Saturday, 31 July 2010

The Flying Cow

flying cow signWhile I get the chance, I opted to take a long weekend to visit my parents down in the darkened depths of Cornwall. It’s looking like the last time I’ll see them this year, so thought a visit was well in order.

I’ve endured some pretty awful journeys in my time, but Thursday night’s debacle on my way down to Cornwall took some beating. Having already suffered 3 (relatively minor) delays, it seems we ploughed at cruising speed into a stray cow that had wandered onto the track somewhere between Taunton and Exeter.

There was no sudden braking, no ‘horning’, just a massive jolt and then the feeling of the carriage bumping, shaking and grinding - which most of the instantly-hysterical passengers took for a derailment. I can only assume the driver had his nose in a paperback or, as my girlfriend thoughtfully suggested, was in the buffet car ‘tucking in’.

The front of the train was badly damaged, the driver’s nerves more or less in tatters and one wheel of the front engine had been pushed out of alignment. After stopping for about an hour while the damage was assessed (and the driver changed his underwear), we then endured an ignominious crawl at a maximum of 20mph into Exeter St. Davids with offal plastered over the front carriages and the engine now sporting a cow’s head as an effigy.

The conductors on the platform at Exeter couldn’t suppress their obvious amusement at the sight.  Another change at Plymouth - where the train for Penzance had to wait even longer for connecting passengers on delayed trains behind us - meant I arrived in Cornwall over 2 hours late.

Let’s hope that the journey back is much less traumatic.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Who will YOU nominate for the 2010 Blawggies?

blawggies 2010 nominationsYes, brace yourselves everyone… the nominations have now opened for the illustrious Blawggies 2010!

Minxy, Andro and I have been hard at work to put together the first publicly-nominated awards for the UK blawgosphere.

We’ve settled on a number of awards which we’d ultimately like the distinguished members of the blawgosphere to vote on.  However, before that, we need to decide on the shortlist of nominees for each award.

The awards are:

Best Newcomer

Best Design

Best Blawging Regular

Best Supporting Role (i.e. commentators only).

Best Legal Commentary

Triumph over Adversity

Blawg of the Year

Services to Blawging Award

We’ve tried to keep the rules short and simple:

Please keep nominations relevant and please do NOT vote for your own blawg.

To help prevent a whitewash, please do NOT nominate the same blawg for more than 2 categories.

If you’re finding it tough to recall the blawging ‘newcomers’ (i.e. pretty much anyone who’s sprung up in the ‘sphere over the last 12 months), you can check out a couple of review posts I’ve done, here and here.

So, please head on over to our nominations survey when you can quickly and easily submit the names of blawgs you’d like to see in the running for a fabulous blawggie in next month’s ceremony.

The nominations survey will remain open for 2 weeks, closing on 12th August.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Calling all first year law students.... start a blawg!

blawgosphere needs you

Thrill us with your innocence of law school and your insatiable thirst for the excitement of your first year at uni. Let us reminisce with tales of your impropriety - comprising of drunken brawls, lascivious sex and those lectures you attended so hung over, your brain was more or less pickling itself inside your aching head.

Share with us your pernicious money-worries, self-loathing over the prospect of having to whore yourself out to pay your rent for the rest of the semester, spiteful drinking games that seemed such a good idea at the time, quirky student diets and those hideous do-or-die moments when it seems like everything in the world hinges on your getting that assignment in on time.

Remind us of the pain relating to that ever-growing pile of 'required reading', seemingly impossible deadlines and those crises of confidence leading you to question just how much of a great idea studying law actually was.

Let us feel your anguish in finding out that the lovely person you just ‘spent the night with’ is a notorious ‘regular’ at the local GUM clinic, as well as that awful period of waiting to see if your room in halls of residence will pass inspection, notwithstanding the fairly prominent vomit stain that now resides just inside the door.

Think of it as your duty to posterity to document the fledgling steps in your career in law.  It'll make a fascinating journal to look back on, will give us poor fools who have to work all week, a darned good laugh and will give the blawgosphere the shot in the arm it desperately needs.

So, please, soon-to-be law students - do your duty to the fraternity of law students out there and start a blawg today!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

PI Pensioner in Alsatian Ankle Attack

police dog alsatian[4]

From the Surrey Comet 20/07/10:

A pensioner hospitalised after being bitten by a police dog during a manhunt used to sell personal injury claims for a living.

It may just be matter of semantics, but how do you sell ‘PI claims’ exactly? Oh well.

Brian Kiddell, 71, who lives in Bramham Gardens off Clayton Road, was watering his patch at the allotments behind Kingston Rugby Club yesterday lunchtime when he was attacked by the Alsatian.

Police helicopters, officers and dogs were searching for two suspects who had crashed their silver BMW in Kelvin Grove and fled onto the allotments.

He said: "I was just resting my hose on a fork.

Now there’s a euphemism if I ever heard one. But I digress.

"I had seen the police officers previously and then there was this loud hailer saying 'there's a police dog on site. Will all police officers stand still'.

He revealed his background was in selling personal injury compensation for a solicitors.

Not, ‘for a solicitors’ eh? Fancy.

Asked whether he would seek compensation, he said: "I think the police will contact me anyway.

"All I'm glad about is it happened this week because I had the Claygate Flower Show on Saturday and I wouldn't have been able to do half the stuff I did."

Mr Kiddell, wthe treasurer of the allotment society, carried off the Queen Elizabeth Ceremonial Cup and the Wilkinson Cup for three vases of sweet peas.

Okay, point taken. Brian Kiddell is a good guy and really didn’t deserve having an Alsatian try and amputate his foot. Note to editor: maybe try easing off on the ‘hard sell’ here.   Also, a proof reader might be a good investment.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Spread the blawgin’ lovin’

summer blawgin lovin

Somewhat uncharacteristically, I’m intending to shrug off my negativity and accentuate the positive over the next few weeks with my new spread the blawgin’ lovin’ campaign. I know I’m often seen to bemoan the state of the blawgosphere – mostly with good reason – but I’m going to force myself to be chipper and perky, seeing only good in the world. Or something like that.

Also, summer tends to be a bit of a slow time in blogging circles so I feel we could all use whatever positive vibes we can lay our hands on.

So here’s the agenda:  I’ll be starting with a ‘call to arms’ for new legal bloggers to come forward and feel the blawgin’ love’, before progressing onto some probing interviews with key players in the ‘sphere today. The campaign will culminate sometime next month in the illustrious and sparkling Blawggies 2010, which, in Minxy’s (hopefully temporary) absence, Andro and I will be hosting. We’re still figuring out the details on that one, but we should be opening up the polls for nominations soon.

Stay tuned!

So, anyway, hopefully the overriding message is clear: it’s officially time to cut loose and celebrate all that’s great in and around the UK blawgosphere today.

Group hug anyone? Winking smile

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Welsh Judge resigns over ‘Rent Boy’ Allegations

From Solicitors Journal 12/07/10:

A Welsh Crown Court judge alleged to have put a rent boy on the bench describing him as a law student has resigned after a 12-month-investigation by the Office for Judicial Complaints.

The investigation started after Judge Gerald Price QC, a senior circuit judge in South Wales, was alleged by the News of the World to have had a nine-month relationship with prostitute Christopher Williams, aged 25 at the time.

Williams claimed that Judge Price, who is married, paid him a monthly allowance and let him sit on the bench as a law student and before that watch trials from the press gallery.

I know law students are hard up these days but really?

Gerald Price was suspended on 30 June 2009, when the investigation started.

The OJC said it only focused on allegations that had an impact on Gerald Price’s role as a judge.

It concluded that his actions brought the judiciary into disrepute and made his position “untenable”.

Hmmm. No arguments there.

[Price] has stood unsuccessfully as a Conservative candidate at three general elections and is an Anglican lay reader.

Aha. All is coming clear.

The big question, though, and assuming the allegations are true,  is why bring your rent boy to work at all?  Unless, I’m missing something?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Legal Outsourcing

As a favour to an MSc student, Lee, battling with his dissertation, I’ve agreed to put together a short post to help publicise the survey he’s running.

It essentially concerns the management of risk in relation to outsourcing legal services – which may or may not light your fire – but it’s worth a gander all the same.

Lee’s keen to hear from as broad a selection of the legal sector as possible, including those entering the profession, so please go ahead and add your two-penneth.
 

1. How would you describe the risk attitude within your law firm?  - Good to Poor

2. Would you agree that your Partners are committed to establishing a risk aware culture? - Strongly Agree to Strongly disagree

3. Is risk management actively undertaken within your firm? - Yes/No

4. Who manages the risk process within your law firm?

- Head of Risk

- Senior Risk Partner

- Chief of Internal Audit

- Other

You can check out the full questionnaire here.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Personal Injury claims on the rise

xrayFrom the Law Society Gazette 17/06/10:

The number of personal injury claims filed in the High Court jumped 32% between 2006 and 2008, research has found.

Whoah! That’s quite a jump.

Claims relating to personal injury jumped 31.8% from 914 in 2006 to 1,205 in 2008, according to a study of the latest available figures by legal information provider Sweet & Maxwell.

The rise comes despite attempts to reduce personal injury claims under the Compensation Act 2006, which imposed registration requirements on claims management companies and created the Ministry of Justice’s claims management regulator.

Citing anecdotal evidence from law firms and insurers, Sweet & Maxwell suggested that the recession is behind the rise in personal injury claims, with individuals claiming because they were under financial stress. At the same time, insurers suffering from weak investment returns were more willing to contest claims, Sweet & Maxwell suggested.

Cynics have always claimed that lawyers milk both recessions and the boom periods in equal measure.  While that largely depends on what area you specialise in, I think it’s fair to say there’s an element of truth in it.  Mind you, try telling that to the lawyers who have found themselves out of work over the last couple of years and I’m sure they’ll have something to say about it.

But a 32% jump in PI claims in just 2 years is huge, no matter how you slice it.  While the reasons are interesting, you could conceivably make the argument that a recession allows justice to better prevail, with claimants more likely to bring claims and defendants more inclined to defend them, rather than just settling at will.  That, though, rather presupposes that justice does indeed prevail in an adversarial system.  But that’s a can of worms I’m steering well clear of here.

However, there is another possibility for this starling statistic: maybe there are just more instances of negligence going on out there? 

Monday, 12 July 2010

Another July – Another Law Minx Bloggies?

Last July, the sphere’s inimitable Law Minx organised the first ‘bloggies’ ceremony, in which she awarded different awards to the blawgosphere’s more distinguished members for their ‘contributions to blawging’. Or something like that. Others prefer to think of it is as the blawgosphere’s answer to the Oscars. Whatever – we all got a badge and bunch of praise. Can’t be bad!

However, as everybody knows, Minxy has been largely absent over the last 10 months or so after fighting a long illness, though she made a much-welcomed return a couple of months ago. The question now, of course, is whether the bloggies will be held again this year.

It’d be nice to think there would be another bunch of awards for 2010. So,  Minxy – how about it?

Smile

Oh yeah, which reminds me, does anybody know what happened to Curious Black Cat?

 

law bloggies

Friday, 9 July 2010

Fraudulent eBay seller faces prosecution

ebay sham auction

From BBC News 05/07/10:

An eBay trader has been given a community service order and made to pay nearly £5,000 in fines and costs for bidding on his own items to increase the price.

Barrett became the first person in the UK to be prosecuted over online auction fixing after admitting that he used two separate eBay accounts to bid against himself.

Officers found he was selling goods on the auction website under the username "shanconpaul", while bidding on them under the identity "paulthebusman".

He also posted positive feedback from these accounts.

Barrett said he did not realise that bidding on his own items - which included a pie and pasty warmer priced at £127 - was a criminal offence.

A what? Who the hell needs one of those and should it really cost almost £130? And if you did need one and did cost that much, would you really choose to get it from eBay?

 

The 39-year-old admitted breaches of the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Ian Williamson of international law firm Bird & Bird LLP said anybody bidding against themselves could also face prosecution under the Fraud Act 2006, which is applicable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A conviction under the Fraud Act can lead to a maximum fine of £5,000 per offence and up to 12 months in prison.

In England and Wales, the offence of conspiracy to defraud, which makes it an offence for parties to agree to defraud another party, could cover a situation where people agree to bid on each other's items.

Sham bidding and other dubious concerted practices can be a fundamental problem for all auctions – not just those held online, of course.  As you might expect, eBay have always seemed relatively committed to fighting problems that plague their site – albeit not always that proactively.  This prosecution has got to be welcomed, no matter how you slice it.

But what really surprises me is that eBay is still going as strong as it is, quite honestly. Who the heck uses it anymore? That said, I did find it useful for picking up cheap ink for my inkjet printers in the past and I’m due to place an order. Is my first eBay order of 2010 pending?

Monday, 5 July 2010

The future of budget airline travel – standing room only?

From The Daily Telegraph (Australia) 02/07/10:

 

TIGER Airways would consider introducing a "standing-only" option for passengers in a bid to lower airfares.

The low-cost carrier said it could follow in the footsteps of UK budget airline Ryanair and introduce “vertical seating”.

Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O'Leary said the Irish airline will fund the controversial travel option by charging customer to use the restroom during flights.

His proposed “vertical seats” would be available in a special standing-room only sections in the rear of commuter flights lasting an hour or possibly longer.

Tickets would cost between $7 and $14 per passenger, Mr OLeary said in TV interview.

The new seating proposal was welcomed by Mr Burns, who said Tiger Airways wouldn’t rule anything out.

“Selling cheap fares is easy. Doing it profitably means having to continually innovate and evolve so that the cost base continues to reduce.”

Ryanair will conduct safety testing for the new vertical seats next year.

"We've been looking at is taking out the last ten rows of seats so we will have 15 rows of seats and the equivalent of ten rows of standing area," Mr OLeary said.

However, Civil Aviation Authority officials harbor doubts that the revolutionary new seats would pass safety rules.

"It's aviation law that people have to have a seat-belt on from take-off and landing so they would have to be in a seat. I don't know how Mr O'Leary would get around that one," said a spokesman.

Ryanair Vertical SeatingI’ve read a few (almost entirely negative) opinions on this over the last few days but I really don’t see the big turn-off here. Obviously, vertical seating would only really be feasible for short-haul journeys but I truly feel it’s something a lot of travellers would be interested in.

Maybe it should be extended to trains and buses, too?  Coming back from London last week on the train, I had to stand in the crammed vestibule for over an hour before any seats were available.  I’m certain that we would have all gladly paid for a vertical seat had they been available – which would also have been far safer than being thrown about the carriage like a bunch of ragdolls. 

Ryanair should be congratulated for innovating in a vastly competitive sector and this vertical seating idea is a much less egregious concept then some of their other attempts to secure new revenue streams. Charging passengers a quid a go to visit the toilet, for instance, seems a touch extortionate, though as Michael O’Leary pointed out elsewhere, this should have minimal effect for short haul flights and will simply encourage people to use the ‘airport facilities’ before boarding. Still, it seems tough on those people who are ‘caught short’ unexpectedly or those cursed with tiny bladders!

Anyhow, assuming that the vertical seats can be deemed compatible with aviation law –and from a safety point of view, I really can’t see why not – I’m sure a lot of budget airlines will follow suit in offering vertical seating at vastly reduced rates.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Blogging Heaven: Live Writer - Wave 4 - Beta

Buckle your chin-straps.  Windows Live Writer 4 is here

Most members of the blawgosphere are more than familiar with the wonders of Windows Live Writer.  I've been dedicated Live Writer user since autumn 2007 and as far as I'm concerned, it made managing a blog a whole lot easier.  Wrestling with the online blogger posting tools proved troublesome as it often garbled the post's formatting with little obvious rhyme or reason.  While I appreciate that there are a lot of passionate fanatics of the downloadable Wordpress software, there’s no denying that WLW is a fantastic freebie.

With the release of the beta of Windows Live Essentials Wave 4, comes the latest version.   The quality is top-notch and it certainly doesn’t feel like a half-baked beta that's not ready for prime time.   Save for a rather wacky (and needless) UI change, this release is the real deal.

WLW AboutThe big news, of course, is that Live Writer now sports the ribbon interface, first debuted in Office 2007 and then ported over to in-built apps in Windows 7.  While there'll always be a few sceptics as to the ribbon UI, they remain firmly in the minority.  The Writer version of ribbon works well and should be welcomed across the board.  Thankfully, the ribbon UI within WLW retains its ability to be auto-hidden, though I’m not sure how advantageous it is to have greater screen real estate available while composing a blog post.WLW ribbon

What I really don't get is why the labels dropdown menu was moved to the top, just under the ribbon.   It's a frankly ridiculous decision; it feels unnatural in use and seems like change for change's sake. For me (and I suspect most users) assigning labels and, less frequently, the posting date are often the last things you'll do before publishing the post.  Convention dictates that you work from top to bottom, so logic says it should be in the lower portion of the window.  Often before posting, I'll hit the preview tab (which was and still is at the bottom) to make sure it fits well with my template before posting.  The fact that these tabs (edit, preview and source) have remained at the bottom whilst the labels and posting date menus have been bumped up to the top makes it all the more strange.

Still, focussing on more positive news, this latest version feels the snappiest ever.  I've often bemoaned the sluggish performance of Live Writer (even on high end machines) and resulted in me typing up posts in MS Word - something I still find myself doing today.

When opening previous posts, there are now far more options in choosing how many load at once under the 'Open' menu.  This is great for going back and making tweaks to the labels, content or formatting of previous posts - particularly those dating from way back.   What I'd really like to see, however, is a way to set the default number of posts which load.  (Feature for Wave 5 maybe?)

Another addition are big, cheesy emoticons.  I guess you either like emoticons or you don't. If you do, bigger and brighter is better.  And if you don't, tough luck.
  Smile with tongue out

emoticons WLW

Other things which caught my eye

There are a couple of needless functions such as the ability to insert a map directly from Live Writer.  I can't see this one getting a whole lot of use to be honest. 

Word count (including the ability for real-time word count to be displayed) is a neat feature and is another reason for me to consider writing up posts within Live Writer itself rather than doing my copy and paste trick from Word of which I'm so fond. inline word count

Bug fix?  In previous versions of Live Writer, there was an issue with the ability to highlight text, particularly after inserting pictures.  Infuriatingly, the text would not remain highlighted as soon as you let go of the mouse button.  This highlighting bug was one of my few bugbears about WLW and although definitely got better over several releases (in the sense that it happened less often) it was never rectified completely.  With the beta, it's been a case of so-far, so-good, but I'll reserve final judgement until I've used it a bit longer.

I’m also hoping that the ecosystem for WLW add-ons improves considerably going forward. There are a couple of nice ones which I’ve used for a while now but my experiences with the add-ons generally have been disappointing. For the few that there are available, they tend to be horribly buggy and often fail to work as advertised. Oh well.

No matter how you slice it, though, this is a decent upgrade and certainly the most significant since WLW first went public nearly 3 years ago.  Somewhat controversially, as with the rest of Windows Live Essentials Wave 4, it’ll only work on Windows Vista and 7 so XP users need not apply. My only reservation in respect of the application itself the re-positioning of the label and posting date menu and am hoping it'll be moved back down to the bottom (where it rightfully belongs) before the final version is released later this year.   

And yes, although this is only a beta, it’s as good as done to be honest, and most bloggers will want to upgrade sooner rather than later.   Go on… you know you want to!