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Archive for May, 2013

Pic from a Buzzfeed article – amused me. HT @ChristianUncut

One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.
Groucho Marx 

Communication has been occupying my mind for a few days.  This morning on BBC Breakfast they were taxing their minds with ‘spelling’ and one of the presenters was asked to spell *Supersede*.  Like many before him, he had a crack at it and came up with *Supercede*.

With way too much time on my hands early this morning , I made myself a cuppa and, as I did so, came up with the thought “One precedes, but one supersedes.”  This was enough to set me up for a sardonic day and knowing that bananas can walk has set me up nicely for a weekend of  Sybaritic pleasure drinking tea (not Earl Grey) and… in Britain we  spell it ‘grey’ not ‘gray’ when referring to the colour or our skies.

But does spelling matter?  Can you read this?

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno’t mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it

Well…there we are…

ON to the law blogs…with a bit of dead tree press action to kick off…. 

In the wake of the tragic murder of April Jones we had the predictable call for ‘something’ to be done in relation to internet pornography.  A view that the state should not intervene in sexual activities between consenting adults which cause no harm to others – an old fashioned Benthamite utilitarian stance to be sure – seems a not unreasonable starting point for debate.

The Guardian editorial on the subject was pretty ropy and ill thought out and careered toward the Ban It stance of human thinking. Ironically, The Telegraph took a more reasoned view.

Given that our government has developed the skills of the whirling dervish and a predilection for U-turns, one hopes that there is not a pandemic of Kneejerkitis acutis toriensis on the  part of the shield munching beserkers  (pictured right) on the Tory benches, forcing yet more ill thought out snap reaction legislation, when Parliament eventually gets back to work again.

On the subject of the so-called ‘Snoopers Charter’ being revived in the wake of the murder of Lee Rigby, and the decision by the BBC to shunt Anjem Choudary onto Newsnight, David Anderson QC provides wise advice to government in this article from The Guardian: Anjem Choudary controversy sparks debate over TV censorship – “anti-terror law reviewer David Anderson QC says broadcasters should decide whether to show radicals on their channels.”

It seems that the Police are also getting in, rightly, on the sensible, cool headed, side of the debate. The Telegraph reported: MI5 failures over Woolwich probably ‘misjudgement’ not lack of snoopers’ charter, says Sir Chris Fox

***

And now for the law bloggers….

The League of Ordinary Gentlemen asks the (necessary) question: 

Why Does Everyone Want to Go to Law School?

For some reason people in America and the UK people have come to regard Law School as some sort of panacea. The pinnacle of academic learning and the route to meteoric career earning: the ultimate career backstop that offers glamour, big respect and guarantees a bulging bank balance.

Let’s call this ‘Law School Think’: the reason why everybody wants to go to law school.

However it’s all a myth.

The idea of Law School being a panacea is a perception ingrained so deeply that young men and women enrol in the face of hard facts that scream out: “Don’t go to Law School!” Slate writer Eric Posner provides a great prefatory note here.

A MESSAGE FROM DR ERASMUS STRANGELOVE
Senior Partner and Director of Education, Muttley Dastardly LLP

Dr Strangelove wrote this some time ago.  It still seems to reflect the current state of affairs?

Dear Prospective Applicants,

It is that time of year again.  You are back at university.  The long summer holidays are over.  Binge drinking in Cornwall is a long distant memory.  Your *Gap Yah* is finished and your parents are now able to get on with what is left of the rest of their lives knowing that you are safely on the treadmill called life.  Now you are back at your cash poor universities or are attending one of the shiny new reassuringly expensive law schools doing your LPC.  If you haven’t already been snapped up by one of the big law firms,  sponsoring you, you are probably sick with worry about your future prospects – and, frankly, you have every reason to be.  We are not out of the bears shitting all over the credit crunch woods yet… Lord Browne is about to release his entirely predictable report to allow the Vice Chancellors to increase their fees, law firms are still reeling from  the credit crunch… well…some law firms are…we at Muttley Dastardly LLP are not..in fact, to be honest, we are rather enjoying it.

Over the next few weeks, on The Lawyer, Legal Week and LawCareers.net websites you will be able to find lots of shiny brochures to download from BIG law firms and BIG law schools – implausibly showing pictures of glossy potential lawyers smiling away….possibly even sitting on the grass…although why they should be sitting on the grass when they should be inside working is a matter of some surprise to *US* at Muttley Dastardly LLP.

There will be lots of pictures of young people in suits, carrying briefcases, looking busy and important. Our Psyops team has replicated the genre below…. we’ve gone for the lawyers happy on a beach look… (right).

OK… we talk straight… expensive… but straight at Muttley Dastardly LLP.  Listen up…. and, I cannot resist using that dreadful phrase so beloved of cliche ridden writers…and smell the coffee.

1.  The economy will improve

2. Law firms will recover

3. Universities will raise their fees – and so will the BIG law schools for you (although not for us!)

4.  The Legal profession is changing – read the journals and keep up to date.

5.  You have to get a 2.1 to even stand a chance of selection for a decent law school at LPC level and, being honest, a decent university if you are going to get into a City law firm or any major commercial firm.

6. Being really honest… you haven’t a chance of getting into Muttley Dastardly LLP unless you went to Oxbridge or a top Russell Group university – why would *WE* take second best?

7. Be realistic… City practice is not for everyone – there is a wonderful world of law out there for lawyers who don’t want to be rich beyond the dreams of avarice, who don’t want to be movers and shakers in the City and business world, who don’t want to rub shoulders with the likes of Duncan Genocide from The Dragon’s Den. [Good one, Harry & Paul] We don’t have a clue what these lawyers do… but hey.. there must be a Facebook group.. or Twitter hashtag… and you could always Google?!  FTW!…as, I believe, some say…..  LMFAO, ROFL  etc etc etc…..

8.  We will always be honest with you…. if we take you on as a trainee, you will be worked beyond the limits of The Human Rights Act, you will learn a great deal about *OUR* type of practice and if you don’t cut it… we will give you a black plastic bag to take your belongings away in and that’s it.

Good luck with your studies this year.  I look forward to hearing from you… if you think you are hard enough.

Dr Erasmus Strangelove

Strength & Profits

Having been involved in legal education for thirty odd years – and continue with a Churchillian stance of ‘buggering on’ through blogging – I do get the  feeling that the law schools, particularly those providing vocational courses for the BPTC and LPC, are more concerned with their own profits and survival and this may outweigh their ‘corporate social responsibility’ to those they eagerly seek to enrol – and who may, despite all the third party advice on offer, be eager to enrol.

Interestingly: The Lawyer reports: 

Law students have reacted with anger and disappointment to the news that the National College of Legal Training (NCLT) has discontinued its legal practice course (LPC) and graduate diploma in law (GDL).

The NCLT announced last week that it is to stop teaching the LPC and GDL, blaming market conditions and a drop in the number of students for its decision (24 May 2013).

Legal Cheek had a good piece by David Banks this morning:  ‘JOURNALISTS PROBABLY DEAL WITH MORE LAW THAN ANYONE ELSE – INCLUDING LAWYERS’

Professor Richard Moorhead has an interesting post: Does legal education impact on how small businesses see the world?

“There are some interesting findings on attitudes risk and the incidence of legal problems in small businesses in the new study done by my colleagues Pascoe Pleasence and Nigel Balmer for the Legal Services Board. That study has drawn attention principally because it suggests a large latent market for legal problems. Small businesses have a large volume of legal problems which are not tackled with the assistance of legal advice. The median value of such problems was of the order of £1,2000 (though the mean value was much higher). Interestingly, also, whilst solicitors dominate service to this sector, accountants appear close behind…..”

Read more…

Practitioners may be interested in Professor John Flood’s article: Institutional Bridging: How Large Law Firms Engage in Globalization

“I’ve just posted a new paper to SSRN titled “Institutional Bridging: How Large Law Firms Engage in Globalization“. It’s for a symposium put together by the Boston College Law Review and the Boston College International & Comparative Law Review on Filling Power Vacuums in the New Global Legal Order.”

And that is probably enough for a Friday evening…back with Part 3 of my review of and from the law blogs at the weekend.

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The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
George Bernard Shaw 

Law blogging, despite the predictions of the gurus and prognosticators, continues to thrive.  Whether law blogs influence opinion is not of particular concern to me (nor, I suspect for  many law bloggers), for I blog for pleasure – but I would hope that the opinions and thoughts of my fellow bloggers at least provide food for thought.

The UK Human Rights Blog even considers  the right to blog in: Right to Blog, Lord Chancellor’s Legacy and Accountability for War Crimes – The Human Rights Roundup

Many law bloggers have been pre-occupied recently with the Legal Aid reforms.  Patrick Torsney has a comprehensive listing of some very good writing on the subject.

theintrigant continues to provide a dash of black humour to the proceedings with this Third Letter to The Lord Chancellor

AND…. 

@Mark_George_QC Tweets: 

One very angry #LegalAidWarrior comes out fighting http://www.gcnchambers.co.uk/content/download/2561/17348/file/Response%20to%20Transforming%20Legal%20Aid%20Consultation%202013%20-%20Mark%20George%20QC%20GCN.pdf … One of GCN’s responses to the worst Ld Chancellor in history

Francis FitzGibbon QC, who blogs at  Nothing Like The Sun, has a strong piece entitled Short Cuts in The London Review of Books.  The opening sentence should draw you in:

A fundamental shift in the relationship between the government and the governed is taking place: by restricting access to the law, the state is handing itself an alarming immunity from legal scrutiny.

But what of other matters?…..

Although the Ministry of Justice has apparently denied any intent to ‘privatise the courts’ – they merely want the courts to have more ‘commercial freedom’ – Obiter J considers the matter : Privatisation of the courts?

Obiter J also considers: Citizen’s Arrest – a limited power

@TheCustodySgt  asks: “Think Mark Bridger deserves the death penalty? My views from Sept last year on a US execution.”

The most high profile media case of the week was Lord McAlpine’s claim against Sally Bercow. 

Informm Blog considered this in their excellent weekly round up: Law and Media Round Up – 27 May 2013

And – Antonin Pribetic, writing from Canada, wrote a thought provoking piece on the matter as a guest on my own blog:  McAlpine v. Bercow and a New Era of ‘Twitter Chill’

David Allen Green, writing at his Jack of Kent blog, considers: The law and culture of phone hacking

The UK Human Rights blog analysed the decision in R (on the application of Sandiford) v Secretary of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs [2013] 168 (Admin) – read judgment : DEATH PENALTY LEGAL FUNDING REFUSAL: APPEAL COURT CONFIRMS LIMITS OF HUMAN RIGHTS ACT

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But it isn’t all serious on the law blogs….and I end this first (of several) reviews of and from the law blogs which I shall try and put together over the next few days…

Legal Cheek, as ever, continues to comment, provoke and amuse…

Last month, retiring Court of Appeal judge Sir Alan Ward (pictured) used his penultimate judgment to deliver a wistful nautical-themed allegory about departing the Royal Courts of Justice.

It wasn’t the first time that he’d made lawyers smile. Here are ten of his best lines…

Legal Cheek’s article….

And..mea culpa… it would be remiss of me to miss out a ‘tribute to our revered Lord Chancellor’ wot I did t’other day…

Back soon with more from the law blogs…

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Tour Report #25:  The role of Information technology in modern legal practice

Yesterday I talked with Charles Christian, Editor in Chief of Legal IT Insider (both available online and in print), about the role of technology in the practice of law and the information  tools used by lawyers in the modern era.

We looked at:

1. The consumerisation of legal software – why Facebook is so easy yet MS Word so difficult when it comes to training

2. Asked why don’t legal publishers adopt the iTunes approach to content – you buy the chapter you want, boot the 19 chapters you’ll never need

3. The use of social media

4. The gamification in continuing education and training, making it more fun to learn

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

(We had bad signal issues on Skype yesterday so in parts the sound broke up briefly.  Beyond my control unfortunately)

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Pitfalls of US-Style Deferred Prosecution Agreements must be considered
Paul Lewis is a partner solicitor at David Phillips & Partners

The long awaited Deferred Prosecution Agreements (DPAs) expected to surface in the UK by 2014, will benefit all involved if executed right – but we should learn from the American experience and be mindful of the warning signs.

What is a DPA?

The entire concept behind DPAs stems from America. Under a DPA, a prosecutor can pardon the defendant, if the latter conforms to a set of certain terms. So, if you’re charged with serious fraud, you could effectively avoid court punishment, by agreeing to the prosecutor’s conditions.

Such conditions would be reasonably outlined between the parties, with legal representation present on both sides. A common resolution in fraud cases is for the defendant to repay owed monies over time, along with a fine. By carrying out the requests under the DPA, the defendant is relieved of any charges attached to that particular case.

If the Crown Prosecution and Serious Fraud Organisation determine the conditions of a DPA to be appropriate, the charge will be successfully deferred. If the terms of the DPA are not then met by the defendant, the charges will recommence.

Why are DPAs coming to the UK?

Serious fraud cases are complex to say the least. Currently, some cases can go on for over seven years, only to result in a guilty plea at the last minute – this reportedly costs the Serious Fraud Organisation more than £1.5million each time.

DPAs will streamline the entire process but their introduction is not a ‘silver bullet’ in any way – fitting this American legal model into the UK will be a delicate process.

Getting it right

DPAs will not only afford security to the victims of corporate corruption but will also protect the defending cooperative establishments who, currently, can jeopardise the position of their associates (employees/clients/executives), who have nothing to do with the actual crimes of the company.

For solicitors, DPAs will allow for a more efficient settlement procedure and clients will be put at ease early – instead of enduring years of legal proceedings.

It is very early days and when you consider how often economic crimes involve two or more parties from different countries, it is difficult to determine how DPAs will work on an international scale. It is critical the UK DPA model will be robust enough to instil a confidence into British corporations who have entered the plea, that they will remain exempt from fully fledged prosecution overseas.

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About the Author

Paul Lewis is a partner solicitor at David Phillips & Partners and a Higher Courts Advocate who regularly conducts trials in the Crown Court and acted as both leading and junior counsel in cases of national prominence. Paul has directed many serious criminal cases, including murder, drugs, commercial & serious fraud and sexual offences.

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Ringing the changes to client call handling

Joanna Swash, Director at Moneypenny, discusses the growing trend of Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) being undertaken by firms keen to raise service levels, achieve regulation compliance and reduce overheads.

In your opinion, why are more and more firms embracing LPO?

I think a combination of the recession and the arrival of Alternative Business Structures mean firms have been forced to embrace the idea of outsourcing administrative tasks to stay competitive and deliver client choice. I would certainly hope the thought has been worse than the deed and that in the majority of cases, LPO has enabled firms to reduce the cost and turnaround time of high-volume professional work. Dare I say it, many may even be asking themselves: ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’.

Give an example within your industry of a law firm who has implemented LPO effectively.

One of the most recent examples relates to the launch of our 24/7 service. The firm in question had a dedicated project team, which included a Business Continuity expert, who worked tirelessly over a number of months delving into all areas of our business and testing our resilience against anything we might be faced with. It was a clinical approach and we were extremely pleased with the conclusion that we had robust processes in place, capable of dealing with any problem that might arise.

Our 24/7 service is delivered by our own UK receptionists who have been seconded to our office in Auckland for six months at a time. We currently provide this firm with a dedicated team working solely for them as a fully outsourced 24/7 switchboard service –saving them over £65,000 per year.

What could law firms learn from businesses in other sectors, such as yours?

That client experience is paramount and customers precious. Every touch point should be considered. Yes, this starts with the initial telephone enquiry being dealt with promptly and professionally (research suggests that 79% of callers hang up when prompted to leave a voicemail message so it’s always worth having a person at the end of the line) but what about the ongoing client journey? Does everyone in your office understand the importance of delivering high customer service at all times: be it via email, telephone or in person?

At Moneypenny, we place a huge amount of emphasis on creating a positive work environment for our team because in our minds, a smile can be heard. Also, don’t bury your head in the sand when it comes to business continuity and DR (although regulation compliance is making it harder and harder to ignore this issue). A client-centric mentality at all times is the order of the day.

What are the main things firms can implement to become more profitable / efficient?

Understand that clients expect the right experience and are more demanding than ever. Set out clear and achievable objectives to meet these expectations, as well as time to review performance regularly. Implement management ownership of Key Performance Indicators to help everyone stay focused. Prices are being squeezed so work smarter when it comes to processes and structures within your firm: develop a good rapport with sound suppliers for mutual benefit and never delegate these relationships. Everyone in your firm should approach their work with a mind on retaining business, selling to clients and seeking new business opportunities.

Outsourced switchboard provider Moneypenny knows a thing or two about answering telephone calls. Endorsed by the Law Society, the award-winning company offers a dedicated legal team that currently works with more than 700 UK firms. To find out more visit www.moneypenny.co.uk/law-firms

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Defend Yourself against a Personal Injury Lawsuit
By Denver Burke

 

Accidents do happen, and sometimes, the injured party can point the finger at you. And because no-one wants to find themselves with a lawsuit on their hands, it’s good to be prepared. You can dramatically reduce your risk of being forced to pay out vast sums of money by soliciting advice from a personal injury lawyer. However, we’ve compiled some tips for you:

Take Pictures

Even if you don’t take your camera with you everywhere, most people have a lens on their phone. Always take pictures of the scene where the accident took place. This is singularly important if you’re involved in a motor-related incident, otherwise you may be accused of something that wasn’t your fault, with no solid evidence to show your innocence.

Err On The Cautious Side

Particularly when it comes to car accidents, you better hope that your vehicle is up-to-date on all its safety checks and is 100% road worthy. If you’re involved in a motor accident and your car isn’t up-to-scratch, you may be accused of liability. With a properly maintained vehicle and sensible driving, you’re very unlikely to get suckered into a personal injury lawsuit, but nevertheless it should still act as a strong deterrent against careless or even wreckless driving.  

 Get In Touch With Your Insurance Company

 When you’ve been in a traffic accident, you should get in contact with your insurance company as soon as possible. Insurance normally covers your legal fees too. Being quick about reporting the incident always works in your favour. 

Due Diligence

If you are responsible for others, then sticking to the health and safety guidelines is a must. Keeping everyone secure should be your main priority, as it could end up reflecting badly on you in a court of law, if you didn’t do everything humanly possible to keep your charges out of harm’s reach.

Around the workplace, this may mean teaching employees how to lift objects safely, clearing up mess, and making sure everyone knows where the fire exits are. Without taking these precautions, you could be found liable for their injuries. If you’re in any doubt about which health and safety guidelines you have to adhere to, contact solicitors in Ellesmere Port for further information.

Personal Property

Possibly one of the most unbelievable ways someone can take you to court is if they injure themselves on your personal property. You can avoid this by having a routine inspection of your grounds for any legal hazards. Better yet, make sure that your personal property is insured against such events. Or you can just build an impenetrable fortress around your land. 

Emergency Services

If you find someone injured, always call emergency services, even if the person doesn’t appear to be too harmed, or at least offer to find a way to transport them to the hospital. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you are shown to have done everything possibly to make sure the injured party received medical attention, it always counts in your favour. Be the nice guy/gal.

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Well…at least some people know a bit….

The Telegraph reports: Leading barristers warn over legal aid cuts – Dozens of Britain’s leading barristers have warned that reforms of the legal aid system by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, will “seriously undermine the rule of law”

AND… Anna Raccoon has a say: Judicial Chicanery

(Back later with a podcast with Charles Christian, editor of Legal IT Insider, on developments in information technology for lawyers)

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