Rebel yell….

I am, as you know, a fan of US blogs and I have met many amusing and interesting US lawyers (and non-lawyers) through blogging, my podcasts  and Twitter.  I am delighted to say that I have been invited by Molly McDonough, Assistant Managing Editor/Online for the ABA Journal, to write a piece for the ABA Journal Legal Rebels project which is due to run shortly….

US lawyers are, of course, familiar with the legal concept Volenti non fit injuria (“to a willing person, no injury is done” for post-Woolfians) and Molly is fully aware of the nonsense I write…. so may, safely, be taken to be Volens on the matter.  The word limit is 300-500.  Monsieur Prolix is my alter ego so I have obtained special dispensation to ignore the word limit.  I have, however, promised that it will not be 48 feet long like one of the Blawg Reviews I wrote earlier in the year.

I plan to contribute a stirring (as in stirring up) piece on legal education – because one of the things that is wrong with the profession and which will help the future of the profession is legal education. I shall explain my views, cover themes in Uk and US legal education, light the blue touch paper and then I shall deport myself. I am looking forward to writing it and I shall, of course, let you know when it goes out.  I am in distinguished company. All the other contributors have a photograph.  As I am a figment of my own imagination (and I am writing qua Charon QC) I shall provide a cartoon image.

Let me introduce you to @Little_Lawyer…

@Little_lawyer is an enthusiastic user of twitter.  I am always keen to encourage new UK bloggers to get blogging so it is my pleasure to have Little_Lawyer as a guest blogger today!

Here is the first post on Little_Lawyer’s blog (Do have a look at the blog as well and put it on your blogroll?)

***

Have I introduced you to….?
By Little_Lawyer

So here I am, newly unemployed.  Times are tough out there, and when I finished my training contract (just like in firms up and down the country) there wasn’t any room at the inn.  There was however, room for my fellow trainee, in the department I always anchored my preference for and in which fellow trainee hadn’t contemplated before it became obvious that if there was to be any vacancy, it would be there.

The best trainee won?  Maybe.  But I don’t think its entirely irrelevant that fellow trainee’s father is also a partner at my training firm.  Bitter?  Maybe a little, even if it is understandable in the current economic climate.

But is it?  Is it ok for nepotism to exist in a larger than high street law firm when faced with two, equally qualified and competent candidates?  Part of me thinks it is even if it is contrary to my personal interests.

Hugely successful businesses have been built on familial connections and I think clients like it.  In fact, one can even extend the definition (if I may be so bold as to rewrite the dictionary), to giving a leg up to friends, or family of friends.  Isn’t it what we all do?  Isn’t it the point of networking?  Most of us wouldn’t think twice using personal contacts, or shmoosing about a common interest to open doors – and it is what networking sites like LinkedIn are all about.

Research by Transparancy International (discussed in an article in the FT found here suggests it is one of the reasons for corporate corruption.  I wouldn’t go that far.  I mean, wouldn’t a person with a familial tie want the family business to be a success?  Wouldn’t a person who got his/her job at a friend of his father’s accountancy firm want to prove that he/she deserved the role, by working harder than may be necessary?  Although the latter suggests that someone else would not be so hardworking.  If such an accusation was to be pointed in my direction, I would be mightily offended, since I’m annoyingly conscientious and need to know that I have earned every penny I am (or rather was) paid.

The fashionable and wider issue, is the effect nepotism has on the diversity of the legal profession.  I was going to quote some wonderfully wise words from the Master of the Rolls, but came across a rather entertaining examination of the class ceiling which appears to exist in the legal field, written by student Aryan Sharahi and edited and produced by ThePurpleRobot found here

Times are tough out there, so whatever gives us the edge is fair play, and I value loyalty to family and friends.  Would I have an issue with nepotism if my uncle Bob was the owner of Uncle Bob LLP, or my father golfed with the Chief Exec of Commercial Ltd?  I’m not sure.  What I
can be certain of, is that from the moment I began my (self funded) studies, to getting and completing my training contract, it was achieved with my personal charm (yep, even the checkout job at Tesco) and qualifications (ditto the Tesco job).  Granted, this gives me an enormous sense of self satisfaction, but there is a problem.  One can’t live (financially, emotionally and professionally) on self satisfaction alone.

Little_Lawyer’s blog: Fill My Days in Legal London

@Little_Lawyer on Twitter

All aboard the BPP Bar Vocational Course train… plenty of room….

RollonFriday reported the story that BPP Law School is asking students to defer taking the Bar course until next year (and providing an incentive of a £2000 reduction on the fee to do so) because they have taken on too many students.  I felt that the RollonFriday story, although designed to be cutting, was pregnant with a number of unstated possibilities.

We are not dealing with airlines overbooking, or holiday companies selling more holidays than they have – we are dealing with a fairly serious and important matter of legal education and the hopes and aspirations of prospective members of the Bar. In the interests of getting the story straight I contacted BPP Law School and the Bar Standards Board.

In my emails to BPP (below) and the Bar Standards Board I took the following line:

The issue is a simple one.  Did BPP exceed the number of authorised places or not?.   I would be surprised if this is the case – but if it is, then it should be made clear.  If you did not exceed your authorised accreditation numbers why is the BSB asking you to reduce your intake? If BPP did not exceed the number they are authorised to take the BSB is acting inconsistently with its own stated policy of not placing a cap on numbers applying.

When I telephoned Peter Crisp, CEO and Dean of BPP Law School, this morning he told me that the BPP response was in a Press Release:

“Following a marked increase in demand for this year’s Bar Vocational Course (BVC), we have been working with the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to explore the possibility of students deferring their place until 2010.

All students with places on the BVC were notified of this on Thursday 17th September, and those who would consider deferring have been invited to contact the Director of BVC Programmes to discuss.

BPP has emphasised that any decision to defer needs to be carefully thought through, and that any deferrals will be guaranteed a place on the Bar Professional Training Course (which replaces the BVC from 2010) as well as eligibility for a loyalty discount of 15% on next year’s fees.

As discussions are currently taking place, we are unable to tell how many will take up the offer at this stage.

The demand for places this year demonstrates the quality of our provision as well as our reputation and standing in the legal profession”.


The Bar Standards Board statement received following my telephone call to the BSB late this afternoon:

The BSB is committed to the highest standards of education and training.  The BSB has not recommended to BPP that their students should defer for a year on the basis of the current job market. The BSB are currently in dialogue with the BPP about the number of students recruited on their BVC course this year.

BPP Law School is a leading provider of high quality vocational law courses and, most recently, has been accredited to award their own degrees by the Privy Council.  This provides BPP, now owned by US education firm Apollo,  with many advantages and opportunities – but with rights go responsibilities – the responsibility of complying with authorised numbers, the responsibility of ensuring that students are properly advised and taught to the very high standards they themselves set and which are set by the Bar Standards Board.

BPP Law School has developed in a very short time to deserve their  place in the top tier of vocational legal education and I have no doubt the school will soon earn respect and validity for their law degree offerings.  I have said this before.

***

I have not, as yet,  had a direct answer to my very simple question:  – Did BPP exceed the number of authorised places or not?

I’ll leave the question on the table and it may be answered at any time. As soon as I receive an answer from BPP I will publish their response.

In the meantime – there are only two possible constructions:

(a) BPP  have broken the terms of their Bar Vocational Course validation as to maximum numbers – deliberately or inadvertently

(b) BPP have not broken the terms of their validation  and they are asking students to defer for some other unspecified and non-contentious reason – but not because of the current job market,  as the BSB makes clear in their statement (above).  The original BSB statement issued to Legal Week and others last week made no mention of the point about the BSB not recommending to BPP that their students should defer for a year on the basis of the current job market. This has been inserted, one assumes, to counter rumours circulating to that effect in the market.

I raise a number of points which I believe, in the circumstances, are fair to raise.  They may be answered very simply with a response from BPP

1. It is worth noting that all fees received over and above the maximum validated number go straight to the bottom line and it is pure profit, it being unlikely that an institution would recruit additional lecturers and take on additional space and resources to service the extra students taken on.

Institutions are validated to take a specific number of students on – based on the BSB assessment of resources, space and lecturer-student ratios available or projected at the time of the validation.  This is why institutions are not permitted to exceed the validated number of places. This, when fees are at the £14800 mark, could be a very substantial profit. How many students are BPP oversubscribed by on the Bar course?

I am assuming that there may have been a fairly significant over subscription to have attracted the need to reduce the numbers.  It is, I suspect, unlikely the BSB would be concerned by an overbooking of one or two students.  De minimis?

2. If BPP has broken the terms of their accreditation to run the Bar course –  this does not reflect well on an institution recently validated by the Privy Council to award degrees.

3. If BPP has broken the terms of their authorisation –  this should be (and I assume will be)  investigated and dealt with by the Bar Standards Board. The BSB is in dialogue with BPP about “the number of students recruited on their BVC course this year.” and will, one assumes, make public this dialogue, in time,  given the publicity t this story has attracted on RollonFriday,  Legal Week and  elsewhere?

4. If BPP has not broken the terms of BVC validation and  If students are happy to accept deferment until next year and take the 15% reduction in fees (£2000) next year – all well and good.

5. On the other hand, if BPP has broken the terms of their validation and are required to reduce numbers and students are required to defer – subject to a duty to mitigate loss –  they will have an action for breach of contract.

6. If a student has deferred and taken BPP’s offer,  it is not unreasonable to speculate on what information was provided to the student by BPP underpinning the request.  If it  transpires that BPP has broken the terms of the validation and did not make this clear to deferring students then contractual issues may arise in relation to the deferral agreement.

There may be no story at all here and if that is the case well and good.  It is, I hope, fair to raise these issues and get the story onto the table fully – given… and I use BPP’s quote from their press release…” the quality of (their) provision as well as (their) reputation and standing in the legal profession”.

I have In the meantime left the two possible outcomes on the table.  As ever, you may use the comments section to comment. If BPP responds to my emails and phonecalls earlier  I will, of course, publish their response in full.

UPDATE

Wednesday 30th September 10.30 am

I have received an email from Peter Crisp, CEO of BPP law School:

As the BSB has stated, it has not recommended to BPP that students defer due to the current job market.

Our statement clearly says that “we have been working with the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to explore the possibility of students deferring their place until 2010”.  Our discussions with the BSB have been as a result of an increase in demand for this year’s course, and are a confidential matter between the two parties.  There is no question of students being “forced off the course”.

The story was (rightly or wrongly) covered in the legal trade press last week, and there is nothing further that I can add at this stage.


It is important to understand that all law schools invest heavily in providing good infrastructure and on a course like the BVC, where numbers are smaller than for the LPC in most institutions,  judging the number of applicants to maximum validated numbers can be a very key issue in terms of viability. I know from personal experience that it is not easy.  Some students given offers drop out and have to have fees refunded, others don’t meet the grade requirements set by the Institution and do not get a place (if applicable). It is important for all institutions offering the BVC, an expensive course to run, that they ensure viability.   The BSB has confirmed that the issue is being discussed and that it is not a significant problem.  The BSB also confirmed that no student will be prejudiced by being forced to defer.

POSTSCRIPT

Of course… it is always possible that other BVC providers have exceeded their numbers and in the interests of fairness and objectivity I am asking each of the providers.  If any institution admits to having a possible over subscription I will indicate this in a postscript below.

Thus far I have had confirmations from:

Nottingham Law School, Kaplan,  The College of Law, and Manchester Metropolitan confirm that they have no over-subscription issues.  I have left messages with other providers – but with the beginning of term it is inevitable that the Course Leaders are involved with students/teaching so it may take time to get a full report on this out.

Northumbria University

I have spoken to Deveral Capps, the course director for the BVC.  Deveral Capps was very open with me on the telephone when he told me that Northumbria did have a minor over subscription problem and that they had dealt with it last week to the Bar Standard Board’s satisfaction last week.  The over subscription is on the fullt-ime course but their part-time course is under subscribed by 44%.  There are, therefore, no issues of resource, space, pressures on the lecturing team and resources can be re-deployed.  The quality of provision is being maintained. Deveral Capps did make the point – and I agree with him – that over-subscription this year to the BVC has come about – because of a marked increase in students applying for the BVC before the Bar Professional Training Course kicks in next year.  The BPTC is going to be a more demanding course.  I recall the same increase in BVC applications arising when the Bar had deferral of call plans some years back.

University of The West of England

I have spoken to the administrator at UWE.  They do not have an over subscription issue.

Cardiff University Law School

I have spoken to the Course Leader for the BVC.  She confirms that while they were two oversubscribed earlier in the summer,  two students have had to withdraw (for personal reasons) and they are spot on the number permitted.  The course director did make the perfectly valid point that it is  a difficult judgement call to get the numbers spot on because most institutions will make slightly more offers than places to ensure that if people do withdraw (and they do) they are not left in a situation where they have less than the permitted number and fall below their budget expectations.

City Law School (Formerly The Inns of Court School of Law)

I have spoken to the Course Director for the BVC – They do not have an over subscription issue.

I have now heard from all the providers – The providers  were more than happy to discuss the position with me.

Insite Law Free resource project: European Union Law

Insite law FREE resource project: European Union Law

Carl Gardner, ex-government lawyer for 10 years, author of the Head of Legal blog is the author of our new free resource (text, lectures, case analyses) on European Union. The project is being built from scratch and Chapter 1 – Introduction is now up.

We are on target to put 12 free books/resources up by Friday and the project is now growing rapidly and will be updated weekly from 1st October.

Comment du Jour: A tragic suicide….

The Guardian reports on a truly tragic case: “Police errors and inaction were partly responsible for driving a vulnerable single mother to kill herself and her severely disabled daughter after years of abuse from youths, an inquest found today.

Returning a verdict of suicide on Fiona Pilkington, 38, and unlawful killing for her 18-year-old daughter, Francecca, whose bodies were found in a blazing car on a layby in October 2007, the jury decided that the police action “contributed” to the deaths, notably the failure of officers to connect dozens of separate calls for assistance.

The jury heard Pilkington contacted police on no fewer than 33 occasions in seven years in which youths throwing stones and shouting abuse had kept her a virtual prisoner in her home in Barwell, near Hinckley in Leicestershire. Asked how police were responsible, the jury said: “Calls were not linked or prioritised.” Guardian

I felt a sense of rare anger when I read about this some weeks ago and again today. It is all very well setting up investigations, commissions, inquiries to determine what went wrong – but yet again, despite increased resources going into policing in this country, we have a systemic failure which led to what I suspect was a horrible and very lonely death by suicide for Fiona Pilkington and her severely disabled daughter.  I cannot even begin to comprehend what must have been going through that Mother’s mind when she killed herself and her daughter.

These women were bullied by carrion and scum, mindless thugs from an estate in the Midlands – yet the Police did nothing, the parents of these yobs did nothing, the people who lived on the estate, and who must have known what was happening, did nothing.  I find it very difficult to understand how young boys can be so cruel as to hound a woman and her disabled daughter, how people can stand by and pretend it is not happening – but that, sadly, is often the way in Britain.  We prefer not to get involved.  No screaming here, We’re British. British bulldog spirit, support the underdog?  You have to be joking on this one….The British of today in some parts of our country are more likely to support a fucking dancing dog on Britain’s Got Talent than concern themselves with the misery their children and yobs are causing to others.

Two women lived a miserable life in fear for seven years and  died, the Mother unable to take any more,  because of the vile behaviour of scum and the cowardice of others. The Police did nothing – most probably through sheer inefficiency – but it is quite possible that this Police force was more interested in crime clear up rates for minor offences and the revenue generated from speeding tickets. Who knows?  We shall see what the ‘Investigation’ throws up. The report may well be in stock already.

And just to ram the point home…. it appears that no-one was convicted of a crime.  I find this rather shocking.  The scum responsible for hounding this poor woman and her daughter with a mental age of four are still out there – their parents quite  possibly living on benefit at the tax payer’s expense.  Welcome to post modern Britain in part of our sceptred British bulldog spirit isle. The people who did this should be investigated thoroughly, if necessary by another Police force,  and prosecuted to the full extent permitted by law.

IronicallyGordon Brown, at the Labour Conference, wants a crackdown on bad parents. Well… that is a start but, sadly, too late for Fiona Pilkinton and her daughter Francecca.

The folly of men of advancing years…

I have passed the pleasure of writing this story over to my far more acerbic (and rather dull, pompous and academically flatulent) brother, Professor RD Charon.

A view from Academe on the issue of Lust.
Professor RD Charon

I write from the perspective of many years in academe and not once was I touched by the desire to flirt with a female student or, it has to be said,  be the recipient of flirtatious behaviour on the part of a female student.  Should such an event have occurred, where I was called upon to exercise my academic judgement in favour of an attractive female to her advantage, against my natural and better judgement, I would have had her rusticated.

To have my attention drawn to a salacious piece in a law blogger’s website, a website called Law Actually, by my asinine brother who wastes his days on Twitter, writing incomprehensible nonsense on here and getting drunk with lawyers in the capital City is bad enough;  but to find that the Vice Chancellor of Buckingham University, an otherwise most sensible man by the name of Terence Kealey,vice-chancellor of that most esteemed establishment, and the author of Sex, Science and Profits (2008) has been giving intemperate advice,  has made me most dyspeptic.

I quote from the passage written by ‘The Michael”, as I believe this blogger refers to himself, from his electronic Tractatus, Law Actually.

In an article for the Times Higher Education magazine on lust, part of a feature on the seven deadly sins of universities, Kealey wrote: “Normal girls – more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos – will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers, but nonetheless, most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays.

What to do?  “Enjoy her! She’s a perk.”

Flashing a few literary allusions, he continued: “She doesn’t yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife.”

De-constructing the piece, I can find no hint of hidden allusion, nor even the illusion of great writing – all I see is delusion; the delusion common to many men – my asinine brother is so afflicted – that they are still young.

***

As you have gathered, my academically dessicated brother and I do not get on…. it was ever thus.  He is, however, to me…. an amuse bouche, and I do like to poke the odd academic occasionally, if you forgive the expression (in the circumstances) –  so I like to draw him in when opportunity allows. I suspect that Kealey was having a laugh – but even I would not have ventured into that territory.  It is quite possible that my fellow blogger Geeklawyer would have been happy to do so – but I must not encourage him any further in his ‘depravity’ – Geeklawyer’s that is, not the VC’s!
Charon.

***

To be serious – the whole article in The Times Higher Education about the Seven Deadly Sins was, in fact, rather good and worth a read… and I am quite sure Terence Kealy intended no moral outrage or slight on women… it did, however, come across as being a bit ‘creepy’! and… it is his problem, not mine!

Good effort, Michael  of Law Actually for picking this story up.

Blawg Review # 231: Hosted from VEGAS!

Blawg Review #231 is up and it is from Vegas., by Legally UnBound….

Legally Unbound writes…. “I live here. Other than that, though Sin City is not known for its verbosity, it is known for its short catchy phrases, its buffet sign deals and its staged antics, in and out of the casinos. What you may or may not know about Las Vegas is that our persona is much larger than our history, our population, our sq. miles (km) and certainly our legal prowess. In fact, I’d say that Las Vegas has an incredibly narcissistic ego that is only surpassed by this persona which generates the appetite for its own cannibalistic, self-indulgence. In other words, Las Vegas can’t get enough of itself.”

It is a great Blawg Review, amusing, incisive, covers the blogs and I enjoyed it immensely.  I’ve not been to Las Vegas… but after reading this BR it is certainly somewhere I would enjoy visiting.  Go and feel the sin….

College of Law Podcast: Jenny Rowe, CEO of Supreme Court

Jenny Rowe, the CEO of the new Supreme Court

Today, as part of my series of podcasts for The College of Law Inside Track I talk to Jenny Rowe, the CEO of the new Supreme Court.

Jenny Rowe  gives a behind the scenes view of the new Supreme Court, (which opens on Thursday 1st October), the budget for running the court and the new technologies, events, publication of judgments with commentaries being employed to make the court more accessible to the public.

Listen to the podcast

Comment du Jour: Business as usual, an absurd prosecution and cleaning up the story

The Independent reports: After years of over-charging, City lawyers could face tough justice

Opportunistic city lawyers who over-charge their clients face tough new rules aimed at tackling the excesses and mismanagement of corporate law firms, under proposals to be published this week. The crackdown on the City’s legal profession comes after growing concerns that regulators have failed to deal with abuses at multi-million pound law firms. Clients have told a review led by former Tory cabinet member Lord Hunt of Wirral that lawyers are guilty of over-charging, failing to provide objective advice and breaching commercial confidentialities.

Crackdowns on anyone, be they bankers, lawyers, binge drinkers – sometimes all three of these modern day pariahs are combined in the same individual – are always good for the soul of the newspaper reader in the morning – but one wonders whether they have any effect on behaviour.  The word is spreading, they say, that the recession is over, fees will start to rtise again as law firmns wrest ‘control’ from the hands of General Counsel / in-house lawyers and all will be good in the Kingdom of Mammon again….  We shall see.

In the meantime, Keir Starmer QC, fresh from providing guidelines on assisted dying, is reported in The Times as having “brushed aside objections and decided last month that 11 of the Space Hijackers would face a four-day trial at a magistrates’ court in February.” I remember the G20 conference.  I spent half a day tweeting about it.  I even had a purely imaginary Tiger tank which I used to drive to the G20 protest.  Unfortunately, what started off as being a good humoured protest turned into a rather more dark affair with the death of Ian Tomlinson and videos appearing on You Tube showing police officers using batons against unarmed and peaceful protesters with gusto.  It also showed pictures of police officers dressed like Robocop with their epaulettes covered so they could not be identified from their police number.

Now, it seems, the Metropolitan Police – not having managed to get nearly enough recent publicity for their antics – are to be given another opportunity to make complete fools of themselves with the prosecution in February of 11 people (just under half the number of people being prosecuted for offences at the G20 protest – excluding police officers)

I quote from The Times report: ” ONE woman is dressed provocatively in a black bra. Another sports red high heels and stockings. Their long-haired male companions are dressed in scruffy blue boiler suits and the occasional riot helmet. The costumes may look harmless, but for the Space Hijackers — a small group of part-time anarchists with a penchant for street entertainment — they have been enough to earn them charges of impersonating police officers. The group was pictured en route to last April’s G20 protests surrounding a dilapidated personnel carrier, complete with fake plastic machinegun and speakers blaring out the Ride of the Valkyries. Their jaunt now forms the cornerstone of one of the most bizarre prosecutions mounted in a British court in recent years.”

This is bizarre and almost certainly a waste of public money. The Press will cover the trial – much amusement will be had at the expense of Plod, it is even possible the magistrates may find the skyjackers ‘not guilty’ – a verdict still open, thankfully, to magistrates – but in the meantime the Police have to face the issue of the possible prosecution of one of their own for possible manslaughter in the case of Ian Tomlinson.  We shall see what transpires, but this prosecution may well rebound to the discredit of the CPS and the Police.

And finally.. cleaning up the story

The Independent reports: ” The Home Office faced demands last night to reopen its investigation into the illegal immigrant hired by Baroness Scotland after the Attorney-General was accused of lying by her former housekeeper. Lady Scotland’s claim that she scrutinised Loloahi Tapui’s passport to check she was entitled to work in Britain was flatly contradicted by the 27-year-old Tongan in The Mail on Sunday. The UK Border Agency, administered by the Home Office, concluded its inquiry by imposing a £5,000 fine on the Attorney-General. The disparity between the two accounts led to fresh demands from opposition parties for Lady Scotland’s resignation.”

//

Comment du jour: Supreme confidence

With the new Supreme Court to open shortly, I would like to share with you a letter I read in The Law Society Gazette if you haven’t already read it.  It is written by Lord Lester QC.  Lord Lester deftly brushes aside Lord Neuberger’s warning made some weeks ago about the ‘peril of mucking around with’ the British Constitution by creating a new British Supreme Court

Lord Lester wrote:

Lord Neuberger may be unaware of what gave rise to the pressing need to separate the powers of the law lords from the political branches of government. Before he was appointed to the Chancery Division, there had been cases in which Lord Chancellors, wearing three hats, had acted judicially in highly political cases. There had been instances of law lords entering the political arena by speaking and voting in controversial debates in the lords, even though the senior law lord, Lord Bingham, asked them not to do so. On one occasion a serving law lord moved (but did not vote on) a highly controversial amendment which suited the political convenience of the government of the day.

Lord Lester stated that in a modern democracy this was not acceptable  and noted “The European Court of Human Rights had indicated that a lack of separation of powers was a breach of article 6 of The European Convention on Human Rights.” Lord Lester ended his letter “The fact that The Supreme Court will be, and will be seen to be, separate and independent from the government and parliament should be welcomed.  That will strengthen the rights of the citizen against the misuse of the powers of the state”

I am not a specialist in constitutional law but have an interest in human rights law and issues – as do many.  It seems to me that Lord Lester QC, a noted expert in both of these fields, has put forward a very reasonable point.

On Monday, I talk to Jenny Rowe, the CEO of the new Supreme Court (in a podcast) . I thoroughly enjoyed doing this podcast for The College of Law series “Inside Track”.  Jenny Rowe takes us behind the scenes, discussed the building and costs, the facilities and the very open access for members of the public.  She also talks about the use of television at the Supreme Court and the new commentaries being written on leading judgments so that the press and others will get a clearer picture of the major decisions being made by the Justices.  I’ll publish the link to the podcast as soon as it becomes available on The College of Law website on Monday morning at 9.00 am.

This is stunning….

Ukraine’s Got Talent – rather more sophisticated than a dancing dog.  This will amaze you, I think…..Kseniya Simenova recounts Germany conquering Ukraine in the second world war. She brings calm, then conflict. A couple on a bench become a woman’s face; a peaceful walkway becomes a conflagration; a weeping widow morphs into an obelisk for an unknown soldier. Simonova looks like some vengeful Old Testament deity as she destroys then recreates her scenes – with deft strokes, sprinkles and sweeps she keeps the narrative going. She moves the judges to tears as she subtitles the final scene “you are always near”.

Postcard from The Staterooms-On-Sea: 26th September

Dear Reader,

While my adaptation of a famous soliloquy from Hamlet may also be appropriate to Baroness Scotland – at least the first lines – I was inspired to do this parody by a very good pastiche over at Capitalists@Work by Nick Drew….  his is actually worth reading!

This week, now that Nick Cleggo (14 1/2)  has asked Jim to Fix It for him to be the next prime minister, we get down to the conferences for the two main parties – by which I mean the parties that actually have a chance (a) of losing power big time – Labour  and (b) Winning power – The Conservatives.

Gordon Brown’s soliloquy while waiting for some One-on-One action with President Obama
G20 Conference 24th September 2009

To go, or not to go: that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the end to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous voting,

Or to take a post running the G20,

And by doing this ruin Britain even more? To lie: to shout;

No more; and by a flight to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

My government is father to, ’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d by many. To lie, to fly;

To fly: perchance to dream of legacy: ay, there’s the rub;

For in that flight of political death what dreams may come

When I have shuffled off this prime ministerial coil,

Must give us pause: there’s no respect

That makes calamity of my long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

For my Chancellorship’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy taxes,

When he himself might his quietus make

Without my mobile phone? who would MPs fear?,

To grunt and sweat under a weary wife,

But that the dread of something after Brown

I abuse Twitter… and thoroughly enjoy the many exchanges I have (over 27000 tweets in 14 months) with quite a few people. Krishnan Guru-Murthy, Channel 4 broadcaster and newsreader, is a reasonably enthusiastic user and sometimes he asks questions – as he did on Friday evening before the 6.00 news.  I have printed my answer to his question below…

And so to a semi-serious point about the so-called ‘special relationship’ with the United States. Brown made himself and our country look rather ridiculous with his reported desperation to get a bit of  PM on President action with Obama at the G20. This led to ridiculous reports of the Foreign Office trying ‘FIVE’ times to get a response to a request for this one on one meeting  and mocking laughter from the press, voters back here and a bit of bafflement from people I know in the United States who actually asked… “What is this ‘special relationship’ the Brit press is going on about… we don’t know anything about this over here!

We have enjoyed good bi-lateral relationships with the United States ever since WWII when they stepped in to save the world, and took our colonies to pay for some destroyers. The US called it Lend-Lease.  Some here, in the pubs and bars of Blighty,  called it economic rape.  There was a time when a British Naval blockade could make the seas safe for us to go off and pillage the known world of colonies – but those days, thankfully, are long gone.  What is the pre-occupation with the ‘special relationship’? Why do British Prime Ministers demean themselves and us by appearing to want to be primus uppus your arse and tell the world and the voters back here that they are *IN* with whichever psychopath just happens to be in charge of the US nuclear arsenal at the time? (And to be fair…Obama …not withstanding, there have been a fair few nutters leading America in recent years.  How could we forget the Nutter-in-Chief himself… Dubya?

The real politik is (a) we have a perfectly good relationship with the United States if reports are to be believed (b) The United States is looking outward under Obama to reach a wider world (c) Obama seems vaguely sane for the present (d) Our prime minister, some say, is off the planet and will, in any event lose the next election… BADLY.  he is not so much a lame duck… but, as our friends in America would say… just LAME (e) we are over reliant on our relationship with the US and should, ourselves, be forging alliances with other countries – for trade, for fun, even…. rather than our usual motives of financial greed, control and a bit of war to keep things tagging along with the Yanks.


Oh… and when will politicans get the hang of the idea that the average voter is not interested in the legacy of any prime minister? .. they are interested in what the government is doing for them… not the Yanks or any other nation on Earth.  Yesterday Number 10 announced (On twitter!) with great solemnity that they were giving £250 million to world health.  I asked, on twitter, which bank they were going to borrow money from – and suggested Lloyds. Fortunately, I am not running the country… but I do live in it and the antics of the present prime minister are becoming, frankly, bizarre… if reports from independent blogs and some vaguely sensible newspapers are to be believed. Andrew Grice of The Independent puts a bit of sanity and perspective into the nonsense of recent days.

Well… there we are… I may well write two postcards this weekend… but now, as the sun goes down over the Medway…. I must find a glass and put some wine into it.

Best as always

Charon

PS… and now this…



The Attorney could be in some difficulty….

Carl Gardner has posted a thoughtful piece – with some very interesting analytical comments by posters about the disparity between what the UKBA said and what Baroness Scotland said.  Baroness Scotland’s former cleaner has been arrested.  Two issues (a) The cleaner/housekeeper is saying that she did not produce her passport and (b) it seems that there is no evidence that her husband is a solicitor

Guido Fawkes is now reporting that The Undertaker (Max Clifford)  has arrived to act for the cleaner and her husband.  I agree with Carl that the expenses issue is far more difficult for The Attorney (and that has yet to be examined in detail?). I suspect it is now only a matter of time and, quite probably a very short time before Lady Scotland goes – with the Labour Party conference about to start (and be overshadowed by these events)?  We shall see.  It is a bit more complex than it appeared the other day.   Lady Scotland’s every statement now will be scrutinised very much more closely given the housekeeper’s statement that she did not show her passport to Lady Scotland. (Guido Fawkes)

Obama snubs McDoom….

Telegraph: Barack Obama rebuffs Gordon Brown as ‘special relationship’ sinks to new low.

“Gordon Brown has been snubbed repeatedly by Barack Obama during his trip to the United States, as the fall-out from the release of the Lockerbie bomber appeared to have left “the special relationship” at its lowest ebb for nearly 20 years.”

Yeah yeah…. but the Americans still want us to support the war in Afghanistan… maybe it is a question of empathy? Would you want to be stalked by McDoom?

Oh what a lovely day….

I may as well have missed yet another train last night – when I found myself being kidnapped by Johnny Biltong and a very amusing American writer who lives in Switzerland when he isn’t living here – because it felt like one of those post-hangover surreal days all day with various items of news.

First we had Stephen Hesford MP resigning, according to the BBC website (now corrected), “on a point of principal”.  I thought this a rather good bit of post-ironic neo irony on the part of the Beeb, but…. no… it was just a humble typo and no-one at the BBC will have to resign over it.  Mr Hesford has decided that he can’t work in a department where the head of the department, Law’s top dog, breaks the very laws she helped bring in.  I don’t suppose cutting one’s career short by six months or so is going to be a great sacrifice.  Mr Hesford won’t, probably, have to worry about a ministerial career after the next election and may not, indeed, have to worry about even being an MP.

Then we had Nick Cleggover from the Liberal-Democratic People’s Carnival Party who ( reminiscent of David Steele years ago who told conference delegates “Go home and prepare for government),…. declared that he wanted to be prime minister.  Well Mr Clegg… we can’t all have what we want.  I wanted to be a ship’s captain when I was eight… largely to see a bit of  rum, sodomy and the lash…. as Churchill used to put it about the Royal Navy… but I went into law instead and  two out of three ain’t bad… and I prefer Port to Rum anyway.

Then I discovered that chief of the mumbo jumbo men (Catholic branch) The Pope is going to walk across The Channel and visit us in Blighty….Some say, when he was in the Hitler Youth all those years ago,  that he thought about visiting England then… but I could not possibly confirm the veracity of this or, indeed, comment upon it…. so I won’t. Pope Benedict (Ratzinger) was, in fact, only obeying orders when he was conscripted into the Hitler Youth as membership was required – Wikipedia. This will give the god botherers something to look forward to as Jesus doesn’t appear to have any plans to pop back in the immediate or medium term future.

Then we had Judge Bruce McMillan 63 who threw himself on his sword before he was “dishonourably disrobed by The Lord Chief Justice and The Lord Chancellor” (Oooo er, Matron! as White Rabbit might say) for being nicked, for a second time, by Plod for drink driving.   I have no idea whether MacMillan was a good judge  – but The Times notes…. He made headlines in January this year when he sentenced a man who was found naked stuck in a supermarket chimney in Wigan for a “singularly inept” attempted burglary.

“Were this matter not so serious the facts would be decidedly comic,” Judge Macmillan said.

And then I read Oedipus_Lex’s amusing post about police stupidity and the erosion of civil rights. Lex gives us a first hand report of his experience at the hands of the guys whose eyes are just that bit too close together when he attended a protest being held at the annual dinner for arms dealers.


If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast with Richard Susskind which  I did for The College of Law (It has been shoved down the page a bit) – you may find it by scrolling down or by clicking here.  I think you will find it worth listening to – particularly if you are a student going into the profession.

Finally… for barristers...The Bar Council has finally responded to the sweeping changes going on around them with a letter to barristers… … The letter urges all barristers to respond to the BSB’s consultation paper, stating that ‘at the heart of this matter are the likely future changes to the way in which barristers practise…it is of the utmost importance that the Bar now addresses its future and engages in the debate on these fundamental and historic issues’.”

I just love the unintended irony in the last sentence.

Comment du jour: The Attorney-General, ironing and irony

It is, inevitably, going to be seen as ironic that Baroness Scotland, the Attorney-General, took an oath to uphold the rule of law, is part of a government that passed the law on employing illegals and has now ended up being investigated for allegedly breaking those very laws. (Picture from Guido Fawkes blog post on the expenses issue below)

The Independent reports this morning: ” Lady Scotland is fighting to save her job after the revelation that she employed a Tongan cleaner who had overstayed her student visa by five years. She sacked Loloahi Tapui last week, before her status became public, and asked the agency to look into the matter. If the Attorney General did not carry out sufficient checks, she could face a £10,000 fine under the 2006 Asylum Immigration and Nationality Act, which she helped to push through parliament. She will say today that in January she was shown documents which stated that Ms Tapui was entitled to remain and work in Britain. The agency, whose officials raided Ms Tapui’s west London flat on Saturday, is believed to have found discrepancies over at least one of these documents. Lady Scotland’s office declined to comment last night.”

Unfortunately, Guido Fawkes and others also have Baroness Scotland in their gunsights over the issue of £170,000 claimed for a housing allowance. Guido Fawkes notes: “Patricia Scotland, who was at the Home Office before becoming Attorney-General, has wrongly claimed some £170,000 since 2004.  The £38,280 a year over-claim is only for ministers who have a primary residence outside the capital.  Patricia has a £2 million home in Chiswick, West London.

Labour MP Graham Stringer told The Mail on Sunday that if Lady Scotland did not make a ‘principled resignation’, she should be fired by Gordon Brown.

The Telegraph notes: ” A parliamentary guide to ministerial salaries makes clear that the payments are intended for “ministers in the House of Lords who maintain a second home in London”. Although she owns a cottage in Oxfordshire, Lady Scotland lists her family home in West London as her main residence. A spokeswoman for the Attorney insisted that she is entitled to the allowance, which is paid automatically to her by the department rather than being claimed as an expense, as legislation does not specify where the peer should live to qualify.”

Interestingly, despite the apparent lack of clarity in the application of the law here, “…other Government ministers who are also members of the House of Lords, including the Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, do not take the allowance.”

It is, at the very least, one could argue – inelegant, with just a hint of political hypocrisy, for a well paid member of the government, the senior law officer, a Labour Attorney-General to live in an expensive Chiswick property (but a half hour ministerial car ride to her office or less on the Tube)  and yet claim this allowance? Some from the less well paid sectors of society may well take this view, especially if they are Labour voters.

On the issue of the cleaner, I am not at all certain the mob should be standing outside Lady Scotland’s house with flaming torches.  Many people employ cleaners in this country.  Few, I suspect, check their documents – and even fewer would have the ability to determine if those documents have been ‘doctored’.  We don’t live in a country where identity papers or other documentation are routinely scrutinised by the police on our streets, let alone by employers employing cleaners.  I wonder how many of those who employ cleaners and who are enjoying Lady Scotland’s discomfort declare payments to their cleaners for Tax and National Insurance.  One assumes that Lady Scotland has declared the relevant payment to her cleaner to HMRC and has deducted tax and NI?  For my part, based on the very limited information available in the press on this matter, I do not think that Lady Scotland should be held up to public ridicule and censure.  I suspect this is more a cock up than an intentional act to break the law covertly.  It could be a case of ‘premature ejaculation’ for the horde who wish to see Lady Scotland and, indeed, other Labour government apparatchicks, hounded from office.

On the issue of expenses – we shall have to see.  It would appear that the law is not at all clear on this matter and if that is shown to be the case then perhaps a bit more clarity would be helpful.

A very rough straw poll of lawyers I know yesterday revealed that Lady Scotland is highly regarded by lawyers and seems more than competent in her job. Given the fantastic levels of incompetence shown during the credit-crunch by government members, bankers and the like, we should be thankful that a  government law officer is able to do her  job to ‘fit for purpose’ standards?

Unless you know otherwise?

Update  22 September 9.00 am : The Independent reports this morning that Baroness Scotland did pay tax and NI which rather strengthens, than weakens, the point that Baroness Scotland inadvertantly employed an ‘illegal’  because the housekeeper was registered for tax and NI – a not unreasonable conlusion to put forward?

Political blogger Iain Dale has a different view and states that Baroness Scotland should do the honourable thing and resign.  She has been fined £5000 according to the blog post.

“How on earth can Baroness Scotland stay in office when, according to reports, she is being fined £5,000 for employing an illegal immigrant. It can’t be put down to a simple technical error when it was she who took the original legislation through parliament.”

College of Law Podcast 2: Richard Susskind OBE on the Future of The Profession

The future of the legal profession

Today, as part of my series of podcasts for The College of Law, I speak to Professor Richard Susskind OBE.

Listen to the podcast

Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter will shape the way that lawyers work in the future, Professor Richard Susskind predicts. He says that the legal industry will be transformed over the coming years by the need to embrace ways of improving efficiency such as new technology and outsourcing. He predicts that while the new legal landscape will reduce some of the conventional areas of legal work it will open up a range of new, exciting roles for young lawyers entering the profession.

“Lesson one for law students is to disabuse themselves of the thought that legal practice tomorrow might look anything like legal practice today,” he says. “If you are about to enter the profession by the time you’re my age, 48, the legal world’s going to look wildly and vastly different.

Professor Susskind has specialised in legal technology for 25 years and is an independent advisor to major professional firms and the Government.  Since 1998 he has been IT advisor to the Lord Chief Justice of England. He’s enjoyed a distinguished academic career and in his recent book ‘The End of Lawyers?’ aims to think ahead for the legal profession and anticipate trends in the delivery and receipt of legal services.

Listen to the podcast

Blawg Review #230

Blawg Review #230, hosted this week by Unsilent Partners, a slightly more serious joint venture or collaboration blog between Colin Samuels, author of Infamy or Praise and Charon QC  our own personal blogs

This week, to celebrate International Peace Day, we have themed our joint Blawg review on the WAR. it is dark, with shafts of light…. it was good to work with Colin on this.  It is a long Blawg review – with links to many, but not all (sadly) of the well known and not so well known law bloggers.

We hope you enjoy reading it – peace be with you.  You may read it here

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Sea: 2Oth September 09

Dear Reader

I am enjoying Alastair Campbell’s The Blair Years.  It is taking me a while to plough through it… this is not a criticism of Mr Campbell – I am enjoying it, even if it would appear that much of the work done by government during these early years of Blair’s regime appears to have been done by Mr Campbell himself.  It is a fascinating account, raw and, assuming that it is accurate, paints a fairly chaotic and frenetic picture of life at the heart of government and international affairs.  I like the direct and vivid style. It is history,  but not a dry history book or tedious biography.

I was particularly amused by this passage from p220…

There was a bizarre scene during a break, in the Gents (A NATO summit in July 1997). Several leaders, including Clinton, TB, [Romano] Prodi [Prime Minister of Italy], Kok and Kohl, were all having a pee in a row of stand-up urinals. Clinton turned around and said ‘Isn’t this the greatest picture that was never taken?’  TB (Blair) told him the the story of the time Churchill moved away from Attlee while they were peeing together. Attlee looked hurt.  Churchill explained: ‘Every time you see something big you want to nationalise it.’

The Silly Season is over. The Unions are filling hot air balloons at their annual conference and soon we shall not be entertained by the three main parties at their annual conferences.  Nick Clegg [Leader of the Liberal-Democrat Party] will do his best to re-cycle a few ideas and come up with reasonable but impractical suggestions – as only the leader of a party that will never govern again can.  The mumbo-jumbo men are psyching themselves up for Christmas (as are the shops with mince pies already on the shelves) and are, no doubt, honing their sermons for the Nativity et al.  I’ve decided that being an atheist is probably enough, but it would be more fun to be a militant atheist.  I’m with Jonathan Meades who, in his excellent TV programme Off Kilter, said words to the effect… “religion was, perhaps, understandable 2000 years ago, but today it is inexcusable.” The more I read about it, the more I see in the news, the more conflict and repression I see, the more ignorance transmitted by men and women of education who ought to know better, the more angry I become. Perhaps, as a militant atheist, I could suggest a jihad or a crusade against religions…. but that would just be ridiculous.

The latest nonsense  to hit town with the enthusiasm of a modern day law marketer or SEO salesman on Twitter…. is the relics show. John Bolch of Family Lore, a fellow atheist, drew this to my attention. John writes….

The news that the “relics” (read: bits of thigh and foot bones) of “St Thérèse of Lisieux” (read: a nineteenth-century French nun) had arrived in Britain in 2009 for a month-long tour just had to be a spoof, surely? Sadly, it appears not – there are still sufficient numbers of people so deluded as to actually believe this nonsense. As Matthew Parris in The Times today points out, an event like this is a reminder to all right-thinking people not to legitimise mumbo-jumbo with undeserved respect.

Apart from paying respects to dead bones of a person one did not know being preposterous (and paying respects to the bones of someone one did know… a touch bizarre… a fortiori… if they are in a glass casket in the dining room), I am coming to believe that people’s lives are being adversely affected by what I call ‘involuntary belief’ – where religious mores and values are forced on people, often poor, poorly educated and disadvantaged people, for the purpose of bolstering up the very institutions of religious carpetbaggery and are being used in some parts of the world (if not in Britain, these days) to control a population to political advantage.  I have absolutely no problem with the right of  educated men  to run around in 14th Century robes and mitres, grow beards and large eyebrows and spout platitudes and folklore, possibly based on writing by people who had turned too much water into wine and which  they cannot possibly believe in…literally….  and the right of  equally sensible people, through consent, who wish to believe in, or indulge, this pantomime  – fine…. good luck to them.

But…. I do begin to wonder, given the harsh lives many lived in times gone by under the yolk of a powerful Church and those, today, whose lives are made miserable by warfare based on religion – if the whole thing is rather squalid and ought to be removed from the legal fabric of our country…. all of it…. Christianity, Islam, the lot…. and place it on the same level as any other legal pastime… with no legal  protection, political position or ‘correctness’  given to any religion.

And finally… for I have to write Blawg Review for my other blog with Colin Samuels…. a piece on the interfering state…. by the artist David Hockney.  My thanks again to John who cares about my human rights as a Smokedo 30adaydan Master…. Hockney on Blair and Brown and Smoking in Pubs.

Oh… and if you want a laugh after my tap dancing on water rant outside Lambeth Palace earlier…. this is actually worth looking at…. from Guido Fawkes last night Question Time Special: Are we fooked? …… and you may also enjoy listening to David Starkey excerpted from a recent Question Time – pure class. Excellent YouTube vid.

I would like it to be known that I do not employ a housekeeper, let alone an illegal immigrant housekeeper – so I have not  been phoned up by members of the press asking if I have any advice for the Attorney-General and her problems vis a vis employing illegal immigrant domestic staff.

Best, as always….

Charon

Warning to spammers

I am bored by spammers trying to promote their law services (or other services) in Luton, Runcorn and Outer Mongolia on my blog by using the comments section.

I am not stupid. When I see vapid, vacuous comments like “Great site, keep up the good work” or “Really appreciate your work…. bollocks, flatulence,  bollocks” and there is a link under the writer’s name to a law firm service etc etc… this just irritates me.

You picked the wrong site to do this on – because I have eyes in the back of my head.  I shall simply re-direct your link to an inappropriate porno site – and that won’t do your reputation or SEO optimised Google ranking any good.  It will also amuse me – but, frankly, I can get my laughs by doing other things. Capische?

If you really would like to promote your services to readers – you may advertise on Insite Law and sponsor the free resource project as serious service providers, publishers, law schools, law firms and the like  are doing (this is why we are able to provide what we hope is a valuable FREE service – and if your service is appropriate for readers on Insite Law we will take your advert and you can be upfront about it.


PS… if you make a comment that is relevant to the post – as normal commenters do – you may link to your law firm, blog or any service you provide using the website link panel when you comment.  I have absolutely no problem with that!

Comment du Jour: Libel, DNA and binge drinking

OUT-LAW reported yesterday: Government may shield websites from libel claims with ‘single publication’ rule

The Government could scrap a part of defamation law that makes newspapers liable many times for material in a single article. The Government may prevent people suing every time a web page ‘publishes’ an article.Defamation law currently states that someone has the right to sue every time defamatory material is published. This means that publishers could be liable many times over for the online publication of an article if a court agrees that the mere delivery of a web page to a reader counts as publication.

Part of the law on defamation originates from the 1840s, long before the internet arrived and changed the way that opinions and comment are often communicated,” said a statement from the Ministry of Justice, which has launched a consultation on the proposal.

Existing defamation law needs to be updated so it is fit for the modern age, and it is important we listen to views on the best way to achieve this,” said Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

The problem with the present law is that each ‘hit’ on a page containing defamatory material is a ‘publication’ and may give rise to a separate cause of action with its own limitation period. The internet, as you know, stores everything placed onto it – and there are applications allowing one to go back in time and see what was written many years ago when the net first started – even if the original material has been removed from the website or server.  It may still be out there on an archived page.    The government proposal to limit action to the first publication – time running from the date of publication seems, to me, to be entirely sensible – particularly as the original publisher may have no control over subsequent publication in blogs, websites, forums, and archive applications.


The Independent reports: Killer finally unmasked after 30 years

DNA evidence solves mystery of who killed Teresa De Simone – and shows an innocent man could have been freed 10 years earlier

No legal system is perfect but this case highlights the frailty of the system and, possibly, the blinkered approach of those responsible for detecting and prosecuting crime. The case involved a  murder which took place in 1979 and saw an innocent man jailed for 27 years was finally solved yesterday when police announced that the real killer was a 17-year-old boy who confessed to the crime in the 1980s, but committed suicide after officers refused to believe him.

Perhaps we should hold those responsible, including the prosecuting lawyers to account personally for such miscarriages of justice?  it would certainly focus the prosecuting lawyer’s minds and those of police officers.

Carry on Bingedrinking … for your country!  OFFICIAL

I am pleased to be able to report, after reading a Times article,  that binge drinkers, especially those with less disposable income, will be able to continue with their weekly Friday night hobby.  Lord Mandelson has backed down from a proposal to ‘deal with binge drinkers’ by putting the prices up because it may impact on the economy of Britain and, indeed, the entire Western world.  We rely on our binge drinkers to keep the economy and the tax coffers ticking over.  Binge drinkers, far from being penalised with ever rising prices,  should be given grants and, possibly, even the odd MBE – for those who lead from the front.

Today… I speak to you from beyond the grave….

With all these rather good people dying of late – I refer to Keith Floyd, of course, not Whacko Jacko… I thought I would write an obituary…. my own… or at least part of it… I may keep it updated as I pass through what remains of my life.    Those of us in the age group 50-65 are, of course, on the ‘at risk of death’ register.  It genuinely doesn’t bother me… because I won’t know I’m dead.

Anyway… back to the matter in hand…

Today I speak to you from a very different place.  It’s OK… a bit hot I grant you, but there is a well stocked bar and I can light my cigarettes from a nearby flame.  I’ve only got one criticism… they only sell Marlboro full strength down here…. but as the guy who checked me in said, with a wry smile… “What the hell”.

Not surprisingly, the place is crawling with lawyers, SEOs and marketers… no law bloggers yet… but that… can only be a matter of time… and I have always been a patient man.  The trip across the Styx was brief… the new guy pulls a better oar than I ever did, despite all that Smokedo I did…. which, ultimately, did me in….

I didn’t tell you when I was alive… but I rather overdid the Smokedo weight training and one day… with nearly 150lbs above my head, I felt my triceps go… the weights landed on my head…. and while I carried on for a while, producing podcasts and updating the magazine each day, you may have noticed… but I started writing about law, analysing cases and generally behaving in an altogether too sensible way on my blog….  but there we are… man who is born of woman and all that… has but a short time to drink… and my number came up on the bingo…. my call sign was “Legless Eleven”… and that was it… into a shroud…. onto the boat, silver coin to the new ferryman,  and after a quick induction, I got my room key, a very fine towelling dressing gown, and off to the sauna for a rub down and some Rioja…. yes…. not bad so far…

I’ll keep you posted.

Comment du jour: Gold diggers and vandals

It occurred to me the other day that I am supposed to be a law blogger and, therefore, I should write about the law.  This seemed such a self evident proposition; providing opportunity to ‘wind up’ the serious  bloggers on specialist legal topics and provide a voxpop view of law all in one…

So.. from today, until I get bored with this, or until I am hounded in my Staterooms by law bloggers carrying flaming torches… I shall comment on the laws of England & Wales with my ‘Comment du jour’

Gold diggers

Let me say at once that I have absolutely no interest in –  nor knowledge of  – Family Law.  I have an ASBO which prevents me from going within 200 yards of a Church, register office or other place where matrimony is dealt.  My eye, however,  was caught by an article in The Times yesterday.

Baroness Deech, academic, pundit and maven on Family law,   is calling for an end to the idea that women deserve half of their husbands’ wealth on divorce. Lady Deech says: “The notion that a wife should get half of the joint assets of a couple after even a short, childless marriage has crept up on us without any parliamentary legislation to this effect.” Judges are ignoring the statutory direction to try to achieve a “clean break” between divorcing couples.

It was at this point in the article by Frances Gibb, legal editor of The Times,  that I could feel my life draining away and my ignorance of family law surfacing like a U-boat that has had quite enough of depth charges being hurled at it by men in camel coloured dufflecoats.

I confess to being totally baffled by a law which allows a woman like Heather McCartneyMills to walk away with a great deal of loot after a very short marriage but, at the same time, I  do understand that many women end up in loveless marriages, twenty odd years down the line – the kids departed – to find their husband in front of the mirror preening himself, dressed in  three quarter length cut off trousers and a surfing shirt, believing himself…implausibly often…  to be 25 again and saying that he is running off with a German bird he met in Magaluf or Ibiza.

The difficulty, as I see it, is consistency.  Can we have one law for gold diggers and one law for others? Perhaps Family lawyers reading this would be kind enough to illuminate my darkness on this?

I understand that a high class hooker in Mayfair will charge £1000 to ‘accompany one to dinner’. Even if one were particularly greedy and wanted to eat 100 dinners with such a beauty in a year, this would only cost £100,000 plus dinner (and may even be tax deductible if consultancy arrangements are in place?) Over three years this would amount to £300,000 – rather less than having to fork out many millions to an airhead that one fancied when the magic bus arrived with her on board three years before.  (The magic bus, for those unfamiliar with the term is a curious phenomenon that afflicts many who drink.  They drink a fair bit, go to the lavatory and return to the table in the pub or restaurant to find that the magic bus has arrived and there is a beautiful woman sitting at the table ….or the entire room is suddenly filled with beautiful women.  I understand that women can be also be affected by the magic bus phenomenon.)

Have a I got a lot of sympathy for blokes who end up forking out millions to gold diggers?  Not really.

And on to Vandals….

The BBC reports…. A graffiti vandal responsible for hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage across London stands to make a four figure sum by selling his work.

Daniel Halpin was given an ASBO and jailed for spraying his TOX tag on trains and walls for nine years. Now he is selling 100 canvases, bearing his notorious mark, at £75 each. Although the law prohibits people from profiting by criminal acts, the BBC has learned he will be able to keep the cash because of a “glaring loophole”.

Well… there we are… only 7.30 am… and there is a bit of law on my blog.  Breakfast awaits…. back tomorrow with another Comment du Jour?

14th September: Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Sea

Dear Reader,

Cracking one off the top is not a subject I would usually bring up, let alone write about on my blog – but it would appear that the Frenchies lead the world at this (I can’t say that I am surprised) and Le ‘Owner Operateur’ is alive and well on the streets of Paris.  I do not write about this from personal experience – but I was reading an excellent article online in The Telegraph ‘Paris: pervert capital of the world’ where Emily Rose wrote amusingly about her recent experiences on the streets of Paris. It is amusing and worth a read…

She writes…

…. a middle-aged man standing by the open-air public pissoires, is having a quick one off the wrist. .….. In the space of a few weeks, I have been propositioned by at least a dozen men. As I wait to cross the road, at Saint Michel, a man old enough to be my grandfather leans over towards me and whispers seductively in my ear: “Jolies fesses” (nice bum).

and later in the piece…

A respectable looking middle-aged man wearing a suit unzips himself right in front of us and pulls it out. Several similar episodes later, I start to think that maybe this is the norm here in Paris. Or is it me? Do I attract “les vieux cochons”?

Excellent nonsense…. I am pleased, however, that the Frenchies lead the world at this…. but many of us Anglais (As the Frenchies call everyone in the UK, it would appear)  are barking when it comes to matters of sex….. and the picture from Amazon above illustrates this.  Apparently it is possible to hire a flasher outfit?  Amazing.  The trouble is… you can be sure that people do hire it en Angleterre.

My weekly postcard is a bit late this week. I went to London on Saturday to do a bit of business, meet a friend and then meet up with more friends, including @Oedipus_lex and @Bureauista. The trouble with Chelsea and sitting outside a cafe on the Worlds End end of the King’s Road  is that if someone wanders by and spots me or Johnny Biltong (who I was drinking with) they tend to stop, have a drink and then stay until the wheels fall off. Sometimes people we don’t even know do this.  Having missed my train, I went back to Battersea with  Johnny Biltong.  More wine was produced and an allnighter followed.  It was, however, high class and tax deductible bollocks – plans were formulated.  Coffees at a cafe in Chelsea, then breakfast sorted the problem but I will admit that by the time I got back to Staterooms-on-Sea I was beginning to fade.

So brevity is the key this week… I shall be posting about other matters later… possibly

Best

Charon

Insite Law FREE legal resource project: Constitutional Law

Insite law FREE resource project: Constitutional law

Carl Gardner, ex-government lawyer for 10 years, author of the Head of Legal blog is the author of our new free resource (text, lectures, case analyses) on Constitutional Law. The project is being built from scratch and Chapter 1 – Introduction is now up.

All the books in the series will appear over the next few weeks – some being produced in weekly instlaments

Legal Comment 11 September

The President of the new Supreme Court, Lord Phillips, has called for the retirement age of the senior judiciary to be raised from 70 to 75. Lord Phillips, appointed under old rules, may sit until he is 75. The Times reports: “The Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act 1993, which took effect in 1995, brought in a compulsory retirement age for judges of 70 and is now starting to bite for judges appointed since.”

The Times notes… “Mr Straw has made no formal response but privately has indicated he does not favour a change in the rules.”

I agree with Lord Phillips.  The suggestion is both sensible and practical.  Lord Phillips noted that it takes quite a long time to climb the judicial ladder.  Given that many barristers and solicitors have families later in life than perhaps was the case in earlier times, we are losing talent for the judiciary simply because some senior and  experienced lawyers cannot afford to take judicial appointments in their late forties and early fifties. If men and women holding high judicial office feel able to and are competent to continue in office we should take advantage of experience.  It would not, I suspect, be difficult to provide for formal tenure rules until 70, as now, with a yearly informal review  by senior judges of those who wish to continue.  I cannot imagine that a senior judge would wish to compromise his or her life’s work and reputation by continuing to sit when health or faculties began to fade and it seems, to my outsider eye, a waste of expertise and talent to lose senior judges simply because the age of 70 has been reached.

There may, of course, be objections from those further down the judicial ladder that they will lose out in the short term because vacancies would not come as expected if the present law is changed.

While we may be coming out of recession officially, it will take some time for this to impact on the legal profession. Allen & Overy have published a fascinating review: ‘Life after Lehman” where they consider a new culture of cautious deal making and risk analysis.  It is worth a read if you are working within the corporate-commercial or banking sector.

Pressure continue to mount on the legal profession. The Law Society Gazette reports this week… APIL walks out of fixed-fee talks.

In an unprecedented move for the organisation, APIL has withdrawn from talks on extending fixed costs for all ‘fast track’ cases. The Civil Justice Council (CJC) has begun a mediation process to produce industry-agreed fixed costs for road traffic accident, industrial disease, employer’s liability and public liability cases worth up to £25,0000. Fixed costs are already in place for road traffic cases worth up to £10,000. APIL opposes the extension

APIL said it had been forced to pull out of the talks because the CJC had ‘made it very clear that key principles affecting claimants and issues relating to the claims process are not for discussion in the mediation. The only subjects for discussion are the figures themselves’.

Which sector next?


Lawcast 154: With Jordan Furlong author of Law21.ca blog

Law21.ca

Lawcast 154: With Jordan Furlong author of Law21.ca blog

Today I am talking to Jordan Furlong a lawyer and legal journalist based in Ottawa, Canada – the author of Law21.ca a widely read and influential blog….. Jordan’s primary interest lies in law practice innovation, legal business trends, and the changing landscape of the legal profession.

Jordan is also Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Bar Association’s flagship magazine National , a position he has held for more than ten years.

We talk about the the Legal Services Act – change in the profession – hourly billing v value billing and changes in legal education in North America and Britain. The podcast runs for 40 minutes and is in three distinct parts.

Listen to the podcast

A round tuit…?

I’m delighted to get a round tuit to posting about A ROUND TUIT… Colin Samuels’ weekly focus on an issue that has caught his attention….

This week … scraping of content, non-consensual guest blogging or what some call…. nicking other people’s content.  It is a very good read… have a read.

PS… Colin Samuels and I do occasional ( we hope twice monthly) posts at a joint blog called Unsilent Partners where we look at a serious issue from the UK and US perspective.  I’m afraid the exigencies of August and a surprisingly busy period for me has meant that we haven’t had time to do much in recent weeks – but this will change.  In fact, on the 21st September we are hosting Blawg Review on ‘International Peace’ Day… whatever that is.

The Dragon’s Den isn’t on… so I shall just have to drink…

We have a name for LOBSTER….LOBZILLA… –  courtesy of @Sianz on twitter – an artist, indeed….. she did the drawing on the left. LOBZILLA… this seems quite appropriate.  I shall be going to The Law Society next week for a meeting.  Lobzilla will, of course, come with me – we hang out together.  I plan to take a pic of  Lobzilla outside the famous entrance in Chancery Lane.  Here he is listening to TOSCA – he was not at all keen on my listening to The Stones…  a rocker… he is not.

Well… with a start like this… I can’t really write anything about Law… gravitas is all for law… but I can tell you about a story I read on RollonFriday.com.

A receptionist at a leading US law firm is suing her former-employer after she claims she had no choice but to wet herself.

Rebecca Landrith manned the desk at Littler Mendelson, a leading employment law firm. According to the Washington Business Journal, she claims that there was no other receptionist and that the firm had no “consistent policy or procedure as to when or how Landrith could take a restroom break“. So, naturally enough, Landrith simply pissed herself. Twice.

I can also tell you that the ‘Recession is… officially… over’. Well… that is what the papers are saying today. Hopefully they are right…. we shall see. I prefer the rather more sanguine analysis of  Bill Quango MP at Capitalists@Work – a must read if you are even vaguely interested in the City, financials, banking, the economy, our future!

As the Dragon’s Den is not on television tonight… and I’m not OUT..  I shall have to see what is in the cupboard wine wise…. I may be back… laters, as a lot of people say down here in the Medway towns….

Do you need CPD hours?….

Need CPD?….

Insite Law Magazine has negotiated an attractive CPD offer for our readers with the people from CPD Channel, providers of online CPD courses for lawyers.

The offer is straight forward: buy one point at £25-00 and get one point completely free.  This offer is exclusive to Insite readers and you must please insert the ACCESS CODE:

insite0909

when first registering on their system – look out for the ACCESS CODE box at the foot of the registration page. Follow this link to CPD Channel and sign up at the top right. So to recap – buy one point and get the second for free. If you need more points, simply top up on their system, but remember, it’s only the one point that’s free.

Supreme Court designed on back of a fag packet?!

There is a wonderful story in the Telegraph today where Lord Neuberger is reported as having declined to go to the new Supreme Court (and became Master of The Rolls instead) and stated:

To change… the Law Lords into the Supreme Court as a result of what appears to have been a last-minute decision over a glass of whisky seems to me to verge on the frivolous.

The danger is you muck around with a constitution at your peril, because you don’t know what the consequences of any change will be.”

and further on… The Telegraph notes:

It has been alleged that this was all thought up on the back of a fag packet,” Lord Turnbull told the programme. ”This is entirely wrong.

I interviewed Lord Falconer in a podcast fairly recently where he stated his views on the new Supreme Court clearly and effectively.  You may like to listen if you haven’t already.  I also spoke to Jenny Rowe, the CEO of The Supreme Court for part of my series of podcasts with the College of Law (Goes out on Monday 28th September).

I am in favour of the new Supreme Court, partly to enhance the separation of the judiciary from the executive in form and function,  and partly because I feel that our jurisprudence may well develop a more robust independence from the needs of the ruling political party. Lord Neuberger’s appointment as Master of The Rolls is also very welcome – his expertise, his ability is well known and I  have heard nothing but positive comment from practitioner and academic alike for his appointment as Master of The Rolls.

We shall have to see if Lord Neuberger is right, of course,  as to ‘unintended consequences’ – but I am persuaded, having heard Lord Bingham, a former Chief Justice and senior Law lord, express the view that the judges of earlier times may well have danced too closely to political whim, that the establishment of the new Supreme Court will be beneficial both in terms of the development of our law and in terms of the planned openness through television, special press briefings, a new website, outreach projects, education projects for schools and universities and very real access for the public to view proceedings  – which I learned about from the CEO, Jenny Rowe when I spoke to her.  Jenny Rowe is well worth listening to when the podcast is aired by The College of Law on Monday 28th September.

College of Law podcasts

The College of Law has asked me to present a series of 10 Podcasts on current legal issues which while aimed at prospective members of the profession will be of interest to qualified lawyers and non-lawyers who are interested in law. 10 programmes have now been recorded and the dates of release are set out below.

Episode 1: Des Hudson, Chief Executive of The Law Society

Monday 21st September: Professor Richard Susskind OBE – Professor Richard Susskind paints a fascinating and vivid picture of the way the legal profession is likely to develop, based on his research and his best-selling book The End of Lawyers? This is a must listen to for all lawyers, prospective, newly qualified and experienced.

Monday 28th September: Jenny Rowe – Jenny Rowe, the CEO of the new Supreme Court gives a behind the scenes view of the new Supreme Court, (which opens on Thursday 1st October), the budget for running the court and the new technologies, events, publication of judgments with commentaries being employed to make the court more accessible to the public.

Monday 5th October: Lyn Johansen – Lyn Johansen, graduate recruitment partner at Clifford Chance, talks about the qualities need by prospective applicants to Clifford Chance (which are applicable to most City firms), the application process and the training given to young lawyers. She also discusses the Clifford Chance Pro Bono programme which is a major feature of the Clifford Chance ethos.

Monday 12th October: Sir Nigel Knowles – Sir Nigel Knowles, CEO of DLA piper explains how his firm went from being two small regional firms in Sheffield and Leeds to become the world’s largest law firm by revenue in a matter of 15-20 years. He talks about what DLA piper are looking for in terms of recruiting young lawyers, emphasising that they have a very flexible approach and promote diversity and in particular are more than happy to give wild cards a chance. He talks enthusiastically about the College of Law and Sutton Trust Pathway to Law programme which DLA Piper supports and explains why DLA Piper chose the College of Law as their preferred provider.

Monday 19th October: Tom Kilroy – Tom Kilroy, Executive Vice President,  General Counsel and Company Secretary of Misys plc, gives a fascinating insight into the work and role of General or in-house counsel stressing the differences between general practice and in-house legal work and stresses that anyone who wishes to become a General Counsel should get experience with a firm first and be hot on financials and business! News angle: Something about the new In-House PSC route?

Monday 26th October: Simon Myerson QC – Simon Myerson considers the OLPAS form, the pupillage process, how best to prepare for pupillage interviews and the likely legal landscape for those who wish to join the Bar. He is generally optimistic about the future and his advice is that it is a good career, if you are good.

Monday 2nd November: Amy Wilson –   Amy Wilson talks about her motivation for going into the law, the demands of the GDL and LPC courses which she did at the College of Law and her experience of the interview process and work at Farrer & Co.

Monday 9th November: Frances Nicholson – Frances Nicholson, recruitment and training manager at Halliwells,  talks about women in the profession, considers whether the so-called ‘glass ceiling’ still exists and gives her view on the demands and practical issues likely to be faced by young women going into law.

Monday 16th November: Stephen Mayson – Professor Stephen Mayson considers the future of the legal profession and the legal landscape following the opportunities for alternate business structures and the opportunities for young lawyers coming into the profession over the next few years.

A new horror… a flesh eating bug… necrotising fasciitis

I just happened to log on to Yahoo Mail – yet another email account I thought I needed but rarely use…. and to my horror I found a new disease that I may have to get…. NECROTISING FASCIITIS.

The Daily Mail Horror Supplement had the story:

Flesh-eating superbug killed father in just four hours as coroner warns of ‘new horror’

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:41 AM on 07th September 2009

The Daily Maul Reporter noted, possibly eating chopped liver with a few fava beans and drinking a Chianti at the time…
“The disease, which is becoming more common, is an infection which sweeps through the body, internally and externally, so quickly that it can actually be seen spreading…..
and then later came the disappointing news, making the Daily Maul headline even more ludicrous….

Despite being known as a ‘flesh-eating’ bug, the bacteria do not actually eat the tissue. They cause the destruction of skin and muscle by releasing toxins.


I checked my watch about six hours after reading this story, noted that my body was less battered after the rigours of yesterday,  and knew that I did not have necrotising fasciitis.
I then had a video chat with my friend and fellow blogger Natasha Phillips ,of The Divorce Manual,  also known as @Sobk13 on Twitter. She had been called me ‘Lord of the Nick Nacks’ on Twitter after my telling her that I had been re-united with my nick nacks etc etc.  It was fun using Skype video – far better than using a mobile and hanging out of a window or standing on the balcony to get reception.  We talked of many things as usual… but then she started looking around her living room, all pictured on camera.  I asked if she had visitors or was hearing ‘voices’ (I didn’t… I made that up)… it was a May Fly buzzing her. Natasha is a kind person.  She tries to trap flies and let them out.  I use spray, although I did see a rather good garden  flamethrower when I was in B&Q some time ago….
I did, of course, this being a law blog… reflect on whether there would be any opportunities for lawyers with necrotising fasciitis (not lawyers with necrotising fasciitis… but opportunities for lawyers in necrotising fasciitis situations)… given that swine flu has been such a disappointment from a litigation and law business point of view.

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Sea : 7th September 09

Having found the Medway to my taste,  I have taken an  apartment in Chatham overlooking the old Naval dockyards pro tem.

For a year I have been farting about, first on a boat near Battersea Bridge and then, peripatic, travelling light as they say… a blogger and his rucksack and a laptop – all one really needs, in fact, to have a most enjoyable year.

So… two Polish guys turned up in a Luton van and decanted some of my furniture from store, bringing it up three flights of stairs while I assisted materially, by explaining where they could put it.  I work on the principle that no lawyer would let a client help with the legal work, so why should I help with the art of removals?… so I didn’t.

I did  feel rather guilty when the two guys staggered in with a concrete Easter Island head weighing over 250lbs.  My 25kg dumbells will give you some idea of scale!

I had quite forgotten that I still had it – I thought I had given it away.  John watched mildly boggled eyed as Chinese furniture, a French settle from 1803 (which he described as hideous), a three foot balsa wood toucan, Venetian carnival masks, thirty odd paintings, various sculptures, netsuke, Chinese ivory pieces from the 16th Century  and weird lamps arrived… he needed a cup of tea when my plastic lobster arrived (of which more later)  and I could almost see him reaching for the brandy when I unsheathed my Samurai sword or katana,  – a sword I used to use when I was into kendo and karate many years ago.  When I say ‘used to use’ ….I  used it for demonstrations, not combat – for that we used bamboo swords – shinai or bokutō, wooden swords  to practice kata, which could still inflict a bit of damage despite the body armour….. I also used it  at dinner parties, occasionally, especially if I had been out buying pineapples – which I was partial to.  My then wife would raise her eyes to the heavens when I pulled it out when the pudding arrived, asked a mate to chuck it (a pineapple, not the pudding, into the air)  and I then sliced the pineapple in two… well…that was the theory.  Sometimes, perhaps because I was pissed, the blade didn’t hit the pineapple clean and I would wipe bits of pineapple off the dining room wall with the sang froid of the officer at the Charge of The Light Brigade who had his leg blown off by a cannon ball but remained seated on his horse.

It is good to have my Roman General prints and, of course, the Stephen’s Lion lamp back to cast light upon the keyboard as I write.  Solicitors will recognise the design of the lamp.  It is the Stephen’s Lion – the same design which adorns the railings at The Law Society in Chancery Lane. The keen eyed will have spotted this week’s edition of The Law Society Gazette to the right of my table…. A wine glass would normally be on the right hand side of the Vaio… but it is a bit early on a Monday afternoon to be hitting the juice.  It will be there, be sure, this night.

Here are a few more pics of where I work and write nonsense….

The iMac, one of several Mac computers is used for film editing and I used to use it for podcasts. The Mac Towers are still in storage, as is a lifesize fake palm tree which would have been perfect for the balcony where I do my Smokedo overlooking the old naval dockyward basins.

Well… there we are… The Staterooms as I used to call my strange apartments in Bloomsbury and Chsiwick… now it is Staterooms-on-Sea…

So… what of other things that have been amusing me or attracted my attention?

US criminal defense lawyer has been rooting out eveil having foound himself inadvertantly ‘guest blogging’ on another US lawyer’s blog.

Mark writes a very good blog Defending People … in fact it won the ABA Journal

Those Who Can, Blog . . .

I don’t know why, but I would have expected someone who, like Melina Benninghoff, reads this blog to have the good sense not to steal posts.

Benninghoff has, apparently, been ripping off quite a few blog posts from well respected US bloggers and making it appear that they are guesting on her blog or writing for her… or someone is!

Frankly, I am appalled by this – it is a form of highway robbery and when done by a lawyer blogger it is pretty piss poor.  I’m afraid I couldn’t resist commenting in response to one of the commenters on Mark’s blog post – who said she was from The Law Commission, appeared not to be able to write English and seems to think that The Law Commission is a regulator.  I suspect, of course, that it was someone taking the piss… you can read what I wrote by way of comment on Mark’s blog post, should you have time on your hands.  Do, however, try and take a look at what Mark is saying about this... and the later post about Benninghoff’s response (or someone called Wayne from her office).

And finally… Babybarista hits the big time in lawyer reviewer terms.

Walter Olsen of Overlawyered (who I had a good time doing a podcast with recently) has this….

Here’s something we’ve never tried at Overlawyered: a full-length, original book review by an outside contributor. Blogger David Giacalone, whose now-inactive EthicalEsq. (later f/k/a) is fondly remembered and has often been linked in this space, has kindly offered to let us publish his newly written review of BabyBarista and the Art of War

It is a good review…. so thumbs up for Babybarista from a respected writer and commentator in the States.

Best, as ever

Charon

PS… forgot the lobster….

When I was in publishing I used to have a hunt the Lobster competition – the first ten to find the latest pic of the lobster within the magazine could have a free pdf book or a Q&A pack. It was quite popular.  Unfortunately, it all got out of hand and I started taking the lobster to play snooker with me – photograph of lobster playing snooker, photograph of the lobster on my Honda Fireblade motorcycle, photograph of lobster perusing the Times in a bar with me… etc etc… and then the doctors came to see me.

The LOBSTER is back!

BPP…. The “McDonalds” of law schools? Surely not?

Well… I was sitting outside, having exhausted all the possibilities of self amusement with my Samsung Jet mobile smartarse phone, when I saw a tweet about Apollo buying BPP Law School. BPP Law School is always of interest to me given my past – and I reached for my glass of Rioja with a wry smile when I read an article in the  Independent Minds section of The Independent

American owner of McDonald’s of higher education gets foothold in UK market

BPP PLC  is no longer.  BPP, and with it BPP Law School, has been bought by the Americans… not just any old American, you understand, but by the owners of The University of Phoenix.

The significance of the takeover is that Apollo owns the University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit university in the USA with more than 400,000 students and ambitious plans to expand globally. Phoenix has been spooking American and British universities for years because it educates its students, who are working adults taking vocational courses, relatively cheaply. It packs them in and makes a great deal of money, which is why it is known as the McDonald’s of the university world.

Let me explain my current thinking on this… for what it is worth:

1. BPP Holdings PLC built up a world class brand through shrewd investment, making good hires and by applying well established financial and business ideals to their education business. The quality was world class – subject to the minor gremlins and glitches that every world class organisation suffers and subject, inevitably, to the charge that they were only in it for the money.  BPP Law School in recent years has raised its fees to become the most expensive provider of LPC and Bar education in the country and the law school contributed markedly, I would imagine, to the pacy share price of £6.20 on sale.

2.  Degree awarding powers of BPP Law School

I would imagine that Apollo were fascinated by BPP Law School – not just for the high profit margins but by an even bigger prize – the right to award degrees.  The right of BPP Law School to award degrees is not, I understand, limited to law degrees.  BPP Law School has the same right as any British university enjoys –  to award degrees in any subject. This latter point may prove to be the main reason Apollo was interested in acquiring BPP PLC.  We shall see, in time.

Before I make further comment I would like to put the issue of transparency in legal education back on the agenda.

3. Transparency in legal education

Peter Crisp, the  chief executive of BPP Law School, was invited by me to release the report from the Quality Assurance Agency which led to their being awarded degree awarding powers.  BPP is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.  Peter Crisp declined to do so, citing the restriction that the document was given to BPP in confidence. See my blog post: A tale of two tribes: Transparency in legal education where I pointed out to Peter Crisp that the QAA allowed organisations to release reports if they choose to do so.  Peter Crisp, on behalf of BPP Law School, is perfectly entitled to refuse to release the report but there is no bar to his doing so because of QAA or any other confidentiality provisions.

By contrast – Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law, when I put the same request to him about releasing the report on the College of Law which led to their being given degree awarding powers was more than happy to let me see it it.  I understand that he may even have plans to make it widely available at some time in the not too distant future.

I believe, with the high fees being charged to students, that students should be entitled to see objective assessments on the law schools they are interested in attending.  I believe that BPP should release this report given their standing in legal education and the power and influence they wield and will wield when Apollo moves things up a gear or two as they surely must and will.

The universities publish reports, The Law Society publishes reports on LPC providers.  The Bar Standards Board does not, as yet, publish assessment reports on providers of the BTPC (BVC as was) What I believe, however, is immaterial – it is what prospective students, prospective parents or sponsors who are footing the bill believe that is more important. I would be interested in hearing the views of LLB, GDL, LPC and Bar  students et al on this issue.  feel free to comment in the comments section below.

4. What will Apollo / BPP Law School do now?

I spoke to the QAA and they confirmed that it is not BPP Holdings PLC, the then parent company of BPP Law School, which has degree awarding powers – it is BPP Law School/BPP College of professional Studies.  Therefore all degrees which Apollo may wish to run courses and award degrees for will have to go through the BPP Law School/BPP College of Professional Studies  part of the operation and, presumably, be identified as such? This may not prove to be an issue, save for branding because, presumably, Apollo will not be able to use any vehicle other than the vehicle with degree powers to award the degrees?

Lucy Hodges in the Independent Minds article writes:

The parent company, Apollo, has an annual revenue of around £1.9bn and has already expanded into Mexico, the Netherlands and Germany. Now it is set to make its mark in Britain. Observers expect it to use its acquisition of BPP to set up business education courses in addition to the legal training already provided, as well as establish a significant British and pan-European platform, and expand advanced degrees and cross-border educational opportunities via online learning.

I would imagine that Apollo, given their track record in the United States and their ethos and business mores, will wish to leverage their acquisition and build – offering business degrees and, possibly,  try to penetrate a wider subject market in time. It would be baffling if they did not.

At present BPP and The College of Law have major penetration into the GDL, LPC and Bar course market, followed in price, sometimes fairly closely, by public sector providers.  The difficulty for both BPP and The College of Law in the degree market is one of being able to compete on price.  Public universities are capped, for the present at £3500 tuition fees per annum.  If this cap is removed under a Conservative government following the election next year – the scene could be very different.  Universities will, inevitably,  put their fees up and then they enter the waters inhabited by very big fish indeed – fish with a lot of expertise, experience and MONEY behind them.  It would not be an absurd forecast to suggest that Apollo / BPP may undercut the universities – The College of Law also, and if that happens then some UK university law schools could be in real trouble – because they won’t be able to compete in quality of teaching, resources and marketing with the big fish. Game, set and match?

Well…  as Lucy Hodges reported…

Professor Mike Thorne, an expert on distance learning and the vice-chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University, who has been watching the growth of for-profit universities over the past decade, does not believe British universities have much to fear, however. He says that Apollo, despite its might, has found it difficult to establish itself seriously outside the United States.

I am always interested in the views of experts, mavens and prognosticators – often because they can be spectacularly wrong.  I do not consider myself an expert, despite my background in legal education for 30 years and the founder of what is now a very large fish.   I think Professor Thorne could be wrong and I tend to side with Nigel Savage, CEO of The College of Law, who states…

…that the takeover of BPP will have implications that will be felt far beyond law schools. …Universities have got a lot to learn from the private sector,” he says. “I would not be surprised to see an organisation like Apollo or [other private providers, such as] Kaplan or Pearson actually acquiring an English university.”

Neither BPP Law School nor The College of Law are going to sit around talking about the future – they are going to shape it.

Their growth – and I have seen this at first hand – over the last ten years has been phenomenal – and the quality of both is world class.  The same cannot, sadly, be said of some university law schools. The culture of the private and quasi-private sector (The College of Law runs to corporate business theory and practice tolerances) is different from the Universities as far as I can see.  It would not surprise me at all if less well known law schools, which must already be suffering from lower recruitment because of the credit-crunch recession, find the struggle just too much and close.  I made myself unpopular years ago by suggesting that we might be advised to close some of the lesser known law schools down and put the money into the better and better known law schools.  My learned friends in academe just laughed  or hissed.  I may be proven right in the long term – not that it would give me any pleasure at all.

As ever, I am interested in your views, comments and thoughts.  Please feel free to comment (anonymity permitted) in the comments section below.

***

Of course… Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall has no relevance today…. Teacher…leave those kids alone… but it was a great song… have a look at the video.

***
UPDATE

9th September 2009

I missed this… The College of Law’s news section makes it clear that Nigel Savage is prepared to publish the QAA Report on The College of Law degree awarding power (15th July 2009)

4th September: News up on Insite Law

The new Supeme Court website
Have a look. It is rather good and will be an important hub for information when the Supreme Court starts sitting in October.

The silly season is coming to an end and  people are getting back to the grindstone.  Insite Law, which has been active throughout the holiday (I never close), will be doing daily editorial and more detailed analysis of events from next week.  The FREE book resource project appears to be on track and is already being used by substantial numbers – students and practitioners.

Here is an absurd story about absurd British art.  I’m with the teenager on this one….

Teenage artist arrested for stealing pencils from Damien Hirst

Telegraph: Last year Cartrain was ordered by the Design and Artists Copyright Society to hand over collages based on Hirst’s famous diamond-encrusted skull, For the Love of God , and pay the £200 in profits he made.

In an act of revenge, Cartrain visited Hirst’s installation Pharmacy in July, which was being shown as part of Tate Britain’s Classified exhibition until it closed last month, and removed a few of the rare “Faber Castell dated 1990 Mongol 482 Series” pencils.

The enterprising teenager then mocked up a POLICE  WANTED poster offering to return the pencils if his artworks were returned.  But Plod decided this was the biggest art theft in recent times – valuing the  pencils at £500,00 because the whole absurd installation was worth £10 million.

I really don’t think people have their priorities right sometimes… Hirst is an amusing artist.  He is also a very, very, rich man.  I can think of better things for the Police to do. I suspect quite a few police officers will take a similar view – especially those who have to deal with yobs every Friday and Saturday night in our town centres – a rather unpleasant and dangerous activity for the police.

A rather ridiculous case – but there again, some art is rather ridiculous. The coppers said the pencils were worth £500,000 – what utter bollocks and a waste of public money in police time.

I am thinking about doing an “Installation” – a pile of dung  and call it “Dung doing real art – a pile of shit for our times” 2009 Crap on canvas, Charon QC:  pissartist in residence in his Medway years.

The trouble is… if Hirst did the same thing and signed it – some prat would come out of a gated residence in Mayfair and buy the f*****ig thing for absurd amounts of money! – or, possibly, do the modern thing and buy it online to avoid having to mix with normal people. Hey… and why not.  .

Podcasts for the College of Law

Podcasts for the College of Law

During August I recorded a series of podcasts for The College of Law – and a most enjoyable way to spend a bit of time during August it was.  Their facilities at the Multi-Media Unit really are excellent and the team extremely organised – radio sound booth, television studio, and kit which enthusiasts like me can only marvel at!

I’ll give you a quick preview… of a few of the people I talked with…. the full list will go up as soon as The College of Law publishes it on its website….

They are in the same style I use for my Charon QC podcasts – save that I recorded them in the College of Law’s state of the art recording facilities so the sound quality is very much better than I can achieve using skype and a PC! I didn’t wear a dinner jacket – but I have to say everything was very organised and smooth.  All I had to do was do the research and talk to our guests. Why are BBC interviewers paid so much?!

I talked to some fascinating people – Simon Myerson QC about pupillage, Professor Stephen Mayson about the likely impact of the Legal Services Act, Tom Kilroy, General Counsel Misys PLC,  about the role of General Counsel and a career as an in-house lawyer, Sir Nigel Knowles, CEO of the world’s largest law firm, DLA Piper,  about his views on the future and how DLA Piper differs from the magic circle firms, and Professor Richard Susskind gave a fascinating insight into his views about the future of the legal profession set out in his latest book The End of Lawyers?.

I thoroughly enjoyed talking, also, to the CEO of the new Supreme Court, Jenny Rowe. There are more – we anticipate about 13 –  in the initial series and The College of Law plans to start putting these out shortly. I’ll provide links, of course, when they start to appear on The College of Law website.

We want none of your dodgy ex MPs in the Lords, thank you very much

I was shocked to read this headline in the The Daily Telegraph today (which I just happened to have found on the train) …

MPs with questionable expenses claims may be barred from Lords

There I was, sitting on the train in the full vermin in ermine kit, as Keith Richard described members of our illustrious upper house,   minding my own business, hoping someone would send me an email on my new Samsung Jet, and I just had to investigate further….

Apparently Lord Jay has got his letter writing set out again and has written to the leaders of the main political parties who are preparing to flood the Lords with retiring punkah wallahs who have either managed to serve in the House of Commons without being booted out, are ‘standing down to spend more time in their second homes or those that are likely to get booted out at the next election when the electorate wields the sword of truth and justice.

The Telegraph continued… “As many as 50 Labour MPs are said to have indicated to party bosses that they would like to be considered for a peerage, while 30 Tories, most of them senior with long service records in the Commons, are also said to be planning to stand down before the election, a number following public furore over their expenses.”

Inevitably, my mind went back to much earlier times in our history when various venal barons raced North, East, West and South in the biggest land grab in British history to secure ‘lands’ for themselves and the heirs after putting the boot into Harold… or, more accurately, an arrow into his eye.  While I appreciate that Lord Archer has done a bit of jail time and Lord Conrad Black is doing jail time,  and a couple of entrepreneurial lords have been suspended – I am fully in favour of men and women who selflessly built themselves moats and duck islands, worked themselves to near exhaustion furnishing second homes and shopping at John Lewis… and who served their country without thought of rewardbeing given the supreme accolade of being elevated to the highest rank in the land to join Lord SugarPuff and his fellow peers.
I only regret having to give mine back when the “Cash for Honours” scandal blew up… unfortunately before I even had a chance to make the longest maiden speech in the history of the House of Lords… I had been down to the fancy dress shop and bought the kit.  This is why I wear it at every opportunity – on trains, trips to Sainsbury, even to bars in Soho…. I always get a seat… the kit does the business.

I believe that Lord Jay’s attempts to keep this band of brothers and sisters, this happy few,  out of the Lords could be discriminatory, and possibly even, a breach of their human rights.  I am preparing class action papers as I drink……

Times: Law firms enjoy vintage year despite dip in profits

Times: Law firms enjoy vintage year despite dip in profits

You have to laugh…. wonderfully post-creditcrunch ironic….

The Times reports: Britain’s biggest law firms suffered a dip in profits for the first time in a decade last year but still enjoyed one of their best years, earning more than £4 billion.

It has left City lawyers with an awkward dilemma: how to explain their embarrassingly high profits to clients who are struggling to survive the recession.

These figures are almost a source of embarrassment for many UK law firms,” Jim Baxter, editor of Legal Business, said