Blawg Review #214

Had enough of the Credit-Crunch?

This is an edition of Blawg Review for those who say… “When the Credit-Crunch gets tough… the Credit-Crunched get crunched with SMOKEDO… and blog.”

It is not X rated, it is office safe;  the Geeklawyer  fearing need not fear… but, to modify a phrase from a friend and colleague of many moons ago… There’s a plot… let’s go and lose it… come and join me.

Some fascinating events happened on this day, 1st June, in history and I thought I would start off this Blawg Review with a reminder that on this day U.S. President James Madison asked Congress to declare war on the United Kingdom. I don’t plan to dwell on the War of 1812 nor, indeed, on any war – but throughout I shall refer to other events happening on the 1st June as the mood takes me.

Readers familiar with my previous Blawg Reviews, and in particular Blawg Review #193 on the subject of Mis-rule themed around sin, will know that I like a bit of sin. In fact, I try to get as much sin into my life these days as I can… for I fear, tempus fugit being what it is, coupled to the laws of biology, physics and quantum physics, that I may well have to get a move on if I am to perfect the art of enjoying sin.

Readers will also know that I like to preface my remarks in Blawg Review by excluding all responsibility and liability for everything … and I do so now by calling on the spirit of Oscar Wilde:

All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.

A little known fact is that on the 1st June 1533 Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen of England. History does not record if she smoked or not. Had she been a Master practitioner of my new art… Smokedo – Smoke yourself fit with Charon, it is quite possible that she would not have been beheaded and the course of history would have been changed forever. We shall never know, because she wasn’t a Smokedo practitioner. I know this because I keep very detailed records of all Smokedoka.

I am changing the course of history with Smokedo... or at least, my own history. Having decided that I was moving into greedy bastard territory and developing a paunch, it was time for ‘action, this day’. I am a professional smoker, so it seemed to me to be entirely plausible to combine my hobby with a bit of weight training and cardio-vascular improvement. It has proved to be so. I have developed a series of 20 exercises which may be performed while smoking a cigarette. I shall not publish the full list as a DVD may well be on the way. Press-ups: These are easy to perform while smoking; as are bench presses, curls, squats and cardio on the rowing machine. Other exercises, of a more complex nature, should not be practised without the support and supervision of a Smokedo sensei.

For those of you – with clients to attend to, and those critical of the ‘Slackoisie’ (Such a good word and concept – written up by Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice ) – fear not, I shall be reviewing blogs soon – and I have an executive summary at the end of blogs referred to if you can’t be arsed (an amusing book – by the way – by Richard Wilson) to read this and just want to see if you need to consult a lawyer because you are in it.

Although I did say at the start that I would not be referring to war, I’d like to make an exception for one of my own posts: Two Tribes go to War – a post written to foretell a future for our legal profession in the UK and allow me to indulge in a bit of prognostication and, perhaps, be proved wrong. The post has certainly stirred a few things up and attracted some rather good comments. Even Geeklawyer (Silenced by Number 10 Downing St?) took a break away from building coffin shaped bookcases and twittering, to comment.

Were you there in the sixties? If you can remember it… you were probably working for the FBI or MI5

Well… on the 1st June 1967 The Beatles released the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in Britain.

Frank Zappa, a personal favourite, did not like the album and ‘accused the Beatles of co-opting the flower power aesthetic for monetary gain’, saying in a Rolling Stone article that he felt “they were only in it for the money.”

Lawyers often get accused of only being in it for the money, but given that even lawyers need to eat, bring up families if they have them, or amuse themselves with wine and gizmos if they don’t, the charge has less meaning now than perhaps it may have done in the drug hazed sixties. There are lawyers who are not in it for the money and, indeed, Gideon who writes A Public Defender , is one of many who comes to mind. Gideon is an anti-death penalty campaigner. Here is a letter he wrote to Governer Rell

I hasten to point out, for overseas readers (and Brits who can’t be arsed about politics), that the man pictured above is David Cameron MP . He wants to be the next Tory Prime Minister of what is left of Great Britain by the time the current prime mentalist and his thunderbird puppet lookalike Chancellor of The Exchequer have spent all the money.

I have no idea what politicians in the United States or elsewhere get up to in terms of lunacy and/or corruption, but I can tell overseas readers of this Blawg Review that our politicians are world class when it comes to troughing and milking the expenses system. I won’t bore UK or other readers who may have followed some of my posts on the matter, so I have prepared a short index of my posts covering the expenses scandal over the last two weeks (At the end of this review) should you care to read about Douglas Hogg claiming for a ‘moat’, Sir Peter Viggers MP claiming for a small island in his lake to house the ducks, my own brother Rex Charon MP making a statement to the House, and a host of other nonsense along with the ousting of Speaker Martin or ‘Gorbals Mick’ as he is known by the chattering and class-prejudiced classes. I prefer Speaker Martin … coming, as I do, from Scotland originally… and not being prone to looking down on or up to people – which seems, still, to be endemic in our sceptred and class ridden nation.

For those who wish to look at some excellent politics blogs in the UKhere is a Netvibes page I have put together. If you would like to hear a Labour MP, Tom Harris, talking about the expenses issue and twitter and Dr Wholisten to the podcast I did with him. Tom Harris also has a very well known and well regarded blog.. And Another Thing.

Carl Gardner, author of Head of Legal and a former government lawyer, is always on the money with his posts. Here he is writing about the Speaker, recently. Carl also contributes to the Wardman Wire, a leading political blog, as I will do with my new series of political podcasts. On Friday I interviewed Gawain Towler The UK Independence Party candidate for the South-West in the European elections next week

Most of our law bloggers in the UK steer clear of politics in a specific sense, but it is pretty well impossible for any law blogger not to refer to politics indirectly because of the nature of the business or profession (take your choice) we are in.

Let me refer to a few UK law blogs that are a bit more politics focused: The Fat Bigot can always be relied on to explain issues clearly and, at times, provoke. He does so this week with the The upside-down Archbishop

Carl Gardner, writing in his eponymous blog states: “Fixed-term Parliaments: not the answer”.

The White Rabbit, a barrister and published author, often has subtle and outright scurrilous posts which always amuse me. This week he considers Fascism and Mono-testicularity … noting that the late Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco had more in common with Adolf Hitler than had previously been known.

Pragmatist can often cut to the quick and does so with his observation that WE are the Parliamentary Standards Authority.

In the USA there are so many good law blogs, but one with a politico-economic edge, applying keen observations to the legal profession, is the Adam Smith Esq blog. In Canada, Jordan Furlong with his Law21.ca blog has much wisdom and experience to impart on law firm and market issues and a recent post Graduating into a Recession is of universal application and interest to law students from many jurisdictions.

While some say there are some truly ‘criminal’ law blogs in the UK, my own included, it would appear that there aren’t many blogs dealing solely with Criminal Law this side of the pond. From this, I deduce that there isn’t any crime in the UK or criminal lawyers are too busy banging ‘em up, or keeping ‘em from getting banged up, to blog.

This is not the case in the United States where there is a plethora of excellent law blogs dealing with the detail of law, practice and politics of criminal law … and there is Scott Greenfield who is the most prolific blogger I have come across – his eye and hand co-ordinating to pick up on anything and everything that takes his fancy… for that reason I do not refer to a specific blog post, because he may well have written 200 posts since I last visited a few days ago. You don’t need to be American or a criminal lawyer to enjoy Scott Greenfield’s posts. Just don’t send him any marketing leaflets or nick his blog posts. That would not be wise. To illustrate this… have a look at A Call to Arms where USLaw.com fell foul of Scott’s sense of right and wrong.. … and be warned! … US bloggers don’t mess about… Prof. Marc Randazza and his colleagues at The Legal Satyricon are waiting for people who steal content and Scott will cover it!

Mark Bennett over at Defending People had a post recently which caught my eye… with this observation “that’s the way we roll in the USA. We don’t kill people, or even imprison them, to restore others’ honor.” Warren, What’s your tribe? is of universal application.

Brian Tannebaum, who shares my interest in wine on twitter – although he does it with style, whereas I, with my new found prowess as a “Wine Reviewer”, talk a lot of Noble Rot. Brian Tannebaum wrote this in his Criminal Defense blog… “When Michael Vick went to prison I made a bet with a friend that he would never again play in the NFL. I hope I lose. In America, there are few second chances anymore. An arrest is a conviction. A prison sentence is a tattoo. The internet bears all, forever, and when harm to animals is involved, forget it.”

The Barrister Bard says THE TRUTH NEVER HURTS… “Rape convictions in Little Britain are at an all time low compared with other ‘civilised’ countries, although I remember with wry amusement the ruling of the Court of Cassation in Italy that a woman wearing tight jeans cannot be raped, as she would need to assist the offender in removing them. Viva la differencia!”

So… we arrive at the wonderful and bizarre world of law marketing… the arcane art perhaps best exemplified and practised in the United States?

This is a world of websites, blogs, twitter, search engine optimisers, slick suited marketers – all vying for attention, all hell bent on pushing their service, their product. I run Insite Law and in that capacity I get a lot of emails from PRs and law firm marketers – some even with fascinating pictures of lawyers sitting at a desk wearing a suit. Invariably, there is no real human or legal interest story. It is usually about how Bollocks PhuckWitz LLP has picked up a new client or moved offices… yawn… FAIL.

I typed ‘lawyer in suit’ into Google and came up with one… Hat Tip to Dissenting Opinion with The Gentleman Lawyer – Suit Button School

Jordan Furlong in Law21 draws attention to the perils and difficulties facing law firm marketers in Trust and the marketing department and has a wonderful quote…”As one CMO put it to me without irony, “Success in a large law firm is all about credibility, which means accepting that we don’t often do things the right way, we do them our partners’ way, but after about a year of serving their needs you should have built up enough credibility to gently make suggestions, most of which they’ll discard, but to survive you can’t try to do too much too quickly.”

And then we have two serious bloggers and serious lawyers who have very strong views on ethics, on law marketers, and who are both pleasingly honest about the difficulties they face with their own law firm websites. Both Scott Greenfield’s post My Website Is Worse Than Your Website and Eric Turkewitz’s I Hate my Website are worth reading – for humour and honesty. Turkewitz’s post gives good advice on how to construct a law firm website and I found his ‘fear of juror backlash’ point fascinating.

Greenfield just does what he does best – get’s to the point, puts the boot in and does the business…“I don’t think I’ve gone back to look at my website more than twice since it was put up. It embarrasses me. I am ashamed of its blatant self-promotion, and it pains me whenever anybody reminds me of what is said there. I refuse to play the search engine optimization game, the inclusion of language designed to trick search engines into putting my website at the top of the list so that it will be front and center when someone types in “criminal defense lawyer.” I neither seek that sort of clientèle, nor wish to ever be in competition with that crowd of lawyers.”

And then… there is twitter why we are all being followed about by law firm marketers? I have no idea. I block them. Why another lawyer or asinine law marketer should follow me to tell me that he /she can deal with my problems in his/her blatant marketing tweets… I’ve no idea. Lawyers, generally, do not need lawyers… because they are lawyers and don’t tend to get into difficulties. Clients get into difficulties. Clients need lawyers. By all means (if you really must) market indirectly on a blog, on twitter, but do it invisibly, with style and panache, by writing/tweeting things people want to read. Most of the bloggers I read and tweeters don’t seem to be that interested in pushing themselves – maybe that is why their blogs/tweets are interesting?

And if you need further ‘encouragement’… have a look at the PR Lawyer The Great Debate: Blogging Vs. Twitter- Which is a Better Time Investment?

Now… I really must get back to planning how I can put key words into my blog posts and tweets to ensure optimum SEO for my #Smokedo DVDs… See? It really is that easy… I’ve got nutters from all over the world wanting to exercise while they smoke… I may even get nominated for an award by The World Health Organisation.

And on this day…perhaps appropriate for this section… 1813James Lawrence, the mortally-wounded commander of the USS Chesapeake, cries out “Don’t give up the ship!”

Some say that blogging is dying out. I’m not so sure. Hard core bloggers (and I count myself in this grouping) will blog to the going down of the sun and appreciate their readers when they comment. A lot of bloggers also tweet on twitter. I do. In fact, I am almost embarrassed to say that people may wonder if I actually have a day job, having racked up 19300+ tweets in just under 12 months – putting me, apparently, into a list of the top 20 UK users of twitter. @infobunny at No 3 on that list, however, is the Queen of Hearts when it comes to twitter with her extraordinary and surreal tweets – a microblogger for late nights – definitely.

Bunny is Krushchev, the British weather is America. Substitute clothes for missiles and the washing line for Cuba. You get me?

@infobunny 5.00 pm GMT + 1 Monday 25th May Bank holiday 2009 (31,249 updates/tweets)

When @infobunny gets on the GINS… at the weekend… no-one knows what will happen. Tweets are different from blogs; the 140 character limit being an obvious one – but it is a developing medium and is being used, increasingly, in innovative ways.

But then, occasionally, one engages with an entirely sensible London lawyer… I did… on Bank holiday Monday. @London_Law_Firm was asking for #twepitaphs.

You may enjoy following a few UK lawyer and librarian/IT specialist tweeters?

In no particular order… although I just have to put @geeklawyer first so that @scottgreenfield can remember to schedule to follow and unfollow him, as he does every day.

@sobk13 | @johnbolch | @Oedipus_lex | @loopyginee | @gjacqui: | @mennard | @abeautifulmind1 | @UKdivorce |London_Law_Firm | @clarinette01 | @manxStef: not a lawyer… exceptional source of help on matters blogging/IT/gizmos and good to tweet with | @jaffne, @ioverlord, jimmy1712, @stupidgirl_no1, @lucindee, @JohnAFlood

Many UK lawyer tweeters have blogs as well – and you may find their blogs by clicking on their twitter profiles.

But moving on… When it comes to twitter, however… I just can’t leave out US lawyer @kevinokeefe – the USS Ronald Reagan of Law Tweeters, and he blogs at Real Lawyers have blogs.

Kevin appears to have limitless energy.  Or maybe has cloned himself and the two Kevins work 12 hour shifts.

It is unlikely that I would ordinarily  be up late of an evening reading about Crofting Law, but fellow Twitterer Brian Inkster has a fascinating tale from the mists of the Scottish Highlands with one Cameron up against another Cameron.  MacDonalds may enjoy this – as I did… Millionaire producer to reopen land battle with elderly crofter

Adrian Dayton, soon to host Blawg Review… has this for you:  Master the Direct Message (”DM”) on Twitter

Anyway… as they say in life… “Some days you’re the dog; some days you’re the tree” and twitter can, at least, be a diversion and provide some amusement… and you can always block those who use twitter to build rankings. It is quite amusing to block people who follow you. I am advised that if one does this they can’t count you in terms of ‘following’. That probably drives them mad….

And on the theme of social media…Spamnotes notes… Court Recognizes Fleeting Nature of Facebook Friendship

So… on Friday 29th May, I went to the seaside with @johnbolch to meet a host of tweeters, bloggers and Her Majesty’s Woodworker, @Geeklawyer. Although my hand is pictured, holding a glass of wine – appropriately, I do not feature in any of the pics (and certainly not any of the bare buttocks shots which were taken much later in the proceedingss by @rah_Rah, I believe.  Geeklawyer did the business with his camera which worked remarkably well as he remembered, this time, to bring a very snazzy flash gun.  @Geeklawyer’s pics are here.. with captions and Twitter names.

It was quite bizarre (But most enjoyable) meeting people with names such as @Special_Noodles, @MrsPBoutique, @tesstesstess, @Oedipus_Lex – god knows what the other people thought as Geeklawyer shouted…“Special_Noodles…I’ll have a cider…. etc etc..” Most entertaining.  I had to make my excuses and leave earlier than the others to return to my lair and write Blawg Review and enjoy my hangover in the morning.  I think for #Brightonpissup3 I shall get a hotel room – the revels continued, I understand, until 3.00 am.  twitter was amusing the next morning, however.

Geeklawyer has done a full report!

And on this day in 1974 – The Heimlich manoeuvre for rescuing choking victims is published in the journal Emergency Medicine.

On this day in 1970 the British Prime Minister Harold Wilson was hit by an egg thrown by a demonstrator. We are all familiar with the famous incident when an Iraqi protester threw a shoe at US President George Bush. Bush’s “It was a Size Ten” reply to a question about the incident was equally amusing. This egg throwing fact got me thinking. Quite a few British politicians have had eggs thrown at them… or custard pies. Famously, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott hit back, literally, when an egg was thrown at him and responded by punching the demonstrator. I was able to waste a few moments of what remains of my life by investigating the history of throwing eggs at politicians. Fascinating, really – but I had better move on to the next section of this Blawg Review.

Lawyers are often at the forefront of debate and commentary on new laws. Blogs are often more interesting to read on current issues than the traditional media.

John Bolch of Family Lore, like many bloggers, invests a great deal of time in posting information about new cases, statutes and developments in his field of family law. His blog and accompanying website Family Lore Focus, is a remarkable resource for those practising in family law.

It is not eggs or shoes being thrown at young barristers when they attend Chambers for pupillage interviews. That comes later, possibly. Young barristers, apart from having to eat dinners to qualify, have to complete a pupillage before practising as barristers. Pupillage interviews, I am told, can be demanding experiences. Simon Myerson is a QC ( a real one) who gives a lot of time over to helping prospective barristers and his Pupillage and how to get it blog is a mine of information. Recently he considers the question of interviews.

Academics are not immune from a bit of egg throwing, usually at other academics, or being the recipient of metaphorical eggs. IPKat considers Teaching IP to mixed-education classes: is there any research?

In the same theme… Bitter Lawyer puts the boot in by asking.. “What makes you the most merciless, impossible a-hole of an attorney to work for?” (Hat Tip to The Legal Satyricon for the link)

Legal Antics notes… because muscles make the lawyer “I am looking for a young, dark haired, muscular, confident ballsy lawyer who is willing to fight for me in court against an asshole husband. All the lawyers around here are either old or timid.” This could be a case for SMOKEDO MAN.

It is, of course, impossible in a section about egg throwing, not to mention Above the Law. If you want to de-stabilise a barrister or City / Big Law lawyer… make adverse comments about their mode of dress… works every time. While you are planning your next move, they are worrying about their taste. Above The Law is always happy to dish out a bit of egg throwing and Fashion Dos-and-Don’ts, Brought To You By the Seventh Circuit is an example of the genre.

Try this comment when you next want to wind a colleague or opponent up… ” Been dressing in the dark again, have we?”

Summer is coming… Would you go to work wearing a shorts suit? Watch the vid to see how cool you could really look… it’s worth a look.

***

So… it must be time, after all this, for a bit of mediation and common sense?

The British holidaymaker abroad is a constant source of amusement to me…  and amazement to our European neighbours in particular. These British men dressed as nuns (but wearing thongs underneath), arrested for indecency and mocking religious principles, were in fact acquitted by the Greek court in Crete because the Police couldn’t find anyone to testify that they were outraged!

I think the well nourished older guy could do with a bit of counselling… possibly he may need a bit of mediation when his wife finds out … and his colleagues start putting this picture up all over the office.

Britannia rules the world, mate… world class… good effort.

Diane Levin of the Mediation Channel, would, I suspect, smile at seeing the photograph above and would certainly be able to counsel the plonkers in the pic above on their dress sense. Here, Diane has some thoughts on Negotiating online relationships: a marketing mistake to avoid – with some very timely advice to people who try to market their wares on Twitter. I have taken note of these wise words for the time will soon come when I wish to persuade lawyers to join my new website Musclelawyers.co.uk.

It is quite possible that Vickie Pynchon of Settle it Now – Negotiation Blog would advise me on my proposed new DVD project by saying “ HOW You Negotiate More Important than WHAT You Negotiate“. Vicki is a serial blogger and here she considers Conflict Avoidance and the March of Science.

My friend, Justin Patten, a UK solicitor and mediator, would simply tell me to phone a doctor and quickly or advise Conflict is inevitable – Combat is not

TechnoLlama has some useful observations on IP rights… I may need to take account of these…. but it was the word barbarian which caught my eye in this post: Barbarians of the world, unite and take over

Mediation… sometimes is just not enough. On this day in 2001Dipendra of Nepal slaughters his family during dinner.

Geo F Trumper is recognised as the finest traditional gentlemen’s barber in London and is known throughout the world for its matchless range of gentlemen’s fragrances and grooming products. Indeed… yes. I have been there – but, disappointingly, I was not asked by the barber if I would like “something for the weekend, Sir”... a wonderful 1950s euphemism for… would I like a condom? or, as Brits apparently used to say in those days… a ‘french letter’.

BUT…. we certainly wrote a letter to The Frenchies on this day in 1794 – The battle of the Glorious First of June was fought, the first naval engagement between Britain and France during the French Revolutionary Wars. As it happens, the sea battle was a disaster for both sides, leaving the fleets of both nations in a hazardous state. The French went back to port and the English were able to mount a blockade. However… with typical ‘effrontery’ the French also claimed victory. The result of the battle was seized upon by the press of both nations as a shining example of the prowess and bravery of their respective navies.

And… something very different for the weekend is  fellow blogger (not law)  and fellow Scot… Jimmy Bastard. Mr Bastard, as he likes to be known  in parts of Glasgow…  was murdered a year or so ago when he deleted his blog while over the limit… but Sir James B’Stard as I know him from Langans  – a man of honour, amusement and a brilliant writer – who also knows how to put them away – and that has many meanings – is worth reading.  Jimmy is pictured on the cup… in case you were wondering… and… yes.. you are RIGHT… we Scots all look a bit hard/rough… I blame Mel Gibson in Braveheart …  that is why we can drink, play golf, lead the world at TENNIS  Have a look... but, when you do… don’t say you have come from Edinburgh.

And… if you just happen to need a Jew with a Gun - then this is your man, fellow twitterer Joel Rosenberg:  a man who knows his . 50 Cal. … and keeps an eye on quite a few of our law blogs.


Something for the weekend should, naturally, include a bit of wine. I have come up with the remarkably simple idea of setting up a wine column called Charon’s Noble Rot. It is marvellous. Hardly a day goes by when wine doesn’t arrive by courier for my delectation and delight. I shall publish a full column monthly in legal life style online mag, LawandMore and on my blog – but here is an extract from my first Pourriture Noble… .. Your head may fall off.

Overlawyered has this rather challenging comment… “Inventor of Vibrating Toilet Seat Sues Google Over Allegedly Defamatory Search Results” [Citizen Media Law]

3 Geeks and a Law Blog Have a good list of “Must Read” Blog Posts for 2009 (So, far…)

One of the many things I have found amusing on the web – but one that nearly caused me to choke on my wine, was John Flood’s joke in a stand up routine… “Hawking didn’t write the Brief History of Time….. the wheelchair did.” John is a serious academic in his other life and has an eclectic blog. John is rather good at stand-up comedy as well… watch the movie.

On a different theme – but probably not something lawyers should be doing at the weekend…  is having sex with their clients.  John Flood explains the position:  When Lawyers Have Sex with Their Clients

Talking of amusing… LawMinx… supporter of law blogs in the UK extraordinaire, with her preparedness to comment on posts, has a great post this week: Flipping The Bird Greed (V.2!! )

If Poetry is your thing… continuing with the writing metaphor, then perhaps you would like to read about Oxford University’s first female Professor of Poetry “resigning Monday after acknowledging she had helped publicize charges that her rival for the post had sexually harassed a former student.” You may do so at Prawfsblawg.

Afficionadi of the oxymoron may enjoy Legal Sanity where blogger Arnie Herz talks to a man who lives, literally, right on the edge: EDGE International founder, lawyer, blogger and serial tweeter Gerry Riskin about the Client Experience. Gerry Riskin may not blog every day, but when he does it is worth reading. Recently, he noted Wolfram Alpha from Steven Wolfram (a computational knowledge engine). This is the most important technological breakthrough I’ve seen in 10 years. The fact that it was not designed specifically for the legal profession should not deter you from availing yourself of this resource starting NOW. Google is amazing… Wolfram Alpha transcends it. Try it out” !

I was thinking about the world’s most famous smoker, President Obama of The United States, and came to the conclusion, fit as he is (assuming he is still smoking?…Secretly?) that  he may be very interested in my Smokedo for the Military programme.  I shall be writing to the President  to see if he would be interested in suggesting to the World’s favourite army that they use my more advanced Smokedo techniques. I can tell you that the sight of 100 US Marines running towards me with lit cigarettes in their mouths,   would give me a real buzz. I believe it would also frighten the hell out of whoever the United States and Britain  happens to be invading at the time.   I am also writing to our Defence Secretary – to take his mind off the expenses scandal. Hey…  if Obama can buy a non-spill dog bowl, rejected by the Dragon’s Den entrepreneurs, he can spare a few seconds to consider Smokedo?

And remember…we smokers are TOUGH… do you see what we put in our bodies,? … hot smoke… straight into the lungs.  Yep… we are tough…..  We may be a dying breed and die earlier than many but as Rumpole of The Bailey author  Sir John Mortimer QC (who took up smoking again in later life as a protest against interfering ninnies and busybodies) often said.. “I’d rather die earlier than spend an extra five years in a home as a vegetable”… or words to that effect. I agree.  When I die, I shall be cremated and my body will explode from the alcohol.  I shall have This is the End by The Doors playing.. or perhaps even GO WEST by the Pet Shop Boys… Yes… GONE WEST seems appropriate as an epitaph…

Controversy still burns in the US about smoking and freedom… here a very good piece via Overlawyered … on smoking:  Against Freedom, Against Art, Against Reality

Should reading about law prove too much after entertainments of the night before, perhaps you would like to listen to two bloggers and serious podcasters: J. Craig Williams and Bob Ambrogi, in their Lawyer2Lawyer series. This week, for that feelgood factor (or perhaps a bit of schadenfreude or even Colin Samuels’ schadenfreude?) you could pour a glass of restoring wine and listen to The Impact of the Recession on Law Firms and Lawyers

Or just a bit of nosiness, perhaps? Throw in the towel and go and have a look at CyberLaw Central’s Blawg Review #213 if you missed it. Some most unusual pictures of bloggers!

Perhaps a bit of Babybarista? Fellow blogger Tim Kevan, who went surfing a while ago and leaving the Bar to write,  was finally revealed as the author of Babybarista.  Tim is a mate and I have no hesitation in unashamedly plugging his book which comes out in August.  Tim is far too modest, shy and retiring  (like most barristers)  to plug his book!  I’ve read it – in the Word version which Tim emailed to me.  I won’t say any more at this stage – but it is very good. Here is a very good review written by a serious person: Author Boris Starling on BabyBarista
(To pre-order a copy of ‘BabyBarista and the Art of War’ from Amazon, click
here)

It may not be light reading for the weekend, but Nearly Legal is a blog I have read for a long time . It is about Housing Law and is an excellent example of blogs written by practising lawyers to help others keep up to date.  This week:  “Something of a mess”

Ann Althouse, a Law Prof who is direct and to the point in her writing,  is always interesting to visit.  This week  The best of Jay Leno. She says: “I don’t much like Jay Leno, but after all these years, a “10 Best” set of clips has got to be pretty good. Let’s check out the best of — the surprisingly smutty — “Headlines”

Or perhaps none of these…. just throw a tantrum?…. Slaw.ca guest blogger Brian Bowman has an amusing post about tantrums: He writes “The posting of a YouTube video of a woman throwing a tantrum at the Hong Kong International Airport should serve as a reminder to Canadian businesses that employees these days can (and do) easily record and post videos online from their mobile phones.Go on… have a look at the YouTube video. You know you want to. I did… it is excellent! Brian is right… this woman flailing around, screaming on the floor because she missed her flight, takes throwing a tantrum to world class levels.

I am pleased to be able to report in this Blawg Review… that after putting the fear of god into god fearing bloggers with his Blawg Review #203, Geeklawyer has taken up woodwork. Some time ago, on a mead drinking evening in, Geeklawyer’s bookshelves in his study fell down. Geeklawyer, possibly fuelled by pear cider, mead and strawberry beer (perhaps even all three), decided that he would make his own bookshelves… and very fine pine coffins they are too. I have decided to give him a book on Woodwork.

AP: WASHINGTON Reaching for history, President Barack Obama on Tuesday chose federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court, championing her as a compassionate, seasoned jurist whose against-the-odds life journey affirms the American dream. Republicans who will decide whether to make a fight of her confirmation said they want thorough hearings.

The blawgs have been quick to comment.

Balkinization: Why the Sotomayor nomination makes sense The fact that Sotomayor is both a woman and a Hispanic may help her win confirmation in the Senate, for Senators are just as aware of the politics of appointments as Obama is.”

Tom Goldstein characterizes the confirmation fight in the Senate as “inevitable and tremendously regrettable” and outlines several likely lines of attack on the nominee’s record: The dynamic of the Nomination of Sonia Sotomayor.

Mike Cernovich (Is Sotomayor’s Impoverished Upbringing Relevant?) wonders why the nominee’s humble upbringing should be considered a point in her favor by political liberals: Well, I grew up pooooooor. Not John Edwards, “My dad was a union manager making middle-class wages” poor. I was actually poor. As a kid, we were on welfare. We had holes in our carpet. Our roof leaked. Until my mid-teens, I never traveled more than an hour away from my home. We never had a car reliable enough to take on road trips. We got school clothes once during the school year. Two pairs of pants had the last the entire school year. Liberals would not want me on the Supreme Court.

Ashby Jones, WSJ, gathers key comments about the nomination from the political left and right, while Ilya Somin, Volokh Conspiracy, points to Sotomayor’s participation in the Didden decision and considers whether this bodes poorly for her jurisprudence concerning private property rights. Jonathan Adler concludes that Sotomayor’s record is too thin to determine whether she’ll be pro- or anti-business on the nation’s highest bench. Nathan Koppell rounds up a few choice quotes which suggest that business need not fear a Justice Sotomayor.

Tom Smith, The Right Coast, explains why he thinks conservatives should be generally OK with the president’s nominee. Eric Turkewitz writes: Advice and Consent on SCOTUS Pick – First Time in Decades? – setting up the K/O suggested by Tom Goldstein in It’s Over

Diane Levin takes a look at the Sotomayor nomination in more detail with :  Law like love: thoughts on a Supreme Court nomination, ADR, and jurisprudence and stirs it up nicely, giving a Brit (me) an interesting perspective on SCOTUS.

If there’s a legal issue of national significance ( in the US ) —relating to the U.S. Supreme Court, in particular—there’s a good chance Jeffrey Toobin is on the scene.  Whether it be via feature article for The New Yorker or a bit of television analysis for CNN, Toobin is hardly just another talking head. Bitter Law covers the position with “Jeffrey Toobin, Supreme Writer”.

And finally… Mad Kane’s Political Madness

Hark! The Disgraced Former Speaker Speaks.

It’s simple enough to avoid Judge Sonia Sotomayor smear-tweets like these

And… on this day, 1st June 2008 – A fire at the backlot of Universal Studios Hollywood destroys several icons from movies, such as Courthouse Square, the clock tower from Back to the Future, and the King Kong exhibit on the studio tour.

On this day, 1st June, 1990 America and the Soviet Union sign an agreement to end production of chemical weapons and begin the destruction of their reserves of them.

The Statue of Liberty (French: Statue de la Liberté), officially titled Liberty Enlightening the World (French: La liberté éclairant le monde), is a monument that was presented to the United States of America by the people of France in 1886 to celebrate its centennial. (Wikipedia)

The statue is a fine symbol of New York and America; a symbol of a concept more observed by many nations in the breaking than the keeping, but nevertheless a noble aspiration; a concept worthy of living up to. Lawyers are often in the forefront of liberty, whether they are criminal lawyers defending clients, human rights lawyers prosecuting and defending breaches of human rights or war crimes, or constitutional lawyers working to maintain our civil liberties. Liberty and our liberties impact on all our lives in one form or another.

Before we look at the work of bloggers let me put this quote from an article written by Lord Bingham, a former Lord Chief Justice of England and, until recently, senior law lord:

“The test of legal permissibility falls to be judged, ultimately, by the courts. But in times of crisis the courts too have tended to be uncritical of the executive. During both world wars judgments were given that would never have been given in quiet times, and the first half of the 20th century has been described as a period of judicial catatonia.”

We have seen an extraordinary erosion in our civil liberties over the past twelve years, sadly, much of it driven by a Labour government; some of it driven by the needs of countering terror. The Convention on Modern Liberty convened earlier in the year is a good starting point for those of you interested in finding out more of the work of many in preserving our freedoms – freedoms hard won and going back to Magna Carta in 1215. [My series of podcasts on Civil Liberties may be of some interest]

Journalists are also at the front end of liberty – reporting, often in difficult circumstances; reporting when perhaps the government would prefer them not to. The Freedom of Information blog has this rather useful post: A SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM: Journalism, Government and the Freedom of Information Act 2000

Carl Gardner, author of the Head of Legal blog – and my first port of call when I want to do a podcast on civil liberties or other politico-legal issues – also writes on his eponymous blog Carl Gardner. His observations are always sharp: A new way of not “getting it”

Again, Carl Gardner, this time wearing his Head of Legal hat – hits the nail on the head with comment on this important judgment: R (Smith) v Defence Secretary: a judicial frolic

Since last week’s judgment in Smith – in which the Court of Appeal ruled that the Human Rights Act, in particular article 2, applies to British troops even on the battlefield, I’ve been thinking about the judgment (one reason why I’ve not blogged for several days) and I’m troubled by it.

Cathy Gellis, Statements of Interest, has a thoughtful post – Sticks and stones “…Brian Cuban has been in the news a lot lately for spearheading a campaign to get FaceBook to ban groups of Holocaust deniers. I fear I may have inadvertently picked a fight with him on Twitter however when I recently tweeted: “Can’t support (@bcuban‘s efforts to force FBook to purge Holocaust deniers. Suppressing those who were X in ’30s enabled what happened in 40s.”

While Pink Tape doesn’t usually post about politics on her Family Law blog, she makes an exception for this: Scary Stuff – BNP White Paper on Family Law….

The BNP would have you believe they are so much more than a bunch of xenophobic crackpots – well, if this document is anything to go by they are much much more: they are also mysoginist, homophobic, regressive and revolting.


People say “It’s a small world” and that you can see the Great Wall of China from Space… but neither is, in fact, true. The World is a big place, with many cultures, many points of view – so where better to start than the World’s most mysterious nation – CHINA. Two blogs that will do the business for you, give you hard solid information and a realistic perspective, are Dan Harris’s China Law Blog and Aimee Barnes’ Form, Seizing the Peak Business blog. (Aimee is a business strategist, not a lawyer). Dan Harris’s China Law blog considers, this week: Pig Casings, Swine Flu, And Accounting For China Risk.

Brain food is important… and no-one does the relation between the brain and the law better than Idealawg… recently… this:  Blog Glob: “Neuroscience: Make meditation your business”

Three ladies whose divorce advice skills I won’t be needing as I have an ASBO preventing me from marrying again are:  The Divorce Coach, Jacqui Gilliatt of Bloody Relations and Natasha Phillips of the Divorce Manual.  They also tweet… a lot…  and seem to be part-time Blip.FM disc jockeys by night.

Intellectual Property lawyers – some say, they are recession proof – are going to rule the world one day. Ipso Jure, written by Peter Groves, is at the edge of reason and analysis. This week: Company complies with Data Protection Act shock horror.

The trouble with buying a graphics tablet… before I investigate blogs from other parts of the world… is that I have to use it to express my astonishment and amusement at the goings on of our MPs in the so-called ‘Mother of Parliaments’….

I would like to place on record that I did not buy the graphics tablet on expenses or use the John Lewis catalogue.

Information is all and law librarians do the business… The Running Librarian has this: Has the Age of the Legal Knowledgebase Finally Arrived?

InformationOverlord considers…  Enterprise 2.0: A different culture is a corequisite

And Jennie Law asks  Lawyers are smart…aren’t they?and draws attention to the proposal to merge Inner Temple and Middle Temple libraries – which has not gone down that well in some quarters.

And back to law bloggers…

Pragmatist with Travels in the Blogosphere has been busy catching up with his blogging and blog reading… I rather liked this wry comment: debunking the notion of “mass personalisation”, which is about as oxymoronic as you can get;

And, a bit of Ireland, where Eoin O’Dell author of  Cearta.ie suggests that Rugby (Deservedly so in recent years) is taking over as a national obsession: Rugby, property, and the interpretation of contracts

And a bit more from Ireland. Irish lawyer, Fergus Rourke (also a fellow Twitter), has embarked on what appears to be a major work of literature.  I am following it, mesmerised. … Here he is with  My Travel Insurance Claim – Day 45 (Part 2)

Forgive the clover, gentlemen – but I am a fan of clovers, so chose this icon  rather than flag, harp, Guinness – although a  fan of last, as well.

And just before we go over to Scotland… something from the Curious Black Cat (and read the comments.)  Humour is alive and well for prospective lawyers: Esacping from the Code (of conduct)…

On this day in 1495Friar John Cor records the first known batch of scotch whisky. This is one for you, Aimee. Aimee Barnes likes Scotch. She also likes Boxing… way to go. As you also like tobacco, Aimee … try Smokedo?

If you need to know everything there is to know about Scotch… you could start here.

And talking of Scotch… or, in this case, ScotsJonathan Mitchell QC notes the formation of a new Scots Human Rights group

Another Scots Law blog -  A Diary of Injustice in Scotland – by Peter Cherbihas this to say, this week: ” Law Society of Scotland ‘takes huge salaries & expenses perks from lawyers subscriptions to fund lavish lifestyles of top executives’

BREAKING NEWS: Geeklawyer sued

I don’t think Geeklawyer drinks much Scotch.  He probably does not have time to fit it into his rather astonishing repertoire of drinks (Strawberry beer, cocktails with umbrellas in them, mead, pear cider) but I can report that  Geeklawyer sued – finally! “It happens to poor & unlucky  lawyers frequently  and to some lawyers occasionally. For the best, like Geeklawyer, it is a rare event. Geeklawyer has taunted many a cocksucker who has huffed and puffed but climbed down: billionaire fuckwit Stelios for example.”

More to follow on this important litigation.  Geeklawyer may have to be deported.  I suspect that he will find work in California making coffins for spaghetti western film sets.

Simon Fodden, Law Prof and a leading contributor to Slaw.ca … always informs,  and I thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful piece:  Twitter, e-Discovery and Decontextualization

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I end with this personal statement… I shall blog until the going down of my sun… I very much hope that you band of bloggers… you happy few … will do the same… I’m orf to do a bit of #Smokedo…to defeat tThe Reaper.  T’is working…. so far.

BUT…there is… of course… no truth whatsoever... in a scurrilous rumour on twitter that I want to come back in my next life as an electric violinist wearing high heels. This group… Escala… from last year’s Britain’s Got Talent.. do have talent. Watch the video?

The one on the right reminds me of someone. Enough!



I’d like to thank Ed of Blawg Review for allowing me to run amok yet again this year, Vickie Pynchon and Colin Samuels for their helpful suggestions on blogs to look at (particularly to the blogs in the SCOTUS section) and, of course… to the wine makers of the world who make the happy juice that fuels a fair bit of my late night writing.

I would not dream of interfering with hallowed tradition and the traditional wording of every Blawg Review at the end… below... but I can tell you it is Carolyn Elefant of My Shingle and this week… a charming post… Mommy, You’re A Hypocrite!

Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY OF BLOGS REFERRED TO…

Blawg Review | Simple Justice | Geeklawyer | Gideon: A Public Defender | Blawg Review | Tom Harris MP | Head of Legal | Wardman Wire, | The Fat Bigot Opines | The White Rabbit | Pragmatist | Adam Smith Esq | Law21.ca | The Legal Satyricon | Defending People | Criminal Defense | Divorce Manual | Family Lore | Oedipus_Lex | Bloody Relations | Real Lawyers have blogs | Family Lore | Pupillage and how to get it | IPKat | Bitter Lawyer | Legal Antics | Above The Law | Mediation Channel | Human Law | Prawfsblawg | Robert Ambrogi’s Lawsites | May it please the Court | Legal Sanity | Amazing firms, Amazing Practices | Infamy or Praise | CyberLaw Central | Slaw.ca | Ipso JureJohn Flood’s Random Academic Thoughts (RATS) | LawMinx | Aimee Barnes Form Seizing the Peak Business | Dan Harris China Law Blog | Pink Tape | UK Freedom of Information blog | Settle it Now – Negotiation blog | The Barrister Bard | TechnoLlama | Carl Gardner | New York Personal Injury Law Blog | The PR Lawyer | Balkinization | SCOTUS blog | Crime and Federalism | Wall Street Journal Law Blog | The Volokh Conspiracy | The Right Coast | Spamnotes |Statements of Interest | Idealawg | Overlawyered | Marketing Strategy and the Law: Adrian Dayton | The Running Librarian | InformationOverlord | Jonathan Mitchell QC | The Divorce Coach | Bloody Relations | Jennie Law | Bitter Lawyer | 3 Geeks and a Law Blog | Nearly Legal | A Diary of Injustice in Scotland | Althouse | Insite Law Magazine My Shingle | Dissenting Opinion Jew with a gun | Cearta.ie | Of Laws and MenBabybarista |

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Appendix: Charon on MP expenses and other political matters in the last two weeks

He’s Ducked | The end of the beginning.. the beginning of the end? | Is there a danger that democracy is being undermined? | Podcast with Tom Harris MP on expenses and other matters (including twitter) | A Parliament of Crooks? | 16th May Postcard: The Exorcist returns to The House (of Commons) | A personal Statement from Rex Charon MP | Podcast with Carl Gardner on MP Expenses – The potential criminal offences | It’s a Moat point | It’s a dog’s life… but someone has to pay for it | Until the going down of the sun… we shall remember them | 9-10th May Postcard from John Lewis | Milking a cow is a bit like milking expenses |

Barbecue man returns… argghhhhh….

So with the predictability of “Phew Wot a Scorcha” on the year’s hottest day being the headline in The Sun – today, as the sun shone, Britain’s men went down to B&Q, Homebase or their local garage forecourt, like stampeding Wildebeest,   to purchase a device that would allow them to run their own private crematorium.

Barbecue Man is BACK!

Barbecue Man is not, necessarily, a stupid man – for this particular affliction crosses class and intelligence divides.  For some men it even puts them in the same species as the rest of us.

Doctors, writing in The Lancet, say that the patient presents with minor second degree burns, often red scorch marks on his forehead and nose and with respiratory problems from breathing in kerosene soaked wood smoke.  In extreme cases the patient suffers from the delusion that he can cook.

I can, and do, cook.  I enjoy cooking.  I even watch chefery programmes on TV.  A lot of men I know cannot cook.  In a world where restaurants are closed, they would die.  Why these men who preside over their new toy, usually dressed in an absurd apron,  think that kerosene soaked wood infusing a cremated steak or horrendous frozen burger burnt beyond napalm on the outside, raw inside, is going to appeal, I do not know.  Charles Darwin is silent on the matter.  I have attended barbecues where these men are cooking.  I simply say to them as they call us out to dinner… “Just chuck mine into the fire… I’m into recycling.”

I continue writing the world’s longest Blawg Review… it will be published on the stroke of midnight on Sunday night/Monday morning… if I am still sober.

Lawcast 137: Gawain Towler, prospective UKIP candidate in the Euro elections

Lawcast 137: Gawain Towler, prospective UKIP candidate in the Euro elections

Today, as part of a new series of political podcasts for the Wardman Wire, I am talking to Gawain Towler, the prospective UKIP candidate for the South West in the forthcoming election. We discuss UKIP policies on Euirope, the alternative to membership of the EU, and a range of current issues. I also ask Gawain if UKIP will reap the benefit of support from voters fed up with the main parties after the expenses revelations of the last three weeks.

Listen to the podcast

Podcast version for iTunes

Your head may fall off…

Normally I steer clear of the heavier alcohol content wines but the other evening, doing my duty for my country and my new ‘career’ as a wine reviewer, I found myself working at my laptop and a bottle of Spier ‘Private Collection’ Stellenbosch Shiraz, 2005 from South Africa happened to be open on my right.  I enjoy South African reds.  They often have  strong nose, a bit of leg and taste good.

Unfortunately, I did not check the alcohol content (15.5% – I rarely do).  This wine didn’t just have legs.  This wine played for the Springboks in the second row, had legs of thunder and a kick to match.  A delicious wine that made me ever more amused with life until I got up to answer nature’s call.  I realised that I had been drinking when I staggered into the bathroom and saw an apparition before me, Vercingetorix mustache bristling, eyes wide and smiling.  In fact, I will confess that I was singing the chorus from The Village People’s GO WEST at this stage.

A fine wine indeed, but perhaps not a whole bottle on a modest meal of raw prawns and bean salad. Fortunately, ASDA sell it at £13.98 and I shall be buying some more very soon.

For those of you who enjoy your wine being compared to christmas cakes – I can tell you that the wine is dark red in colour, heading towards plum, lightly spiced, perhaps a bit of cinnamon and had a smooth texture and after taste.  I could not taste any leather rugby ball – but it was probably in there somewhere.

Spier Private Collection Shiraz, 2005
ASDA £13.98 (15.5% vol)

Stars: ****

Coming soon.. 1st June…Blawg Review #214

On Monday 1st June I am hosting Blawg Review… it will be #214 in an unbroken record of Blawg Reviews going back over four years.  I enjoy reading Blawg Reviews – my blawg review is an anaconda of a review… it is now just over 22ft long….. I write most of it when I am pissed….  there is a lot of coverage… and much talk about marketing, twitter and Geeklawyer’s woodwork skills…

It’s not just a blog carnival; it’s the law! ~ a fool in the forest
The Carnival of Law Bloggers

Blawg Review is the blog carnival for everyone interested in law.

Insite Law: 28th May – news, reports and comment up…

Editor pick of the day
28th May 2009

A reality check

Legal Week reports that the top 10 law firms are stepping up alternative billing on client concerns with the emotive headline “UK elite bow to clients with plans for rate freeze

The reality of markets is that prices fluctuate according to supply and demand. Law firms and law schools, having enjoyed a rather long bull run where they held the whip hand in terms of fee structure and charging, are now facing the reality that it is a buyer’s market.

Editor
Mike SP

You can dress it up as much as you like, you can consult experts on value billing versus the billable hour – but at the end of the day it is all down to what you can get away with and keep your business profitable. If you reach the point where you can’t get work at a profitable rate the business will close. It is as stark as that. Law firms are simply adjusting to current market forces. There will come a time when they can ‘re-adjust’ their fees.

The jury is out on the jury

Lord David Pannick QC, writing in the Times, states: “The decision of the Divisional Court (Lord Justice Pill and Mr Justice Sweeney) last Friday to fine Times Newspapers £15,000 for a report in this newspaper about a jury’s verdict in a manslaughter case strengthens the campaign for reform of an indefensible law of contempt of court.”

Pannick argues that The terms of Section 8 are absurdly wide in their scope and application and there is no provision for a public interest defence. He makes the rather pertinent point… ” The absolute nature of Section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 is indefensible, especially when Section 5 of the same statute says that if a person is charged with another category of contempt by publishing an article that creates a substantial risk of impeding or prejudicing court proceedings, it is a defence to show that the publication is part of a discussion in good faith of a matter of public interest and the risk of impediment or prejudice is merely incidental to that discussion.”

It iis an interesting issue; one that requires further investigation. Also in The Times this morning, Mark Stephens asks “Would you want to know if a Ouija board decided your case?” saying that ” It seems trite law that the secrets of the jury room, however compelling, must never be revealed. The British have a penchant for locking away in the closet distasteful truths about much loved institutions — whether jury deliberations or Liberal politicians.”

Stephens observes – going straight to the heart of the matter…” After the acquittal of Jeremy Thorpe, the former leader of the Liberal Party, on a charge of conspiracy to murder in the Old Bailey in 1979, Parliament reacted swiftly to protect its own, passing the modern strict liability offence as an absolute bar against revelation of almost anything from inside the jury room.”

Perhaps a bit of reform would not come amiss? Do jury deliberations need to be shrouded in mystery? Would lawyers benefit from research about how jurors reach decisions? Would justice be more open, more accountable, more just,  if we were allowed to know how a jury reached a decision? Would it just be too much information to cope with and… therefore… best that we do the British thing and leave things as they are?

Visit Insite Law for all the latest news in the press today and an update ton the latest law reports…

Where the F**k is Donald going to sleep?

The graphics tablet I purchased t’other day continues to provide me with yet more opportunities to waste industrial amounts of time… but as I have now got bored with the drip feed of revelations by The Telegraph (unless something truly spectacular comes up on this front) I end my coverage of MP expenses with the CQC-artoon above and move on to other things…

Should you not be satiated beyond hyperventilation and schadenfreude orgasm…  I have collated my observations, caption pics et al here:

MP expenses and other political matters in the last two weeks He’s Ducked | The end of the beginning.. the beginning of the end? | Is there a danger that democracy is being undermined? | Podcast with Tom Harris MP on expenses and other matters (including twitter) | A Parliament of Crooks? | 16th May Postcard: The Exorcist returns to The House | A personal Statement from Rex Charon MP | Podcast with Carl Gardner on MP Expenses – The potential criminal offences | It’s a Moat point | It’s a dog’s life… but someone has to pay for it | Until the going down of the sun… we shall remember them | 9-10th May Postcard from John Lewis | Milking a cow is a bit like milking expenses |

Claim expenses for getting advice on expenses and tax liability… way to go……. brilliant!

Fairly busy writing Blawg Review #214 for Monday 1st June… It may be that I have lost the plot because it appears to be over 12 feet long already… an anaconda of a Blawg Review… well there we are, but at least it is comprehensive …I even manage to get @Geeklawyer in despite the fact that he managed to leave me and a host of others outwhen he hosted Blawg Review – Prince of Darkness edition.

The Telegraph continues to reveal tales of woe about MP expenses, the latest furore being that Cabinet Ministers and up to 30 MPs have claimed tax advice on expenses.  The Inland Revenue is now investigating these expenses as expenses incurred in complying with tax laws are not deductaible, apparently…. so there may be a few more cheques for the politicans to write. I can’t be bothered to give The Telegraph any more links – so here is the story from The Independent.

Laters…

24th May: Postcard from Belmarsh

I write to you this Bank Holiday weekend from HMP Belmarsh where I have been on a private fact finding mission to see if they have enough places to accommodate delinquent MPs who have overdone the expenses bit.  Thankfully, because of Jack ”The Lad Chancellor’ Straw’s obsession with banging people up we do appear to have sufficient and  appropriate accommodation should MPs be charged, convicted and jailed for their Green Book abuses.


I didn’t even buy a bathplug, says London Mayor Boris, who somehow racked up maximum expenses and The Independent headlines today…

Brown calls Blair in to No 10 for secret talks as crisis mounts

Apparently, the prime mentalist is going to come up with a national plan for Britain.  Unfortunately, as Gordon will be the author of this plan, it is unlikely to include post traumatic stress disorder treatment on losing his job as PM.

The trouble with the MPs overdoing the expenses issue is that people start to say that The Telegraph drip feed of revelations week after week is undermining democracy.  It also gives the senior British godbotherers, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, a chance to give their possibly unwelcome contribution to the hard political debate.  On reflection, I do not think commentators are right when they say that faith in democracy is being undermined.  The British may not be the most politically interested people on earth, but they are well able to exercise their right to vote when their passions are roused.  Democracy is not being undermined… we just need a few new MPs… well maybe quite a lot of MPs …  to replace those who are being sacked, or  standing down  and those who may well find themselves making mailbags or crushing rocks when PC Plod comes calling.

The Palace has been in the news – first with news that BNP leader, Nick Griffin, is going to the garden party as a guest of a BNP councillor and, secondly, with news that a Palace chauffeur has been suspended who allegedly gave undercover reporters access to sensitive areas of the building.’ (BBC)

The Godbotherers are calling for people to think carefully about voting in the 4th June elections and warning people not to be driven into the hands of the BNP – a totally ludicrous bunch of rather ineffectual bigots who are, clearly, unable to run a leaflet campaign, let alone a country. Finkelstein of The Times has the story… “BNP voters don’t exist and their leaflet is a lie” … Onanists.

On a European election campaign poster, the BNP has used an image of Jesus suggesting that he would vote for the party. Leader of the Liberal Democrats Nick Clegg said the church should stay out of politics. I tend to agree.  Frankly, the sooner we move towards formal secularism in our state the better off we will be.  If, then, people wish to worship something that does / does not / may exist – let them – but at least religion (of any type)  will no longer be an insidious influence on the political decision making of this country.  Alistair Campbell was right to intervene when Blair was in power to say ‘We don’t do God’.

When two tribes go to war…

My intentionally provocative post about a possible future for the legal profession has attracted some fascinating comments.  They are worth reading.  If you have time and the inclination, I would welcome your contribution to the debate.

Tonight, I shall be drinking some fine wine – for my first and second wine column Charon’s Noble Rot.  I shall also, inevitably, be on Twitter with other denizens of twitterworld.  T’is amusing and if they are about you may care to join me / us?

I have purchased a graphics tablet… let me introduce you to Charles… a Northern barrister with attitude… the Freddie Truman of the Northern Circuit… he will be bowling fast and at you… (PS… this is just prototype…based on a drawing I found -  to get used to the tablet.. the next version will be the real thing… maybe! )

Off to enjoy a bit of sun… and do a bit of Smokedo… laters…

Best, as always

Charon

Blawg Review 1 June

As the slot was still available – I am pleased to report that Ed of Blawg Review has allowed me to host Blawg Review on 1st June.  As it happens, many interesting things happened on the 1st June in history including, would you believe, in 1812, a US president asked Congress for approval to declare war on the United Kingdom. It was also the date on which the smoking ban came into force in 20007 in England. So.. as you can imagine, this will allow me to encourage all bloggers to take up Smokedo – Smoke yourself fit with Charon… it is working for me. Soon, I shall paint myself green… and I will get that seat on the train when I leave Victoria late at the end of one of my journeys to get over refreshed with mates in London.

Watch the movie

Towel Day in memory of Douglas Adams

It is Towel Day on Monday 25th in memory of Douglas Adams and his timeless classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  I met him briefly in the early eighties – his wife, Jane, was a good friend of mine – a barrister and a very good law teacher.  So… I have no difficulty at all in supporting this worthy memorial.  CyberLaw Central is hosting Blawg Review on that day – and it will, I am sure, be a good one!

If you are a blogger - get your pics with towels over to CyberLaw Central.  If you aren’t a blogger but would like to send me your towel pic… I’ll put them up on my blog for the edification of the known universe.   I do apologise for my pic – I had had a few the night before and ‘just out of the shower’ is not one of my best angles. This is why I do AUDIO podcasts and not vids.

Email pics to me?

When two tribes go to war…

The legal profession as a whole faces competition from the so-called Tesco Law providers; but closer to home, and very much an issue of the present,  is the ‘war’ going on between the two main branches of the legal profession – The Bar and Solicitor-advocates.

First, it was Judge Gledhill expressing robust disapproval (at an impromptu press conference at the end of a case ) about the way solicitor-advocates had conducted themselves.  Paul Marsh, president of  The Law Society, objected.  Then it was Lady Justice Janet Smith, president of the Council of The Inns of Court, writing to resident judges seeking evidence about the quality of work done by Solicitor higher-court advocates (HCAs).

Lady Justice Janet Smith has now ‘taken the unusual step’ of withdrawing her letter.

The Law Society Gazette reports:

“Smith’s climbdown came after the Society complained to the Lord Chief Justice about the letter. Chancery Lane shared the concern of solicitor-advocates that the letter ‘appeared to demonstrate a bias against solicitor-advocates and employed lawyers, and to support the campaign against these advocates by the self-employed criminal bar’.”

It appears the Lord Judge, The Lord Chief Justice, was able to resolve The Law Society’s concerns;  allowing Paul Marsh to state “I hope that we can now work with the bar and the judiciary to achieve a consensus about advocacy standards across the board.

Setting aside the obvious issue about quality (an issue of education and training) and the premise that advocates, be they barristers or solicitors,  will not take work on outside their experience and competency – we are left with, possibly, a single difference between the solicitor or employed barrister and the barrister – that of independence.  A barrister in practice at the bar is not employed, he or she is not beholden to a firm, corporate or organisational policy.  The duty is to represent the client.  The same should, of course, be true for solicitor advocates and the employed barrister.

There is an issue which I would be most interested in hearing from practitioners on: To what extent is a solicitor advocate, employed within a firm, influenced in the performance of their role by management or firm culture when they act  as advocates?  Is this a different influence from the barrister working to the brief of an instructing firm? – or are all barristers truly independent in being able to ignore the influence of further work from that instructing client?  Putting it another way, is the independence of the independent bar true independence and does it matter provided the barrister conducts the case in accordance with the code of ethics of his or her chosen profession and within the rules of law and procedure?

There may well be more solicitor-advocates soon.

I haven’t looked at the precise figures, but there has been a significant rise in the number of solicitor-advocates gaining higher rights of audience in recent years.  This is likely to increase rapidly now, in my view, for three reasons:

(1) Training at the LPC and Bar stage is providing young lawyers with the opportunity to develop and hone advocacy skills.  This can be followed up by specialist advocacy training available in the open law training market. To all intents and purposes, training and early experience can equalize the skills of the solicitor-advocate and barrister in time.

(2) The solicitor-advocate scheme has been a success.  The Law Society Gazette refers to thousands of Solicitor HCAs and,  do not forget the Crown Prosecution Service advocates.  New entrants to the solicitor side of the profession – possibly former prospective barristers or those who would have enjoyed a career at the bar – may well qualify as solicitors instead to become advocates, given rights of audience,  secure in the knowledge that they will be paid well, on time and at a reasonably sensible level.  There is also employment security, backed up by law for those employed solicitors and barristers.

(3) Increasingly, particularly the big regional firms, are building advocacy teams.  This is likely to spread down the scale to medium and smeller sized firms. The independent bar is roughtly 1/10th of the size of the profession give or take.  If law firms see money and control in advocacy, and not just criminal advocacy, it will not be long before they act effectively to build internal teams and, whatever emollient words are used to allay the fears of the bar, they will, as sure as the sun sets at night, gradually rely more on their own internal controllable resources and less on the independent bar.

We have seen how City, Commercial and large regional firms rely less and less on counsel’s opinion pro rated to modern work volumes in all areas of  law – simply because the solcitors side of the profession is now attracting the very best young lawyers because of the rewards on offer.  The days when the bright inevitably went to the bar seem to be over?

We could see a situation in ten years where there are 25,000 or more solicitor-advocates – dwarfing the independent bar.  If this happens how can independent men and women at the bar hope to compete with the corporatised and conglomerate law firms?  They just won’t have the resources.

It is possible, in time, thinking the unthinkable (which is quite fashionable these days),  that the Bar could become an irrelevance to the thrusting modern law firms and PLCs waiting in the wings to take their pick from a multi-billion pound industry.  I call the legal world an industry, rather than the more prosaic ‘sector’ or ‘profession’, because it is, in essence, no more than a provider of a service and therein lies the danger.  The thinking of the independent barrister may be quite different and suited to the needs of a gentler  more ‘vocational time’ – from the thinking of a Chief Executive of a law firm or PLC used to the harder ways of commerce and global business.

The Criminal Bar is certainly worried enough to establish a working group and raise the spectre of unfair competition from solicitor-advocates.  The Bar’s monopoly on advocacy has been broken.  Maybe the entire bar needs to look into the future.  Some already are and what they see looks good, I am told.  And, of course, there is always the prospect of  very high earnings within a law firm or PLC  for those who do not wish to wait for the meteor to hit the legal world.

A fable… but not from Aesop…

Twelve years ago a small law school effectively broke the monopoly on legal education at vocational level when it became the first private college to be accredited to run the LPC and the Bar.,  I know.  I was there.  I was the CEO then.  I enjoyed being involved in the establishment of a company that broke the monopoly.  I am, it has to be said, less good and less interested in running things once they are set up and others took it on to what it has become today. BPP Law School is now the fastest growing law school in the country with a private sector mentality driven by shareholders and the markets. They may even be bought up by an even bigger, more corporate entity – American or British – that is inevitable in time and may happen sooner rather than later. Here endeth the lesson/fable/metaphor/analogy… call it whatever you will.

We are already seeing law firms behaving more corporately, using business techniques, thinking globally, thinking strategically, employing specialists and bringing them in as partners as they are now permitted to do.  Law firms are beginning to float on stock exchanges.  It won’t be long before the legal profession in this country undergoes major change – not ‘Big Bang’ but more akin to a meteorite hitting the earth.  Who will be the new rulers of the legal world?  I don’t think it will be the independent bar. I think it will be the global law firms and their smaller brethren – the regional firms or associations of law firms.  And yes… Tesco and others will be right in there calling the shots, as indeed will the big client corporates who devour legal advice and services.

OK – let’s stir it up a bit.  I’m not a practitioner.  I have not practised in your world.  I am a mere observer and commentator who keeps his eyes and ears open.  They are still open.  Let’s hear what you think.  I may like to predict, but this is a technique.  I am not Nostradamus.  I am keen to learn what the future holds.

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Oh… and finally…. I agree with Lord Judge – we need more solicitor judges…  a lot more… to reflect the interests, culture, emotions and philosophy of our nation.  There is a lot of  skill, intellect and ability in the the other side of the profession… maybe we could have some of it in the judiciary?  Maybe we could do a bit more thinking the unthinkable and bring some clever men and women from our universities into the appellate judiciary or the Supreme Court?  Perhaps that may take a bit of time – but I, for one, would like to see it.

Well.. that should get you coughing into your conflakes this morning.  Over to you.

He’s Ducked!…

Tory grandee Sir Peter Viggers forced to quit over £30,000 gardening bill
Times: The purge of Conservative MPs caught up in the expenses scandal intensified last night as David Cameron forced out a grandee who had claimed £30,000 for gardening.


Off with their heads?

As Gordon dithers while Westminster burns, rejects Cameron’s calls for an immediate election and admits that a conservative government being elected at a snap election would cause chaos Richard Gordon, QC, writing in the Times states –

“Thinking the unthinkable is what constitutional lawyers are paid to do. Many are now saying that with the daily revelations about improper expenses claims from beleaguered MPs the Queen should step in and dissolve Parliament — against the Government’s wishes — forcing a general election to compel MPs to stand for immediate re-election after a scandal on the scale of that of the pre 1832 rotten boroughs. Trust has now been destroyed. It can, so the argument runs, be rebuilt only by a neutral third party, the Queen, and not by a self-interested and wholly discredited cabal of politicians. ”

I suspect that an immediate election would do more harm than good at present and The Queen would be best advised to keep well out of this sorry mess. The prospect of an immediate election at a time when we are in the midst of a serious financial situation is not one that appeals greatly – a view quite possibly shared by many who sit back and reflect on the wider picture. While The Queen may have constitutional prerogatives to dissolve Parliament, in the event that she stays her hand, the timing of the next election will be at the discretion of Gordon Brown – assuming, of course, that the Labour Party men in togas, knives hidden within the folds of cloth, do not call upon the prime minister late of an evening shortly.

Far more interesting is the nature and scale of the cull of MPs coming. Tory grandees are dropping like flies. Hogg, Steen and now Sir Peter ‘Donald Duck’ Viggers are standing down… what will Gordon Brown’s Star Chamber do. Hazel Blears, we are told by the PM, has behaved unacceptably. Unacceptably enough to be removed? There are others, at a senior level within the Labour Party who should be considering their position. They may also have to look at their shoulders frequently to see if their collars are being felt by PC Plod. Jonathan Fisher, QC, in a most interesting article in The Time today writes: ” A police investigation into the MPs expenses scandal will swiftly identify false accounting as the criminal offence most likely to have been committed by the most egregious of the SW1 claimants. ”

Bar Boy, commenting on my blog yesterday wrote: “Do any of you grown up lawyer experts have a view over those of our esteemed parliamantarian troughers who also happen to be barristers, such as Hogg, Straw and Hoon. No one, to my knowledge, has yet commented on this aspect. The Bar is very insistent, to the point of being annoyingly repetitive, when banging on about standards and conduct, blah, blah, yawn etc. Should, for example, Inner, now be making an example of governing bencher Straw, and passing him the pearl handled revolver ? ”

He has a point. I may be making a telephone call to the Bar Council this morning and make yet another nuisance of myself.

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The end of the beginning… the beginning of the end?

The end of the beginning… the beginning of the end?

The Speaker has gone.. Long live The Speaker. Michael Martin stepped down before the Cleggian ‘Death by a thousand cuts’ in a selfless act of self immolation to unite Parliament. With his departure the MPs are now speculating on who will be the next Speaker and will drag the new Speaker to the Chair on or shortly after 22 June. Finkelstein, however, wants to ban MPs from betting on this.

History was made yesterday – but will Parliament take the opportunity to change, to reform? Michael Brown MP writes: “Future A-level history students will be answering questions not only about the Long Parliament and the Rump Parliament, but also about the “Moat” Parliament (otherwise perhaps known as the “Manure” Parliament) presided over by Speaker Martin – the first Speaker to be forcibly removed from office in 300 years.”

Andrew Grice, also of The Independent suggests that the Westminister Gentleman’s Club is dead and the power of the men in tights is coming to ane end.

The Leaders of all the principal parties will now move to discipline members who have broken the rules. Is this the return of the Star Chamber? Not literally, of course – but the Conservative ‘Scrutiny’ committee and Brown’s.. ‘whatever it gets to be called Tribunal’ will, surely, have to pass judgment on those who have erred? One small difficulty that Brown faces, of course, is that his own Chief Whip has a bit of a problem with food expense claims running at £21 a day for some years (£18,000 in total) according to some reports. the Whip’s Office is, of course, responsible for internal discipline. Will we see the departure of leading ministers? Hoon and Blears, for example? The Justice Minister who resigned last week may well be among those put to the Sword.

The Speaker has gone and will be replaced. This is only the end of the beginning. What follows now – and quickly – may shape our democracy perhaps more even than the now largely irrelevant Magna Carta.

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