Blawg Review #304 – A very good one

Blawg Review #304 – A very good one

 

You don’t need to be a US lawyer to enjoy this excellent Blawg Review

Six years ago today, on March 28, 2005, a major earthquake registering 8.7 on the Richter Scale occurred off the coast of Sumatra, in Indonesia.  It came little more than three months following the horrific 9.1 quake and tsunami of December 24, 2003, and stood as the second strongest quake of the new century until it was surpassed by the Chilean earthquake of February, 2010 (8.8) and,  of course, the 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11 of this year.  In the midst of the unimaginable devastation of the quake and tsunami, enormous attention has also been turned toward the damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and the resulting releases of radioactive material.

It is that nuclear element that provides our theme today for the 304th edition of Blawg Review, because March 28 is a date of some significance in relation of Our Friend, the Atom, and to both the military and civilian uses of the power of nuclear fission……..

Muttley Dastardly LLP (Episode) 19: Retention of staff and human capital maximisation

MEMORANDUM EYES ONLY

To:  The Partners

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

RE: Retention of staff and human capital maximisation

Gentlemen,

1. I am reviewing currently our human operational asset base for the purpose of refreshing the stock. This also ties in with an assessment of productivity of junior associate staff.  I was much taken by an article in the Law Society Gazette of 30th inst by Tessa Armstrong, a Careers and Performance Coach, amusingly titled: Junior solicitors create more value, and make firms happier places.

2. Ms Armstrong clearly has the right attitude. She writes: “Increasing profitability is currently a number one priority. Everyone is pulling out all the stops to bring in work – and junior solicitors are an important resource who can help too, if attention is paid to their performance and motivation.”

Ms Armstrong then goes for it with this wonderful sentiment:

Through improving the productivity of junior solicitors, firms can achieve some great things including:

  • Accelerated progression of junior solicitors through increased resilience.
  • Increased commitment from staff.
  • Increased profitability through reduced risk of poor performance.

All that’s needed is to ensure the challenges your junior solicitors face are identified and resolved straightaway.

3.  Losing just an hour a day of a solicitor’s time at only £150 per hour for four years costs approximately £135,000. This caught my eye.  Our charge out rate is, of course, rather more generous to us, but the idea of such a loss over the four years we aim to retain newly qualified staff for, before assessing how ‘sticky’ they are in our terms, is a matter of some concern.   Ms Armstrong rehearses issues of feedback to staff and comes up with a list of stratagems for success: The usual guff about making lists, doing the least attractive task first, turning off mobiles etc etc etc.  This advice  is counter to our Blackops on twitter where we are  encouraging as many of our competitors as possible to waste industrial amounts of billable time by tweeting and faffing around on Linked In;  let alone our encouragement and promotion of RollonFriday.com – a wonderful resource, where young lawyers can really be distracted and, in some cases, even lose their sanity.   Ms Armstrong does, however, show qualities worthy of Muttley Dastardly LLP where she states “The outcome should be that junior solicitors will be happy, motivated and focused, the number of chargeable hours recorded will increase, and profits will rise.”

4. Retention of staff:  We have 12 associates in PQE4 coming up for review. Unfortunately, all of them are showing promise, all are performing to targets – our stratagem of having a P45 blown up to poster size, framed, and placed in the PQE4 Bunker, seems to have had a subliminal effect in these ‘difficult days’.  I plan, therefore, with your blessing, to cull this down to 8; to allow us to bring fresh and less expensive blood in by using a device (pictured above) which I recall using at school as a child.  To ensure fairness I shall make four such devices, to accommodate the names of the twelve associates, and I shall pick, at random, passages from Lord  Denning’s judgment in Hightrees, and when I get to the end of the passage – using one word for each hand manipulation of the aforementioned device -  for each of the four ‘devices’,  the name on the left quartile shall be the one chosen for dispersal to the legal diaspora. To ensure that this process is even more random, I shall close my eyes when I pick the device up to start the process of selection.

5.  May I remind Partners that we meet this Friday to consider our policy on No Win No fee in the light of the shocking news yesterday.  In case you missed it, here is an article in The Guardian which explains all: The cost of clamping down on ‘no win, no fee’ legal arrangements

Dr Erasmus Strangelove
Partner and Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops, Muttley Dastardly LLP

Strength & Profits

***

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Law Review: The Right to Protest – Free Press – No Win No fee

The fall out from the demonstrations last Saturday continues. The Guardian reported on the extraordinary behaviour of the Police dealing with the UKUncut protesters at Fortnum & Mason.  It may well be that a charge of trespass will be upheld – Fortnum & Mason, it is reported, lost £80,000 in trade, but, so far, of the 149 charges brought against protesters, 139 charges  are from the Fortnum & Mason arrests and only 11 from those who committed assaults and acts of criminal damage outside and at other locations. MPs asked the Police for an explanation.

A lawyer at a leading civil liberties firm has expressed fears for the future of direct action protest after the mass arrest of UK Uncut activists during last Saturday’s anti-cuts demonstrations in London.

Matt Foot, a criminal defence solicitor at Birnberg Pierce, said the detention of 145 activists during an occupation of luxury food store Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly was “unprecedented”. He has questioned the police’s motivation.

The Guardian

It is clear from video footage that the police misled the Fortnum & Mason protesters by telling them they were free to leave and would not be ‘kettled’.  It may have been easier for the Police to arrest the protesters outside the ship, rather than inside, but I suspect this action will be a PR disaster for the police in terms of trust from those who protest peacefully?

Mr Raj Chada, a solicitor representing some of the protesters said: “The manner in which these arrests were carried out raises a number of serious questions. Is the act of conducting a peaceful sit-in protest now being treated as a criminal act? ….”

A fair point?

Independent press crucial to the administration of justice, says lord chief justice

Joshua Rozenberg, writing in The Guardian reports: An independent press is crucial to the administration of justice, the lord chief justice of England and Wales said during a lecture in Israel on Monday night. Lord Judge is known to be concerned at the risk of totalitarian governments being voted into power, a view reinforced by his visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of Nazi Germany.

“In a democratic society,” he said in an aside, “who knows what the will of the electorate may produce at any election?”

He added: “The independence of the judiciary and the independence of the media are both fundamental to the continued exercise – and, indeed, to the survival – of the liberties which we sometimes take for granted.”

I cannot imagine that many would disagree with this view.  It was interesting to read in The Sun this morning the continuing campaign of bile against lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Ken Clarke,.  The Sun has decided (along with The Daily Mail) that the war on drugs has to be won and is vilifying Clarke and The Sentencing Council for the soft approach being taken on sentencing drug dealers with ‘modest’ amounts of drugs;  preferring to concentrate on the producers and big dealers.

This prompted Matthew Norman in The Independent to ask if the right wing tabloids are running the country and if ministers will run scared – as they have often done in the past of offending the interests and wishes of the right wing press.

The primary issue here is one of political courage, or rather, its absence under fire. Any politician who dares to stand against the tabloids quickly undares

AND.. I am delighted to give a plug to this conference at the request of fellow twitter user @SundeepBhatia2, who is a pleasure to tweet with.

Minority Lawyers Conference & Awards 2011 “Diversity – Embracing change”

Details of the conference

The cost of clamping down on ‘no win, no fee’ legal arrangements

Neil Rose writes in The Guardian: Reform of the litigation system could see claimants lose significant portions of their awards and solicitors reluctant to take on complex cases

Ken Clarke’s announcement on Tuesday that the government is to reform the costs of civil litigation has been portrayed as a crackdown on lawyers’ fees. That always makes a pleasing headline but the reality is that the justice secretary wants the public to do it for him.

The main problem identified by the government and Lord Justice Jackson – the appeal court judge whose report underlies these proposals – is that the current “no win, no fee” system of conditional fee agreements (CFAs) means the client has no interest in how much their lawyer charges, because they will never have to pay any of it.

By making the lawyer’s success fee payable by the client rather than the losing defendant, that will clearly change, and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) expects competition to drive down prices.
***
I thought it not inappropriate, given the above, to thank one of my sponsors – who helps pay for all the free materials for students,  provided on my online magazine Insite Law – Thanks to Accident Advice Helpline

Nonsense du Jour: I have no problem with… “principled thought-through political ‘violence’..” @PennyRed !

Like many, I am delighted that I live in a country which permits freedom of speech, protest and dissent. I don’t, like most, care for the mindless violence (or, indeed, any form of violence on the part of protestors or the state) as a means of persuasion to a view.

Today I had the misfortune to read on my twitter timeline some very curious views by @PennyRed – Laurie Penny – who writes for The New Statesman, a magazine I enjoy reading.

The tweets I read – most recent at top – from @PennyRed are here…


I was surprised to read the third tweet above on my timeline and sent a tweet addressed to @PennyRed (She does not follow me – but she would have seen my tweet in her *mentions*?)  Although, to be scrupulously fair…many celebrity tweeters don’t respond to questions put to them and only read their *mentions* for self aggrandisement and  twitteronanism (to see how well they are doing on twitter.)

I did think, however, that  a serious statement by Laurie Penny  and my not unreasonable question merited a reply. I didn’t get one. By the way… the ‘thought through political ‘violence’ was probably in relation to another deleted tweet from Laurie Penny about how the suffragettes used ‘violence’ to achieve their aims.   I can’t say… I have no idea what she meant by principled thought through political ‘violence’...which is why I asked her to answer what I  thought was a perfectly reasonable question.  As it happens, I am fairly sure she saw my series of tweets ( honest and reasonable belief!)…given her open replies on twitter – some of which have been deleted!.

This was my question:

Then this nonsense turned up on twitter….. (I replied):

And then this……

We are living in very difficult times.  A lot of people will lose their livelihoods. A lot of people will suffer.  I am not rehearsing here the faults of our politicians – and they are legion on this issue.  A lot of people protested peacefully on Saturday.  The so called ‘ordinary people’…whatever that means in SKYBBC speak.  They did not trash Trafalgar Square.  They did not occupy Fortnum & Mason and smear the front of the building with absurd slogans.  Many took their children with them. They wanted to protest peacefully.  Instead of being able to listen to reasoned protest by listening to radio or watching TV reports from the main peaceful protest, we were treated to endless coverage of mindless buffoons trashing parts of London.  The BBC and Sky really did not need to overdo that?

@PennyRed – Writes for a respected magazine – The New Statesman.  She  describes herself as a journalist. Objectivity and fairness are what we reasonably expect from journalists – a bit of bias and perspective is acceptable.  We understand this.  I do not expect to read nonsense about *Violence* on twitter from a ‘respected journalist’.  There are plenty of people on twitter talking wonderful bollocks if I want to read what they say.  The difference with @PennyRed?  She gets onto national TV.  She gets to write on a  leading political journal.

It is simply not good enough for @PennyRed to respond to many who were being criticial of her now deleted tweets (above) on twitter by saying that she was ‘confusing people’ and will get back to the issue when she has had more sleep.  I write in terse terms because I happen to believe that peaceful protest is a right and that violent protest is a crime.  I take that view because I want to live in a civilised country where reasoned debate is more powerful than hooded thugs and buffoons (some, it would appear.. middle class buffoons on a Gap Yah!)  trashing other people’s property as a means of ‘persuasion’.   The political process in our country may not be without faults.  But it is all we have for the moment….and the Rule of Law is even more important.  The violence on Saturday broke the ‘Rules of Law’.  Violence is against the law…and it should be… in all its forms… including ‘smashing a window’.

I leave readers with three tweets…to lighten the mood….


I hope that @PennyRed has a good sleep…  but… to be fair…she did have a chance to do this tweet which I have just seen on her timeline….

Hopefully…those who ‘protest’ in future… will stop flinging shit about on our buildings, monuments and streets.  That ain’t the way to protest in a mature democracy?

 

Oh… and I have always voted Labour…. so I may be a leftie…. although one can’t be sure about that with the Labour Party in recent years :-)

 

***

Happy to give a link to this article by @PennyRed / Laurie Penny in the New Statesman….

 

What really happened in Trafalgar Square

Guest Post: Any complaints? Why the IPCC is failing us all

Any complaints?  Why the IPCC is failing us all
Kevin Donoghue is a solicitor at Donoghue Solicitors, specializing in actions against the police compensation claims

The IPCC has recently published its police complaint statistics for 2009/2010.

Since the IPCC’s formation in 2004, every police force in the UK has recorded a rise in the number of complaints made against it. The largest increase was recorded in Northamptonshire, a staggering 425% rise in 6 years. The average increase was 113%. The IPCC’s interim Chair Len Jackson thinks that this universal increase in complaints is a credit to the IPCC themselves, saying that ‘improved confidence and access has encouraged those who previously were not inclined to complain that making a complaint is worthwhile.’ While this may be so, as an actions against the police solicitor, a more telling statistic is the fact that only 10% of these cases proved ‘misconduct’ on the part of the officers concerned.

So while (in Len Jackson’s opinion), it may have never been easier to make a complaint, it is extremely hard to prove misconduct against the police within the complaints process, as two recent cases prove.

The anti-war protester

Audrey White was a prominent anti-war protester, and a founding member of the Merseyside branch of the Stop the War Coalition. During a peaceful protest at the Labour Party Conference in 2008, Greater Manchester Police officers forcibly removed a Gordon Brown facemask she was wearing, injuring her in the process. Mrs. White’s complaint to GMP fell on deaf ears. The police denied it saying that their actions were ‘reasonable, necessary and proportionate’.

Two years and significant legal costs later they formally apologized and paid her significant compensation.

The concerned partner

51 year old Karim Allison tried to intervene when his partner was being booked for a minor traffic offence. The police officer involved took exception to Mr. Allison’s attempted involvement and produced evidence which was used to obtain a criminal prosecution against him. After a jury trial it was found that, on the balance of probabilities, Mr. Allison’s convictions were obtained using fabricated evidence.

Again, Mr. Allison’s complaints to Cleveland Police and appeal to the IPCC fell on deaf ears.

Three years later after the initial incident Mr. Allison obtained substantial compensation and the apology he ought to have received at the outset.

Spinning around

Prof. Aaron Levenstein once said, ‘statistics are like a bikini. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.’

The IPCC’s press release reports that nearly 50% of complaints relate to incivility or neglecting duties. This neatly side-steps the fact that the majority of complaints relate to other, more important, things: assaults; malicious prosecution; discrimination; and harassment, telling examples of which are described in the above cases. It strikes me that the IPCC’s slant on the statistics produced benefit no one, especially themselves as an independent body. The police’s failure to apologise is usually vindicated by the IPCC (less than a third of all appeals to the IPCC are upheld). For the public, this leads to the perception that the police can aggressively deny complaints as more often than not they will be supported by their regulator.

Contrary to the IPCC’s press release spin, the above cases are not unusual in my experience. Granted I deal with a great many complaints and claims against the police. My services have never been more in demand. However, clients often come to me after the police have already rejected their complaints or unsuccessfully used the simplified local investigations process. By that point the police have usually already lost whatever goodwill they may have had.

The police, and the IPCC, should be more willing to accept responsibility for failures at the outset. As legal costs are not paid for dealing with complaints, I have no doubt that a great many people would happily accept a heartfelt apology early on, along with a promise to learn from mistakes.  This would save time, money and for the innocent victims of police misconduct, a great deal of unnecessary stress. In these straightened times, isn’t that what the IPCC and police should work to achieve?

Postcard from the Staterooms: RITZKRIEG!

I see a lot of weird stuff on the net every day…..  (I am on twitter)  but this was excellent: “Walcome tae the Scottish Pairlament wabsite”
Being  A Scot – albeit one who has lived in London and other parts of England for thirty years – I rather liked this initiative from The Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Pairlament is here for tae represent aw Scotlan’s folk.

We want tae mak siccar that as mony folk as possible can finn oot aboot the Scottish Pairlament. Information anent whit we can dae tae help ye engaige wi the Pairlament gin ye arenae fluent in English can be haen at Langage assistance providit by the Scottish Pairlament (22.2KB pdf).

This pairt o the wabsite hauds information anent the Scottish Pairlament that we hae producit in Scots. Uise the link aneath tae find oot mair.

Wonderful. Hat Tip to @loveandgarbage for alerting me to this use of public money…and also for this!  Can you speak Scots?

A surreal day…

I watched the unfolding demonstration in London – and some of the footage when the BBC cut away (gleefully) to middle class protesters trying to trash the Ritz and then doing a sit-in at Fortnum & Mason on the basis that this organisation is ‘avoiding’ tax.  There is, of course, a difference between ‘evading’ tax (unlawful) and ‘avoiding’ tax (lawful).  It was also pointed out on twitter that the owners of Fortnum & Mason are well known for making charitable donations. I have no idea whether this is or is not the case – but it would be ironic if it was true.

Today was also Boat Race day. So… we had middle class anarchists trashing The Ritz and Fortnum & Mason while other middle class people amused pissed-up middle classes on the Thames by rowing boats… a  truly surreal afternoon.

And then…. I decided to ignore the calls on twitter to turn all my lights off for #Earthhour…

I’m afraid that I did not add to the incisiveness of the debate on twitter this afternoon on the demonstration and #Ukuncut  by tweeting….

A quick rendition of The Eton Boating song… a la 2011 CUTS and *Big Society* ?

Jolly protesting weather,
And a fay anarchist wheeze,
Blade on the feather,
Paint all over the trees,
Trash trash together,
With your iPads between your knees,
Trash trash together,
With your iPads between your knees.



The tabloids will, of course, be full of coverage about anarchists on the morrow. This pic from The Daily Mail will give you a foretaste… as will this…



Pink Floyd star’s son Charlie Gilmour sports clean-cut look as he faces judge over royal attack

The Daily Mail reports: Fresh faced, with a short, neat haircut and a collared shirt, the Charlie Gilmour who appeared in court today bore little resemblance to the long-haired, combat boot-wearing protester who took part in a student fees riot in central London. 

I do wonder if judges and juries are even vaguely impressed when defendants turn up in court all scrubbed up and wearing ties. Perhaps they get a certain pleasure at the schadenfreude and hypocrisy?
Meanwhile… The Daily Mail front cover for tomorrow (right). Pity the sensible, peaceful, protest didn’t get more coverage today in the meedja.

And so… on to other things…

RollonFriday.com continues at the cutting edge of amusing journalism by revealing.. gleefully…

Exclusive: College of Law screws up exam results. Again

The College of Law has allayed fears that it could be losing its competitive edge this week, by proving that it remains untouchable when it comes to cocking up exam results.

Read…..

 

An interesting article by Jon Robins in The Guardian….

Website that has become the scourge of all lawyers, good and bad

Rick Kordowski remains unapologetic over the website he set up after his experience with lawyers

Worth reading….

Katy Dowell reports in The Lawyer: Over a year into his tenure as Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger is proving to be a popular choice.

Famed for his straight talking and practical thinking, here is a judge who wants the judiciary to become more familiar to the public it serves.

This is becoming a common theme at the top of the judiciary. Supreme Court president Lord Phillips is becoming something of  a television personality given his smiling appearances on several recent court documentaries.

I can certainly recommend an excellent documentary from the BBC on the workings of The Supreme Court. Catch it on iPlayer while you can!

AND…finally… I watched the BBC News coverage on the Trafalgar Square element of the protest late tonight…. dreadful.  Why no/few live pictures?

Well.. there we are.  Have a good weekend.

Best, as always

Charon

 

 

Law Review: The Highest Court in the Land – Justice Makers

May I recommend this excellent (and fascinating programme) from the BBC.  Available, for the moment, on iPlayer.

The Highest Court in the Land – Justice Makers

You don’t need to be a lawyer to find this interesting.  I enjoyed it.

A very interesting illustration of the principle in my tweet, below, came in the bank overdraft case where the Supreme Court ruled, according to the law governing the Office of Fair Trading, that  the OFT could not look into the fairness of bank overdraft charges.  Lord Phillips expressed a personal view that it would probably have been a good thing for the OFT to do, but the law precluded this.  Lord Phillips did not have freedom to decide that way.

Non-lawyers may not always appreciate, or choose to appreciate, the subtlety of the role of judges (or the restrictions on their freedom to dispense ‘justice’) ……. as was exemplified in the programme when a well known finance and money campaigner (who ought to have known better?) said to the TV cameras that  ‘The big institutions of the Law had backed up the big institutions of the  banking world”. Judges can’t always deliver fairness….because of  precedent and the way our laws are drafted by MPs.  MPs, however, can ensure that our laws are fair?

Ah… the joys of the ‘saying’  that we get the governments we deserve.

***

Without being simplistic… I am, for one,  delighted that the TV cameras have captured the views of our Supreme Court Justices on this wonderful film which reveals what we all know… our own imperfections and fallibility.

The narrator concludes: “Those who make the law…should be answerable to the law”.  Yes.  I agree. Who would not?

Perhaps… Tony Blair and Charlie Falconer, ridiculed for designing the Supreme Court on the back of a fag packet,  got this one right: The Separation of Powers and The Independence of the Judiciary ?

***

Law Book News:

 

I have decided to start doing regular features on new law books: Here are the new books from Oxford University Press for February 2011

Rive Gauche: Lord McNally advises Albanians on ‘Rule of Law’

I smiled wryly when I read this report from The Ministry of Justice website this evening. I smiled with some difficulty as problems from a very old head injury came home to roost this week and made it difficult for me to talk, let alone smile…  (Hence no ‘Without Prejudice’ podcast this week.  We shall resume next week.

Justice Minister Lord McNally is in Albania to formally launch an EU-funded twinning project between the countries’ probation services.

During the visit Lord McNally will emphasise the UK’s support for Albania’s ambitions to join the EU, but will stress that a strong, independent judicial system and respect for the rule of law are needed before this can happen.

I suspect that Lord McNally did not refer to the fact that to have a strong legal system a country needs to have a fairly strong base of legal aid – No fee, No win, can only do so much.  I suspect that Lord McNally did not refer to the fact that prisoner votes;  a matter of our government complying with a judgment of the ECtHR, made our prime minister ‘sick to his stomach’, and I suspect that Lord McNally did not refer to the difficulties his fellow minister, Mr Djanogly, is having – gleefully reported in Obiter in the Law Society Gazette.  (A rather amusing story) But…at least this ‘expedition’ was EU funded…..which will please the euro sceptics.  Perhaps a viewing of the latest drama from the BBC, Silk, would be in order… just to get things in apple pie order in legal terms?  (pic above left from Silk)

The Wikipedia entry provides an insight into Lord McNally’s background. As far as I can see from that – and I accept that Wikipedia is not an ‘authoritative source’ – Lord McNally does not appear to have much by way of political experience in the law, but that, in these ‘dark days’,  may NOT be a disadvantage when it comes to government policy -  as The Sun keeps on telling its readers when Ken Clarke comes out with a sensible proposal on reform which does not involve hanging, flogging, detention for life…etc etc.”.

Supreme Court New Appointments: Sumption and Wilson

Twitter was ablaze (at least in my time line) this evening with tweets about Jonathan Sumption QC leap frogging judges to ‘make legal history’ by being appointed direct to the Supreme Court from the Bar.  I can’t see that this is a bad thing – but on the matter of history -  the excellent UK Supreme Court blog points out that John Reid KC, a Scot, was appointed as a Lord of Appeal in 1948, having been the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and the Solicitor General for Scotland.  ( Sir Edward Carson KC and Cyril Radcliffe KC were appointed to the House of Lords direct from the Bar.)  Still no confirmation of the story as I write – but Joshua Rozenberg who did the first tweet this afternoon usually get its right.)

I did a brief post earlier about the BSB and the SRA wanting to bring in aptitude tests to ensure that students who are taken on by law schools at the LPC and BPTC stage are actually ‘apt’. I’m not going to rush into a response.  I want to think about this initiative.  The comments on the The Law Society Gazette article are most interesting and well worth a read.

The Law Society Gazette reported in February… “Lady Deech, chair of the Bar Standards Board, said the BSB would press ahead with its plans to introduce aptitude and English language tests for students before they can undertake the BPTC.

Deech said: ‘There are too many people on the course who shouldn’t be there. We need to give a signal to those who aren’t up to it that they’re wasting their money.’

Deech said language is a tool of the trade at the bar, and it is wrong to ‘let people loose on the public’ if they do not have sufficient English language skills.

She said: ‘If you’re tone deaf, don’t go to music school; if y­ou have two left feet don’t go to ballet school.’

I am doing a podcast with Baroness Deech in early April…. so there is a fair amount to discuss.

And… I did enjoy this from Charles Fincher Esq – a US lawyer and artist….

Law Review: SRA and BSB want aptitude tests – an excellent opportunity for law schools to run yet more courses?

Aptitude tests would be a positive step for BPTC and LPC students

The Law Society Gazette’s Rachell Rothwell reports….

“Earlier today, the Bar Standards Board announced a new timetable for its plans to introduce an aptitude test for the Bar Profession Training Course (BPTC), to give time for the results of its second pilot to be compared with actual BPTC results. A compulsory aptitude test will not be brought in until autumn 2012.

The Law Society’s training and education committee is also currently assessing the merits of an aptitude test for students on the LPC course….”

I am thinking about my sensible response to these proposals.  I shall do so and write shortly. I did think that a 1st class or upper second class  law degree ‘may’ be an indication of ‘aptitude’ – but, clearly, I am wrong on that. In the meantime….

Dr Strangelove of Muttley, Director of Education, Strategy and Psyops at Muttley Dastardly LLP said this today

“We welcome this initiative.  We have been reviewing, with some care, the astonishing articles on ‘diversity initiatives from the profession and press releases published with little adaptation(?)’ in the legal press recently, and the even more astonishing commentary from people who know little or absolutely nothing about the subject.  We have come to the conclusion that this could be a welcome fee earning opportunity.  After all…how difficult can it be to set up a course of instruction to teach people to pass an aptitude test?   I rather suspect that the legal education sector is salivating at the prospect?”

Law Review: Budget summary for lawyers – and …extraordinary City attitudes to diversity?

Corporate lawyers are up in arms about a shift in the profession’s graduate recruitment strategy that could see them forced to mix with “riffraff”.

“I did not study at Oxford and the LSE to end up working with people who graduated from Leicester or Queen Mary,” wrote one person on legalweek.com in response to the news last week that magic circle outfit Freshfields is extending the number of universities from which it recruits…..”

Alex Aldridge, writing in The Guardianan extraordinary article about (some) City attitudes to diversity?

The Budget:  A summary

Cassons for Counsel: A summary of particular relevance to barristers and solicitors

Law Review: This… is why we need the Rule of Law

Photos show US soldiers in Afghanistan posing with dead civilians

The Guardian: ‘Trophy’ pictures show US soldiers posing with corpses of Afghan civilians they are accused of killing for sport.

The face of Jeremy Morlock, a young US soldier, grins at the camera, his hand holding up the head of the dead and bloodied youth he and his colleagues have just killed in an act military prosecutors say was premeditated murder.

I don’t need to comment.

 

BUT… do have a look at…Hersch from New Yorker

 

The “Kill Team” Photographs

***

Thanks to @OldHoborn for the link today.  I can’t remember what OH said precisely… but it was something along the lines that *We have a problem when states start behaving like this*…. He is right.

And… on the theme of war….and violence…

Blawg Review #303

The peaceful march resulted in the death of 17 unarmed civilians at the hands of the Insular Police, in addition to some 235 wounded civilians, including women and children…….

Law Review: No bar to the Bar – a good website from The Bar Council

While debate will continue on the chances of getting a tenancy (and this is to be encouraged)  – the Bar has  always been a competitive profession (certainly in my time in legal education of 30 years) – this new initiative following Lord Neuberger’s Diversity report is a good one.

I am interested in becoming a barrister. Do you have more information?

This site is for you and anyone interested in a career at the Bar. A barrister is one of the most exciting and challenging careers you can find. However, it is competitive and requires hard work and intelligence, but anyone with these skills can succeed. There are barristers from all backgrounds and ethnicities in practice and you can find out more about this in the film – the Bar is open to all.

I enjoyed watching the films.  I hope this new website will succeed in persuading prospective law students – from all backgrounds – to think about a career at the Bar.

Have a look at the new Bar Council website for prospective barristers!

Professor Richard Moorhead has written on this issue. We have exchanged thoughts in the comments section.  I do hope the Bar Council puts the statistics (which are available on the main site) on this site.  I can see no reason for the Bar Council not to do so.

I do appreciate  Richard Moorhead’s point and it is a fair one – and the perspective of others on twitter this afternoon.  Be that as it may;   I am pleased to see an initiative which encourages students to have a look at the Bar as a career – it is not as it ‘may’ once have been.   It continues to be a very competitive profession. It is difficult to get in.. but at least the message is being put out that the difficulties do not include ‘background’.  I am happy to write a blog post in favour of that sentiment.

I also take the view, having enjoyed teaching students for many years, that students are not daft. Far from it.  If students don’t pick up on warnings on the Bar Council site, the law school sites and elsewhere, I would be surprised.  I can say that I did  have the pleasure of meeting a few lazy students but they weren’t daft either.   I suspect that some of them went into investment banking or showbiz!   It wouldn’t surprise me. :-)

So secret… you would not have been able to read about this but for…… an MP and a blogger

 

On Thursday afternoon, in a back room of Parliament, history was made.  A few MPs found themselves a backbone; they found a way in which they could exercise their Freedom of Speech and perform their ancient duty, drawn from the Bill of Rights 1688, of redressing the grievances of the citizens who rely on them.

Anna Raccoon,  Saturday 19th March

As Anna Raccoon said…. Google the Parliamentary report – no mention…. although, hopefully, Google will pick it up after Anna Raccoon’s blog post.

I will extract Anna Raccoon’s opening text...and ask you to read her post..and then invest a bit of time in reading the full Hansard report

Mr John Hemming, MP for Yardley in Birmingham, rose to his feet and used parliamentary privilege to list some of the secret prisoners, the people who have lost their liberty in the UK behind closed doors; the court orders which detail the secret injunctions – not for the benefit of footballers or bankers, (although it was the issue of Fred Goodwin’s secret injunction that allowed the debate to be heard), but the injunctions, not mere ‘super-injunctions’ that the media could not mention, but ‘hyper-injunctions’ which even prevented the aggrieved citizen from appealing to their MP for help.

Because we are allowed to speak of that which has been in Hansard, we can today speak of the misery of those whose lives have been turned upside down, in secret, with the added bonus of a special injunction from the judge which prevented them even turning to their MP.

The issue of superinjunctions (and hyperinjunctions) is important to the system of open justice we should enjoy in our country.

Ironically…The Master of The Rolls, Lord Neuberger, made a speech on this issue last week and is, fortunately, about to report on the whole issue of superinjunctions. Hopefully, the proceedings of parliament on The Bill of Rights and Mr John Hemming MP’s statements, recorded in Hansard, will be germane to his enquiry and report.  The issue is, of course, more complex than the debate reveals – and raises the issue of whether MPs should be above the laws while in Parliament. They may, of course, change the laws; but having made a law, is it right to evade it through use of privilege?  Surely, consideration should be given to changing that law?  This is noted in the report on the debate.  There may well be perfectly good reasons for protecting privacy and maintaining secrecy. Lord Neuberger’s speech is well worth reading.

See the full text of Lord Neuberger’s  speech: Open Justice Unbound?

The UK Human Rights blog has also commented…

…. as has the always precise Obiter J

Law Review: Commission on a UK Bill of Rights …..and a mixed bag of law news

Commission on a UK Bill of Rights launched

The Ministry of Justice announced today that an independent Commission to investigate the case for a UK Bill of Rights has been launched today by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Secretary of State for Justice Kenneth Clarke.

The Guardian responded to this news with: Move for British bill of rights faces deadlock: “Government commission exploring the case for a British bill of rights is divided between human rights act supporters and critics”

The analysis in The Guardian is interesting – but I do wonder why we actually need this review.  As the Commission is unlikely to report for some time (2012?) we will have to wait to see if anything of real value comes of this.

Adam Wagner in The UK Human Rights blog has this to say….

Who are the Bill of Rights Commission “human rights experts”?

I am hoping to do a quick podcast with Adam Wagner soon to look at this and other topical human rights issues.

Lawyers…Have you joined Shpoonkle?!!!

Will it only be a matter of time before UK lawyers…. hyperventilating with excitement from the opportunities offered by twitter and other social meedja… get into Shpoonkle?

A New York Law School student has founded Shpoonkle, a playfully named website that allows attorneys and law firms to bid on legal requests submitted by clients. The service is free for now, but attorneys may be charged membership fees in the future.

Fortunately… a fellow blogger I respect has a strong view…

“On his New York criminal defense blog Simple Justice, Scott Greenfield said, “Any lawyer who signs up for this service should be immediately disbarred, then tarred and feathered, then publicly humiliated.” Calling the site the “eBay of lawyering,” Greenfield argues the service will lower the integrity of the legal profession.

RollonFriday.com…College of Law admits low recruitment qualifications

In an unguarded moment, the director of business development at the College of Law has admitted that only 60% of the institution’s students have a 2:1. So that means the CoL taking large numbers of students who don’t have the widely recognised minimum requirement for a training contract at the end of the course.

Read the full post….

The law schools are going to have to consider their position on taking on students who have no realistic prospect of being employed in the present market.  They won’t enjoy doing so.  This story is not going to go away.

LSB lacks understanding, judgement and willingness to listen, says Bar Council

An excellent article from Legal Futures

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has shown a lack of understanding and judgement, and an unwillingness to listen to the approved regulators, the Bar Council has claimed.

In a move that will fuel questions about the current role of the LSB, the Bar Council also expressed surprise at plans to increase LSB staff costs at a time of public sector cuts – saying it should take a “Big Society” approach to its work – and also questioned whether the board is overextending its remit….

Read the full article…

I will be doing a podcast with the Chair of The Bar Standards Board, Baroness Deech, in April - and regulation of the legal profession and legal education will be among the topics to be discussed.

The draft libel reform bill is a good thing

David Allen Green, writing in the New Statesman….

The draft libel reform bill, published two days ago, has had a mixed reception. Those in favour of libel reform have broadly welcomed it, though some do not think it goes far enough; and many established libel practitioners have sought to minimise the draft bill’s importance and novelty. Some libel veterans even say it will make no difference: it is almost as if they are discouraging the government from taking the draft bill forward at all.

However, as a practising media defence lawyer, I would say that there is a lot of good in the draft bill, and that if it were to pass into legislation in its present form it would make a marked difference to the nature of libel litigation. That is not to say that the draft bill could not be improved; but it is to say that it is misconceived and illiberal to dismiss the bill completely.

I am sure we will find time to discuss this bill in the Without Prejudice podcast this coming Thursday.

University threatens MP with libel case over Gaddafi criticism

Index on Censorship has a good report….

This is a rather interesting libel action… in the early stages. It is curious that a University, a public body, is suing an MP who was critical about their links with Libya?  The LSE took a lot of criticism last week about their ‘ties’ with Libya.  The Director of the school resigned – honourably.  David Allen Green’s firm Preiskel is acting… as this twitter post indicates.  Ironic in a week when the government is keen to reform the libel laws to stop institutions and people suppressing reasonable and public interest  criticism by using our libel laws?

Preiskel Preiskel & Co LLP 

by DavidAllenGreen
We are instructed to defend Robert Halfon MP against libel threat by Liverpool John Moores University re criticism of Libyan commercial ties

It is not all bad news for lawyers and laws schools… The Daily Mail reports: 

Oxford graduate who sued college for after it ‘failed to prepare her for exams’ loses bid for £100,000 damages

Law Review: The Times engages with law bloggers – Transparency in Law

Pat Long in The Times has written a good piece on law blogging. I am in it… but more importantly…so are many others and the sentiment is encouraging.  Pleasingly, the  mainstream legal papers  (Guardian, Times, Legal Week, Law Society Gazette, The Lawyer) seem happy to engage with bloggers.  This can only benefit all.  The article is behind the Times paywall… but if you have access, it is worth a read.

I was fascinated to read on twitter earlier that Bar Standards Board meetings are open to the public. I will enjoy observing one of their meetings and I shall certainly try and organise this for a future meeting.  Transparency in law and legal matters can only benefit all.  The BSB is on Twitter: @barstandards

And on that theme. Lord Neuberger MR seems quite open to the idea of televising civil proceedings.  The BBC reports: In a speech to the Judicial Studies Board, Lord Neuberger revisited proposals for televising courts which were last raised in 2004.

Lord Neuberger said it was a long-standing legal principle that justice should be done in public – but it also had to be understandable to the public.

“If we wish to increase public confidence in the justice system, transparency and engagement, there is undoubtedly something to be said for televising some hearings, provided that there were proper safeguards to ensure that this increased access did not undermine the proper administration of justice,” he said.

And finally…

Lex2011tweetup: All the leading tweeting lawyers in a bar. How could it not be fun?

Sadly, I could not make it – I was doing a rather long video conference which ended just after 9.00.  (I do sensible work occasionally!)

Great blog article…..

Would anyone like to give some money to Comic Relief for this self portrait?

Charon Self Portrait (In Three Colours) 2010
Acrylics on canvas board
20 x 16

Charon, with new tache,  goes to a field in a yellow shirt and jeans on a sunny windy day in May and paints a glass of red wine.  That is all

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All you have to to do is undertake to give some money to Comic Relief.… you choose the amount  (I don’t mind how much you give – £1 or £1 million !)  and the first person to email me can have this bizarre self portrait from my F*ckArt series

Note: I will need your address to post the painting in a jiffy bag to you!

DELIGHTED… IT HAS BEEN BOUGHT! AND MONEY WILL BE SENT DIRECT TO COMIC RELIEF BY BUYER!  Catherine Naylor  of Justgodirect.co.uk who is fun!

Law Review: Bradley Manning torture? – Fined for telling the truth – Cherie Booth QC

PFC Bradley Manning – Torture?

On the 18 December 2010 Manning’s lawyer David E. Coombs, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army who served in Iraq (pictured), wrote a very clear and to the point blog post…

A Typical Day for PFC Bradley Manning


PFC Manning is currently being held in maximum custody. Since arriving at the Quantico Confinement Facility in July of 2010, he has been held under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch…

Today, in The Guardian Daniel Ellsberg, a man who knows a thing or twowrites:

President Obama tells us that he’s asked the Pentagon whether the conditions of confinement of Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with leaking state secrets, “are appropriate and are meeting our basic standards. They assure me that they are.”

If Obama believes that, he’ll believe anything. I would hope he would know better than to ask the perpetrators whether they’ve been behaving appropriately. I can just hear President Nixon saying to a press conference the same thing: “I was assured by the the White House Plumbers that their burglary of the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s doctor in Los Angeles was appropriate and met basic standards.”

Read…

The full article is worth reading. I have a fair number of friends in the US law blogging world,  but I have no experience of US law or politics.  If these facts are as stated, it seems to me that the conditions under which PFC Bradley Manning is held could come within the definition of ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ in any human rights jurisdiction.  I would welcome comment and ‘elucidation’ from American lawyers on this issue.  I shall email my friends in America for their thoughts.

It is, of course, important to remember that Bradley Manning has not been tried yet……

It is also important not to conflate Manning with the Assange issue(s)….

New York Times Editorial 15th March 2011:

The Abuse of Private Manning

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UPDATE: Scott Greenfield , a US defense lawyer and author of the Simple Justice blog,  was kind enough to respond:

Ellsberg has been a bit of an hysteric about the whole Wikileaks thing, perhaps because it’s the first time he’s been relevant in two generations.  It was one thing for him to come out screaming in support of Assange, but Manning is an entirely different story.  He was a US soldier who betrayed his duty and oath.  Assange had no duty to protect the USA.  Manning chose to be an American soldier, to take that road on his own  Manning has neither right nor moral authority to betray the trust that came with the uniform.
Aside from the problem that Manning’s motives are dubious, his conduct was inexcusable and unjustifiable. He wasn’t doing this to save a life or prevent political catastrophe, but merely dumping a ton of classified content on the internet.  Whether we believe in Assange’s right to publish it, the justification for Assange provides no protection for Manning.  He was a traitor to his country. When you put on the uniform, you give up the right to do things just because you feel like it, and that includes disclosing classified information.

As for Manning’s prison conditions, they aren’t significantly different than max/protective custody for many, both pre and post conviction.  While I’m unaware of any rationale that would explain some of his confinement conditions, especially requiring him to be naked, it’s clearly pretty weird but it’s not exactly torture either.  I won’t assume there’s some great reason for the bizarre conditions, though there might be, but it’s hardly as bad as many, like Hope Steffy in Ohio, suffered, and appears to fall at the outer edge of lawful custodial conditions.
See also: Colin Samuels, a US lawyer and author of Infamy or Praise,  in the comments section
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One of my US lawyer blogging friends is Scott Greenfield,  who writes each day about matters which interest him. He is a New York defense lawyer who has a very good understanding of the legal blogosphere in the US (and over here) and his blog, even if you aren’t interested in law, is worth reading for the humour and incisive analysis.

Scott Greenfield writes….

Niki Black: Blogging Is Dead, Dead, Dead (Update)

And..while we are on the subject of blogging…

Blogger Fined $60,000 For Telling The Truth

A Minneapolis blogger was ordered on Friday to pay $60,000 in damages to an ex-community leader who lost his job because of the blogger’s reporting — even though that reporting was accurate.

Read….

I’ve been doing a series of podcasts on legal education recently and I am doing a podcast tomorrow with a man in his mid-thirties who made a career change into law in his thirties – taking the full financial burden and risk which this entails.  This article from Legal Week, therefore, is of some interest to me..and is worth a read:

A fresh start – the growing band of professionals targeting law as a second career

I have noticed, with pleasure, that there are quite a few lawyers in the UK using twitter…not to broadcast, not to pump out bulletins about how good they or their firms are, but to take part.  David Allen Green, writing in The Lawyer today, has an interesting piece on Twitter…. Opinion: Twitter is more than just a fad, so don’t miss the boat

(I enjoyed being described as ‘sometimes surreal’.  Fair..and, probably, true..given the nonsense I sometimes write on twitter.)

And finally… I did enjoy this article by Alex Aldridge in The Guardian

Cherie Blair seeks ways to open up the law to working-class students

The Guardian: Widening access to the legal profession is not easy, but Blair has a message to convey: ‘If I can do it, so can you’

Well.. not quite finally… this rather unpleasant banker is worth a look at….

On the subject of bankers you may find this peice from Cory Doctorow interesting….

The Monster: the fraud and depraved indifference that caused the subprime meltdown

Banker suspended after Sunday Mirror challenges Deutsche Bank over £10 taunt to nurses and doctors

The Mirror: Mistaking medics chanting “Save Our NHS” and “No More Cuts” for an ­unemployed mob, he ­sneeringly mouths: “Get a job.” A laughing friend shares his sick joke.Last night the smirk was wiped off the banker’s face after the Sunday Mirror showed the picture to ­German giant Deutsche Bank in London.

Law Review: I appear to have committed a criminal offence in relation to the Census

I received the Census 2011 form through the post last week. Rather than waste even more time on this I decided to use the online form – which was extremely quick and far easier than faffing with the paper version which newspapers were reporting this morning had baffled 61% of the population.

Relying on the advice given on the Census 2011 online page…

You will be able to complete your census online questionnaire any time between 4 March and 6 May 2011

I completed my Census form online before Census Day on 27th March 2011.   (The paper form does state that one should fill the form in “on the 27th or as soon as possible afterwards.”)  It would appear that this advice is also wrong…. see:   Census (England) Regulations 2010, regulation 10)

Francis Davey, a practising barrister,  I now discover, is advising today in a blog post…

Don’t return your census form early

Briefly…I won’t bore you with the minutiae of Census law…. life is just too short… save for this….

10.—(1) Every prescribed person to whom a household pack has been delivered or on whose behalf delivery was taken under these Regulations must, on the day after census day or as soon after as is reasonably practicable—

Davey states:  ONS is simply wrong to suggest that early return is OK.  (This Census is governed by the Census (England) Regulations 2010, regulation 10)

Technically, filling in the Census form early  is a criminal offence under section 8 of the Census Act 1920.  Davey notes:  “There doesn’t appear to be, in the regulations or the act, any power for the ONS to disapply these provisions or vary when the census returns may be made.”

ENTRAPMENT!!!

Have I been duped by The Office of National Statistics into committing a criminal offence by the advice given on their website? It would appear so.

What a curious state of affairs…. even more curious, arguably, than arranging for Lockheed Martin, an arms manufacturer, to conduct it on behalf of the government.

Am I bothered about being prosecuted? No.  Will I be prosecuted?  Surely not!   What if I am prosecuted…along with countless others?

Hahaha…. I think it would be a most amusing morning in court.  I shall arrange for Dr Erasmus Strangelove of leading City niche boutique firm Muttley Dastardly LLP to represent me.

 

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EXCELLENT….  This from The United States…via @Windypundit

Census Form! Entrapment! Beware!