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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Dear Reader,

I bowled a couple of bouncers on twitter last night when I asked if law blogging was becoming less gentleman/womanly with law bloggers broadcasting rather than ‘engaging’ and not linking to other blogs as much as they used to do.  Certainly, there are more law blogs than some years ago – a positive development – but are these blogs ‘out for themselves for business purposes’ or are they part of a wider collective of information sharing?

Brian Inkster considers the ‘elephant in the room’ in a very good blog post which has attracted many comments – all interesting. I’m not interested in the ‘Flawgs’ – blogs which merely highlight the brilliance of the law firm along the lines of *I was sorry to hear that Mount Etna killed thousands in Pompeii in AD 79 (substitute the latest disaster to taste)  – meanwhile, if you need advice on conveyancing, personal injury or will drafting etc etc …contact us at…*

The law tweeters I follow on twitter,  who also blog,  are good at assisting other law bloggers with links in their blog posts to other law bloggers and the occasional RT on twitter.  I don’t blog or do podcasts for business purposes. I do it for pleasure. I am delighted to have the support of advertisers on Insite Law for my free student materials project and I am more than happy to assist lawyers and others who assist students by sponsoring the odd podcast or blog post, and I am always receptive to assisting where I can by promoting interesting legal developments, pro bono projects and the profession and academe generally.  I have no difficulty whatsoever with law bloggers enhancing  their professional and business reputations by blogging – provided they engage, share their expertise and provide good analysis for all.  The bloggers in my blogroll and the lawyers I follow on twitter do this. I don’t bother to read the broadcast law blogs or tweets.

A quick look at BlawgReview – an excellent resource for US and other law bloggers – and the recent   UK Blawg Roundup #7 will give you an idea of how law bloggers can assist each other by promoting good blogging. I’ve done six BlawgReviews – and enjoy doing them.  My most recent was UK centric.

I shall return later in the day….

Best, as always… I raise my glass to law bloggers this week…. Sláinte

Keep batting!


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It has been quite a week, so I thought a casual romp through some of the legal stories of the week, without too much analysis, would be a fine way to spend a rainy Friday night at my desk…

Barrister, Felicity Gerry took Joshua Rozenberg to task for his comment on the Facebook Contempt trial.

The night before the sentence, the issue of the right to trial by jury was hotly debated on twitter after Joshua Rosenberg’s article in The Guardian asked the question “Whom would you prefer to be judged by – a highly trained, publicly accountable circuit judge? Or 12 people like Joanne Fraill?” It was a dangerous and unsubtle attack on the jury system which will fuel those in civil service policy units with their eyes on their pay cheque rather than justice.

I have to say that I was a bit baffled by Rozenberg’s comment and analysis in The Guardian.  While the celebrated graffiti comment on the (urban mythical?) custody suite wall “I am about to be tried by 12 people too stupid to avoid jury service” is amusing;  most of the criminal practitioners I have spoken to are supporters of the jury system, as I am, despite its occasional flaws.  I rather like the idea also that a jury has the right to declare a verdict which lawyers and judges may deem perverse.   I commented briefly on the Facebook trial yesterday and provided a link to an interesting speech on the Jury by Lord Judge   yesterday.  Also – rather insulting to the many jurors who take their responsibilities seriously?

RollonFriday continues to find the good stuff and bring it to the table: Exclusive – West End firm offers law school grads just £6.10 per hour

There was more evidence of the woes in the legal graduate recruitment market this week, with news that a London law firm is offering a job to law school graduates at just £6.10 an hour.

Kyriakides & Braier has exacting standards, mind you. Applicants for the “legal administrative position” should have at least a 2:1 in their degree and a minimum of a commendation in their LPC. Even Slaughter and May doesn’t insist on that when taking on trainees at £38,000 a year. The rewards for such endeavour are just two pence an hour above than the new minimum wage that will come into force later this year, and £2.20 an hour below what the Mayor of London describes as the London Living Wage. The firm would have to pay an extra £3.40 an hour for someone to clean its offices. Bah, humbug.

The UKSC blog, an excellent analysis resource for all matters relating to the United Kingdom Supreme Court – a blog unlikely to be read by Scotland’s First Minister? –  has a fascinating post on Lady Hale’s views on the ECHR: Lady Hale: Beanstalk or living instrument, how tall can the ECHR grow?

Last night Lady Hale gave the 2011 Barnard’s Inn Reading, entitled ‘Beanstalk or living instrument,  how tall can the ECHR grow?’During the lecture she explored the theme of legal evolution and the manner in which Convention rights have been reinterpreted in order to reflect changing social mores. In particular she examined four areas in which the changing interpretation of Convention rights is more problematic:

(a) the interpretation of the ‘autonomous concepts’ in the Convention; (b) the implication of further rights into those expressed; (c) the development of positive obligations; and (d) the narrowing of the margin of appreciation permitted to member states’……

Neil Rose of Legal Futures, always on the money when it comes to looking at legal practice, writes: Sell, sell, sell – what In-Deed tells us about law firm flotation

I don’t know much about the financial markets – that’s one of the many reasons I became a solicitor donkey’s years ago. So I don’t quite get how a company like online conveyancing business In-Deed, which with the best will in the world is currently little more than an idea, can float on AIM, have a market capitalisation of £8.6m and within a couple of days see its share price rise a third, from 42p to 56p. The service only actually launched last month.

To my uneducated eye, it looks like a considerable gamble to invest in an untested business model, however pukka the people behind it may be.

Well worth a read…..

Meanwhile John Hyde, writing in the Law Society Gazette writes:  DLA Piper boss’s warning for legal sector

The head of global legal giant DLA Piper warned this week that a ‘paradigm shift’ is about to hit the sector.

Sir Nigel Knowles (pictured), joint chief executive of the firm, predicted many firms will flounder in the next 10 years after alternative business structures (ABSs) arrive in October.

‘They (ABSs) are going to kill off the commodity firms at the bottom of the food chain. I don’t think they have any inkling of what is going to happen to them – competition will intensify and it will have a knock-on effect,’ he declared….


Well… I did say that it would be a romp..and romping they were at Royal Ascot yesterday…  The Sun… nails it

It’s all kicked toff at Ascot

Three years ago… how time flies…. I wrote about Royal Ascot…. in my slightly surreal West London Man series….  Not much has changed.

West London Man is returning very soon… if you fancy a look at the first 25 episodes of a modern day Rake’s Progress through the English social season… here it is.. with some bizarre podcasts and sound effects…

Back tomorrow…

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Today, Lord Judge, Chief Justice of England & Wales, jailed the juror who committed contempt in the ‘Facebook Contempt’ case.

Sky news reports: “Solicitor General Edward Garnier QC, who presented the case in person, added: “Jurors should take careful note and know that the law officers will prosecute those who commit contempt.

“The jury system is a cornerstone of our society and confidence in this vital part of our criminal justice system will crumble if jurors do not take their responsibilities seriously.”

There can be little doubt that Mrs Fraill broke the oath taken by all jurors, disregarded the trial judge’s instruction regarding the use of the internet and, as Lord Judge observed, went further in her dealings with a former defendant than concerned compassion.  Her activities led to a re-trial in a multi-million pound drugs case.  She pleaded guilty and received a sentence of eight months.

Lord Judge gave an interesting speech recently on the subject of the Jury, the internet, the use of twitter et al.  Some may argue, with some reason, that Lord Judge, in the light of his statements in the speech,  should not have tried this particular issue. I don’t have a particular problem with that – but it may be raised, should there be an appeal?

I may return to this topic when I have had more time to think about the issues.  Others will be writing on the matter, without doubt.

In the meantime – the First Minister of Scotland is digging a deeper and deeper hole with his ‘observations’ on the relationship between Scots Law and The United Kingdom Supreme Court and his personal attacks on senior judges.

This joint statement is of particular interest:

Responding to recent comments from the First Minister; Richard Keen, dean of the faculty of advocates and Cameron Ritchie, president of the Law Society of Scotland have today issued a joint statement.  The Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act 2008 makes the position clear.

“The independence of our judicial system and the need to respect the rule of law are fundamental aspects of Scottish society, as they must be of any democratic society. This is affirmed by the Judiciary and Courts (Scotland) Act, an Act of the Scottish Parliament which obliges the First Minister and the Justice Secretary to uphold the independence of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom .

“Our judges must be free to decide cases independently, according to law and upon evidence. Any attempt to influence the outcome of litigation by reference to political wishes or a politician’s perception of popular opinion is a challenge not only to the courts but to the rule of law.

“The Scottish Government talks about the unintended consequences of establishing the UK Supreme Court. The First Minister and the Justice Secretary need to carefully reflect on the consequences of what are perceived to be repeated and now highly personal attacks on respected members of the legal profession. Such comments contribute nothing to any sensible debate on how best to provide a justice system that properly and effectively meets the needs of our changing society.”

You may also wish to read this remarkable interview… for the full story on Mr Salmond’s views.

My thanks to @Loveandgarbage for keeping me up to date with these remarkable ‘goings on’ north of the border.

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Juror prosecuted for contempt in Facebook case is ‘distraught’

The Telegraph: The first juror ever to face prosecution for contempt of court involving the internet was ”distraught” today as she came before the Lord Chief Justice. The Telegraph notes that she had formally admitted contempt of court.

Adam Wagner at the UK Human Rights blog commented on the case yesterday and reminded readers of the need for bloggers and tweeters to be particularly careful to avoid prejudicing a fair trial.   Adam Wagner noted : “According to The Telegraph, the Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge is expected to issue “tough new” guidelines on internet use by jurors. That sounds sensible to protect the trial system, but also from the jurors’ perspective it is important that the rules are clear and unambiguous. That said, some jurors may still choose to ignore them. After all, the judge in this case gave a warning not to use the internet to research the trial.”

The trial against a juror continues.  Obiter J picked up a press report which underlines the importance of contempt proceedings:  “The Times on 13th June claimed to have found 40 examples of public postings and statements from jurors.  These included a juror (trying a case of sexual assault) who used Facebook to ask her friends for advice about the verdict.  She was removed from the jury.  Other comments could be interpreted as a bias against the defence – e.g. one juror is said to have posted – “stuck in jury duty haha … Defo Guilty.”

The UK Human Rights blog continues to develop and the latest resource is an excellent  UK Human Rights Blog case table

Obiter J continues with his interesting series on English Legal History: Explaining our Law and Legal System … No.3 … The Judges

John Bolch of Family Lore writes: @familylaw: Two thousand followers can’t be wrong… –  “Family Lore Focus is essentially a site that aggregates freely available family law content from the web, including news, cases, statutory instruments, articles, podcasts and blogs.”  A useful resource for those in the family law world.

Tim Bratton, GC of The FT and author of The Legalbratlawblog has an interesting post: The case for self-regulation of social media

The Bizzle has a most amusing post this week:  How aliens can help you write off your debts. I enjoyed reading this… but a word of warning… there are lizards who think they run the world.

Informm’s blog: News: Joshua Rozenberg Interviews Mr Justice Eady

Here’s something you won’t believe from Neil Rose at Legal Futures: “Complaints are a law firm’s best source of market intelligence. I’ve heard this said countless times in recent years, previously by the Legal Complaints Service and its many forebears, and now by the Legal Services Board (LSB). “Many lawyers are missing the chance to learn from substantial numbers of consumers who make a complaint,” said LSB chief executive Chris Kenny last week. It may well be true. But hardly any lawyer believes it…..”

David Allen Green, writing in the New Statesman has a very sharp and precise article on an extraordinary arrest.  Police buffoonery, incompetence or all three?  I asked on twitter yesterday.  Judge for yourselves. 

And the legal profession just keeps giving… or, in this case, taking.

Scandal in the City as string of top lawyers face financial investigation

Alex Aldridge in The Guardian: Does the sacking of Christopher Grierson over £1m in false expenses reflect a wider moral malaise among City lawyers?

No one knew Grierson, 59, was also busy amassing a total of £1m in false expenses, pocketing an annual £250,000 over a four year period.He did so mainly by booking flights on his credit card and claiming the value back from the firm – although they were subsequently cancelled.

Apparently, Grierson was earning £830,00 per annum.  He need an extra £250,000 pa,  it would seem. When caught, he was able to pay £1 million back.  I marvel at the sheer stupidity and greed. Apparently there are more  solicitors in The City awaiting investigation.

I enjoyed an amusing ten minutes or so this morning exchanging cliches with fellow tweeters.  The latest cliche – The direction of travel – which I am almost certain our prime minister Camcorderdirect is responsible for, started me off.  But I was not alone.  I was advised that John Rentoul of The Independent  had written an excellent piece on the topic of cliches – adding ‘evidence based’ to his list of bêtes noires – and ‘was on the case’: One man’s war on clichés (does what it says on the tin)

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Dear Reader,

Perhaps it is my Scots background;  years of running around the Perthshire countryside at school… pointlessly… in thin cotton running shorts and a tight singlet designed to reveal muscles and six-pack ; a duty which I now leave to others – but I enjoy the rain, the bleak landscape, storms.  And, as I write, Battersea-on-Thames looks not unlike the quickly cobbled together watercolour sketch above.  Not keen to stand on Battersea Bridge like some latter day James Abbott McNeill Whistler, whose statue is on the Chelsea side of Battersea Bridge near where I used to live on a houseboat, a quick pic pointing to the West up river as ‘a reference’ was the lazy painter’s way of ‘capturing the soul’ of an afternoon at The Staterooms.

And, this said, I now write from the comfort of my desk in the bay window overlooking the Thames.  The ducks, having returned from a rave, carrying mineral water in bottles and quacking quickly earlier in the day, are now reflecting and I have a glass of Italian Shiraz from Puglia to my left.

BAILII is a remarkable resource.  I use it extensively and the free books for students on Insite Law make use of many of their cases. As Nick Holmes wrote on The Free Legal Web: “BAILII is fundamental to free access to UK law. It’s future is in jeopardy. A major funder has decided not to continue funding BAILII, and there is uncertainty about the continuing provision of funding by other major funders.”

Have a look at the BAILII funding page for details. I shall certainly be asking my advertisers on Insite Law if they will be prepared to accept a modest increase on already inexpensive advertising to assist this valuable project.

A BIT OF LAW before the Shiraz kicks in and my mind wanders and wonders….

Lord Justice Stephen Sedley has written an excellent piece on …

The Goodwin and Giggs Show

For more than three hundred years the UK’s constitution has functioned remarkably well on the basis of the historic compromise reached in the course of the 17th century. The 1689 Bill of Rights forbade the impeachment or questioning of parliamentary debates and proceedings ‘in any court or place out of Parlyament’. Parliament in return has made it a rule, enforced until now by the speakers of both Houses, that it will not interfere with the decisions of the courts, whether by anticipating their judgments or by attacking them. If Parliament does not like what the courts do, it changes the law…

Well worth a read…..

I am grateful to The Solicitors Journal for alerting us all to this law intel: “Lord Justice Thomas has been promoted to president of the Queen’s Bench Division. Sir Roger John Laugharne Thomas QC, 63, is currently vice president of the QBD and will replace Sir Anthony May at the start of the new term in October.”

Lord Phillips, when Lord Chief Justice, said of Thomas: “Margaret Thatcher once famously said of William Whitelaw ‘everyone needs a Willie’. David Neuberger suggested to me that every Lord Chief Justice needs a John Thomas.”

Illness made it impossible for me to do our fortnightly Without Prejudice podcast last Thursday.  But, regular participant David Allen Green was on the airwaves in a most enjoyable episode of Law in Action.  Well worth a listen. (Available for 26 days as at the date of writing Super Injunctions 7 June 11)

Barrister and former MP, Jerry Hayes, has an excellent piece in Total Politics (pic credit): “Forget the predictable tabloid outrage about Ken Clarke’s sentencing proposals. The real problem the justice secretary needs to tackle is the effect of the cuts to the justice system, says Jerry Hayes…..”

The trouble is that the MoJ was created in its present form purely as a power base and ego massager of that old Gromyko of Labour politics, Jack Straw. For reasons beyond modern psychiatry, the hopelessly inadequate Jacqui Smith was appointed Home Secretary. Straw took all the best bits, and created a massive department with over 80,000 civil servants. And it just doesn’t work.

An excellent read…


Unlawfully Detained!

Anna Raccoon writes: “Last year I reported extensively on the case of Steven Neary, a 20 year old autistic man. At the time, only Private Eye had taken any interest in Steven’s ‘case’ and a friend of his Father’s asked me if I would promote the case on this blog, given my interest in Court of Protection matters.  The main stream media, despite many approaches, were monumentally uninterested in Steven’s plight……

The High Court today have ruled that they UNLAWFULLY DETAINED Steven and UNLAWFULLY deprived him of his LIBERTY for a full year.”

Anna Raccoon did a remarkable job in drawing attention to this.  The mainstream media are now rushing to claim credit for breaking the story – and Anna notes… are checking her back story!

I will say this – with care and deliberation:  I posted about Anna Raccoon’s story on my blog to try and help publicise it.  I did note, as many law bloggers do, that there are often two sides to every story. [Law Review: Words fail me – a truly shocking story – please read and publicise ]  I was criticised by some law bloggers for doing so – with some guff about  ‘both sides’,  ‘evidence based analysis’ and other ‘advice’ being given to me unasked. I asked some law bloggers if they would be prepared to blog about this to publicise it.  They declined.  Their call.  Their right.
Sometimes, law and other bloggers just have to take a stand – as Anna Raccoon did – and write.  After all… any bloody idiot can write about an event and take a view when the judgment is out.  Lawyers do that all the time. Bravo Anna!

ON a lighter note…..  John Bolch wrote in his Family Lore  blog that I am to be involved in the Olympic Torch relay for 2012….  Yeah, right!

Well.. the rains have stopped… for the moment.  I think a quick glass at the caff.  I shall return…. later.

Best, as always


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Today I am talking to Professor Gary Slapper, Director of the Law School at The Open University.  We look at some topical matters relating to legal education, the reforms being considered by the profession, the influence of the big vocational law schools  on legal education syllabuses and teaching and the recent announcement by Professor A C Grayling of the New College for Humanities.


It is a wide ranging discussion, noting the influence of the big vocational schools, BPP University College and The College of Law, on legal education.
Listen to the podcast

My post on the New College of Humanities


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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Frothing at the mouth from bloggers, pundits and others – whether they know what they are talking about or not –  is always amusing, because it tends to lead to polemic at best, ranting at worst.

1.  By a website in writing, dated June 2011, The New College of Humanities (“New Chums” HT to Timothy Pitt-Payne QC) announced their intention to give birth to a “new concept in university-level education. It offers education in excellence and an outstanding academic environment in the heart of London. The College was founded by 14 of the world’s top academics.”

2.  “New Chums” will be financed by a £10 million investment.

(i) “SOME of Britain’s most celebrated academics have secured almost £10m in a private placement to launch a for-profit university that will charge £18,000 a year in tuition fees.”

(ii) “Cavendish Corporate Finance ran the private placing, which attracted investments from individuals and family funds. There are around 30 investors in the venture, including Grayling and most of the academics. The biggest investor is a family trust, which has a 35 per cent stake.” (City AM: New private university in £10m placing )

3. “New Chums” offers – quoted from their website:

  • preparation for a University of London degree, plus the Diploma of New College
  • a staff-student ratio better than 1:10
  • personal attention and one-to-one tutorials
  • richer course content and increased student-staff interaction
  • academic depth combined with practical career skills

Your choice of subjects includes Economics, Law, History, Literature and Philosophy. New College offers the highest-quality education, open to all through scholarships and bursaries.”

These are the basic facts.  Here are a few more ‘facts’:

[a]  The University of London has been providing external degrees – making education accessible to a very wide constituency and demographic – since 1858.   I have been involved in legal education since 1979.  For 12 years I had the pleasure of teaching many thousands of students from all walks of life and from 15 countries worldwide; teaching towards the University of London LLB degree under the auspices of The External Programme.   Our students, in fact, took many of the top London University places and prizes during this period.  The courses were run by Holborn Law Tutors (Now Holborn College), a private company.  We did make a profit – but the fees were not extravagant by today’s standards.

[b] “New Chums” will be providing tuition for the very well regarded London University degrees.  The high fees are a different issue – but there can be no doubting the quality of the degree which the students will receive if they satisfy the demanding examiners.  I express a personal view, from my own experience, that there is only one category of London University degree.  There is, I am still advised, no such thing as an ‘External” degree at London.  The fact that students study online, remotely, or at a private college does not alter the fact that they are awarded a London University degree.  I would also add, that in my opinion, London University degrees are hard and do not appear to have been affected by the ‘degree inflation’ endemic in other parts of our legal education system. It is difficult to get a First  or Upper Second on a London University degree by study outside the traditional University of London Colleges – and, I suspect, within the London colleges, also.


First up… David Allen Green, blogging at his excellent Jack of Kent blog:  AC Grayling’s Folly

Professor AC Grayling, a philosopher, has founded a College to teach the humanities to “gifted” undergraduates.

The college will be situated in Bloomsbury, just by the British Museum. It has already selected a “Professoriate” who will supposedly give over 100 lectures a year, notwithstanding almost all of them are academics at foreign universities.

In my view, almost everything about this College is an affront to the critical thinking and evidence-based approach that such an establishment should promote.

It is, in short, a sham.

I don’t agree with David Allen Green  (DAG) and dissect his propositions, seriatim:

1. First, it is not even a College in any meaningful sense.

DAG suggests that by teaching to a London University degree that “New Chums” is not a college.   This proposition is easy to deflect.  “New Chums” will be run on college lines, as many other universities and colleges are, public or private. This is clear from the website.  We have several private universities/colleges  in the UK:  Buckingham University and BPP University College, to name but two in the field of law. Both are extremely successful and well regarded by many.  DAG goes on to support his proposition that the college is not a college by virtue of the students paying £18,000 at “New Chums” when they could get the same degree for much less (£1000-£2000)  I fail to see how this logic makes “New Chums” any less of a college than others.  The teaching fee is, I admit, pacy.  I will address this issue below.

2. Who will these “gifted” students be taught by?

DAG notes that students may well not get much ‘face time’ from the ‘professoriate’ and puts the boot in with a subtle, undermining, side comment..“In law, the two listed professors are not even authorities in any of the seven core LLB courses.”

Given the fairly substantial funding (I return to this later) and the reputation of the ‘founders’, I have no doubt at all that “New Chums” will be able to attract first class teachers on a part-time or full-time basis from some of our top universities.  I had no difficulty at all attracting first rate academics and practitioners in 25 years of running the academic side at Holborn and then, in the 1990s, at BPP  Law School.  In fact, 35+ current members of the Bar who are now practising Silks (QCs) taught at Holborn and/or BPP when they were younger. I also enjoyed the pleasure of working with some superb academic lawyers from leading universities who taught part-time at my colleges.  Professor Ewan Mckendrick –  a major player in the field of Contract law, now of Oxford, to name but one.   I would argue that the second proposition, therefore, may be dispensed with.  “New Chums” will be able to attract good teaching staff.

I have never taken the view that the presence of ‘stellar professors’ is essential to the success of a law (or other degree) school if the teaching staff know what they are doing and have the right skills and qualifications (and enthusiasm).  I suspect that the ‘stellar professors’ will make a good contribution but are unlikely to be right at the heart of day to day teaching and liaison with their students.

3. And what does it mean to be “gifted”?

DAG puts the proposition that being ‘gifted’ may merely involve the ability to pay the substantial fees.  I suspect that “New Chums” will exercise fairly stringent admissions criteria to ensure the quality of cohort.  I would be surprised if they take all who can simply pay. That would not make ‘business sense’ given their philosophical foundation for the ‘model’.  This latter, does not connote support for their philosophy.

DAG then puts the point:  “Almost all the contentions made on the College’s website are misconceived, or do not seem to be substantiated”

My response to this is that they may be ‘misconceived’  in his world view, a view which he is entitled to hold and put forward, but they are all capable of being substantiated. I can’t find much to quarrel with on the “New Chums” website in terms of what they promise and can deliver.  It seems to be fairly well laid out and clear. DAG is correct when he asserts that the students will have to come from a privileged background.  The fees of £18,000 per annum are high.

Let me put this proposition:  A bright student, from a privileged background, can’t get into Oxbridge or other top Russell Group University.  Given the difficulties faced by students from less highly regarded universities in getting a training contract or pupillage, they may well be attracted by getting a first class legal education from “New Chums” and getting a highly regarded London university degree – even if they have to pay through the nose to get it – at no cost to the taxpayer. If they can afford it – and that is a different moralo-ethical issue – why would they go to a less well regarded university where the degree won’t have the currency or regard with employers or Chambers as a University of London degree?

I don’t, for the reasons above, agree that this is AC Grayling’s folly.  I would prefer to see a new college giving very high quality tuition to a wider constituency at a lower price – but I have no real difficulty in saying that this is a venture which is likely to succeed – at no cost to the taxpayer –  but one which will raise many hackles from those, including myself, who prefer education to be provided by the state.  Unfortunately, the state can no longer afford to provide cheap education but that fact should not, of itself, prevent private investors coming into the market.

Professor Grayling, his ‘professoriate’ and their investors may make a complete hash of it. They may not.  I suspect that £10 million will not be enough.  The burn rate will be ‘stellar’.  Finally, I doubt, given my own experience in legal education over thirty years, that a law school can be profitable on anything under 250-300 students at £18,000. I understand that the plan is for the cohort to be rather lower in numbers.   This may not be a wise decision given the very real economics of running law schools  We shall soon see. I suspect the financial and legal press will be watching closely.


AC Grayling’s private university accused of copying syllabuses

This was amusing to read.  The point has been missed.  “New Chums” are not plagiarising.  They are merely publishing the University of London syllabuses they are teaching to.  Other colleges which teach to University of London degrees do exactly the same.

Give AC Grayling’s new college a chance

Sarah Churchwell in The Guardian:  Critics want to tar and feather the New College for the Humanities’ academics, but this experiment may work

Sarah Churchwell’s article is worth a look.

We will be discussing this issue on #WithoutPrejudice this week.  I suspect that it will be a spirited discussion.  The moral issue of private education, the high fees, the perceived ‘elitism’ of “New Chums” is, of course, a very different matter to the raw fact of existence and execution of the project.

David Allen Green asserted:  “In my view, almost everything about this College is an affront to the critical thinking and evidence-based approach that such an establishment should promote. “

As we don’t have any ‘evidence based’ detail upon which, as yet, to assess the approach “New Chums” are going to take in terms of their teaching and encouragement of students to take responsibility for their own learning, or access to any of their teaching materials, I find it difficult to support this proposition and, therefore, for the present, dismiss it as credible criticism. I am unsure, from the text of David Allen Green’s blog post what he means by ‘evidence based’ approach in this context, so I cannot comment on the latter.

I don’t think the case has been proved that this is AC Grayling’s folly – yet.  I am open to persuasion and argument as always.  I have never developed a taste for coming down mountains with tablets of stone.  I am looking forward to developing this topic in discussion with David Allen Green on the morrow in our fortnightly Without Prejudice podcast.  It should be fun – as indeed, should all debate.


You may also like to read Sarah Churchwell’s blog post…

Thoughts on the New College for the Humanities

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The start of a new week brings a few themes and a matter of some concern.

It was interesting to see a few legal tweeters on this College of Law Media Unit film: See @BrianInkster @StephenMayson @ChristianUncut and @TheNakedLawyer

Twitter is attracting a fair number of practising lawyers.  @John_Cooper_QC pops in fairly frequently with a mix of musings and observations.  I was particularly interested to read a quote from a fascinating article in The Guardian: Miscarriages of justice are slipping off the public radar

“It was reported over the weekend that John Cooper QC had called for an overhaul of the CCRC. The silk, who advised Barry George, was talking at the annual Ewan Davies law lecture following the case of George Davis, whose conviction for a robbery in 1974 was last week ruled unsafe by the appeal judges. Davis first applied to the CCRC for a review of his conviction in July 2001 and a second time six years later. “The commission promised so much, but is just not delivering,” Cooper said. “Innocent people have been, without a doubt, locked up, some for over 10 years, for crimes they did not commit and the commission is failing to help them.”

I tend to sit up and listen or read when those at the coal face are critical about the legal system.  The article by Jon Robins is well worth a read.

The UK Human Rights Blog notes… Film those pesky judges?.. I’m in favour of the filming of the proceedings in the Supreme Court.  I am not so sure that it is a wise idea to film criminal proceedings – for the reasons advanced in this article from The Guardian.  I can see the value of filming the sentencing in criminal cases.  I suspect that filming of complex or even not so complex civil cases will not attract the money men who will pay for the TV rights.

Adam Wagner of The UK Human Rights blog has an excellent piece today…. Who should appoint our top judges?

Recently, I have become a collector of visceral reactions by politicians to judgments. The Prime Minister David Cameron is leading the field, having been “uneasy“, “appalled” and even feeling “physically sick” over recent rulings. And this week the Scottish First Minister has appointed a panel of experts to see whether the UK’s Supreme Court’s “aggressive” interference with Scottish law can be stopped. But where is this criticism leading?

I happened to listen again to my podcast with Lord Falconer on “Assisted Dying and The Supreme Court” last night.  Co-incidentally, John Cooper QC is writing a paper for a seminar on the complex issue of assisted dying and I wanted to check the content was of some current value before  passing the link on to him. If you haven’t heard the podcast, Lord Falconer talks about the reasons behind the foundation of the new UK Supreme Court.  It is well worth a listen to and is about a third of the way through the podcast, if you care to listen to it.   Having gone to the trouble of separating the judiciary from the executive and parliament – I am not so keen to see politicians getting too closely involved in the appointment of or confirmation hearings for  judges.

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Eva Braun, Matt Muttley’s PA, elegantly dressed as always in a tailored black suit and high heels,  led a young man into the Partner’s Boardoom and seated him at the opposite end of the long boardroom table.  He had a brown paper bag over his head.

Dr Erasmus Strangelove, Director of Psyops, Strategy and Education, looked up from his iPad 2, which held the applicant’s curriculum vitae and the security clearance report provided by a leading specialist security firm, and put his first question.

“Forgive the rather theatrical paper bag over your head.  At Muttley Dastardly LLP we operate an equal opportunities policy.  We are not swayed by good looks.  I will allow you to remove the paper bag when you have answered my first question; assuming that your answer is to my taste.  If you don’t, my colleague will take you to a waiting taxi, an idea I came up with after watching SurAlanLord Sugar’s reality TV programme The Apprentice the other night. This has the advantage that candidates who I reject do not recognise me should we happen to meet socially or in a nightclub in the West End.

“Contestant.. are you ready?” Strangelove shouted.

“Yes, Dr Strangelove” came the slightly muffled reply from the young law student seated twenty-feet away at the opposite end of the table.

“If you were on the menu in a two star Michelin restaurant in London what dish would you be?”  Dr Erasmus Strangelove asked as he glanced at the cricket score on his iPad 2.

The young man, smartly dressed in a newly purchased suit, hesitated and said “I haven’t eaten at a two star Michelin restaurant.”

Strangelove considered the reply for a moment, sat back in the high backed leather chair and smiled.  “At Muttley Dastardly LLP, we assume  that our future trainees hold a first from Oxbridge or Russell Group university.  We assume, having paid a risibly high fee for your LPC at a purveyor of legal education, that they will be sensible enough, and have the grace,  to ensure you leave with a creditable result in that course.  We are not that interested in the grade.  We prefer to teach you how to be a practising lawyer ourselves, but we do like you to start from the entirely reasonable base of actually knowing some law from your university.   We have a diversity policy here and we expect our future associates, men and women who we rely on to add to the capital value of the firm and a year on year growth in billings of 20%, to have  the flexibility to be able to think on their feet.  That you have not eaten in a two star Michelin restaurant troubles me not, but there is no phone a friend or fifty-fifty  at our interviews.   I don’t want to put too much pressure on you, but you are one down.  We have a ‘Three strikes and you’re in that taxi’ policy rule here – a wonderful concept which I seem to remember our current prime minister, Mr Camcorderdirect,  coming up with before he became prime minister and wanted votes.  Let me suggest another line of enquiry.”

Dr Strangelove flicked back to the applicant’s file on his iPad 2.

“I see, from your Facebook page, that you have a talent for drinking and gurning.  Three photographs of you in a file captioned “Future Employer’s…f*ck ’em” – I will overlook the apostrophe solecism – shows you dressed in what I am advised is tight spandex gear worn by militant cyclists, flicking a V sign at motorists.  Do you consider that to be conduct becoming of a future associate at Muttley Dastardly LLP?”

The young man leaned forward. He was shaking slightly.  ” I thought I had erased those files”

Dr Strangelove smiled.  “Fear not.  We are specialists in ‘reputation management’ here. One of my ‘black hat’ departments is most expert at erasing information from Google and replacing it with a more ‘positive’ message. We prefer that more subtle approach to the bludgeon of a superinjunction.  After all, we don’t want our clients to be all over Twitter, do we? The question is important.  Think carefully.”

The young man sat bolt upright.  “Yes… frankly.  If I want to go through red traffic lights, cycle on the pavements, and assert my libertarian rights, I shall damn well do so.”

“Correct answer.  Well done!”  Strangelove said, banging his hand down on one of those old bells found on hotel reception desks in 1950s American movies used by guests  to attract the attention of the psycopath who ran the joint.

“Finally… our maxim at Muttley Dastardly LLP is ‘Strength & Profits’.  How do you feel about lawyers making exemplary amounts of money during their careers?”

The young man, more confident after his last answer, replied “A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupiA precipice in front, wolves behind.  I want to be a wolf”

“Young man” Dr Stranglove replied, a hint of amusement in his voice.  “Welcome to Muttley Dastardly LLP.  You may remove the paper bag.”


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

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Fridays, for me, are a strange mix of weekday and weekend.  I often find that I don’t get many responses to emails and when I call to speak to a client I am often told they are ‘working from home’.  As I don’t wish to be a ‘stalker’, I tend to leave the matter there and not ask if the client is contactable at home.  Sometimes, however, I am given a contact number.  Today, I had the pleasure of ringing the ‘working from home number’ to be told by the client’s young son…”Dad will be back later.. he’s playing tennis.”  15-Love it !

So… a bit of law from the left field….

I did enjoy this story from The Lawyer (HT to @davidallengreen who expressed displeasure at his old firm doing this in a tweet last night)

Herbies defends decision to sell work placement at auction

“Herbert Smith has confirmed that it sold a work placement for £1,150 in a charity auction, despite following a policy of social mobility and equal opportunities for candidates of all backgrounds. Insolvency and restructuring partner Stephen Gale, who is a member of the Pilotlight charity, which aims to alleviate disadvantage, organised the week-long work placement to be offered for auction by the charity last November. The firm’s head of resourcing Peter Chater said Gale had organised the work placement as a one-off informal arrangement for charity.”


Not really a major step forward in diversity?  Dr Erasmus Strangelove, Director of Psyops, Strategy and Education at niche boutique City law firm Muttley Dastardly LLP said today – from his yacht in Monte Carlo:  “We, at Muttley Dastardly LLP, marvel at the antics of our fellow lawyers in the City. Long may it continue… mwahahahaha.”

And then this wonderful piece from Pupillage Blog… remarkable.  Truly remarkable…. 

Pupillage Interviews Going South!

I urge you to read it. 

AND.. the legal profession just continues to give….. 

RollonFriday.com continues to keep a close eye on the aberrant behaviour of lawyers…. with this: BLP email: a translation

Ah, I remember the LPC and the power my future employers had over me. Nothing was more scary than an email appearing in your inbox from them. Was I sacked? Had they made a mistake? Was my employment part of an elaborate practical joke that someone was just too embarrassed to admit?
Which means I did laugh heartily at the BLP article today. I can guarantee this is how they read it…


There is, of course, according to RollonFriday – no connection with the round of redundancy consultations at The College of Law and the £1 million in bonuses being paid to The College of Law board.

A spokeswoman for the College denied that bonuses of £1m had been paid, but wouldn’t give any other figure. She said that the timing of the redundancy announcement “was purely coincidental” and added that “there is no connection between this staffing review… and executive remuneration levels”.

I am a fan of televised court proceedings.  I have enjoyed looking at some of the coverage from The United Kingdom Supreme Court.  I’m not so sure that televising rather ponderous Chancery proceedings or even ‘more interesting’ criminal proceedings will make good television.  It isn’t like Crown Court, Kavanagh QC or Silk – where all the action is over within an hour.  Certainly, I can the see the argument for televising judgments.

Cameras in court: trial by boredom?

David Banks takes up the story in The Guardian:  “TV should be allowed to show trials. But broadcasters, and viewers, will only be interested in the high-profile cases”

Joshua Rozenberg is on the money with a recent article in The Guardian..

Lords to debate whether parliament should scrutinise judicial appointments

It is an interesting and thoughtful piece.  I’m not so sure it is a good idea for Parliament to scrutinise judicial appointments.  We could end up with elected judges – or, possibly, judges becoming ‘politicised’.  I shall do more thinking on this issue before commenting.  It is Friday, after all.

And finally… this from US lawyer and artist Charles Fincher….. I do enjoy his cartoons, observations and art…

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First Minister of Scotland, Alec Salmond, has provoked a ‘perfectly *Hope*less Storm’ with his recent criticism of Lord Hope and Scotland’s subservience to the United Kingdom Supreme Court.  The clue is in the name of the UKSC.  It is not an English court.  It is a Scottish, Northern Irish, Welsh and English Court.

I watched Scottish Newsnight the other night – a link provided by fellow Scot, blogger and tweeter @loveandgarbage.   While I am fairly used to English government ministers and other politicians getting the law wrong, I had not seen an example from Scotland’s First Minister before.

The Guardian notes: “The first minister and his justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, have accused the supreme court of “intervening aggressively” in Scotland’s independent legal system after it ruled that the Scottish legal system had twice breached the European convention on human rights in significant criminal cases

Not content with merely demonstrating a casual lack of acquaintance with the laws of his own country and those of the United Kingdom, Salmond  went on to say….according to The Guardian:

Speaking on Newsnight Scotland on Tuesday, he questioned why Hope had the individual authority, sitting as one of Scotland’s two judges on the supreme court, to overrule decisions made by, in one case, seven Scottish appeal court judges.

“I don’t think it’s sensible, fair or reasonable in any jurisdiction where we’ve a situation where one judge is overruling the opinion of many judges in another court,” he said. “It boils down to the potential replacement of Scottish law by Lord Hope’s law. I don’t think that’s a satisfactory situation.”

A number of  points arise from the above.  All Supreme Court judges contribute to judgments.  Ipso facto it is not one judge overruling other judges. Dissenters write their own judgments.  An ad hominem attack on Lord Hope, an eminent Scottish judge,  is unacceptable for a serious politician and undermines the rule of law. Scotland, as part of the United Kingdom, is subject to The European Convention. I am advised by  Scots lawyers that Salmond’s preference for appeals to go straight to the ECHR – where there are no Scottish judges –  on human rights issues is ‘curious’ when Scotland has two UK Supreme Court judges and has long provided eminent judges to the final appellate court in this country. I am also advised that the result in two very important Scots Law cases – would have been the same at the ECHR.

The Guardian notes: “It (The UKSC)  has no power to rule on the crimes or laws passed by the Scottish parliament, unless they breach the convention, and has only ruled on two Scottish criminal cases: the Nat Fraser murder conviction and Scotland’s failure to give defendants in police custody fair access to a lawyer.”

Anyway… enough from me on this.  @loveandgarbage (who alternates between writing about scones, snow and serious law on his blog) has kindly offered to write a ‘guest post’ soon on this matter.  I am a Scot – albeit one who is ‘versed’ in English law.  I am now reading Scots law books and reading a fair few Scots blogs. I have no view, as yet, on the issue of an independent Scotland – but I don’t think it unreasonable to observe, from Battersea, that it would help the debate if Scotland’s First Minister began intelligent debate by getting the law right?

I shall leave the last word on this brief post to… “Lord Colin Boyd QC, a former Lord Advocate under the last Labour coalition government in Edinburgh and a legal adviser to the current UK government, said the supreme court had a clear and necessary role to protect fundamental legal rights. He said the Scottish government was pursuing a nationalist agenda.”

Why barristers balk at the ‘box-ticking’ of continuing professional development

Alex Aldridge in The Guardian: “Barristers failing to complete their annual quota of CPD now dominate Bar Standards Board disciplinary proceedings”

An interesting article – one which raises very important issues and the issue of whether members of the bar who do serious blogs should be able to claim CPD points for their blog writing.  I am reading the relevant Bar Standards Board reports on CPD and the reform thereof and I will blog on this shortly.

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I have no interest in football, but it is impossible to escape from the fiasco that is FIFA, the fiasco that was *Thefootballerinjunctions* – and ‘persons unknown’ are still outing superinjunctioneers, according to reports in the Press.

Our leading vocational law schools have not escaped scrutiny.  RollonFriday.com has had another pop at Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law, about his high salary and The Economist has a thought provoking article: Badmouthing BPP A British business school takes a beating in the press and in the blogosphere.

BPP Law School is, of course, the law side of BPP and, I thought (wrongly?), the side of the business with the degree awarding powers. I must read the reports on this again, clearly.  The Business School does enjoy a good reputation – which The Economist acknowledges – but, in the light of the comments made in the article about BPP running the McTimoney College of Chiropractic in Oxfordshire and the activities of the owners of BPP (Apollo) in the USA, they add the rider….“It seems unlikely that the government would do anything as drastic as withdrawing BPP’s degree-awarding powers. But for a business school, reputation counts. It will hope the murmurs die out quickly.”

This article on Apollo / BPP  – which The Economist links to – raised my eyebrows: Short Cuts

And if you really want to upscale reputation wrecking… fiddle your expenses.  Here is the judgment of Mr Justice Saunders as he sentenced Lord Taylor of Warwick – a member of The House of Lords and The Bar.

And finally… just to add a touch of surreal to the reputations of our MPs…. this wonderful website… Sexymp.co.uk

Which MP would you rather have sex with?

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What Can Solicitors Learn from the Stokes Croft Tesco Protests?
BY Richard Powell, Solicitor, JWM

It would seem that we’re just not very good at complaining and standing up for ourselves in this country. As consumers, when faced with poor service or shoddy goods, we seem habitually reluctant to make a fuss.

Of course, there are plenty of people out there who do say what they think, and do stand up to be counted when they see an issue that needs to be addressed. However, the bigger the opponent, the harder it is for small pockets of resistance to have any impact.

If a large organisation is determined to impose its will, it can afford to play a waiting game. Eventually the few who do object will be outweighed by the majority, who can certainly see their point and would love to help out and sign a petition, honestly, but they don’t have time right now, and are sure that it will all work out for the best in the end. Apathy reigns.

Just such a problem has recently presented itself in the legal world.

Changes are on the way that will alter the means by which people access justice when they wish to make a personal injury claim as a result of another person’s negligence. Unfortunately, resistance to these changes lacks focus and is pitched against the power of the insurance industry. The reforms proposed by Lord Justice Jackson for instance, carry huge implications for claimants and those who represent them, but no-one is willing (or perhaps they lack the capability) to make themselves a convincing focal point for complaint, and for change.

It Doesn’t have to be Like This

However, it doesn’t have to be like this. News stories about the recent demonstrations in Stokes Croft, Bristol, over the opening of a new Tesco store, are a real jolt to the system.

The large supermarket chains generally get their way. They are often faced with objections to building new stores because of the impact on local, independent traders. However they have deep pockets and can be patient, waiting for objections to slowly fade away, or else use drawn out appeal processes, causing those who initially back objections to lose focus and motivation.

The supermarkets know that people will have no choice but to fall into line and accept their presence. Just like the insurance industry, they carry a great deal of power and use PR to deflect negative press.

The people of Stokes Croft see things differently. They did not want a Tesco in their suburb, but the strength and depth of feeling in the community went beyond anything that Tesco were used to. There was a perfect storm brewing, a particular kind of solidarity, and a desire to take positive action. Too high a proportion of local independent businesses faced a direct threat from Tesco’s presence, and that was capped by a certain political mood and an objection to large corporate entities. The local community valued having a choice as to where they could buy their goods. Despite the fact that the Tesco store actually opened, residents still engaged in direct action such as sit-ins.

This all came to a head when the police were accused of heavy handed tactics when dealing with their demonstrations, and unfortunately violence flared. It should be noted that this was only a small part of what was a long, sustained and peaceful campaign.
Now the area has become a national focal point and the Stokes Croft protesters are drawing support from other areas of the country. Those who have tried, and failed, to make changes in their own areas, are now drawn to Stokes Croft as a place where there is real momentum, and where everyone seems willing to “make a scene”. I am certainly not condoning the use of violence! I think that the protesters were set to achieve their aims in any event. It was already clear to Tesco that they were not welcome in that community. The key was having a sustained and consistent voice.

Lawyers Should Speak Out with One Voice against ‘Tesco’ Law

For the last few years the phrase “Tesco Law” has been used to herald the arrival of Alternative Business Structures, and the expectation that the supermarket giants (as a sweeping generalisation) would see an opportunity to create their own brands to handle such things as personal injury claims.

Set against this are the Jackson reforms. If implemented, big issues surrounding how a lawyer is to be paid for the work that they do will have to be dealt with. Everything points to a need to dumb down the service, and to adopt more of a production line mentality. It will be harder than ever to provide a true quality service to injured people seeking compensation.

A situation is emerging in the UK, in which a new provider of legal services could roll into a town near you, perhaps with an already familiar brand name, and gear up to bring injury claims – however, it would be done with the cheapest possible staff, and with very little understanding of the detail involved in these claims. It may well be an organisation that has the budget that enables them to work on a high volume/low margin business model. It could be operated through remote call centres. Many people would prefer to approach a solicitor operating in their local high street and have a choice. Just as Tesco coming to town can see the end of many local independent retailers, and the choice that they bring, they could have a similar effect on legal services.

It seems to me that lawyers and groups with an interest in the rights of injured claimants are presently being very British about things, and not making enough of a noise about what is going on. Objections have been (half-heartedly) raised by a few people, but without a real focal point. Various professional organisations should be pooling resources and speaking with one voice to make sure the public hear what could happen when “Tesco” (or whoever else it might be) comes to town.

As a profession we have to create that perfect storm, preferably without need for an actual riot!

Richard Powell  is joint head of the JMW Solicitors Personal Injury Claims department , specialising in high value claims. He also focuses on staff and business development for the whole department, tailoring claims services for clients and monitoring overall standards to ensure consistency and quality.

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