The lives we are now leading….

 

All a bit embarrassing that the Libyan School of Economics took the money….. but hey…. still time to fund other more peaceful organisations?

Bit busy on a project… back later…..

And… just as you thought it was Assange to go back into the water…… Julian Assange is, allegedly, reputedly and, possibly – indubitably…trade marking *Assange*… at least…. according to this report in The Register….

And… David Allen Green has a very good post in the New Statesman on why Assange lost last week… it is worth reading…

 

We discussed the judgment in our first “Without Prejudice” podcast if you haven’t heard it David Allen Green, Carl Gardner and Joanne Cash discuss the verdict  in robust terms.

 

And… Twitter does throw up some wonderful nonsense….. this from my fellow tweeter… @Wibblenut… who, like me, keeps unusual hours.

 

And…these…

anne_f_ Anne Fay…asks….
@Charonqc Will I be allowed to assange if he gets his trademark? Am making no claims that I *want* to, it’s a theoretical question.
BillfromBendigo Bill from Bendigo
@Charonqc What about the legendary egg and bacon Assange!
@chuzzlit Alison Charlton…responded by saying….
@Charonqc I Assange you in the name of the law.
Meanwhile…as our Tory-led Coalition government wonder if they should hire ships and planes from Weapons R US…… I do think they may need to  re-consider the resources  (Harriers / aircraft carriers etc)  available to this country for his plans to go to war in North Africa….. but..hey… what do we know….?
Watched BBC Newsnight…..
AND… I love the fact that twitter is truly international… this> ……..
GADDAFIDUST…
And… of course….no sooner do I do this tweet……  the talent on the net has got the picture before me and everyone else   (via @Wibblenut)….. this  from those lovely people at b3ta.com.

The Royals – Lex2011 Tweet Up – Over supply of LPC students – Lawman swings

The White rabbit has excelled himself this last week with this….

Sort of Rabbit Review – The Royals

High-flying married lawyer joins sleazy £40-a-head swingers’ party

Scotland’s Daily Record reports: “ONE of Scotland’s top criminal lawyers was caught in a mansion’s sex dungeon during a Sunday Mail probe into sordid swingers’ parties. The married lawman, who often appears in the High Court, took part in a £40-a-head bash where strangers, couples and transvestites had tawdry sex…..”

The report continued to provide sufficient salacious detail, without revealing the identity of the ‘lawman’ – because of privacy laws – to satisfy readers; but what I particularly enjoyed was this piece….“An eyewitness said: “It was depraved – only a handful of women were in the house and it was full of blokes.”

An eye witness…? Good grief…whatever next.  Hat Tip to fellow tweeter @loveandgarbage for drawing my attention to this important legal development in social meedja.

Study to examine oversupply of LPC graduates

The Law Society Gazette has the story: Following on from recent coverage on the over supply of Bar students…. the SRA is coming under pressure from The Legal Services Board to look into the issue.  There may be an issue of Competition Law? I understand that competition law issues have been raised before in aptitude tests and other ideas for restricting entry.

Blawg Review #300

The Battle for Blawg Review of the Year. A very thorough review of all the Blawg Reviews of 201o.

Lex 2011 + The #Lex2011Tweetup

Brian Inkster and others have organised a tweet up for those on twitter and other lawyers who wish to attend…

Where: All Bar One, 58 Kingsway, Holborn, London, WC2 B6DX |When: Wednesday 16 March 2011 from 6.30pm onwards |Who: Legals who tweet (Twegals): Anyone who is interested in or associated with the law and who tweets. You don’t need to be attending Lex 2011 to come to the #Lex2011Tweetup.

I hope to attend. It will be a pleasure to meet fellow bloggers and tweeters.

Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: Kafka edition

Dear Reader,

“The Trial (German: Der Process) is a novel by Franz Kafka, first published in 1925. One of Kafka’s best-known works, it tells the story of a man arrested and prosecuted by a remote, inaccessible authority, with the nature of his crime never revealed either to him or the reader.”

Demand open justice for Julian Assange

Mark Stephens, in The Guardian: Our high court should refuse extradition when the trial in prospect is likely to be unfair – as it is in this case

Mark Stephen, Assange’s lawyer in the UK, writes…”Julian Assange will, according to the judge’s finding of fact, be held in prison in solitary confinement when he is returned to Sweden and will then be interrogated, held without bail and later subjected to a secret trial on accusations that have been bruited around the world, not least by this newspaper. He has a complete answer to these charges, which he considers false and baseless. Even if acquitted, however, the mud will stick and, if convicted, the public will never be able to able to assess whether justice has miscarried. This country, which has given to the world the most basic principles of a fair trial – that justice must be seen to be done – denies that basic liberty for those that are extradited to Sweden. How come our courts abandon our cherished principles in deference to European systems and prosecutors?……..

I interviewed Mark Stephens in a podcast before Christmas.  In our first “Without Prejudice” podcast David Allen Green, Carl Gardner and Joanne Cash  reviewed the decision of District Judge Riddle handed down on Thursday.

There is, of course, another side to Mark Stephens which I enjoyed reading about in the Financial Times.  He is allergic to bees – but he has lots of them in his garden.

Meanwhile in modern Britain…..

Phone-hacking libel claim contested by Metropolitan police

The Guardian: Scotland Yard applies to strike out lawsuit by solicitor representing victims of phone hacking

Scotland Yard is to contest a lawsuit that could establish the true number of victims in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal.

Mark Lewis, a solicitor who has acted for people suing the newspaper, contends that a senior figure in the Metropolitan police, Detective Sergeant Mark Maberly, told him in 2008 that as many as 6,000 phones may have been hacked.

We are certainly living in strange times….. and I cannot help but wonder, given that there appears to be an even greater need now for lawyers and judges to keep a close eye on what government does in our name, whether those who complain about The Human Rights Act, complain about the ECHR, the interventions of third parties in Europe, may have a preference for allowing their view of the rule of law to prevail without the inconvenience of independent and objective analysis and critique.  I cannot resist the line from The House of Cards by Michael Dobbs….“You may think that….I could not possibly comment’.

I shall leave it there for today…and return to happier things later in the day

Best, as always

Charon

#Without Prejudice – The Law Podcast 1: Assange, EAW, British Bill of Rights, Oversupply of lawyers and Silk

We covered a great deal of ground in this first episode of this round the table podcast: Assange verdict on extradition, European Arrest Warrants – The British Bill of Rights and the ECHR – The oversupply of lawyers …and we even had time to consider Garrow’s Law and Silk the BBC tv dramas on law and lawyers.

We can tweak the sound next time…..

Listen to the podcast (Running time 1 hour)


NOW AVAILABLE on iTunes (Free)

***

I’d like to thank Lawtel, WestlawCassons For Counsel, City University Law School David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Inksters SolicitorsIken, LBC Wise Counsel, Carrs Solicitors,  JMW Solicitors – Manchester, Pannone and Cellmark for sponsoring the podcast  – and the free student materials on Insite Law – appreciated.

Muttley Dastardly LLP (Episode 17): Dr Erasmus Strangelove reveals… his plan for domination of the legal market.

Can you imagine a situation where there are so many lawyers qualifying  each year through the law schools that we have an endless supply of ‘enthusiastic and able’ young freelance lawyers clamouring not to get into the profession – there is is no room at the Inn or in the big City firms – but to join  our new paralegal division, branded under a quite different and non-attributable name.

Can you imagine a situation where the rates we charge are so low, through volume and efficiency, that we can drive down costs in the profession and then disseminate information through the trade and related press and subtle advertising on the GoCompare model that prices in the traditional profession are, shall we say, ‘pacy’?.  And, what if we were to set up our specialist division of solicitor-advocates; perhaps even luring a few renegade silks to front it?  It would not be that difficult to build a ‘Stable’ (they call barristers chambers ‘stables’ in Scotland, I understand) of say 1000 solicitor-advocates, specialist in a very wide range of legal disciplines, and undercut the market.  We could take on The Bar, and we could take on some of these enthusiastic and able young people who can’t get work in the traditional profession and we could grow to perhaps 10,000 solicitor-advocates in a few years and take over the entire legal profession’s representation in the courts of this country.  In time, some of our Partners will be judges…who knows…perhaps, one day, even Supreme Court justices……”

Dr Erasmus Strangelove, Partner and Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops, Muttley Dastardly LLP,  speaking at a recent meeting of The Partners.

Truth is often stranger than fiction… because, curiously enough…… the rise in power of the paralegals was being discussed by former Bar chair, Nicholas Green QC,  and the idea of solicitors taking on the Bar by setting up solicitor-advocates on the chambers model was being mooted by Guy Berenger QC, a solicitor and a former senior partner at Allen & Overy,  only last Saturday…as reported in an excellent article in the Law Society Gazette.

***

With thanks to the following for sponsoring the free materials for students on Insite Law magazine: Inksters Solicitors, Cellmark, OnlineWill.co.uk, BPP University College, David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Wildy & Sons, Camps Solicitors accident claims

Just Go Direct

Suffered an accident at work? Contact us
for free expert compensation advice.

Law Review: The Legal Brick Road – Nice Picture, Horrible Odds – The Age of ‘NO bar to The Bar’ has arrived!

Justgodirect are doing a series of interviews with lawyers and bloggers on their The Legal Brick Road section of the website. First up is Tim Kevan, barrister and author of Babybarista.  I am pleased to report that Dr Erasmus Strangelove of Muttley Dastardly LLP has been invited to respond and do an interview.

Read Tim’s interview

An excellent article by Professor Richard Moorhead of Cardiff Law School:

Nice Pictures, Horrible Odds

It is interesting for a number of reasons including the much talked about gap between pupillages and BPTC graduates. The slides show that gap has been creeping slowly up, with the gap widening dramatically about three years ago, before closing somewhat. This makes me wonder why the controversy is particularly acute now, but that’s not to deny it’s not a significant problem. It clearly is and the overall trend seems to be continuing upwards.

A useful read for anyone contemplating a career at the Bar.

And, while we are talking about The Bar…. The Pupillage Blog has an interesting story about The Bar’s latest initiative on access to a career in the legal profession.

The age of ‘No Bar to the Bar’ has arrived!

The Bar Council has launched a new website today called ‘No bar to the Bar‘, which is designed to provide career information for all those who aspire to became practicing barristers.  The website also seeks to actively promote social mobility within the profession, which is supported with online videos that provide students from both school and university a greater intuitive understanding of the workings of the Bar.

The website has been made with the co-operation of Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple and Middle Temple and is driven by the proposals of Lord Neuberger, who produced 57 recommendations for the promotion of social mobility at the Bar…..

Bahrain Grand Prix to go ahead….

Pic from twitter!

Legal Profession Lawcast (1): The Naked Lawyer on the future of the legal profession

Welcome to the first in a series of 20 podcasts on the legal profession in 2011. I’m going to look at the changing legal landscape in the light of the impact of The Legal Services Act and current trading conditions through the eyes of practitioners at the bar and from law firms large and small , commentators and regulators.

Today I am talking to The Naked Lawyer or, to be more accurate, Chrissie Lightfoot, a non-practising solicitor and  author of The Naked Lawyer…… a great woman to do business with” –  according to Jules Wyman., recently voted Britain’s top woman coach and  owner of Positive Belief.

To give you a flavour of The Naked Lawyer… a few quotes from the many reviews Chrissie has received….

“…the Karma Sutra of client care.”
Paul Brennan. Commercial Lawyer. Australia.
“…it’s practical, funny, inspirational and down-to-earth…”
Steve Kuncewicz. Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Lawyer. UK.
“…simply a MUST read for the student who is considering a career in the law… to the senior partner who is trying to run a business in 2010 and beyond.”
Jim Diamond. Costs Lawyer. UK.

Chrissie Lightfoot’s  Entrepreneur Lawyer website

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST

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My thanks to BPP Law School / BPP University College for sponsoring this series of podcasts

Law Review: Law in Action BBC Radio 4 on Assange/EAWs/Tweeting from court – excellent.

If you have not listened – I can recommend this week’s Law in Action episode with Joshua Rozenberg. Wikileaks / Assange case – European Arrest warrant – The view of a US spokeswoman on extraditing Assange – Tweeting from court.  BBC Radio 4

Restorative Justice, Policing and the Big Society

I’ve also waded through this speech by Nick Herbert MP, Minister for Policing & Justice. Wading is the ‘operative word’.     Oh dear!   I shall do some thinking on this….that is not to suggest, of course, that Mr Herbert hasn’t…. he’s done enough to at least allow the speech parts of the human brain to kick in and  enable him to make a speech on these matters.  I wonder what professional criminal lawyers and other professionals in this field of ‘criminal justice’  will make of this? I found it rather thin and, to be frank, a bit of a waffle.

A taster….from Mr Herbert’s speech…….

The Big Society

This is about taking justice out of the narrow confines of the courts and putting it into the community. That is why I think the notion of the Big Society is so relevant and so important here.

This is a week where the Big Society has been talked about a lot, but I am passionate in the belief that the Big Society is a truly big idea. It is a big idea because it is an answer to the problems of the broken society, and it is those problems that have of course caused the high crime that we heard about.

Read….

Prime Minister Cameron reassures Egyptians that he is not in Cairo to wreck their health service

David Cameron faces criticism for ‘arms trade’ trip to Middle East

Metro: David Cameron is facing criticism for going on a trade mission to the Middle East with six arms manufacturers.

My Tweet of the Week… so far… has to go to US lawyer Brian Tannebaum and fellow tweeter… He writes a good Blawg Review as well….

 

And then US criminal defense lawyer  and blogger Mark W Bennett came up with this sardonic tweet….

 

 

Followed by…this RT on Twitter from Canadian lawyer and blogger Antonin Pribetic…

RT @mirriam71: RT @avinunu: The last leader to order such barbaric air attacks killing civilians in Libya was Ronald Reagan.

Law Blog Review: Diversity, Cricket, The future of blogging and lawyers…and more…..

Time for a quick look at some of the law blogs…

Simon Myerson QC, writing in his Pupillage and How to Get it blog considers Diversity…

Counsel Magazine has an interesting article by Andrew Neish QC, dealing with the lack of diversity at the so called ‘magic-circle’ sets. I’d like to link to it but Lexis-Nexis thinks I should pay to do so and, as I get my paper copy anyway, I won’t. If  you or your institution has an account then this is the link to the click-on.

The proposal is not one I like – to choose additional random candidates for interview. It strikes me that this is not so much diversity as tokenism. But at least the problem is being looked at, which is better than ignoring it, and an email address is provided for comments and contributions. However a more focussed, more interesting and more thoughtful examination of the same issue is Lawminx’s letter to a pupillage committee. Minx’s idiosyncratic style isn’t to everyone’s taste, but the Bar ought to read decent points made by non-traditional students. We might learn something.

Read…..

I considered this issue en passant yesterday in my weekly PostcardThe Legal Services Board has announced a proposal to quiz lawyers on whether their parents went to university in an attempt to monitor the level of social mobility across the profession.  I remain unconvinced as to whether this proposal is anything other than intrusive and, possibly,  patronising.  But I am, of course, happy to be convinced that it is a good idea.

“Building a growing army of enemies”

Neil Rose provides an excellent write up of the Inner Temple legal Education Conference…

Nigel Savage
Though not present at the seminar, the name of the College of Law’s chief executive was frequently bandied around, and not usually in a complimentary way. It is fair to say that the noble Savage has become something of an Aunt Sally.

Why is this? Perhaps it is continued talk of the size of his salary – an issue raised on Friday by Advocacy Training Council chairman Charles Haddon-Cave QC – or just his bluff, uncompromising style.

The College has gone from strength to strength under his leadership, but its aggressive expansion in various directions means the cost has arguably been diminution of the College’s reputation among some lawyers.

I’ve known Nigel Savage for over twenty years.  He is direct and to the point – but I have no hesitation in saying (even though he was a competitor when I was running BPP Law School in the early 1990s) that The College of Law was a bit of a ‘basket case’ before he took over:  They lost the support of the Magic Circle firms in the LPC stakes (I know this – I did the report for the Magic Circle firms on the LPC review at the end of the 90s which led to a few changes) and I believe, whatever Savage’s salary, that he has been instrumental in bringing good people in and building up the College of Law’s reputation and range of courses.  We have a horrible tendency in this country to build people up and then knock them down.  I won’t be part of that thinking. I don’t always agree with Savage’s ideas.  I am more than happy to be critical of his views  when the need arises  – This is what debate is about –  but we need a few rough diamonds and people who think out of the box and who do not toe the line. Savage does not toe the line.

The good news is that Charles Haddon-Cave QC is…”… fabulously good on his feet…” (Chambers UK 2008 Directory)..and…“has the Midas touch; he has almost a supernatural ability to win cases.”(Chambers UK 2007 Directory). I rather suspect that pot and kettle on the matter of remuneration or ‘compensation’ (as we now call earnings) is not an unfair comment to make in the context of comments about Mr Savage’s ‘compensation’ ?

Ben Wheway of Legal Week reviews last week’s Future of Legal Blogging conference at 1 Crown Office Row – an event which I had to miss, sadly, because of injury: Blogging – can it help your legal career?

Nearly Legal on No admittance :

Sharon Horie v the United Kingdom – 31845/10 [2011] ECHR 289. Back at the end of 2009 we reported the Supreme Court case of Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs v Meier and another, which upheld the use of a quia timet injunction – a prospective possession order – against a group of new travellers, preventing them from occupying any land owned by the Forestry Commission in the area. Sharon Horie, one of the new travellers, applied to the European Court of Human Rights. This is the decision on the admissibility of the application.

For those of you in the intellectual property world, IPKat needs no introduction, but the team’s More Monday Miscellany is worth a read to keep you on the money.  “They thought it was a bicycle — but it was just a great ruse for importing Bauhaus chairs across the Italy-Germany border” I liked the graphic.

And… a quick Happy Birthday to Law Actually – 4 yesterday!

Futurology is very much on the minds of many practitioners at the moment, given the times we live in and the impact of The Legal Services Act.  John Bolch of Family Lore asks… Is there a future for family lawyers?

The newspapers have been full of prisoner votes, ‘perverts’ (The Sun, Daily Mail et al)  being allowed to come off the sex offender register and now, to inflame the blazer wearers of middle England, the outrage of leading murderers and rapists using the ‘hated European Human Rights laws’ to get benefits while in prison.  Carl Gardner, author of The Head of Legal blog brings analysis to the fore with his question and blog post… Have lawyers really “cleared” the government to defy Strasbourg over prisoners’ votes?

I enjoyed Lallands Peat Worrier on... Judicial quotation of the week…

Eccentric litigants seem to have been keeping their futile but entertaining petitions from the doors of Scotland’s appeal courts of late. The dearth may now be lifting. Idly fumbling through the electronic annals of Parliament House, the humble case of Daniel Cox v. Procurator Fiscal, Aberdeen caught my eye. The details themselves are perfectly quotidian. Mr Cox was convicted of driving at 49 miles an hour in 30 mile per hour zone by the Aberdeen Justices of the Peace Court. He received three pips on his driving licence and was fined £250. Clearly not a fellow to pinch his nose and swallow his legal medicine, Cox appealed his conviction on the basis that old peculiar of Scottish evidentiary jurisprudence, the corroboration rule.

The Bizzle muses…. “There are days (and I’m sure that every in house lawyer has them) when it seems like nobody is listening to me. When my client nods politely as I advise on the problems with their project, and then goes off and does exactly what they were going to do anyway. Or, even worse, when people don’t want to hear my advice in the first place.  The Bizzle has a solution: Give ‘em the hard word; and other influencing strategies

I enjoy Test Cricket….. and so does Ashley Connick who has managed to find a way of combining his passion for cricket and law within one blog post: Contempt of Caught? How the ICC upheld the Rule of Law

GC Tom Kilroy, who has joined the blogging world, writes: “Imagine yourself back in the Spring of 2007. Everyone was feeling pleased with themselves. The problems with our system of capitalism had been solved. We’d outsmarted all the generations that preceded us, even the brainy ones who thought they understood the dismal science of Economics.”

Tom has a solution… Principles Based Regulation – let’s not do that again

PODCASTS!

Starting this week there are two series of podcasts which you may like to listen to. I am about to begin a series of 20+ podcasts looking closely at the legal profession in 2011 in the light of the credit crunch, The Legal Services Act and generally through the eyes of sole practitioners, managing partners, barristers, BIG LAW, The Magic Circle and, of course, the regulators. BPP Law School / BPP University College has kindly agreed to sponsor these podcasts to assist with the production and bandwidth costs.  I record the first tomorrow with The Naked Lawyer, Chrissie Lightfoot

And….

“Without Prejudice” – a new fortnightly lawblogpodcast starting this Thursday 24th February 2011

And… a little bit of Charles Fincher to finish…


Postcard from The Staterooms-on-Thames: US arms manufacturer Census of Britain edition

My quote of the week….without question... has to be from Ken Clarke, Secretary of State for Justice and  Lord Chancellor (unless Michael Howard replaces him).  The Guardian has the the story…

It would be startling if we had a British government which said we aren’t going to comply with legal judgments…..

“I used to be a practising lawyer myself, and trying to give legal advice to a litigant who doesn’t want to be told what the law is and wishes it was something else is always difficult..”

Ken Clarke was telling  fearless interviewer Andrew Marr this morning that he plans to look to reform the European Court of Human Rights when Britain takes the chair of The Council of Europe this year.  I read with horror in the Mail on Sunday (not a paper I ever read in the ‘flesh’ so to speak, but one I dip into occasionally online to see what the ravening horde are thinking, or being told what to think, in the early hours of Sunday morning) that there is talk of the former great reforming Home Secretary Michael Howard, now Lord Howard of Panopticon, taking over from Clarke as Lord Chancellor.

I thought one of the benefits of having a House of Lords is that we take dangerous politicians out of society, without having to tag them electronically, and keep them occupied with tom foolery in the unelected second chamber, the House of Lords?  The last thing we want, surely, having pensioned these buggers orf, is to see them rising from the grave when darkness descends to walk among us once again?

If such an appointment is made, I might be tempted to occupy Battersea Square single handed and call for the overthrow of ….well….something… I’ll think about it..and come back to you later on my thinking.  I would certainly be tempted to leave the country and meet some interesting bankers; which would be infinitely preferable to staying here to watch Lord Howard of Panopticon visiting old naval ship breaking yards to rescue aircraft carriers for use as prison hulks.

Boycott the UK census over links to Lockheed Martin, protesters say

Guardian: We’re ready to face £1,000 fine, declare anti-war protesters in row over role of US arms firm Lockheed Martin in data gathering

It may be old news, but I am genuinely astonished that the British government has handed a contract to a US arms manufacturer to carry out the Census.  Apart from the fact that we should, in these dark days, be giving our own tech companies these contracts, I do understand the concerns of those who may wish to boycott the census on conscientious grounds and also raise my eyebrows that the Office of National Statistics can so glibly state that the information collected will be safe and not fall into the hands of the US State Department which may, under the US Patriot Act,  compel all american companies to hand over ‘useful information’.

Does the government have a credible explanation for this?  Can the government be absolutely certain the information will be safe – after the fiasco of the loss of 25 million records by HM Revenue & Customs..and, indeed, other information going AWOL at the DVLA and the odd military laptop left in the back of a minicab?

RollonFriday.com notes…“The Legal Services Board has announced a proposal to quiz lawyers on whether their parents went to university in an attempt to monitor the level of social mobility across the profession.”

While I applaud all initiatives to promote wider access to the profession for those who wish to be lawyers, I can’t help but feel that this latest initiative from the Legal Services Board is not only intrusive, it is almost patronising.  I am quite sure they do not intend these effects, however.

In my well spent youth – the days when students were able to combine hard living with hard study fitted in around more important commitments and still be fully paid up members of the awkward squad – I was asked where my father went to school at an interview at a well known investment bank (when I was misguided enough to think soon after graduating that I might actually find  the idea of working in The City interesting).  The interviewer had been a huge fromage at the Monopolies Commission.  I told him, politely,  that it was none of his business; which, of course, it wasn’t.   He seemed a bit put out by this reply and asked if my ‘family had any connections in banking’. I was really irritated by this question. Two advantages of having had the good fortune to go to a good school and having enjoyed the social satire The Ruling Class with Peter O’Toole, was that I was not ‘awed’ even at that young age by anyone (The only advice I would ever pass on to a law student is – don’t ever be ‘awed’ by anyone!) and I had a reasonable command of language.  I told him that my father did not, as far as I was aware,  keep his money in a tin box or stash it under the mattress and that it was quite probable that he had connections in the banking world. The interview did not go well. I did then, and to this day do, have manners.  I thanked the panel for their time, said that I was withdrawing my application, and left.   Unfortunately, I still meet people of this attitude and type to this day…. but, equally fortunately, they are a dying breed.

I lost my taste for (and being part of) the ‘traditional establishment’,  instilled and drilled in at school,  while in Africa before I went to university.  University compounded this and I decided to plough a different furrow…but at least is was my own furrow. Now I am like one of those ranters in the street;  except I don’t do it in the street…  I have my  ‘blawg’.

AND FINALLY… on the theme of the dangers of privilege and ‘background’….

I am delighted to see – via The Mail on Sunday….

“David Cameron is to ban internships with top City firms being sold for thousands of pounds to wealthy Conservative supporters for their children after the practice was exposed by The Mail on Sunday.

This newspaper’s report last week about the ‘cash for internships’ auction at the Tories’ glittering Black and White Party attended by the Prime Minister and his wife Samantha left the Conservatives deeply embarrassed.

A senior Tory aide said: ‘You can rest assured that this kind of auction will not be part of next year’s event. It was badly misjudged.

The worrying thing, of course, is that ‘they’ thought it was a good enough idea to hold the party and auction in the first place and that Prime Minister Camerondirect saw this, presumably, as ‘Big Society’ in action and attended the event?!

Have a good week.

Best, as always

Charon

“Without Prejudice” – a new fortnightly lawblogpodcast starting this Thursday 24th February 2011

Welcome to Without Prejudice – the fortnightly law podcast which examines the law issues of our times.  Solicitor, New Statesman columnist, author of the Jack of Kent blog, David Allen Green and Carl Gardner, barrister,  ex government lawyer and author of the Head of Legal blog, are at the table. We will have guests… news, topical analysis and discussion…and wine…and I get to ask the questions.  We will record at 7.30 pm each alternate Thursday and publish late on Thursday evening ready for Friday and the weekend.  We start this coming week on the 24th.

This week..the Assange judgment is out on Thursday and will, inevitably, be one of our topics for discussion…

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There will be an RSS feed for these podcasts and we’ll get it into iTunes.

Muttley Dastardly LLP (Episode 16): Partners [Eyes Only] General Counsel taking an interest in how law firms manage their firms

MEMORANDUM – EYES ONLY

To:  The Partners

From: Dr Erasmus Strangelove, Partner and Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops

Gentlemen,

In keeping with our tradition and work best practice ethic,  I am assuming that you will all have been too busy to read the legal press this week. My earlier memorandum on competitor activity this week, not unduly alarming, revealed a few possibilities for proactive approaches.  There were, however, two articles in the legal press this week, one of which is so potentially dangerous in its thinking that it could threaten the very foundation of our great firm. I shall deal with this matter first.

1.  I refer you to an article by Legal Week editor Alex Novarese dated 18th February 2011: Mind your own business – should clients be telling law firms how to run their shop?

2.  Briefly: Mr Novarese is putting into the minds of general counsel some fairly dangerous and subversive thinking when he states: “A recent article on Legal Week about an adviser review at Deutsche Bank reminded me of a concept that has gained traction in recent years: the notion that clients should get actively involved in the business model and inner workings of their external counsel.” I have added italics to draw attention to the salient point of concern.

3.  Even in these dark days when general counsel are taking work away from firms in The City, I am advised that many still have time and the inclination to read The Lawyer and Legal Week and, I am advised, some have even taken to tweeting away on twitter – something which our Pysops unit (See: Operation Twitter Storm of October last) is particularly proud of on the premise that they may become addicted and, ergo, have less time to do valuable legal work themselves and pass it back to us.

4. Mr Novarese continues with a further subversive notion: “On one level, such a stance is taken as a sign that clients are finally taking a proactive approach to securing value from their advisers. And, to a point, there are good reasons to go down this road. For a client to insist on something as cosmetic as moving their work to fixed fees by implication will force changes to law firms because the industry’s infrastructure is so wedded to time-based billing.”

5.  We do not have any issues with our clients on hourly billing since we moved to our Platinum Value Bill service with 150% of our carefully judged ‘bunce’ being paid on account, but it is the first part of the paragraph which is of concern: It would be most awkward if clients started to investigate our workings to determine whether they were getting value.  The whole idea behind value billing is that we get value, not the client,  and for the editor of a respected legal weekly to put these ideas out into the public domain is, frankly,  (borrowing from the style of our revered leader, Prime Minister Camerondirect) ‘absolutely appalling’  and, almost certainly, a breach of our human rights.

6.  Mr Novarese continues his crusade to demystify the dark secrets of our glorious profession with this remarkable statement: “And it would be ludicrous to suggest that clients shouldn’t take any interest in how law firms run their business. You would want to know that your go-to adviser had rigorous systems to maintain quality and solid standards of ethical behaviour because major short-comings in this respect would probably impact on you as the client.” I really do not need to add comment to this.  Res ipsa loquitur. The man is absolutely right, of course, but being right doesn’t mean he should tell everyone? I shall agenda this for dissection at our next Partner’s meeting.

7. I turn now to an absolutely splendid article in The Lawyer from David Mandell, founder, Mandell Corporate: Opinion: Private clients may be profession’s new sugar daddies.

Unfortunately, The Lawyer, is also widely read in the profession and there is a danger that competitors will pick this up.  I extract and quote the most dangerous idea:

But after a recession more horrible than any other recent example, the dotcom bubble included, what is today’s big puzzle for our profession, ­specifically in relation to the positioning of private client work? For years lawyers have been weaned on a business vocabulary comprising ’core and non-core’, ’objectives and ­strategies’ and ’key performance indicators’. The mantra of grow or shrivel; merge or ­meander; or go small, niche and powerful is ingrained. Private client teams have become second cousins and non-core to the ­corporate focus, and shed.

I never fully understood that reasoning. Why send your firm’s best private clients to another firm when they get ’the Knock’ (or, more likely, divorce papers), which is exactly when you want you and your business to look after them.

Distress buying is where client relationships are formed (and broken). And it is not a revelation to say that the most durable client relationships are borne out of crisis purchases where there was no beauty parade or ­presentation- probably no more than a phone call and a recommendation to the client along the lines of, “See this lawyer – they won’t be cheap but they’re seriously good and will look after you”.

8.  We have, of course, formulated much of our growth on aggressive poaching and by doing our best to create distress to allow us into the distress buying market –  with some success, I add, mindful of my part in the bonus discussions – item 1 on the agenda for Sunday.

Gentlemen, we meet at 1.00 on Sunday to consider our bonuses and stratagems for the following week.

Dr Erasmus Strangelove

Strength & Profits

***

With thanks to the following for sponsoring the free materials for students on Insite Law magazine: Inksters Solicitors, Cellmark, OnlineWill.co.uk, BPP University College, David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Wildy & Sons, Camps Solicitors accident claims

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Rive Gauche: Dressing for SUCCESS in The Law…and #lawblog

As I rose this morning, recovering further from a nasty foot injury and the meds, news reached me from RollonFriday.com that College of Law staff in Chester are going on a makeover and learn how to ‘dress for success’.

RollonFriday with their customary (and pleasing) acerbic style note… “Staff at the College of Law’s outpost in Chester are to be beautified (“taken on a journey of discovery”) by House of Colour, which will be providing them with image consultations and make up lessons. The staff are to be given the Gok Wan treatment, which is all very charitable of the legal world’s favourite charity. Well, when you’ve paid £10,000 for your LPC, the very least you can expect is a fragrant tutor, right?….”

It occurred to me that I could usefully use up some of my time by going into the legal fashion business and my sketches above give an indication of my preliminary thinking on the matter.  I note the increasing tendency for men to turn up in suits without ties and, even, mon dieu, to team up a pair of faded jeans with a pinstripe suit jacket.  The legal profession is, on past form, unlikely to give up their stiff and formal fancy dress or pinstripes – so my thinking is…why fight it?  Let us, as a profession, celebrate diversity and colour…. which are ‘very of the moment’ in Bar Council and Law Society think tank rooms…

For corporate commercial lawyers, hinting at expertise in drafting, I have gone for the black coat and stockings look with a gold buckle on the shoes to hint subtly at considerable wealth.  You will note that our 21st century facing commercial lawyer eschews the iPad accessory for a hand made quill pen and parchment for added exclusivity and disbursements. Litigators tend to be the jack the lads of the legal world.  A red coat, tricorn hat – hinting at the triad of litigation: plaintiff, defendant and judge (noting the use of ‘plaintiff’) will give the modern litigator an edge and strike fear into the hearts of those new No Fee, No Win companies.  For partners, a  look being studied at Muttley Dastardly LLP by Dr Erasmus Strangelove, an understated elegant bit of haute couture.

For counsel…. I have really pushed the boat out with this very of the moment, very 21st Century Lady Gaga look… accessorized with a horsehair wig. I think it may catch on.

#LAWBLOG

I was not able to be on the panel at #lawblog last night and had to pull out, sadly, because of a nasty foot injury and the associated medications. I was disappointed.  It would have been a pleasure to meet all who attended.  I did enjoy the #lawblog tweets and, I understand, Adam Wagner of 1 Crown Office Row is planning to write it up and post a podcast recording.  It is good to see that blogging is alive and well.

See Adam’s post:

That was the future of legal blogging

Adam Wagner has followed up his earlier post with this….

A sense of doom is gripping the legal profession in the face of significant cuts to the justice system. Amongst other consequences, legal aid may soon be reformed almost out of existence, meaning that lawyers will face the double jeopardy of fewer clients and more nightmarish cases against litigants in person.

I was musing last night that I am not really a law blogger.  I blog about law, politics and anything that comes into my head, sober and over refreshed. I have no idea why I do… save that I do it for pleasure and hope that readers enjoy a mix.  I have decided that I may be (at times)  more of a hooligan law blogger.… I like to run onto the pitch and chuck the odd metaphorical bog roll at the profession or the crowd.  I may even take up streaking……

Law Review: What is the government’s agenda on human rights?

We have had the wisdom of Parliament in the form of 234 MPs voting against proposals to comply with the European Court of Human Rights judgment on prisoner votes. We have had a rather surprising intervention from the leading judge of that court, Jean-Paul Costa, stating that  Britain will be resorting to the tactics of the Greek colonels in 1967 if it does not comply with ECHR ruling and now we have Home Secretary Theresa May stating that the  Government is “appalled” by sex offender ruling.”   British politicians have now attacked the European Court of Human Rights and our own judiciary and, it would seem, they are going for the triple crown by setting up a Commission to look into the establishment of a British Bill of Rights.

Obiter J has a considered view on this matter which is worth reading and The UK Human Rights blog, also.

What is of interest to me in this post is the public perception being built up that we are at the mercy of ‘unelected judges’, European and home grown, and that somehow that these laws we signed up to are being foisted on us by dark forces elsewhere. This is not the case and it is worrying that public statements by politicians, all of whom should know better, are becoming increasingly ‘economical with the truth’ in the race to win hearts and minds of voters.

Obiter J makes the valid (and important) point: “Even allowing for political rhetoric, such an inaccurate statement about the role of the courts is disappointing.  There is no question that it is Parliament which makes the law.  Parliament has told the judges to apply the European Convention and Parliament has permitted judges to make a declaration that a legislative provision is incompatible with the Convention.  The judges have not granted themselves such powers and such powers do not exist in the English common law system.”

I have made the point before, a point well known to all lawyers and many non-lawyers, that Parliament is at the pinnacle of law making in this country and is supreme in the sense that it may legislate to come out of the European Convention and even the European Union itself if it so chooses.

In the meantime a degree of honesty in public statements and briefings to the press, and responsible and accurate reporting by the press, is not an unreasonable request to make given the importance of these issues.  We do have a right to be told the truth?

I hope regular readers will forgive me for repeating ‘the bleedin obvious’,  but it appears that some politicians don’t really know what they are talking about and if they do, they are misleading the public on the true position.  Unfortunately, I suspect, politicians are too busy briefing the press to let mere law get in the way, let alone finding time to read the many law blogs and articles written by experienced legal journalists out there which address these issues carefully. Here endeth…today’s rant.

British political populism risks conflict with Europe over human rights court

Dr Cian Murphy, King’s College London in The Guardian: Parliament is resurgent and a British bill of rights would be welcome, but ‘constitutional chauvinism’ will hurt Britain as well as the human rights convention

To defend the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998) it is necessary to counter the falsehoods and distortions of those who misrepresent it…

The New Law Journal reports: Geoffrey Bindman calls on the government to defend the Human Rights Act

To defend the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA 1998) it is necessary to counter the falsehoods and distortions of those who misrepresent it. Regrettably the prime minister himself is among those who have done so, as well as more predictable elements of the media, particularly the Daily Mail.

AND FINALLY…. this from The Daily Mail

Philip Davies, the Conservative MP for Shipley said: ‘After votes for prisoners, we now have the potential for human rights legislation to give sex offenders the opportunity to come off the sex offenders register.

‘Is the Prime Minister aware that my constituents are sick to the back teeth of the human rights of criminals and prisoners being put before the rights of law-abiding citizens in this country?

‘Is it not time that we scrapped the Human Rights Act and, if necessary, withdrew from the European convention on human rights?’ Spot on.

Cameron replied: ‘My hon. Friend speaks for many people in saying how completely offensive it is, once again, to have a ruling by a court that flies in the face of common sense. Requiring serious sexual offenders to sign the register for life, as they now do, has broad support across this House and across the country.

‘I am appalled by the Supreme Court ruling. We will take the minimum possible approach to this ruling and use the opportunity to close some loopholes in the sex offenders register.

‘I can also tell my hon. Friend that a commission will be established imminently to look at a British Bill of Rights, because it is about time we ensured that decisions are made in this Parliament rather than in the courts.’

Mon dieu…. whatever next?  – just let the Police sort everything out and not bother about courts?  Or… a bit more political grandstanding?

Law Review: UK Govt reponse on European Contract Law – British Bill of Rights – Britain a dictatorship?

It is not often, having taught Contract for 30 years, that I get the pleasure or opportunity of writing about Contract or noting an excellent blog post on Contract Law.
Hector L MacQueen, Eric Clive and Laura Macgregor, writing in European Private Law News have written an incisive critique …

The UK Ministry of Justice has published a disappointing response to the European Commission’s Green paper on European Contract Law. It is disappointing because it misdiagnoses the problem and favours options which would do nothing for British businesses or consumers.

The seven page, undated, paper has the title “UK Government response to a green paper from the European commission on policy options for progress towards a European contract law for consumers and business”. It can be found at
http://www.justice.gov.uk/consultations/docs/eu-contract-law-call-for-evidence-response.pdf.

The blog post is a good read for anyone involved in Contract Law

Legal Week’s blogroll – the five most-read and five tips to be the most read

Please excuse the fact that I am mentioned in this Legal Week piece – but I note it because I am pleased that the mainstream legal press continues to pick up on the work of bloggers (and Legal Week are asking for more bloggers to put posts up for their Village Week section).  We aren’t in competition with each other as bloggers and nor are we in competition with The Guardian, The Times, The Lawyer, Legal Week or The Law Society Gazette. So…. if you would like to read Ben Wheway’s article in Legal Weekhere it is. Ben has a few useful tips – 5 tips in fact! – which may help all bloggers attract attention to their posts.

Prisoner vote refusal against European court ruling ‘would be like dictatorship’

In a statement almost certain to inflame those who have had enough of Europe generally and the European Court of Human Rights in particular – Jean-Paul Costa says Britain will be resorting to the tactics of the Greek colonels in 1967 if it does not comply with ECHR ruling

But… there can be little doubt that the forces of British sovereignty in all things to do with Britain are banging the drums…

The president of the Strasbourg court spoke out as Downing Street sources said that David Cameron‘s hopes of limiting the powers of the ECHR will be postponed until after the general election in 2015.

The prime minister told MPs that a commission to examine the creation of a British Bill of Rights – promised in the coalition agreement – will be launched soon.

No 10 sources said the commission would be limited because there are “red lines” which cannot be crossed under the Tories’ coalition agreement with the pro-European Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dem red lines are not amending Britain’s human rights act and not pulling out of the ECHR.

Cameron will reach out to Tory eurosceptics by establishing a separate body that will draw up proposals on how to limit the powers of the court that will be included in the Conservative manifesto for the 2015 general election. “These issues are difficult in the coalition,” one Tory government source said. “It is not realistic to introduce these changes before 2015. It is quite a complicated area so we will draw up our own proposals that will be bulletproof.”

Muttley Dastardly LLP (Episode 15): Vultures in Togas and ‘the cattle of the courtroom’

MEMORANDUM

To: All Associates

From: Dr Erasmus Strangelove, Partner and Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops

RE: VULTURES IN TOGAS

Obiter, writing in  in The Law Society Gazette, refers to a speech by the Master of The Rolls, Lord Neuberger, where he considers, inter alia, the topic of why lawyers are so unpopular.

Lord Neuberger stated:

‘I don’t intend to try to discuss the correctness of that analysis or to answer that question… [but] whatever they have been getting wrong, lawyers have apparently been getting it wrong for quite some time.

‘Around the second century AD, Apulieus, having referred to lawyers as “cattle of the courtroom”, then expressed the view that they were no more than “vultures in togas”. While Ammianus Marcellinus, two centuries later, took the view that lawyers were “a greedy and debased lot, who conspired with judges to rob the people of justice”.’

1. Associates with Muttley Dastardly LLP, as you know from your own induction, are put through a series of ‘desensitisation exercises’ of my devising based on my ‘consultancy’ work for our more secretive cousins across the pond some years ago, to handle negative imaging and stereotyping. The result of this programming is that we feel no slight, angst, guilt or tension when faced with the chatter of the chatterati of Hampstead dinner parties or, in more recent times, the liberal twitterati.  We do not rise to the bait. We are trained to be impassive in the face of criticism of our profession and to respond with the principle based response  that it is not the lawyers who are bad, it is the clients. We, the lawyers, are merely the architects of the client’s desire.

2.  Recently, this firm, as with many others in The City, participated indirectly in trashing the entire global economy with our skillful drafting of new instruments of securitisation for our most favoured investment banking clients. In fact,  so skillful were we at this firm, and law firms in The City generally (it has to be said), in drafting instruments for ‘Toxic Debt’ et al,  that the bankers have taken the hit in the public mind and we have escaped free of legal liability, public opprobium and moral obloquy. We were merely ‘obeying orders’.

3.  In our highly successful new Drive-thru Divorce Lawyer division, a service delivered under our MegaladonLLPdontcompare.com online brand  – it is not we, the lawyers, who are the villains. It is those who choose to get married where one or both of the parties fail to sort out their affairs in a civilised manner. I seem to recall a case where the Court of Appeal expressed consternation that there was no money left for further appeals work or, indeed, left for the parties themselves, because such money as the parties had enjoyed in their marriage had been consumed by the legal process.

4. I need not labour the point.  The principle holds true for many spheres of human behaviour, fortunately. We know that it is the clients who are ‘cattle of the courtroom’.  We are, however, too discreet, professional and polite, to let on;  save in the exceptional circumstance where a client should ‘wilfully, negligently, recklessly or with malice aforethought’ (Clause 1782(a)(ii) of our Standard Terms & Conditions), fail to settle their bill promptly and in timely fashion.  This latter ‘difficulty’ is rare at Muttley Dastardly LLP, of course.  Our policy of taking at least 150% of estimated costs on account gives us the flexibility to ensure we are compensated for the work that we do and award ourselves a little bonus without all the fuss that bankers are getting in the national press at the present time.

I trust that you will take comfort from my memorandum should you find recidivism and liberal tendencies creeping back into your psyche after reading the always excellent Obiter in The Law Society Gazette on this matter.

Dr Erasmus Strangelove

Strength & Profits

***

With thanks to Inksters Solicitors, Cellmark, OnlineWill.co.uk, BPP University College, David Phillips & Partners Solicitors, Wildy & Sons, Camps Solicitors accident claims

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The Lib-Dematem Magna Carta is OUT!!! (It is NOT one of those Paper.Li dailies)

Having a bit of time on my hands, I am wading through the Great Reform Bill.  I shall comment in due course.  I rather liked this take on matters from Dr Cian Murphy of King’s College London – re-published in the UK Human Rights Blog… I quote….

It’s no Magna Carta. Those of us who teach public law in British universities will certainly  have to grapple with the Protection of Freedoms Bill. But will it, like the that earlier constitutional text, echo through the centuries into the classrooms of 2311? I doubt it. Although the Bill’s 107 sections will give Messrs Cameron and Clegg a long list of reforms to rattle off at party conferences it does little to coherently explain the coalition’s view of the appropriate relationship between the state and the citizen. The Government does not know what freedom is, but it knows freedom isn’t having your car immobilised without lawful authority (see section 54).

Protection of Freedoms Bill ‘disappointing’, says Law Society

The Law Society Gazette...thunders….

The new Protection of Freedoms Bill fails to live up to government promises and instead hints at a ‘growth of the surveillance society’, the Law Society has warned.

The Society said the legislation, which the coalition claims will scale back on Labour’s ‘intrusive’ policies, will take power away from the public.

Law Society president Linda Lee said that while attempts to reduce the apparent erosion of civil liberties are commendable, it does not tackle the way CCTV is regulated.

‘The Bill as a whole fails to measure up to the government’s grand rhetoric. Proposals for CCTV regulation are limited to local authorities and the police,’ she said.

Law Review: The legal profession is over regulated. Discuss

Jesus Chases the Merchants and Money Changers from the Temple, thus Cleansing the Temple

Painting: James Jacques Tissot (French painter and illustrator, 1836-1902)

Some would say that the legal profession is becoming over regulated. We have the Solicitors Regluation Authority, The Bar Standards Board, The Legal Services Board – the regulator of regulators – and The Legal Ombudsman. We also have, of course, courts of law in which to call lawyers to account and an army of professional negligence lawyers to do the business should doing the business need to be done. In this latter case, it has to be admitted, that only wealthier clients will be able to afford recourse to law.

Neil Rose of Legal Futures argues the question – “Do we actually need the Legal Services Board?” – given that two thirds of its work is now complete and the third part is likely to be complete within eight months.

Professor John Flood weighs in on the issue with this rather dry observation: “Of course as comes clear in Neil’s article is that the Law Society and by extension, the Bar Council, would love to see the LSB disappear. Why? The LSB is finally holding the legal profession to account, something which has been needed for many years. Moreover, the professional associations haven’t been able to regulate their own groups with any great success for the public or consumer interest.”

And… just to make sure the SRA and BSB roll their collective eyes…. John Flood administers the coup de foie gras“The legal profession has shown itself to be dangerously complacent at times. It is too important to permit that to occur so we need institutions whose task it is to rattle a few cages.”

From the perspective of a legal educator, I am all for the SRA and BSB spending part of their time keeping a close eye on the legal educators – and, I add with a degree of sardonic scepticism,….beef up their powers in relation to the regulation of educators?

The issue would make a fine examination question.  I shall sell the idea to my brother Professor R.D. Charon.  He is often short of inspiration when it comes to matters academic.

And finally… just an observation:

David Beckham’s $25m claim for libel and slander rejected by US judge

Ironic that The United States may need #libelreform to make it easier for celebrities to sue for libel while we in the UK need #libel reform to make it more difficult for them to sue.

As ever on this issue… David Allen Green (author of the Jack of Kent blog) is on the case with a piece in The New Statesman:

David Beckham and a lack of malice

AND FINALLY… a very good Blawg Review from US lawyer Brian Tannebaum – scourge of social meedja experts on twitter

Blaw Review #298

I quote from the opening to his very Valentine’s day Blawg Review – with some excellent asides and pics – and, of course, links to some good law blogging…

ADVANCE WARNING: To those social media marketers and shiny toy evangelists who check blawg review weekly to see if you are mentioned so you can promote it to death and make lawyers think you have some relevance to the profession, you are not here. There is no link love for you in this week’s Blawg Review. Nothing to promote you, nothing to retweet on twitter. No SEO juice for you to prop yourself up on Google. Try back next week when some other author may buy in to the charade. (Love and Kisses!)