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Archive for March 30th, 2011

Blawg Review #304 – A very good one

Blawg Review #304 – A very good one

 

You don’t need to be a US lawyer to enjoy this excellent Blawg Review

Six years ago today, on March 28, 2005, a major earthquake registering 8.7 on the Richter Scale occurred off the coast of Sumatra, in Indonesia.  It came little more than three months following the horrific 9.1 quake and tsunami of December 24, 2003, and stood as the second strongest quake of the new century until it was surpassed by the Chilean earthquake of February, 2010 (8.8) and,  of course, the 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11 of this year.  In the midst of the unimaginable devastation of the quake and tsunami, enormous attention has also been turned toward the damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and the resulting releases of radioactive material.

It is that nuclear element that provides our theme today for the 304th edition of Blawg Review, because March 28 is a date of some significance in relation of Our Friend, the Atom, and to both the military and civilian uses of the power of nuclear fission……..

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MEMORANDUM EYES ONLY

To:  The Partners

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

RE: Retention of staff and human capital maximisation

Gentlemen,

1. I am reviewing currently our human operational asset base for the purpose of refreshing the stock. This also ties in with an assessment of productivity of junior associate staff.  I was much taken by an article in the Law Society Gazette of 30th inst by Tessa Armstrong, a Careers and Performance Coach, amusingly titled: Junior solicitors create more value, and make firms happier places.

2. Ms Armstrong clearly has the right attitude. She writes: “Increasing profitability is currently a number one priority. Everyone is pulling out all the stops to bring in work – and junior solicitors are an important resource who can help too, if attention is paid to their performance and motivation.”

Ms Armstrong then goes for it with this wonderful sentiment:

Through improving the productivity of junior solicitors, firms can achieve some great things including:

  • Accelerated progression of junior solicitors through increased resilience.
  • Increased commitment from staff.
  • Increased profitability through reduced risk of poor performance.

All that’s needed is to ensure the challenges your junior solicitors face are identified and resolved straightaway.

3.  Losing just an hour a day of a solicitor’s time at only £150 per hour for four years costs approximately £135,000. This caught my eye.  Our charge out rate is, of course, rather more generous to us, but the idea of such a loss over the four years we aim to retain newly qualified staff for, before assessing how ‘sticky’ they are in our terms, is a matter of some concern.   Ms Armstrong rehearses issues of feedback to staff and comes up with a list of stratagems for success: The usual guff about making lists, doing the least attractive task first, turning off mobiles etc etc etc.  This advice  is counter to our Blackops on twitter where we are  encouraging as many of our competitors as possible to waste industrial amounts of billable time by tweeting and faffing around on Linked In;  let alone our encouragement and promotion of RollonFriday.com – a wonderful resource, where young lawyers can really be distracted and, in some cases, even lose their sanity.   Ms Armstrong does, however, show qualities worthy of Muttley Dastardly LLP where she states “The outcome should be that junior solicitors will be happy, motivated and focused, the number of chargeable hours recorded will increase, and profits will rise.”

4. Retention of staff:  We have 12 associates in PQE4 coming up for review. Unfortunately, all of them are showing promise, all are performing to targets – our stratagem of having a P45 blown up to poster size, framed, and placed in the PQE4 Bunker, seems to have had a subliminal effect in these ‘difficult days’.  I plan, therefore, with your blessing, to cull this down to 8; to allow us to bring fresh and less expensive blood in by using a device (pictured above) which I recall using at school as a child.  To ensure fairness I shall make four such devices, to accommodate the names of the twelve associates, and I shall pick, at random, passages from Lord  Denning’s judgment in Hightrees, and when I get to the end of the passage – using one word for each hand manipulation of the aforementioned device –  for each of the four ‘devices’,  the name on the left quartile shall be the one chosen for dispersal to the legal diaspora. To ensure that this process is even more random, I shall close my eyes when I pick the device up to start the process of selection.

5.  May I remind Partners that we meet this Friday to consider our policy on No Win No fee in the light of the shocking news yesterday.  In case you missed it, here is an article in The Guardian which explains all: The cost of clamping down on ‘no win, no fee’ legal arrangements

Dr Erasmus Strangelove
Partner and Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops, Muttley Dastardly LLP

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

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The fall out from the demonstrations last Saturday continues. The Guardian reported on the extraordinary behaviour of the Police dealing with the UKUncut protesters at Fortnum & Mason.  It may well be that a charge of trespass will be upheld – Fortnum & Mason, it is reported, lost £80,000 in trade, but, so far, of the 149 charges brought against protesters, 139 charges  are from the Fortnum & Mason arrests and only 11 from those who committed assaults and acts of criminal damage outside and at other locations. MPs asked the Police for an explanation.

A lawyer at a leading civil liberties firm has expressed fears for the future of direct action protest after the mass arrest of UK Uncut activists during last Saturday’s anti-cuts demonstrations in London.

Matt Foot, a criminal defence solicitor at Birnberg Pierce, said the detention of 145 activists during an occupation of luxury food store Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly was “unprecedented”. He has questioned the police’s motivation.

The Guardian

It is clear from video footage that the police misled the Fortnum & Mason protesters by telling them they were free to leave and would not be ‘kettled’.  It may have been easier for the Police to arrest the protesters outside the ship, rather than inside, but I suspect this action will be a PR disaster for the police in terms of trust from those who protest peacefully?

Mr Raj Chada, a solicitor representing some of the protesters said: “The manner in which these arrests were carried out raises a number of serious questions. Is the act of conducting a peaceful sit-in protest now being treated as a criminal act? ….”

A fair point?

Independent press crucial to the administration of justice, says lord chief justice

Joshua Rozenberg, writing in The Guardian reports: An independent press is crucial to the administration of justice, the lord chief justice of England and Wales said during a lecture in Israel on Monday night. Lord Judge is known to be concerned at the risk of totalitarian governments being voted into power, a view reinforced by his visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of Nazi Germany.

“In a democratic society,” he said in an aside, “who knows what the will of the electorate may produce at any election?”

He added: “The independence of the judiciary and the independence of the media are both fundamental to the continued exercise – and, indeed, to the survival – of the liberties which we sometimes take for granted.”

I cannot imagine that many would disagree with this view.  It was interesting to read in The Sun this morning the continuing campaign of bile against lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke,.  The Sun has decided (along with The Daily Mail) that the war on drugs has to be won and is vilifying Clarke and The Sentencing Council for the soft approach being taken on sentencing drug dealers with ‘modest’ amounts of drugs;  preferring to concentrate on the producers and big dealers.

This prompted Matthew Norman in The Independent to ask if the right wing tabloids are running the country and if ministers will run scared – as they have often done in the past of offending the interests and wishes of the right wing press.

The primary issue here is one of political courage, or rather, its absence under fire. Any politician who dares to stand against the tabloids quickly undares

AND.. I am delighted to give a plug to this conference at the request of fellow twitter user @SundeepBhatia2, who is a pleasure to tweet with.

Minority Lawyers Conference & Awards 2011 “Diversity – Embracing change”

Details of the conference

The cost of clamping down on ‘no win, no fee’ legal arrangements

Neil Rose writes in The Guardian: Reform of the litigation system could see claimants lose significant portions of their awards and solicitors reluctant to take on complex cases

Ken Clarke’s announcement on Tuesday that the government is to reform the costs of civil litigation has been portrayed as a crackdown on lawyers’ fees. That always makes a pleasing headline but the reality is that the justice secretary wants the public to do it for him.

The main problem identified by the government and Lord Justice Jackson – the appeal court judge whose report underlies these proposals – is that the current “no win, no fee” system of conditional fee agreements (CFAs) means the client has no interest in how much their lawyer charges, because they will never have to pay any of it.

By making the lawyer’s success fee payable by the client rather than the losing defendant, that will clearly change, and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) expects competition to drive down prices.
***
I thought it not inappropriate, given the above, to thank one of my sponsors – who helps pay for all the free materials for students,  provided on my online magazine Insite Law – Thanks to Accident Advice Helpline

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