Muttley Dastardly LLP: Clarity in everything you do….

From the Desk of Matt Muttley, Managing Partner

It has been drawn to my attention that Nabarro Nathanson, formerly known as ‘Nabarros’, has done a re-branding; shortening their name to ‘Nabarro’ with a strapline ‘Clarity Matters’.

Their new logo was a bit difficult to decipher at first…. looked like tree rings to me, or one of those optical illusions…but Eva Braun, my PA, was able to decipher it as a letter ‘N’ by squinting at it for a while and using what appeared to be a Vicks inhaler to clear her sinuses. Good stuff…. and, inspired by this, let us remember that clarity (and speed) of billing is the watchword… well, perhaps not too much clarity of billing unless the client asks.

When our revered senior partner finally resigns…(Eva…sorry…can you type ‘retires’ instead) the firm will re-brand as Muttley….

Dictated in his absence on business in Davos.

****

UPDATE…

Good to see that RollonFriday covers the story.  They have a poll allowing you to vote on the new logo.

Blown it….

Thick and brick, paired, is most appropriate in the case of a new motorist, a brickie, who got a drink driving ban 38 HOURS after passing his test. Apparently the born-again pedestrian, as he know is, went out to celebrate passing his test, got pissed on six pints, went to bed, got up a few hours later and drove. The Sun reports “The cops stopped him for driving without lights.” Yes… not really surprising at night.

Police Inspector Eric Robinson expressed the view “It’s possibly the shortest time anyone has held a licence.”

I am gladdened by the news, again reported in The Sun, that thousands of children think that cows lay eggs. Apparently, many of these children also believe that bacon comes from sheep. The children were eight years of age. At that age I was about to qualify as a Master of Wine…. OK… I may be exaggerating…

Prince Charles, on a visit to the United Arab Emirates, has managed to irritate a lot of people by calling for a ban on McDonalds. Excellent. Glad to see he is keeping busy.

Jesus’ bones found: The news that Titanic film director, James Cameron, and his co-director on the Lost Tomb of Jesus (Discovery Channel) have found the lost tomb of Jesus has irritated priests, god-botherers and archaeologists who did not make the discovery themselves. He appears to have also found the tombs of the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene and Joseph – so a full house then. An american news reporter (Video) tells us that this story comes from the Da Vinci Code meets Indiana Jones school of archaeology. Not good news for the Resurrection theme in christianity? A bit irritating for agnostics as well.

POSTSCRIPT: Thursday 1 March – just after midnight on the 28th February…

Chris Rosebrough who took the time to comment on my short note on the Tomb of Jesus story has a fascinating rebuttal here – well worth a read.  I have just re-read Chris Rosebrough’s analysis – it is excellent – but do remember, please,  that I am not qualified to judge, being a believer in the old Roman Gods.

Barrister ‘A’: Ego nolo caesar esse…

The Diary of Barrister A: Tuesday 27th February 07

I have set my life upon a cast,
And I will stand the hazard of the die.
Richard III, 5. 4

I have made my position clear. I do not want to be Caesar and – in so asserting; at once, I relieve the minds and emotions of others who might seek to thwart my ambition.

I read in The Sun today a comment by Jon Gaunt ” PERMA-TANNED Peter Hain accused Rory Bremner of “breeding cyncicism” in politics and of politicians and says he has kept to his principles and is proud of what he has done.” This quotation allowed Gaunt to dig deep into his political knowledge… I quote: “Oh yeah, Peter you and your miserable shower are really principled aren’t you? There’s Prescott humping anything with a pulse. Michael Meacher the real socialist with EIGHT houses. The dodgy dossier, need I say more?”

I ring Danielle to ask if we have EIGHT houses. We don’t.

Sari… so is Jade…

I groaned when I saw The Sun this morning. I have no need to cover the story of Jade’s journey of apology to India when Geeklawyer handles it so eloquently. Geeklawyer is on the slopes skiing – but still manages to blog. I expressed the view in his comments section that I was pleased to note he had found the keys to the drinks cabinet.

I am, however, not at all ‘sari’ about the increase in penalties for drivers who use mobile phones while driving – having had a near death experience with one such driver ‘who didn’t see me” – despite the fact that I was wearing a bright yellow jacket and a yellow helmet and my motorbike is a big one. The BBC has the story: “The maximum fixed penalty fine has doubled to £60, and three points can be added to offenders’ licences.” From today!

And… the government is looking into the possibility of checking mobile phone records after routine accidents. At present mobile records may only be checked in ‘Fatals’ or on the orders of a senior officer: The Telegraph

The BBC website has some interesting pictures of The Old Bailey to celebrate the centenary. Pics

Is a glass or two of wine a day good for you?
I started to read this – and lost the will to live.

David Pannick QC covers the reform of the Office of The Attorney-General. Pretty straightforward issue really? Independence is a many splendoured thing.

Stress in The City: Edward Fennel has a most interesting article on stress in The Times. Worth a read if you are contemplating a career in a City law firm – or are stressed.

Enjoyed Dan Hull’s description of my Podcast interview with Justin Patten: “a sane, to-the-point and articulate discussion” In the time honoured tradition of theatre reviews I’ll extract the bit I like and put it ‘up in lights’! [Is Dan suggesting that my blog may not be entirely sane?]

Here’s Justin!… Podcast time…

Forgive the “Here’s Johnny’ intro – but today I interviewed Justin Patten of Human Law on his thoughts about blogging, where he thinks blogging by lawyers might go and other matters. I also shoehorn a bit of law into the podcast; discussing a return to the bad old days of recruitment to the Bar and end with a reminder about the caption competition.

We did lunch at The Bollo – a glass of Rioja, of course, was offered and accepted. I had to join him for a glass – to do otherwise would have been unthinkable.

So… here is Podcast No 2

“a sane, to-the-point and articulate discussion”
Dan Hull. What About Clients?

I just could not resist this review.

Secrets of law and practice…

Secrets to law 101: This YouTube video repays watching. It is short and to the point.

This short extract from Jonathan Goldberg QC’s excellent 2 CD training film on Advocacy in Modern legal Practice will, however, teach you a great deal more. The CD is available from The Legal Practitioner for £29.95 – it carries 3 CPD hours – but is most useful for student and practitioner alike. The CD is full TV quality – the extract is compressed for slow web connections.

PS.  Don’t forget to have a go at the Caption Competition – a bottle of decent Vino to the winner… courtesy of Corney & Barrow who sponsor the caption competition! Click here (or scroll down)

Growing old disgracefully?…

Sir John Mortimer QC, lawyer, author, creator of ‘Rumpole’ and raconteur – may well be 83, but as far as I could see yesterday afternoon at The King’s Head in Islington he still has an eye for the ladies, and put on a great Show. He was assisted in his task yesterday by two good actors – Geraldine James and Celia Imrie.

I quote from The Telegraph review – which goes straight to the point: “His common sense, liberal values and delight in mischief are a lesson to us all in a drab, increasingly conformist Britain in which our freedoms seem to be constantly eroded”

John Mortimer was kind enough, some years ago, to visit my law school each year for about five years to talk to the students – he asked for nothing but a bottle of champagne to drink while he spoke. It was good to listen to him again – if anything, he was sharper and funnier. It was a pleasure to spend an afternoon watching this show, a glass of Rioja to hand (my hand), and just enjoy laughing and being entertained. Geraldine James and Celia Imrie were both excellent and seemed to enjoy doing their bit!

Barrister ‘A’: Ad alta

The Diary of Barrister A: Saturday 24th February 07

I am not in the giving vein to-day.
Richard III. 4. 2

The hangover this morning could have been worse. Danielle took me to a Mexican restaurant to celebrate my selection as a candidate for the northern constituency. I share only one ‘policy’ with WebCameron: My private life is my private life until I do, or get caught doing, something really daft – if and when I am elected to Parliament.

I spent the morning trying to understand New/Old Labour policies. Hazel Blears was not available. Probably putting in her papers for an outsider shot at the Deputy PM role which will fall due soon.

So… Google seemed as good a starting point as any: This was my first search:



*

Blair has but a few months to go. He is running about trying to re-create the early days of his premiership/presidency by littering the place with initiatives. He may as well, now, go to a Church of England church, stand in the pulpit and address the depleted congregation. He will reach a wider audience.

I am relieved, given that ‘the original coalition of USA/UK’ appears, now, not to have had any (or immediately effective)  plans to administer Iraq after invading it, that we are not planning to invade yet another country. But… just because information on UK politics (at the present time) is on Google, it does not mean that it is necessarily reliable. As far as I am able to recall – we went into the present Iraq war because we were 45 minutes from attack by weapons of mass destruction owned by Iraq – supplied, developed or sourced, originally, allegedly, by the US and, possibly, the UK. I had no political aspirations back in those days – so I may be a bit hazy on the detail. Did we ever find those weapons? I shall ask ‘R’, my research assistant.

To the summit… ‘ad alta’ is, of course, the quest..the journey, of all aspiring politicans. I accept, should Labour voters in the North fear/despise/ be indifferent to the Tory more than Labour (To be quite honest – I approve of hereditary voting. The last thing we need in the Labour party is voters who have always voted Labour, for family reasons, voting elsewhere) that I will find myself in The House of Commons. I am unlikely to find the time to take high office, let alone any office. I will make it clear to my constituents that I shall be available to THEM, for I seek no other reward.

Saturday brings respite…

There is absolutely no truth in the rumour that I have been approached to advise HRH Prince Airmiles (aka: ‘The Junket of York) on his public image – that is a distinction which must go to Sir Digby Jones, former head honcho at the Confederation of British Industry (fee, reportedly: £1000 a month for one day each month) – as reported in The Independent today.

The reason it is unlikely that I will be approached to advise Airmiles is because I feel quite strongly that if he spent less time working from 7.00 am – 11.00 pm in Davos and got out on the piste and, thereafter, went on the ‘piste’, Britain plc would be perceived in a warmer light by our foreign neighbours. I feel quite strongly, given that Harry is off to Iraq, Wills has to behave himself and the future King George VII* is just not a crowd puller, ‘The Firm’ has a duty to deploy at least one senior royal to ‘party’ from dusk to dawn, divert RAF jets from centres of business to the playgrounds of the World, and demonstrate that Britain plc is not all about warmongering, cosying up to Bush, financial markets, Hovis, chip butties and Dick Van Dyke portraying a cockney in Mary Poppins. I want It’s a Royal Knockout back on TV.

* (Charles III is unlikely – a Stuart name, not Hanoverian)

The Independent is ‘cooking’ today! There is a shortage of sperm donors in the UK. Apparently British couples are prepared to pay up to $525 (£275) for a US donor with a Ph.D ($445 without) and may choose hair colour, and physique. In these days of legal aid cut backs, less litigation and competition from claims farmers….. ?

Good news for smokers! It is an abuse of a smoker’s human rights to prohibit him / her from smoking in prison. Get nicked for smoking in a public place, get banged up for not paying the fine and smoke away! Wonderful nonsense – amusingly dealt with by Deborah Orr in her column (The Independent)

Happy Birthday Old Bailey : “Defend the Children of the Poor & Punish the Wrongdoer.” The Old Bailey is 100 : Independent story

Ban alcohol adverts: Dr Beaujolais, a leading expert on fractures and author of “You break ’em, I mend ’em”, speaking from Harry’s Bar in Venice yesterday, called on the UK government to ban all alcohol advertising in the UK. “People are drinking themselves to death” said Dr Amaretto Beaujolais (52), as he lit a havana cigar and downed a shot of grappa. “It is thoroughly irresponsible of supermarkets to sell alcopops to under aged boys and girls. It is a disgrace that people can get absolutely roaring for £1.49 on a bottle of cheap cider” He said, signalling frantically to a passing waiter for a re-fill. Full story

“A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture Media and Sport said ministers had “no plans” to ban alcohol adverts or alcohol firms sponsoring events.Does this indicate or signal the end of the nanny state? Is The Highwayman going to let us lead good lives when he becomes PM?

Around the world in 80….

It has been some years since I was last at The Reform Club in Pall Mall. From memory, I am pretty sure I was over refreshed after an extended lunch with a CEO of a leading law school. Be that as it may – the memory of it came into my mind and prompted me to think of balloons and journeys.

Geeklawyer is off piste skiing in Europe. Justin Patten of Human Law is coming over for lunch on Monday to be interviewed for my second podcast. I plan to ask him perfectly sensible questions and then throw in a curve ball at the end. Anonymous Lawyer departs from his usual villainy to reflect, sensibly, on the tragic death of the Freshfields associate, Matthew Courtney. BabyBarista seems to have discovered that another barrister is running a sweatshop; using the services of pupils and underemployed barristers to do his work. Excellent.

Martin (Editor of Conflict of Laws) also has his own blog – Legal Scribbles et al. He also teaches Land Law at Birmingham. May god have mercy upon his soul. This week he considers property rights in space. I have seen this phenomenon with other land lawyers. They become addicted and property rights on earth cannot assuage their needs. I suspect it will not be long before F*xtons estate agents are on the Moon – hopefully not in my lifetime. It is bad enough seeing their badly driven Minis in West London. Chop-chop. I have a long memory. Here is Whistleblower again – on F*xtons.

Pupilblogger is not well. This does not trouble ‘The Master’ who still phones him to talk at length. NearlyLegal reflects on the uses of vanity and expresses some admiration for the stealth campaign mounted by BabyBarista in promoting his blog by posting comments on other people’s blogs. – excellent stuff. Might have to try this technique myself! (Nearly Legal: Agree…hate/amused by the term ‘blawg’ – which is why I use it. Post ironic?…neo-ironic…or just bollocks?)

Which brings me to the question: are any lawyers actually blogging about LAW?

Surprisingly – yes. John Bolch over at Family Lore informs us that marriage as an institution is on the decline – 10% reduction. Who cares? I have troubled the Superintendent of Births, Deaths and Marriages too many times. I have imposed an ASBO on myself. There will only be one further visit – to record my passing to Hades… a member of my family will ferry me across the Styx. Corporate BlawgUK considers ‘Pseudo-modernism, financial markets and Shariah Law.’ With the aid of a glass of Rioja – I enjoyed the post. Dan Hull, from the States, has a blog I visit and enjoy for the more serious stuff. This week he informs us about: “The Sacred, Immovable, No-Excuses Weekly Phone Call.” Legal Beagle asks their Lorships to give her a moment and Bystander JP at The Magistrate’s Blog, as ever, provides an entertaining insight into the world of criminal law: This week dealing with a proerty issues in criminal cases. Tim Kevan, at Barrister Blog, has an interesting piece on Fraud.

So…what is Charon up to?

Today I’ll be watching the rugby with a good friend of mine. He is Irish. Although I am a Scot – I support England (except when Scotland are playing). History will be made at Croke Park this afternoon. Wikipedia has a detailed view of the events of Bloody Sunday 21 November 1920 in Dublin. I suspect that I’ll be up for a few posts later… perhaps on other blogs?

I have introduced ‘Barrister A’ as a vehicle for my interest in the more bizarre activities of politicians. It may continue… but, it may not. Tomorrow I am at the King’s Head in Islington with a young money laundering lawyer to watch a show involving Sir John Mortimer QC. It will be strange to return to Islington. I lived there many years ago (1982) – shared a flat with a friend who is now an eminent Family Silk – good days. It did not look like Blackpool then. Inevitably, I spent far too much time at the King’s Head. Became very friendly with Bob and Charlie (Ex Roy Wood, Wizard – pianist and drummer – who always filled the place when they were playing.)

We shall meet again…on the field of battle. Cry God for Harry, St George and England…etc …

PS… have a go at my latest caption competiton (Infra – or scroll down if you don’t like a bit of latin in your life.) You could win a bottle of Vino – courtesy of Corney & Barrow.


Barrister ‘A’: Vi et armis

The Diary of Barrister A: Friday 23 February 07
And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With old odd ends stolen out of holy writ,
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.
Richard III. 1. 3

The day began with drizzle and was not improved by the arrival of a letter to inform me that I had not been selected to represent a group of Northerners in Parliament. Pity… I rather liked the nightclubs in the town; the girls in short skirts, stilettos and midriff revealing tops – almost a uniform up there – even in winter. I began to wonder how ‘Old Labour/New Labour’ I needed to be. It is all in the balance – a resurgent Tory party under WebCameron, with a fair prospect of seizing marginal labour seats, balanced against the rising menace of Gordon Brown  [No blog / no personal website – ? I did find ‘Gordon Brown roofing’] and support returning to Labour when Blair finally goes.

More senior members of the Bar are attracting a fair bit of Press attention for their extra-curricular affairs. The antics of the barrister ‘gigolaw’ seems to have given the fourth estate a taste for scrutinising the, shall we say, ‘social life’ of members of the Bar. Circumspection and discretion must be the way forward.

All to play for. The work streams in at an acceptable rate. The clerks at RedLex Chambers do the business but I need to plan. I send an email to my research assistant, ‘R’, who used to work for a well known tabloid; asking her to find out if there are any seriously ill or old MPs who may not make the next two years. I suggest a few names. As an afterthought I asked her to see if anything was ‘known’ about MPs in marginal seats.

I received an email back within minutes with three names. Name 1: “Believed to enjoy dogging – surprisingly” Name 2: “Having affair with his Ukrainian cleaner – visa issues?” and Name 3: “Clean living but dim and rarely turns up for constituency surgeries.” Not that interesting. No serious scandals and not a ‘rent boy’ scandal or public school spliffing episode even hinted at. Christ… how have we been in power for nearly ten years?

Phone Danielle to tell her about constituency rejection. She laughs, which improves my mood. Jim rings up to ask if I would ‘care to attend a Chambers Committee meeting about the new logo’. Easy decision: No.

Lunch with J/Groucho

An hour later, I receive a call from Dick Matlock, constituency party chairman, to tell me that a mistake had been made – the letters sent out yesterday went to the wrong people (the other candidate has the same first name) and that I had, in fact, been selected. Dick is a man of few words, fortunately. No apology – just the raw information. That is the way he likes it and it suits me just fine.

I am on my way.

Friday… caption competition time…

The Sun has the story – but Tim Kevan of Barrister Blog has the video: “Judge Larry Seidlin wept THREE times as he gave custody of the beauty’s body to Richard Milstein.”

What do you think? Could this catch on? What about the opposite extreme of emotion? Will we be seeing judges laughing, perhaps setting off fire crackers and playing a bugle or trumpet as they sentence someone to life (or in the US – death) for a particularly horrific crime? Hardly….

Moving on…. to why Richard Madely is f*****g furious

Quite a few people ring in every day to The Richard and Judy show in the hope of being selected to answer relatively straightforward questions and pocket £5-7000. The hosts even help them on ocassion. The problem is that quite a few people ring in when there is absolutely no chance of them being selected as the contestant because the quiz operator, apparently, selects the contestant fairly early on in the programme. People ring throughout the programme because they are encouraged to do so by the hosts. Channel 4 and Cactus TV (Production company) share the profits from the phonecall revenue. The hosts have apologised. They were not aware that this practice was going on. Richard Madeley said: “I feel f***ing furious about this and so does Judy. We’re livid about it. But I think it’s a cock up, not a conspiracy. Everybody who has been affected will get their money back.” The Sun

The Independent also reports: C4 facing huge phone bill (£448,000)

So…on that note it is time for a carbon footprint certified, Birdflu free, safe, honourable Caption Competition

The picture (Left!) for this caption competition comes from the leader in The Sun today. The link to the story did not work – so I am linking to The Sun

The Prize? A bottle of Vino from the caption competition sponsor Corney & Barrow – who have been very sporting about my wish for this blog to be supported by a wine merchant!

Rules are straightforward: Write a caption in the comments section. 2. If I decide that your caption is the best, you win! 3. There is no appeal. 4. Relatives of Charon may not enter – Charon is also excluded. 5. Absolutely no phonecalls.

The winner of the last caption competition sponsored by The Carbolic Smokeball is….

“It’s OK, John, you don’t look Brazilian”

Comment by Rob Falconer — Thursday, February 8, 2007

Rob… I have emailed you – please let me have details of address etc. You will soon be the proud owner of…..this wonderful statue donated by The Carbolic SmokeBall Company

Honourable mention

“Listen Jimmy, ah dinna care whit yoo say aboot asylum and immigration,prison overcrowding and dangerous ‘head the balls’ being let oot o Jail too early! I’m telling yoo that when I was Defence Secretary, these SA 80 Assault Rifles were the bloody ‘Bees Knees’ now bugger off and talk to Des Brown before I give ye a Glasgow Kiss ya Bastard!”

Comment by James Lawson

PI Brief Update Law Journal: February 2007 published today…

The PI Brief Update February edition is published online today. I am pleased to say that I am still a contributor… in the marginal sense of writing peripherally on topic. The journal has a great deal of content – articles on personal injury, clinical negligence, medico-legal issues and coronial law. You may read the online journal here. If you wish to see my contribution it is here.

I write from my staterooms in West London

Tonight, I attended a quiz nite. I was not able to assist the quizmasters in their enquiries into the cash for honours farrago. I told them this and they seemed quite happy with my answers. I was able to tell them that I was doing my best not to have an affair or ‘liaison dangereuse’ with a lawyer or other person(s) outside the confines of the legal world. The chief quizmaster (who reminded me of Inspector Morse) smiled wryly and gave a view that it was quite an extraordinary co-incidence that the private lives of senior law officers should feature so prominently in the news at this particular time. He did ask me if the word ‘Granita‘ meant anything to me. I must have looked a bit baffled. It was too morse for me.

The quizmaster smiled.…and asked ” You weren’t educated in Scotland, by any chance?” I said that I did not have the good fortune to go to Fettes – but was able to tell him that I had seen a future Lord Chancellor wandering about the place, during ‘recreation’ when I was serving out an early ASBO at Glenalmond. I explained that I wasn’t in the same House so was not able to give any background on whether Falconer showed the makings of a good Lord Chancellor from an early age or not. Falconer’s legacy will be written in time – but, I suspect, that he will survive the Gordon Brown succession – particularly if he sticks to John Reid and enlarges the DCA with oversight of all the things  John Reid wants to offload. The chief quizmaster nodded, looked at his watch – a thoughtful expression on his face – and thanked me.

*

“Mind how you go, Mr Charon.” It reminded me of my childhood and Dixon of Dock Green.

It may interest you to know that I did have to visit Chiswick Police Station some time ago – to report the theft of my motorbike. It was good to see a picture of Dixon of Dock Green hanging in the reception area. Who says the Police can’t do irony? … seems to me that they are rather good at it.

Lunchtime brief…

Verdict on The Verdict: As it happens, I quite enjoyed watching the verdict. Unfortunately, I missed a bit of footage because I was detaining myself at my own pleasure at The Bollo – but, The Times Online comes to my rescue. I tend to agree with the comment made by John Cooper ” What this programme showed was that if the public were allowed to watch a trial their faith in the process would be considerably enhanced. What better argument for allowing cameras into the real courts?”

Not having served on a Jury, I have no idea whether the film represented the style of discussion. Portillo exercised majesty, Archer prevaricated, a footballer talked far too much and an actress did not, as far I could glean, contribute much of real value. I missed the bit where Alex James of Blur pointed out that many young girls these days are trying anal sex to avoid pregnancy. I’m not particularly sorry that I did.

I do miss not eating Liver and Mash: I am at The Bollo eating their ‘Lunch special’ – braised beef, today. They have removed Liver and Mash from the menu. It is surprisingly relaxing to do a bit of blogging, catch up on legal news, answer emails – all from the comfort of a pub, which has Wi-fi, over lunch. Makes a change from my office where I spend far too much time in splendid isolation

The old LPC chestnut (tailored firm specific course versus open to all course) gets another outing – this time from Phil Knott of Nottingham Law School. Makes sense but could be a bit limiting. Contrast this with the article on Legal Week which suggests that students are being turned off by firm specific courses.

I am not having an orgy of TimesOnline posts… but it is Tuesday..and as we all know. Tuesday means Law in The Times – and here is Anonymous Assistant talking about the tribulations of practice in a City Law firm.

I appear to have overdone the Law – so, to change the pace – You may now buy Britney Spears’ hair (she chopped it all off) here – should you be so minded. (And the can of Red Bull, a lighter…..)

Well…there we are – lunch over. Back to the office.

The legal system…

In but a few short weeks we have heard that the legal system is in ‘crisis’, various law officers and senior members of the profession are having affairs,  the prisons are full and barristers are briefless.

However all is not, by any means, doom and gloom. Lawyers are blogging and I’d like to draw your attention to a blog which I have been reading recently: BabyBarista

While it may be a fictional account of life as a pupil (There is much for the student and intending barrister) it has nuggets of information in pretty well every post.

I particularly enjoyed this piece… and I quote:

“Reminded me of the apocryphal story of a recruiter for an investment bank who randomly picked up half of the application forms and threw them in the bin. “Well”, he answered, “we don’t want the unlucky ones.”

One wonders how recruitment departments at the big law firms sift through the mountain of applications for traineeships every year. Matt Muttley would certainly approve. Meanwhile Geeklawyer has been reflecting on the common sense of the biker who filmed himself doing 100 mph on his motorbike in a 30 mph zone, posted the video to YouTube and then wondered why he was prosecuted by the police.

I was minded to comment on Geeklawyer’s comments section for that post : “Thankfully – no-one has been stupid enough to post a video on YouTube about getting a peerage in return for cash / loans etc etc … that would have been most inconvenient.”

Spring is in the air…

Judging by the number of press reports about the extra-curricular affairs involving senior law officers (Another one reported in the News of The World today – but his wife knows all about it and it is in the past) and other senior lawyers, I am beginning to wonder if global warming is having, hitherto, unreported effects – increasing the libido of ageing lawyers. A tablet of El Nino anyone?

****

But…as I have said before, I will make no direct comment and move on to other matters…

One of the pleasures of blogging (at least in the field of law) is coming across an eclectic mix of thinking, writing, views, opinions, humour and subversion. Here I am, at The Bollo [free Wi-fi] on a Sunday, a glass of Rioja to my right, an espresso and Silk Cut to my left… on my laptop – looking at the blogs on my blogroll.

I quote a passage from Dan Hull’s What About Clients? which I enjoyed : “The study of law is one of the great intellectual adventures of our time. True, there are many who mire it in the rote, the mundane and the simple-minded. Yet for those who look past the shallows, the depths of law offer excitement and wisdom. Those who learn these nuances gain a particular authority in modern culture. They become effective citizens in the modern state.”

Yes… I was inspired… much as I am when listening to ‘Jerusalem’ when England play cricket… but… then I asked myself the question: What is an effective citizen in the modern state? Lawyers rank below estate agents (save for Foxtons. See: BBC ‘Whistleblower’ coverage) and journalists in the BBC Radio 4 surveys most years – we are seen as part of the ‘Holborn Massive’ and not even David Cameron wants to hug us.

Thankfully… the staff at The Bollo are still prepared to bring me a glass of Rioja. Cheers…

Muttley Dastardly LLP: Inappropriate behaviour

MEMO TO ALL STAFF

From: Matt Mattley, Managing Partner

Re: Inappropriate behaviour

1. On or about Wednesday 14th February I received a Valentine’s Day card from a person(s) unknown.

2. The envelope, addressed to me personally, had been franked, using the firm’s franking machine. There is no record in the new electronic fees system of this postage cost being attributed to a client of the firm.

3. The card was inscribed with the message “Hi bigboy…. we know you like to give the opposition a hard time. Would you like to give me a hard time 2nite?”

4. The card was accompanied by a bunch of roses and foliage of varied types.

My response to this is as follows:

We have spent a great deal of (otherwise chargeable) time and money positioning ourselves in the market with marketing and what some of our competitors are now referring to as ‘piracy’. As you know, it is my practice to read The Lawyer to see who is acting for whom and then pop over to ‘whom’ and do a bit of negotiation on fees. We have also invested heavily in our innovative and highly popular ‘Trainee Blog’ – which, I am bound to say, while not meeting with universal approval, is very appealing to prospective applicants to our firm and, therefore, ensures that our firm is able to compete with the other leading firms and recruit suitably educated trainees who will contribute to the wealth of the partners. Please bear this in mind. We have to set an example. I would not wish to get up on a Friday morning and find our firm being mocked on RollonFriday.

As to point 2 of my memo: The cost of the postage of the card, while modest, has not been ‘attributed or allocated’ to a client. The cost is, therefore, a drain on the wealth of the partners. This is an important principle. It is also theft under s.1 Theft Act 1968. There is a difference between a ‘toppy bill’ and downright dishonesty in appropriating property belonging to the partners with the dishonest intention of permanently depriving the partners of that property.

As to point 3 of my memo: While I take no personal exception to the statement recorded in the card and may well follow up on the invitation when our internal security unit find the originator of the card, it is important to bear in mind the free advice provided by competitor firm Peninsula in their illuminating Valentine’s Day briefing (we are always grateful when rival firms provide us with knowledge which we can then re-sell. ) Peninsula point out that such a remark could well be construed, to those of a sensitive disposition, as ‘an unwanted sexual advance from a colleague.’ and amount to harrassment – which can be very costly these days – quite rightly. You will, through our excellent CPD programme, be familiar with the right of Employment Tribunals to make ‘uncapped awards’. I also quote Mr Mooney’s comments from the Pensinsula briefing – which sent a shiver down my spine: “And the cost of losing a High Court case for harassment can sometimes run into the millions.”

As to point 4 of my memo: The sending of any product likely to result in physical or psychological injury could well lead to personal injury litigation. I quote from the Peninsula briefing: “In the most extreme example, bosses can even get into trouble if one worker is sent a large bouquet of flowers on Valentine’s Day.

The leaflet says: “If you have one employee who has bad hayfever, or a similar allergy, sat next to a member of staff who receives a lot of flowers, the employer could be in breach of their duty to provide an amenable working environment.”

I hope that I have made my point? If you have not seen the Peninsula Employment Law briefing, you may view it here

.

What a ‘spliffing time’…

With the continuing Press interest in David Cameron’s ‘spliffing time’ at Eton as a boy, I just could not resist this excellent popart poster ( I have ordered one for my office).

I was smoking Silk Cut and drinking espresso at a pavement cafe in the only non-middle class area left in ‘Haute-Chiswick’ this morning, when I came across a story in Private Eye (No 1178). William Hague, it was reported, came to the aid of his beleaguered (and increasingly less popular) leader by saying that “we all did things that we regret.” The Eye went on to state that Hague told a story that ‘when he was a lad’ he had a holiday job as a driver’s mate delivering beer. Apparently, it was the driver and Hague’s practice to have a pint at every delivery stop. With ten stops a day, I am surprised the driver had not come to the attention of traffic police. Journos, keen to probe the veracity of Hague’s story (picked up in 2000 by GQ magazine), Eye reports, contacted Tory Central Office to be told by ‘indignant staff’…and I quote:

“We can get you firm evidence he drank 14 pints. He used to regularly come home completely plastered.”

Excellent.

Rather more interesting – Private Eye had a story about the Visa Waiver Scheme rules in the United States. Convicted ‘felons’ are refused entry to the USA. One assumes they have enough of their own and do not need any more. These rules also exclude anyone who “has been arrrested, however briefly, for any reason whatsover, even if no further police action followed.” Eye makes the point, obliquely, that it would be most inconvenient for Tony Blair’s future on the lucrative US gravy train if he was arrested in the cash for honours scandal – even if no police action followed. Getting a visa to sup from that trough would, in the event of arrest, be rather difficult. The US Embassy website warns potential arrestees and felons: “such visa applications are subject to a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past.”

I just happened to allow my mind to wander at this point to a ‘What if scenario”. This is how my mind went – What if, I thought, Tony Blair was arrested, but no further police action followed? Blair would be subject to the close scrutiny of the US Visa authorities if he wished to gain entry to the USA. US authorities would look into his past and find that he may have started an illegal war in Iraq. The Americans don’t like people who engage in unlawful military activity or acts of terrorism. Game over. Yes – preposterous analysis. We know that the war in Iraq is lawful. The Attorney-General has told us that it is. So no point in further idle speculation.

And finally, for this post…

A sculpture of hands feeling The Queen’s breasts has provoked outrage among royal watchers and experts. The Sun’s royal photographer Arthur Edwards said: “This is quite obviously the work of a lunatic. I don’t see this as anything more than a cheap stunt.” [Curiously, despite the reservations expressed by the photographer (who, presumably travelled all the way to Madrid to be outraged), The Sun has got a picture of the sculpture which you may view here – if you wish to do so. Those of a nervous disposition may wish to avert their gaze.]

Even more curious – as the Sun reported: Spain’s King Juan Carlos did not seem to have a problem with it — he opened the show.

It is not known whether King Juan Carlos drinks more Rioja than I do.

Mon dieu…Charon gets a review in The Times by The Click…

“More than an occupational blog, charonqc.wordpress.com shows admirable distaste for writing about the workaday nuts and bolts of life as a lawyer. This rioja-loving “blawger” provides crisply commentary and dry wit about life and pressing news in general. Whether declaiming on liver and mash, Asbos or David Cameron, he is never less than compelling.”

Many thanks… TimesOnline.

I’ll be watching my typos (and content?) on my late Friday night Rioja inspired blogs!

Friday review…

While ‘Master’ criminals may well be blessed with brains and a high IQ: others at the bottom of the criminal food chain are not so blessed. This from The Mirror today :

“TWO suspected burglars were caught – after police tracked their footprints in a fresh fall of snow. Officers arrived promptly when a couple found their home being burgled and followed the footprints leading to a nearby house in Chippenham, Wilts. The prints became two cycle tracks which the police trailed until they found one of the bikes dumped – and two men hiding.”

A BRITISH man is to crawl on his hands and knees round New York wearing a George Bush mask and a sign saying “kick my ass” on his bottom. Mark McGowan is protesting against the US president and wants Americans to kick him. Apparently he will have a pillow stuffed down his trousers. [He has also pushed a monkey nut to Downing Street with his nose and has eaten a roasted swan.]

So what is going on in the world of law blogs?

Geeklawyer : Prolific ranter, Geeklawyer, covers a multitude of sins this week: Trials, Valentine’s Day … easier for you to go and have a look. The comments are also worth looking at. Ignore my claims to have played for ‘Real Madrid’ 30 years ago – preposterous; but enirely in keeping with Geeklawyer’s comments area.

Legal Scribbles and Quibbles: Has an interesting view on The Verdict (BBC2) and an interesting analysis of the legality of having sex on a plane a mile high above the ground.

Human Law: Justin Patten is always worth reading for more serious analysis (This week: Mediation) – and he has some useful material on sensible blogging.

Binary Law: Nick Holmes tends to focus on serious topical issues – the post of ‘Illegal Google’ was particularly interesting.

The Barrister Blog: Tim Kevan’s blog is always worth a look for more serious content – but he is also a surfing fanatic (Surfing on the sea)

Nearly Legal: Has a go at the re-design of The Times website and looks at the way things are falling apart in legal aid and court administration…
Pupil blog: Continues to grind away at the coal face…. “Oh no! No, no, no! Jesus Christ, f**k! F**k!’ will give you a taste of his latest posts.

Lo-fi Librarian: Lo-fi is becoming more prolific…. some very useful stuff here! Enjoyed the ‘sock-puppet’ post.

The Magistrate’s Blog: Although I know little about Criminal law and have no plans to become a criminal, I tend to visit this website most days – interesting analysis on the state of the law at the sharp end.

Family Lore: John Bolch has picked up on a tale of bad temper costing a great deal of money!

What about clients: Dan seems to have a look at Charon on Saturdays. I take that as a compliment!. This week Dan has a look at law firm differentiation, the weather report in Paris and what he plans to do when he goes to Paris in March (which I did pick up earlier in the week – infra.) You will also find Dan lurking in Geeklawyer’s comments sections. He likes hats.

Forgive me if I have not picked up on your own blog this week – I will do – but, I have run out of time this day.

I have decided to have another go at a Podcast…. listen to my first one? Ideas for topics gratefully received. I am interviewing Justin Patten on Monday 26/2 for inclusion in a future (slightly longer) podcast.

BTW… in case you doubt (after listening to the podcast) that I have a newsreader brother: Here he is – reading the news in full colour

This England…

On 1st July the ban on smoking in public places will begin and thousands of council employed ‘smoking wardens’ will be unleashed onto the streets of England to hunt down miscreants. The BBC reports that Councils are set to spend £29.5 million to employ staff to enforce the ban. These wardens will be able to go into pubs, offices and other public places and will have power to photograph or film unlawful behaviour and issue £50 on-the-spot fines .

I smoke. I have no problem with the ban coming in. I shall simply go outside when I feel like having a fag. I have a feeling, given the experience in Scotland where there have been just 11 fixed penalty notices issued to premises in the last 10 months, with many councils having issued none at all, that smokers in England will comply with the ban. Why does the government bother with this? There are thousands of zealous anti-smokers in this country who probably can’t wait to go into a pub and enforce the ban themselves.

POLICE were branded “bonkers” by Britain’s chief law officer yesterday for putting the human rights of criminals above those of victims.

“The Lord Chancellor slated the Derbyshire force for not issuing photos of two escaped killers because it would infringe their human rights.” The Mirror

We have not heard much from Charlie Falconer in recent months. Good to see that he is keeping his hand in.

MPs look set to face a sleaze probe after claiming £4.5million in travel expenses.

Not really much of a story here, I fear. News must be a bit thin on the ground. I read the Times report yesterday. The Mirror follows today. Yes… Scots MPs have higher bills for rail and air travel. This is a fact of geography. MPs, were, apparently, shown the figures some time ago and were given an opporunity to correct any inaccuracies, the Mirror reports.

Leading news in The Sun today – Viagra is a Valentine’s Day flop.

“VALENTINE’S Day lovers hoping Viagra would add a boost to their celebrations felt let down yesterday. Boots announced an over-the-counter trial of the sex drug at three Manchester stores.
But men found it was not as simple to get as they thought.

Pharmacist James Longden, 28, said: “We absolutely won’t be handing it to people who want to give their girlfriend a good time on Valentine’s Day. There is a protocol that involves taking the medical history.”

Ah well… back to trawling through all those Viagra and Cialis spam emails then.

This US lawyer has the right idea…

Dan Hull [What about clients?] is a man after my own heart…. have a look at his description of what he plans to do in Paris for three days: I give you but a taste from his post!

“It’s perfectly okay in the City of Light to look admiringly at a woman’s form, her legs, gait (that’s “git-along”, if you’re from southern Missouri or Tennessee), sway and the subtle changes in the curve of her back as she moves along the avenues or over the ancient bridges. You can even stalk her a bit. You can do this whether or not she’s with her boyfriend (amused and flattered, she will always smile anyway…”


Young lawyer dies….

The Times had an extraordinary story about the death of a talented associate at Freshfields: I quote simply from the opening – because the full story is important and I provide you with the link above (It is also below in Talkback from Legal Week)

Quoted from The Times: “Stressed out lawyer, 27, dies in late night fall at Tate Modern

“As a lawyer at one of the “magic circle” of leading corporate legal firms, Matthew Courtney was expected to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week.

He hoped that his efforts would eventually be rewarded with a partnership – and a £1 million salary.

But weeks after Mr Courtney, 27, and other associate lawyers at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer spoke to senior partners about their long hours and stress, he was found dead at Tate Modern, The Times has learnt.”

The full report is worth reading.

Interestingly – Legal Week asks the question in their Talkback section:

Talkback: Is the national press being too quick to judge Freshfields? Click here to have your say.

****

POSTSCRIPT

An interesting comment on this by Liadnan – well worth reading

The inference that Matthew Courtney may have committed suicide is supported by the vagueness of the article and the link to stress the stress of what is, undoubtedly, a demanding work environment. This quote from The Times article does not really help either: “Police studied security camera footage from Tate Modern but told Mr Courtney’s family that it is inconclusive. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said that the death was being treated as “unexplained but not suspicious.”

I find it strange that the story is not more clear. The Police, certainly, do not seem to have a firm view – save that they are not treating the death as suspicious.

Legal Week has an interesting follow up: here

It is certainly possible to construe, from the Times article, a suggestion of suicide – but it seems to me, that if one is making such a point, then one should do so clearly. A number of other bloggers, seasoned and experienced lawyers, have drawn this inference from press reports.

Lawyers work long hours. It goes with the territory – but it seems, to me, that press reports may not be giving an entirely fair view of the workloads or the circumstances surrounding the tragedy of this young lawyer’s death.

The posts on Legal Week’s Talkback are fairly robust:  One commentator expressing the view that no lawyer should have to work after 6.00 pm for free and that it is time the public ‘ finds out what working as a lawyer is like’. Another comment takes a more measured view (and I have no hesitation in quoting in full) :

“There is no question some grossly irresponsible pieces have been written about the possible cause and tragedy of this young man’s death. It is much too soon to point an accusing finger, the sort of thing we almost (but still reluctantly) come to expect from the gutter tabloids…but not respected newspapers, surely?”
Posted by: Associate, Burges Salmon

The truth of the matter is, given the Police view that the death is ‘unexplained but not suspicious’ (as reported in The Times article of 13/2/07), that no-one knows (a) whether it was an accident or suicide or (b) and, if it was suicide, whether it could be attributed to stress from work.

Unless I am missing something – is this a fair way to report a tragic death?

St Valentine’s Day massacre…

No… I’m not going to be writing about gangsters…just wanted a suitable title to mark this awful day in the calendar. I woke to discover that £38 million pounds worth of flowers had ben sold and discovered later in the morning that a friend had been quoted £80 for 8 roses… (He had let the day slip his mind)

Not interested…never have been. Nor am I interested in the activities of prominent lawyers who may or may not be having affairs. Private matter – The Bar seems to have rallied around Sir Ken Macdonald who is being hounded by The Mirror. Times has the story

Charon enters podcast world….

I’ve decided – inspired by Geeklawyer’s podcasts – to try one of my own. I have created the podcast in mp3 format so it should play on your computer and iPod – should you wish to listen to it.

Please bear in mind that this is a first (possibly last) attempt – I talk to you about wearing an England flag on my glasses during the World Cup 2006 last summer on a rare visit to the Inns of Court…. Here is the first podcast

I inhaled….

You cannot possibly have missed the feeding frenzy going on in the Press about David Cameron’s cannabis smoking exploits at school. Frankly, whether he continued this hobby when he was at university or even thereafter, before he went into politics, doesn’t interest me or bother me at all. I do think that politicians, like everyone else, are entitled to keep private the indiscretions of youth.

I have absolutely no problem with questions being asked of politicians about activities which are likely to impact on their ability to make decisions once they are elected as MPs. After all, one is entitled to take the view that politicians should not be spliffed up, raving on ecstasy or even pissed while carrying out the job of governing/opposing government. Drugs are, of course, illegal – but surely there have been instances of politicians being over refreshed while working?

Home Secretary John Reid said: “I think it was Andy Warhol who said most statements could be answered with the question ‘So what? I think this is one of those ‘So what?’ moments. Do we really care if David Cameron some years ago was involved in doing something wrong? “I think the public will probably say ‘So what, let’s move on and find out what he stands for’.

Charon had a few spliffs in his youth (late sixties in Africa visiting parents.  Illicit booze was the only thing we could get hold of in the wilds of Perthshire at Glenalmond when I was an inmate there) and developed an extraordinary penchant for eating tomato omelettes and laughing soon after inhaling… but the most interesting ‘experiment’ was a shrub root which an african friend of mine said was ‘for women’. I tried it. I have not tried Viagra [but delighted that should I wish to do so I will be able to nip down to Boots] but I am able to tell you that this root, which my friend called ‘munga’, had similar properties to Viagra – not that it was terribly useful to me on that occasion; given that I was stuck in the middle of the african bush, 200 miles from the nearest town. Amused my Zambian friends though.

The white ball…

“England won their first major overseas one-day tournament since 1997 as they beat Australia by 34 runs in the second match of the finals series in Sydney.” The BBC have the story

Which is another way of saying that we won the one day series against the Aussies.  [ A 2-0 ‘whitewash’?  – I post this only in honour one of the great Australian bowlers – McGrath – who could be relied on to predict whitewashes against England.  It was good to see him get a wicket on his final ball at the Sydney Cricket Ground – the last ball he will bowl in Australia in first class cricket.]

It was a good match – although it was just as interesting to listen to commentators trying to work out the Duckworth-Lewis rules and commentating on the rain reports on Australian radar!

I will say no more. The Cricket Wold Cup starts soon…

Dan: Thanks for the mention. “Charon is for Saturdays” I liked that.

Let me introduce you to Barrister ‘A’…

I can’t reveal his name – yet, but Barrister A will shortly be writing on a regular basis. Barrister A was educated at Harrow, The LSE (LLB), Oxford (BCL) and hacked his way through the old style Bar exams (Now the ‘BVC’) at The Inns of Court School of Law. He was called to the Bar in 1980 and dare not apply for Silk in case it reduces his income. He is married to an actress (resting) and has not had time, nor income, for children. [A friend of his, in another set, was made a Silk recently. Apparently, the new Silk has had the time, since elevation, to appear as a participant on Flog it and Cash in the Attic – telling the presenters of these popular daytime television shows that it ‘is time for someone else to enjoy his collection of Georgian Silver and Chippendale chairs.’]

We met, somewhat implausibly, at Spearmint Rhino – where we were taken to listen to a lecture (3 CPD points) by Matt Muttley, managing partner of Muttley Dastardly LLP.

Barrister A has political aspirations and is likely to be selected to a safe Labour seat. He tells me that it is a constituency near Doncaster, which he felt sure was somewhere near Birmingham. He accepts that he may not be in ‘government’ after the next election, but takes the entirely sensible view that this will give him time to learn the skills of being a backbench MP and develop his knowledge and skill as a ‘player.’ I am able to say that Barrister A has many of the venal qualities required of political players and I feel certain that it will only be a matter of time before he makes his mark as a future ‘Whip’. He reads The Tribune – or so he says.

Barrister A has few convictions, no scruples – but nor does he feel the need to mess around with ‘rent boys’, indulge in unusual sexual acts involving nooses and satsumas or have secret fantasies about female Tory MPs. He, most definitely, does not wear his shirt tucked into his underpants. I have no direct knowledge of this – but a lap dancer, who we met at ‘Nobu’, recently, assured me that he did not have this unusual habit.

Barrister A has promised me that he will be ready to file his first report here…..shortly…

Drinking it pretty…and the magic bus…

Anyone who enjoys a few drinks knows about the ‘Magic Bus’ – a phenomenon which arises after the consumption of approximately 5 beers or the better part of a bottle of wine. The drinker is sitting in a bar. The room is full of people – some good looking, others – not so blessed. The drinker goes to the lavatory. While he is in the lavatory the magic bus arrives and disembarks astonishingly good looking women and takes everyone else, who had been in the bar, home. (The phenomenon also affects women – please construe the above according to taste and orientation)

It is sometimes known as the ‘Beer goggles’ effect. I am delighted to be able to report that scientists are now able to explain the ‘beer goggles’ effect with a formula (pictured). The BBC have the story.

Scientists believe they have worked out a formula to calculate how “beer goggles” affect a drinker’s vision.

Formula explained:

An = number of units of alcohol consumed
S = smokiness of the room (graded from 0-10, where 0 clear air; 10 extremely smoky)
L = luminance of ‘person of interest’ (candelas per square metre; typically 1 pitch black; 150 as seen in normal room lighting)
Vo = Snellen visual acuity (6/6 normal; 6/12 just meets driving standard)
d = distance from ‘person of interest’ (metres; 0.5 to 3 metres)

The magic taxi

I have benefited from this phenomenon, I am sure, in my time – but it is surprising how powerful the effect is. Thankfully, the magic taxi arrives the next morning and either one can take it or have one’s vision of beauty of the night before, delivered back to their home.

It is pleasing that scientists have time to work this out – hopefully they can now get on with solving other medical problems…

Good to be proved wrong…

Having expressed the view (below) that England may struggle in the Final one day series against the Aussies – I watched the last half hour of play this morning. England beat the Aussies – deservedly so. 2007 is improving.

On a sporting theme – with some legal interest:

9th February The Guardian
“Legal action is being brought against high street clothing giant JJB Sports to try to recoup millions of pounds for thousands of football fans who were overcharged for replica football shirts. The national consumers’ organisation Which? is urging people who bought more than 1m England and Manchester United football shirts between April 2000 and August 2001 to support its test case claim for damages.”

Afraid of the dentist?

No need to be! Colgate has sent out special masks to dentists. Almost as good a marketing idea as law firms getting their trainees to write blogs about how good the firm is.

Here are some more Colgate dental masks.

Indebted to Geeklawyer for posting this on his blog:

I think you may be an arsehole …

February 7th, 2007 This is possibly an uncomfortable test for many lawyers to take: the ‘are you an arsehole?‘ test.

The Verdict BBC 2 Sunday 9.00

Lord “Jailbird” Archer heads a list of celebrities in a new BBC production where the jurors will deliberate and decide a fictional court case. Archer who did ‘porridge’ for perjury will, no doubt, bring his special expertise to bear.  Is that Mr McKay sitting on the back row behind Archer?  Good god!!…It is Michael Portillo. Haven’t a clue who the rest of the jurors are.

2.05 pm: Lord Archer is in the Jury Room.  At least no Davina in this reality show…. but it would have been good to have the Big Brother narrator with the excellent accent doing the commentary.

If I am not out doing some wine tasting I may well watch….. It may well be quite a good programme. We shall see. A bit of a busman’s holiday for some of you, I suspect.  But should be interesting for law students.  CPD points would have been useful here.

And it came to pass…the plague of snows…

This morning, life in Britain changed. The Met Office issued ‘severe weather’ warnings, the news agencies warned that snow was coming. Officials from a number of government agencies told us that we were ready, that Britain would cope.

I spent much of this morning with a TV screen on while I was working. Airports were closed, side roads blocked, the main roads which were clear, because the gritters had been out, were now at a standstill because of crashes… cars upside down, lorries slewed across the road and motorists sitting in their cars, bemused, wearing rugs over their knees, drinking hot coffee from thermos flasks and eating ‘rations’. Trains couldn’t use the rails because of snow and ice and buses were diverted to avoid hilly areas. Excellent… the usual, classic, British performance when a bit of snow hits us. I always enjoy the news when snow falls.

We even had pictures of a hardy BBC newshound reporting from rural England. The snow wasn’t that thick – kids were sliding, as best they could, on sledges down a hillside patchily covered by snow. I thought the newshound was about to say that he ‘may be gone for some time.’

I even had a moment of madness; believing that I could ride my motorbike through an inch of snow on the roads to have breakfast in Chiswick. I found that it was very slippery on two wheels, and mindful that I have managed to break bones in both of my legs in recent months, and having no ambition to win a Darwin Award, I retired from the venture.

I made twenty odd telephone calls this morning – only two of the people who I phoned were able to make it to work. I am fortunate. I only need to walk eight yards – I have the luxury of working from a fully equipped house.

England did not fail… we hacked it… unlike the overpaid footballers last night… ‘Spainfull” was how one tabloid described the performance. We now face the prospect of England cricketers struggling through three consecutive defeats against the Aussies in the final of the One Day tournament.

I leave you in ‘Ice Age’ Britain with a few jokes from an Aussie friend of mine who feels that I need to read Australian jokes about English cricket:

Q. What do Geraint Jones and Michael Jackson have in common?
A. They both wear gloves for no apparent reason.

Q. What is the height of optimism?
A. An English batsman applying sunscreen.

Q. What does Ashley Giles put in his hands to make sure the next ball
almost always takes a wicket?
A. A bat.

Q. What is the English version of a hat-trick?
A. Three runs in three balls.

Q. What do you call an Englishman with 100 runs against his name?
A. A bowler.

Muttley Dastardly LLP: Voguish law firm trainee blog…

0800 Hours : Matt Muttley’s office

Eva Braun walked into the managing partner’s office at 0800 hrs this morning with a single sheaf of A4 paper. Typed on the paper – the details of a new trainee blog launched by Winkworth Sherwood, Solicitors and Parliamentary Agents.

Matt Muttley was riding an exercise bicycle and talking to a US lawyer on the telephone. He looked up and, turning back to his call, said “Dude… I’m going to have to call you back. Eva has just come into my office. It must be important. Ciao…”

“Important?”

“I’ve been on Binary Law. Another law firm has launched a trainee blog.” Eva replied… helping herself to some grapes which were arranged in a Claris Cliff bowl which Matt Muttley had bought at auction after watching “Flog it” at 3.45, on BBC 2, the previous week.

“Jesus… no kidding.” Matt always spoke like an american lawyer after taking a call from the States. “A Turkey?”

Eva smiled. “I read it…usual stuff…how pleased the trainees are to be working for the law firm…blah blah blah.”

“Vetted?” Muttley snapped, his eyes narrowing.

“Probably… ” Eva replied

“Any info on the firm we can use…mention of clients?…type of work?..any bright trainees we can have a look at?….What does Nick Holmes think?”

Eva glanced at the piece of paper in her right hand.

“I have a quote from Binary Law: “It is, frankly, embarrassing that well-paid marketing people should suggest to the firm that such a page be called a blog; it is even more embarrassing that the firm should go along with this.” – Nothing else of any value to us, Matt.”

Eva laughed and said that LawCareers.net  had described the blog as ‘Voguish”

“Good stuff…OK…keep me briefed… Now… have you circulated our policy position paper to partners on the new rules on paying barrister fees on time or at all? We have to get this right…. detailed contracts, quality control, right of access to chambers to inspect work in progress, full background vetting on contracted counsel etc etc…. and have you found out anything about that enterprising Indian company which is providing research and paperwork drafting at low prices?”

“All done..Matt.”

“LawCareers?…who they? Do we need to know them?”

***

Voguish: vogu·ish [voh-gish]
1. being in vogue; fashionable; chic.
2. briefly popular or fashionable; faddish

Rioja is good for you…

Rioja has done well for me… in fact, most reds have done me a bit of good and I am pleased to report that Corney & Barrow are going to be sponsoring the blawg for a while – in the sense that they will provide winners of my caption competitions with the odd bottle of red or white. I rather liked the idea of Corney & Barrow doing this – so I rang up their marketing team, spoke to a delightful woman who came back to me very quickly with a ‘Yes.’ If you like wine and fancy buying a few bottles from Corney & Barrow, they have a wide and interesting selection – and… you won’t find their wines at your local supermarket. I used to go to their shop in Notting Hill when I lived there in in 2000/01 – always given good advice – always had good wine available.

Their website is well laid out and informative. They even have wine Bars in the City (Fleet Street denizens may like a quick trip to 3 Fleet Place

I am actually delighted that they want to provide the odd bottle for our occasional competitions and it  is entirely in keeping with the ethos of this blawg that wine should be a prize.

Talking of England: They won a rugby match and a cricket match. This – despite my Scots ancestry – is good news!

Update: I have just had a good look at the Corney & Barrow info on Bars… and I find that they have a very innovative service. It is possible to buy drinks vouchers by text and send a wine / drinks voucher to a friend to their mobile phone. I rather liked that! : Have a look

I appear…

I appear to have made 386 posts since 1st July 2006 on my blawg… using this software.  I did not count them up – WordPress  stats record this.

I may be spending too much time on the web. While Tony Blair may soon be leaving us as PM… whether he ends up doing it at a time of his own choosing, remains to be seen.

I am, however,  in the pleasing position, at least on this blog, of not having to leave office ever… and…. I have discovered a way of continuing to blog even after I am carried across the river Styx by Charon Removals Ltd . I will be speaking to a well known IP lawyer soon to patent my discovery.

Geeklawyer... would you be kind enough to give me a call. This new patent is hot!.

Friday has arrived again…

The news that Shilpa is to meet The Queen continues to interest me. Does Shilpa know how direct The Duke of Edinburgh can be?

A quick trip around Google brought up a few choice remarks from the Duke… a well known dontopedologist (*):

“It looks as if it was put in by an Indian.” (in 1999, referring to an old-fashioned fuse box in a factory near Edinburgh)

“Deaf? If you are near there, no wonder you are deaf.” (in 1999, to young deaf people in Cardiff, referring to a school’s steel band)

“You managed not to get eaten, then?” (in 1998, to a student who had been trekking in Papua New Guinea)

He also asked a driving instructor in Oban, Scotland: “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to get them through the test?” 

and finally… “If a cricketer, for instance, suddenly decided to go into a school and batter a lot of people to death with a cricket bat, which he could do very easily, I mean, are you going to ban cricket bats?” (in 1996, amid calls to ban firearms after the Dunblane shooting) 

(*) “Dontopedology is the science of opening your mouth and putting your foot in it”

What the papers say…

A quick trawl to find out what the press is saying about lawyers today:

The Attorney-General
Matthew Norman of The Independent has a fairly robust approach:

“It is a testament to the Attorney General’s status as the most transcendently faceless public figure in a generation that the most interesting fact about him is that he went to the same school in Liverpool as John Lennon. The studious Peter Goldsmith arrived at Quarry Bank Grammar School just as the non-comformist Lennon was about to leave, and from that intersection their lives diverged. One went on to devote himself to ridiculing the British establishment, shining the halogen lamp of public scorn on its inherent hypocrisies. The other founded the Beatles.

That Lord Goldsmith has done such harm to the system he serves with no trace of rebellious intent (not once, so far as we know, has he smoked dope in the Buckingham Palace loos preparatory to receiving an honour from the Queen) is not the point. No more than ignorance is unwittingness a defence in the law of the land which the Attorney General has three times been invited to safeguard; and which, even as another Peter did to Christ at the crowing of the cock, he has thrice betrayed.”

Lord Goldsmith may soon be called upon to determine matters in relation to the “cash for honours scandal’ if the Police do come up with anything worth prosecuting. While The A-G has not, yet, commented on this matter, it seems that Lord Falconer, the “Lord Chancellor felt obliged publicly to state what Goldsmith will not: that under no circumstances would the Attorney General be involved in deciding whether anyone in or close to No 10 is charged over the sale of peerages.”

Peter Goldsmith was reported somewhere in the press yesterday – unless I had taken too much Rioja on and imagined it – as saying that while he was flattered to be described as a friend of Tony Blair, he was not a ‘close friend’.

Last night I watched the end of Question Time and there was Harriet Harman QC MP revealing political solidarity by stating that the cash for honours episode “…has eroded trust and it’s been an unfortunate, to say the least, situation.” I am certain that she was not, in any way, positioning herself for promotion in the new government soon to be headed by Gordon Turpin.

Ms Harman then went on to reveal her green credentials and that she was doing her bit (as I am) for the environment by reducing her ‘carbon footprint’. She expressed the wish that her husband had turned the lights off in their home. Presumably he was watching Question Time in the dark like a good ‘Greenie’.

Unless I was overtired, I am fairly certain I saw Mark Oaten MP on Question Time as well. The camera kept cutting to a number of women in the audience when he was speaking – all of whom seemed to be rather ‘tight lipped’. Clearly, Oaten believes that his extra-curricular problem of a while back has vanished into the mists of memory and he can nip back for another go at being a public figure. Doesn’t bother me what people get up to in their spare time. So good luck to him. By the way…taling of Lib-Dems… What is ‘Scrabbleman’ up to… has his cheeky girl disappeared…. ?

Finally some law…

Colourful language…

Reading the Legal Week Editor’s blog this morning I came across a story about the election of the new Slaughter & May managing partner. For those interested in such matters – see the Legal Week story in full – this quote gives the flavour:

“As numerous law firm elections have shown, there’s always something to be said for being an unknown quantity. Less time to make enemies, less time to get on the wrong side of corporate and less baggage – that most dangerous accessory for any prospective managing partner.”

I was more interested in this pithy comment:

“Or as one Slaughter and May partner colourfully puts it: “Hidden away in Asia, no-one would know if you’re a shit or not.”

Leading City litigation partner to be Dean of Nottingham Law School.

Nottingham Law School has managed to get through three Deans recently – but now seems to have made a good signing, Legal Week has the story: “Nottingham Law School (NLS) has named Lovells senior litigation partner Keith Gaines as its new dean – its third in as many years.”

I know NLS well – a good Law School and both Peter Jones (senior pro-Vice Chancellor) and Philip Knott (MD) know how to get things done. I had the pleasure of working with them both some years ago. It will be interesting to see how fresh thinking and practitioner blood will work in academe.

Incredible…after all these years… Barristers will be able to sue solicitors for their fees off the back of a legally binding invoice

Legal Week: “Barristers are celebrating the news that payday is set to become a more regular fixture. After almost a decade of negotiation and stalled talks, the Law Society and Bar Council have struck an historic deal to make arrangements for paying barristers contractually binding by this October.

At present, the standard terms of work do not create a contract that is enforceable through the courts. But the changes, which come as the Bar moves to reposition itself ahead of the impending legal service reforms, will enable barristers to sue solicitors for non-payment off the back of a legally-binding invoice. “

I can’t imagine that all solicitors will be overjoyed at this announcement and development – although, gamely Legal Week states that both sides of the profession are “happy to see an end to the ‘anachronistic’ system currently in place, which sees clerks issue the instructing solicitor a ‘request for payment fee note’ on behalf of the barrister concerned. “

A note of caution?: Solicitors have, however, expressed concern about how the new fee arrangements will work. “The question with the new system is what the terms of the contract will be,” said Herbert Smith litigation partner Ted Greeno.

One assumes that the contract will work both ways?