Sunday, 28 February 2010

Personal Injury Solicitors and Ironic Slips, Trips and Falls

personal injury slip trip fall copyWe went back to my university city for a shopping spree (again) this weekend. While rambling up one the main streets, I stumbled across a promo-van (kind of a caravan for promotions…. obviously) for a little-known firm of personal injury solicitors.

The two workers (both sporting jackets in the colours of the law firm they represented) were wandering about in front of the promo van with little sense of purpose and looked thoroughly cold and fed-up. I guess different types of advertising works for different firms but this seemed entirely hopeless from a mile off!

Then, at the end of the day, having sat through the monolithic film, Avatar, (yes, I finally got around to seeing it) we were walking back down the now darkened street when I tripped over the tow-bar of the injury lawyers’ promo-van.

So now I know what it’s like to suffer an accident that wasn’t my fault. Just typical! :p

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Law Actually Search Terms

wacky search terms jan and feb 2010 copy"burst llm 2008" - seriously, how can you burst an LLM?

"llb law cheats" - Nothing like obtaining your degree on merit, is there?

"flying busicuit and lawsuits" - Oh please.

"what can i do with a lousy law degree" - hehe... don't be so defeatist.

"advice on setting up personal injury firm" - How about don't?

"snuggie injury" - Well I guess you could trip on it, set fire to it, start choking on it... but you'd have to more or less try you hardest to do one of the above.

"highways agency problems" - too numerous to document I suspect.

"personal injury lawyers bite my butt" - wow.  Just hope they didn't bill you for it.

"how many ipods in washing machines" - Well just 1, personally.  I kind of learnt my lesson after that and I suspect that most other people do the same.

“are people who own fountain pens lawyers” - yeah, everybody else just rents them!  :-|

"(abercrombie or a&f) and (jeans or shirt or jacket or sweaters or polo or pant or skirt or shorts or camis or dress or tee or t-shirt)" - Ho-ly cow!  Surely there's a more efficient way of searching?!?

"abercrombie and fitch topless assistants london door" Sounds like I should head up to A&F pretty sharpish! ;-)

"law students are annoying" - you're telling me!!

"funny legal jargin phrases" - Can't beat a bit of ‘jargin’.

“how much of the windscreen do i have to clear” - More than this.

“santa claus legality” – Oh I give up!

“has studying law changed your perceptions about the law” - No, I was always a cynic from birth.  I’ve got a perpetual glass half empty approach to law.

“x-ray vision laws” – There’s probably a couple of articles floating about in the Cretins and Halfwits Law Review (C.H.L.R).

“how to cheat for exams with statute book” – work it out for yourself.

“laws regulating strawberries” – I’m speechless.

”talk to law students on conveyancing practice” – An alternative to counting sheep I suppose.

“law dessrtations for undergraduates” - oh boy. we've got a right one here.

“how to get semen out of pillow” – oh Lord.

"hur får jag sarkmark i min pc" - Man kan klicka här .  Oh it brings my Swedish flooding back!  :D

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Legal Reality TV

I'm a solicitor - get me out of here Just a few ideas for legally themed reality TV shows:

Strictly Come Advocacy

So You Think You Can Litigate

I'm a Solicitor.... Get Me Out of Here.

Total Wipeout: Lawyer Edition (... I suspect this would give the general public no end of joy, seeing lawyers suffer a miserable and ignominious beating).

Advocacy on Ice

Law Idol

The Law Factor ... hmm, good name for a blog there.

Lawyer Academy

Negotiation: Deal or No Deal

Any others??

Friday, 19 February 2010

Happy Birthday Law Actually

law actually 3rd birthday banner Yes, today marks the 3rd birthday of my blog.  It’s been a fairly tumultuous year in the ‘sphere and we’ve seen some blogging stalwarts disappear all together.

Still, Law Actually has battled on and I hope I’ll be about for a while yet.  Here’s to another year, eh?

The verdict’s in on juries

From the Law Society Gazette 19/02/10:

Critics of the jury system often recite the argument that trial by jury equates to trial by the prejudiced and ignorant, suggesting that juries are all to [sic] often made up of the long-term unemployed because anyone clever enough can get out of jury service. They question whether jurors can be trusted to go beyond the defendant’s appearance and see through the obfuscation, confusion and clever arguments advanced by lawyers, to determine the truth.

Research published this week by the Ministry of Justice does seem to vindicate the jury system. The report, Are Juries Fair, compiled by Cheryl Thomas of the University of London, concluded that juries are fair and do not discriminate on racial grounds, convicting in around 60% of cases.

The research did show that many jurors did not fully understand their responsibilities or the legal directions given by the judge before they retire. The blame for this cannot be attributed to the juror system or the stupidity of jurors, but surely indicates that judges should try to be clearer in their directions.

As someone who isn’t particularly pro or anti juries, I’ve always been able to see the benefits of having defendants tried by their peers whilst being mindful of the drawbacks inherent in using them. I think this report has confirmed that juries still have a vital role to play in the modern criminal justice system but they aren’t some kind of panacea. I for one certainly don’t have an issue with use of juries being restricted, though I know I’m inviting a barrage of abuse from pro-jury advocates in just saying so. Oh well – bring it on!occ016

As for judges needing to be clearer in their directions to jurors, I think that was largely self-evident in courts up and down the country well before the research was commissioned. There’s plenty of room for improvement with suggestions for greater use of plain language in oral direction and wider use of written directions – similarly clear – and perhaps more innovative use of aides-mémoire.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


graduation I graduated on Wednesday (about 15.15 local time :p)!! It turned out to be a very nice ceremony, despite having our eardrums blasted to pieces by some slightly over-zealous organ playing.

The weather was pretty crappy but I guess it was a good day on the whole – it’s certainly one that I’ll remember for a long time to come. Most importantly, it reminded me of a bunch of great memories and, as I said before, I’d go back and do the LL.M again like a shot.

As so much time has passed between submitting my dissertation and graduating, I thought I’d put my LL.M experience all behind me.  But having been through the ceremony, I seems slightly surreal now to think it’s finally all over.

And slightly sad, too.

**Update** Also, I should have mentioned that the graduation goody bags we received were slightly disappointing but maybe I shouldn’t grumble.   :-)

Monday, 15 February 2010

The life expectancy of a blawg

From Drug and Device Law 24/08/2009:

Talking about the high attrition rate of academic law blogs written by those in academia, the drug and device law came to some startling conclusions about blawgs.  In essence: we're all doomed!


Even the academics can't do it! The professors can't feed their blogs; it's too much work.

And those guys spend their lives wearing tweed jackets, smoking pipes, and thinking great thoughts!

So today's question was this: How long does the average practitioner-blogger last?
Four months.

So, the life expectancy of many of the blawgs out there doesn’t look too great.  What I've witnessed in the UK student/graduate blawgsophere certainly bears that out.

This brings out a number of other issues – such as why different people keep a blog.

why blogWhen I first started my legal blog back in February 2007, I’d had an F1 blog for 3 years though I had only been posting frequently in the last few months of that.  I was finding that my F1 blog had become a dumping ground for all kinds of topics.  I was in the final year of my LL.B and all was going well and had intended law actually to be an outlet for my legal musings.

Over time, though, I think the reasons behind why I blog have evolved but the principal reason hasn't changed.

So why do we all blog?  There are a lot of reasons, I suppose, including:

Sense of community; debate and feedback from like-minded folks; sense of release; sense of creativity; self-promotion; financial gain and so on.

I think those blogs are that created solely (or at least mainly) as a means of self-promotion, where the blogger doesn't truly enjoy wallowing in the subject matter are at the greatest risk of failing quickly.  To build a decent readership takes time and effort and, on top of a day at work or studying, can't really be forced.  Or at least not for long.

Even now, I don’t pretend to fully understand the lure of blogging or what's the driving force behind that sense of 'I really should get a post out today'.  And I know that's not just me, having heard other bloggers say much the same thing.

The sense of creativity is definitely one of the main reasons why I still blog.  This was particularly the case when I used to tinker around creating/modifying pictures for each post which I do far less of now.  But I carry on posting nonetheless.

Maybe there's still some cathartic effect that's inherent in posting to a blog - even though Law Actually doesn't take the form of a journal or diary.  But whatever the reason, it boils down to one thing - enjoyment.

Ultimately, you need to blog because you enjoy it.  Academic blogs which aren't a labour of love, like any blog, I guess, will ultimately fail.  Should blogging become more of a chore than enjoyment I wouldn’t hesitate in retiring from the blawgosphere for good. 

Thursday, 11 February 2010

First comparison site for legal services soon to break cover

lawyers comparison site From the Law Society Gazette 21/01/10:

CompareLegalSolutions [dot] com, to be launched in March, claims it will allow consumers to compare firms on price across 90 areas of law.

Prices will be displayed as fixed fees where applicable; otherwise, each firm’s average hourly rate for the chosen field of work will be shown. The website will charge law firms a monthly fee to access leads to civil legal aid work and a set fee per lead for private work such as wills and conveyancing. Managing director Thomas Dunlop said: ‘The prospect of accessing legal services as easily as buying a tin of beans will make the market a lot more price- conscious.’

I guess it was only a matter of time before the comparison site fever spread to the legal profession.  As far back as two years ago, there was a well-acknowledged joke that there were so many new comparison sites bursting onto the scene, you needed a comparison site for comparison sites.

On the face of it, giving consumers greater access to a means of comparing prices is a good idea but price is not always a good guide to quality.  For bog standard work - conveyancing and the like - I suppose this might make some sense.  Competition in the personal injury sphere is also notoriously high - as illustrated by the vast array of PI related adverts which populate the web and daytime TV.  For more complicated work, however, it may make little sense to automatically go with the firm quoting the lowest price. 

Ultimately, Law firms which build up a strong reputation for excellent service but who perhaps charge a little extra than the cheapest firm out there are always going to do well when attracting business.

Finally, as an aside, I've noticed that 3 out of the 4 F1 sites which I regularly visit, are all plastered with the same ad touting the services of a well-known firm of national personal injury solicitors.  What is it about readers who frequent F1 sites: are they particularly accident prone?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Windows 7 Battery Woes Completely Disproved

From Paul Thurrott (SuperSite for Windows) 09/02/10:

Microsoft on Monday issued a lengthy statement about the recent Windows 7 battery controversy, echoing my assessment from earlier in the day but backing it up with cold, hard evidence. Put simply, Windows 7 is not responsible for any battery life issues that customers have reported via its support forums.

"Windows 7 is correctly warning [about] batteries that are in fact failing and Windows 7 is neither incorrectly reporting on battery status nor in any way whatsoever causing batteries to reach this state," Microsoft president Steven Sinofsky wrote in the Engineering Windows 7 Blog. "We are seeing nothing more than the normal course of battery degradation over time ... In every case we have been able to identify the battery being reported on was in fact in need of recommended replacement."

personal injury lawyersI can’t say I’ve noticed any negative effects with using Windows 7 on a laptop (that previously ran XP) battery-related or otherwise. I’m still rather in awe of the fact I’ve successfully installed Windows 7 on my 5 year old Sony Vaio laptop and seems to run it as well as it well as it did XP.  I run Windows 7 across all of my PCs now and have absolutely no complaints.  On my laptop, the battery life certainly seems comparable with what I was getting under XP.

That this story grew so big in the first place is a testimony to people’s naiveté coupled with a truck-load of scaremongering.

Judicial Conservatism

planning permission law

From the Solicitors Journal 03/02/10:

A man who admitted deceiving a council by building on green belt land in Hertfordshire a ‘barn’ containing a three-bedroom house and a gym, has won his battle for planning permission at the Court of Appeal.

Lord Justice Mummery said that decent law-abiding citizens would find the unanimous ruling “incomprehensible” but, on the basis of legal arguments, Alan Beesley’s appeal had to be allowed.

Mummery LJ said it was a “surprising outcome” that “a public authority, deceived into granting planning permission by a dishonest planning application, can be required by law to issue an official certificate to the culprit consolidating the fruits of the fraud”.

He went on: “If a public authority behaved in a deceitful way, its planning decisions would rightly be set aside by the court as an unlawful abuse of power.

“If, however, the public authority has been deceived it seems that it can be required, at the end of the requisite four-year period, to provide the person who deceived it with a certificate of lawfulness.”

Giving judgment in Welwyn Hatfield Council v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Beesley [2010] EWCA Civ 26, Mummery LJ said Beesley told the council he proposed to build a new hay barn on the land, that no change of use was required and provision for sewage disposal was not needed.

This sounds remarkably like the story I blogged about 2 years ago in which a chap came up with a rather fanciful  method of circumventing planning laws – he hid a castle for which he’d not obtained planning permission behind a massive wall of hay bales for 4 years and then tried to claim there had been no objection to the building for the requisite period.  There, in the interests of justice, the presiding judge adopted a liberal view of the process of dismantling the hay bales to the effect that it constituted part of the ‘building process’ meaning the 4 year period had not elapsed.

Here, however, the court was not so creative in their reasoning:

Lord Justice Richards, who gave the leading judgment, said the court should not adopt a “strained construction” of section 171B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 in reaction to the “deliberate deceit” practised by Mr Beesley.

“The outcome should be the same as if, for example, there had been a genuine change of mind in the course of construction of a building for which planning permission had been obtained in good faith.

“The question is whether the situation, viewed objectively, is one for which the statute has provided a four-year time limit or a ten-year time limit. If it is considered that there should be a different outcome in a case of dishonesty or deliberate concealment, it is for Parliament to amend the legislation accordingly.”

This presupposes, of course, that that the Act, when drafted, was intended to wave through instances of dishonesty or deliberate concealment quite happily.  I’m not sure how much I like that logic.

You probably won’t find a better example of judicial conservatism for quite some time.  To my mind, it’s simply a case of the literal rule being chosen in favour of the golden or mischief rules – both of which would surely have allowed for a more equitable outcome.

I’m sure the late Denning LJ would have had a field day with this one!!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Graduation Time

I've got my graduation for my LLM coming up next week which should be interesting.  Personally, I don't think that holding it in the depths of winter is a great idea – and is causing my GF no end of trouble when trying decide on her outfit.  

I remember graduation time last year and just what disruption it caused: my competition seminar had to decamp over to the maths faculty at the far-flung reaches of the campus as our usual room had been suddenly made-over as a photo studio.  There were people milling about every which way and getting anywhere within the law school was a huge struggle.

It seems strange to have the ceremony so long after the degree was, to all intents and purposes, done and dusted. Things have moved on considerably since I submitted my dissertation last September: we've moved house, I've a new job, am thoroughly out of 'student mode' and, well, my LLM seems like a distant memory.  But a very pleasant one.

We went back into my university city yesterday on a shopping spree. One of the shops was virtually next to the law school so it was the first time I'd been 'back on track' as it were, since exam period last summer.  Walking that route brought back a lot of good memories from my LLM.  :D

I was thinking a while back, if I'd do it all again - knowing what I know now.  To go through the pain, hassle and sacrifice; trying to fit the endless studying around my part-time job at the time; the extra expense; the added stress. 

In fairness, though, it didn't take a whole lot of thinking about.  Of course I'd do it again!

Like a shot!!  :D

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Left-handed ridicule

leftie graphBeing a leftie myself, I’ve long had to suffer the ridiculous and trite comments that people make when they see you’re left handed. 

So I can certainly relate to this graph which I stumbled across on Digg but, for me, the most frequent response I hear is:

“oh, so you’re a leftie/left-handed, then?”

To which I usually reply something like:

There’s no getting past you, is there?” or “only on Tuesdays and Thursdays” or something equally ridiculous.

I’ve never considered myself a fully-fledged leftie, though.  I write with my left hand, am a left handed sportsman (except when I try and pick a fight because the game didn’t go my way) but I’ve always used scissors in my right hand and a computer mouse.

Of course, this doesn’t make me ambidextrous – just a bit mixed-up and awkward, I guess.  As my music-come-cricket teacher used to describe me, “right handed musician, left handed bat". 

I wasn’t much use at either though.  Perhaps I should have swapped around!!

Friday, 5 February 2010

What’s wrong with age-restriction training in retail



From the Telegraph 02/02/10:

Christine Cuddihy, 24, was stunned when a checkout assistant refused to sell her the 51p piece of cheese and onion tart because “she looked under 21”.

In the end Miss Cuddihy, who was hungry, produced her driving licence in order to make the purchase.

She said: “The girl told me: 'You don't look over 21. I need to see some proof of age.'

''I told her I was certain the proof of age laws do not apply to quiche but she just said: 'We have to be really strict now and this applies to quiche bought over the counter.'

I know this one has been doing the rounds a lot in the last couple of days. I first read about it in the trusty Metro on my way to work on Wednesday and I know a couple of other blawgers have picked up on it.

For me, this story highlights everything that’s wrong with age-restricted goods training ran by companies.  Employees are typically given a 5 second blast of ‘you can’t do this or else…’  in which employers try and put the fear of God into their employees without imparting a grounding of why and how that training should properly be put into practice.

If a touch more time was taken, the true reasons behind why these age restricted laws are in place were explained and more trouble taken to explore the context in which those laws apply, not only will the employees leave with a better understanding of the problems that age restrictions are intended to combat but it would stop silliness like this from occurring in the first place.

Also, for employees to engage their brain whilst at work tends to help a lot.  ID-ing someone over a quiche – I mean, honestly!!!???

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Solicitors From Hell -- Real life experience

solicitors from hell

A curious little matter dropped onto my desk last week - one of many at the moment, actually; there just don't seem enough working hours in the day.

Essentially, it seems that we provided communication services to firm of solicitors who are now subject to an Intervention under s35 and Schedule 1 of the Solicitors Act 1974.  We were approached by the firm who are acting as Intervention Agents on behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority to confirm detailed information about our client and re-direct their phone lines to the offices of the Intervention Agents. Initially, I found out, these requests were made via a phone call to the support dept. and then, when information was not forthcoming from that member of staff, a firmly word fax hinting that they were on the cusp of applying for a court order to compel us to provide the information required.

Being the most cautious of all risk-averse people, my data protection spiny senses were initially sent into overdrive at the mere thought of all this.

I did a little research as to exactly what our obligations were, checked out the firm acting as Intervention Agents and the firm being investigated.  My preliminary research bore their fax and phone calls out.

A quick flick through the Solicitors Act didn't seem to reveal anything as to what our obligations were to provide this information and how it sat with the relevant Data Protection legislation. I was left with no alternative then, than a rummage through the depths of the Data Protection Act, something I hadn’t done in well over a year, since early on in my LLM. It didn’t take me long to find that this situation pretty much fell squarely under s31 of the Act, covering exemptions from the Subject Information Provisions in relation to regulatory activity.

So that was more or less that then.  I was shocked at how prominently the firm being investigated featured on the web from previous clients who’d had their fingers burnt.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, I also found that they were featured on the Solicitors From Hell website. I’d not heard of this site until last Thursday; since then, I’ve noticed that Charon QC and Aimless Wanderer have both mentioned it. I should imagine that a lot of lay people out there believe that all firms of solicitors should feature on that site!!

Still, this bit of excitement made a change from drafting and reviewing endless contracts, resolving number portability conundrums and advising on stuff under the Communications Act – plus strategising how to prod, poke or otherwise coerce OFCOM into action over a specific issue.