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Archive for July, 2012

It can only be a matter of time, surely, before the fraud cops get their men and women in the City for the LIBOR – and who knows what other –  frauds?   HT to Tom Kilroy @kilroyt for the link to this appropriate pic on twitter (left).  It appears that this photo has, in fact, been photoshopped – but it is still an amusing comment on the Barclays fraud – but not as amusing as this one (right).

Libor Scandal: UK Serious Fraud Office will launch investigation into rate rigging

Synonyms for the noun ‘amateur’ include:   dilettante – dabbler – lover – fancier

It is a fair assessment  of the MPs questioning Bob Diamond at the select committee last week to describe their efforts as ‘amateur’.  While a few good questions were asked – there are reports on twitter that lawyers were sending tweets to MPs suggesting questions to ask – the questions lacked precision and cohesion and were doomed, inevitably, to fail to reveal Bob Diamond as anything other than a banker coached in how to not answer questions with a side specialism in selective memory and hyberbole expressed in his repeated statements of ‘love for Barclays’.

Parliament has gone on, inevitably with the Tories in power , to arrange for the investigation into the LIBOR fraud and corruption in banking generally to be handled by a select committee of amateurs – declining the opportunity to have the matter dealt with by a judge assisted by a lawyer skilled in the art of questioning  leading to a greater likelihood of laying bare some semblance of truth through techniques of forensic legal excision.

John Thurso, the bearded Liberal Democrat ex-peer, intending to be critical of Diamond, inadvertently summed up the ineffectiveness of the MPs questioning thus: “If you were an English cricketer I think you would be Geoffrey Boycott – in occupying the crease for two hours I’m not sure we’re any further forward.”

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Hamlet (1.4.90), Marcellus to Horatio

Trust in the great institutions of the British establishment is, clearly, on the wane. 

The MPs expenses fraud added to the lack of trust and respect we have for our ‘political masters’.   The power of the Church of England, despite the absurd presence still of many Bishops in the House of Lords in 21st century Britain, has waned as we have become more secular and atheistic as a society and, increasingly, there are concerns about the legal system and the rule of law which in part underpins the working of our society.

Government is inflicting great damage to our legal system with the ‘cuts’.  Legal aid is being taken away from the more vulnerable members of our society.  The secretary of state for justice and lord chancellor, Ken Clarke, is believed by many criminal law practitioners, particularly at the Bar, to be on a ‘mission from God’ to destroy the criminal justice system and weight the odds in favour of the prosecution and the courts.  The government applauded last year as our judges accepted the political requirement for swift justice in the wake of the riots – and many would argue that our judges stepped up to the plate badly and handed down sentences disproportionate to the harm and rather more severe than sentences for similar behaviour outside the context of ‘riot’.  It is hardly surprising that many question the fairness of sending a young person to prison for looting a £3.50 bottle of water when we cannot manage to prosecute very much more serious corporate and banking fraud.

 “We are very bad at prosecuting financial crime in this country,”
Mr Clarke said in an Interview with Radio 4’s Today programme.

The Telegraph reports: Kenneth Clarke has said that it is easier to “get away with” financial crime than practically any other kind.

Alex Bailin QC writes in the Guardian: The law catches up with Libor
“The process for setting Libor is pretty much unregulated. That will have to change”

There are plans to engage in an orgy of swift justice, should it be necessary to bring villains and others to justice during the Olympics.  Ironically, there are suggestions that some of our courts will have to close during the Olympic period because ‘Olympic chiefs’ will be wafting around London in the new Olympic ‘Zil’ lanes.

The Mail on Sunday reports this morning that serious villains who are currently being entertained by Her Majesty’s prison authorities are being moved quietly out of London lest, inspired by watching the pole vault and high jump,  they escape during the Olympics (below).  It appears that we won’t have enough Police – another problem with government cuts – to catch these escapees.  The Police will be too busy ensuring that visitors to the Olympic games don’t engage in rioting, general affray and that most heinous of crimes –  interfering with Corporate sponsor rights by bringing non sponsor bank  credit cards, pepsi-cola and Wendy burgers into the Olympic Park.

London’s criminals to get a break during Olympics as courts close
The Independent reports: Services to be cut by half during Games over fears that transport delays will prove too disruptive

Joshua Rozenberg has wheeled himself out to comment, rightly, on the plans for swift justice:
Courts unprepared for Olympics, warns top solicitor

In the wake of the experience last summer, I will not be surprised if newspapers report, two months hence, that the ‘swift justice’ plans further erode trust in the English criminal justice system.  I hope to be proved wrong.

Charlie Gilmour, son of Pink Floyd band member, has an interesting article in the Mail on Sunday today – commenting on his time in prison and the disenfranchisement of many young people who were caught up in the riots and ‘swift justice’ of last summer

Faith in our legal system rests, to some extent, on a good understanding of how it works. 

Cheryl Thomas, professor of judicial studies at University College London’s faculty of laws, has an interesting article in The GuardianLack of understanding about the judiciary is unacceptable and dangerous

A video of her inaugural lecture, Purple Haze: The Danger of Being in the Dark about Judges can be found here

I  very much welcome greater openness on the judiciary.  Gone are the days of automatic deference to authority – thankfully.  Much has already been done to open up our justice system.  Parliament is televised routinely.  We can watch proceedings in The Supreme Court on television.  There are plans to televise other trials – or parts of them.  Professor Cheryl Thomas is right – we do need to scrutinise the judiciary more closely.

The lack of judicial studies in the UK is unnecessary, unacceptable and dangerous. Amid growing media attention on the political role of judges, the British judiciary has become more open, often speaking publicly about important social issues. It is now time for the academic community to develop judicial studies in Britain so it too can contribute to a better functioning justice system and better public debate about the judiciary.

Professor Cheryl Thomas

It is bad enough when government inflicts wounds to the legal system.  It is, arguably, even worse when the profession indulges in ‘self harming’ through incompetence.

Professor Richard Moorhead writes scathingly about the recent efforts of The Bar Standards Boards in relation to their findings on Advocacy: Bar Standards Board’s ‘research’ is crass and deeply flawed

“Barristers think higher court advocates aren’t much cop. Let’s not pretend that’s a reliable indicator of their quality”

Professor Moorhead continues…

The debate on criminal advocacy standards has been a fraught one. It is a debate about quality and the public interest, but it is also a debate about territory, and which profession gets to dominate the criminal defence system. Given the temperature of the debate, one would expect any independent regulator to take a forensic, principled and evidence-based approach to the resolution of the problems posed by intra-lawyer rivalry.

It is against this background that an astonishingly crass piece of research has been published by the Bar Standards Board, the Bar’s independent regulator. The Board’s chair, Baroness Deech, says the research provides, “a robust evidence base as to the high level of concern about advocacy competence in the criminal courts.” The solicitors‘ representative body, the Law Society’s CEO, Des Hudson describes it as “deeply flawed [and] self-serving research… It simply gave participants an opportunity to express their prejudices and self interest.”

And finally.. for this cheery snapshot of a possibly dystopian legal system for modern Britain – The Bar Standards Board has run into a few problems in relation to the new Bar Professional Training Course.  I spent an interesting Friday and Saturday afternoon talking to lecturers, students and others on the problems which have arisen on the new centrally set BPTC.  I now plan to go further into this topic and I have written to Janet Pugh of the Bar Standards Board for her thoughts on how the BPTC has gone this year. I have started to write to the deans of the law schools providing tuition for the BPTC.

It may be that the problems are ‘teething problems’.  It may be that they are not and reveal a systemic failure which goes beyond minor incompetence.  I shall try to find out.  I suspect that this will take some time. Having founded BPP Law School with BPP Holdings plc and a team of my academic colleagues in the early 1990s – I retain an interest in legal education and, particularly, into instances where students are unfairly prejudiced by providers and regulators – should activity of this nature come to light.

Alex Aldridge in Legal Cheek has flagged up some of the concerns: EXCLUSIVE: BPTC Students Point Finger At Bar Standards Board Following ‘Disastrous’ And ‘Unfair’ Exams

Part 2 and 3 of Law Review Weekly will follow on Monday….

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Lawcast 211: Giles Peaker of the Nearly Legal blog on housing law and the changing legal world.

Today I am talking to Giles Peaker, a solicitor at Anthony Gold Solicitors and founder of the Nearly Legal blog – a specialist housing blog which has grown with Giles since he became ‘fully legal’ and started working  ten barrister and solicitor contributors

Listen to the podcast 

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I’d like to thank Lawtel, WestlawCassons For Counsel, City University Law School David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Inksters SolicitorsIken, LBC Wise Counsel, Carrs Solicitors,  JMW Solicitors – Manchester, Pannone, BPP Law School and Cellmark for sponsoring the  the free student materials on Insite Law – appreciated.

In association with The Lawyer

With thanks to the Law Society for sponsoring the  Law Review Weekl and my Lawcasts

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The malignant minute
BY David Rosen, partner, Darlingtons

In these times of swift and significant change in the Legal Sector as well as Society, perhaps the best approach to be adopted by Lawyers is to think more like clients.

Historically, we Lawyers have thought of ourselves akin to other professionals such as Doctors, and whilst our training and expertise may be of similar difficulty and skill, and whilst some areas of law, family law and fraud to name but 2, involve issues as serious as many medical conditions, most clients simply do not equate Legal advice with medical advice.

To put it another way, fewer clients accept what we say or take advice in the same way as they would a Doctor’s advice.

There are a few reasons I suggest for this apparent lack of parity in importance and status:

i.    Quacks are frowned upon in the field of medicine by both practitioners and patients alike. Trust, integrity, and honesty remain intact because neither the market, or the medical profession will tolerate a dumbing down of the service they provide. Consumer sovereignty dictates that higher standards are expected in the medical profession.

ii.   Solicitors regulated by the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, have to put up and compete with non-qualified claims handlers, licensed conveyancers, professional McKenzie friends, non-qualified legal advisors, to name but a few. This assimilation in the Legal market confuses clients. Do they go for fully qualified Lawyers and pay more for such a service, or accept someone of a non-qualified status who appears to know what they are talking about? Where is the trust? Where is the integrity? Who regulates these non-qualified practitioners? Why do qualified Lawyers tolerate a dilution of their market and service to the public? Unfortunately, because anti-competition is alive and well in the Legal market, and the perception of Consumer Sovereignty is such that consumers may go for a lower quality of legal advisor for a cheaper price. Perhaps the consumer concludes that the status of a Solcitor is meaningless, and that they consider paying any legal fees to be an affront.

A key component is managing the expectations and the importance and significance of advice given.

The relationship of solicitor and client is still founded on trust, honesty, and integrity, and this in turn involves the components of :-

1.      Capability

2.      Credibility

3.       A feeling that the person you are trusting has your best interests at heart

Many clients still take 1 & 2 above as granted, and this can be a mistake, but that is a reality. Number 3 represents the unknown “x” factor.

So, ask yourself this – how would it make you feel to be charged in 6 minute increments ?

What is your reaction when you get into a taxi and the meter starts ticking ? You know you have to pay, but you don’t begrudge paying because you are being taken from A to B. You may feel slightly anxious but you accept it will cost, but  can not help but watch as that meter ticks by and the costs increase.

Staying with the taxi driver analogy, if you are in North West London, and want to get to Heathrow Airport, you may ask for the quickest and cheapest route. The taxi driver will use his best endeavours to get you there. What if you ask to get there via Manchester? The taxi driver will protest, this is going to cost you an awful lot more Govn’r, but after all, you’re the Boss (presuming unashamedly by way of this example that he is an honest East-End boy].

Then suppose that half way to Manchester, you say, hold on, this is taking a lot longer, and costing me a fortune, the Taxi driver will protest…but you asked me to go this way, and I said…and you said…and I said…and you still need to pay me. The customer says, I am not paying for your service. This is an outrage. Why did you possibly agree with my instruction to take me via Manchester? To which the taxi driver shrugs his shoulders, and then in best London cockney fashion explodes with a number of expletives at the customer who is an oyk for being so cock-sure that despite best advice, he wanted to have it his way…

Funnily enough some parallels can be drawn between Solicitors and Taxi drivers. Should it be this way for Law? Is it as simple as going from A to B and charging a fixed price, without taking into account, obstacles such as delays, insufficent information, the way in which the other side will respond, negotiations, etc…

Clients simply do not understand why Lawyers seek to charge for every 6 minutes. It seems petty and creates a certain lack of trust and resentment from the outset. Most clients understand they have to pay and that they are getting the value of competence and experience. Lawyers who understand their clients are also getting much better at explaining why not every legal case is best dealt with on fixed fees. Litigation is inherently difficult to undertake that way.

However is it not better to say to a client? :- “We won’t charge for anything that take less than 15-20 minutes”

You may lose some costs in the short term by not charging for every phone call, short letter or email, but you gain the magic ingredient of trust, and trust is the essence of the solicitor-client relationship?

I am trying to keep an open mind, but my personal view is that if you give proper estimates of costs which takes into account various contingencies, you can not go too far wrong. I prefer to charge in 6 minute inclements, and do not consider the charging system malignant.

Charging by single minutes is a malignancy on your practice. Agree or disagree ?

David Rosen is a partner at Darlingtons and a visiting professor at Brunel University

 

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The NatWest Glitch – Everything you need to Know in Order to Protect your Business.
Brookson – Contractor Accountants

If you’re a RBS-NatWest customer, then the last week has certainly been one to forget. Freelancers, contractors and industry professionals alike have all been thrust into financial pandemonium, from disappearing money and missed bill payments to entire house moves coming to a standstill. The technical meltdown experienced by one of Britain’s biggest banks has thrown thousands of customers into financial chaos, and worse still, the glitch continues to affect online transfers and ATM withdrawals. As people complain in the thousands, RBS-NatWest is experiencing their biggest ever consumer backlash.

So what happened?
Sparked by a technical glitch, NatWest customers have been unable to consistently access their money since last Wednesday. Whilst installing a software update, their entire computer system froze, stopping all payments in and out of accounts online and at ATMs. It also happened again on Thursday, causing a backlog of over 100 million transactions by the time the software had been fixed at 3pm on Saturday.

Who’s to blame?
Experts have stated that the chronic delays in dealing with the transaction backlogs are due to excessive staff shortages in NatWest’s IT departments. Over the last four years, RBS has laid off thousands of IT specialists, sending much of the work to offices based in India or the Far East, where workers with the same amount of IT experience are paid as little as £9,000 a year. By contrast, similar roles in the UK can employ people earning up to £50,000 a year. Even though the glitch originated in RBS’ headquarters in Edinburgh, the problem is being dealt with staff based in India.

Don’t look now
According to IT experts, there is nothing stopping the same computer carnage happening again. Many of the computer systems that UK banks use are similar to NatWest, and many more thousands of IT jobs have been outsourced to India over the last five years. This problem could resurface when banks begin to refurbish their old computer systems, upgrading them to newer ones.

How to manage your cash
If you’re a freelancer/contractor accountant and have accounts with other banks, split your money between them as soon as possible. This will allow you to continue making payments and keep your business ticking over.
If you think that there’s a mistake with your accounts or you’re missing money, visit your local branch or go online and print off compensation forms. It’s also vital that you keep a record of all payments that you’ve missed and the costs you’ve incurred by not being able to access your cash. Don’t let your business foot the bill. This includes phone charges and interest on missed payments.

Beware

Missing money may be gone for a while. While RBS deal with the backlog of over 100 million transactions, your money might not appear in your account for days. Don’t worry about overdraft fees however; RBS has made £300 cash withdrawals available for customers who can prove it’s their pay day, even if the withdrawal takes them into their overdraft. Also, keep your eyes open for unfair charges. Overdraft and late payment fees will be waived by the bank, but that doesn’t mean RBS might overlook something.

This post was written on behalf of contractor accountants, Brookson

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UPDATE:  Diamond has resigned.  Marcus Agius has ‘unresigned’..or, should that be…’re-signed’ ?

I just had to tweet…

“My name is Marcus Agius, Commander of the Barclays, Chairman to a fraudulent bank.. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

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Preserving the Reputation of Legitimate Solicitors
BY Anthony Waddington

Over the last couple of months the personal injury claims industry have come under an excessive amount of public scrutiny, most notably from Labour MP Jack Straw and Prime Minister David Cameron both reigniting the age old argument of Britain’s so called ‘claims culture’ after a surge in false whiplash claims.

As a result of this increased pressure from politicians I’ve noticed the term ‘no win, no fee’ develop negative connotations among my fellow colleagues within the legal profession as well as from the general public.

However I’m here to stress the importance and ethics behind these types of legal services, one of which is to improve the access to justice for so many people who would otherwise suffer. If ‘no win, no fee was taken away the only people who would have access to the justice system would be victims with enough money to fund litigation, or those with the appropriate insurance cover.

Unfortunately with the introduction of an increasing number of less reputable claims firms at the other end of the legal landscape, I’m not surprised so many consumers attempting to gain compensation find the process complex and confusing. Their unethical tactics used to entice consumers to bring in cases, such as cold-calling and in-your-face advertising, have no doubt contributed to the growing criticism of the personal injury claims industry.

I believe consumers need to be made more aware of the difference between legitimate injury law firms and less reputable claims management companies (not tarring all of them with the same brush of course – many are offering a legitimate service). It has undoubtedly become more difficult for consumers to identify qualified practitioners that are genuinely on their side in seeking fair compensation. Seeking advice from a reputable and legitimate law firm will ensure customers receive quality legal advice from experienced solicitors. A professional and helpful legal service is exactly what is needed at a time when they are having to adjust to life with a serious injury.

I therefore urge all customers to source the right kind of legal support for their claim. Working directly with specialist solicitors will ensure you are in good hands and put you on the path receiving the justice you are seeking.

Anthony Waddington is an Associate Solicitor in the Personal Injury department of Colemans-ctts Solicitors.
The firm have offices in Kingston upon Thames, Manchester and Cockfosters.

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lib·er·tar·i·an·ism/ˌlibərˈte(ə)rēəˌnizəm/

noun – Laissez-faire political philosophy advocating only minimal tolerance for deviation with/from views of libertarian tweeter
I have used Twitter for just over four years, racking up over 100,000 tweets in the process, and enjoy reading amusing tweets, the links and information provided by Twitter users –  and the debate when it is thoughtful, informed and intelligent.

However – there is a great deal of  ill informed discussion, inevitably, and while I will – to abuse the famous aphorism – defend to the death the right of all to talk complete bollocks (including my own bollocks) on Twitter and elsewhere – this does not mean that I need to engage with sundry whackjobs, tin foil hatwearers and intolerant ‘libertarians’ who seem blind and deaf to views which differ from their own. So I don’t and won’t now – if only for the sake of what is left of my ‘sanity’.

There are many on Twitter, including well known tweeting lawyers, who seem to get bogged down in fruitless ‘engagement’ with others on Twitter and then get ‘the hump’ when they find that their carefully constructed and well thought out  responses to the whackjobs et al  go unheard.

It may be, of course, that these tweeters are bandwagon jumpers and ‘engage’ to ensure that their ‘brand’ is kept before an adoring public when the music from their previous triumph fades into the chilling ether of obscurity – and  the twitter wildebeest herd  stampedes on to yet another OUTRAGE  – in which case…caveat bandwagonjumperor.

Twitter is a fine tool but it can, when overused, lead to *atrophy*.  I am grateful to my friend, US lawyer Dan Hull, who writes the excellent Whataboutclients? blog (Weekend edition: WhataboutParis?) for drawing my attention to ‘atrophy’.

The dark side of my nature bubbled up this morning on twitter – shortly before I escaped/farked orf to t’caff for black coffee and the papers. I tweeted: “*Atrophy* – the partial or complete wasting away of a part of the body including the brain following twitter overuse.”

To which @princessofVP responded with the excellent : “Twatrophy?”

Anyway.. we are where we are.. to use yet another overlaboured phrase…

Enjoy your Sunday… of OUTRAGE… if that is your bag!

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