Normal service resume tomorrow?….

Despite coming up with a brainwave to buy BTOpenzone credits to use hotspots – I found one right at the top of the boat – after paying the money to BT when a full signal was received… somewhat mysteriously there signal disappeared soon after.  It may come back!

So… no posting – going for a glass of wine.  Hopefully will organise new router or dongle tomorrow..

The spy society…. or WTF are our Police actually employed to do?

So…. the plan now is to give a whole raft of officials powers to give out fines and marshall us into some Beijing Olympic cadre style of civil obedience and responsibility. The Evening Standard reported today that Town Hall staff are to be given power to hand out fines.  This is a rather worrying plan being developed by The Home Office.  On the assumption, and I cannot be sure, that civil servants have not taken over during the Summer, this must be the product of the febrile mind of our Home Secretary.

The idea – called “The Community Safety Accreditation Scheme” – is that a third tier level of ‘unaccountable policing’ will be brought into play.  I quote from The Evening Standard article:

“More than 1600 civilians ranging from shop security guards, park wardens, housing officers, charity workers, dog wardens and football match stewards have been made part of the ‘extended police family’ under the legislation.”

Footpath fouling, cycling on pavements, dropping litter etc etc are to be clamped down on. It was bad enough when the government brought in a group of people, not trained to full police standards (and not paid police rates) to shamble about in grey shirts and police kit, including antistab vests – and not get involved in anything likely to cause danger to themselves or, presumably, the public.   I’m sure those employed as PCSOs mean well, and know the way to the local Tesco, but as a front line force to deter crime – it really is pretty laughable.  I recall seeing, in West London, three PCSOs pop into a high street cafe for buns and tea.  I happened to be at the cafe at the time. They drank the tea and ate their buns with exemplary efficiency, paid and shambled off to wander down the High Street looking for Lex Luther, Ernst Stavro Blofeld and The Joker. They looked like amateurs and I just could not see even a pre-hoodie potential knife carrier of five being even vaguely concerned by their presence.

Now we’ve got the next load of worthies, no doubt to be given Dad’s Army style armbands or bright yellow Hi-Viz jackets (possibly even with “USELESS” written in blue lettering on the back),  drifting about dishing out fines to swell the coffers of government and local government alike.  More real Police?  Is that so difficult? – or too expensive?

Now that the bloviators and hyperventilators of the press, television and other media have gorged themselves on Team GB and told us how marvellously China did in producing the games, how the world must open its arms to China and how Britain will go on to produce an even better games in 2012, it was reassuring to read a bit of critical analysis.

Spuggers?
Lest anyone think that as I rioja (*) my way through what life there is remaining in the egg-timer of my life and have turned into a grumpy old git, nothing could be further from the truth.  Team GB did well. It was a tremendous achievement and I very much hope that the athletes get some credit of practical benefit, other than geegaws, baubles and knighthoods, to assist them with their sport and their lives.  When one reads, courtesy of the tabloids, that an olympic athlete on average earns £25k and internationally renowned shopaholic fuckwits who can’t even qualify  for (let alone win) the European football fest earn millions one begins to wander about sporting interest and value for money. It seems, also,  to my jaded eye, that hordes of worthies, journalists and politicians are lining up to bask in the glory while the athletes modestly accept the plaudits, don’t let it go to their heads and get back to doing what they enjoy most in life – sport at a high level. Lords Coe and Moynihan appear like Shakespearean witches, stirring the bubbling cauldron of success,  to demand your money… and, quite possibly, lots of it. Would “Spuggers” be the right word for extorting sports cash?

As Will Self (In The Standard) and Martin Samuel (The Times) have pointed out – China drew on vast human resources used to complying with government edict – they even bussed hordes of people around to fill empty seats – and there was a very real human cost in terms of mounting and paying for the games.  The press did not get entirely free and open access.  77 requests were made, according to Samuels, for designated protest events and these were all declined and, it is highly likely that the regimented politically controlled society of China will return to normal fairly shortly.  One civil rights activist of my acquaintance, who shall remain nameless until he decides to express his views in print himself, mused that where once great sporting records were broken, lives would be broken by the execution of criminals and other state undesirables.  the Bird’s Nest stadium may yet hear the sound of loaded gunfire and the roar of a different crowd as executed criminals fall to the grass where once javelins landed.  To be fair…. it is believed that China is now beginning to use mobile lethal injection units rather than firing squads – but executions will, no doubt, be resumed in the not too distant future for the terminal education of those who dissent.
***

Meanwhile, we are encouraged to look forward to 2012.  I just can’t summon the energy to do so….. and that logo is just bizarre.  Talk about a broken society metaphor?

Well… I haven’t had a decent rant or ‘expression of irritation’ for some time…. but there we are.  I can now relapse back to normal.

Footnote: (*) If the BBC can drone on and on about ‘medalling’ during the Olympics and turn nouns into verbs, I can talk about ‘riojaing’ – and I don’t charge a licence fee.

And just a little bit more Family Law….

Do your own divorce?…. If you want a divorce (or are involved in a divorce) but you are neither eligible for legal aid nor able to afford to instruct a solicitor, what do you do?  Well – buy John Bolch’s excellent book on “Do Your Own Divorce” which he is promoting on his Family Lore blog – available online. This is a good example of a practising lawyer turning into an author and self publisher.  I have read most of the book now and while I am not contemplating marriage to give the book a try, I found it readable, informative, clear and, most important – practical.

Surprised?….

The harbingers of doom gather as the credit-crunch brings into focus the rising/falling fortunes of lawyers and law firms. There does seem to be a spate of articles appearing contrasting the fabulous earnings of some lawyers, yet hinting at dark times to come. Perhaps, as the season changes from summer to the early suggestion of autumn, the pundits, the journalists and commentators are turning their attention away from sightings of great white sharks off the coast of Britain, away from the Olympics and David Cameron’s interest in Gavin and Stacey, to more serious matters.

By way of illustration… in The Times today there are two articles.  The first has the headline “Lawyers make billions but the good times are ending” by Alex Spence and, the second, also written by Alex Spence,  ” Law firms feel pinch as companies slash legal spending”

We learn from the first Alex Spence article that: “The top 100 commercial law firms earned combined revenues of £13.96 billion in the past financial year, according to a report published today, an increase of 14 per cent on the previous year. Collectively they made £4.35 billion in profits, an average of £473,000 for each equity partner”

And then…. Spence tells us that “According to Legal Business magazine, the highest paid partners at Slaughter and May, one of the City’s oldest and most prestigious firms, earned £2.4 million each last year”

There is a bit of comparative mumbo jumbo with other magic circle firms… but Slaughter & May enjoys the focus with Spence noting that S&M is ‘notoriously reticent about its earnings..fiercely protective about reputation and heritage’ – a rather interesting footnote about the fact that S&M partners lunch together ‘every day’ in the partner’s dining room and then…. a bit to highlight the contrast in fortunes between the large and small… a note that equity partners at leading personal injury specialists Thompsons are only trousering £83,000.  I do seem to recall reading in one of the tabloids, it may have been The Sun, that the average wage in credit-crunched Britain is £23,000.  The Spence article notes that law firms take longer to feel the impact of economic downturn…. ‘but the impact was starting to be felt’.

Spence ends with the portent of doom “Law firms are beginning to look at one of their costliest overheads — their staff — and ask questions.”

Alex Spence then goes on to excite us by writing a second article bearing the same date of publication in which he states “Law firms are feeling the pinch as Britain’s top companies, under pressure from the economic downturn, slash their spending on outside legal advice”  Spence goes on to say that companies are finding it cheaper to hire their own in-house lawyers rather than give work to external law firms.

It seems that  in-house lawyers, according to The Times, “earn less than their counterparts in private practice, with a junior lawyer likely to earn between £65,000 and £120,000 a year plus benefits and bonus.”

Spence notes that companies have been finding it difficult to hire lawyers.  This is hardly surprising given the yawning chasm in the earnings of in-house lawyers compared to those in private practice… but… this may well change as law firms start asking questions and firing expensive staff overhead.

We shall see if these portents of doom are realised. It may well be time for some to have a Damascus moment and talk of work-life balance, to talk of opportunity to practice law at the sharp end of corporate enterprise, rather than remotely through the offices of a law factory, to talk of a long held wish, after building up expertise in a top law firm, to use their skills more directly for the good of Great Britain PLC…. that there is a wider agenda for the modern lawyer of today etc etc etc.  It may well be that these thoughts are music to the ears of company HR departments and the managing partners of law firms alike.  Time will tell.

25 August: Postcard from The Boat (2)

Is Gordon Brown Bonkers? – is the buzz going around Westminster according to Guido Fawkes.  I’ll leave you to investigate further should you wish to do so – but I will take one quote from the Guido post.:

“When Kay Burley asked him this week would he still have the PM’s job at Christmas his reply was “Of course, because we have got to get on with the job… We have got to get on with the job. People want us to get on with the job. Getting on with the job is the most important thing at the moment.” He snapped at the Mail on Sunday “I’m happy to talk to you because you are here… I have given you special time. That is very good of me. You are very fortunate.”

Perhaps we shall yet see Brown wandering around Dover doing a King Lear impersonation?

With the passing of the Bank holiday and summer gently easing into autumn – the politicians will start to return, putting away their beige jackets and Boden casual wear, and the Conference season will be upon us.  Britain will gradually get back to work.  On that note I admit to taking a break over the last week and most enjoyable it was… but I am equally delighted to be returning to reading interesting news, and doing other work.

Normal service to be resumed this week…..

24 August: Postcard from The Boat (1)

So… it is Sunday on a Bank holiday weekend. The Notting Hill carnival is underway… reggae reggae sauce, courtesy of The Dragon’s Den, Red Stripe, curried goat,  whistles, floats, exotic outfits, dancing policemen – a national treasure I shall not be attending, having been to five over the past fifteen years.

Instead, I find myself on a boat on The Thames, realising there is no legal news of any consequence and, thereby, I am free not to shoehorn much law in without guilt. So what has been “occurring” as David Cameron would say, jumping on yet another populist bandwagon (Observer article I happened to read)?

Nick Holmes, founder of infolaw, author of the Binary Law blog and fellow enthusiast for the net as a medium of expression and publishing – has started up an idea called The Free Legal web.  yes… there are going to be difficulties.  Have a look.  It is a great idea.  Even better – become a contributor.  I fear, however, that my musings on this blawg will be of little value to this project – but I shall have a go to see if I can contribute in other ways.

Blawgs are in the news… well… to be more accurate, not that many blawgs are – but serial blogger, ranter and the man who did set up UK Lawblog Conferences  – Geeklawyer – has been in The Times in a piece by Alex Wade.

UK LAWBLOG 2008 15th SEPTEMBER

The first UK Blawgers conference, last year,  was set up by Geeklawyer and Ruthie – and was an enjoyable event.  This year the tone is different – no talks – straight to the pub to talk of many things.  There may be short five minute ‘lightning’ presentations, the odd podcast – and, for my taste, this format is all the better for the informality. Blogger or would be blogger… let Geeklawyer know if you plan to attend by commenting on his blog post… or, perhaps… just turn up.  Venue details are here.  Come along…  all liability is, naturally, excluded.

And so… to matters of Government.

The Labour government continues to persuade the British electorate of the benefits of ID cards with another command performance.  Hot on the trail of 25 million records being lost by H M Revenue & Customs, Northern Ireland driver details, various military and intelligence secrets left on trains inbound to Waterloo by spooks and military people – the kebab fancying Home Secretary,  Jacqui Smith, has now been able to point the finger of shame at a contractor entrusted by her department for losing the records of “40,000 serious criminals”  (The Telegraph).  Apparently, these details were on a USB memory stick.

The Telegraph reports: “Home Office officials are now in discussions with the Information Commissioner about what steps it may need to take to protect those whose privacy has been jeopardised. The Commissioner said last night that “searching questions must be answered” before it decides what further action to take.”

The Information Commissioner has already warned that Britain is ‘sleep walking towards a surveillance society’.  In The News of The World this morning I read that local councils, who appear to be developing a taste for misusing ‘terror legislation’,  are now spying on people to see if girlfriends / boyfriends are staying overnight – to enable them to ‘swoop’ on those who claim a discount on council tax because they live alone.

Meanwhile… Prime Minister Cyclops is in in Beijing – arriving after we had won most of our medals so as not to jinx yet another sporting event – looking just as uncomfortable in front of the cameras as he does holidaying in Suffolk wearing a beige jacket.   Team GB has done well.  It is pleasing that we got more medals than the Australians – my only real interest in the games.  Boris will be collecting the Olympic flag today and, mercifully, the newspapers and other media will be able to write about rather more interesting things…  China will be able to get back to being a beautifully run authoritarian state, and , hopefully, we won’t have to watch Lord Sir Sebastian Bore on our screens for a while.

I’ve just popped on to Twitter. One of the Twitterers had written: Who thinks we’re going to bugger something up at the closing ceremony – especially after Boris said it would be a safe, risk-free affair?”

To my shame, I read it rather differently – misreading the word ‘something’.  Mea culpa.

I’ll write again later, for I plan several parts to my Postcard over this bank holiday weekend,  – but now… I have to go for a glass of Rioja….

I shall, however, leave you with this from the BBC live online coverage of the games:

“”A beautifully organised Games all around, then Boris appears, jacket undone, looking like a drunk who gatecrashed the party, what an embarrassment.”

Best wishes as always….

Family Law

Kelvin Mackenzie in The Sun has an amusing story about chef Marco Pierre White.  Apparently Marco Pierre White, in the throes of divorcing his wife, has taken to watching their wedding video – in reverse.

He likes to see his wife take off the ring, leave the church, get into the car and disappear.

I enjoyed that story.

To medal or not to medal?….

The BBC appears to have been caught up in a frenzy of using nouns as verbs. The latest noun to be turned into a verb is ‘medal’.

“Will people stop using the word ‘medal’ as a verb? It’s extremely annoying.”
Anon via text on 81111

followed by… 1158: Will Victoria Pendleton medal in the final of the women’s sprint? Will Chris Hoy medal? Will Jason Kenny medal? Of course they will! They’re both going to ruddy medal – the second race of the final is coming up!

Legal news?… not a lot of it about…

However, doyen of the legal web in the UK, author of Binary Law and the founder of infolaw – has a new initiative and asks for us all to build a legal web together.  Check it out. The Free Legal Web (Don’t dream it… be it.” [I enjoyed the reference to The Rocky Horro Show]  I fear that my rioja driven ramblings may not be that useful to this project.  I may have to contribute under a different name.

As there is not a great deal of law about and no-one seems to be working, I am going to CPDdesign and then do a bit of riojaing.

A bit of law…

Having already downed a few power drinks, she turned around, faced him, looked him straight in the eye and said, ‘Listen up, Buddy. I screw anybody, any time, anywhere, your place, my place, in the car, front door, back door, on the ground, standing up, sitting down, naked or with clothes on, dirty, clean . . . it doesn’t matter to me.  I’ve been doing it ever since I got out of college and I just love it.’

Eyes now wide with interest, he responded, ”No kidding. I’m a lawyer, too. What firm are you with?’

***

Sent to me by a lawyer friend in Brisbane, Australia

16-17 August: Postcard from The Boat

I write to you this week, not from the Elysian fields of West London, but from a houseboat on The Thames in Chelsea.  The tide is coming in as I write, the boat is rocking gently and I have a bottle of Rioja to my right and cigarettes to my left.

While I have left West London to try out different pastures – hence the houseboat for three weeks – I shall continue to write of the social atrocities of West London Man and his wife Caroline. I want to live on or near water. I have three weeks on the boat to see if I find houseboat life to my taste.  Brighton, however,  continues to interest and I am planning a quick trip to view flats on a short let to see if I like Brighton to live in.

So, here I am – on a Boat on The Thames. It is a fascinating experience.  The houseboats are all ex-WWII landing craft with two story wooden houses (with decks) on top of them.  There are two tides – and the boat sways and rocks gently, sometimes surprisingly vigorously, when the wind is up or the tide is strong.  There is a strong ‘nautical’ and bohemian feel about the whole community of boats.  The houses are much wider than canal narrow boats – and surprisingly spacious. The views are stunning, big sky, water and the comings and goings of disco boats, small yachts, the odd rower, police launches, and wildlife provide mesmerising entertainment.  Sea legs are needed and after but a short spell on the boat, going the 150 yards up to the Kings Road, I found myself staggering slightly on dry land.  It is very different.  I shall relate more of my experiences here as the weeks unfold.

Travelling very light – a few clothes, three computers, shaving kit and a corkscrew, I have enjoyed breakfasts at the Chelsea Bun just off the King’s Road.  Unbelievably, breakfast with coffee at 4.40p is a quid or more cheaper than Chiswick. Provisions are but 200 yards away.

August continues to roll on. The winds and rain of our summer continue to please me, but annoy others, and there is not a great deal of law to write about.  As I do not seem to take holidays, I may use my time on the boat to keep the magazine ticking over each day and blog more.  Team GB is doing rather well in Beijing – but, the Olympics doesn’t interest me.  The tabloids calling for all Team GB  Gold medal winners to be knighted is of interest … as are reports of dastardly deeds and drug taking. Phelps, however, is extraordinary… and as for that guy who bolted from the starting blocks in the 100 metres final… and relaxed when he was ahead – stylish… a degree of brilliance.   The Australians have noted that Britain seems to do well in sports where the athletes sit down – cycling, rowing, sailing, equestrian et al.  As I write, Team GB are third in the medals table, the country has gone medals table obsessed and Lord Sebastian Bore is hyperventilating… so all is good. Maybe we can get even more medals by giving asylum or nationaility to athletes from other countries?  I can’t see Britain spending $40 billion on the olympics – and even if we do through negligence and crap administration, it will, it has to be said, be difficult to follow China.  I am all for shunting the olympics over to Athens, and paying the Greeks to run it – even if they increase pressure to get their marbles back.  We shall get a foretaste of what is to come in the eight minute closing ceremony ‘extravaganza’ produced by Britain when China hands over to us next Sunday. Apropos of absolutely nothing… I would quite like to see British darts players adopting the laser swimming suits as worn by Phelps et al.  Very stylish our darts players would look too.

My apologies for not assuaging your thirst for legal knowledge and news.  I have a mild hangover following a visit to the boat last night of two friends – one of whom swam from the very same boat a year ago across to the other side.  He was, needless to say, juiced when he did it.  It is unlikely that I shall be doing the same.  The Thames River Police Force has quite enough to do without me providing additional work.

I may have a quick kip on deck.. it was a late one last night… and report other news and matters later.

A life on the ocean wave to you?

Best regards as always…

Maestro!….

For one hour and a half I watched, transfixed, as eight celebrities learned the basics of conducting the BBC orchestra for Maestro, produced by BBC 2. I enjoy classical music  – but tonight’s programmme had everything… music, drama, humour and competition.  Peter Snow, Alex James, Sue Perkin, Jane Asher and the truly astonishing ‘natural conductor’ Goldie,  Katie Derham, David Soul and Bradley Walsh, together with the judges and Clive Anderson provided superb enterainment. I rarely enthuse about television reality shows – but this programme was excellent fun to watch and brought home just how difficult conducting is. Thankfully, I was alone – so I could conduct along with the participants! Most enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half – and I wasn’t even mildly over refreshed.  I shall watch all the episodes – and I am sure I won’t be the only conductor manque by the end of the series!

Clifford Chance ramps up savings by offshoring paralegals to India

The Lawyer joins the turning nouns into verbs craze with the headline: ” Clifford Chance ramps up savings by offshoring paralegals to India” and at the same time supports the Indian economy.  The Lawyer reports: “Clifford Chance and Eversheds are considering reducing low-end work ­normally undertaken by trainees and paralegals and farming it out to India. Clifford Chance has embarked on a plan to ramp up its offshore paralegal capacity. This will see its Indian staff handle much of the work that is currently undertaken by London trainees and paralegals – including form 395 ­submissions to register company charges, due ­diligence ­document review for ­litigation, preparing shell company conversions, cloning documents and ­certain low-level drafting.”

This is not, of course, great news for paralegals in London – although Clifford Chance global managing partner David Childs denied that the move would affect trainee numbers in London, calling it the firm’s “principal recruitment source”.  The logical next step would be to ‘offshore’ even more work, get rid of newly qualified lawyers and associates and just leave partners to meet clients in London.  Of course, that would just be ludicrous and far fetched. I mean… why not train Indian lawyers in English law in India and if there are difficulties with practice certificates get the work overseen in London by someone with a practising certificate. But that too, is far-fetched and preposterous.

Eye Spy…. in the papers…  that BPP plc is making a bid for Wilmington Group PLC – they who own Central Law Training, Solicitors Journal and sundry other legal publishing and training projects.  Telegraph

The fascinating world of legal practice as reported in the legal press

Passing an amusing fifteen minutes at lunch on Fritter, which is probably a better name than Twitter, given the amount of time I seem to spend on Twitter late at night, I came across the ‘Tweet’ to the left – an utterly unfascinating piece of information in terms of my needs – but, I presume, endlessly fascinating to those who read these stories.

Inspired by Denton’s desires in Dubai, I decided to nip over to Legal Week and The Lawyer to see what other fascinating headlines I could find. On offer to the legal profession today:

Ward Hadaway continues to build up in… Dutch independent set for London launch Norton Rose boosts IP team with partner… Mishcons seals real estate boost with… | Simpson Thacher gets tough on associates | Zurich institutes crackdown on exaggerated PI claims |  | Eversheds name switch hints at full integration | BAE on cusp of appointing legal counsel for India | Forsters snares four Withers partners

I lost the will to live momentarily. It’s just not my thing…. but I don’t need to know any of this.  I can understand that rainmakers, managing partners and the ‘psyop black art’ departments of leading law firms will read these stories with much interest – on a ‘need to know what the competition is up to’ basis – but who else reads these stories, I wondered to myself?

Judge calls prosecutor illiterate idiot.

The BBC, with one of the few reporters not in Beijing, reports that “An angry judge has branded a prosecution worker an “illiterate idiot” after spotting several spelling mistakes in an indictment. Judge David Paget was reading a list of charges drawn up by Crown Prosecution Service staff at Wood Green Crown Court in north London when he spotted errors. The indictment, which accused a man of assault, included attempted “greivous” bodily harm”

The judge was even less impressed when another charge accused the defendant of using an offensive weapon, “namely axe”, instead of “an axe”.

The BBC notes that the judge finally lost it and “Throwing the paper down on his bench, Judge Paget added: “It’s quite disgraceful. This is supposed to be a centre of excellence. To have an indictment drawn up by some illiterate idiot is just not good enough.”

Good stuff… our profession prides itself on spelling and the debate on the correct spelling of judgement / judgment, as in delivering a ‘judgment’, continues.

The judge is right, of course.  Before you know it we’ll all be speaking French again if we allow grammarlouts to ruin our language. Some say… that English is just French spoken and written badly…..

My thanks to Infobunny on Twitter for alerting me to this story.

Podcast 78: With the author of Anonymous Assistant

Anonymous Assistant  is about the adventures of  junior litigation lawyer, Helen Bailey, and her friends as they struggle to assert themselves amidst the egos and eccentricities of a large City law firm. It is written by an experienced City lawyer – and, for today’s podcast, she has disguised her voice; talking in a Celia Howard Brief Encounter voice.  I do the Trevor Howard part – but more Captain Bligh of Mutiny on The Bounty.  I enjoy reading the Anonymous Assistant blog – the story develops each fortnight and manages to shoehorn in topical references to credit-crunch et al.

Listen to Podcast 78: With the author of Anonymous Assistant

9-10th August – Postcard from The Staterooms: 08-08-08 and other matters…

08-08-08 at 8.00 pm  saw the start of the Olympics. I watched the highlights of the opening ceremony – and thoroughly enjoyed the astonishing creations in light, sound and artistic design.  Remarkable.  I am reporting on the cheap, by sitting in my bunker in West London watching the television footage.  I will not, however, be reporting on the Oympics.  It was interesting to see footage of George Bush scanning the crowd with his binoculars.  Perhaps he was looking for Gordon Brown – who was not, of course, at the opening ceremony.

A curious week – the start of the Olympics, the Russian invasion of South Ossettia and all the attendant fall out from that – yet, I suspect, to be revealed to the free world, and rain stopped play yesterday at the Test Match. Team GB, after a rocky start with judo man not winning a medal and the four male cyclists dropping out, managed to get a Gold when Nicole Cooke claimed Britain’s first gold medal of the Beijing Olympics in a thrilling women’s cycling road race.  I can’t get into the Olympics… just not interested in it.

Today, I have done a podcast with the author of the Usefully Employed blog on employment law issues and to discover why he converted from being a solicitor to a barrister.  Being 50 Not Out, I thought it appropriate to ask about age discrimination laws after reading cases about City law firm partners suing each other.

I have also decided to increase the law content slightly – not by actually providing any law…  but by drawing together information on the oddities of law.  I have called this weekly examination “Law Review”

And… I am delighted to be able to report that I have done a podcast with the anonymous creator of Anonymous Assistant.

AA is about the adventures of  junior litigation lawyer, Helen Bailey, and her friends as they struggle to assert themselves amidst the egos and eccentricities of a large City law firm. It is written by an experienced City lawyer – and, for today’s podcast, she has disguised her voice; talking in a Celia Howard Brief Encounter voice.  I do the Trevor Howard part – but more Captain Bligh of Mutiny on The Bounty.  I enjoy reading the Anonymous Assistant blog – the story develops each fortnight and manages to shoehorn in topical references to credit-crunch et al.   I have an enjoyable conversation with AA’s creator.  I think you will enjoy this podcast.  It is office safe – but there is absolutely no law in it at all.  I even manage to refer to Geeklawyer and late night Twittering.

Listen to the podcast with the creator of Anonymous Assistant

Pet irritation of the week

I understand that the BBC has sent hundreds of people to Beijing to report on Team GB’s efforts and other matters.  Why so many?  Why did Adrian Chiles from The One Show need to bugger off to Beijing and then deliver a crap report?  Guido Fawkes raises the same issue in the political sphere... with a report on the legions of BBC staff have been sent to cover the elections in the USA. Guido notes that 472 staff were sent – more than even the big US TV stations. Guido noted that it was unlikely that politicos in the states would be that interested in talking to the BBC – simply because British people and those who avidly follow the increasingly feeble BBC World News offerings are not US voters.

I shall quote one of Guido Fawkes’ readers – whose opinion is in tune with mine.  Perhaps he was a bit more anglo-saxon in his expression of distaste – although the word is not, of course, unknown to me or unused by me:

“Mitch said…
Complete bunch of cunts! I just don’t bother watching it but I`m forced to pay for it.
Cant it be made subscription or advert based then we can have our telly tax back.”

Part II of Postcard from The Stateroom – from Beijing – will follow later, if I am not over over-refreshed.

Have a good evening… best regards

Podcast 77: Usefully Employed on Employment Law

Podcast 77: Usefully Employed on Employment Law

Today I am talking to a solicitor turned barrister who writes the very useful employment law blog Usefully Employed.   His “About” section explains all – but I shall ask him why he changed from a reasonably stable part of the profession to the more precarious side – at least in terms of  weekly cashflow.

Today we are going to focus on discrimination and as I am 50+ Not out, I thought I start with the age discrimination cases.

Listen to Podcast 77: Usefully Employed on Employment Law

08-08-08: Law Review – Solicitors and other matters…

The news today throws up some interesting cases involving solicitors.

The Telegraph reports that a solicitor was harassed by a lesbian stalker who broke into her house and hid behind the curtains with a rope and a knife.

RollonFriday.com follows up on the story of the Shearman & Sterling associate who was sacked for taking a student on a vac scheme to a strip club.  The student complained that the associate sexually harassed her. RollonFriday reports that the student is now with another City law firm.  RoF reports “When RollOnFriday spoke to the student she said that even though the associate had lost his job she still wanted publicly to embarrass Shearmans.”  RoF reports that insiders at Shearmans “say the student told Shearmans that if it compensated her, she wouldn’t publicise the episode or resort to litigation. Last Friday the firm told her that the associate had been sacked, the matter had been dealt with and she wouldn’t get a penny. And on Monday the story was duly splashed all over the press.”

The Telegraph reports that a hotel owner has been prosecuted for smoking a cigarette in her property while nobody else was there. Last month Ceredigion Council fined a man for smoking in the van he used to get to work.  the man, not surprisingly, was dumbfounded because he didn’t paint vans for a living – he decorated houses and other buildings.

Edducation cheef: Don’t corect kids bad spelling

The Mirror reports: “Prof Ken Smith has spent years crossing out student’s appalling mistakes and now wants them accepted as “variant spellings”. The criminology expert said: “Instead of complaining about the state of the education system, I’ve got a better idea. “Teachers should simply accept as variant spellings those words students most commonly misspell.” Prof Smith, of Buckinghamshire New University in High Wycombe, says his students commonly misspell argument as arguement, twelfth as twelth, February as Febuary, ignore as ignor, occurred as occured, opportunity as opertunity, queue as que, speech as speach, and their as thier.”

Judge pulls knife out in court

The Sun reported a couple of weeks ago that “Campaign groups blasted Judge Roger Connor after he brandished a knife in front of a teenage defendant charged with wounding. The 16 year old’s lawyer asked Judge Connor if he was committing an offence – and was told it was acceptable because the blade was less than 3ins long.”

I do not carry a knife.  I have no need of a knife.  In extremis…  It is possible that a bottle opener may be of use, should I be taken suddenly of the urge,  while out,  to open a bottle of Rioja – but generally I find that I don’t actually need a knife while I am out and about.  I am puzzled as to why HH Judge Connor should be wandering about with a knife, albeit one less than 3 inches long, in a public place. The law moves in mysterious ways, perhaps?  Mind you,  I quite enjoyed the bit in The Sun report …  “Judge Connor asked: “It happens I have a folding knife in my pocket. You need two hands to open it, don’t you?”

Full steam ahead for the new judicial robes in civil cases.

While members of the Bar will continue to wear robes, horsehair wigs and bands (subject to provision when ‘business suits’ shall be worn), the judiciary will be sporting new gowns in civil cases, worn without wigs from 1st October.  Different coloured ‘tabs’ will indicate rank – gold for Court of Appeal, Red for High Court – Circuit judges will continue to wear their existing gown and lilac tippet (without a wig or bands).  Perhaps the latter is a budget issue?

The full details may be found… here

In Criminal cases – the traditional judicial robes and wig / bands combo will continue to be worn, save that High Court judge “will wear  their winter robes in winter and summer alike.”

Law review: 7th August 2008

Inspired by The Sun’s new “JUSTICE” section on their website, I fear the time has come, after years of abstinence, for me to write occasionally about the law and laws of our sceptred isle.  I have chosen as an icon for these occasional writings on law the image of Coke…. Sir Edward Coke.  It is, it has to be said at the outset, unlikely that those who craft pieces of analysis on our laws for free distribution through the blogosphere will have anything to fear from my pieces.

The Sun does appear to have a new “JUSTICE” section – and from this I discovered many things. A list of the headlines will give you a taste: Paedo brothers face jail – Tragic dog found hanged – Diamond heist trio are foiled – Nanny to stars found guilty – Cops in £1 million drug lord raid – 500 swindled in village scam – Camera cages two train thugs – At last… a zero tolerance judge – And Enemies of the Stately…. Mob gets 92  years for £30 million raids.

While others sit in well appointed warm libraries or sit in the comfort of their offices or homes reading law books, law reports, analog and digital – your man on the street, with a copy of The Gazette stuffed in his drizabone coat and necking Rioja straight from the bottle, will be talking to people about law, will be reading the rantings of the tabloid press – to bring you the people’s view on our law and laws.

FILMING….. SOON …. I have in mind, in the not too distant future, taking my Sony HD television camera onto the streetS with me to record ‘Voxpops’ – asking the people of our country, or at least those within 100 yards of the bar I am drinking in (or cafe I am taking breakfast at),  what they feel about the laws of England.

SO… who would like to be first to “VOXPOP with Charon” and be published in full technicolour. If you are an anonymous blogger – you may, of course, wear a bag over your head.  Balaclavas in public may not be appropriate – I have quite enough trouble with Police Community Support Officers harassing me about my overgrown head..

Apply in the comments section.  I have an Oyster card, so it is possible for me to travel to Chancery lane area.  It is posssible that my first interview will be with a London cab driver – seriously!

West London Man (21): Upwardly beautiful and officialdom

West London Man (21): Upwardly beautiful and officialdom – Audio Version

The part of Caroline is played by Jo le Huquet and Charon played the parts of George and Cokehead, the parrot.

Run Time: 4.45 mins

***

George bought a parrot on Monday afternoon from his friend Rick, a musician who played in a band in the 80s.  He thought it would be an amusing pet to have about the house. The children are in bed and  George and Caroline are having a glass of wine together.

Caroline:  So… you have bought a parrot?

George: Yes… do you like it?

Caroline:  What is the parrot’s name?

George: Cokehead.

Caroline: Cokehead!…. right…… Any particular reason for that name?

George: Yes…. he talks absolute nonsense… very quickly.

Caroline: Right…. well that makes sense given the life it has led.  I gather it spends most of the time outside.

George: Yes… a free spirit is Cokehead.  He’ll drop in from time to time.  Just need to leave out some seeds and other parrot food.  He quite likes “What’s my Line” on Radio 4.

Cokehead: When do we go line dancing, George?

Caroline.. laughing:  All we need, a bloody parrot who wants to go line dancing.

George: Did you read that league table in The Evening Standard that tells you where the beautiful people live?

Cokehead: Is that a double white line I see?

Caroline: Yes… vapid, absurd and even more irritatingly Evening Standard than usual.

George: Yes…. but you wouldn’t want to live in Ugly Borough would you?  Apparently the least rated women live in Hillingdon Havering and Waltham Forest… do you know where Waltham Forest is?

Caroline: George… No I don’t know where Waltham Forest is…. this is boring.  I’m not interested in the self obsessed and terminally vain, even if they appeal to your warped sense of humour.

Cokehead: Warp factor five, Mr Zulu… We’re off…. whooosssshhhh…

George: Did you see that some judge….  Judge Cottle…. is going to bang up binge drinkers…. zero tolerance… lock ’em up even if it is a first offence?  Another cleverly thought out bit of judicial busybodying…. prisons are already full to bursting, so this judge is going to clear Exeter of binge drinkers by banging them up.

Caroline:  I think you will find that he did qualify his remarks by saying that he would imprison binge drinkers if they committed serious crimes of violence.

George: Oh right…  so not just for binge drinking then?

Caroline:  No, George

Cokehead: Double vodka Rick, please.

George is flicking through various newspapers and is becoming progressively more impatient.

George: This is ridiculous.  £110 fine for over-filling a bin while some thieving scumbag only gets an £80 fine for nicking stuff from shops… and…. Christ…. what about this?….  guy takes a photograph of a police car parked in a bus bay…. and the police question him under the Terrorism legislation….. … and here’s another one…. security guard at a shopping mall prevents people from taking photographs in the shopping mall because of terrorism threat…. this is just fucking ridiculous.

Cokehead: Chop chop…. chop chop…. don’t use the Oyster card!

George: God…. the bloody olympics start on Friday…. They’re all going to be drug tested.  Some Italian fencer has already been found out.  Apparently the next thing is injecting DNA into the body…. not detectable.  Frankly… I’d find it far more interesting if they allowed athletes to use any drug they choose…. I’d love to see someone high jump forty feet into the air.

Caroline:   Did you know that Amnesty International estimates that 374 people will be executed during the Olympics?

George: No!… who?….  journalists?

Caroline rolled her eyes heavenwards, sighs and picks up her glass of wine.

Caroline:   No, George… not journalists…. chinese nationals who have committed crimes.  71 offences in China carry the death penalty according to Amnesty.

Cokehead: Here comes the Candyman…. Good evening, Mr Candyman.

Caroline… laughing: George… I love the parrot…. but we just can’t have a parrot talking about line dancing and candy men and ordering double vodkas…. I’m sorry, darling … but it will have to go.

***

West London Man (21): Upwardly beautiful and officialdom – Audio Version

***

Other West London Man episodes may be found: here

2-3 August Postcard from The Staterooms Part II – I am podiuming

To hear F1 drivers saying they hope to ‘podium’ set me wondering.  If they can turn the noun ‘podium’ into a verb, so can I.  So I have taken up the practice of podiuming. I am not entirely sure how I shall practise this art because I am not likely to come across a podium to go podiuming on.  Perhaps those who are going to run, jump and throw things at the Olympics will also be going podiuming or hoping to podium. Anyway… I podium, you podium, he and she podiums.  Please feel free to turn nouns into verbs and comment below.  I suggested to Infobunny on Twitter that she is now going ‘aproning’ after purchasing a butcher’s apron today. Charon on Twitter? Indeed I am… That is quite enough of this… so moving on…

Hubris and vacuity…
Tony Blair accused Gordon Brown of generating ‘hubris and vacuity’ in a devastating private memo analysing his mistakes, which last night threatened to blow a hole in the heart of government. Excellent story. The Minotaur may have been able to skulk away in the labyrinth counting the shekels, but he has proved, beyond doubt, beyong peradventure, that he is completely crap at being the No 1. The Observer

Geeklawyer has been in Japan – and climbed Mount Fuji. Here is a link to his latest video report.

John Bolch, Family Lore, has produced some good podcasts on specific aspects of Family Law with more to come.  The First three are: Divorce Introduction | Children Law Introduction | Parental Responsibility

Carl Gardner, Head of Legal, continuers to monitor and comment on leading cases in Human Rights and this week has a note on ‘Obama the law lecturer’. Lo-fi continues to provide a remarkably useful weekly list of internet tools.

Blawg Review, the weekly carnival of law bloggers, while US oriented (in the main) is always worth checking out.  Last week Simple Justice hosted Review 170 themed around the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, written by a US defense attorney.

***

It has been a long weekend of writing for a law book and blogging – time now for me to turn some nouns into verbs so I am going to rioja…. as in drinking the stuff.

***

Postcard from the Staterooms Part 1 – Silly Season is a bit longer.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back onto the web….

Well…. it was never going to be long …. but Jaws is back and hot to trot and ready to receive your donations for his inclusive all faiths campaign. He’s going to Beijing on August 4th – so, if you want to ask him a question – send him an email to his new MySpace site.  As I have no faith and do not believe in the unbelievable, of whatever flavour / flavor – this is a tea party I shall pass on…. or, a word I prefer…. ‘avoid’.

Tea with Tone in China – home to democracy.

I don’t need to worry about offending the sensitivities of the Republic of China – my blog is blocked by the Great Firewall of China.  I am holding a one man boycott of the Olympic games here at my Staterooms in West London.  I cannot justify this entirely on political or moral grounds, of course (But there is an element of that in my boycott) – I just don’t see the point in using up any of the sand remaining in my ‘timer’ on watching someone run 100 yards or jump into the air…. but, as ever, each to their own….whatever gets you hot.

West London Man (20): A trip to Sainsbury’s

West London Man (20): A trip to Sainsbury’s Audio version

Run Time: 5.27 mins
Produced: West London

The Part of George was played by Charon.  The parts of the sales assistant, the elderly lady and Bronwyn were played by a voice text to speech synthesiser by Cepstral

Listen to West London Man (2): A trip to Sainsbury’s Audio version

Saturday afternoons bored George. It was not so much the gap in the day between lunch and an evening of hedonistic pleasure, but the general administration of life – the trip to Sainsbury’s, the trip to the dry cleaner, the trip to the bloody delicatessens in Turnham Green Terrace. George decided to do the Sainsbury’s run himself this afternoon while Caroline took the children for a walk at Chiswick House.

Parking his BMW 4×4 in the Sainsbury’s car park, George walked into the supermarket and headed straight for the cigarette counter.

Assistant: Good afternoon, how are you?

George:  As well as can be expected, given that I am having my wooden leg changed later this afternoon, thank you.  You OK?

Assistant: I’m fine, thank you.

George: Well, that’s good.  Can I have a pack of Marlboro fully leaded please?

Assistant: I’m sorry, I don’t think we sell fully leaded ones.  What are they?

George: Sorry… The red Marlboro, please.

George paid for the pack of cigarettes and looked at the label.

George: Sorry about this, but the label on the pack says that these cigarettes will make me impotent. Would you mind changing this pack for some cigarettes that will give me fatal lung cancer instead, please.

Assistant: That’s not very nice.

George: I’m sorry… you’re quite right…  it is a joke in excellently bad taste.  Read it in The Guardian Weekend section this morning… an amusing article by Julian Barnes.

Assistant: Oh.  I don’t read the Guardian.  I read The Sun.

George: Excellent…  plenty of jokes in that.  The Guardian doesn’t usually do jokes, it has to be said… in fact, The Guardian is altogether too serious for any day, let alone a Saturday.  .

The assistant looked baffled and an elegant middle aged lady, standing in the adjacent queue, pursed her lips and gave George a disapproving look. George wandered off to collect a trolley and headed down the meats aisle.  An elderly couple were moving at a snail’s pace, weaving uncannily into George’s path as he approched them at speed.

George muttered to himself: God in heaven, how do these old people manage to have eyes in the backs of their heads.  They have all week to go shopping …. why do they have to do it on a bloody Saturday?

George found a gap and went for it, sailing past the old couple and down the aisle to the roast lamb arrea where he picked up a large leg of lamb. It took George approximately ten minutes to fill the trolley with shopping.

George saw a check-out with only one customer.  He also saw the same old couple he had barged past heading for the same counter.  The race was on.  George broke into a trot and just reached the check out before the old couple.George smiled at the elderly man and woman.

George: Sorry about that, but have to rush, getting my wooden leg changed today and have to leg it, pronto.

Elderly woman: You have a wooden leg?

George: The foot fell off the other day when I playing golf. Most unfortunate,  I was playing a difficult seven iron to the green and ended up slicing the ball into someone’s garden.

Elderly woman: Well I hope your new leg won’t cause you any problems.

George: Yes… no absolutely… can’t wander about worrying if my foot is going to fall off.

At that moment, George heard a familiar voice, the soft lilt of a very clever woman, a barrister by training.

Bronwyn: George… behave yourself…  You don’t have a wooden leg… that was a disgraceul performance, running with your trolley to queue jump these lovely people.  I insist that you let them go first.

George laughed: My apologies…. my learned friend is right…. I find shopping very boring – please go first…

Elderly lady: I didn’t think you did have a wooden leg.  You did manage to trot quite fast with that trolley though.

George turned to greet his friend, an attractive blonde in her mid-forties with bright blue eyes.  An amused smile played on her lips as George bent to kiss her cheek.

Bronwyn: I think you need to buy me a cup of coffee when we get out of here.  I want to know what you have been up to.    I heard that Caroline has gone back to work.

***

Listen to West London Man (2): A trip to Sainsbury’s Audio version

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EPISODES 1 – 19 of West London Man – may be found here

2-3 August: Postcard from The Staterooms Part I – Silly Season

I had the opportunity some years ago to visit Moscow and  stand in Red Square. That I did not do so is a cause of some regret.  It would have been good to see Lenin,  to have spent time in a different culture and see some of the remarkable architecture and art of pre and post Soviet Russia. I still reckon the Russians have one of the best national anthems – but there we are…  I also enjoy listening to Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin and Italian Opera. I do not hold myself out, of course, as having any knowledge of music.  I like a good tune!

Lest you think that I have started taking an interest in Russian owned English football clubs or I am  changing my thoughts from moving to Brighton to moving to Moscow, I am not. Russia is a country I would like to visit.  I recall, just over thirty years ago, sitting in a Jurisprudence tutorial.  We were asked to look at the theory of Soviet Jurisprudence. It was a difficult decision, one of many that I was to face in later life; but on this occasion   – Soviet jurisprudence versus a night of hedonistic pleasure in a bar.

The fact that no-one seemed to have done any work at all for this tutorial was ironic given that the Stalinist jurist Andrei Vyshinsky expressed the view that law would wither away – when he wasn’t castigating, denouncing and attacking the old Bolshevik cadre as traitors and “swine.  Unfortunately, as students, we were not sharp enough to tell the tutor that there was not much to discuss – given the Soviet ideal that laws would not be needed in a communist state – so we were treated to an hour of surreal pleasure;  listening to a tutor, who did not seem to know much about Soviet Jurisprudence,  demonstrating his news reading skills by giving us a fairly comprehensive reading from the chapter of the book we were supposed to have read.  It may well have been his own book.  Time dims the memory of that bizarre afternoon.

Anyway…. on to the events of these turbulent times we live in …and talking of ‘turbulent’ – this week we had Jack Straw, sitting quietly, biding his time – as I like to think King Richard III did in his day –  while the young King Henry IV of the Labour Party, Brains Miliband (the youngest looking Foreign Minister the world has ever known – possibly) decided to write an essay on what he would like to do while Gordon Brown was on holiday and he was PM and published it in The Guardian.  Meanwhile…  The Minotaur, resting his clunking fist and taking a break from being hounded by the mob with flaming torches wishing to drive him out of office, dressed in navy suit trousers and an improbably beige jacket, went around Suffolk, trying not to scare holidaymakers,  for the delectation and delight of the Press and sundry photographers.

The Silly Season has started…
It is August. The political press has little of substance or ‘hard news’  to report on…  so, smelling political blood in the water after disastrous byelection results, polls and a bit of apostasy on the part of a senior member of the Cabinet, the Knights of the Fourth Estate, the defenders of our liberties,  veer between speculation and hyperventilation.

Last year, at this time, the Jedi of journalism, seasoned on a diet of self and peer administered adulation, hailed Gordon Brown for being able to walk on the flood waters drowning large parts of our sceptred isle.  This year they wait, implying tumult in the most trivial of signs, sharpening their vocabulary, preparing their prose and wait to be fed the political body of the son of the manse, a man who waited ten years to be the Prime Minister, who may well now be put to the vicious sword of hubris…  who faces the abyss and political exile and whose leadership of the Labour Party, some say, may consign the Party to worse than a wilderness… political armageddon, not a single seat in Scotland, extinction – and….   I can’t think of any more hyperbole to complete the sentence.  But… I am sure that some journo will think the word ‘diaspora’ could well be shoehorned into a paragraph somewhere in his or her column.

We must not, of course,  forget those implausibly handsome and good looking men and women who have perfected their ability to read English, written by others…  our television newsreaders who, rain or shine, make their way each day to make up and then, using a fairly limited range of approved expressions, hand down their knowledge of what is happening in our country.

I get up early each day – as it happens, at 3.30 – 4.00 am.  At about 5.00 in the morning, BBC News 24 unleashes one of the loudest newsreaders I have ever heard. I do not know his name. He has a curious habit of nodding his head to punctuate pretty well every point.  He always looks very serious – and sometime appears to grit his teeth, clench his jaw (as he nods)  to make himself look even more serious. .  I watch with fascination as he does this – and, thereby, do not listen to a word he shouts at me…. and I presume, others who are watching the news at this time of day.  At first,  this repeated nodding irritated me.  No longer.  Now, I sit with my coffee and a cigarette watching the television in my bunker to the right of my two computer screens  to see if he reaches the number of nods I estimate he will execute during a five minute period.

I have been ‘reading’ the news most weekdays since 7th January for my online magazine. I do not, it has to be said, do this task with the same skill as the professionals – but one day, I am tempted to mimic the mannerisms of the nodding newsreader, shout the news and nod at the end of each paragraph. Unfortunately – I only do audio podcasts…. but the simulation to the left will give you an idea of how I  might look if I was looking serious and about to nod while reading televised news.

Part II of Postcard from the Staterooms will follow… if I survive the night.