Barrister disbarred for dodging train fares

Read the full story here: “An Oxfordshire-based barrister has been disbarred after dodging thousands of pounds in railway fares following a hearing at the Bar Standards Board.

Peter Barnett, 45, avoided paying the correct fare for two years from 2012 by claiming he commuted into central London from Wembley in north-west London instead of his home in Thame, Oxfordshire.

He was confronted by a suspicious ticket inspector at Marylebone station in November 2014. He ran away from the inspector but handed himself in the following day.

He was convicted of six charges of fraud by false representation at the City of London magistrates court last September.

During his trial the prosecution alleged he avoided nearly £20,000 in fares but a judge later accepted Barnett’s claim that he evaded only £5,892.70 based on the price of a weekly ticket.

Australian-born Barnett has now been disbarred following a hearing at the Bar Standards Board. He was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in London in 2007, but has never held a practising certificate as a barrister in England and Wales.

A BSB spokesperson said: “Dishonest conduct is incompatible with membership of the bar. The tribunal’s decision to disbar Dr Barnett reflects this.”

Barnett avoided prison when a 16-week jail term was suspended, but he was banned from his profession for 12 months and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

McMuttley Dastardly LLP: The Scotsland Office Plan

scotsflags2Dr Strangleove sat back in his chair, lit a large Havana cigar, sipped a fine Glenmorangie 10 year old whisky and dictated a memorandum:

“I understand that there is a country called Scotsland some distance to the North of us here in the Metropolitan capital and it occurred to me that as we do not have an office up there, we should open one immediately.  It could also be most useful as a device ‘pour encourager les autres’ for those associates who do not meet the monthly billing targets to be sent up there for a period to reflect on the ability to continue to practice law with us and do some law as well.  I am advised that Scots Law is different.  This should not present any difficulty to our associates.  They can re-qualify.  We can give them six weeks unpaid leave to mug up on the law and requalify.  If any of you actually know anything at all about Scots law, let alone where Scots Land is, perhaps you could drop me a line.?

On another matter: I happened to notice that we have a new Prime Minister – one Dartha Vader, according to our Education & Training Guru, Charon QVC.  See: Prime Minister Dartha Vader Speaks  If any of you know anything about her antecedents – I understand that she was farmed out in the last Cameron regime to run the Home Office and spent much of her time deporting people or stopping them crossing the Channel from France.  Why the French persist in calling it “La Manche” I have no idea.  It has always been The English Channel, It is our Channel and always will be – but there we are.”

Memorandum Ends

Dr Strangleove
Senior Partner.



Guest Post: Drink driving charge? Here’s how you could keep your licence…

Drink driving charge? Here’s how you could keep your licence…

You may think that it’s the end of the world if you’ve been charged with drink driving. You’ll be banned from driving and you’ll no longer be able to get to work, to take your children to school and so on. However it’s important not to panic if you find yourself in this situation.

Instructing a solicitor that specialises in drink driving could help you to avoid a ban from driving. If you were surprised by the level of alcohol in your system it may be that the machine produced an erroneous reading.


High alcohol readings

If you have provided a high reading on a breath testing device you could well have a good chance of avoiding conviction for the offence.

Inaccurate readings do occur, so if you’ve been surprised by a reading when you know that you’ve had little or no alcohol, the reliability of the analysis used as evidence can be challenged.

In cases where alcohol has been consumed after driving but before the test, this could produce a reading which does not fairly reflect the amount in your system at the time you drove. This is commonly known as the “hip flask defence”.


Failure to provide samples

Failure to provide a sample of breath for analysis normally carries a disqualification from driving of at least one year. However, there may have been legitimate reasons as to why samples were not provided and these can be used a defence.

For example, you may have a medical condition that affects your lung capacity meaning that you were unable to satisfy the needs of the analysis. Or, the police could have been unclear on how to use the machine. There are three types of machine used in the UK, and although instructions that work for one machine may not work for another, officers are told to instruct people in the same way for all three.

Finally, if you were involved in an accident and were taken to hospital, a breath sample cannot be provided as at a police station. Only blood or urine can be required. This increases the possibility of procedural errors on the part of the police.

These are all instances where you can put forward a defence against a conviction, but make sure that you have the best representation possible. Going to someone like will ensure that you have 25 years’ worth of experience in defending motoring charges in your corner.

If you’d like a full list of potential penalties click here.
I hope you found this article useful – if you have anything to add, please feel free to leave a comment.

Rive Gauche: Mr Corbyn is a bit dull..not really PM material..

As a Labour voter of 40 years, I do find Mr Corbyn’s politics rather tedious. He doesn’t really have the oratory skill or the presence to be Party Leader, let alone a PM.  May be time to join the Liberals…. I assume that this party is still around?  I shall Google and visit their site

It appears that quite a few Labour voters are leaving Labour under Corbyn to join the Lib-Dems. I’m afraid that Labour only has itself to blame for killing the party….

I will, however, continue to support labour – through Scottish Labour – hence their logo.

Rive Gauche: Balls tripping the light fantastic

I like Ed Balls  – he was an amusing politician.  I didn’t happen to see Strictly Come Prancing tonight – Radio 4 appeals more these days than telly – but here is a picture of the Great Labour Shadow Chancellor – ‘Tripping the light fantastic’…or whatever phrase these dancers use these days.  I’ve no idea if the judges approved.

I suspect that rigorous analysis of Tory budgets and ‘Quantitative Easing’ would have assisted Mr Balls in ‘Quantitatively Easing’ himself across the dance floor.



Rive Gauche: Labour MPs guilty of mugging a decent man…


charonglass24sepp2016Ha!  I’m not sure that this is the case.  Labour does need a new leader, a leader with even a fighting chance of winning an election…this century.


I’ve had the pleasure of doing a podcast with Shami Chakrabarti – a clever and friendly lawyer and very charming to all involved in that podcast which I did for The The College / University of Law.  I am also sure that Jeremy Corby is a decent man.  He has been in politics for many years  – but there comes a time when it makes sense to make way for the new generation of MPs.  Not an easy thing to ‘let go’ – but it happens to us all.  I’m quite relaxed about being an ageing blogger  who blogs, paints passably and enjoys long walks with a camera. My father lived until he was 79 and accounted for this remarkable feat by saying that Scotch Whisky assisted in the process of living and staying alive. I will admit to being slightly nervous, given the amount of whisky my father drank, that the coffin would explode when it passed through the curtain into the fires of the crematorium.  I was relieved when it didn’t.  It would have amused my father, had it done so.  I only drink wine and smoke Marlboro, Richmond Menthol and Cafe Creme cigars. I may even make it to my Nineties – but I have a feeling, if I do, that I will still be tilting at windmills and blogging.  There won’t be much law in my posts – there isn’t much now, but  there comes a time when an ageing academic lawyer has to do other things!


The past is the past – memories, distorted by ‘The Rememberer’ (sic)  to suit his or her taste.

Hat Tip to  for tweeting about this.

Peter Baverstock is CEO of LEAP UK, which offers cutting edge case management systems – An interview

Peter Baverstock is CEO of LEAP UK, which offers cutting edge case management systems, including wills and probate forms and materials, to small law firms. In a recent interview Peter talks about how the company has been updating its estate planning offering – and why, since launching in the UK nearly two years ago, it’s racing ahead in leaps and bounds…

You just updated your wills and probate material three months ago Peter – why was that?

‘LEAP’s system has always comprised of a wills and probate offering – the wills-side of things was straightforward but producing, for example, an IHT 400 is actually quite a complex matter. So, over the past nine months, we have tweaked our wills and probate case management system – we’ve listened to what our clients want and remodelled it accordingly, now we’re heavily promoting that as part of the LEAP package as we believe it’s now one of the best on the market.  At present we have a team of Product Specialists visiting law firms across the UK demonstrating the software and our estate planning material.


We focus on high street law firms with 1 to 25 members of staff, generally our clients work across a variety of areas of law.  But I’d say around 60% of our current client’s work, at least some of the time, in probate.  and that’s why having the right wills and probate package is so important. And to those small firms who aren’t working in probate we’d ask: why not? The ability to work on a probate file is already there, within our system, so use it. Otherwise a lot of probate work is walking out of the door and going to large corporate firms. And that’s daft, when the technology is at our clients’ fingertips.’

Have you had good feedback on the new material?

‘Yes our clients are embracing it, praising the simplicity of generating the 205 and the way the IHT 400 is produced as well.’

Apart from updating the wills and probate process, what other innovations have taken place at LEAP in the last few months?

‘We’re at the forefront of changing the way people work, using instant online chat software with our clients, launched four months ago. So, as soon as a client logs in to our community, a chat box pops up and one of our engineers is online, ready to provide support. Any issue that can’t be fixed through an online conversation, which the majority of things can, we’ll call the client immediately. We have analysed the new online chat system and it’s taken our call logging times from hours down to minutes. And we’ve received a great response from clients themselves on the efficacy of the system. It’s a lot less frustrating for them than making a call and then waiting an hour or two for a call back – with online chat they connect with one of our support people in seconds.

2016 has been incredibly busy so far – what’s left for the next four months of the year?

‘It has been a busy year but one of our mottos is never, ever give up and we live by that mantra. We’re continually pushing boundaries to ensure our clients have the best service and products. So in September we launched our LEAP iPad application which means clients’ can access their data in a standard format on iPad, lap top, PC or smartphone. We know that small law firms need that flexibility in the way they work – often they’re out on site meeting people to discuss their wills so it’s sensible for them to be able to draft a will there and then, while they’re actually with the client. It’s all about efficiency – allowing law firms to work the way they want to work. If they can be flexible with their practise management solutions, then they can give a much better service to their clients.’

And how is LEAP doing in general since launching in the UK in October 2014?

‘It’s nearly two years since we launched and we have already reached 700 firms using LEAP so it’s going incredibly well and our product is being well received. Clients value it because it’s so simple to use – it works the way they work. As to the future – well as I said before we never, ever give up, we want to ensure our clients get the very best in technology after all we spend some £5m a year with over 50 developers continually looking to improve our solutions.
Peter Baverstock is Chief Executive Officer at LEAP UK and has been involved in developing software for small law firms for more than 20 years. He may be contacted at or you can connect with Peter on LinkedIn.  You can also visit for more information.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd involved in Bahamas offshore firms

The Home Secretary – who appeared from nowhere politically to become Home Secretary has not made  a great start with this…

The Guardian reports:  “Amber Rudd’s business career has come under scrutiny following a Guardian investigation that reveals her involvement with two companies in an offshore tax haven, and another where her co-director was jailed for fraud.

A fresh leak of tax haven data names the home secretary as having been a director of two companies in the Bahamas – a fact she did not refer to earlier this year when defending David Cameron over his father’s investment fund in the same country.

The Guardian has also discovered new details about her previous career in venture capital during the boom and bust 1990s. One enterprise led her to become a co-director of Monticello, a company that was at the centre of a share ramping investigation.

She was also involved in a company prospecting for diamonds in Siberia that was traded on a notoriously unregulated stock exchange.

Rudd said that her career in business prior to politics was public knowledge but declined to answer questions, including whether she had invested in the Bahamas companies or whether either company had paid tax in the UK.

A rising star of the Conservative party, Rudd has provided scant details about her career before she became an MP in 2010.

Though there is no suggestion she was involved in any wrongdoing, the disclosures may cause her some embarrassment, particularly as pressure grows to crack down on tax avoidance and governments demand more transparency from offshore regimes.”

The story continues….

Win a trip to Australia with InfoTrack.

Win a trip to Australia with InfoTrack.

If your holidays aren’t yet planned for 2017, then it’s worth checking out InfoTrack. InfoTrack have announced their latest incentive – a prize draw to win a two-week holiday for 2 to Australia. 

Having recently added electronic contract packs to their platform, InfoTrack are a service provider that bring together all the key conveyancing tasks under one roof, including SDLT Submissions and AP1 Transfers.

For the chance to win the trip to Australia, InfoTrack customers receive an entry each time they use one of three services – eCOS (electronic contract packs), SDLT or AP1. The more often these services are used through InfoTrack, the more entries users will receive into the prize draw.

Adam Bullion, General Manager of Marketing at InfoTrack comments ‘We recognise that our clients work very hard. Our aim is to bring the enjoyment back to conveyancing through technology. The prize of a trip to Australia, running through to the end of December, is designed to be enjoyable and simple to enter, which is similar to our platform. The more a user conducts SDLT Submissions, AP1 Transfers and eCOS (electronic contract packs) through InfoTrack, the more entries they’ll get, increasing their chances of winning.’

For more information and to find out how the promotion works, simply visit


About InfoTrack

InfoTrack provides firms with a fast, intuitive platform for all conveyancing requirements. By understanding conveyancing needs, we create superior technology that enables firms to increase efficiencies. Stunningly simple and beautifully smart, InfoTrack allows you to perform all the key tasks under one sophisticated roof, including Land Registry searches, conveyancing searches, SDLT submission and AP1 transfers.

Providing a beautifully smart and stunningly simple search platform where all conveyancing needs are delivered under one roof. Start using InfoTrack now by visiting

My Sunday walk this morning from Scone to Perth and back

My Sunday walk this morning (No buses until 10.00 on Sundays) from Scone to Perth and back was most enjoyable.  The round trip – with wanderings in and around Perth is roughly 9 miles, so good exercise.

Here are a few photographs…

The war memorial commemorating the 200 men from Scone who lost their lives in War.

It is eerily quiet, the road to perth almost empty in the early hours of a Sunday morning.

A very friendly and inquisitive cow.  She walked over as soon as I got my camera out.

The entry sign to Perth. It is translated into Gaelic which hardly anyone here speaks.

Crossing the River Tay… the skies were darkening and light rain or ‘Scotch Mist’ as we call it began to fall.

Nothing happens in Perth on Sundays until past 10.00 am.

Lexi the dog.  A quiet man who never asks for money – but many give him some.  An old soldier?  Must be in his fifties.

A very talented brother and sister, mid-teens, – pipes and drums.  Exceptional musicians and very good music.

A firejuggler – flaming bladetorches.  He was very good at it!


And a picture of me in my red suede hat (£7 from The Salvation Army shop in Perth) reflected in the No 7 Bus shelter.


Virtual reality growing pains

Virtual reality growing pains
By Keith Martin

Virtual reality media – 360 VR photography and video – is suddenly everywhere. That’s a bit of a strange thing to say about something who’s very name declares that it doesn’t actually exist, but we’ll have to let that go. This year Facebook embraced 360-degree VR photographs, the kind that let you look all around, by showing them in timelines as interactive views. If you’re on a 20th-century computing thing you can click and drag to look around the scene, and if you’re using a 21st-century mobile device of some flavour you just need to tilt and turn to do the same thing. If you have a Ricoh Theta, Samsung Gear 360 or some other 360 camera, or even if you just use the panorama feature in your phone’s camera app, Facebook can oblige by showing the results interactively. It’s not really the next best thing to being there, but it’s one hell of a lot more engaging than a traditional static snapshot!

The only problem is that Facebook relies on hidden ‘Exif’ metadata embedded in those images to know when something’s a VR photo rather than just an unusually wide ordinary snap. If your photos don’t have that… if that mysterious invisible data is lost through editing the image or being saved incorrectly… you’re out of luck. Adding this info into images is possible, but only if you actually like using 1970s-style command line instructions, know the right arcane instructions, and like working out awkward mathematical transformations.

I shoot 360 content professionally, but I stay away from the command line if I can help it, so I wanted to find a friendlier way to fix troublesome VR photos. There were only a couple of apps on Windows that were even remotely helpful for this, and there was actually nothing at all on the Mac! Even the 360 team at Facebook didn’t know of anything. That’s why I ended up writing my own app to do this for me, including those unpleasant calculations. And then released it so my 360 photographer friends (that’s friends who shoot 360 photos, not the number of my friends) could use it too. And then smartened it up and released it so everyone else could use it too, for ‘partial’ panoramas as well as full 360 ones. It’s called Exif Fixer (almost a palindrome) and it’s in the Software section of my site.

Yes, I know it’s a highly specialised app, but it’s free, and if you ever need it it’s there! This shows that there really is almost always ‘an app for that’. And if there actually isn’t, well, why not make one?

Law Review: Courts to undergo digital reform after successful pilots

Vulnerable victims and witnesses will no longer have to appear in court to give evidence and fare dodgers will be able to plead guilty and pay fines online under new reforms.

The radical changes to court procedures in England and Wales are part of a £1bn programme to modernise the courts announced jointly by the lord chief justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the senior president of tribunals, Sir Ernest Ryder, and the new justice secretary, Elizabeth Truss, on Thursday.

There have already been successful pilot programmes at Liverpool, Leeds and Kingston upon Thames crown courts that allow victims and witnesses to prerecord their cross-examinations and avoid the trauma of a live hearing. This will allow them to opt out of giving their evidence in court.

Victims are said to have felt less under pressure in giving their accounts and witnesses were better able to recall events. Many of the cases in the pilot programme involved sexual offences. Their cross-examinations were shown to juries during the trial.

The initiative permitting some defendants in less serious cases to plead guilty and pay their fines online is aimed at speeding up the criminal justice process and reducing the number of hearings required. Many magistrates courts are already being closed.

Read the rest of the story here

Jeremy Corbyn ally condemns list of “abusive” Labour MPs

Jeremy Corbyn ally condemns list of “abusive” Labour MPs

Briefing against 13 MPs said to have “caused dismay and anger among Jeremy’s supporters in Westminster”.

Earlier today, Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign team issued a list of 13 Labour MPs, denouncing them for their “abuse” of the leader and his supporters. The briefing cited Jess Phillips telling Diane Abbott to “fuck off”, Tristram Hunt describing Labour as “in the shit”, Tom Watson referring to Momentum as “a rabble” and John Woodcock calling a Corbyn PMQs performance a “fucking disaster”,

Ian Austin, Neil Coyle, Ben Bradshaw, Frank Field, Anna Turley, Jamie Reed, Karl Turner, Stephen Kinnock and Tom Blenkinsop were also named in the list. Ahead of tonight’s Sky News debate between Corbyn and Owen Smith, a spokesman demanded that the challenger “condemn the abuse instigated by his high-profile supporters”. He said: “Owen Smith’s campaign has become increasingly negative, focusing on attacking Jeremy Corbyn rather than presenting a positive vision for the party and country.

Read the rest of the article if you really must

British Government War criminals line up for ‘Family Photograph’

The British Cabinet of Organised War Criminals – there is bound to be a war that they start – have lined up for a photograph.  This photograph will be most useful to Interpol and Europol and quite possibly, the CIA.  The CIA, however, have probably got this photograph already from their hidden surveillance cameras in No 10..

Not a very good photograph from The Grauniad.  The photographer managed to cut all the feet off.  I marvel. A basic rule of taking a passable photograph.  Don’t cut the feet off. Perhaps Twitter did it for them on uploading?

Mixed Media Art from Charonasso – A ‘Creazzione’

I amused myself last night doing this ‘creazzione’ – a mixed media piece with a paper flower, a 2p coin, a crocidolite semi previous stone and a conker stem with conker inside and The Cafe Creme mini cigars I amuse myself by smoking from time to time when I am not smoking Marlboro Reds – a free bus pass ticket for the No 7 Bus Scone to Perth and, amazingly, some paint as well.

8 Habits of Highly Defective Contracts

8 Habits of Highly Defective Contracts

Sarah Fox


Steven Covey’s 7 Habits are principles to help you become highly effective. His book became a classic of personal and business development. But I realised the astonishing parallels with my specialist area of law – contracts.

In brief, the first six of Steven Covey’s habits can be summarised as “make and keep a promise” and “involve others and work out a solution together”. If only …

My experience is that most businesses fall into the 8 habits of highly defective contracts. They make promises they don’t intend to keep, and they don’t solve their problems with their clients but through lawyers. The response from Talk Talk to its hacking scandal and the Adidas/IAAF dispute over sponsorship deal amply demonstrate our highly defective approach to contracts.

Of course, if you want to create effective contracts, you just have to do the opposite of these habits:

1. Use Contracts Lazily

As a contract is a tool to help you do business, why do most businesses get embarrassed about their contracts and treat them like a hurdle to be overcome? Why copy them from the internet, or hide them in a drawer? Effective contracts help you sell your business, your products/services, your skills, and your passion to those who need them.

Tip: Be proactive with your contracts and create contracts that work for your business.

2. Begin with a Bad End in Mind

Many terms in defective contracts focus solely on what will happen when things go wrong – how disputes will be resolved, complaints handled, liability limited, or risks insured. Of course your business needs protection, but the best protection is to begin by knowing what a successful project looks like.  Unclear expectations about what success looks like will result in disputes.

Tip: Use your contract to define what a successful ‘end’ looks like for you and your client.

3. Put First Things Last

Defective contracts focus 80% of their content on the minutiae of transactions – definitions, addresses, notices and so on – rather than spending 80% of their content on the important things. What your client really wants to know is what you are doing, why, how, when and for how much money. If your client can’t read your contact and understand it within seconds, then your focus is wrong.

Tip: Start your contract with the most important aspects for your client.

4. Think Win/Lose

For the last 150 years, the English courts have intervened in contracts to redress the balance when merchants started to take advantage of naïve consumers. Regrettably, this is still happening today. Defective contracts read like the instructions for winning a battle, not the map for a journey to be travelled together. But collaboration and trust is the key to successful contracting.

Tip: For each clause, decide if it builds trust or breaks trust. You should aim for 95% trust building.

5. Seek Misunderstanding

Too many contracts are excessively long and irredeemably complex. They are written by (or copied off) lawyers to be read by lawyers (or misread by non-lawyers). If your contract cannot be understood then it cannot be effective as no-one can carry it out. You need to see your contract through your client’s eyes.

Tip: Write your contract in plain language to avoid misunderstandings.

6. Silo-ize

Defective contracts assume that there are ‘sides’ and each ‘side’ has to protect its own interests. Effective contracts combine the strengths of both sides to produce an even better result. They involve clients in deciding the solution to their own problem, rather than imposing your ideas.

Tip: Treat your contract as a partnership for a project and work as a team to achieve agreed aims.

7. Blunt the Saw

Defective contracts seek short-term profits at the expense of long-term relationships. They stoke mistrust, create conflict and are unsustainable. An effective contract grows with the partners and the project, encouraging them to share ideas and improve the project for both their benefit.

Tip: Focus on results not the methods as this provides room for improvement as you learn.

8. Shout About You

Those who enter into, seek and enforce contracts for their own selfish aims are not clients you should do business with. Their defective contracts do not help you, they merely help your ‘partner’. But contracts are, and should be, about inspiring and helping each other. What people say about you (your brand) depends not just on how you write your contract, but how you use it.

Tip: Treat your contract as a way to inspire or help someone else.

As the book says “Trust is the highest form of human motivation. It brings out the very best in people.” That is why an effective contract is about trust, not terms.

What Can Astronauts Teach Us About Delivering Legal Services?

What Can Astronauts Teach Us About Delivering Legal Services?

What Can Astronauts Teach Us About Delivering Legal Services?
Sarah Fox, 500 Words Ltd

Chris Hadfield’s “Guide to Life on Earth”, whilst a compelling view into the life of an astronaut, contains many lessons for those of us who are more earth-bound.

He splits his space travels into three distinct phases. These can be applied to legal services as well as extra-terrestrial activities. Whether you are acting on the sale of a business, a bitter employment dispute, registering intellectual property rights, or agreeing contracts for the construction of a bridge, the transaction can be split into these phases:

  • Pre-Launch: the preparation phase. His preparation phase lasted tens of years. This is often where the nitty-gritty of legal work is done: due diligence, searches, queries, sharing and exchanging documents, disclosure and so on.
  • Lift-Off: the climax. This is when the exciting stuff really happens. So for disputes this is the court proceedings, for sale of a business or a house this is the completion meeting, or when the trademark is finally approved.
  • Come Down to Earth: what you might call the anti-climax. This is when the ends are tidied up, paperwork filed, bills sent, and customer satisfaction monitored.

Chris Hadfield gives each phase equal importance. I suspect that’s not quite the way you see these phases of a client matter. Instead, your experience may consist of many hours of ‘churn’, process and admin, bookending by what you think of as ‘real legal work’.

From an astronaut’s perspective, the pre-launch phase ensures that lift-off is as risk-free as possible. Many hours of review, rehearsal, repetition and refinement guarantee that informed decisions can be made in a vital split second. With the pressure on fees, you rarely get the luxury of hours to prepare. But how many times have you attended court, or a client meeting, and realised a piece of paper, valuable information, or relevant people were missing, who could have made all the difference?  Next time ‘sweat the small stuff’ – as he calls it – and the event will be more successful. Many years ago, following (unwarranted) murmurs of disapproval of my role as a junior on his beloved dispute, I went the extra mile before a hearing with an arbitrator. I planned, prepared, reviewed, and took summaries, maps and draft orders of every shade and hue. It turned potential disaster into a huge client success.

During lift-off, Chris recognises that even though it’s the astronauts in the rocket who get all the credit, going into space is a massive team effort. His recommends that everyone should try to help others and the project to succeed, not go for individual glory. Occasionally, legal teams can get hide-bound by status issues, doggedly pursue dead-ends, or fail to see the bigger picture. Your focus should be on achieving the best results for everyone involved. This produces better client satisfaction, and better work satisfaction too! Even as a progressed through the ranks of Eversheds, I never forgot that it was the paralegal working the copier or fax machine who helped us get the job completed and made sure they got credit too (not just the partners).

And just when you think your project is (basically) over, it is not the end. As Chris highlights, failing to return to earth safely can destroy years of evidence, data and experiments, as well as astronaut’s lives. How many times at the end of the matter, do you take your eye off the ball and create problems for the future? How about leases with pages missing? Maps incorrectly drawn? Wills misplaced? Agreements not signed by the authorised people or adequately witnessed? Keeping your focus until the very last task is properly finished can make all the difference to whether your project (or mission) is deemed a success – especially in the future. Many years ago as a paralegal, I was part of a team scheduling all the leases on all the UK sites for a huge retailer – it was incredibly rare that the paperwork was properly signed by all parties, dated, with the right map attached and put in the correct  deeds packet. The client was not impressed!

Unlike an astronaut we rarely need to ask ‘what’s the next thing that could kill me?’ but we could spend more time thinking ‘what’s the next thing that could derail this matter?’ and plan for how we can avoid it. Taking an astronaut’s perspective on your next client matter or earth transaction could help you be more successful.

Sarah Fox, 500 Words Ltd

Speaker and Author of the 500-Word Contract™

6 January 2016

Muttley Dastardly LLP: This game’s in the refrigerator! The door’s closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard and the Jell-O is jiggling …

Matt Muttley, managing partner of Muttley Dastardly, has returned from from a two week business trip to America.  In the partner’s boardroom at their City offices are ten partners and 25 senior associates.  The partners are seated at the boardroom table on a raised dais. Muttley sits in the only chair with arm rests, an affectation he designed into the furniture after being shown The Cabinet Room when Tony Blair was prime minister. This chair is in the centre of the  black polished ebony boardroom table.  The associates stand by the wall facing the partners. Muttley’s PA, Eva Braun stands behind Muttley dressed in a black skirt suit, white silk camisole and five inch heels, her expression impassive.

“Listen up. This game’s in the refrigerator! The door’s closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter’s getting hard and the Jell-O is jiggling … I’m pleased to report that the partners have had a good year. In fact we have managed the quite remarkable feat of increasing our profit per partner by 28.5% despite a downturn in revenue of 18.2%.  This is, in part, due to the great cull of last Summer and in part to increasing your billable hours requirement.  Two of you have failed to meet those targets and your desks are being cleared by security now. Levison and Edmondson, I’d be grateful if you would make your way to reception… the game is over for you.”

Muttley paused while the two shocked associates left the boardroom. No-one spoke.

“We’ve had a change of government and the new clowns have already lost one guy who couldn’t read the rules, or chose not to, or chose to give the rules a different spin to others. This is what happens when people don’t check with lawyers about rules. The new clowns are going to slash budgets, slash spending and in all likelihood there will be strikes ahead.  We’re beefing the Employment division.  There will be some fairly spectacular business failures as well… football clubs and airlines are worth a look and don’t be surprised if BP litigation comes our way.  I’ve been Stateside and I can tell you… it is going to be a turkey shoot.  Big Law are alternately wetting and crapping themselves. One CEO…. their ‘word’ for managing partner, I spoke to was calling for oxygen at one point so excited was he at the prospect of work when he took a call from The White House while I was there.”

Muttley sipped some Perrier from a glass to his right, put his hands together and continued.

Let’s take a look at the markets.  I’ve been doing some key reading, a guy called Paul B. Farrell of MarketWatch.  Let me summarise, using his rather colourful language.   Are we heading for the bear or is the bull going to run? I quote...“…you decide: As you stare from high up in the nose-bleed bleachers watching the game, staring at a Dow that not long ago was above 11,000 and heading for 12,000. Now the Dow’s sitting on the bench, ready for the showers, weak after a couple air balls around 10,000. No more timeouts. “This game’s in the refrigerator……

Main Street lost 20% last decade … yet like sheep keep going back. Yes, if you’re channeling Chick, here’s your “mixed metaphor” cue card: “This game’s in the refrigerator … Wall Street won (proof, Goldman’s $100-million-profit trading days and Blankfein’s $68 million bonus) … Main Street’s headed for another losing streak … Congress’ lights are out … the refrigerator door’s closing on financial reforms … the lobbyists are laying some rotten eggs, poisoning capitalism … the Tea Party-of-No-No ideologies are hardening … the bull’s Jell-O is jiggling to a flat line … and this market’s going into hibernation, with the bears … run, don’t walk, to the exits, folks.”But will Main Street exit? Will we ever learn? No……

Economist Gary Shilling said price-to-earnings ratios are at a “nosebleed 22.5 level.” The Dow was around 11,000. Money manager Jeremy Grantham recently said the market’s overvalued 40%. That could mean a collapse to 6,600. Last week in Reuters’ “Markets Could Be Derailed Again,” George Soros echoed a “game over” warning with a “stark warning … that the financial world is on the wrong track and that we may be hurtling towards an even bigger boom and bust than in the credit crisis.”

Now Dow Theory’s Richard Russell is warning the public of an imminent crash: “Sell … get liquid … by the end of this year they won’t recognize the country.”

So… are you feeling confident that Danny Alexander, a man who has absolutely no experience apart from sending PR bull out about somewhere in Scotland For fuck’s sake and negotiating a coalition with a group of grasping, desperate, politicians who would short-sell their mothers if they hadn’t already done it while in opposition?!  Cable is simmering like a tin of beans on the back burner with about as much effect.  We know nothing about Osborne.  The good news is that they are going to cut legal aid budgets to buggery, slash spending on the courts, and encourage Tesco and the Coop to package and commoditise legal services.  It’ll be a car crash… we’re probably looking at the equivalent of Emmerdale Farm or Pot Noodle… an emollient but hardly exciting.

Muttley paused to look at the sleek iPad beside him.  He looked up and spoke in lowered tones, forcing the associates to lean forward slightly, expectant.

“What does this mean for us..and when I say us, I mean of course the partners of this firm? We gear up on insolvency and taxation – the clowns are going to ‘simplify’ the system.  When governments say that there is always work for lawyers.   We talk to a few senior barristers and get them into our version of a Procureco. Where there’s money there’s barristers as my father used to say.

We’re going to look at buying a few small regional firms, or rather, turn them into an alternate business structure and go for the very lucrative personal injury market.  We’ll use our Megaladon Direct brand for that.   The good news is the idea of banning referral fees has been kicked into touch.  This will give us an edge. This will also irritate the hell out of The Law Society and The Bar Council who have both been pressing for abolition.  This could keep both these august bodies frothing for months. Again, good for us because their eyes will not be on point on other reforms to ‘suggest’ to government.  Our black psyops unit is putting out articles on blogs and in the legal media about  the future of the legal profession…. lawyers love this stuff and it is always good to get our competitors a little worked up and frothing.  I’m pleased to report that our Twitter presence will soon sow dissent in the profession so we may reap the rewards of keeping lawyers busy responding to our nonsense.  It is amazing how lawyers like to engage on twitter when they should be at the coal face digging coal for their partners. We won’t need to trouble any of you with this.  Eva Braun has found five or six people to put the word out and stir things up a bit.

Finally… let’s put the squeeze on the law schools. We are hiring 125 trainees next year.  50 will make the cut, 20 may even survive the first year PQE.  We are paying far too much for our LPC training.  The law schools are getting greedy.  This is fine for law firms, but most inelegant in the public consciousness when it comes to legal education.  We’ll place some psyops about the fact that we’re looking to partner with a law school for our LPC training.  The water should froth a bit at that and then we’ll send in a team to have a look at the facilities, the staff, do a bit of teeth sucking and promise a three year deal on our terms.  As you know, we are specialists in shark repellent, exactitude and ‘zone of uncertainty’ clauses which will deter any law school from suing if we want out.  I would hope for at least a 40% discount against their published rate her head on the LPC.  This saving will, of course, go towards the partner bonuses.

You know what you have to do.  Same time next week. Oh… and remember…. “Sell … get liquid … by the end of this year the clowns won’t recognize the country. That is all.


I would like to point out, for members of the public who are fortunate enough not to need the services of  Muttley Dastardly LLP or Megaladon Direct that we are reassuringly expensive…to coin a phrase. 

Good to see Keith Vaz, a Labour MP, upholding the Law on drugs…

Married Labour MP Keith Vaz tells prostitutes he invited to flat to bring poppers

The Mirror reports, barely able to conceal the excitement.. “Married MP Keith Vaz tells prostitutes he invited to flat to bring poppers and ‘get this party started’

Today we can reveal the Labour statesman, a married father of two, is leading a double life paying young male escorts for sex.

He is one of the most influential MPs in the House of Commons and is currently overseeing the biggest shake-up of Britain’s prostitution laws in a generation.

But today we can reveal Keith Vaz, a married father of two, is leading a double life paying young male escorts for sex.

Mr Vaz last met two Eastern European prostitutes eight days ago, even though he is chair of a powerful parliamentary group probing vice and drugs.

And as the talk ranged from sex to pets, Mr Vaz eventually said: “We need to get this party started.”


He also spoke about having had unprotected sex. And ahead of the meeting he had sent a series of texts in which he jokingly called himself one of the men’s “pimp” and “bank manager”.

He is currently heading up the committee which has investigated harm caused by the illegal Class A drug.

Mr Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East since 1987, also told the pair to bring along poppers – the sex-enhancing drug.

In Parliament, he defended use of the drug when it faced a ban.

Mr Vaz paid the escorts in cash. Money was also paid into a bank account used by one of them by a man linked to a charity set up by the MP.

The rest of the story…


Although a lifelong Labour voter, I have found Mr Vaz and his sanctimonious pronouncements in the past rather tedious.  I do think he should resign his seat as an MP.  I doubt that he will do that.  A campaign?  “Let’s get his retirement as an MP started?”

It is, of course, entirely possible that Mr Vaz was conducting detailed research into drugs and prostitution with some field work. 


The BBC reports that Mr Vaz has stood down from the Select Committee – wisely.


Guido Fawkes reports: 

“Keith Vaz was under police investigation over year ago on suspicion of financial corruption and historic allegations of under-age sex. Speaker Bercow was informed of this and fellow MPs demanded – Andrew Bridgen in writing – that he step down from his position on the Home Affair Select Committee. The Speaker protected Vaz…

It is widely known around Westminster that Vaz – who owes his career to Greville Janner – was the unidentified MP in this Sun front page from last year.”