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Archive for September 5th, 2011

The BBC reports: The government is considering whether to allow some sentencing in English courts to be televised, it has emerged.

At first assessment it seems to be a sensible idea in part.  It will give the public a chance to see how our criminal justice system works and is all very worthy.  Many judges and experienced practitioners support the idea.

HOWEVER… this being Britain and the attention span for detail  (and *fact*) being limited for most of us in busy 21st century online overload lives, I suspect that it will be a short lived wonder. The TV companies and tabloids will want corrupt MP’s, ‘paedos’ and the flotsam and jetsam of a Hogarthian nightmare on trial.

After the Olympics in 2012… we may well have a stadium which could be employed by a Coalition government keen to give ‘free bread’ to the people of Britain to distract them from yet another failed government.  Let the Games…begin.

Ave, Camcorderdirector, morituri te salutant“…

“HAIL..PM Camcorderdirect…We who are about to be sentenced as a spectacle for the British people, a once proud liberal people after the Second World War, the European Convention (which we had a major part in drafting)  and the Human Rights Act, salute you.”

History is a wonderful thing… especially when it is used for brutal entertainment.  Personally… I don’t care for justice as spectacle for the ravening horde.  I thought we were were beyond  such human degradation.  Obviously, I am wrong.  Mea culpa.  That I am wrong and in the minority, perhaps,  troubles me not a jot.  Go for it… my fellow Britons… it is your country…democracy is great… innit Gr8.. ROFLMFarkinAssangeO…LOL blah blah blah?

The televised proceedings in the Supreme Court have been interesting to watch, but I will confess, I find it easier to read the judgments – fascinating though it is to see top judges in colour!

Again.. being Britain… we really do need a host in a tuxedo…. how about former hangman Sir Bertie Pierrepoint?  WE could have a panel of judges in full kit with implausible names… Mr Justice Noose? and we could certainly bring in audience participation by reprising The Golden Shot…. “Up a bit… down a bit” … or at the very least…. “Ask the audience” from “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”.

That is all.

Meanwhile… in Rule Britannialand…

Riot jail sentences in crown courts longer than normal

The Grauniad... gawd bless their cotton wikisocks reports: …….

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The news this week, first reported in Rollonfriday.com and then covered by Legal Week, that The College of Law may be up for sale is not entirely unexpected.  With a reported turnover of £75 million – and I am assuming a good net profit – it is a valuable property, even in a difficult legal education market.  The recent re-accreditation of the College of Law’s degree awarding power enhances the value.  BPP University College, another new authorised degree awarding institution, has yet to face re-accreditation and while that may well be a formality, the directors of BPP and their American owners are unlikely to take that for granted.

Interviewed by Legal Week, CEO Nigel Savage said ” A sale is only one of a number of options the College is exploring, including forging new joint ventures with universities and commercial players around the world.”

Well, as the old saying goes, he would say that, wouldn’t he? No CEO of a large organisation is going to tip the wink at this stage of the play. The veil of incorporation is one thing, the veil of coy corporate negotiation is quite another – and a subtle game it is to play. The difficulties lying behind a sale – in the main, unwinding a charity incorporated by Royal Charter – are not insurmountable and comfortably within the expertise of Allen & Overy which RollonFriday believes is the law firm instructed to handle the issue.

The next issue is to find a buyer.  It isn’t likely that the Governors would be keen to sell to BPP / Apollo, quite apart from potential competition law issues, for reasons of past rivalry.  And, of course, Apollo now have more experience of the legal education market and know better the price of acquiring a  UK based law school which, arguably, in 2009 when they acquired  BPP for a reported £303.5 million, they did not. The price of 620p per share at the time was viewed by some as ‘pacy’ and more favourable to the sellers. No buyer is ever truly ‘thrilled’ with the acquisition price despite protestations of joy pumped out to the market through financial PR. Kaplan Law School, a law school growing in reputation,  is owned by The Washington Post, another US based company. This may rule them out.

Would Pearson or Lexis-Nexis be interested?  I suspect they would.  Would the consortium of magic circle law firms be interested?  It would certainly be an interesting idea, but not one I would advise given the reputational issues, which plague all law schools, with fee-paying students running riot on RollonFriday.com and other student online forums –  particularly in the case of the two leading players, BPP and The College of Law who make substantial profits. Would any law firm want their core brand to be affected by such online comment, some of it not always objective or fair?  In  any event, the magic circle law firms would likely rule this out on grounds that their ‘core business’ is lawyering.  There may well be other non-law or non-education based corporates out there which would regard the acquisition of a major law school as an attractive proposition.  The drawback there is one of expertise.  There are always dangers in buying out of sector or market expertise.

I have known Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law, for nearly twenty-five years.  We worked together when he was Dean at Nottingham Law School and agreed a joint venture with BPP Law School in the early 1990s for three years which gave BPP the lead into the legal education market –  and BPP Law School’s independent accreditation by the Law Society and Bar Council when the joint venture agreement expired.

It is not hyperbole or exaggeration to state that Savage had a profound effect on the College of Law’s fortunes. 

It is in the public domain that I was hired by the magic circle consortium to do a report on the City LPC and other options more than ten years ago.  The College of Law lost some of the magic circle consortium members’ trainees after my report confirmed the reasons for  some dissatisfaction with The College of Law’s provision in the years preceding Savage’s arrival at The College in late 1990s.  There is no doubt in my mind that Savage’s policy of hiring some ‘big guns’ from private practice and academe – Professor de Friend from Kent University, being but one example –  and his ability to grasp the fundamentals of new style education and technology, helped to bring the College back up to its top level rating in the legal education sector and the minds of law firm buyers in a very short time after, a place it enjoys to this day.

Savage is another ‘veteran’. He won’t mind me saying this – but like the gunslinger in Cat Ballou, veterans can’t (and don’t wish to) go on forever.  There will be succession issues at The College at some point in the not too distant future.  The value of a CEO will not be overlooked by a potential buyer.  The Governors of The College rightly gave Savage the resources to deploy to build a very successful law school.  Is there a successor with the same vision waiting in the wings; one able to take hold of a complex organisation with fairly influential unions and run it in a way which will meet the approval of hard nosed business owners?   Will hard nosed potential business owners be put off by the influence of unions at the College?  When I was running BPP Law School with BPP holdings PLC in the 1990s there were no unions to have issues with. Arguably, this was not an issue for most staff as we tended to pay the highest salaries for law lecturers then.  I suspect that both salary scales and lack of union involvement may continue to be the case today.  I haven’t asked.

Procrastination is the thief of time…. but not always. 

The legal education sector is facing two difficulties at present: (a) Declining revenues – there are fewer students applying and (b) Competition – new entrants to the market are building their market share.  On that premise, I would not have thought that this is the ‘optimum’ time for a sale and The Governors may well be best advised – even if they are considering a sale – to continue with the policy of growth through co-operation with traditional universities, develop their range into the MBA, business and economics sector and look to opportunities in China and India.  It is not as if the Governors of the College of Law are desperate for a firesale sale…one assumes, given the charitable  status and profitability.

BPP was a slightly different case, arguably.  The founding directors of BPP Holdings PLC back in the mid-seventies, Richard Price and Charles Prior, retained substantial shareholding in BPP when they took BPP to the stock market and an exit plan had to be executed.

We shall see soon enough which way  The College of Law goes.

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