Archive for June, 2011

Today I am talking to Peter Crisp, Dean of BPP Law School, part of BPP University College. We examine the diversity and funding issues which BPP Law School is addressing and consider the ‘privatisation’ of education generally, but with particular reference to legal education.

It is a wide ranging and robust  discussion.


Listen to the podcast


And…thank you to Cassons For CounselJustgodirect.co.uk and  David Phillips & Partners Solicitors , Contact Law UK Solicitors for sponsoring the podcast and the free student materials on Insite Law.



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Today I am talking to Julian Summerhayes – Julian describes himself thus on his website….”I am a non-practising solicitor with a passion for EXCELLENCE, social media, cyclist and a bookworm on all things related to business and personal development.”

We look at twitter, Linked-in and the pitfalls for lawyers using social media as part of their business development.  We also consider the changing face of legal practice and why lawyers may benefit from professional development education in fields other than law
Listen to the podcast


And…thank you to Cassons For CounselJustgodirect.co.uk and  David Phillips & Partners Solicitors , Contact Law UK Solicitors, Raleys Solicitors – a firm who specialise in hospital negligence claims    for sponsoring the podcast and the free student materials on Insite Law

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Today I am talking to Professor Gary Slapper, Director of the Law School at The Open University. We look at the relentless march towards privatisation in legal education, the Legal Aid reforms and briefly examine the criticism of Jeffrey Samuels QC in the Dowler case
Listen to the podcast


And…thank you to Cassons For CounselJustgodirect.co.uk and  David Phillips & Partners Solicitors , Contact Law UK Solicitors

for sponsoring the podcast and the free student materials on Insite Law

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Dear Reader,

I shall start my postcard this week with views on the Milly Dowler case – but without comment – save to say that I am interested to see what the Bar Council makes of the criticism in the mainstream media about the cross-examination by the defence Silk.

Some in the mainstream media (and others) seem to be taking the view that the Dowlers paid a high price for justice as their private lives were laid bare by the defence questioning.  Suzanne Moore has a view.

David Allen Green, wrote in the New Statesman…

Cross-examination on trial and the murder of Milly Dowler

What can be done to protect the dignity and privacy of witnesses?

Barrister @_millymoo, on her Beneath The Wig blog in an excellent analysis asks…

Justice: RIP?

AND…. rather more important to the whole field of criminal and civil justice – The legal aid cuts. 

Have a look at this remarkable provision from the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (HC Bill 205)

This… is very worrying…

Legal aid reform could end right to a free solicitor

The Observer: Law Society and former DPP Lord Macdonald voice alarm at proposal undermining ‘cornerstone’ of British justice

A “cornerstone” of the legal system, the universal right to a solicitor upon arrest, could be jettisoned in favour of means-testing under controversial plans drawn up by the Ministry of Justice.

Legal experts including Lord Ken Macdonald QC, a former director of public prosecutions, have expressed alarm at the proposal and questioned how it would work in practice.

Lord MacDonald stated “This is a critical part of the apparatus of protection that we have,” he said. “The presence of a lawyer doesn’t just protect the defendant from police, it protects the police from a defendant making up allegations about what happened, for instance during the course of an interrogation. I think the government should be very cautious about interfering in any way with the absolute right to representation in police stations. It’s there for a very good reason. When we didn’t have it, we saw the consequences.”

Most of us will not come into contact with the Police in our daily lives.  If we are the victims of crime, we will be grateful for such support as they can afford to provide.  Cast aside the usual  media storm of stories about ‘villains’ for one moment and bring cold reason to the issue. We need a responsible and honest police force.  We need a legal system which provides fair trials – and we need lawyers, prosecution and defence – both working to high ethical standards – to ensure that our freedoms are upheld and our interests are not suppressed to the often transient needs of those who govern. Ignore the hyperbole about ‘fat cat lawyers’, ‘bent and criminally inclined coppers’ and ‘prosecution minded / ECHR minded / out of touch judges’ – it costs money and if we aren’t prepared to spend that money – what price our freedoms?  What price or worth life in Britain?

This insertion, not much publicised (if publicised at all) into the new Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (HC Bill 205) is not encouraging and, hopefully, this specific provision about representation at the police station will be kicked into ‘the long grass’ along with a lot of other government proposals in recent months by the whirling dervishes who govern us (without, it has to be said, much experience of business, life, the universe et al)  at the very heart of power in this latest GOAT – government of all the talents.

I shall return on the morrow with something else to write about… no doubt.

Best, as always,


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Charon QC on Tea Making,  4th Supplement to the 29th Edition (Maninahat Press) £780 + VAT

“This inter-disciplinary and seminally important update to the 29th edition of this internationally acclaimed  tractatus from leading and  very contemporary law diva, Charon QC, explores the commoditisation of law students from the academic stage of legal education all the way through to the industrial tribunal when they are finally fired by their law firm as 50 year old partners. Given recent Government reviews and consultations, resulting in access to justice being withdrawn from all save for wealthy injunctioneers and footballers unable to engage their brains before exercising their membrum virilis, commoditisation of law students  is very much an issue exercising the public agenda and ‘direction of travel’ at present. Charon QC deftly  argues that most discourse in legal education, and indeed the profession, is driven by sociological perspectives  involving large amounts of  money.  His aim is to interrogate the supply and demand of paid work for law students through a wider range of disciplines including tea making, flipping burgers, flogging off Olympic memorabiliatat and sandwich boarding. This is laudable, as complex social issues like failed expectation demands a truly interdisciplinary analysis and given the broad range of opportunities now available to law students within law firms, other than actual employment as a lawyer,  Charon QC, remarkably, despite his fondness for the nectar of the gods, has succeeded in producing a largely coherent, integrated and well organised volume that should be of interest to a diverse readership.  We, at Muttley Dastardly LLP, are certainly interested in providing opportunities for highly qualified law students who understand the intricacies of the Japanese tea making ceremony or chadō (茶道) as The Partners at Muttley Dastardly call it.”

I commend this volume to the world urbi et orbi – a bodice ripper of a book from The Diva!

Dr Erasmus Strangelove MA  (Oxon), MBA, Ph.d, FRSA, Barrister, Director of Psyops, Education and Strategy, Muttley Dastardly LLP

Strength & Profits.


I am grateful to RollonFriday.com for their excellent article on….

Firm seeks law graduate to serve tea

A City law firm has announced a “great temporary opportunity'” for fresh-faced law graduates to, errr, work as catering staff.

The taxing role demands such skills as serving sandwiches to clients, helping out on reception and setting up afternoon tea. And even the ability to book a taxi. Who wouldn’t be interested? The unnamed firm is looking for someone to make an immediate start and interested candidates are asked get in touch with consultants Career Legal. Who wisely failed to reply to emails or pick up the phone when RollOnFriday got in touch with them….

Read more….

I shall return with Part II of Rive Gauche once I have seen my dentist.  I am taking along a copy of The Law of Medical Negligence in England and Germany by Stauch, to leave in my lap as he operates on me…. laters…

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Brian Inkster’s post on The Time Blawg continues to attract debate – with some amusing comments about the ‘flawgers’.  The post and the comments are worth a read.

The big story this week is about legal aid – or to be more precise, the lack of it.  Lucy Reed, best known to law bloggers as a family law barrister and author of Pink Tape writes in The Guardian:

Ignore the warnings about legal aid changes and risk meltdown in courts

The Guardian: It is easy for politicians to dismiss lawyers as self-seeking fat cats, but their concerns should be listened to.

Just like many of my clients, this government cannot see the wood for the trees and that leads to bad decision-making and greater cost to families. They should listen to legal advice and to public opinion, as they appear to have done in respect of sentencing. There may be short-term savings, but there will be long term costs.

Rather than comment on legal aid myself at this stage – let me provide a few links to some good articles from Guardian Law on the subject: Kenneth Clarke’s legal aid cuts deemed a ‘slap in the face’ for ordinary familiesSo we can’t afford legal aid? Look at the costs without itLegal aid and sentencing bill – Tuesday 21 June 2011

David Allen Green, writing in the New Statesman: Legal aid and civil justice

The Law Society is taking the matter seriously.  Catherine Baksi of The Law Society Ggazette:   We did listen on legal aid, Djanogly insists – but Law Society’s Lee vows to fight on ‘every clause’

The UK Human Rights blog: Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill – the aftermath | Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill published

Obiter J: The “Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill” – A Quick Glance – a lot to look at and much unhappiness

“They say ignorance is bliss.. they’re wrong”: The European arrest warrant

I am not a fan of the European arrest warrant – a device to allow politicians to ease the passage of European prosecution with little in the way of judicial oversight.  Reform, hopefully, is on the way – with, as a bare minimum (hopefully), judges in this country having to be satisfied that there is a case to answer before approving it.

Duncan Campbell, writing in The Guardian, states:  “The conclusion of the report today by the all-party joint committee on human rights (JCHR), that both the European arrest warrant (EAW) and the current US-UK extradition treaty are flawed, is extremely welcome.The EAW was first introduced at the beginning of 2004 as a way of expediting the extradition across European borders of wanted criminals and those who had fled countries rather than stand trial for serious offences. That was its intention, anyway, and it is fair to say that, on many occasions, it has been very helpful in the speedy capture of violent and dangerous people who have sought to avoid a country’s justice by hiding abroad. The British police, in particular, have found it invaluable in hoisting back some of the wide boys who have been on the run on the Spanish costas.However, as Fair Trials International (FTI) has been arguing for some years now, the EAW has turned out to be a very blunt instrument….”

Read the full article….

Politicians operate on the premise that the judicial systems of ‘Europe’ are all equal and all equally fair and just.  This may or may not be the case.  I don’t know.  I am not an expert in the legal systems of all the European states.  I am, however,  very much in favour of reform of the EAW to ensure proper judicial oversight in this country of all police (and other applications) for arrest of our nationals and others resident in the UK before extradition to another European country.  For the same reason (the Gary McKinnon case comes to mind) also in relation to our extradition arrangement with the USA et al.

A quick look at some legal blogs…

I mentioned the latest UK Blawg Roundup in a post the other day – but it is worth a second mention.  It is good to see more law bloggers in the Uk putting pen to paper – even if this indirectly enhances their ‘business’ – and there are some good posts noted in Tessa Shepperson’s very thorough review: UK Blawg Roundup #7 – and the future of legal blogging

After the serious posts above… a bit on the lighter side to end this law review post….

Magic Circle Minx asks:  Dear Doctor, Can You Help Me Find My Inner Legal Bitch?

Pic credit….and an explanation….

I rather like the new ‘craze’ for planking.  In fact, I am almost tempted to have a go at some ‘planking ‘ myself in Battersea Square to see how that goes down at my early morning breakfasts at Mazar

Babybarista picks up on the trend… Planking in court

White Rabbit – always a blog worth visiting, commented on my fairly serious post on legal education yesterday: These men will eat you for lunch?: Too many lawyers – The unrelenting march to the privatisation of legal education

For as long as I can remember – now far too bloody long – the legal profession has been howling “no room!” in the manner of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. However it is plain that young wannabe lawyers are either being sold a false prospectus as to their chances or are taking no notice or a bit of both.

The aptitude test sounds beyond parody. I look forward to setting up a course on how to pass it, thus enriching myself ;)

And.. finally…  always a pleasure to draw your attention to the amusing drawings (and sharp observations)  of fellow blogger  US lawyer and artist Charles Fincher


Delighted to give a thanks to a sponsor for helping to cover the costs of all the free materials for students on Insite Law – thanks to www.nationwideinjurylawyers.co.uk

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Soon, it will be the season for chucking mortar boards into the air as law students celebrate their success in securing the all important First or 2.1 degree to qualify them to join an ever growing list of contributors to the profits of the vocational law schools and join a list of highly qualified ‘legal technicians’, working for little above the minimum wage, if they can’t get that all important training contract or pupillage.

Professor Richard Moorhead, Cardiff Law School – a leading provider of the LPC – has argued that the over supply of LPC students is a temporary phenomenon.  He may well be right.  The data held by the law schools and the profession does not appear to be 100 ‘proof’ on this?

If Professor Moorhead is right, the legal profession is being remarkably short sighted should an upturn come in the economy within the next few years.  We may see a re-run of the scramble for young qualified lawyers of twenty years ago.

Paradoxically however, if Professor Moorhead is right, The Law Society and The Bar Standards Board are now investigating the issue of introducing an aptitude test for would be practitioners to stem the flow.  Quite apart from the potential redundancy of such a stunt – some would argue that a First or 2.1 in law demonstrates aptitude – such a test will add a further layer and  barrier to already burdened law students, potentially act as a barrier to their much vaunted diversity programmes and provide yet another opportunity for the law schools to provide assistance with ‘How To Pass The Aptitude test’ courses?

Reading Neil Rose’s article in The Guardian, where he argues that the profession will need more than an aptitude test to stem the flow of applicants for the profession, I was quite taken with one of the commenters who suggested that the law schools should only get their fee for tuition when the student obtains a training contract or pupillage.  One can almost see cornflakes or coffee being coughed all over the computer screen by law school CEOs if they bother to read such articles and comments.

See also: Professor Richard Moorhead – Should the Profession abandon its search for the G-spot? Aptitude Tests (Again)

The problem continues….

More good news for commentators on legal education?  The Guardian carried an article yesterday that BPP University College is in the frame to “launch a bid to run 10 publicly funded counterparts and  also plans to increase its own student intake tenfold by undercutting fees at public universities from next year.” I shall be returning to this issue when I do a podcast with Peter Crisp, CEO of BPP Law School, on Friday.   The comments to the BPP story in The Guardian are most interesting.  Carl Lygo, CEO of BPP Holdings PLC, (pictured) will, no doubt, address the concerns of many commenters who are, perhaps, not quite so enthusiastic about this ‘plan’.

I’ll return to this latter issue when I have done my podcast with Peter Crisp.

The privatisation of legal and other education is underway.  Is this a good thing?  I suspect that many will take the view that it is not.  For the present, my own view is that the private education providers still need to consolidate their own reputations and ensure that their backers have the quality and resources to handle further development before rushing off to market and demonstrate how it should be done to the public sector.  You may be sure of one thing – they are on the way to increasing their reach into legal and other education for profit. Their profit. But that is how business works is it not?

I remember a front cover some years ago from Legal Business picturing well scrubbed lawyers on the front cover with the caption “These men will eat you for lunch”.  Mr Lygo has that lean and hungry look about him –  and, I suspect,  he knows how to do it!

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