Bulletin From the Staterooms: Charon is into his word du jour….Precatory

“Law is an imperfect profession in which success can rarely be achieved without some sacrifice of principle. Thus all practicing lawyers — and most others in the profession — will necessarily be imperfect, especially in the eyes of young idealists. There is no perfect justice, just as there is no absolute in ethics. But there is perfect injustice, and we know it when we see it.”

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, Letters to a Young Lawyer

Christmas passed in a blur of thinking and drinking…with the odd tweet thrown in (pictured left when I was being a Frenchie for the evening)   to create the illusion that I was still in touch with that alternate reality –  some call life.  Most enjoyable it was too – in splendid isolation… no phones, no emails and a break away from the law and laws of our land.  This latter was much needed.

As my word du jour is… Precatory..

prec·a·to·ry/ˈprekəˌtôrē/

Adjective:  1. Of, relating to, or expressing  a wish or request 2.  (in a will) Expressing a wish of intention of the testator

…I am able to announce that:

(a) I have written into my will that all bequests are conditional on some ‘Serious North Korean Stylee grieving action’  on the part of the recipients and beneficiaries – my solicitor will be taking video footage to prove satisfactory compliance with this condition,  and

(b) that I wish to return to serious legal commentary and analysis… but not quite yet.

And thanks to a fellow tweeter for this image link… which is a perfect summation of the night I was a Frenchie smoking Gauloises…. On the hunt now for Disque Bleu...  One day… I’ll be the guy in the red hat… I shall have to dye my Panama hat red… n’est pas unproblème“, c’est une véritable catastrophe?  Oui, Chef!

AND… another thing… time to take the gloves orf with nonsense in 2012…

And… I really do mean this… I despair of those who seek glory in blogging… for they sell their souls…. to the awarder of the  prizes. Those who award prizes are, in the main, pretty smug about themselves…. so.. hey.. let’s give the oiks a bauble – a bit like honours, really ?

Let us have a Blogging Spring in 2012… and take no prisoners ? VIVA! 

I’ll be back soon… there are holidays to enjoy.

Happy Christmas…and do your duty… Drink for our country… and the deficit!

Two years ago, I amused myself by doing a “Charonasso Christmas” pastiche painting as part of my F*ckArt series.  This year, I thought I would do a Christmas post on an entirely random basis and use the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique used by many writers, including Virginia Wolfe.

The BBC was much occupied by the news of The Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to hospital to have treatment for a blocked heart artery with pointless footage of a reporter standing outside Papworth Hospital to reveal that knew nothing. Cut to rapporteur royale  Nicholas Witchell in the studio, a man more likely to induce apoplexy in the Royals by all accounts,  to reveal that he too knew nothing.

It seems only appropriate, given the Duke’s ability to come out with astonishing statements, to quote my favourite of his observations on our friends in other lands…

When asked if he would like to visit the Soviet Union

“The bastards murdered half my family”

But at least I had Morecambe & Wise and their classic 1971 Christmas Show with Andrew ‘Preview’ and Glenda Jackson to ward off a bit of boredom which was beginning to creep in.

Having a lazy afternoon…. easing myself into 2012 with a few glasses of rosso… Happy Christmas.

Chrimbo with Charon (5) : Why lawyers are hated?

Going to trial with a lawyer who considers your whole life-style a Crime in Progress is not a happy prospect.
Hunter S. Thompson

Inforrm’s Blog adds to the Christmas cheer with a list of 105 legal tweeters who can be followed….

Solicitor David Allen Green, on his Jack of Kent blog, asks a question which perhaps he shouldn’t have asked: Why are lawyers hated?

AND….  gets an answer in the comments section from libertarian blogger and tweeter  Obnoxio The Clown – who is nothing if not direct…

“I can tell you why *you’re* hated, David.

It’s because you’re a self-obsessed, sanctimonious ****.

;o) ”

Well… there we are.  Can’t really ask for more at Christmas.

But some good news – RollonFriday.com reports: Exclusive: Ashurst in Christmas Party Pole Dancer Shock and… adds, at the foot of the post… “And insiders have told RollOnFriday that the managing director of a large legal aid firm was caught in a “compromising situation” with a female trainee in the firm’s board room.”

A couple of weeks away from law will do many a lot of good.  Tonight is the Winter Solstice and that is as good an excuse as any to have a glass… and, as I tweeted earlier…

….A duck has just rung me….singing “The Rioja and the Marlboro, When they are both full grown…Of all the bars that are in the town…the Staterooms bear the crown.”

Back tomorrow with a bit of Rive Gauche…

A quick law news post: New Supreme Court justices – Legal aid is safe with Ken? – The government is not paying barristers quickly enough

But days until Santa arrives in British airspace.  You can even track his progress on the Norad website.

Two new judges – both men – have been appointed to the Supreme Court.  The Guardian has the details.  Jonathan Sumption QC is soon to take up his seat.  Joshua Rozenberg notes “Although there are four women in the Court of Appeal, the only one with sufficient seniority is Lady Justice Arden, 64. She was not regarded as a likely candidate this time round. Lady Justice Hallett, the next most senior woman in the court of appeal, is a candidate for lord chief justice when Lord Judge retires; her rivals are Lord Justice Leveson (if his inquiry goes well) and Sir John Thomas, president of the Queen’s Bench division.”

Carl Gardner has an interesting assessment: Al-Khawaja & Tahery v UK: Lord Irvine vindicated

In his lecture last night, Lord Irvine invited British judges to become more assertive in deciding human rights cases for themselves, agreeing or disagreeing with the European Court of Human Rights, as they see fit. Today’s judgment from the European Court in Al-Khawaja & Tahery v UK vindicates, at least in part, Lord Irvine’s claim that such assertiveness might succeed in influencing the Strasbourg court.

Lord Irvine’s speech: full text

Legal aid is safe where it matters most

Ken Clarke, Lord Chancellor, writing in The Guardian: My legal aid reforms – debated in the Lords tomorrow – pose a threat to a failing system and outdated practices, not the needy.

Access to justice is a fundamental part of a properly functioning democracy. Without legal aid, and the dedicated lawyers who deliver it, our system of justice would quite simply collapse. Few eyebrows should be raised at such statements of the obvious, and, if they are, it says something about the skewed nature of the debate that has developed around the government’s legal aid reforms. Because, as my proposals are considered in the House of Lords on Tuesday, there should be no doubt that the system is facing an existential crisis.

the full article is worth reading

We shall see what the Lords make of it.

The government has not, it seems, been paying lawyers quickly enough – ironic given the government stance in the past on businesses paying their invoices quickly. 

Peter Lodder QC has written a very blunt and direct letter to David Gauke MP, The Exchequer Secretary a a must read for all barristers, I would have thought?

 

Back on the morrow with rather more detailed comment and other news….

Guest post: Impaired life annuities and pension sharing in divorce

Impaired life annuities and pension sharing in divorce
BY Stephens Scown LLP’s family solicitors in Exeter, Truro and St Austell –  who are ranked as the best in Devon and Cornwall by independent legal guides Chambers and Legal 500, look at impaired life annuities and pension sharing in divorce.

For most people divorce is bad enough without the added complications of ill health. If however both these events coincide it is vital for detailed legal and financial advice to be taken in relation to pensions.

In divorce settlements the basic approach that pensions acquired during the marriage are likely to be equally divisible by pension sharing between the couple – i.e. the general objective will be to share the pension income equally between the couple. What if, however, one of the couple has a long term serious medical condition such as type 1 Diabetes? In that situation, subject to medical evidence, that person would be likely to be able to purchase a higher pension/annuity for the same cash, than their healthy spouse. This is often called an “impaired life annuity”, or an “enhanced annuity”.

If the legal advisers are not alive to this issue within a divorce the healthy spouse could find themselves considerably worse off in income terms than their spouse with a health issue if the pension fund value itself is divided equally.

Impaired life annuities within divorce settlements can present a partial solution to the common problem of there being not enough pension to go round by maximising the pension income for the less healthy spouse whilst allowing an increased fund for the healthy spouse.

Pension sharing is a complex area in which the best quality advice must be sought. We work closely with pension actuaries and IFAs to ensure that the best possible solutions are fully explored for our clients.

Liz Allen is a partner and divorce solicitor in Exeter, specialising in financial and business divorce settlements.  She is regularly identified as a leader in her area of law by independent guides to the legal profession, the Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, as well as being named on the 2010 Citywealth Leaders List, an international guide to the most highly regarded figures in private wealth management.

***

Chrimbo with Charon (2): The Frenchie flag.. a study in white

The French Flag – a study in White (2011)
Acrylics on Board
Charon

In the wake of the truly absurd Frenchie comments about our absurd economy and government… I was inspired to do a study of the Frenchie flag.  It is, I have to admit, the fastest painting I have ever done in acrylics – 42 seconds.  Sorted!

Another addition to my series on F*ckArt and here are some more recent ones

As it happens… I am a fan of the French…always enjoy visiting France… but their politicos are just as dull as ours.

BUT… I did manage to shoehorn in a thought this morning…at dawn… and it was this…

Accuracy is not an aspiration for journalists and law bloggers. It is a requirement when reporting or commenting on serious issues.

Accuracy is not an aspiration for journalists and law bloggers.  It is a requirement when reporting or commenting on serious issues.

It was surprising, therefore, to read Alex Aldridge’s post in Legal Cheek  where he again singled out Ashley Connick for scrutiny in a post about training contracts…

Aldridge writes: “To date, the only example I know of a student landing a job through their blog is Ashley Connick, a GDL student who, after failing in previous application rounds, built a re-vamped CV around his online writing activities – and netted a TC at a magic circle law firm. Surely, though, at a time when law firms are anxious to improve their engagement with blogging and tweeting – and bring in recruits with expertise in this area – there’ll be more Connick-style successes in the future.”

Quite apart from the fact that is unlikely a magic circle firm would offer a training contract on the basis of blogging or tweeting, Alex Aldridge appears to have got his facts wrong – and despite requests from several tweeters, including me, he has not adjusted his blog post in the light of Ashley Connick’s robust denial of this on his own blog: Getting a Training Contract by Blogging: Mission Impossible.

Ashley Connick makes the point forcibly: “And as for the journalist in question: stop writing this nonsense. You have been told countless times by numerous people, and I am telling you again. Your words are false. Your ‘spin’ is incorrect. You clearly do not understand trainee recruitment. I am flattered that you think that my blog is worthy of a training contract, but you are the only one who believes this to be the case. I am not even the best exponent of this particular medium. When you write ridiculous paragraphs like this one (the one I quote above)…”

Alex Aldridge is a journalist.  He writes for The Guardian and others.  A recent piece confirms this ‘status’: Barrister fees spiral ever up as the economy trundles ever down.

I covered the initial singling out of Ashley Connick in September with a blog post:  Postcard from The Staterooms: #Aldridgegate edition….Have you been *Aldridged*? and some other b*ll*cks and was fairly critical of Aldridge’s beheaviour.  I even found a suitable quotation:

Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer,
And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer;
Willing to wound, and yet afraid to strike,
Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike.

“Epistle to Dr Arbuthnot” by Alexander Pope (1688–1744)

My question, this time, is straightforward – and addressed to Alex Aldridge – points put to Aldridge in a tweet yesterday, to which I have not had a reply:  Are you contesting the accuracy of Ashley Connick’s recollection of his discussions with you and his robust denial?  A second question: If not, then would it not be fair to adjust your post to reflect Connick’s denial?

It is, of course, unlikely that Ashley Connick will follow up with a “Chilling letter from Schillings”

And.. on the subject of accuracy – The Lord Chief Justice has told us that we may tweet away to our hearts content in court.  Well… not quite.  Journalists are allowed to tweet – but others must ask permission of the judge, an application which may be made through the court staff.

The Lord Chief Justice states in his guidance : “It is presumed that a representative of the media or a legal commentator using live, text-based communications from court does not pose a danger of interference to the proper administration of justice in the individual case. This is because the most obvious purpose of permitting the use of live, text-based communications would be to enable the media to produce fair and accurate reports of the proceedings. As such, a representative of the media or a legal commentator who wishes to use live, text-based communications from court may do so without making an application to the court.”

‘Legal commentators’ are included. Would this cover experienced lawbloggers – many of whom are practising lawyers?  On a reasonable construction this would seem to be the case.  The rationale behind the Lord Chief Justice ‘guidance’ is sensible as Joshua Rozenberg pointed out in The Guardian today – that journalists and legal commentators are more likely to know the rules for contempt of court and get their tweeting right.

Christmas Law Box: O Come All Ye lawyers….Joyful and Litigious….

O Come All Ye Lawyers
Joyful and litigious
O come ye, O come ye to Chancery Lane
Come and behold Him,
Born the Best of Clients;
O come, let us bill Him,
O come, let us bill Him,
O come, let us bill Him,
Profits are the Lord.

And on that note… a Christmas box of blogging and other delights before I lose the plot and comment on some law…

First up – a wonderful Christmas Contract from The Bizzle.  A work of great precision… well worth a read!

And to get us all into the correct mindset for the Christmas festivities to come – this analysis from Gerard McDermott QC : A perfect storm brews at the bar

McDermott begins his rather gloomy Christmas story with this introduction…

I am writing this on a Sunday morning in my flat in The Temple. The Temple is a great place at weekend – quiet and serene, a lovely place to be. But the bar is far from quiet and serene. Many are fearful of whether they have a secure future and whether they will be able to afford to live, particularly if they work in areas such as Crime or those in the area of Family Law which are publicly funded.

….and ends with: “Both for ourselves and for the barristers of the future it’s up to us all to do all that we can to make sure the  future is weatherproofed”

And this initiative from Eversheds is, undoubtedly, a sign of things to come in these deficit cutting austere days: Eversheds to offer condensed LPC and training contract. The Lawyer reports: “For the unique scheme to run the SRA has had to waive two key policies for the first time. It will allow ­Eversheds to run a training contract in conjunction with part-time study over two years instead of the normal three and will also let trainees undertake the Professional Skills Course before full completion of the LPC.”

It will be interesting to see (a) how this impacts on the profits of the law schools and the firm and (b) the quality of legal education and training provided.  If it does the business, as far as the law firm is concerned – assuming that the firm will impose their usual quality standards – this could well be a part of the future of legal education. Will other big law firms follow suit? It makes sense to combine study with practice.  The accountancy firms have been doing this for years.

I rather liked this pic put up on twitter by a fellow tweeter.  I regret, now, I cannot remember which tweeter. Mea culpa. A christmas present for the toper on the go.

I suspect that many are Europed out after the extensive coverage in recent days following prime minister Camcorderdirect’s fateful trip to park us on ‘the hard shoulder’ of the European motorway last Friday.  But this analysis from Obiter J is well worth a read. Europe: a interesting question.

I Crown Office Row in their UK Human Rights blog considers: Strasbourg’s ruling on hearsay evidence could change its relationship with UK – Joshua Rozenberg

And finally.. for the first of these Christmas Law boxes – a good friend of mine told me on twitter that she thought of me when she saw this wonderful Peter Cook film.  I take it as a compliment.  Watch the short film

AND.. for a good review of blogs by David Allen Green in The Lawyer here it is…

And… if you would like to win a signed copy of Babybarista’s two novels… get cracking on his competition. I have read both – most enjoyable!

 

A self evident viewpoint.. but one often forgotten on twitter and in life… from The Ducks

I shall return to blogging on the morrow … but with more emphasis on the absurd, egomaniac, self aggrandising   and surreal aspects of law during the festive season… I am on an extended Christmas break – I haven’t had a holiday for just over five years… time to amuse myself… and if it amuses readers of the blog… that will be fine by me.  I am also Painting some new F*ckArt.

Enjoy your Christmas break..

Charon

PS… the Rule of Law schtikery  in my header and tweet… I believe it to be a fair representation of what statute law is about.  After all.. we live in an imperfect democracy and are governed, ineluctably, by imperfectly formed minds… that is not to suggest that all the perfect minds are to be found punting, bloviating, self aggrandising  or judging on Dragons’ Den, Strictly Come Drinking.. or even in our  (‘Best in The World’ –  Copyright D Cameron 2011)  revered Parliament –  or smug blogs.  I would venture to suggest… at the risk of immediate public opprobium and excommunication from the world of law blogging (not that it would trouble me) that this is far from the case 🙂

Not had much time to blog.. but these tweets sum up my view of Monday…

Myoclonus is brief, involuntary twitching of a muscle or a group of muscles – my word du jour: I do enjoy twitter – but it was a great deal more amusing when I first joined three or so  years ago.  Now…. far too much vainglorious nonsense and luvviedom  from bloggers, pundits,  slebs  and sundry other professionals… across all fields of expertise.  I wonder if they actually read other tweets.. or just their own and, of course, those ‘gold standard’ RTs and ‘Mentions’!  Flawgtastic.  Hey ho.. I no longer care – I never have.

And… I watched #Newsnight on the riots – a programme, tonight,  of world class shallow analysis and vapidity, sadly. Mr Herbert MP, Minister of Justice did not impress me – but he has never impressed me.

Rive Gauche: Latest stunt from Bar Standards Board – Solicitors are ‘superfluous intermediaries’ ?

Time to have a look at the world of law from the left field again….

In the wake of the truly absurd #Clarkson episode this week – where over 21,000 complainers have contacted the BBC to vent their outrage and many on twitter have knee-jerked their thoughts onto the timeline – David Allen Green wrote it up in The New Statesman: Why Unison is wrong to seek the sacking and arrest of Jeremy Clarkson

The trade union Unison is seeking “urgent legal advice” about what to do regarding Jeremy Clarkson’s comments about strikers being “executed in front of their families. The press release — the words are put to the mouth of Dave Prentis, Unison General Secretary — is worth reading carefully.

Amanda Bancroft followed suit in her blog Beneath The Wig: Calm down, dear!

I’m afraid I could not be bothered to take Clarkson’s remarks as anything other than a badly laboured attempt at humour and do not add to the erudition of analysis and debate with my observations on twitter…

@LoveandGarbage usually hits the nail on the head with satire..and this EXCELLENT blog post is a must read if you feel the need to be ANGRY on Twitter… Cut out and keep guide to how to be angry on twitter

Perhaps a bit of serious for the weekend … Sir  / Madam?

Alex Aldridge starts the good cheer at Christmas with…

Law graduates face a bleak future at the bar

“With 65 students applying for each training place, many would-be solicitors face not finding a job within the five-year post-graduation limit…”

And in further good news.. BPP Law School picks up on the Osbornian enthusiasm for private sector growth by announcing a fairly hefty fee rise for the Bar course…

The Lawyer reports:“Aspiring lawyers will have to pay up to £13,550 and £16,540 respectively for the LPC and BPTC in London. Currently the fees are £12,900 and £15,750. The cost of studying the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) will also rise, up by £450 from £8,950 to £9,400.  BPP chief executive Peter Crisp said: “Since 2009, the fees for many of our law programmes have either been frozen or increased at a rate below inflation – for example our GDL and LPC fees have been held for two years. “With a modest increase this year, overall the percentage increase in fees over the last three years has been small and in line with the current rate of inflation.”

With my current taste for a bit of the Latin… this maxim is appropriate… Non plaudite. Modo pecuniam jaciteDon’t applaud. Just throw money

And so we go on… with the profession that just keeps giving…

The judges are not silent…Lady Hale warns of consequences of legal aid cuts The Guardian reports:  “The supreme court judge’s speech to the Law Centres Federation’s conference on the effects of the government’s proposed legal aid bill.”

Lady Hale does, however, note before she delivers an interesting speech..“It is not the proper role of any judge to attack Government policy. If the Government of the day decides that the right solution to a massive budget deficit is massive cuts in public spending, that is a matter for them to decide and Her Majesty’s loyal opposition to oppose if they see fit. The role of Her Majesty’s loyal judges is to decide the resulting disputes according to law.”

Legal aid reform prompts further protest from top judges

The Guardian: £350m cut to legal aid judged a ‘false economy’ and block to swift justice for most vulnerable

Has the Ministry of Justice taken heed.. or is this plan just to suit Government convenience? : Ken Clarke postpones legal aid reforms and tendering

And..what about this marvel from The Bar Standards Board?

The Law Society Gazette reports: “Solicitors are dismissed as ‘superfluous intermediaries’ in a new bar consultation paper which recommends making it easier for the public to bypass them and instruct barristers directly.

The Bar Standards Board is examining whether barristers should be able to accept direct instructions from clients eligible for public funding, and also whether to lift the ban on barristers with under three years’ practising experience from accepting public access instructions.”

Will be interesting to see how this wheeze pans out…

I’ll pop back later, perhaps, with a bit more Rive Gauche.  I feel a need for some medicinal Gin & Mango juice to fortify myself…