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Guten Abend meine Damen und  Herren.. und… even…  Juristen… . aber die Zeit  ist Geld … so I will keep this brief.

It is with regret that I cannot join the distinguished panel of pundits, mavens, prognosticators und blawgers at ze #UKLAWBLOGS Convention at The Law Society on 19th May 2011.  I am Dr Erasmus Strangelove (no relation), as some of you know, Director of Psyops, Strategy and Education at niche boutique firm Muttley Dastardly LLP in The City.  Our motto is ‘Strength & Profits’.  Each day I have to make complex and even minor calculations as to how I allocate the 20 hours of billable time – available daily  to the modern day professional lawyer –  to the future of The Partners…. of which I am one.  More often than not this consists of monitoring a bank of television screens in my Psyops room in the basement,  where we are able to monitor (and direct) the productivity of our various departments or…as we call them at Muttley Dastardly LLP… ‘revenue generation units’.  We like a neo-post-modern joke at our firm… or, at least, The Partners do.

I came to ze conclusion that while blawging und flawging is a most worthy and profitable activity for other lawyers to engage in… the more so if these same people can be encouraged to waste industrial amounts of time on twitter und Linked-In – the profit comes from taking advantage of the lack of productivity from our competitors and not in engaging in these activities ourselves. This explains why I am allocating time to a specially televised broadcast, delivered to you by courier using a USB device to connect with a PC at an internet cafe ‘somewhere in Abbottabad”, rather than expend Zeit  ist Geld by attending in persona.

It distressed me to hear this morning  that ‘persons unknown’ sought to obtain an injunction from Mr Justice Spank-Farquhar ,  a superinjunction contra mundum and against twitter and Facebook,  to restrain publication of my address to you urbi et orbi.  Fortunately, our recently knighted managing partner, Sir Matt Muttley, was able to use his considerable expertise to brief counsel to turn over this injunction on  the sole ground that all matters, save those which The Partners of Muttley Dastardly LLP do not wish to be made public, are in the public interest.

Spank-Farquhar J said “I have known Sir Matt Muttley for many years.  We were in The Bullingdon together and what happened at that club in London we trashed all those years ago, stays at that club we trashed in London all those years ago. When Sir Matt Muttley tells me now, through counsel, that he believes something should be made public, I can only reach one conclusion: It is in his interest, and therefore in the interest of the public and the ‘public interest’,  for it to be made public. I therefore order contra mundum spiritus et fillii et Spiritus Sancti exorciso te Romanum that this notice be published everywhere – with a bit of added SupraMandamus just to chill the breast of the tardy.  Make it so Mr  Sulu and let these words boldly go.”

I am much encouraged that a renegade blawger in Kent has addressed the real issue of law blogging.  I refer to Mr John Bolch of Family Lore and his brief, but nevertheless precise and excellent, treatise on the subject:

Has blawging become ‘establishment’?

Lord Bolchdidit goes to the very foundation of the rot which may pervade, pervert and pollute blogging – and which we may sleep walk into – if we are not very careful.  I quote:

“When I began writing this blog, there weren’t that many other legal blogs around. Law blogging was still a relatively new phenomenon, not taken seriously by the legal establishment. OK, there were certainly some serious legal blogs about (IPKat comes to mind), but there was definitely a higher proportion of more personal law blogs, with their own unique styles, such as Charon QC and the much-missed Geeklawyer.

Gradually, however, the establishment began to realise the potential of blogging to promote businesses and further careers. More and more blawgs began to appear, from the tedious “here’s a topical legal story – if you have the same problem, we can help” type, to the rather more subtle providers of detailed legal analysis, thereby demonstrating serious expertise.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not saying that law blogs should be restricted to one type. One of the beauties of blogging is that there are (virtually) no rules as to what format a blog should take. The problem, however, is that the establishment thinks it knows best and inevitably tries to take over the medium. Before we know where we are, we have blawging mavens making their pronouncements to the minions from on high, telling us all the right and the wrong ways to do things.

Worse than that, the establishment likes order. Blawgs have to be listed and rated. Now, I have nothing against personal opinions, but if the rating is by committee or vote, then you can count me out. You can also count me out of any annual award ceremony for the best blawgs by category, even if the winners are announced in reverse order.

I do recommend that you read the rest of it.

I concur.  If I have any advice at all for law bloggers… it is this.. you have a duty to stir.  My colleague and consultant to Muttley Dastardly LLP, Charon QC,  will be attending #UKLAWBLOGS if he is sober – and he may well appear roaring on arrival in any event.  I suspect he will be putting his “Doctrine of The Duty To Stir’ (Self Aggrandisers Monthly April 2011)  before you for your delectation and delight.  He may listen to reason – and he does a most passable imitation of appearing to do  so and be affable at the same time – but he certainly does not feel it necessary to abide by reason.

That is all.  May the law have mercy upon your soul and keep you safe from flawgers and establishment blawgers. Read their marketing schtik instead.

Dr Erasmus Strangelove

Strength & Profits

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EYES ONLY

To: The Partners

From: Dr Erasmus Strangelove, Partner, Director of Psyops, Strategy and Education

RE: MONTHLY PSYOPS REPORT

***

1. “Many reasons for solicitors to start using social media”

There are many reasons why we would encourage other solicitors to use social media.  I select but two:

(a) Tie up of competitor human capital on Twitter. It is now proven that lawyers can (and do) waste industrial amounts of time on Twitter.  Some, obsessed with ‘engaging’, are now forming breakaway groups to share their broadcasts and knowledge with other solicitors on Linked-In and sundry other ‘networking’ sites. It would appear, from the reports of our ‘operatives’ on the ground, that these lawyers appear to be talking to each other, rather than fee-paying clients. This is a remarkable phenomenon.

An article in the Law Society Gazette dated 6 May by David Laud noted, inter alia: “But a word of caution – not all who speak with marketing tongue can walk the social media walk.”

David Laud notes, and I quote verbatim:

‘I just don’t get it, everyone talks about it, but no one has the time to do it. Even when I do spend time on it, I’m not really sure what I’m doing.’

Views that may well resonate; but what is the answer?

Put simply, law firms have five main options. First, if they have not started to use social media, they could opt to just not bother.

Second, if they have made an attempt by, say, opening a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account, they could stop right now and do no more.

Third, they could hire someone to do their donkey work and outsource the firm’s social media activity.

The fourth option is for senior management to instruct all fee-earners to embrace social media and open a variety of accounts, throwing the firm headlong into all things ‘social’.

And fifth, firms could introduce a workable approach to using the most appropriate platforms for the firm by setting a plan and working to it.

I particularly enjoyed this statement from the article: “The statistics are impressive: with millions of ‘friends’, ‘followers’ and contacts to ‘link to’, we ignore social media at our peril and risk being left far behind.”

And this comment raised a smile at my meeting with my BlackOpsDEVGRU as we put together our latest free “Social Media for Law Firms in 2011” newswire – under a different ident;  which we know is being widely read by our competitors:

What makes social media so appealing, but also introduces the element of risk, is that you can genuinely enter into a dialogue with your stakeholders.

(b) Needless to say, we are encouraging competitor lawyers to *engage* – a word for our times –  on twitter et al and, using the #FF hashtag our operatives have suggested quite a few serial tin foil hat wearers for our competitors to follow – with remarkable take up. The danger, of course, with engaging with ‘Followers’, is that one runs the risk of (a) wasting even more time and (b) being ridiculed for trying to uphold the system of justice we have in our country and the ‘Rule of Law’ by the aforementioned tin foil hat wearers.

This latter is, of course, not a problem Muttley Dastardly LLP will experience directly as we do not have a ‘direct’ presence on twitter.  For security reasons, I have not provided The Partners with the tin foil hat wearer account details we have established on this medium to ‘engage’ with competitor law firms.

Mr Laud encourages readers of his article in The Law Society Gazette:  “Please don’t worry about how you become a trusted, entertaining broadcaster. “ and then goes on to observe: “The vast majority of Twitter accounts are run by ordinary people, who have simply spent time understanding the language, tone and appropriateness of the medium. “

I suspect this latter observation will not sit well with the many on twitter who take a great deal of time to enjoy tweeting, do not like ‘broadcasters’  and would not consider themselves to be ‘ordinary people… blah blah..blah.” I do however, agree with his advice that competitor solicitors contemplating a twitter presence should not  worry about becoming a trusted, entertaining broadcaster… they should just become a serial broadcaster and I shall be recommending an *App* to enable them to pump out tweets overnight as they sleep, which will go down well with their ‘followers’. As to the ‘Entertaining’ element of tweeting:  It can, as the old saying goes, “be difficult to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”.

We are encouraged by Mr Laud’s Suggestion Three (supra) that law firms ‘hire someone to do their donkey work and outsource the firm’s social media activity’.  This advice presents us with a number of commercial opportunities to ‘assist’ our competitors ‘understand’ social media and get paid for it. My team is setting up an agency as I write.   Using the vernacular of a young trainee operating one of of our document shredders the other morning as he successfully disposed of some unprofitable client files… “Result!”

2. Competitor news

RollonFriday.com reports:

Taylor Wessing has introduced a new policy of disseminating details of its associates’ recorded hours internally.

With effect from March, associates have been told the hours recorded by each colleague in their team for the last month and for the year-to-date. So those at the top of the scale can smugly strut along the corridors and sneer at their humiliated, under-achieving friends as they desperately beg partners for work and the chance to put in an all-nighter.

Dr Erasmus Strangelove
Partner and Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops, Muttley Dastardly LLP

Strength & Profits

***

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 Latimer Lee LLP Solicitors Manchester solicitors

 

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PRESS RELEASE (EMBARGOED UNTIL YOUR FEE PAYMENT CLEARS FOR VALUE)

Hugo de Vertback, Partner and Head of Capital and Private Wealth, Muttley Dastardly LLP – The Vickers Report for Reform of the Banking Sector

In the early morning of Monday 11th April, a group of hitherto unknown men and women – unknown outside City circles – filed into a room for a press conference and released a document which could, in time, be as subversive to the interests of bankers and City lawyers as Gallileo Gallilei’s  championing of Cupronickelism: when a large majority of philosophers, noble statesmen and assorted money launderers still subscribed (rightly in the view of the Partners at Muttley Dastardly LLP)  to the Citycentric view that lawyers and bankers are at the centre of the universe.

Students of law, philosophy and fundamentalist capitalism will recall that when Gallileo Gallilei later defended his views in his most famous work, Dialogue Concerning the Two World Banking Systems, published in 1632, he was tried by the Inquisition, found (pleasingly)  “vehemently suspect of heresy”, forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

It is a matter of some regret that his thought descendants, among them one Sir John Vickers, will not be subject to a similar fate for this latest report into reform of our revered and world class banking system.

I read the article in Legal Week with mounting dismay, which turned to anger when I looked at some of the ‘extraordinary comments’ appended to this ‘article’.

I quote the apostasy and heresy put forward by Legal Week  for analysis:

“City lawyers have reacted critically to the Vickers report’s proposals for reform of the UK banking sector, highlighting the potentially damaging impact on the City’s status as a global banking hub.

Key proposals contained within the interim report from the Independent Commission on Banking (ICB) include the suggestion that UK banks should ring-fence their retail divisions from their investment banking arms and that there should be increased capital requirements for “systemically important banks”.

The report also concludes that a higher level of competition is required in retail banking, and in particular urges Lloyds to sell off further branches.

The report’s proposals are designed to reduce risk in the banking sector, mitigate moral hazards, decrease the likelihood of future bank failures and promote competition in retail and investment banking….”

While a competitor (and ordinarily I would not, of course, do anything in public to advance the cause of a fellow lawyer),  I find myself almost in full agreement with Nabarro corporate partner Alasdair Steele who said: “The ICB acknowledges that implementing its reforms will cost the banks. Shareholders and investors are unlikely to bear the full brunt of these changes so, if they are followed through, we can all expect to pay more for our banking through higher costs and fees and lower returns on our savings.”

These are dark days for bankers and City lawyers. While bankers can f**k off to other countries to ply their profession;  global mobility isn’t quite as easy for City lawyers, despite the best endeavours of our empire building forbears.  For one thing, the Chinese have cottoned on to how easy it is to train lawyers and are producing millions of them.  India already has several million lawyers and appears none too keen to import any from London or even let us in as ‘tourists’.

As to the preposterous suggestion by Robert Van Persie in the comments section in the Legal Week report where he wrote: “I think that City lawyers are the last people who should be moaning about this since they were partly responsible for causing the financial crisis and have never been punished for it. The law is not just something for partners to make money out of – it was designed as a system to govern and protect society. That includes lawyers involved in corporate and banking law.”
“The law is not just something for partners to make money out of”  – Good grief. Does Mr Van Persie think that City lawyers studied so hard at university and later on the LPC to NOT make money out of law?

Some will be attracted by Mr Van Persie’s apparently sensible analysis. This is why such thinking is so subversive.  There can only be one response to this.  Lawyers are merely the instrument of the client’s desire – so long as such action is within the code of ethics, best practice and, of course, we should not forget,  ‘the law’.  To suggest that we lawyers were in any way responsible for the collapse of the  Western banking system and be held accountable along with bankers is, quite probably and possibly, actionable.  I have asked my fellow Partner – Dr Erasmsus Strangelove, our Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops –  to log onto Lexis-Nexis or Westlaw and refine his thinking on defamation.

As for the totally absurd idea, advanced by Mr Van Persie, that we City lawyers would buy a holiday home in Cyprus on the back of our billings to our revered banking clients – Cyprus?  Ludicrous. Cyprus is for holiday makers.  City partners do not buy villas in Cyprus.  We might try to buy Cyprus – but we would not be interested in the modest returns a villa would bring.

I rest my case.  We were only following orders.  We have not been punished – ergo, we are not guilty of anything at all.  Editors of national newspapers and the legal press should be most careful in publishing any subversive material which suggests that we are in any way complicit in anything. That is all.

***

Note to Editors:

Hugo de VertBack was educated at Eton, and Oxford.  He took a First in law and would have taken more, had he developed the skills for taking more in those early days of his career.  Muttley Dastardly LLP is a niche boutique City firm.  WE are known as ‘the Silent service’ because our clients know that we say nothing about anything at any time in public about them and regard it as failure to end up litigating commercial contracts or banking documentation in court.

If you would like a picture of Hugo de Vertback – please contact Eva Brown, PA to Matt Muttley, Managing Partner of Muttley Dastardly LLP.  We shall do our best to accommodate your request to have a non-exclusive temporary lease of the photographic rights.  We take Amex.

***

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

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MEMORANDUM EYES ONLY

To:  The Partners

From: Dr Erasmus Strangelove, Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops

RE: Retention of staff and human capital maximisation

Gentlemen,

1. I am reviewing currently our human operational asset base for the purpose of refreshing the stock. This also ties in with an assessment of productivity of junior associate staff.  I was much taken by an article in the Law Society Gazette of 30th inst by Tessa Armstrong, a Careers and Performance Coach, amusingly titled: Junior solicitors create more value, and make firms happier places.

2. Ms Armstrong clearly has the right attitude. She writes: “Increasing profitability is currently a number one priority. Everyone is pulling out all the stops to bring in work – and junior solicitors are an important resource who can help too, if attention is paid to their performance and motivation.”

Ms Armstrong then goes for it with this wonderful sentiment:

Through improving the productivity of junior solicitors, firms can achieve some great things including:

  • Accelerated progression of junior solicitors through increased resilience.
  • Increased commitment from staff.
  • Increased profitability through reduced risk of poor performance.

All that’s needed is to ensure the challenges your junior solicitors face are identified and resolved straightaway.

3.  Losing just an hour a day of a solicitor’s time at only £150 per hour for four years costs approximately £135,000. This caught my eye.  Our charge out rate is, of course, rather more generous to us, but the idea of such a loss over the four years we aim to retain newly qualified staff for, before assessing how ‘sticky’ they are in our terms, is a matter of some concern.   Ms Armstrong rehearses issues of feedback to staff and comes up with a list of stratagems for success: The usual guff about making lists, doing the least attractive task first, turning off mobiles etc etc etc.  This advice  is counter to our Blackops on twitter where we are  encouraging as many of our competitors as possible to waste industrial amounts of billable time by tweeting and faffing around on Linked In;  let alone our encouragement and promotion of RollonFriday.com – a wonderful resource, where young lawyers can really be distracted and, in some cases, even lose their sanity.   Ms Armstrong does, however, show qualities worthy of Muttley Dastardly LLP where she states “The outcome should be that junior solicitors will be happy, motivated and focused, the number of chargeable hours recorded will increase, and profits will rise.”

4. Retention of staff:  We have 12 associates in PQE4 coming up for review. Unfortunately, all of them are showing promise, all are performing to targets – our stratagem of having a P45 blown up to poster size, framed, and placed in the PQE4 Bunker, seems to have had a subliminal effect in these ‘difficult days’.  I plan, therefore, with your blessing, to cull this down to 8; to allow us to bring fresh and less expensive blood in by using a device (pictured above) which I recall using at school as a child.  To ensure fairness I shall make four such devices, to accommodate the names of the twelve associates, and I shall pick, at random, passages from Lord  Denning’s judgment in Hightrees, and when I get to the end of the passage – using one word for each hand manipulation of the aforementioned device –  for each of the four ‘devices’,  the name on the left quartile shall be the one chosen for dispersal to the legal diaspora. To ensure that this process is even more random, I shall close my eyes when I pick the device up to start the process of selection.

5.  May I remind Partners that we meet this Friday to consider our policy on No Win No fee in the light of the shocking news yesterday.  In case you missed it, here is an article in The Guardian which explains all: The cost of clamping down on ‘no win, no fee’ legal arrangements

Dr Erasmus Strangelove
Partner and Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops, Muttley Dastardly LLP

Strength & Profits

***

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

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Dr Erasmus Strangelove, Partner and Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops at Muttley Dastardly LLP is interviewed by Just Go Direct’s Legal Brick Road…. do not fear… it was chargeable….

“Law is a business like any other these days. We have the knowledge. You have the money. You give us the money. We give you the knowledge.”

Read…

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MEMORANDUM

From:  Matt Muttley, managing partner

To:  Partners and fee earners

RE: MOST IMPORTANT – FEES – ENGAGEMENT LETTERS TO CLIENTS

1. Perusing The Law Society Gazette this morning,  I came across a report of the ‘utmost importance’ and I write to ask all partners and fee earners to ensure that clients are ‘fully appraised’ of our terms and conditions in the letter of engagement.  I have asked Dr Erasmus Strangelove to address the issues raised by Mr Justice Cranston’s attack on our branch of the legal profession with the utmost haste.  I am advised that a revised ‘Letter of Engagement’ will be ready to send out to clients today enabling us to unilaterally vary our original terms of engagement with immediate effect.  Fortunately, we had the presence of mind to slip into Paragraph 4128(1)(c)(iii) of our Standard Terms of Engagement a right to unilaterally vary our contracts with clients at will and, even, on a whim.

2.  Mr Justice Cranston’s judgment

I urge you to read the report in The Law Society Gazette immediately (Another advantage is that this may well count for CPD points).  I quote from the most important and salient sections of this report:

Mr Justice Cranston dismissed an appeal brought by north London firm Cawdery Kaye Fireman & Taylor (CKFT), against a costs judge’s ruling that no fees were payable by their former client Gary Minkin after the firm refused to carry out more work until he had paid his bill.

The costs judge held that the firm’s refusal to continue to act without payment was a repudiatory breach of contract. He said the firm was not entitled to any costs, and had to refund all the fees that Minkin had paid so far, except for counsel’s fees.

Dismissing the firm’s appeal, Cranston said: ‘The outcome may seem harsh. But the fact is that it should have been made clearer in [the] retainer letter as to the nature of the engagement.’

He said the firm should have complied with the terms in its retainer letter and standard terms of business, and informed the client in writing that the costs estimate may be exceeded.

3.  You will note that some comfort may be taken from the passage “and informed the client in writing that the costs estimate may be exceeded.”

As we always plan to exceed our estimates, even under the new Platinum Service scheme where we take 150% of our fee on account, we are unlikely to run into ‘problematic issues’;  but it is our practice to be most observant on the matter of fees and cover the position and all eventualities, including force majeure and exclusion of act of god, death or other incapacity, when it comes to fulfilment by the client of the obligation to pay fees, disbursements and ‘uplifts’.

The idea that  refusal to carry out further work until fees are paid could amount to a repudiatory breach of contract on our part – and worse, having to repay fees –  is not just ‘harsh’, it is too awful to contemplate.

4.  The firm expects you to do your duty, this day

Matt Muttley

Strength & Honour

PS:  RollonFriday.com has a most excellent piece on claiming CPD points by going skiing.  Taking the Piss or what?

***

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

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All a bit embarrassing that the Libyan School of Economics took the money….. but hey…. still time to fund other more peaceful organisations?

Bit busy on a project… back later…..

And… just as you thought it was Assange to go back into the water…… Julian Assange is, allegedly, reputedly and, possibly – indubitably…trade marking *Assange*… at least…. according to this report in The Register….

And… David Allen Green has a very good post in the New Statesman on why Assange lost last week… it is worth reading…

 

We discussed the judgment in our first “Without Prejudice” podcast if you haven’t heard it David Allen Green, Carl Gardner and Joanne Cash discuss the verdict  in robust terms.

 

And… Twitter does throw up some wonderful nonsense….. this from my fellow tweeter… @Wibblenut… who, like me, keeps unusual hours.

 

And…these…

anne_f_ Anne Fay…asks….
@Charonqc Will I be allowed to assange if he gets his trademark? Am making no claims that I *want* to, it’s a theoretical question.
BillfromBendigo Bill from Bendigo
@Charonqc What about the legendary egg and bacon Assange!
@chuzzlit Alison Charlton…responded by saying….
@Charonqc I Assange you in the name of the law.
Meanwhile…as our Tory-led Coalition government wonder if they should hire ships and planes from Weapons R US…… I do think they may need to  re-consider the resources  (Harriers / aircraft carriers etc)  available to this country for his plans to go to war in North Africa….. but..hey… what do we know….?
Watched BBC Newsnight…..
AND… I love the fact that twitter is truly international… this> ……..
GADDAFIDUST…
And… of course….no sooner do I do this tweet……  the talent on the net has got the picture before me and everyone else   (via @Wibblenut)….. this  from those lovely people at b3ta.com.

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