Archive for March, 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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Photos show US soldiers in Afghanistan posing with dead civilians

The Guardian: ‘Trophy’ pictures show US soldiers posing with corpses of Afghan civilians they are accused of killing for sport.

The face of Jeremy Morlock, a young US soldier, grins at the camera, his hand holding up the head of the dead and bloodied youth he and his colleagues have just killed in an act military prosecutors say was premeditated murder.

I don’t need to comment.


BUT… do have a look at…Hersch from New Yorker


The “Kill Team” Photographs


Thanks to @OldHoborn for the link today.  I can’t remember what OH said precisely… but it was something along the lines that *We have a problem when states start behaving like this*…. He is right.

And… on the theme of war….and violence…

Blawg Review #303

The peaceful march resulted in the death of 17 unarmed civilians at the hands of the Insular Police, in addition to some 235 wounded civilians, including women and children…….

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While debate will continue on the chances of getting a tenancy (and this is to be encouraged)  – the Bar has  always been a competitive profession (certainly in my time in legal education of 30 years) – this new initiative following Lord Neuberger’s Diversity report is a good one.

I am interested in becoming a barrister. Do you have more information?

This site is for you and anyone interested in a career at the Bar. A barrister is one of the most exciting and challenging careers you can find. However, it is competitive and requires hard work and intelligence, but anyone with these skills can succeed. There are barristers from all backgrounds and ethnicities in practice and you can find out more about this in the film – the Bar is open to all.

I enjoyed watching the films.  I hope this new website will succeed in persuading prospective law students – from all backgrounds – to think about a career at the Bar.

Have a look at the new Bar Council website for prospective barristers!

Professor Richard Moorhead has written on this issue. We have exchanged thoughts in the comments section.  I do hope the Bar Council puts the statistics (which are available on the main site) on this site.  I can see no reason for the Bar Council not to do so.

I do appreciate  Richard Moorhead’s point and it is a fair one – and the perspective of others on twitter this afternoon.  Be that as it may;   I am pleased to see an initiative which encourages students to have a look at the Bar as a career – it is not as it ‘may’ once have been.   It continues to be a very competitive profession. It is difficult to get in.. but at least the message is being put out that the difficulties do not include ‘background’.  I am happy to write a blog post in favour of that sentiment.

I also take the view, having enjoyed teaching students for many years, that students are not daft. Far from it.  If students don’t pick up on warnings on the Bar Council site, the law school sites and elsewhere, I would be surprised.  I can say that I did  have the pleasure of meeting a few lazy students but they weren’t daft either.   I suspect that some of them went into investment banking or showbiz!   It wouldn’t surprise me. 🙂

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At least there is a UN resolution… this time. We will know soon enough if the action today works.  The PR war begins…..

Sunday update….


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On Thursday afternoon, in a back room of Parliament, history was made.  A few MPs found themselves a backbone; they found a way in which they could exercise their Freedom of Speech and perform their ancient duty, drawn from the Bill of Rights 1688, of redressing the grievances of the citizens who rely on them.

Anna Raccoon,  Saturday 19th March

As Anna Raccoon said…. Google the Parliamentary report – no mention…. although, hopefully, Google will pick it up after Anna Raccoon’s blog post.

I will extract Anna Raccoon’s opening text...and ask you to read her post..and then invest a bit of time in reading the full Hansard report

Mr John Hemming, MP for Yardley in Birmingham, rose to his feet and used parliamentary privilege to list some of the secret prisoners, the people who have lost their liberty in the UK behind closed doors; the court orders which detail the secret injunctions – not for the benefit of footballers or bankers, (although it was the issue of Fred Goodwin’s secret injunction that allowed the debate to be heard), but the injunctions, not mere ‘super-injunctions’ that the media could not mention, but ‘hyper-injunctions’ which even prevented the aggrieved citizen from appealing to their MP for help.

Because we are allowed to speak of that which has been in Hansard, we can today speak of the misery of those whose lives have been turned upside down, in secret, with the added bonus of a special injunction from the judge which prevented them even turning to their MP.

The issue of superinjunctions (and hyperinjunctions) is important to the system of open justice we should enjoy in our country.

Ironically…The Master of The Rolls, Lord Neuberger, made a speech on this issue last week and is, fortunately, about to report on the whole issue of superinjunctions. Hopefully, the proceedings of parliament on The Bill of Rights and Mr John Hemming MP’s statements, recorded in Hansard, will be germane to his enquiry and report.  The issue is, of course, more complex than the debate reveals – and raises the issue of whether MPs should be above the laws while in Parliament. They may, of course, change the laws; but having made a law, is it right to evade it through use of privilege?  Surely, consideration should be given to changing that law?  This is noted in the report on the debate.  There may well be perfectly good reasons for protecting privacy and maintaining secrecy. Lord Neuberger’s speech is well worth reading.

See the full text of Lord Neuberger’s  speech: Open Justice Unbound?

The UK Human Rights blog has also commented…

…. as has the always precise Obiter J

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