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Archive for March 24th, 2011

I smiled wryly when I read this report from The Ministry of Justice website this evening. I smiled with some difficulty as problems from a very old head injury came home to roost this week and made it difficult for me to talk, let alone smile…  (Hence no ‘Without Prejudice’ podcast this week.  We shall resume next week.

Justice Minister Lord McNally is in Albania to formally launch an EU-funded twinning project between the countries’ probation services.

During the visit Lord McNally will emphasise the UK’s support for Albania’s ambitions to join the EU, but will stress that a strong, independent judicial system and respect for the rule of law are needed before this can happen.

I suspect that Lord McNally did not refer to the fact that to have a strong legal system a country needs to have a fairly strong base of legal aid – No fee, No win, can only do so much.  I suspect that Lord McNally did not refer to the fact that prisoner votes;  a matter of our government complying with a judgment of the ECtHR, made our prime minister ‘sick to his stomach’, and I suspect that Lord McNally did not refer to the difficulties his fellow minister, Mr Djanogly, is having – gleefully reported in Obiter in the Law Society Gazette.  (A rather amusing story) But…at least this ‘expedition’ was EU funded…..which will please the euro sceptics.  Perhaps a viewing of the latest drama from the BBC, Silk, would be in order… just to get things in apple pie order in legal terms?  (pic above left from Silk)

The Wikipedia entry provides an insight into Lord McNally’s background. As far as I can see from that – and I accept that Wikipedia is not an ‘authoritative source’ – Lord McNally does not appear to have much by way of political experience in the law, but that, in these ‘dark days’,  may NOT be a disadvantage when it comes to government policy –  as The Sun keeps on telling its readers when Ken Clarke comes out with a sensible proposal on reform which does not involve hanging, flogging, detention for life…etc etc.”.

Supreme Court New Appointments: Sumption and Wilson

Twitter was ablaze (at least in my time line) this evening with tweets about Jonathan Sumption QC leap frogging judges to ‘make legal history’ by being appointed direct to the Supreme Court from the Bar.  I can’t see that this is a bad thing – but on the matter of history –  the excellent UK Supreme Court blog points out that John Reid KC, a Scot, was appointed as a Lord of Appeal in 1948, having been the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and the Solicitor General for Scotland.  ( Sir Edward Carson KC and Cyril Radcliffe KC were appointed to the House of Lords direct from the Bar.)  Still no confirmation of the story as I write – but Joshua Rozenberg who did the first tweet this afternoon usually get its right.)

I did a brief post earlier about the BSB and the SRA wanting to bring in aptitude tests to ensure that students who are taken on by law schools at the LPC and BPTC stage are actually ‘apt’. I’m not going to rush into a response.  I want to think about this initiative.  The comments on the The Law Society Gazette article are most interesting and well worth a read.

The Law Society Gazette reported in February… “Lady Deech, chair of the Bar Standards Board, said the BSB would press ahead with its plans to introduce aptitude and English language tests for students before they can undertake the BPTC.

Deech said: ‘There are too many people on the course who shouldn’t be there. We need to give a signal to those who aren’t up to it that they’re wasting their money.’

Deech said language is a tool of the trade at the bar, and it is wrong to ‘let people loose on the public’ if they do not have sufficient English language skills.

She said: ‘If you’re tone deaf, don’t go to music school; if y­ou have two left feet don’t go to ballet school.’

I am doing a podcast with Baroness Deech in early April…. so there is a fair amount to discuss.

And… I did enjoy this from Charles Fincher Esq – a US lawyer and artist….

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Aptitude tests would be a positive step for BPTC and LPC students

The Law Society Gazette’s Rachell Rothwell reports….

“Earlier today, the Bar Standards Board announced a new timetable for its plans to introduce an aptitude test for the Bar Profession Training Course (BPTC), to give time for the results of its second pilot to be compared with actual BPTC results. A compulsory aptitude test will not be brought in until autumn 2012.

The Law Society’s training and education committee is also currently assessing the merits of an aptitude test for students on the LPC course….”

I am thinking about my sensible response to these proposals.  I shall do so and write shortly. I did think that a 1st class or upper second class  law degree ‘may’ be an indication of ‘aptitude’ – but, clearly, I am wrong on that. In the meantime….

Dr Strangelove of Muttley, Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops at Muttley Dastardly LLP said this today

“We welcome this initiative.  We have been reviewing, with some care, the astonishing articles on ‘diversity initiatives from the profession and press releases published with little adaptation(?)’ in the legal press recently, and the even more astonishing commentary from people who know little or absolutely nothing about the subject.  We have come to the conclusion that this could be a welcome fee earning opportunity.  After all…how difficult can it be to set up a course of instruction to teach people to pass an aptitude test?   I rather suspect that the legal education sector is salivating at the prospect?”

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Corporate lawyers are up in arms about a shift in the profession’s graduate recruitment strategy that could see them forced to mix with “riffraff”.

“I did not study at Oxford and the LSE to end up working with people who graduated from Leicester or Queen Mary,” wrote one person on legalweek.com in response to the news last week that magic circle outfit Freshfields is extending the number of universities from which it recruits…..”

Alex Aldridge, writing in The Guardianan extraordinary article about (some) City attitudes to diversity?

The Budget:  A summary

Cassons for Counsel: A summary of particular relevance to barristers and solicitors

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