Postcard from The Staterooms

Dear Reader

As Chris Grayling raids the dressing up box, it warms the heart to see that he has finally been apprehended…

If I was inclined to rudeness – which I am not, I might be tempted to suggest that Mr Grayling would serve his country better by returning to the fold of back bench psychopaths on the Tory benches.  But as I am not rude, I won’t.  Tuberville v Savage [1669] EWHC KB J25

Having managed to fall backwards into a bath, slipping on a bathmat while shaving some months back – cracking my spine, I take an interest in The Darwin Awards.

The winner this year…

Yes, it’s that magical time of year again when the Darwin Awards are bestowed, honoring the least evolved among us.
Here Is The Glorious Winner:
1. When his .38 caliber revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach, California would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire wonder. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it worked.
I shall return later in the day, possibly, with another Postcard.  I leave you with good seasonal  news from RollonFriday ”Allen & Overy has replaced the University of Law as its LPC and GDL provider with BPP University.”

Tour Report #26: Direct Access to barristers and the changing face of legal practice

Tour Report #26:  Direct Access to barristers and the changing face of legal practice

Today I am talking to Jonathan Maskew and Bruce Webster, of myBarrister about the firm and the concept and practice of Direct Access to barristers.

”myBARRISTER is a new online service that gives people and businesses direct access to the specialised skills of barristers, helping them resolve legal issues, defend against prosecution, take legal action or simply providing specialist legal advice on a particular situation.”

myBARRISTER website

The podcast covers:
The start up and challenge
Overview of myBARRISTER
The Brand
Aim of the Business
Direct access , the potential and online offering for client choice
What our business does
Views on the prospects for the profession moving forward

Listen to the podcast

iTunes Version of the podcast

Tour Report #25: The role of Information technology in modern legal practice

Tour Report #25:  The role of Information technology in modern legal practice

Yesterday I talked with Charles Christian, Editor in Chief of Legal IT Insider (both available online and in print), about the role of technology in the practice of law and the information  tools used by lawyers in the modern era.

We looked at:

1. The consumerisation of legal software – why Facebook is so easy yet MS Word so difficult when it comes to training

2. Asked why don’t legal publishers adopt the iTunes approach to content – you buy the chapter you want, boot the 19 chapters you’ll never need

3. The use of social media

4. The gamification in continuing education and training, making it more fun to learn

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

(We had bad signal issues on Skype yesterday so in parts the sound broke up briefly.  Beyond my control unfortunately)

Tour Report #23: Jerry Hayes on the Lord Chancellor’s Legal Aid reforms – a sardonic commentary

Today I am talking with Jerry Hayes a former Tory MP and practising barrister about the purpose and likely impact of the cuts to legal aid being proposed by Chris Grayling, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.

Much has been written about the legal reforms in the dead tree press and the law blogs. (Patrick Torsney has a comprehensive listing of blogs written by lawyers and others from the legal blogging community. )

We discuss the need for the protest by lawyers outside parliament and the likely impact on society in terms of access to justice.  It is not about ‘lawyer fatcattery’ – the proposals being put forward by the Lord Chancellor will impact on many in our society in terms of a fair trial and access to good legal representation – and they will, directly or indirectly, affect us all – not least in terms of the ‘Rule of Law’ so lovingly used by the prime minister, foreign secretary and other senior ministers when promoting Britain overseas or lecturing despotic governments abroad.

Jerry Hayes is a former Tory MP who knows the back benches of the Tory party and its workings well.  Jerry is also a practising barrister.  He is not shy in putting his robust views on Chris Grayling’s reforms – nor is he shy in coming forward to comment sardonically.

Please listen to the podcast – lawyer or non-lawyer.   There is a serious message here – but there is also fairly ribald ‘analysis’.  It  was a most enjoyable podcast to do.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

Best viewed in the Chrome browser

***

PLEASE SIGN the petition so that Mr Grayling has to answer before Parliament for his ill conceived reform plans.

>>>>Sign the petition – please, if you haven’t already.

The verdict is in: FailingGrayling LC guilty of attempted murder of Legal Aid

Tour Report #22: The trials and tribulations of applying for pupillage at the Bar?

The legal profession is under siege  from the legal aid reforms being proposed by the Lord Chancellor and access to justice – often for the most vulnerable in society – will be compromised.  I discussed this in relation to criminal law with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, in my last podcast.  

Some say that there is only a one in eight chance of a Bar student getting through to practice with a tenancy at present.  It doesn’t seem to be a good time to contemplate a career at the Bar. Senior members of the Bar have expressed concern at the numbers of aspiring barristers being churned out by the law schools and  that the Bar will become less diverse with only the middle class candidates, backed with family money presumably, able to contemplate a career at the Bar.

So what is it about the Bar that attracted a 42 year old ex-army tank commander – a non-commissioned officer with no A levels – to go to university after leaving the army, securing a First class degree in English Literature and Contemporary History from York St John University and a Very Competent in what was then the Bar Vocational Course,  and  apply for a pupillage at the Bar?

Well… I am about to find out. As part of my 12-18 month tour of the United Kingdom to see how law is practised in different parts of the country and what people think about our legal system,  today I am talking to Craig Lowe.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast 

Best viewed in the Chrome browser

Tour Report #21: Podcast with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association, on the legal aid reforms

Tour Report #21:  Podcast with Michael Turner QC, Chairman of The Criminal Bar Association,  on the legal aid reforms

To set the context, I quote from an article in The Express:

High Street solicitors could be forced to close by Government legal aid changes
MORE than 1,500 High Street solicitors will be forced to close branches “within a year” if the Government’s controversial legal aid reform plans succeed.

The loss of High Street solicitors would also have a severe impact on barristers. Michael Turner QC, head of the Criminal Bar Association, warned: “Our barristers’ system will fail. Our brilliant judiciary comes from the Bar. Once you have Tesco and G4S providing advocates, you will get Tesco and G4S judges in 10 years’ time. Make no bones about it, we are facing absolute devastation to what is the finest legal system in the world.”

He rejected claims that Britain’s legal aid was the most expensive in Europe. “You have a different system there, with investigative magistrates who interview witnesses, and the big cost is the judicial spend.”…..

Access to justice in a civilised society is fundamental to the Rule of Law and the rights enshrined in our Human Rights laws to a fair trial.

The Independent covers the theme:

New legal aid reforms end ‘justice for all’, lawyers warn

England’s 800-year-old tradition of fair and open access to justice for all will be destroyed by sweeping Government plans to reform criminal legal aid, senior judges and magistrates warn today.

In an attempt to save £200 million by 2018, the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling plans to stop paying solicitors for the work they do – and instead give them a fixed fee for each case they represent.

Lawyers will be incentivised to recommend guilty pleas to their clients, a coalition of judges, magistrates and civil liberties groups warns. Their fears are backed by the Criminal Cases Review Commission, which investigates miscarriages of justice on behalf of the Government.

Criminal suspects will lose their rights to choose or dismiss a solicitor, and the number of accredited legal aid firms will drop from 1,600 to less than 400 – raising the possibility that hundreds of small high street firms could be replaced by huge contractors like G4S.

“The Government is creating a system where potentially the same company could defend you, lock you up in prison and then rehabilitate you when you come out,” said one judicial source……”

 Under plans to save £200m solicitors will be paid fixed fees, with contracts going to firms like G4S

Interestingly, two well regarded judges have commented on the issue…

The current President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, is understood to have deep reservations about Mr Grayling’s plan. Sources suggest that he believes it undermines the right – first enshrined in the Magna Carta – that “to no man shall we deny justice”.

The former Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf told The Independent on Sunday that the proposals would lead to a “factory of mass-produced justice” and miscarriages of justice.

“It is the complete privatisation of justice.”

Michal Turner QC has robust views on the proposed reforms which will have a considerable impact on access to justice, the profession, the public and have a devastating effect on the very cornerstone of our democracy.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

***

Some useful links:

Michael Turner QC

Criminal Bar Association

The Independent: New legal aid reforms end ‘justice for all’, lawyers warn

David Allen Green, The New Statesman: How the Ministry of Justice’s proposal for the tendering of criminal legal aid is misconceived and illiberal

The Ministry of Justice consultation document: Transforming Legal Aid: Delivering a more credible and efficient system

Barrister 999: Legal Aid – some thoughts

Crimeline: DO NOT expect others to do things for you. It is your justice system at risk. Do something – here are some ideas.

Criminal Bar Association: PRICE COMPETITIVE TENDERING. A SOLICITOR’S VIEW FROM THE HIGH STREET

Crimsolicitor: The right to choose…

(Sorry about the minor technical recording difficulty at the beginning of the podcast – thankfully we only lost the  introduction – and a very brief summary of the Ministry of Justice proposals which are linked above under the links section.  We also had the sound of crockery being laid out in an adjoining room – which accounts for a very brief pause in recording eight minutes in!

Michael Turner gave me a short history of the Garden Court Chambers building and an excellent tour.  Fascinating. 

Please spread the word about this podcast – #SaveUKJustice)

Tour Report #20: Iain Gould, Solicitor, on actions against the Police

Iain Gould, Solicitor and Partner at David Phillips & Partners
TourLawcast 15

The Police and the Crown Prosecution Service  play a pivotal part in the criminal justice system – but, what happens when the Police break the rules or are negligent?

Solicitor Iain Gould has built up specialist expertise in the field of actions against the police and shares his thoughts and experience in this podcast

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

Tour Lawcast 14: John Cooper QC on the CPS guidelines on social media

Tour Lawcast 14:  John Cooper QC on the CPS guidelines on social media

“Well I don’t think John Cooper with all respect has seen anything like the number of cases I have. I don’t think he has thought about the sophistication of the issues. There are many cases…I mean he can point to one case [the Twitter Joke Trial]…yeah he makes a cheap point about one case, I’ve got to deal with the many thousands of cases that come in, I’ve got to deal with all the chief constables. So, yes, nice cheap point, but actually let’s get back to reality.”

These are the reported words of Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer QC following the issuing of new guidelines on social media prosecutions when he was placed under pressure by criticism raised by an experienced criminal silk, John Cooper QC.

Speaking on Radio 5 John Cooper QC said of the guidelines  …”totally and utterly unnecessary”, adding that the 25 pages would be better condensed to “two words: common sense”.

Today, I talk to John Cooper QC about the CPS guidelines on Social Media.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

Tour Report #17: The Jackson Reforms and costs with Sue Nash

Tour Report #17:  The Jackson Reforms and costs with Sue Nash

“Let there be no doubt about it, the reforms will come into force next
April”. 

“It would not be an exaggeration to say that from my perspective costs management is the key to the Jackson reforms.  If it succeeds the reforms will succeed.  If it doesn’t, then we run a risk that costs will unnecessarily and otherwise avoidably increase and the reforms will fail”.

“I do not want to give the impression that I do not have faith in the reforms.  It might seem that I am already expecting disaster.  That is very far from the case. But one has to be realistic”

Lord Dyson MR

Today, I am talking with Sue Nash of Litigation Costs Services at the offices of Kysen PR in London.

The Jackson Reforms – in particular the issue of costs and retainers.

1.  A brief overview of the main aspects of the reforms – Costs Management/Budgeting, Provisional Assessment, new proportionality rule, new/revised funding arrangements i.e. DBAs/CFAs and the referral fee ban
2. Costs management/budgeting – how it is supposed to work and what firms need to do to prepare for it – analysis of historic ‘data (work) and recording and planning future work – need for specialist input from costs specialists – using them as part of the litigation team/process.
3. Provisional assessment – likely impact will be to discourage firms from seeking oral hearings to dispute the PA.
4.       Retainers
5.       Round-up – all reforms supposed to be looked at together and taken as a package – overall impact on Claimant PI firms/departments likely to be a fee income reduction of between 25 and 50% over the next 2-3 years (higher value cases will be less affected).  Get in expert help and spend time now – they need to know if their current business models are viable going forward and if not need to change them.

Tour Report #16: On Human Rights law with Kirsty Brimelow QC and Francis FitzGibbon QC

Tour Report #16:  On Human Rights law with Kirsty Brimelow QC and Francis FitzGibbon QC

Littman, David G. (January 19, 2003). “Human Rights and Human Wrongs”. National Review (New York). “The principal aim of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was to create a framework for a universal code based on mutual consent. The early years of the United Nations were overshadowed by the division between the democratic and communist conceptions of human rights, although neither side called into question the concept of universality. The debate centered on which “rights” — political, economic, and social — were to be included among the Universal Instruments.”

Human rights law is at the very foundation of our Rule of Law.  Today, I am talking to two of the leading crime and human rights lawyers – Kirsty Brimelow QC, the new Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee and Francis FitzGibbon QC, both of Doughty Street Chambers.

1.   What are human rights and the importance of human rights – The Rule of Law – Lord Bingham’s famous question about which human rights would you like to lose.

2.  Overview of the European Convention and ECtHR work

3.  The HRA and coalition government plans for a ‘British Bill of Rights’

4.  Human Rights hard cases – Qatada et al / prisoner votes et al
5.  Press and public attitudes to the Human Rights Act

6.  The role of The Bar in promoting human rights – British foreign policy predicated to some extent on countries complying with human rights

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

#WithoutPrejudice podcast: Leveson – Gay Marriage – Justice & Security – Contempt – Finucane

Welcome to Without Prejudice recorded last night at the offices of Preiskel & Co LLP with Carl Gardner, author of the Head of Legal blog and David Allen Green, solicitor and  legal correspondent of The New Statesman.

UK Law Tour Report #15: podcast with Alex Aldridge, Editor of Legal Cheek

Tour Report 15: podcast with Alex Aldridge, Editor of Legal Cheek

Today, at the offices of Kysen PR in Covent Garden, London I talk with Alex Aldridge, editor of Legal Cheek, about his serious yet irreverent online ‘legal tabloid’ Legal Cheek and the role of law bloggers in observing the state of the legal nation.

Listen to the podcast

 

iTunes version of the podcast

Without Prejudice lawcast: the Leveson Report with Carl Gardner and David Allen Green

http://www.insitelawmagazine.com/images/levesonreport

Without Prejudice lawcast: The Leveson Report with Carl Gardner, Jez Hindmarsh and David Allen Green

The BBC reports:

Would:

  • Create a process to “validate” the independence and effectiveness of the new self-regulation body
  • Validate a new process of independent arbitration for complainants – which would benefit both the public and publishers by providing speedy resolutions
  • Place a duty on government to protect the freedom of press

Would not:

  • Establish a body to regulate the press directly
  • Give any Parliament or government rights to interfere with what newspapers publish

Listen to the podcast

iTunesversion

Our thanks to Gray’s Inn for hosting the recording.

***

Useful resources

On Leveson, David David Allen Green
Carl Gardner on Leveson
The Guardian essential guide
and INFORRM’s
The MST:
HackedOff:
The FSN:

The Leveson Report

UK Tour Report #13: Social media and the employment law implications with Sean Jones QC

Social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter,  is being widely used now and it is not without dangers. The recent Lord McAlpine libel litigation, cyber-stalking, tweets which break the contempt of court laws -  all have a ‘chilling’ effect on ‘free speech’.  Employers are increasingly turning to Twitter and Facebook to check out future employees and to monitor the behaviour of current employees.

Today, I am talking with Sean Jones QC of 11 KBW, a leading employment and public law set. We look at the employment law implications for use of social media in some depth and discuss the important case of Smith v Trafford Housing Trust [2012] EWHC 3221 (Ch)

We then move on to discuss practice at the Bar, the immediate to medium term prospects for barristers and Sean Jones QC provides some advice for prospective barristers.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services with Toronto lawyer Mitchell E Kowalski

Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services

“The past few years have seen incredible innovation and growth in the way legal services can be delivered–yet most law firms around the world continue to practice law the way it’s been practiced for centuries, namely, as a labor-intensive endeavor carried out by high-priced lawyers billing by the hour.”

I’m talking with Toronto lawyer Mitchell Kowalski the author of Avoiding Extinction: Reimagining Legal Services. Avoiding Extinction makes the case for how the law firm of the future will succeed, with a laser-like focus on delivering high-quality legal services better, faster, and cheaper. This entertaining and instructive book is a must-read for anyone seeking a creative vision into what a new, truly different law firm could look like.

The podcast:

Your book – why did you choose the fictional law firm Bowen Fong and Chandri PC – the medium of a novel – for your book?

A utopian construct or capable of practical reality?

The billable hour v  value billing debate

Comparison with UK – UK firms Lawyers on Demand and Riverview Law?

Five key propositions for delivering legal services you regard as the most innovative and important

* Billing
* Knowledge Management
* The People at the top set the tune for the middle
* Legal process outsourcing – the more money you save, the more money you earn
* Project management – if you can’t map out all the processes you are doing  you cannot value and price it.

Listen to the podcast

iTunesversion of the podcast

UK Tour Report #11: An interview with Toby Craig, Head of Communications, The Bar Council

Report #11: An interview with Toby Craig, Head of Communications, The Bar Council

The Bar Council represents the interests of all barristers in England & Wales – the regulatory function being carried out by the independent Bar Standards Board.

Facing significant change in the way legal services are delivered in the wake of the Legal Services Act , increasing competition from solicitor-advocates and a government now cutting back on the provision of legal aid, proposing to restrict judicial review and pushing through legislation on secret trials – the role of the Bar Council in the legal profession is a very important one.

Last Sunday I did a podcast with John Cooper QC on the controversial issue of referral fees. Toby Craig, head of communications for The Bar Council contacted me soon after I published this podcast to ask if I would be prepared to do a podcast with him to enable The Bar Council to put their view.

The discussion with Toby Craig covered a number of controversial issues which members of the Bar have expressed concern to me about.

In this podcast we look at:

1. The Role of The Bar Council

2. The relationship of The Bar Council with government

3. The potential conflict of interest in relation to the Attorney-general who is the head of the Bar

4. Michael Turner QC’s robust criticisms published in The Daily Mirror: Injustice for all: Leading QC on why legal aid cuts and change in regulation is bad news for Britain

5. How democratic is the Bar Council and the controversy during the  recent  Criminal Bar Association elections

6. Criticism of The Bar Council raised in a report commissioned in 2011

7. Referral fees – the Bar stance is that referral fees are a breach of the Code of Practice and will also give rise to civil and criminal liability – issues raised by Nicholas Lavender QC in June 2012. I ask Toby Craig what steps the Bar Council is taking to survey Chambers that may have paid or are currently engaged in paying referral fees to bring in work.

8. Social media and diversity at the Bar

The podcast raises important issues of representation and professional ethics and I welcome comment and discussion from members of the Bar and others with an interest.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

Human Rights podcast: UK Tour Report #10: Professor de Londras – Guantanamo and they key issues in human rights for Europe

UK Tour Report #10: Professor de Londras – Guantanamo and they key issues in human rights for Europe

We have a Bill of Rights in this country. It’s called the Human Rights Act and is thoroughly British, European and universal in its values”

Shami Chakrabarti, Liberty

Human rights underpins much of our law and we are in the midst of controversy yet again with a government appearing determined to avoid complying with the European Court of Human Rights in relation to prisoner votes and ‘disappointed’ with the recent judgment of SIAC in relation to Abu Qatada.

Today I am talking to Fiona De Londras, professor of law at Durham University. Her research primarily focuses on questions related to effective rights protection with a particular concentration on times of strain and crisis and especially counter-terrorism.

We look at the problems the US President faces with the closure of Guantanamo Bay – promised within a year of his inauguration as President four year ago – as a comparison with the difficulties the British government faces in relation to compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights – and then consider likely developments within human rights law in the United Kingdom in the next few years.

The plans announced yesterday by the government to limit the scope of Judicial review – covered well by Adam Wagner at the UK Human Rights blog: A war on Judicial Review? [updated] – bring into sharp focus the need to examine how Britain will respond to the human rights agenda in the future.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

UK Tour report #9: A view of the changing legal profession – Jeremy Hopkins, RiverviewLaw

UK Tour report #9:  A view of the changing  legal profession – Jeremy Hopkins, Riverview Law

We’re not doing anything clever. We’re just applying common sense to the legal market

The UK legal services market is valued at approximately £24bn pa. It is highly fragmented with few brands. It’s going through a period of significant upheaval. Changes in regulation and customer expectation provide an opportunity for a more modern, flexible, and customer-centric approach to the provision of legal services.

Riverview Law website statement

Today I talk with Jeremy Hopkins, director of operations at Riverview Law.  Jeremy Hopkins, formerly a senior clerk at well known chambers 3VB, talks about the vision behind Riverview Law and the way they deliver legal services on a fixed fee basis.  We then move on to consider the wider issue of the immediate to medium term future of the legal profession.  The discussion is wide ranging.

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

.

UK Tour Report #8 – John Cooper QC on the problems facing the Bar in 2012 and beyond

UK Tour Report #8 – John Cooper QC on the problems facing the Bar in 2012 and beyond

The Bar, as with the other branches of the legal profession, is having to adapt to the fast changing legal landscape.  As part of this preliminary series of podcasts, in which I try to set the scene for the tour as a whole,  I talk with John Cooper QC, a well known crime and human rights advocate, about the challenges facing the Bar.

We discuss a number of key issues:

(a) The problems being caused by the cuts to legal aid funding.

(b)  The undermining of the rule of law when  defendants cannot afford legal representation.

(c)  The practical difficulties faced by barristers in practice at the crime, family and common law bar.

(d) The debate between the Solicitors Regulation Authority and The Bar Standards Board on which regulator should regulate trial advocates.

(e) The role of the CPS and prosecutors – who will be fully funded by taxpayers.

(f) The complex and controversial issue of ‘referral  fees’.

(g) The role of the Bar Council and whether it is doing enough to represent barristers as a whole.

 

Listen to the podcast

iTunes version of the podcast

Note: Because John is in the middle of a trial outside London we had to record the podcast over Skype.  The sound quality, accordingly, is not as good as for the face to face recordings.  A couple of times, because of time lag or lack of Skype clarity, John had to ask me to repeat the question.  the hesitation in response on occasion was due to the time lag and not to any hesitancy on John’s part.

***

John Cooper QC: 25 Bedford Row, London
Leading in serious crime including murder, serious violence, drug trafficking, terrorism, fraud, human rights and media. Regulatory work including fraud and sports regulation. Inquest work including Judicial Review. John Cooper QC has been named by The Times as one of the Top 100 Influential Lawyers of 2012 in the UK. He is also visiting Professor of Law at Cardiff University and a Master of the Bench at Middle Temple.

John Cooper was lead counsel in the successful Twitter Joke Trial appeal

Chambers : 25 Bedford Row
Blog: Shadow of the Noose
Twitter: @John_Cooper_QC

***

Podcasts in the series coming up in the next two weeks:

1. Jeremy Hopkins, Director of Operations at Riverview Law on his view of the changing landscape from what he sees and hears on the ground.

2. Professor Fiona de Londras, BCL, LL.M, PhD (NUI) – Guantanamo and international human rights.

3. Sheila Bramley, Director College of Law Guildford on the changes in legal education.

4. Sean Jones QC, 11 KBW, on current key issues in  employment law.

5. Nicky Richmond, managing partner at Brecher, on the role of a managing partner in a modern law firm
and her perception of the future legal landscape.

6. Tom Harris MP on the role of the law makers in Parliament  and how laws are made and implemented.

I will publish the podcasts due to be recorded in December shortly.