Rive Gauche: Mass cull and other matters….

Mass Cull…

The Law Society Gazette reports that a mass cull of high street law firms has taken place because they could not secure professional indemnity insurance.

“The list includes Grants Solicitors of Croydon, the firm set up by the former justice minister Helen Grant and Alastair J Brett of London, the firm set up by the former legal director at The Times newspaper. In all, 23 of the closed firms are in London….

…President Nicholas Fluck said: ‘There will be a number of reasons why firms have closed and some of these will have been positive decisions by the partners involved. However, thanks to the EIP many firms were able to find insurance and continue practising.”

I am often astonished by the activities of the Kippers – but this story is truly astonishing.  And UKIP wants political power in Britain?

 HatTip to  @MckRich

And on to other matters…

I always enjoy my visits to The Legal Cheek website – an irreverent (rightly) look at the law and the workings of lawyers.

And a recent post may give you a reason to visit them…

CAN AN OXBRIDGE LAW DEGREE PUT YOU OFF BECOMING A LAWYER?

Back soon with a bit more… perhaps, even a post from Lord Shagger who is still in Monaco amusing himself….

Rive Gauche: Sir Hugo Kok de Up MP on Justice

It may give The Twitterati some transient pleasure to mock one of the finest gentlemen to have ever graced the House of Commons benches by referring to him as a ‘Crime Scene in Progress’  - I talk of no other than Lord Chancellor Grayling, a man of vision who made his long walk to freedom  from obscurity to hold one of the highest offices of state in the land: Lord Chancellor -  the first non-lawyer to serve as Lord Chancellor since the Earl of Shaftesbury in 1672-3.  It did not end well for The Earl of Shaftesbury, it has to be said – although charges of High Treason were dropped and Shaftesbury fled to Amsterdam,  fell ill, and soon died.  But, be that as it may.

And as for those of you with a predilection for trawling through Wikipedia for amusing nonsense on Chris Grayling and other fellow Conservative MPs to find this sort of thing…..shame on you!

Between 2001 and 2009,[8] Grayling claimed expenses for his flat in Pimlico, close to the Houses of Parliament, despite having a constituency home no further than 17 miles away[9] and owning two buy to let properties in Wimbledon.[10] Grayling says he uses the flat when “working very late” because he needs to “work very erratic and late hours most days when the House of Commons is sitting.”[11]

During the Parliamentary expenses scandalThe Daily Telegraph reported that Grayling refitted and redecorated the flat in 2005 costing over £5,000.[9] Grayling said that both the water and electrical systems failed “leaving the place needing a major overhaul”.[10]

Grayling’s expenses issue was seen as embarrassing for the Conservative Party as he had previously criticised Labour ministers for being implicated in sleaze scandals.[12]

There is more to heaven and earth Horatio than was dreamt of in Wikipedia…. and on that note, I bid you good day. Although I am partial to the Australian greeting…”Gooday mate, how’s it hanging?” when unable to avoid socialists in the house.

A bit of the old ‘Rive Gauche’…

I am not a ‘grinch’ but I am not a great fan of the annual Christmas period. I found it pretty tedious as a child and still do. But, here we are at the start of a new year;  an opportunity to repeat mistakes of old and an opportunity to craft a few new ones.

It would appear that French influence in the world is waning?

I have decided to return to riding motorbikes.  A car in London isn’t of any value to me and, in any event, I far preferred my motorbikes to the many cars I had in my past.  So, I shall sell the Jaguar and buy a Honda Blackbird. (I have had five of these marvellous bikes in the past – always started and not one breakdown.)

***

So…let’s kick off the new year with a look at what  Tim Kevan’s marvellous creation Babybarista is up to: Solicitor Advocate 

“Jo Worby is one of those rare people in business who is more interested in talking about other people’s success. ” Clare Rodway, of the wonderful Kysen PR firm, writes an excellent blog: The Conversation.  Here she interviews Jo Warby

John Bolch continues, pleasingly, to cast a sharp and, at times, caustic eye over matters relating to Family Law.  His Saturday Review is well worth a look – with a rather spectacular graphic in the post.  The following quote will give you a taste of John’s left field approach to the subject.  (He does serious as well, though)… “The only time my wife and I had a simultaneous orgasm was when the judge signed the divorce papers.”  ~ Woody Allen 

***

This is why Criminal barristers are taking action on Monday 6th January

“In 24 hours time criminal lawyers will be on strike for the first time in history.” #walkout4justice“ : Follow @TheCriminalBar on twitter for details.

And for a bit of prognostication from Brian Inkster’s The Time Blawg: Future Law: IT and Legal Practice Predictions for 2014: http://ow.ly/shlhH  #LegalIT #LegalTech #futurelaw

Fellow blogger and podcaster, Carl Gardner, writes: Alan Turing: a strain’d quality of irrational and arbitrary mercy

John Flood on his  RATs blog continues to analyse the profession:

“In law we live in comparative prehistoric times. Regulation is our protection, our safeguard, to prevent savages from invading our sacred spaces…”
Are We About to See the Arrival of Multidisciplinary Practices?

Simon Myerson QC – always a pleasure to read – pulls no punches in this blog post:

Ahead of Monday’s action (reminder: which I reluctantly support), the MoJ has published an “Ad Hoc Statistical Release”. Its purpose is clearly to prejudice readers, which will include the media, against the Bar. As such it is a disgusting piece of work – a Ministry should not seek to argue a political case against a group of private citizens at all, still less by the use of data obtained in an effort to promote ‘efficiency’. The counter-argument is that everyone is entitled to “the truth”. Alas, that argument cannot properly be deployed in this case because….

Misinformation By Public Bodies

Obiter J in his Law and Lawyers blog asks:  New Year’s Eve 2013 (1) – Are Human Rights approaching a knife edge?

“There is no British diplomatic mission in Syria, no latter-day Foley can help any of those facing death and destitution….”

Francis Fitzgibbon QC explains in his blog Nothing Like The SunRighteous Among the Nations?

***

And finally – Dan Hull in his WhatAboutClients blog writes:

How to Pick a Fight in a Global Recession.

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.

–Henry Kissinger, quoted in The New York Times Magazine, June 1, 1969

Answer: You choose fights more carefully–and you go on the offensive only when you must. As Rome discovered too late, protecting every terrain and border is expensive and draining. As business and trial people learn young, butting heads with everyone who has ever done you a disservice, or fighting every point in an oral argument, or an evidentiary or discovery dispute, will not just be expensive and draining. It will defeat you. And it will make you go bonkers.

Back later in the day… hopefully.

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.

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…

***

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.

For legal regulators who take twitter too seriously: My Xmas podcast with a fictional lawyer called @Geeklawyer

For legal regulators and others  who take twitter too seriously:  My podcast with a fictional lawyer called @Geeklawyer

Listen to the podcast:  A surreal and most enjoyable chat with a fellow parodist….

I did this a couple of years ago – when everyone knew that @Geeklawyer was a satirist…. but hadn’t turned themselves into Sherlocks to discover the identity behind :-)

***

My post on Geeklawyergate and The Time Blawg’s analysis: Lawyers cannot hide on Twitter

Rive Gauche: A Command Performance from a Barrister now disbarred for unprofessional behaviour on twitter.

A Command Performance….

Court News reports: “A barrister who called opposing lawyers ‘slimebags’ in a series of insulting tweets from court was today (Thurs) thrown out of the profession.  David Harris was wrongly acting for an internet piracy company he owned.

He bragged that ‘whoring and drinking’ would begin after he finished the trial and described an opposing lawyer as a ‘p***k.’….”

Well… as it happens… I know @Geeklawyer well (and like him)  – an amusing figment of his own imagination who,  taking of mead and his favoured strawberry beer libations in sufficient quantities,  tweets nonsense late at night.  It would appear that he has managed to get himself disbarred for LIFE according to the Court News report.

As yet, the BSB – The Bar Standards Board -  has not posted the decision on the website nor, indeed,  managed to inform Mr Geeklawyer / Harris about  his exit from Bar Departure Gate 1 when I contacted him for his thoughts on the matter. I spend a fair bit of time thinking about “Fair” treatment of people in my reclusion these days. Fair that  Court News got “info” before Geeklawyer / David Harris?

Geeklawyer and I talked over the phone this afternoon and he was more than happy for me to write about the matter – not that I had any plans to do so when I contacted him.   I suspect that failing to disclose things to a high court judge and other unusual practice behaviour at the trial may well have had a significant bearing on the decision to disbar – I have no information on this as at the time of writing.

Assuming that the charge of bringing the profession into disrepute was one of the issues behind the decision to disbar – Mr Geeklawyer / Harris confirmed that he was indeed charged with same; I thought it would be interesting to ask what defence he put forward.  [ Mr Geeklawyer / Harris is perfectly entitled to tell me about his defence, as I am entitled to write about his account (with his blessing), given the publicity which the disbarment has attracted thus far in the press.]

The Geeklawyer / Harris  defence may be summarised as follows:

1.  It wasn’t him qua David Harris, a practising barrister – it was Geeklawyer wot dun it.   Geeklawyer doesn’t exist and is not a practising barrister recognised by The Bar Council

2. The tweets were not communications made in the course of professional practice.  They were social.

3. Social conduct does not, save in extreme cases such as criminal behaviour, form a lawful basis for sanctions by professional conduct committees as it transgresses both the right to a private life and the right to private correspondence under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Geeklawyer was able to tell me – as I wiped tears of laughter from my eyes: “Geeklawyer has the Article 8 Convention rights mentioned before. This charge is a disproportionate and meritless interference with that right to converse flippantly. To say that Geeklawyer is not able to tell his friend @XXXXX that he has a hangover because somehow the faith of the public in the Bar would be shaken to their core to learn that barristers drink is absurd. We are rarely confused with monks. The tweets are between friends and colleagues however uncouth. They are not unprofessional simply because they were made socially and outside work. It is hard to imagine that any member of the modern, as opposed to Victorian, public would be shaken by the revelation that barristers use words like ‘prick’ ‘fuck’ and make jokes about colleagues.”

Please note – for newshounds who may wish to consider this report when writing  (or, indeed, as their own – by nicking it) that -  The Court News report discloses “Harris owned Newzbin, a website which allowed users to download films illegally before the company was sued by major film companies including 20th Century Fox. He did not disclose his interest to the High Court was forced to stand down eight days into the hearing when his link to the firm was discovered.”

I’ve been tweeting for many years now with Geeklawyer.  His tweets are absurd, outrageous at times, more often than not amusing – if one accepts and understands (as most sane people do)  that Geeklawyer doesn’t exist.  I have never, as it happens, been “whoring, taking cocaine, bribing judges, calling lawyers slimeballs and pricks” with Geeklawyer.  I am certain that Mr David Harris hasn’t been doing these things either.

It will be interesting to see what weight The  Bar Standards Board gave to the twitter performances of Geeklawyer in their decision to disbar – if any. The Court News report was fairly unequivocal….and, no doubt, most useful in raising their ‘Profile and Farkin Klout rating’ – ?  “HARRIS: BARRISTER HANDED LIFETIME BAN OVER TWITTER ABUSE.”   I suspect the other unfortunate matter of not disclosing a matter to a High Court judge has caused what will be a minor inconvenience to David Harris.  I understand he has other amusements planned for his future.

Well.. there we are…. Friday tomorrow…. and it may be that we’ll see some barristers on twitter – and, indeed, some very well known solicitor lawyers -  considering their behaviour and rushing for the delete button on twitter!  (Some make a habit of deleting tweets – Bless!  I won’t be offering this post – or any of my posts … up for the Schnorvitz Prize… Pets Win Prizes ?)

***

A further thought… added later… It is just as well The Bar Standards Board is not claiming jurisdiction over fictional lawyers… Sir John Mortimer QC’s …”Rumpole”  … or even … others ?  :-)   I am confident… hopefully… that the BSB is not claiming such jurisdiction.

I am informed – and this will no doubt be confirmed or not by the BSB judgment / decision on Geeklawyer / Mr Harris when they publish it – that a fine was levied for the @Geeklawyer tweets. I really… do hope not.  That would be most interesting given that Geeklawyer does not exist?  We shall see in due course… as they say … in the new era of transparency.

After all.. how can one disbar or fine  a ‘fictional barrister’ for tweeting… or blogging ?

***

Dr Strangelove …. CEO of Muttley Dastardly LLP. is acting for me  ( I am a figment of my imagination) … and he always does the biz… always…. (I have never known Dr Ersasmus Strangelove  to lose a case …. extraordinary record… No FEE.. NO WIN.. he ain’t daft)

Friday Update… The Telegraph reports:  Barrister who Tweeted insults struck off

Harris disbarred for conduct of  a case -  and fined for the tweets…the latter interesting given that few in the profession, let alone the wider ‘public’, would have known David Harris was tweeting as Geeklawyer.  I would suggest that a fair amount of investigation work would be needed to link Geeklawyer to David Harris…. over the last four years…very few knew!

One assumes that Rumpole need not fear an investigation into bringing the profession into disrepute by drinking too much Chateau Thames Embankment at Pomeroy’s wine bar?  Mind you – it would not take sterling detective work to work out that Rumpole was the creation of Sir John Mortimer QC, so who knows?

Rive Gauche – Theft, drink driving and an outbreak of festive hooliganism at law firm Christmas party…

“A lawyer with a briefcase can steal more than a thousand men with guns.”
Mario Puzo

And today there is news of a barrister facing jail after admitting stealing £81,500 from his Chambers in Manchester. Manchester-based lawyer David Friesner, 46, admitted theft when he appeared at Leeds Crown Court for the start of his trial today – Manchester Evening News

And RollonFriday.com has news of another Manchester barrister up to no good: Top barrister done for drink driving

Unusual behaviour from M’learned friends is not confined to Manchester barristers.  RollonFriday writes about an outbreak of festive hooliganism at a law firm Christmas party: Exclusive: Fight erupts at DLA Piper Christmas celebration

A pre-Christmas night out for DLA Piper staff turned into a brawl, with a senior member of staff hospitalised.

Members of the firm’s marketing department were having a few festive pints at The Gables on Moorgate when a pissed-up reveller (with no connection to the firm) tried to crash the party. After making repeated advances to female members of the group, which were ignored, he announced that “one of you is going to get my cock“. The silver tongued charmer.

And… the judges get in on the act as well…

Judge publicly reprimanded over driving ban

Lord Justice Thorpe did not tell judicial authorities when he was banned for eight weeks after going through a red light

 

In the wake of my astonishment (reported below and here)  at the new logo being sported by BPP Law School earlier in the week, Alex Aldridge picks up the baton, inspiring some amusing comments in his Guardian piece: Law schools should focus on student job prospects, not new logos.

After commenting on BPP’s new ‘Lion’ logo, Alex Aldridge goes on to dissect the performance of a few of the law schools taking extracts from recent Bar Standards Board reports.   I have read all the BSB reports now and they make interesting reading.  I plan to do an analysis next week in some detail.

Solicitor and journalist  David Allen Green  has an interesting piece on the recent fisting Obscenity trial: Obscenity victory

The jury at Southwark Crown Court has returned unanimous Not Guilty verdicts on each of the six charges under the Obscene Publications Act 1959 against Michael Peacock.

The prosecution failed to convince a single juror that any of the DVD material distributed by Peacock was “depraving and corrupting” under the 1959 Act. The DVDs contained sexual practices such as fisting, BDSM, and so-called “watersports” depicted between consenting adults.

It is an important case – one where the jury revealed the flaws in an out of date Obscenity act and took a more tolerant attitude to sexual behaviour among consenting adults.

Law blogger Obiter J asks the question in a thoughtful piece in Legal Week: Do we need the Obscene Publications Acts?

The UK Human Rights blog also reports: Making a Fist of It: The Law and Obscenity

The internet has become an important work and social tool for many.   Adam Wagner considers the issue:  Is internet access a human right?

And finally – a useful round up of some of the UK Law blogs from Shireen Smith: UK Blawg Roundup #9 – Legal Services Act and Alternative Business Structures

Rive Gauche: Foul-mouthed judge resigns rather than face the music…and other matters…

With the new year well under way and showing some early promise of demonstrations of the dark side of the human condition, I thought I would start Rive Gauche this week with a story picked up by RollonFriday.com….

Foul-mouthed judge resigns rather than face the music
RollonFriday.com reports: “A crown court judge who turned the air blue after appearing in court on a dangerous dog charge has resigned. Judge Beatrice Woodcock-Bolton hit the headlines a year ago when her German Shepherd, Georgina, bit one of her neighbours in the leg. Woodcock-Bolton was hauled before Carlisle Magistrates Court where she chewed gum, described the verdict against her as a “f**king travesty” and complained that she would “never sit in a court of law again“…..”

Rather than face the inevitable sack, Judge Woodcock-Bolton resigned on medical grounds…”The Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice have decided no further disciplinary action is required.”

And then there was #Abbottgate – allowing twitter to explode in a frenzy of some real and largely imagined offence-taking. It was, perhaps, unfortunate timing but a day after the verdict and sentencing in the Stephen Lawrence trial for her to tweet “White people love playing divide and rule. We should not play their game,’ and referring to ‘tactics as old  as colonialism’. I gather that Diane Abbott, after Ed Miliband gave her a ‘dressing down’, then remarked on the tendency for London cabbies to drive past black people.

For my part, whatever it is worth, I don’t think that Diane Abbott MP is a racist.  Her tweet was a bit careless.  But not as careless as Ed Miliband’s wonderful tweet on hearing of the death of Blockbusters game show host Bob Holness:

@Ed_Miliband
Sad to hear that Bob Holness has died.  A generation will remember him fondly from Blackbusters.

I understand that the tweet was deleted fairly sharpish and replaced with one without the typo – but The Sun, ever keen to pick up on the the political faux pas of labour politicians caught the tweet just in time.  While I have voted Labour for thirty years, I am not keen on Ed Miliband as a future PM.  I tweeted this morning that he reminded me of a Police Community Support Officer keen to inspect car tax discs.

This week also brought ‘Fisting’ to the fore on twitter: Obscenity trial – the law is not suitable for a digital age

Myles Jackman in the Guardian: “I welcome the jury’s verdict but the OPA means the state is still capable of acting as a voyeur in the bedroom”

I need not trouble you with the facts of R v Peacock.  The coverage has been extensive in the press.  I have no doubt that meedja lawyers and others will blog about it.  Suffice it to say two things:  (1) That I can’t for the life of me see what business it is of the State’s to get involved in private matters between consenting adults and (2)  I have not managed to get around to this particular activity in my 50+ years on the planet. It is unlikely that I will need to develop skill with this technique.  It doesn’t appeal.

Obiter J, in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence trial has an interesting blog post: A look at racial murder, hate crime and the criminal offences available.

Professor Richard Moorhead, Cardiff University Law School asks: Does the legal profession need scholars?

“If we leave the question at ‘do lawyers need to be scholars?’ it is a relatively simple answer of no. We do not need practising lawyers to be devoted purely to the pursuit of knowledge. We cannot expect it of them, nor would it be in their client’s best interests. Lots of lawyers do not have to think or learn in the scholarly sense. They understand, research, diagnose, advise, act.

We should also understand that much of what legal education does is filter students. What firms are really interested in is the best candidates. They go to the universities they regard as the best, and those universities pick whom they regards as the best students. There are flaws in the judgements of universities and firms, but the reputation and quality of UK universities is a key part of the reputation of UK firms. And the ability of UK universities to attract the best students – which will be an increasingly global not national competition – will be a key part of that.”

Bitcher & Prickman cartoons are always worth a look – from US lawyer Charles Fincher Esq

A pleasure to see that family lawyer John Bolch is continuing to provide a remarkable online resource with his coverage of family law matters in Family Lore….@familylaw: Three thousand followers can’t be wrong…

Professor John Flood over at his RATs blog… continues to probe the legal profession’s future with his latest post:  PI(I)GS Might Fly!

The Troika is upsetting big bar associations because it is demanding the liberalization of professions in countries it is bailing out. Key complainers are the American Bar Association and the CCBE. (Thanks to Peter Lederer for the H/T).

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reported that the ABA and CCBE have written a letter to Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund and former head of the world’s largest law firm, Baker & McKenzie, asking her to pass on their concerns at the end of independence of the bar to the heads of the European Union and the European Central Bank…..

AND finally… The White Rabbit could not help himself….

“American born but long term UK resident photographer Eve Arnold has died aged 99. She spent a lot of time photographing Marilyn Monroe. As – erm – can be seen. I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself…..”

Read more…..

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

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

Enjoy your Christmas break..

Charon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Aldridge starts the good cheer at Christmas with…

Law graduates face a bleak future at the bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal aid reform prompts further protest from top judges

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

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

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

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

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

Will be interesting to see how this wheeze pans out…

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

Rive Gauche: Xenophobia – Law school looters – Freemen quackery – Booze and lawyers

Friday seems to be upon us once again.. so time for Rive Gauche

I thought I would kick orf with a wonderful piece from The Guardian…

European judge slams UK ‘xenophobia’

The Guardian: Sir Nicolas Bratza criticises hostility of senior government figures towards European Convention on Human Rights

Europe’s most powerful judge has publicly complained about “senior members” of the UK government fostering hostility towards the European Convention on Human Rights.

Citing the “vitriolic” and “xenophobic fury” directed against judges on the European Court of Human Rights, Sir Nicolas Bratza has acknowledged that relations between Strasbourg and the supreme court in London are under “strain”.

Sir Nicolas, the UK’s own nominee on the court and currently its president, made his comments at a conference earlier this year but they have only recently been published in a law journal. The paper has been referred to approvingly several times this month by supreme court judges.

Read more…

Quality stuff…. and well worth a read.  Lord Phillips and Lord Judge gave evidence recently to a Joint Committee and this speech by Bratza is, I presume, the speech they referred to.  The film of Phillips and Judge giving evidence is also worth looking at.

Before the Gin & mango juice I am taking to exorcise a rather tedious cold I have takes hold – a few more serious pieces:  This from barrister Francis Hoare is an interesting read…

‘Defend the Children of the Poor and Punish the Wrongdoer’: Why the Government’s Legal Aid Reforms are a Recipe for Injustice

Huffington Post

And speculation continues on the sale of the College of Law.

Education Investor reveals: “Pearson is slugging it out for the College of Law deal with at least two private equity firms, EducationInvestor understands. The private college is considering bids from Palamon Capital Partners and Providence Equity Partners, as well as the giant education firm….

…The college is expected to fetch at least £175 million, but some put the likely value of any sale as high as £250 million.”

I’ve commented on this before on the blog.  Pearson was an obvious ‘contender’.  BPP – now with added University cachet – was purchased for a bit more than that by US firm Apollo some time back.  The two big beasts will be able to ‘slug it out’ as private companies if the sale of The College of Law goes through in the brave new dawn envisaged by David ‘Two Brains’ Willetts MP, Minister for Universities.

RollonFriday.com will, no doubt, be on the case soon – with a picture of CEO Nigel Savage mocked up to look like a looter, no doubt. In the meantime, they content themselves with a story about crap food at The College of Law’s Guildford branch. RoF is / are keen to expose crap food in law schools all over the country – so if you are a victim of crap food… enter the RoF competition

The Law of Unintended Consequences 101

Predictably, in the wake of the recent success for The Law Society in closing down the Solicitors from Hell website… this… as reported in The Lawyer:

Host of Solicitors from Hell-style sites appear following court action

But madness does not begin nor end there. Solicitor David Allen Green weighs in on ‘The Freemen’ quackery with a rather good piece in The Lawyer

The Freemen, law blogging, and the public understanding of law

Carl Gardner picks up an interesting twist to the Freemen story… Why would BNP activists be at a “freemen on the land” stunt?

Carl Gardner writes…“I don’t accuse “freemen” generally, and certainly not “commonly known as dom”, of supporting the BNP. No doubt many of them were unaware that BNP activists were present in Birkenhead. But it’s important for anyone who comes into contact with “freemen’s” pseudolegal ideas – especially anyone who thinks of themselves as a radical who meets them, say at a protest – to be aware of the right-wing nature, attraction and potential of “freemanism”. It seems the BNP are aware of it.”

Many lawyers like a drink.  Many lawyers may drink too much.  I have, on occasion, bashed the Rioja a bit at the weekend – fun though it is, it does take a toll on the head and the brain.

Law’s problem with alcohol is slowly being addressed – but is still hush-hush | Alex Aldridge

I read with interest this brutally honest and well written account of alcoholism -  Law Society Gazette: Anthony Bogan, a former Law Society Council member who stood for President in 1996, endured the terrifying realisation that he was an alcoholic, but found that there was light at the end of the tunnel

AND FINALLY… a few blogs and articles  which caught my eye…

Auntie Em from Legal Cheek writes: I want to jack in law to become an artist

Adam Wagner of the UK Human Rights blog comments: Rights on the rocks: Some Bill of Rights Commission responses

One way or another, by the end of this Parliament, rights protections in the UK will look very different. If you could pull yourself away from the spectacle of actor Hugh Grant giving evidence to the Leveson Inquiry into phone hacking, the main event in yesterday’s live legal transmission bonanza was the second debate on the Legal Aid and Sentencing of Offenders Bill in the House of Lords.

Although the bill is likely to pass, it is likely to do so in slightly revised form – knowledgable tweeters were predicting that the domestic violence and clinical negligence provisions were most likely to be affected.

Read more…

Lords give legal aid bill ‘a good bashing’

Jon Robins in The Guardian:  examines the highlights of the Lords debate on the legal aid bill being considered alongside welfare reform and health

And babybarista has this.. Those pesky solicitors – OldSmoothie complains that they should never have let solicitors anywhere near court

Old Square barrister saves a life on his way to court

The Lawyer reports: Old Square Chambers barrister Charlie Woodhouse has been hailed a hero by fellow members of the bar after an unlikely turn of events at the Central London County Court saw him go over and above the call of duty.

On Tuesday afternoon Woodhouse, who specialises in personal injury and clinical negligence, was making his way up a staircase en route to a courtroom when he witnessed a man tie a nylon rope around his neck and jump from the first-floor balcony.

According to sources, Woodhouse caught the man by the shoulders of his suit jacket and supported his full body weight for several minutes. He then managed to haul the man over the banister before police arrived.

Read more…

And end with a couple of tweets… enjoy Friday….

UPDATE: Unfortunately.. I woke up at 3.00 on Friday morning … far too early…and had to suffer the misery of early morning BBC telly News…. at 5.00… before the excellent Today prog on Radio 4

AND… really.. finally…

I shall.. naturally.. ensure that my ‘novel Snell on Equity Christmas Tree’ has  a fairy with very clean hands on top.

There are a couple of podcasts below which may be of interest….

Rive Gauche: Garrow’s Law – More ‘Cod Law’ – A bit of Contract Law? – and more.. including some nonsense…

Professor JR Spencer QC University of Cambridge, has pointed out that the latest episode of Garrow’s Law was a travesty.

“The first instalment of the new series of Garrow’s Law (The weekend’s TV, G2, 14 November) showed William Garrow, habitual advocate for the underdog, defending the madman Hadfield, accused of high treason for shooting at King George III. It was a travesty. The heroic defender who secured Hadfield’s acquittal was not Garrow, but Thomas Erskine. Garrow was indeed involved: but as junior counsel for the crown. So his role was precisely the opposite of the one the BBC assigned to him.”

The Prof is, of course, correct – but I am not over bothered.  It is only telly after all.

RollonFriday.com continues to be the scourge of the law schools with their latest revelations about the College of Law…

Exclusive: College of Law agrees compromise over student fees dispute

The College of Law has shown an unlikely chink in its armour by offering a compromise to settle a claim against a student for non-payment of its fees.

Recently the College’s solicitors, Nelsons, have been claiming the full amount of fees from students who accepted a place on their courses but then withdrew before the course started. But there is at least a glimmer of hope for students who would prefer not to fund Ferraris for the College board without ever having received a single lecture in return.

One student has told RollOnFriday that when he cancelled his place after the CoL’s deadline, Nelsons pursued him endlessly for £4,080 in fees. Eventually he gave in and sent them £2,000, saying that that was all he could afford. And while Nelsons wrote back to say that this wasn’t acceptable, it did indicate the College would be prepared to take £3,080.

Read more…

Interestingly.. as one commenter on the RollonFriday site pointed out – one assumes that the College of Law is suing for loss in Contract Law for the students who withdrew -  which raises questions of mitigation (Did they fill the place withdrawn from?) and damages for loss sustained et al.   [From memory - law schools are validated to run courses for a specific number of places.  I assume that the College of Law is subject to a maximum on each validated course]

I taught Contract law for 30 years.  In fact I have a free textbook online with lectures on the subject.  I seem to recall there are five general principles which I quote from my book:

8.2 Damages for Breach of Contract – General principles

The general principles applicable to damages claims can be summarised as follows:

1. Breaches of contract are actionable per se

2. The object of damages is to compensate

3. There is a requirement to mitigate loss

4. Damages can be recovered only for loss sustained

5. The loss must be caused by the breach.

I would have thought that the College – even in these dark days – would have had no difficulty filling the  ‘withdrawn from ‘ place on the course. Puzzling.  I may have to revise my own knowledge of penalty clauses, terms and conditions, object of damages and quantum.   I have downloaded The College of Law terms and conditions for some light bedtime reading.

It being Friday – and Rive Gauche day – here is something not only from ‘left field’ but orf the farkin planet.  The film shows a group of ‘freemen’ (and assorted tin foil hat wearers ?) arresting a ‘treasonous judge’ and seizing a court.  This is world class nonsense – the claimant standing on the table asserting some fantastic cod law, citing Magna Carta and claiming that HM The Queen will back him up.  Remarkable and well worth a watch to see how little some people know about our  law. The comments on the YouTube film are ‘revealing’.

Just to take you unawares – I am slipping in a bit of sensible law.  Neil Rose at Legal Futures is always worth reading if you want to keep up with what is going on in the world of practice and alternative business structures et alThis latest piece is worth a look.

Is it time to split the Law Society and the SRA?

I particularly enjoyed this tweet from Neil Rose…

And still in the realm of the serious…  but interesting… this from the United Kingdom Supreme Court blog caught my eye as I took some Gin and Mango juice on Thursday night: It is a truth universally acknowledged …

… that white men in possession of large fortunes are overly represented on the bench. Yet, while it is easy to label the judiciary as “too white, too male, too posh”, constructive solutions to the situation have proved difficult to implement. The 2010 report on judicial diversity recognised that “there is no quick fix to moving towards a more diverse judiciary … Sustained progress on judicial diversity requires a fundamental shift in approach from a focus on selection processes towards a judicial career that addresses diversity at every stage.” It is hoped that the current inquiry being carried out by the Lords Constitution Committee into the appointments process contributes a step towards this shift in approach.

Read more…

One of the “great unspoken problems” about human rights law

Rosalind English, 1 Crown Office Row, writes: “... is at the core of Jonathan Sumption QC’s  FA Mann Lecture.  His central point is not human rights as such, but our misconception of Parliament and the perceived need for judicial constraints on the action of the state.”

Given that Jonathan Sumption QC is about to take his seat in the Supreme Court after finishing the The Battle of The Oligarchs case – the post is worth a read.

And this from Editor of Legal Week, Alex Novarese is excellent: If judges don’t want to get involved in politics, maybe they should stop giving speeches

I enjoy popping over to Alex Aldridge’s latest blog Legal Cheek.  We share a taste for winding lawyers up – and, on occasion,  each other.  This latest post from a young woman seeking a training contract is interesting: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON

The hidden burden of the general counsel role

Paul Gilbert, writing in the Lawyer blogs section, states: In another life I once held positions as general counsel in two major companies and so watching the News International phone hacking story play out in the press and on television I cannot help having a thought for Tom Crone and wondering what he must be going through now and what it was like for him when he was at N.I.”  Read more…

Well.. mustn’t overdo the law for Rive Gauche… so.. on to other matters of interest…first:  the Human Condition…

A selection from the tabloids: Drunk zoo visitor ends up in hospital after climbing into monkey enclosure ‘to playPilot causes mid-air terror scare by locking himself in toilet and then sending passenger ‘with Middle Eastern accent’ to cockpit for help| PC Anthony Wallyn is Britain’s tallest police officer at 7ft 2in

And… on that note... Salut to you for Friday… orf for a bit of BBC Question Time and read the ranters view of it on twitter..


Rive Gauche 2: On Technocrat prime ministers…..

And… on that note… back on the morrow with a blog about law bloggers… and… I may even have time to do a ‘Postcard’..

It is fairly obvious that I am not enamoured of ‘technocrats’.

Bread and circuses.. or as we say at The Duck and Biller... a fine bar in my imagination…  …. panem et circenses…  aided by Wikipedia… “is a metaphor for a superficial means of appeasement. In the case of politics, the phrase is used to describe the creation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion, distraction, and/or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace.The phrase also implies the erosion or ignorance of civic duty amongst the concerns of the common man (l’homme moyen sensuel).”

Jeez… tell me that Prime Minister Camcorderdirect didn’t get his farkin Big Society idea from Wikipedia?  Nothing, however, would surprise me.

I did like this quote – also in Wikipedia – “American author Robert Heinlein said, “Once the monkeys learn they can vote themselves bananas, they’ll never climb another tree.”

Enjoy the weekend…

Rive Gauche: A quickie on diversity……

“Fairness and equality are central values of the law, and the courts should reflect this. Everyone should be able to see the courts as their courts, there for all sections of society and not just for some.”

Baroness Hale, Justice of The Supreme Court of The United Kingdom

Lady Hale, rightly, has expressed the view that the judiciary is not diverse enough – drawing attention to the fact that she remains the only female justice in The Supreme Court.  Jennifer MacLeod, in The Guardian, has an interesting article on the theme: Resistance to diversity among judges is misguided and writes “Lady Hale’s right, diversity is a constitutional issue but a more representative bench would make for better decisions.”

It isn’t, of course, simply a matter of gender diversity. To gender we must add ethnicity and background – or, to be blunt about it, class background.  Professor J.A.G Griffiths published a seminal book in 1977 – The Politics of The Judiciary. I remember reading it and enjoying it at the time. The charge was made that the English judiciary was middle aged, middle class and white.  Middleminded may well have also been mentioned as an epithet.  I can’t recall if Griffiths or  another commentator  added the latter.

I found this on Google when I searched for Griffiths’ book… I just cannot resist..

Wikipedia, interestingly, notes Lady Hale’s membership of The Athenaeum.

I’m afraid I tend to the Groucho Marx school of thought about clubs these days: “I sent the club a wire stating, PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT ME AS A MEMBER.”

I will admit to having been a member of several – East India, Reform and Queen’s Club – the latter two as part of a corporate deal.  I believe that I am still a member of The Union in Soho – but haven’t been for years and my membership may have lapsed.  I  was not a member of The Groucho Club in Soho but I had far too many amusing evenings there as a guest to need to be or wish to be.

Anyway, I digress – back to diversity and the best judge for the job.  The clue is in the last phrase ‘ the best judge for the job’.  I am all for diversity – but I am not keen on positive discrimination or tokenism;   it demeans the appointee and does not serve the system well.  In that, I am possibly in a minority – but I can see no benefit in selecting second best.  The better question is – are women, ethnic minorities and those from less privileged backgrounds getting a fair crack of the whip? I am not a practitioner.  I am not a sociologist – but I do keep my eyes and ears open and I have come to the view that there is a fair amount of ‘bird flocking togethery’ going on in the legal profession and this leads me, ineluctably, to a personal conclusion that the answer is NO.

I do accept that the profession is trying to bring in greater diversity.  I do accept that the selection of judges is more open – but I suspect that we have a fair way to go before we get a genuinely diverse legal profession and judiciary – a judiciary which is representative of society as a whole and one which will be more highly regarded because it will be seen to be so.

Rive Gauche: Rants and What fills that awkward hour between evensong and cocktails?

Life can get in the way of amusement and blogging on occasion – but, fortunately, I now have time to have a look about and see what is happening in the legal world.

I am not a fan of mavenry, “Top this and that lists” and awards on social media – A ‘painting’ I did some time back in my F*ckart series sums up my attitude to awards dispensed for legal blogging et al.   I’m all for promoting law blogging – and both Legal Week and The Lawyer are doing this well -  but I see no need to have prizes.  I had a minor  rant on twitter this morning about the  “Blog Post of the Week” feature in the weekly round up of blogs done by David Allen Green in The Lawyer.  David’s review this week draws attention to some interesting blogs.  Legal Cheek puts iron into irony  – rightly taking the mickey about my rant   – with this post.  15-Love to Mr Aldridge!

Dr Erasmus Strangelove, senior partner of Muttley Dastardly LLP emailed me this morning….

Charon…

I am pleased to announce that Muttley Dastardly LLP will be launching a new award – Maven of The Week.  As I am too busy billing (indeed we are all too busy at MD LLP) would you be kind enough to keep an eye on things…. for a fee, naturally, which we will be more than happy to satisfy after a suitable 75% ‘haircut’ and re-schedule to 2017 for settlement.

Best

Dr Erasmus Strangelove LLB, BCL, Ph.D, DAGCMG (and Bar)

Senior Partner, Muttley Dastardly LLP
Quondam legal meedja correspondent for The Loftlagger’s Weekly

I was reminded by a fellow tweeter about a post I did some time ago in relation to ‘reviews’….I shall quote the relevant section:

I happened to be on Twitter exchanging tweets with @ntheowl who was complaining about having to do a book review.  I suggested that he use Sir Maurice Bowra’s famous aphorism which I paraphrase…“Be sure… I shall lose no time at all in doing so” when asked to review a colleague’s latest work.  @ntheowl responded with… “‘I cannot begin to say how useful this book is …’ This prompted me to look up Sir  Maurice Bowra in Wikipedia.  He was known for his wit…. I particularly like this aphorism which resonates with “Englishness”… “Buggery was invented to fill that awkward hour between evensong and cocktails.”

Anyway… all done in the best possible taste and not to be taken seriously…. so to more sensible matters – albeit briefly.. and as I was unable to Eyes Only yesterday – put a few blog posts and newspaper articles  I have enjoyed reading this week before you:

Legal Week:  ‘He’s a human rights lawyer, you know’ – barrister Adam Wagner on what drew him to a career in human rights law

Anna Raccoon casts a caustic eye over the OccupyLsx occupation at St Pauls:

The Occupy UK shower have done their best, there was always a delicious irony in their making their bed in the guest accommodation of the wealthiest ‘corporation’ in Britain and certainly the one that pays the lowest rate of taxation, whilst protesting against ‘capitalism’; but all credit to them for forcing the caring sharing happy clappy Church of England to reveal that their concern for equality and the poor ‘they are very welcome to stay’ only lasted until the moment that worship at the altar of Mammon, in the form of the temple traders, shop and restaurant, was suffering a downturn in projected profits. ‘It is with great regret’ etc…

Read: Lord of the Flies Beds Down in Animal Farm.

And I did enjoy Lucy Reid’s review of The UK Supreme Court : Super Supreme – and The Guardian’s short film interview with five of the Supreme Court Justices.

Apart from Legal Week, The Lawyer and The Law Society Gazette, Neil Rose’s Legal Futures is another good source for keeping up to date with developments in the legal profession: Clients “will head to brands” but independent lawyers can still forge a future

Dominic Grieve takes on the European court of human rights

The Guardian: Under government plans, countries would not only implement human rights law but interpret it – and decide if they complied

I’m doing a Without Prejudice ‘Special’ with Carl Gardner of Head of Legal blog over the weekend to cover some fascinating developments in the law – including the proposals for mandatory sentences.  I’ll pop back later this evening, hopefully, with some more Rive Gauche….

AND Finally.. this is extraordinary…

Barrister ‘sent sexy texts to client’s girlfriend during case’

The Telegraph: A criminal appealed his conviction after he discovered that the barrister defending him was sending “sexual” text messages to his girlfriend during the case.