problems with our system of capitalism had been solved. We’d outsmarted all the generations that preceded us, even the brainy ones who thought they understood the dismal science of Economics.”

Tom has a solution… Principles Based Regulation – let’s not do that again

PODCASTS!

Starting this week there are two series of podcasts which you may like to listen to. I am about to begin a series of 20+ podcasts looking closely at the legal profession in 2011 in the light of the credit crunch, The Legal Services Act and generally through the eyes of sole practitioners, managing partners, barristers, BIG LAW, The Magic Circle and, of course, the regulators. BPP Law School / BPP University College has kindly agreed to sponsor these podcasts to assist with the production and bandwidth costs.  I record the first tomorrow with The Naked Lawyer, Chrissie Lightfoot

And….

“Without Prejudice” – a new fortnightly lawblogpodcast starting this Thursday 24th February 2011

And… a little bit of Charles Fincher to finish…


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My quote of the week….without question... has to be from Ken Clarke, Secretary of State for Justice and  Lord Chancellor (unless Michael Howard replaces him).  The Guardian has the the story…

It would be startling if we had a British government which said we aren’t going to comply with legal judgments…..

“I used to be a practising lawyer myself, and trying to give legal advice to a litigant who doesn’t want to be told what the law is and wishes it was something else is always difficult..”

Ken Clarke was telling  fearless interviewer Andrew Marr this morning that he plans to look to reform the European Court of Human Rights when Britain takes the chair of The Council of Europe this year.  I read with horror in the Mail on Sunday (not a paper I ever read in the ‘flesh’ so to speak, but one I dip into occasionally online to see what the ravening horde are thinking, or being told what to think, in the early hours of Sunday morning) that there is talk of the former great reforming Home Secretary Michael Howard, now Lord Howard of Panopticon, taking over from Clarke as Lord Chancellor.

I thought one of the benefits of having a House of Lords is that we take dangerous politicians out of society, without having to tag them electronically, and keep them occupied with tom foolery in the unelected second chamber, the House of Lords?  The last thing we want, surely, having pensioned these buggers orf, is to see them rising from the grave when darkness descends to walk among us once again?

If such an appointment is made, I might be tempted to occupy Battersea Square single handed and call for the overthrow of ….well….something… I’ll think about it..and come back to you later on my thinking.  I would certainly be tempted to leave the country and meet some interesting bankers; which would be infinitely preferable to staying here to watch Lord Howard of Panopticon visiting old naval ship breaking yards to rescue aircraft carriers for use as prison hulks.

Boycott the UK census over links to Lockheed Martin, protesters say

Guardian: We’re ready to face £1,000 fine, declare anti-war protesters in row over role of US arms firm Lockheed Martin in data gathering

It may be old news, but I am genuinely astonished that the British government has handed a contract to a US arms manufacturer to carry out the Census.  Apart from the fact that we should, in these dark days, be giving our own tech companies these contracts, I do understand the concerns of those who may wish to boycott the census on conscientious grounds and also raise my eyebrows that the Office of National Statistics can so glibly state that the information collected will be safe and not fall into the hands of the US State Department which may, under the US Patriot Act,  compel all american companies to hand over ‘useful information’.

Does the government have a credible explanation for this?  Can the government be absolutely certain the information will be safe – after the fiasco of the loss of 25 million records by HM Revenue & Customs..and, indeed, other information going AWOL at the DVLA and the odd military laptop left in the back of a minicab?

RollonFriday.com notes…“The Legal Services Board has announced a proposal to quiz lawyers on whether their parents went to university in an attempt to monitor the level of social mobility across the profession.”

While I applaud all initiatives to promote wider access to the profession for those who wish to be lawyers, I can’t help but feel that this latest initiative from the Legal Services Board is not only intrusive, it is almost patronising.  I am quite sure they do not intend these effects, however.

In my well spent youth – the days when students were able to combine hard living with hard study fitted in around more important commitments and still be fully paid up members of the awkward squad – I was asked where my father went to school at an interview at a well known investment bank (when I was misguided enough to think soon after graduating that I might actually find  the idea of working in The City interesting).  The interviewer had been a huge fromage at the Monopolies Commission.  I told him, politely,  that it was none of his business; which, of course, it wasn’t.   He seemed a bit put out by this reply and asked if my ‘family had any connections in banking’. I was really irritated by this question. Two advantages of having had the good fortune to go to a good school and having enjoyed the social satire The Ruling Class with Peter O’Toole, was that I was not ‘awed’ even at that young age by anyone (The only advice I would ever pass on to a law student is – don’t ever be ‘awed’ by anyone!) and I had a reasonable command of language.  I told him that my father did not, as far as I was aware,  keep his money in a tin box or stash it under the mattress and that it was quite probable that he had connections in the banking world. The interview did not go well. I did then, and to this day do, have manners.  I thanked the panel for their time, said that I was withdrawing my application, and left.   Unfortunately, I still meet people of this attitude and type to this day…. but, equally fortunately, they are a dying breed.

I lost my taste for (and being part of) the ‘traditional establishment’,  instilled and drilled in at school,  while in Africa before I went to university.  University compounded this and I decided to plough a different furrow…but at least is was my own furrow. Now I am like one of those ranters in the street;  except I don’t do it in the street…  I have my  ‘blawg’.

AND FINALLY… on the theme of the dangers of privilege and ‘background’….

I am delighted to see – via The Mail on Sunday….

“David Cameron is to ban internships with top City firms being sold for thousands of pounds to wealthy Conservative supporters for their children after the practice was exposed by The Mail on Sunday.

This newspaper’s report last week about the ‘cash for internships’ auction at the Tories’ glittering Black and White Party attended by the Prime Minister and his wife Samantha left the Conservatives deeply embarrassed.

A senior Tory aide said: ‘You can rest assured that this kind of auction will not be part of next year’s event. It was badly misjudged.

The worrying thing, of course, is that ‘they’ thought it was a good enough idea to hold the party and auction in the first place and that Prime Minister Camerondirect saw this, presumably, as ‘Big Society’ in action and attended the event?!

Have a good week.

Best, as always

Charon

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Welcome to Without Prejudice – the fortnightly law podcast which examines the law issues of our times.  Solicitor, New Statesman columnist, author of the Jack of Kent blog, David Allen Green and Carl Gardner, barrister,  ex government lawyer and author of the Head of Legal blog, are at the table. We will have guests… news, topical analysis and discussion…and wine…and I get to ask the questions.  We will record at 7.30 pm each alternate Thursday and publish late on Thursday evening ready for Friday and the weekend.  We start this coming week on the 24th.

This week..the Assange judgment is out on Thursday and will, inevitably, be one of our topics for discussion…

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There will be an RSS feed for these podcasts and we’ll get it into iTunes.

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MEMORANDUM – EYES ONLY

To:  The Partners

From: Dr Erasmus Strangelove, Partner and Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops

Gentlemen,

In keeping with our tradition and work best practice ethic,  I am assuming that you will all have been too busy to read the legal press this week. My earlier memorandum on competitor activity this week, not unduly alarming, revealed a few possibilities for proactive approaches.  There were, however, two articles in the legal press this week, one of which is so potentially dangerous in its thinking that it could threaten the very foundation of our great firm. I shall deal with this matter first.

1.  I refer you to an article by Legal Week editor Alex Novarese dated 18th February 2011: Mind your own business – should clients be telling law firms how to run their shop?

2.  Briefly: Mr Novarese is putting into the minds of general counsel some fairly dangerous and subversive thinking when he states: “A recent article on Legal Week about an adviser review at Deutsche Bank reminded me of a concept that has gained traction in recent years: the notion that clients should get actively involved in the business model and inner workings of their external counsel.” I have added italics to draw attention to the salient point of concern.

3.  Even in these dark days when general counsel are taking work away from firms in The City, I am advised that many still have time and the inclination to read The Lawyer and Legal Week and, I am advised, some have even taken to tweeting away on twitter – something which our Pysops unit (See: Operation Twitter Storm of October last) is particularly proud of on the premise that they may become addicted and, ergo, have less time to do valuable legal work themselves and pass it back to us.

4. Mr Novarese continues with a further subversive notion: “On one level, such a stance is taken as a sign that clients are finally taking a proactive approach to securing value from their advisers. And, to a point, there are good reasons to go down this road. For a client to insist on something as cosmetic as moving their work to fixed fees by implication will force changes to law firms because the industry’s infrastructure is so wedded to time-based billing.”

5.  We do not have any issues with our clients on hourly billing since we moved to our Platinum Value Bill service with 150% of our carefully judged ‘bunce’ being paid on account, but it is the first part of the paragraph which is of concern: It would be most awkward if clients started to investigate our workings to determine whether they were getting value.  The whole idea behind value billing is that we get value, not the client,  and for the editor of a respected legal weekly to put these ideas out into the public domain is, frankly,  (borrowing from the style of our revered leader, Prime Minister Camerondirect) ‘absolutely appalling’  and, almost certainly, a breach of our human rights.

6.  Mr Novarese continues his crusade to demystify the dark secrets of our glorious profession with this remarkable statement: “And it would be ludicrous to suggest that clients shouldn’t take any interest in how law firms run their business. You would want to know that your go-to adviser had rigorous systems to maintain quality and solid standards of ethical behaviour because major short-comings in this respect would probably impact on you as the client.” I really do not need to add comment to this.  Res ipsa loquitur. The man is absolutely right, of course, but being right doesn’t mean he should tell everyone? I shall agenda this for dissection at our next Partner’s meeting.

7. I turn now to an absolutely splendid article in The Lawyer from David Mandell, founder, Mandell Corporate: Opinion: Private clients may be profession’s new sugar daddies.

Unfortunately, The Lawyer, is also widely read in the profession and there is a danger that competitors will pick this up.  I extract and quote the most dangerous idea:

But after a recession more horrible than any other recent example, the dotcom bubble included, what is today’s big puzzle for our profession, ­specifically in relation to the positioning of private client work? For years lawyers have been weaned on a business vocabulary comprising ’core and non-core’, ’objectives and ­strategies’ and ’key performance indicators’. The mantra of grow or shrivel; merge or ­meander; or go small, niche and powerful is ingrained. Private client teams have become second cousins and non-core to the ­corporate focus, and shed.

I never fully understood that reasoning. Why send your firm’s best private clients to another firm when they get ’the Knock’ (or, more likely, divorce papers), which is exactly when you want you and your business to look after them.

Distress buying is where client relationships are formed (and broken). And it is not a revelation to say that the most durable client relationships are borne out of crisis purchases where there was no beauty parade or ­presentation- probably no more than a phone call and a recommendation to the client along the lines of, “See this lawyer – they won’t be cheap but they’re seriously good and will look after you”.

8.  We have, of course, formulated much of our growth on aggressive poaching and by doing our best to create distress to allow us into the distress buying market –  with some success, I add, mindful of my part in the bonus discussions – item 1 on the agenda for Sunday.

Gentlemen, we meet at 1.00 on Sunday to consider our bonuses and stratagems for the following week.

Dr Erasmus Strangelove

Strength & Profits

***

With thanks to the following for sponsoring the free materials for students on Insite Law magazine: Inksters Solicitors, Cellmark, OnlineWill.co.uk, BPP University College, David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Wildy & Sons, Camps Solicitors accident claims

Just Go Direct

Suffered an accident at work? Contact us
for free expert compensation advice.

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As I rose this morning, recovering further from a nasty foot injury and the meds, news reached me from RollonFriday.com that College of Law staff in Chester are going on a makeover and learn how to ‘dress for success’.

RollonFriday with their customary (and pleasing) acerbic style note… “Staff at the College of Law’s outpost in Chester are to be beautified (“taken on a journey of discovery”) by House of Colour, which will be providing them with image consultations and make up lessons. The staff are to be given the Gok Wan treatment, which is all very charitable of the legal world’s favourite charity. Well, when you’ve paid £10,000 for your LPC, the very least you can expect is a fragrant tutor, right?….”

It occurred to me that I could usefully use up some of my time by going into the legal fashion business and my sketches above give an indication of my preliminary thinking on the matter.  I note the increasing tendency for men to turn up in suits without ties and, even, mon dieu, to team up a pair of faded jeans with a pinstripe suit jacket.  The legal profession is, on past form, unlikely to give up their stiff and formal fancy dress or pinstripes – so my thinking is…why fight it?  Let us, as a profession, celebrate diversity and colour…. which are ‘very of the moment’ in Bar Council and Law Society think tank rooms…

For corporate commercial lawyers, hinting at expertise in drafting, I have gone for the black coat and stockings look with a gold buckle on the shoes to hint subtly at considerable wealth.  You will note that our 21st century facing commercial lawyer eschews the iPad accessory for a hand made quill pen and parchment for added exclusivity and disbursements. Litigators tend to be the jack the lads of the legal world.  A red coat, tricorn hat – hinting at the triad of litigation: plaintiff, defendant and judge (noting the use of ‘plaintiff’) will give the modern litigator an edge and strike fear into the hearts of those new No Fee, No Win companies.  For partners, a  look being studied at Muttley Dastardly LLP by Dr Erasmus Strangelove, an understated elegant bit of haute couture.

For counsel…. I have really pushed the boat out with this very of the moment, very 21st Century Lady Gaga look… accessorized with a horsehair wig. I think it may catch on.

#LAWBLOG

I was not able to be on the panel at #lawblog last night and had to pull out, sadly, because of a nasty foot injury and the associated medications. I was disappointed.  It would have been a pleasure to meet all who attended.  I did enjoy the #lawblog tweets and, I understand, Adam Wagner of 1 Crown Office Row is planning to write it up and post a podcast recording.  It is good to see that blogging is alive and well.

See Adam’s post:

That was the future of legal blogging

Adam Wagner has followed up his earlier post with this….

A sense of doom is gripping the legal profession in the face of significant cuts to the justice system. Amongst other consequences, legal aid may soon be reformed almost out of existence, meaning that lawyers will face the double jeopardy of fewer clients and more nightmarish cases against litigants in person.

I was musing last night that I am not really a law blogger.  I blog about law, politics and anything that comes into my head, sober and over refreshed. I have no idea why I do… save that I do it for pleasure and hope that readers enjoy a mix.  I have decided that I may be (at times)  more of a hooligan law blogger.… I like to run onto the pitch and chuck the odd metaphorical bog roll at the profession or the crowd.  I may even take up streaking……

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