Muttley Dastardly LLP: Christmas Party/Legal Issues…

Memo to all Members of the firm from Matt Muttley

Following guidelines issued recently by the Advisory Consiliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), as reported in The Evening Standard yesterday, it appears that this firm owes a ‘duty of care’ to our staff and could face legal action if employees don’t get home safely after the Christmas Party.

Further, it is well known that quite a few employment disputes arise over incidents which take place at Christmas parties. Older members of the firm may recall a senior associate, some years ago, being asked to leave the firm for groping the wife of our senior partner in an ‘inappropriate manner’ – which, of course, begs the question as to what would be ‘appropriate groping’. Law Firm, Peninsula, according to the Standard report, has carried out a study and this has shown ‘that most bosses believed their workers drank too much at the annual festive bash.’

What is more worrying is that the ACAS pamphlet identified , and I quote from The Standard, ‘several office party situations that bosses could be held liable for such as staff stumbling out drunk and injuring themselves.’ We could also be held liable if employees are bullied by other employees during the party.

Apparently, we have to be careful about our choice of music at the party. Under new age discrimination laws, music must be chosen to reflect the interests of all people invited to the party. While Lead Zepellin may appeal to the more mature (can I say this now?) members of the firm, it may not to the younger members. While X factor wannabe music may delight the younger members, I can tell you that it it does little for me and if it were to be played at a Christmas party I may well be able to sue the firm for discrimination on grounds of age, let alone for abusing my human rights. (Are damages tax free?.. could be something in this… Eva… check this out with Tax people, please) Nor, it is recommended, should we continue our practice of providing bottles of Champagne as prizes for ‘best dressed managing partner’, etc etc on grounds that it could offend those whose religions do not permit the drinking of alcohol.

Although lights and decorations are approved, because they are not ‘inherently religious symbols’, we do, of course, have to consider possible liability in negligence in case any member of staff injures themselves on a Christmas tree, a piece of tinsel or by using a Christmas cracker.

Taking all these things into account; the managing board of the firm has decided to cancel Christmas this year. We would, however, like to wish you a Good (and profitable) New Year.

Addicted….to caption competitions…

Not only am I becoming addicted to liver and mash (Infra) – I appear to be fascinated by Caption competitions. So here is another one. I have started the ball rolling, rather predictably – so, again, the winner will get a prize of a set of lectures.

Thanks to all for taking part – the standard was excellent – but, as in Strictly Come Dancing… there has to be a winner.

Post your entries to the ‘Comments’ section below – please!

I may well be running more of these… if there is any demand… but I may come up with another style of competition as well. After all, one cannot live by liver and mash alone. As before… my decision… no judicial reviews on this site!

The winner of the previous caption competion

“…but in Glasgow this IS how we kiss the bride!”

Comment by Jem Harvey — Monday, November 27, 2006

Jem – if you write to msp@spr-law.com and let Mike Semple Piggot know which set of lectures you would like access to – it will be arranged. Please mark email subject line ‘Caption Competition’

Well done… Liked it..particularly because of my Scots background. (Father was Glasgow – Mother Edinburgh.)

View other entries here

Humbug…

 

While Christmas is not really my thing – after an all nighter on Christmas Eve last –  mercifully, I was able to miss most of the day.  I thought I would turn on the lights on my blawg as I do not appear to have that many (any) invitations to perform this ceremony elsewhere.

Caption competition…

Have a go at the caption competition…and win a set of 20 recored one hour lectures in a subject of your choice if your caption wins from: Contract, Criminal, Constitutional, Tort, Land Law, Equity and EU Law.

Scroll up for the latest papal caption competition….

Freedom of speech…

The Guardian reports today that The Metropolitan Police are lobbying the A-G for wider powers to “arrest protesters for causing offence through the words they chant and the slogans on their placards and even headbands.”

This rather sums it up… and I quote from the Guardian report: “A solicitor who has defended protesters, Mike Schwarz, said: “Causing offence, if there is no other ingredient, is not against the law.” He said such proposed powers would clash with article 10 of the European convention on human rights which protects freedom of expression.”

Muttley Dastardly LLP – “Religious symbols: Wearing of policy”

Memo to all Staff from Matt Muttley, Managing Partner

It came to my notice the other day, when I made a rare appearance in the open plan work area, that quite a few associates and administrative staff have taken to wearing burqas, skull caps, silver crosses, orange turbans, white druidic robes and various other symbols of faith. I find this pleasing. As I have no desire to see Muttley Dastardly LLP subjected to vilification by bearded Bishops a la British Airways – our official policy on the wearing of religious symbols at work is that you may do as you please and, it has to be said, I would not wish this firm to be ‘boycotted’ by the bearded Bishops. The only caveat I enter is that you are happy in your work and do the hours and that you think about the wealth of our firm and your future part in that wealth. Muttley Dastardly LLP is an equal opportunity employer with a structured and hierarchical approach to the distribution of rewards. The restriction on wearing brown suede shoes with a pinstripe suit continues in place – although senior associates may wear shooting tweeds and Plus Fours on Fridays if they so choose. That is all.

A cunning plan…

Last night I dined with friends and it was suggested to me, by a recently retired partner at Slaughter & May who I play chess with fairly regularly, that England are merely lulling the Aussies into a false sense of security by their almost comical display of beach cricket at The Gabba. I mention my friend’s  legal pedigree simply to add weight to the seriousness of the suggestion. I was fairly well into the juice so I was more than happy to subscribe to his idea.

Watching the cricket this morning was a surreal experience. The commentators had almost given up and rambled on about almost everything other than cricket. Cut away shots to the commentary box showed Botham barely able to conceal his laughter. We really have to do better tomorrow…. if only to get some practice in.

A propos of absolutely nothing… I appear to have become addicted to liver and mash. I do have some routines.. two espressos at breakfast and two at 6.00 in the evening when I have a glass of vino. It is also true that I always have the same breakfast, if I have time to go to a cafe in the morning – and twist the plate around so the egg is placed conveniently to my right, before buttering a slice of toast. Now I find I am ordering liver and mash every evening. I shall eat this meal to death for a few weeks until I can longer cope with even the sight of it..and move on to something else. I have absolutely no idea why I feel the need to ramble on about these personal quirks today… perhaps the balance of my mind has been tipped by the cricket?

I decided, after eating my liver and mash, to visit Tim Kevan’s blog. I am glad that I did. Tim has written two rather good ‘briefs’ on Life in Chambers and The Senior Clerk – well worth a read if you are thinking about a career at the Bar or are just curious as to the ways of the Bar today. An interesting read.

Caption competition…

Mildly depressed (Cricket!)…I have decided to amuse myself by having a caption competition.

I’m afraid, for practitioners, there are no prizes… just a signed picture of me which I will email to you in the best WebCameron style… – anyway, you are earning good money, hopefully. But if a law student comes up with the best caption – Consilio will send them a password to access a set of recorded lectures of their choice from: Criminal, Contract, Constitutional, Tort, Equity, Land Law or EU Law. (I will post an email address you can write to if you are ‘the chosen one’.)

OK. OK… if a practitioner wins I’ll let them have a set of recorded lectures as well. You can give it away as a Christmas present!

These are my ‘attempts’ at a suitable caption:

“Not today, Vicar…not here!”

“You may kiss the gold digger”

“Oh darling… how romantic of you to tear up the pre-nuptial…on this special day. Thank you.”

How to win:

1. Post your caption in the comments section below

2. If you win…simply phone Mike Semple Piggot on 020 8742 1357 if you are the winner – He will assume you are who you say you are and send you the password. You can tell him which set of lectures you would like. or I’ll post an email address – in fact you can email Mike if you are the winner : msp@spr-law.com

3. Come up with the best caption… my opinion…no appeals, no judicial review… I am the sole judge and I’m not shagging a brazilian cleaner.

(Hopefully..some of you may enjoy a few glasses of red this weekend and feel inspired… so I’ll post the notice about The Winner on Tuesday.. (ish) On the other hand, if no-one can be bothered… I’ll be even more depressed ! )

Stumped?……

No… I won’t be discussing the cricket. 53-3 battling against a 602-8 (Declared) Aussie total is not something even New Labour could spin a good story about. As I lay in my staterooms watching the cricket from my futon, I was reminded of my childhood when children hid behind the sofa waiting for the Daleks to come on in Dr Who. I certainly could not bear to watch the display of pretty crass batting this morning.

So… stumped for commentary. I may have to fall back on some law – which, on a Friday afternoon, may be asking too much.

But Borat may well have a few litigation problems ahead.

The Guardian reports:
“It began with outrage in Kazakhstan, followed by the strangulated sound of forced laughter from the nation’s diplomats, who realised they should pretend to get the joke. It may end in a procession of costly trips to court. While Kazakhs have meekly come to an accommodation with the blockbusting power of Borat Sagdiyev, it appears that Sacha Baron Cohen’s altar ego did not learn one important lesson during his travels across the United States: when they are offended, Americans sue”

I haven’t seen the film but the Guardian paints a picture of deception with potential litigators ranging from Romanian villagers who feel that they were misled toother ‘stars’ of the film who, reportedly, signed their rights away in a complex release form which included some unsual provisions – for example: subject agrees not to bring any claims over “false light (such as any allegedly false or misleading portrayal of the Participant)” and “fraud (such as any alleged deception or surprise about the Film or this consent agreement)”.

The article is interesting. One american media lawyers is confident that the agreement is ‘watertight’, whereas an english lawyer from Eversheds takes a different view: The Guardian reports: “According to Phil Sherrell, a media lawyer at international law firm Eversheds, the clause waiving the right to seek redress against the producers would be struck out under English law. “If this was playing out in England, the subjects would have a good claim that the nature of the project had been fraudulently misrepresented, and that the agreement was therefore void.”

Another story, with some legal content came up today in the Telegraph. Massingham, a Norfolk based car mechanic, wanted to run a car repair business from home. His planning application was turned down because of objections from other villagers. Apparently, Massingham took the view that it was the ‘green wellie’ brigade and second hime owners who caused him to lose the planning application.

So, to gain revenge he is putting up his house for rent at a ‘peppercorn rent’ advertising that “travelling families, large extended families, multiple occupancy, DSS and East Europeans, with all pets most welcome”. A move intended to cause as much annoyance to his neighbours.

“This is a last resort to show the village what bad neighbours really are,” he said. “It’s just to get my revenge, to prove a point”, Massingham is reported as saying.

I went to Norfolk once. I was told by a woman who has lived in Norfolk all her life, a doctor, that it was a strange place and that doctors in the area often inscribe their patient notes with ‘NfN” (Normal for Norfolk) when faced with patients exhibiting or presenting with unusual behaviour or ailments.

I now know exactly where I work….

I am pleased to be able to tell you that I live at the following longitude / latitude co-ordinates: 51.49653421421105, -0.27088165283203125

I am able to tell you because of this gizmo on the web… Use the scroll bars on the left to find out where you live/work. It is pleasing to know that American B-52 bomber crews probably have even more accurate maps. It is, therefore, unlikely I will be bombed in error – at least..not in that way. The satellite picture option is even better. How they got a picture of me drinking outside The Bollo is mystifying.

The Ashes…. let the ceremony begin

And so… it has begun… an epic between giants of the game.

I have quoted this before… but it is worth quoting again (and, it brings in a little bit of law – at least.)

“In summertime village cricket is the delight of everyone. Nearly every village has its own cricket field where the young men play and the old men watch. In the village of Lintz in County Durham they have their own ground, where they have played these last 70 years. They tend it well. The wicket area is well rolled and mown. The outfield is kept short . . . [y]et now after these 70 years a judge of the High Court has ordered that they must not play there anymore . . . [h]e has done it at the instance of a newcomer who is no lover of cricket.
This newcomer has built . . . a house on the edge of the cricket ground which four years ago was a field where cattle grazed. The animals did not mind the cricket.”

Miller v. Jackson (1977) Q.B. 966, 976

I have Sky Sports. I am also fortunate in needing only four hours of sleep a night. So.. do I stay up and watch the first session until 2.00 and then go to sleep..or do I get up when I usually wake at 3.00 and watch it then? A difficult question. Last night, I did a bit of both. Australia are firmly in control at 346 – 3, with Captain, Ricky Ponting, producing a magnificent innings of 138 – and he gets a chance to add to this score tomorrow morning.

Grievous Bodily Harmison opened the proceedings with a spectacular wide which had to be caught by second slip. Unfortunately, he is not fired up yet (out of practice) prompting Boycott to ramble on as usual about ‘line and length’. Boycott is right, however. Harmison needs to get fired up and bowl to bounce the ball up to the ribs and head area to ‘test’ the batsmen and force errors.

Relax… I’m not going to drone on about cricket. The BBC website has excellent Ashes coverage.

What I will do, as the series progresses, is make a few observations.

Ashley’s Ashes (in the style of Lord Denning MR)

In a small village of London, called Chiswick, there is a gastropub. It is called The Bollo Bar & Dining Room. It is a delightful place with panelled walls, good food and a well stocked wine cellar. It is run by an Australian called Ashley, who is a keen cricket fan. Last year Charon QC and a group of friends took the afternoon off on the day of the final Ashes Test. It was an important match. It was the decider. England won. There was a great deal of celebration, drinking of Rioja and smoking of cigarettes by Charon and others. Ashley was unconsolable. Charon, to compound his misery, took a box of Bollo matches, burned the matches in an ashtray and with the ashes of these matches, supplemented by cigarette ash, filled the empty match box. Charon then signed the box, as did his friends – and, sportingly, so did Ashley. He then sealed the box with sellotape. Codebreaker, who was present at this afternoon of drinking and cricket, varnished the box to make it look old and the box of matches was then duly mounted on a small rosewood plinth provided by Charon. They are called “Ashley’s Ashes”.

For a year and a few months, Ashley’s Ashes have been on a bookcase in Charon’s study. Now they are mounted on a shelf above the bar at The Bollo – where they will remain until The Ashes tournament is over. If Australia win, they will stay at The Bollo. If England win, they will return to Charon’s study. These are the simple pleasures in life.

If you wish to view Ashley’s Ashes – you will have to go to The Bollo. Charon often sits at Table 21, sometimes playing Chess, but always with a glass of Rioja and two espressos.

***

Keep the Aussies from getting their hands on The Ashes bizarre interactive game 

European Court fails drinkers and smokers…

Retailers have expressed relief at a European Court ruling against allowing consumers to buy drinks and cigarettes online at lower duties from abroad. BBC

Unfortunately….Europe has again turned away from the needs of drinkers and smokers who wished to buy cheaper Polish and Latvian booze and fags.  A victory for common sense chmed one worthy frm The Treasury.  Traders were relieved as, no doubt, were the many newsagents and off-licences in Britain. It is, however, still lawful to go on a booze cruise to calis and pick up cheaper products.  Here is one company which does these cruises.  I have never done one.  I might just have to try a cruise.  Pity… I was quite looking forward to ordering my Silk Cut and Rioja from Latvia.

Miscellany….

Grateful to Codebreaker, a regular contributor to the blawg and inspiration for a number of posts, for sending me this road sign picture in.

All day drinking

According to The Telegraph (20 November)
“The relaxation of Britain’s drinking laws has failed to trigger the surge in alcohol-fuelled violence and round-the-clock drunkenness that many predicted, police said yesterday.”

Catching up on legal news, I came across this story on the net. I assume that the police are pleased about this – but, the way the opening of the story read, there seemed, almost, to be a hint of disappointment. I recall the feeding frenzy in the press when these new laws came in. Pundit after pundit opined that the streets of Britain would be awash with piss artists..the streets would run with vomit etc etc. They have been proved wrong. The government said 24 hour drinks laws would not lead to problems – and, they seem to be right. The police are reporting a decline in night time alcohol related violence, according to the story in The Telegraph. Mind you, my own locals shut at 11.00 – which is probably just as well.

SPR, who publish Consilio and, it has to be said, my blawg… have Study Kits in CD format which contain 20 one hour recorded lectures, a detailed textbook, casenotes and a Q&A pack for just £42 – available from all good bookshops or Wildy’s online. If you are interested in buying a useful resource (or even if you are a practitioner and wish to ‘refresh’ your knowledge) – have a look at Consilio and LawinaBox

They are a godsend – solved all my Christmas present problems at a stroke. I’ve given my brother, Professor R D Charon, a copy of the Contract Study Kit because he does not seem to be particularly well versed in that subject, my other brother, Rick, the newsreader, gets a copy of Advocacy in a box to improve his presentational skills – and I thought I might give a friend of mine, who is a chartered accountant, the one on criminal law because his fees are certainly that.

I do hope you will enjoy the lobster competition on Consilio – free lectures, textbooks, Q&As? If you are luck enough to find the lobster.

Saturday thoughts…

The theme to start this Saturday is ‘The art of being thick.’ The Americans have a good word for it – ‘Dumbass’.

Sheffield United manager, Neil Warnock, claimed this week that some footballers are thick (The Independent)

I quote: “Two of my players have been in the news this week for the wrong reasons. Alan Quinn was fined after admitting being involved in a fight in a Sheffield pub used by Wednesdayites and Paddy Kenny had his eyebrow bitten off after a late-night dust-up in a Halifax takeaway.

These things happen for managers, but I’d prefer they didn’t and I hope the players learn. They’ve been a bit thick. Quinn’s an ex-Wednesday player, he goes into a Wednesday pub, has problems, and wonders why!”

This stimulated Brian Reade in my Saturday tabloid of choice, The Mirror, to bring up his own examples of dumbass behaviour by footballers…

Jason McAteer (nicknamed Trigger) being asked at a take-away if he wanted his pizza cut into eight slices or four, and answering “Four. I’m not that hungry.”

Or when he locked himself out of his Porsche, his mate told him to get a coat-hanger so he could pick the lock and he came back with a wooden one.

Paulo di Canio’s defence against being a nasty bigot: “I’m a fascist, not a racist.”

Everton’s Neil Adams breezing, towel in hand, into the reception of a Madrid hotel asking for directions to the beach.

And there I was…sipping an espresso…smoking a Silk Cut and wondering whether I could find any stories about Lawyers behaving oddly. Of course – RollonFriday came to mind and, sure enough, an excellent story about a memo to staff on ‘toilet etiquette’ written by Stephen Ryan, managing partner at St Alban’s firm SA Law

I take the appalling liberty of copying the memo from the RollonFriday page – sorry.. Piers/Matthew but I still like a spot of grappa!
Source: RollonFriday

On the premise that this memo is not a spoof – I started to think how Mr Ryan could know about the the activities of the bogey flicker(s) referred to in Paragraph 2. Is it part of a managing partner’s remit to inspect the lavatories? Or did he notice the wall peppered with curious objects? Or did he, in fact, have information about the perpetrator(s) of this unusual comedy routine. And then I started to wonder if the perpetrators kept the door open so they could flick it onto the ‘opposite wall’ of the entire washroom or did ‘opposite wall’ mean the door of the lavatory? As you can see, I have way too much time on my hands when I sit at Cafes with my laptop and take advantage of the cafe wifi and write my blawg. The mind boggles – is this a common routine at SA Law?

I suspect that Matt Muttley of Muttley Dastardly LLP would applaud Mr Ryan for his directness, candour and humour.

Silver Lobster Award

Management skill and memo drafting, at this level, deserves special recognition – so… a silver lobster award just has to be given, subject, of course, to the memo being genuine.

This Picture of THE LOBSTER is NOT the lobster picture for the Consilio competition – sorry… that would just be too easy! 

And so… to other matters: Esteem and Lawyers… an oxymoron?

Grateful to Justin Patten at Human Law for directing my attention, through his blog, to an interesting article in The Law Society Gazette. It is about ‘Esteem’ and how the public pictures lawyers. This article won’t take you long to read and is worth reading

Pleasing to see Maitland Kalton, founder of Kaltons and founder of Lawyers for Change making a valuable contribution to the debate with some useful points. I have had the pleasure of meeting Maitland Kalton – he has some interesting ideas.

I quote Maitland’s comment: ‘The evidence is that 40% of lawyers are not happy with their career choice and that’s not only very sad, it’s very costly for law firms,’ he says. ‘The idea of excellence in client service is nonsense if you can’t please the lawyers themselves.’

If you are interested in Lawyers for Change – I’m pretty sure Maitland Kalton will be happy to talk to you.

A tale of modern times……

Having spent a bit of time over lunch writing about vaguely serious matters – I found this on the net and thought you might enjoy it, if you have not seen it before.

A SQUIRRELS TALE

REST OF THE WORLD VERSION:
The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building and improving his house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed.

The shivering grasshopper has no food or shelter, so he dies out in the cold.

THE END


THE U.K. VERSION:
The squirrel works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter.The grasshopper thinks he’s a fool, and laughs and dances and plays the summer away.

Come winter, the squirrel is warm and well fed.

A social worker finds the shivering grasshopper, calls a press conference and demands to know why the squirrel should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others less fortunate, like the grasshopper, are cold and starving.

The BBC shows up to provide live coverage of the shivering grasshopper; with cuts to a video of the squirrel in his comfortable warm home with a table laden with food.

The British press inform people that they should be ashamed that in a country of such wealth, this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so, while others have plenty.

The Labour Party, Greenpeace, Animal Rights and The Grasshopper Council of GB demonstrate in front of the squirrel’s house.

The BBC, interrupting a cultural festival special from Notting Hill with breaking news, broadcasts a multi cultural choir singing “We Shall Overcome”.

Ken Livingstone rants in an interview with Trevor McDonald that the squirrel got rich off the backs of grasshoppers, and calls for an immediate tax hike on the squirrel to make him pay his “fair share” and increases the charge for squirrels to enter inner London.

In response to pressure from the media, the Government drafts the Economic Equity and Grasshopper Anti Discrimination Act, retroactive to the beginning of the summer.

The squirrel’s taxes are reassessed.

He is taken to court and fined for failing to hire grasshoppers as builders for the work he was doing on his home and an additional fine for contempt when he told the court the grasshopper did not want to work.

The grasshopper is provided with a council house, financial aid to furnish it and an account with a local taxi firm to ensure he can be socially mobile. The squirrel’s food is seized and re distributed to the more needy members of society, in this case the grasshopper.

Without enough money to buy more food, to pay the fine and his newly imposed retroactive taxes, the squirrel has to downsize and start building a new home.

The local authority takes over his old home and utilises it as a temporary home for asylum seeking cats who had hijacked a plane to get to Britain as they had to share their country of origin with mice. On arrival they tried to blow up the airport because of Britain’s apparent love of dogs.

The cats had been arrested for the international offence of hijacking and attempted bombing but were immediately released because the police fed them pilchards instead of salmon whilst in custody.

Initial moves to then return them to their own country were abandoned because it was feared they would face death by the mice. The cats devise and start a scam to obtain money from people’s credit cards.

A Panorama special shows the grasshopper finishing up the last of the squirrel’s food, though spring is still months away, while the council house he is in, crumbles around him because he hasn’t bothered to maintain the house.

He is shown to be taking drugs. Inadequate government funding is blamed for the grasshopper’s drug ‘illness’.

The cats seek recompense in the British courts for their treatment since arrival in UK.

The grasshopper gets arrested for stabbing an old dog during a burglary to get money for his drugs habit. He is imprisoned but released immediately because he has been in custody for a few weeks.

He is placed in the care of the probation service to monitor and supervise him. Within a few weeks he has killed a guinea pig in a botched robbery.

A commission of enquiry, that will eventually cost £10,000,000 and state the obvious, is set up.

Additional money is put into funding a drug rehabilitation scheme for grasshoppers and legal aid for lawyers representing asylum seekers is increased.

The asylum-seeking cats are praised by the government for enriching Britain’s multicultural diversity and dogs are criticised by the government for failing to befriend the cats.

The grasshopper dies of a drug overdose. The usual sections of the press blame it on the obvious failure of government to address the root causes of despair arising from social inequity and his traumatic experience of prison.

They call for the resignation of a minister.

The cats are paid a million pounds each because their rights were infringed when the government failed to inform them there were mice in the United Kingdom.

The squirrel, the dogs and the victims of the hijacking, the bombing, the burglaries and robberies have to pay an additional percentage on their credit cards to cover losses, their taxes are increased to pay for law and order and they are told that they will have to work beyond 65 because of a shortfall in government funds.

THE END

LPC providers warn revisions could create two tier profession!

Legal Week has a most interesting article on the LPC. It is a must read if you are a student thinking about doing the LPC or are interested in legal education. Here is the link

Briefly: there is to be a review of the LPC. I quote a part of the article: The first consultation, to be launched in January, will review the ‘written standards’ of the LPC and the balance between black letter law and more general legal skills. It will also look at the possibility of separating the electives part of the course, which allow students to choose different modules from the mandatory base of the course. As part of the review of written standards, the Law Society is also considering moving the course electives to the end of the LPC and allowing students to take LPC electives after their training contract. The second consultation will look at how the LPC fits in with other parts of legal training, such as the training contract. Chancery Lane is hoping that by allowing flexibility it will increase the diversity of students and make courses more accessible.”

We do have a multi-tiered legal profession. Fact. There is a difference between top law firms and smaller firms, City and general practice work. It is not unreasonable to design training to the needs of these different sectors – assuming that all solicitors are versed in the basics of law and legal practice.

Phil Knott, of Nottingham Trent, doyen of the LPC training world, knows more about LPC teaching and course provision than most, so when he expresses concern that standards might drop as a result of planned revisions to the LPC it is worth listening.

Peter Crisp of BPP supports the ‘loosening of grip on the LPC providers by the Law Society’ – but adds (Thankfully) “there still needs to be some criteria to ensure standards do not drop.” I’m fairly sure The Law Society will make certain of that – and the Top Law Firm clients will want value for money and quality – possibly, a more potent regulating force.

The truth of the matter, I suspect, is that we will see more of the big providers – College of Law, BPP and Nottingham Trent carving up the lucrative City market; tailoring courses to meet specific client needs and other LPC providers catering for the the rest of the profession.

I tend to agree with the comment on the Talkback section of the legal week article where the writer makes a rather good point… I quote: An interesting line from LPC providers, concerning a supposed two-tier profession, since the UK legal professional already has more tiers than a wedding cake convention. What LPC providers have themselves contributed to is a two-tier market for legal education. And what the big law schools are now pushing for is as much liberalisation as possible to leave them free to bend course content even further towards top City firms. Maybe that’s what the market needs, but let’s not dress it up under the mantle of protecting standards. ”

It will be interesting to see what the consultation will lead to – but, in my view, if liberalisation leads to greater diversity, I am all for it. The idea that the electives may be done at the end of the training contract is an interesting one. I suspect that the providers won’t be that enthusiastic because it will mean a reduction in teaching, with a concomittant reduction in fees charged. It will benefit the trainee who has been through a training contract because he or she should be better able to cope with the demands of an elective more easily (and more knowledgeably) – and, quite possibly, may not need a law school to help them with the work! The electives are not that difficult and any capable trainee should be able to do the work needed, especially after a good training contract where they are able to see how the law relates to practice.

PC DCA style….

I was on Bystander JP’s excellent Magistrate’s Blog whiling away a few moments when I read that the DCA has issued guidelines about ‘acceptable’ language.  Apparently, the following terms are NOT acceptable:

 “Old, middle-aged, young, girl, young lady, boy, lad, young man, part-timer, the disabled, the blind, the deaf, black mark, black sheep, black list, black look, Black Monday, coloured, half-caste, West Indian, Afro-Caribbean, Chinese (used as a catch-all (sic) phrase), British (referring to whites), immigrants, refugees, asylum seekers, gypsies (used negatively) Gyppos, Ethnics, Jesus Christ (used as a curse) Jesus freak, bible basher, Jewish (acceptable to some) gay (as a noun) manning the phones, manpower, policeman, chairman, spokesman, fireman, foreman, workmen, lady doctor, woman judge, male nurse, male secretary, love, pet, dear (used in a derogatory way)”

See: The Mind your language post on The Magistrate’s Blog.  The comments on this post are also worth a look.

It must be extremely difficult having a conversation at the DCA, given the society and times we live in, with some of the words in the above list being ‘proscribed’. What do we call a man who is in the Police?  Officer, I assume… but is it so bad to refer to ‘policeman.’ Is anyone really offended by being called British? Jewish?

Right…. the next person who refers to Charon QC –  in comments on my blawg – as middle-aged, or who curses me using ‘Jesus Christ’ or gives me a black look (metaphorically) will be awarded a silver lobster in .jpg form to put on their website or blog.

Let them put the tax up

The news that booze and fag tax cannot be charged by HMRC on EU booze / fag imports bought over the net (hopefully 23 November) – which I wrote about a few days ago, seems to have attracted anger from certain quarters – because it means that tax might have to go up.

I have come to the conclusion that those who don’t want tax to go up are the miserable, the do-gooders and the sensible – i.e. those who do not drink or smoke. Smokers and drinkers already contribute £15 billion pounds to the UK economy through duties and often die at a younger age than the miserable, do-gooders and the sensible – thus saving the nation a great deal of money in pensions.

If tax revenues drop because the smokers and topers of Britain buy their booze and fags in Latvia over the net, at much cheaper prices, and, thereby, deprive The Treasury of duty revenue – excellent. We will not have to pay that tax and will therefore not have to subsidise the do-gooders et al who, curiously, want us to give up/cut down…but at the same time seem to enjoy the benefits which duty tax brings.

Of course, I could be talking complete fiscal and tax nonsense and that no money derived from booze/fag duties is applied to the general benefit of the nation or for invading foreign countries. The way do-gooders bang on, one could be forgiven for thinking that duty revenue is all applied to curing smokers and topers of their self inflicted ills. Right… I shall hobble off, as best I can, for a restorative glass of rioja and a few fags.

Evict your neighbour….

John ‘Witchfinder’ Reid, our pugnacious Home Secretary, is beginning, to my eyes, to resemble ‘Desperate Dan’ – perhaps the Rioja I am drinking is better? – and his latest plan to fast track eviction of ‘neighbours from hell’ will no doubt appeal to some.

I am fortunate in not living next to a crack den, lap dancing club or in having chavs, yobbos, hoodies and other undesirables living in my road or backyard. I can, however, sympathise with those who do. Neighbours can make life a misery for many.

The full story of these exciting new powers may be read in The Guardian (15 November) – it is not the new powers which interests me so much as John Reid’s words, quoted in the article.

I quote from the Guardian article: Mr Reid acknowledged in his speech in Bristol yesterday that the government’s renewed drive against antisocial behaviour was based on a concept of justice that many legal authorities might not recognise. “The problem we face is what I call the justice shortfall. That is, the difference – sometimes big – between what you and I think is justice, and what a lawyer or legal academic might think it is. My kind of justice is swift, effective and matches the crime,” said the home secretary.

I now have a picture of Witchfinder watching as ‘neighbour from hell’, tied to a stake, is burned on some strip of wasteland… enjoying his swift, effective justice! I had thought that Witchfinder might be a more sensible choice of Prime Minister than Gordon Morose – but, now I am beginning to think Lord Protector Blair is sane by comparison. Here we have a robust politician, responsible for law and order, who works eighteen f*****g hours a day, stating without hesitation that we have a justice shortfall and that his and ‘your’ idea of justice is very different from ‘what a lawyer or legal academic might think it is.’ Lawyers are easy targets….. hang the lawyers, the crowd brayed …. but at least lawyers work in the system and have knowledge of what justice is in practical terms, even if not all are concerned, passionately, about justice. (There must be some lawyers who do not care about justice??? Some litigators, perhaps? Corpfinance people??)

This statement is just absurd…. and is designed to appeal to the braying crowd. Trouble is…. most British people seem, to me, to be fairly moderate…. and believe in fairness, fair play… with a little bit of bigotry about the EU, Les Frogs, Australian cricketers and other foreigners thrown in, perhaps – but, in general they have a reasonable idea of what justice is… and, I suspect, that most will not go along with Reid’s perception of justice. Mind you…. it will appeal to a few tabloid headline writers and journos who like nothing better than stirring things up.

Tough talk is easy… action is not quite so easy. Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime? Yeah, right! The government has done a marvellous job hashing the criminal justice system about over nearly ten years. Is that an escaped convict I see sitting over there…or a deported asylum seeker who we can’t catch, let alone deport?

I am off to lunch… as opposed to ‘out to lunch’.

EDITORIAL INTERVENTION…00.03 Thursday 16 November..so..bang on the money for up to dateness…if there is such a word…

Thankfully…there is a sensible lawyer who writes more perceptively about Witchfinfder’s desire to have swift justice. I would not wish any reader of my blawg to be prejudiced in any way by my rather ‘curious’ rants on Reid’s latest pronouncements on what ‘Justice’ is. Here is a far more sensible analysis from Liadnan… here it is

Law Brief Update….

Law Brief Update is a free email newsletter which provides a brief introduction to recent case law in all the major areas of law. It is written by around 20 specialist barristers, and goes out approximately once a month.

Tim Kevan, 1 Temple Gardens, is a very busy barrister and has produced, with others (20+ of them, in fact), some useful and innovative newsletters. Not only is he one of the specialists behind Law Brief Update – he also has his own blog and was kind enough to give me a mention. I have used his newswire for over two years. It is excellent and FREE. Sign up – it will be most useful to you.

The team at Law brief also do Personal Injury Brief Update and you can sign up for that when you sign up for Law Brief Update.

Rape victims should consider using the civil law….

No witnesses and the attacker dead – but rape victim wins £259,000 in civil case

The Guardian 

Clare Dyer writing in The Guardian (15 November) relates an extraordinary story of a rape victim who won damages ‘against all the odds’ .  I quote from the opening of Clare Dyer’s story – but the full article is worth a read. : “The rape and abuse took place eight years ago over three days in a hotel room without witnesses. The man responsible died three months later, long before the police could finish their investigation, and the victim’s boyfriend didn’t believe her account anyway.” 

Ms Lawson, 42, from Thornton Heath, Surrey, said after the judgment: “I hope that my actions give other rape victims the courage to stand up to their attackers, no matter who they are or how long it takes. Hopefully, I’ll be able to start rebuilding my life in the near future.” 

What is interesting about this case, apart from the hurdle of having to convince the judge where, as in most rape cases, there are no witnesses and the prepertrator of the rape was dead, was the courage it must have taken to bring the action in the first place.  Perhaps this will encourage victims of rape to consider civil remedies?

Some Law… for a change

European court may end duty on alcohol imports

The Guardian carries the story that UK shoppers may soon be able to order duty-free alcohol and cigarettes on the internet. The European court of justice will decide this month whether goods from EU countries can be delivered to British homes free of UK duty. It has always been mildly irritating thatbooze and fags are cheaper in most European countries than in Britain. I don’t have time to hire a white van, take a booze cruise to France, load the van to the roof with booze and bring back supplies of Silk Cut, Rioja and other red wines ‘for personal use’. The news that I may soon be able to log onto my EU supplier of choice (probably Latvia or Poland) and buy wine and cigarettes at considerably cheaper EU prices – free of UK duty – appeals to me. It certainly won’t appeal to The Treasury. It is believed that the government make £15 billion a year from duty on booze and fags. I’ll certainly be a customer if the EU court comes up trumps and gives the topers of Britain new hope and belief in Europe.

Is that a veil I see before me?
Ruthie, writing on the Geeklawyer website draws attention to the intervention by a senior judge (Hodge J) in the veiled lawyer Immigration case. Frankly, whether a lawyer wears a veil or not is of no importance, no concern to others – provided the lawyer can be heard and is able to do her job properly. If a veiled lawyer is not able to do the job properly, because of communication problems, then it seems not unreasonable that she should face the consequences. Ruthie makes some interesting points about judges refusing ‘to hear’ barristers who are improperly dressed – citing the old favourites of suede shoes (Cads and bounders, sah!), dirty bands etc etc.

Falconer to propose TV cameras in court

Joshua Rozenburg, writing in The Telegraph today, tells us that elevision cameras could be allowed into the courts of England and Wales under proposals to be outlined by the Lord Chancellor in the next two months.

Lord Falconer is keen to let the public see judges presiding over trials and passing sentences. Rozenberg makes the point that most practising lawyers viewed with horror the ‘circus’ which the OJ Simpson trial became because of television coverage. Caveats are attached to these proposals. Witnesses, defendants and jurros would not be filmed – so not really much to look at, really – just lawyer’s speeches and judge’s rulings being broadcast. Not terribly exciting. I don’t think it will catch on. It will be even more sleep inducing than watching coverage of dull select committees on The Parliamentary Channel – which I occasionally dip into.

Mind you… if we do start to televise trials… what ‘rules’ will be needed to ensure that barristers and other behave with due decorum when the cameras are switched on? Will we be watching ‘Strictly come judging?’ in the near future? …

On the other hand… I can see much benefit in having “Trial of the day” with full ‘trial coverage and punditry’ with a panel of experts, chaired,perhaps, by a retired judge or Silk?. Could this be my chance to appear on the nation’s televisions? What if I drank too much Rioja in the Green Room beforehand – and ended up disgracing myself like Oliver Reed? Before long, I could be on panel games..possibly even Have I got News for you or even I’m a celebrity, get me out of here. There are days when a change of career would be most welcome.

And life just gets better…

Sick of IE7 problems?  want to open 30 Microsoft sites at one go?…visit dodgy websites quickly and safely?   Well …. just get Microsoft Firefox 2007 Professional Edition.

The video is worth looking at.

Depressed after watching the English Rugby fiasco? 

Try this test out – it may improve your life… but it may also also help you to come up with a plan to pass on to the England coach to help England  win the Rugby World Cup next year.  What a shambles. A friend of mine said he couldn’t continue watching it – it was ‘an atrocity unfolding before his eyes.’

Be a World traveller with Class

You may have seen the HSBC advertisements on television which refer to different cultures – a sign in one culture considered friendly, while in another a grave insult.   Visit China and make a hit by giving a gift of a clock?  Not a great idea. Giving someone a timepiece, such as a clock or a watch, as a gift is a very unlucky faux pas. Traditional superstitions regard this as counting the seconds to the recipient’s death. In Japanese culture it is considered polite to decline a gift when it is first offered and the giver is expected to offer it multiple times.  I found this Wikipedia compilation of ‘Faux Pas’ most interesting. Always useful to know to how to irritate foreigners if the mood takes you or should it prove necessary to do so.

They tell me that Gordon Brown has purchased the new Apple Mac Intel powered computer with a special dock feature.

Geeklawyer is glad that the ultra right wing extremist British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin was acquitted of charges of using words or behaviour intended to stir up racial hatred. He is of the view that only speech which incites, or is genuinely immediately likely to do so, violence & discrimination should be unlawful.

Interesting article by Geeklawyer – worth a read. 

Osama texts George W Bush…

I received a text message from a friend last night…

“Osama bin Laden sent George Bush a coded message to let him know he is still alive : 370HSSV-0773H

Bush is baffled. Condi Rice and her aides and even the FBI, CIA and NSA can’t decipher it. They ask Britain’s MI6 for help. Within a minute MI6 replies “Tell the President he’s holding the message upside down.”

Geek-a-cycle, flu and the tedium of feeling rough…

Having survived injury after a motorcycle crash, fairly long hours of work and other stresses of a non-work nature in recent weeks, it is particularly tedious to be sitting here wrapped in a dressing gown sweating and with a muzzy head caused by flu. Yes… there is a lot of it about!  Why does everyone say that? I tried a thai green curry and a glass of Rioja to sweat the flu out.  Didn’t work – but I just can’t lie down and do nothing – but nor will my brain work properly on work matters.

So here is Geek-a-cycle. Use this exercise bicycle while you are at work. There is nothing to prevent you from continuing to exercise every day. While you work, you pedal.  I won’t be buying one.  I have enough problems with typos without trying to type while cycling furiously.

The 90/10 principle

I was reading an article about stress the other day.  The principle is quite interesting: 10% of life is made up of what happens to you. 90% of life is decided by how you react.  The article is worth a read.

Author Steven Covey gives some examples.  Sitting in here with malaria (Yes… I’ve upgraded it from flu to a Business Class malady)  my mind turned to other things….

A toilet which flushes to the sound of Italy’s national anthem has been impounded by police in northern Italy, sparking great patriotic debate. BBC Story

Italian Police are looking into it but believe, by lifting the lid on this, it may go all the way to the seat of government. Local Police hope to be flushed with success after bringing a successful prosecution.

Yes… quite… I am now moving towards a delusional state…

If you were a teenager…what would you rather do?

(a) get sick-drunk on WKD Red Mist, or

(b) buzz around on Vespas and spend chaste evenings spooning froth off your cappuccino.

Well… this was the basis of an article in the Times on the difference between British teenagers and their European counterparts.  It was quite an intersting article and worth a quick read.

Here is a quote: “And like it or not, we prefer alcohol to food, drunken hilarity to dainty tapas-nibbling. Stupid, youthful, public debauchery has been the British release valve of every social class for generations: from this year’s bridge-jumping Oxford May-ballers way back to my Doncaster peers throwing up snakebite behind the youth club disco. Binge-drinking does not signify a decline in British culture. It is our culture, a national rite of passage. Cautioning restraint and crossing our fingers is all we can do through our children’s danger years. “

JUDGES occasionally contemplate throttling the evil or unreasonable people (lawyers as well as litigants) who appear in their courtrooms. But they normally resist such a temptation. In an extraordinary case decided just over a month ago, the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct had to decide whether a judge who lost his temper should also lose his job. A most interesting story from David Pannick QC in The Times

Briefly:  Judge loses patience with defendant who wanted to sack his public defender and then expressed the view that the hearing was illegal.  Instead of a measured response – the judge takes off his robe, leaves the courtroom and returns.  the judge goes up to the defendant and says ” “You want a piece of me?” Police usher defendant out of the court.  Judge tries to follow but is blocked by another police officer.

I have some sympathy for the judge.  Court rage?

More and more barristers are leaving chambers for solicitors’ firms

A DECADE ago the idea of a barrister joining a firm of solicitors sounded faintly ridiculous. Wearing a wig and gown around Lincoln’s Inn showed distinction; the Bar was the cream of the legal profession.

Times Story 

A bit of a mixed bag… I am now contemplating a glass of Lemsip – but, maybe, a glass of Rioja would be better on the kill or cure principle?  No… I don’t want a ‘hot toddy’…. the universal remedy… can’t stand whisky – which is a bit unfortunate for a Scot.

A potential conflict of interest….?

As the loans for peerages matter draws ever closer to No 10 – it is clear that The attorney general may have the invidious task of having to make a decision on a potential prosecution of fellow politicans. It may, of course, not come to that – but if it does, surely the A-G will have to stand aside?

Shadow attorney general, Dominic Grieve, is reported in the Guardian, today, as saying: “I very much hope that in this case the attorney general recognises that if there was any question of a prosecution of a senior Labour politician that he stand aside,” he said.

There is, of course, a precedent, as noted in The Guardian.: “Sam Silkin, the Labour attorney general, withdrew from playing any part in the decision whether to prosecute Jeremy Thorpe, the former Liberal leader who was charged with murder and conspiracy to murder….

It would be a relatively straightforward matter, would it not, to appoint external counsel to advise?

You have to hand it to Nick Holmes…

Blawgle is a new initiative by Nick Holmes of Binary Law – and it is very useful

Check it out. ‘Powered by google..Tamed by Infolaw” and it works: here is Blawgle

Now… having done a bot of useful work for myself (and, hopefully, my readers) I am off to watch England v The All Blacks match – and, just perhaps, take a few Riojas along with me.

It is the eve of Guido Fawkes… and it is time to think…

Tonight… was an usual evening… Saturday 4th November… the eve of Guy Fawkes night, when I take a particular pleasure in remembering that ‘Government’ should be accountable. Regular readers may not approve… but will know that I am a ‘Republican’ (in the Roman sense). It doesn’t make me a bad person… but it probably rules me out for a Knighthood or a Peerage (Mind you…. at least I won’t be interviewed by Plod on the loans for peerages nonsense… frankly…who cares? (How long can it be before Inspector Knacker (Private Eye attribution)… finally finds out where 10 Downing Street is?)

I have come to the view that if people are crass or vain enough to want to pay our country to make them ‘Baron Munchausen of Godalming’…or ‘wherever’ … excellent…’bring them on’ and put the money into something useful – hopefully not involving the invasion of yet another country or yet more speed cameras)

Politics and ‘political correctness’ is my theme for the ‘eve of Guy Fawkes’…

Let me preface the rest of my ‘peroration’ by saying that I have just returned from an excellent evening at the Bollo in Chiswick….which may account for the fact (and excuse?) that I appear (Infra) to think that I am able to grasp the intricacies of rational exposition on this, or, indeed, any theme.

I received an email just after midnight GMT from Dan Hull (What About Clients)… drawing my somewhat grape induced attention to a post on his website – a classic bit of writing and thought – which I just cannot resist: Here it is in full

A taster…

“Oh, NYC, You Talk A Lot–Let’s Have a Look at You”

Why I could care less if someone wants to dress up for Halloween as Osama Bin Laden, call flight attendants “stews”, date 25 year olds or do other un-PC things.

These words from Dan’s blog post caught my attention and ‘resonated’ (Have you noticed how many journos are using the word ‘resonate/resonated’?) I do so.. because I may as well get some benefit from my ‘press’ card… and, I find, increasingly, as I take my morning espressos, that many things in daily life ‘resonate’.

Funnily enough… I know about the story of the lawyer in the states who has been arrested for impersonating Bin Laden (Because I read RollonFriday who have the story) equally… I have no particular difficulty with anyone wishing to date 25 year olds – because…Charon is not ‘ageist’ – especially after the promulgation of recent legislation which allows old gits like me to run riot in the employment market place without fear or favour – should ‘we’ be so minded to do so. (Mind you… Gordon Brown wants to work old people to death to save having to ‘Fawke’ out on pensions.. apparently…allegedly…ineluctably etc etc)

Finally… I return to the point of my post… and… I am delighted to do so. I have a feeling that Dan Hull and I will get on fine when we meet for an evening of Rioja…(He is an ‘anglophile’ and will be making a State Visit to our sceptred isle in the not too distant future. I will be happy to meet him, should he take the view, after taking appropriate legal advice, and doing a spot of ‘due diligence’ on ‘Charon’ , that he wishes to do so.)

You just have to read his post… it is Shakespearean… with a tinge of Alice Cooper and Frank Zappa thrown in… I give you a taste… ” don’t think that a Korean, Finn or even another beloved Irish person who works for me should be able to explain that the reason he or she is an asshole or difficult and moody much of the time at work is “cultural”; i.e., something inherent in their ethnicity or tribe. (Ok, let me get this straight, my friend–you’re an asshole at work, and it’s “cultural”?) I don’t buy that. I think I should be able to swear–loudly, artfully and frequently–at work about things that matter to me. If you aren’t giving first-rate client service, I will swear at you, but just once. I say/do/believe in he “wrong” things. And I like girls, women, ladies, whatever we call them, of all legal ages. Report me. Kill me. “

Dan is right… PC has gone far too far. We are all walking on ‘eggshells’ for fear of offending anyone. Thank God for Sacha Baron Cohen and his latest incarnation. I also enjoyed the absurdity of the subtle, ‘political’ story in The Mirror today ( Story) about the Muslim in his fifties who killed a swan during Ramadan and who was found by Police with swan feathers in his beard (and a ‘bloodied face’)… and, in the same article… the ludicrous raportage about ‘(Unspecified) East European workers (who) trawled a waterway for fish to eat, flouting angling rules. They strung a net across the Fitzwilliam Canal at Rotherham, South Yorks. Fisherman Martin Read said: “Back home, if they want fish, they catch it.”

(I can’t, for the life of me, see why grown men should spend hours on a river bank trying to catch fish with a bit of line and a hook, attached to a bit of flexible wood, when they could catch fish far more efficiently with a net or explosives. But there again, I can’t see the point of standing around on railway station platforms writing down the name of trains which draw in to the platform, either. Chacon a son gout.)

It is quite possible that these ‘East European’ anglers may be an advance unit from Bulgaria / Romania who arrived on our shores to terrorise the good people of ‘middle England’ by fishing in a particularly ‘Un-British’ way. Not the way to ‘win our hearts and minds’ as a prelude to EU accession – as journos who want to whip up a story, and appeal to ‘dark prejudice’, know only too well.

The trouble is… I remember.. a few years back when we were about to be invaded by Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians etc etc (in the last expansion of the EU)… the same ridiculous stories about swans being barbecued on the Banks of The Thames, near Richmond, by ‘dodgy east europeans’. Journos can be very lazy… I want to see the evidence of this illegal ‘swan culling and illegal fishing’.

I am fairly sure that HM The Queen does not spend a great deal of time eating swans. Has Her Majesty ever eaten a swan? I might have to write to the DCA to ask a question on this under The Freedom of Information Act. (For our American and other overseas readers – the Queen owns all the swans in Britain, which is why we don’t see swans, with a bit of lemon and frozen garlic butter already prepped, wrapped up in the cold cabinets in Tesco, Sainsbury and Waitrose.)

I think that I have probably covered, to sufficient depth tonight, the issue of PC. The trouble is… as Sacha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G/ Borat) proves – when we are told to be PC… the humour just becomes darker and draws attention to the absurdities of bad PC.

In the meantime… I have probably missed the entire point of Dan Hull’s enjoyable post on PC… but… that does not matter (You can read it) – and there are many better placed to deliberate on these matters in a sober and sensible fashion – just ‘google’ if you are so minded. I have been able to write about swans and shoehorn in a bit about Guido Fawkes … and I retire… on the eve of Guy Fawkes night …with the thought that our revered Lord Protector, Oliver Blair, will not be forced out of government by gunpowder under the ‘firmament of Westminster’ – but he may well be forced out by the gunpowder being used in Iraq – Deo volente.

Dan…. Chuck Berry on the way…. but… you might have to be ‘Johnny B Goode’ in PC jail

Muttley Dastardly LLP – The perils of blogging…

From the Desk of Matt Muttley

It has come to my attention that there is free advice to be had about blogging…

I find the trend to give free advice about anything mildly worrying, particularly if lawyers are at it. However, that said, I am not one to deny myself a drink from the cup of human kindness. Nick Holmes has a most useful website called Binary Law. Jason Patten at Human Law provides the focus on matters relating specifically to blogging and he has a couple of most useful recent articles. Of particular use to me at the moment, given that I am contemplating the career of the trainee who was not too keen on being sent to Mumbai last week, were the following: Recommended article on blogging; Why blogging matters.

[Happy Birthday Human law – Charon]
You may recall, last week, that I developed a plan to outsource our LPC to India. I am pleased to report that the law school team who came to see me recently to discuss an ‘MD’ specific LPC, have reduced their fees for this significantly; to a point where I feel entirely comfortable and we only have to pay if the candidates actually pass. I like it!. “No, Pass, No Fee.” Don’t know how they managed to come up with that one…must have been watching personal injury lawyer television adverts on obscure day time TV channels. I have to say, after this result, that blogging works.

On to other matters…

One of our recently qualified assistants sent me an email about a RollonFriday story about City bonuses. RollonFriday are to be commended for their work on this. Here is the story

It seems to me that Barlow Lyde & Gilbert and Beachcrofts who, according to the RoF survey, did not pay any bonuses, have probably got it right. Deferred gratification is a virtue. In our firm, partners get bonuses – quite a few of them, as it happens. Assistants get a salary and the knowledge that, one day, they will share in the wealth of our firm… and so the life cycle of the lawyer continues – as Sir David Attenborough might say… whispering away in the bushes.

No trainee blog this week. We had a bit of an episode with one blog submitted, which was potentially libellous of this firm – but normal service will resume now that our trainees know they “Come not to bury Muttley Dastardly LLP, but to praise it.” – to coin a phrase.

A return to the human condition… It is Friday…

Let me start with ‘Schadenfreude’ : “The celebrity lawyer Mr Loophole now finds himself in the frame”

The Times reports: “NICK FREEMAN, the celebrity lawyer whose ability to find flaws in the driving laws earned him the nickname Mr Loophole, protested his innocence yesterday after being arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.”

Being a lawyer, Mr Feeman – who has a ‘Keep on Driving’ website (which is worth a quick visit if you are worried about your points etc) has only this to say, at this stage: “At this stage I cannot go into any details in relation to this allegation other than to say I am totally innocent.”

*****

A Swiss man is looking for directions, and he pulls up at a bus stop where two Americans are waiting.

“Entschuldigung, konnen Sie Deutsch sprechen?” he asks. The two Americans just stare at him.

“Excusez-moi, parlez vous Francais?” he tries. They continue to stare.

“Praat julle Afrikaans?” The Americans just look at each other.

“Parlare Italiano?” No response.

“Hablan ustedes Espanol?” Still nothing.

Disgusted, the Swiss guy drives off.

One American guy turns to other and says, “Y’know, maybe we should learn a foreign language.”

“Why?” says the other. “That guy knew five languages and it didn’t do him no good either.”

*****

Pretty dumb… “Heather Ann Tucci refused to talk to police about an alcohol-related crash that killed two friends, but she apparently opened up on MySpace.com, admitting the wreck was “my fault” and taking “full responsibility.” Story

Police, not surprisingly, are now seeking to use her video film on MySpace as evidence. The website appears to have been deleted.

I am partial to Rioja…in fact, I am partial to most red wines. It was, therefore, with great pleasure that I read in the papers that red wine is extremely good for you.

I can’t remember which newspaper I tore the clipping from – because I was mildly over refreshed last night – so cannot attribute (beyond saying that the story was written by Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor).

“A compound found in red wine reverses the damaging effects of a high fat diet in mice and can extend their life, scientists have found.”

It is, apparently, all down to Resveratrol which is produced by grapes and other plants, and ‘its effects seem to mimic the life prolonging effects of a very low calorie diet.’

I have known for some time that I appear to be like Dorian Gray – not ageing appreciably. I put this down to the restorative effects of wine. I have also noted that I am fairly slim and that my blood flows around my body in an entirely appropriate manner. I went to see a surgeon earlier in the year for a check up. he was, of course, not impressed with my smoking habit – but, when I asked him about my Rioja drinking, he told me, in all seriousness… and I quote. “Frankly (Charon)” he said gravely….”I don’t care if you drink four bottles of red wine a day. You might not be able to work, but it will do you little harm. Smoking is the killer. Red wine is good for you and you will live longer.”

Looks as if I am going to live until I am 103… possibly. Do I want to? Yes.

Fancy sending a postcard?

If you would like to send a postcard to someone – I would be most grateful if you could tell them about my blawg!

Consilio have a postcard facility coming back to their website

Tell a fiend or a friend about Charon… send a postcard to them?

Send here

I spy or… I have my eye on you?…

Where do I begin this week?

It cannot have escaped your attention, given the coverage in the press and TV, that we are being watched by the government and a whole raft of other voyeurs. That I know I am being watched as I sip my espressos and smoke Silk Cut on Chiswick High Street doesn’t particularly trouble me. Occasionally I make unusual quasi-masonic gestures at the camera to leaven the boredom for the ‘watcher’. I hope that he / she appreciates the trouble I go to.

What is of greater concern is that The Information Commisioner, Richard Thomas warned us about this two years ago and believes we are ‘sleep walking’ into a surveillance society. BBC Story

We are being watched. Our credit card spending, our mobile phone records, our Oyster cards, Nectar cards etc etc etc are all being used to track our whereabouts or our lifestyles. As if that isn’t enough, Britain now has the largest DNA database in Europe with 4.1 million records – quite a few of which (apparently) are young blacks. The Police have the right to take a DNA sample every time they arrest someone – but with no corresponding obligation to destroy that sample if the arrest is wrongful or criminal charge dismissed by the Courts.

See: “We are already at the gates of a surveillance society.” The Guardian 3 November. Do I mind? Well… yes and no. I am unlikely to commit any serious crime against the person (or at all), so the rational side of me takes the view that if DNA databases enable successful and safe prosecution of serious criminality to be made, we will all be better off. The libertarian, irritable, side of me says that we should be very careful about ‘dataveillance’ and DNA databases – because of the propensity of humans to make mistakes in record keeping, the prospensity of humans to use information for wrongful purposes and because we are in increasing danger of becoming, as some put it, a nation of ‘suspects’.

Henry Porter, writing in the Guardian, makes a number of useful points – most tellingly, revealing that the “Criminal Records Bureau managed to describe some 2,000 people wrongly as having convictions.” The DNA database issue was not properly debated in Parliament. There have been appalling errors in the implementation of IT by government departments, yet our present government takes the view, through The Lord Protector, that we should continue to build the DNA database and increase the surveillance on the ‘subjects’ of our sceptred isle. I’m not so sure that it healthy for the future of our experience of life for information to be captured without strict control on usage. I may have to buy myself a Lawrence of Arabia style headress to cover my face – which I assume I will be allowed to wear, in the current mood of not wishing to offend religious groups – although I won’t be allowed to wear a black balaclava with eyeholes – when I sip my espresso in Chiswick High Street.

Watching… On a slightly different theme – I am back on my motorbike after my recent accident. I take a particular interest in seeing what is behind me now!

Coming back from Notting Hill this morning, I decided to see how many road traffic infrigements I could spot in the twenty minute journey back to Chiswick. I did an advanced bike course some years ago with the Police (most useful) and I follow the Police Roadcraft system when riding, particularly in London. It has, on several occasions, saved me from injury. I lost count of speeding violations. It was easy to spot the speeders. I stuck to the 30 limit. I saw 13 people using mobiles while driving, two illegal u-turns, five instances where no apprpriate signal was given, causing distress to following vehicles! A woman in a 4 x 4 turned into a one way street illegally, oblivious to the ‘No Entry’ sign – to much horn bashing, a trade van overtook dangerously, forcing the oncoming vehicle to stop to let him through, and I saw a car nearly hit a cyclist because the driver was eating a piece of toast. I also saw a Police Car parked on a double yellow line while the officer drew some cash out of a cashpoint machine. In all – quite an interesting journey back.