A bit of the old ‘Rive Gauche’

It is a bit early in the new year for any law firm, or lawyer for that matter, to have managed to get themselves into the Darwin Awards or appear as a feature on RollonFriday or Legal Cheek, so I shall have to content myself with other matters…

This transatlantic trade deal is a full-frontal assault on democracy

Brussels has kept quiet about a treaty that would let rapacious companies subvert our laws, rights and national sovereignty

“The purpose of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is to remove the regulatory differences between the US and European nations. I mentioned it a couple of weeks ago. But I left out the most important issue: the remarkable ability it would grant big business to sue the living daylights out of governments which try to defend their citizens. It would allow a secretive panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of parliament and destroy our legal protections. Yet the defenders of our sovereignty say nothing.

A most interesting article in The Guardian from George Monbiot.

Reflecting on the death of the wonderful John Fortune and his satirical creations, with John Bird,  led me to Google.  There is a big difference between ‘satirical’ and satyrical.  An error of typing led me into a very strange world of Google pics.  At least some lawyers only wear the hair of a horse on their heads.  The amateur Satyrs go for a half man half horse look. It isn’t a good look, judging by the pictures on offer on Google.

RIP one of the creators of Sir George Parr – the clips always worth a second or third look. 

Well..there we are.  The new year is underway and a bit of real work beckons.

Postcard from the Staterooms: Iolanthe – Nightmare Song by The Lord Chancellor edition

Words are not needed for what follows…

sinister (comparative more sinistersuperlative most sinister)

  1. Inauspicious, ominous, unlucky, illegitimate (as in ‘political barsteward’).
  2. Evil or seemingly evil; indicating lurking danger or harm.
    sinister influences
    the sinister atmosphere of the crypt

I have to say that Mr Osbore does seem a bit sinister in that photograph.  ’Something of the night’ about him?

I recall Ann Widdecombe’s famous statement about another Tory wannabe… Michael Howard:  “There is something of the night about him”. The remark was considered to be extremely damaging to Howard.

I can only assume that this trait is a requirement for high office in the Tory party… or a talent for Gilbert & Sullivanesque comedy, in the case of our present ‘Lord Chancellor’, Chris Grayling, who I very much hope will raid the dressing up box again soon to reincarnate as an Archbishop.

Before I turn to other sinistral matters – a most interesting piece from Paul Gilbert..

Innovation – of course, it’s what we all do, isn’t it?

It won’t be long and once again our thoughts will turn to what will be new in the next twelve months; what innovation will we see, what new gadgets and ideas will come forward, who will make a break-through with something that will astonish us all?

In legal services we have had a decade or more of predictions about innovation (or Armageddon depending on your personal glass half full/empty barometer). We may be rather unsure about what the future will bring, but we are certain that we must all be innovative, we must all be ready for change and we must all be revolutionaries.

Yet, what has actually changed so far?

The rest of this article is well worth a read…

I find it difficult to leave the topic of Lord Chancellor Grayling – here he is again, divesting himself of his wisdom on the  European Court of Human Rights:

Grayling says European court of human rights has lost legitimacy

Justice secretary finalising plans to curtail Strasbourg court after 2015 to ‘ensure UK court judgments are final’
And here he is again singing a bit of Gilbert & Sullivan – which he does rather well - Iolanthe – Nightmare Song by The Lord Chancellor
That’s quite enough for now…back later when I have taken of supper…

A bit of the old ‘Rive-Gauche’…

I was in a cafe in Kennington over lunch talking with my real brother (as opposed to Professor R.D. Charon) and saw the poster above on the wall.  I rather liked it. I have had the pleasure of meeting people who do daft things after a good shot of coffee. Mind you the stuff they put up their noses after taking a sip of coffee  probably didn’t help the clarity of their thinking…. but they were certainly ‘animated’….veritable Duracell bunnies they were.

And now, to kick off proceedings…. The death of the blog : Long live the law blog

Silence is not always golden

I came across an interesting article on The In-House Lawyer from MacFarlanes LLP - Silence is not always golden:

In PGF II SA v OMFS Company 1 Ltd [2013], the Court of Appeal considered, for the first time, whether a failure by a party to respond to an invitation to mediate should be treated as an unreasonable refusal to mediate – previous cases having focused on situations where there had been an express refusal to do so.

The Court of Appeal held that silence in the face of an offer to mediate is of itself unreasonable – even if circumstances exist which would justify an express refusal to mediate.

I may have overdone the ‘Law’ content (above) for the festive season… so… onwards with little in the way of ‘The law’ getting in the way…

Beaubodor is a very talented artist and humourist who has a good record of ‘hitting the nail on the head’.  I always enjoy his pictures.  Visit the Beaubodor website 

One website where I can be certain of avoiding ‘the Law’ – but still about ‘Law’  - is Legal Cheek, a website I particularly enjoy. 

Here – the 10 most-read Legal Cheek Stories of 2013 : From Ward LJ “This case involves a number of – and here I must not fall into Dr Spooner’s error – warring bankers.”

Never in the field of human conflict has so little been done by so few for so many….?

It would appear that the Prime Minister may well have been mildly ‘over-refreshed’. Did he come up with the ‘bright idea’ of appointing Chris Grayling as Lord Chancellor after his evening out?

John Bolch over at Family Lore has an amusing Review of the Year…

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I am a fan of Clare Rodway’s The Conversation bloghere she interviews Jo Warby

Jo Worby is one of those rare people in business who is more interested in talking about other people’s success. She is also rare in being a female managing partner. She has developed ambitious plans for her law firm, Maidstone-based Brachers, since taking on the role and a lot of them are focussed on engaging the people in her business…..

I am also a fan of Charles Pugsley Fincher and his art…

Carl Gardner is a ‘precision law blogger’ and a good friend and accomplice in our Without Prejudice podcasts – which will return soon. This recent blog post is well worth a read:  Alan Turing: a strain’d quality of irrational and arbitrary mercy

I must not overdo the ‘legal thinking’ or ‘thinking legal’ … back on the morrow with more.

Happy Christmas…

This Christmas many will listen to the Queen and her annual message.

I thought some years ago that it would be amusing if the Duke of Edinburgh had a go at the annual Christmas message… perhaps along these lines…?

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”

Have a good Christmas – however you spend it…

The Lord Chancellor taketh away and taketh away again for good measure….

“One of Britain’s leading civil rights barristers’ chambers, which led inquiries into the deaths of Stephen Lawrence and Princess Diana and the Hillsborough disaster, is closing due to Government cuts to legal aid.

Tooks Chambers, whose leading barrister Michael Mansfield QC was in court yesterday representing the family of police shooting victim Mark Duggan, said its dissolution was “a direct result of government policies on legal aid”. Its lawyers also said Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s policies were “cumulatively devastating the provision of legal services and threatening the rule of law”….

The Independent

So, Lord Chancellor…everything going to Plan A or Plan B… or Plan C…?  Do you actually have a plan?

Perhaps you might fancy a change and be Archbishop of Canterbury?  ”Real demons to cast out” action there…

Sorry…. but I just could not resist digging this old “Charon After A Glass” pic up again….

#SAVEUKJUSTICE – A few observations…some sardonic

The #SAVEUKJUSTICE demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice yesterday was well attended.  Coverage of the event has been extensive and well dealt with in the law blogs

A few observations….

The unified stance taken by the Bar and Law Society has been a remarkable feature of the campaign.  Leading lights from the legal profession have given time and thought to putting the message across through blogs and on twitter. Many bloggers have written on the subject.  Patrick Torsney has a comprehensive listing of blogs written by lawyers and others from the legal blogging community. 

Unfortunately, the extensive use of the #SAVEUKJUSTICE hashtag on Twitter served to irritate some, including lawyers, and the PR was almost certainly not sufficiently directed to the issue of fairness – at times, the message seemed to focus on how little the lawyers were being paid which is not a message likely to receive sympathy from some members of the public.

The petition, as of today, stands at a remarkable 79,000. But there are many thousands more lawyers – so it should have been relatively straightforward to get the 100,000 signatures needed to persuade Parliament to debate The Lord Chancellor’s plans? On the assumption that many thousands of signatories to the petition would have come from non-lawyer members of the public through publicity being generated by lawyers on Twitter – and, importantly, Stephen Fry, Bianca Jagger and other ‘celebrities’ who punted the petition actively, pleasingly – it must follow that a good 40,000+ lawyers did not sign the petition.

I have spoken to  quite a few commercial and City lawyers recently.   Some said, predictably, that they were not really aware of the issues and did not use twitter. A couple took a more hostile line and felt that the message of the criminal lawyers was wrong and too oriented to their own jobs and not the interests of the public.  Others have said – and I agree with this latter stance – the message could have been addressed more to the needs of the people and the importance of preserving the Rule of Law rather than ‘profession oriented’.  The message was not clear enough, they argued:  There was a ‘whiff of’ loss of law jobs with the reduction from 1600 to 400 firms which may have  given the impression that this reduction was more important than justice itself.

Certainly, I saw quite a few tweets along the lines of ‘Lawyers have been keeping access to justice exclusive with high fees for years’ 

I am not a practitioner.  I am a mildy reclusive observer.  But I do believe that the criminal barristers and solicitors are right.  The Rule of Law will be compromised by Grayling’s reforms and I do believe that these criminal lawyers, the majority of whom do not get that well paid – less than £50k a year I have seen quoted – are regarding the profession as vocational rather than commercial.

The City and large commercial law firms turn over billions.  Their lawyers are well paid – very well paid.  A newly qualified lawyer at a ‘Magic Circle’ firm starts at £63,000+. So what?  They run commercial businesses.  Their clients are men and women of commerce, large corporations, banks, in a global legal market.  A cynic might observe – and I am a cynic at times – that commercial and City lawyers are more interested in the ‘Certainty of Law’ rather than the Rule of Law.  I once heard a senior commercial lawyer say that “Contract law is not about ‘Justice’.  We want certainty so that we can advise clients to avoid  well established  legal pitfalls and operate at the lawful edge of the legal envelope.”

I also heard  words to the effect “Any bloody idiot can tell a client what they cannot do . We don’t want bloody idiots.  We want good lawyers who can tell the client what they can do within the law as it is set down by Parliament. ”

The City / Commercial firm practice is a different world – but it is not a world paid for by taxpayers. Of course, the City and commercial firms benefit from the reputation of our legal system and ‘Rule of Law’.  As a friend of mine @taxbod observed bluntly on twitter only t’other night  - “But yet, any of those civil/commercial flog the British justice system when whoring to Russian chavs etc.” Sometimes… blunt… is good.

Legal Aid is paid for by tax payers, most legal aid lawyers are not well paid.  A legal system where people are not given a fair hearing – because they cannot afford lawyers, civil and criminal – is not a fair legal system

That being said – congratulations to all – lawyers and non-lawyers alike – for a good campaign.  The Ministry of Justice seems to have won the mainstream media PR war with their coverage in The Daily Mail yesterday:

£15m for just one firm on legal aid gravy train Scale of taxpayers’ bill revealed as Coalition vows to save £200m

  •  Ministry of Justice released a breakdown of payments to lawyers

  • Justice Secretary Chris Grayling says system is ‘not sustainable’

  • Demonstrators waved placards reading ‘justice is not for sale’

But the campaign is not over.  Surely it is not beyond the realms of possibility to get over 100,000 signatures?  Even if lawyers have to get on the phone to non-criminal law lawyers?

And lawyer or non-lawyer, if you would like to sign the petition – you may do so here

And… you can keep up to date with developments by following @TheCriminalBar on twitter

A selection of links:

The Criminal Bar Association:  Do read the Monday Message 03.06.13 – some real gems in there.

Obiter J : Some responses to MoJ consultation on Transforming legal aid

Legal Cheek: LAWYERS PROVE THEY CAN PULL OFF A DEMO – AS BRITAIN DISCUSSES #PUBLICW*NKINGONYOUTUBE
The Legal Cheek post includes some marvellous pictures and recordings of speeches by Carl Gardner, author of the Head of Legal Blog.

Head of Legal:  Geoffrey Robertson QC: there is a hidden agenda

Head of Legal:  Michael Fordham QC: the avocado of justice

Michael Fordham QC was I think the star of today’s “Saving Justice” demo outside the Ministry of Justice. His speech was both angry and funny – he called the Ministry of Justice “wankers”. And his avocado of justice, odd as it sounds, went down a storm with his audience.

The Bar Council: Bar Council responds to Legal Aid consultation

Circuit Judges: Critique of the proposals from the Judiciary

 The Law Society: Law Society responds to legal aid consultation

Storify of the SaveUKJustice demonstration 4th June 2013

And…as Legal Cheek noted:  AS MOJ CONSULTATION ON LEGAL AID CLOSES, THE UK CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM IS PLACED ON EBAY

A view of and from the law blogs…. (4)

Quote du Jour

“I’ll deny having said this, but it’s a bribe … the sort of thing I can say to these guys … you put that question down now, I thought you were interested in Fiji, would you like to come down to it, you know, I believe it’s quite nice … I can whisper that.”

Lord Laird as reported in The Telegraph story: Lord suggests best way to ‘bribe’ colleagues

It seems only right to start this review with a visit to thebungblog - A LIGHT HEARTEDLY SERIOUS LOOK AT THE BRIBERY ACT 2010.  Here is an enjoyable read:  “A QUESTION OF INTERPRETATION”

In the wake of the astonishing ‘Cash for Questions’ saga – more to come on that, inevitably – let me draw your attention to an excellent blog post done last year by A dragon’s best friend:  Cash for applications?

For my part – I would be quite happy to see the abolition of the House of Lords, a unicameral system (or at the least an elected second chamber) and the abolition of all honours.  It won’t happen of course – but holding these views allows me to keep vaguely sane in the current dystopian landscape.

But there we go… now to the law blogs…

I know nothing about crofting but I know a man who does.  Brian Inkster of Inksters is the man to go to for crofting law action. And there is a lot of it about with the recent Crofting Law Bill.

Crofting Law Blog: 6 out of 10 to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee
Brian Inkster manages to give a Strictly Come Dancing / Eurovision feel to an otherwise serious analysis.  That is classy blogging!

For those who are not operating in the Crofting Law field, Brian also blogs at The Time Blawg - the latest post, a very comprehensive review:  LawTech Futures 2013 Reviewed: The one with the neocortex

“Now let me point a finger, not at the Lord Chancellor, but at the legal profession. How the hell did we let this happen?”

Legal 2.0 is the man pointing the finger and I agree with him on the premise that the campaign should not be focused on preaching to the converted.  I raised this with Michael Turner QC , Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association, when I did my podcast with him.  In fact, the CBA and others were successful in raising public interest – in the mainstream media, on twitter and also managed to get Stephen Fry , with his millions of followers, interested – and over 70,000 people signed the petition. The campaign should have been directed more to the general public?  Some, rightly, have voiced the opinion that the campaign leaders may have benefited from hiring in experienced PR campaign specialists. John Busby’s addition to a blog post written by Paul Wise of WiseCounsel is well worth a read. 

The Magistrates’ Blog considers the speculation about Ministry of Justice plans to ‘privatise the courts’: A Straw In The Wind - “Until last Autumn my court had a nice little snack bar, looked after by a lady who supplied reasonably priced refreshments to court users, staff and magistrates. It was a meeting point for lawyers and others, and was run at no cost to HMCTS. Last Autumn the lady decided to move on, and the bar closed. We were assured that a replacement was being sought, but had to go through the full ponderous civil service procurement process. Then silence……”

While the Government continues to ‘wrestle’ with compliance policy in relation to European Court of Human Rights judgments – the Scots are having issues of their own in relation to prisoner voting rights in the forthcoming independence referendum. Lalland’s Peat Worrier is on the case: Fulsome prison blues…

Ipso Jure by Dr Peter Groves, Solicitor, continues to provide analysis and commentary on intellectual property law and has a free textbook for law students.

I found this blog post by Paul Bernal most interesting:  Google Glass: just because you can…

Paul writes…”As a bit of a geek, and a some-time game player, it’s hard not to like the look of Google Glass. Sure, it makes you look a little dorky in its current incarnation (even if you’re Sergey Brin, as in the picture below) but people like me are used to looking dorky, and don’t really care that much about it. What it does, however, is cool, and cool in a big way. We get heads-up displays that would have been unimaginable even a few years ago, a chance to feel like Arnie in the Terminator, with the information about everything we can see immediately available. It’s cool – in a dorky, sci-fi kind of way, and for those of us brought up on a diet of SF it’s close to irresistible.”
Read more…

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Time to go for a long walk while the late afternoon Sunday sun continues to shine.  I am sorry if I have not managed to cover all the familiar blogs in this series of four reviews of and from the law blogs.  I plan to look at some more, including US, Canadian and Australian blogs, soon and will, of course, cover interesting blog posts in my normal review of the ‘wonders of law’ in my regular postings.

I leave you with an old letter from Lord Shagger – who sends his best wishes from Monaco.  He is much amused by the greed and stupidity of parliamentarians caught up in the recent ‘lobby’ scandal.

A view of and from the law blogs…. (3)
A view of and from the law blogs… (2)
A view of and from the law blogs….. (1)