Wednesday, 31 March 2010

What kind of law student are (or were) YOU?

types of law studentAnd we want the truth! :D


What it really means

Burned by

Frequently Says


The ‘I'm seriously conscientious-er’

You’re a caffeine-fuelled boffin.

Serious rejection – that one time.

“You’re so immature!”

Getting laid

The ‘Panicker’

You're mildly neurotic

That time you got things badly wrong

“OMG – I haven’t read all 8 chapters for tomorrow’s seminar!!!”

Taking a chill-pill

The ‘I'm at uni to have a good time-er’

You’re a lazy no-good waster who should have avoided getting into debt by omitting the whole uni experience

Lack of ambition and/or intelligence

“Screw this – I’m heading down the union!!”

Visiting the library / bribing or having sex with your lecturers

The ‘Dreamer’

I’m hoping to stay in academia all my life

Real life

“I don’t see the need for practical contextualisation at all.”

Waking up and smelling the coffee

The ‘Chancer’

You’ve lucked through everything so far in life and if it aint broke, don’t fix it.

Hard work

“I’m going to wing it in tomorrow’s seminar”

Actually working hard for once in your cheating life

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Moped rider burns up the streets – literally

From 30/03/10:

A James Bond fan fed up with drivers cutting him up on his moped invented the ultimate gadget to gain his revenge - a 15ft flamethrower.

Colin Furze, 30, from Stamford in Lincolnshire, spent a month converting the 60mph sports scooter in his back garden.

"It's a lot of fun and when I fire the flames out the back it makes me feel just like James Bond," said Mr Furze.

"The flames are pretty big and up to 15 feet long so you could definitely set fire to someone's car if you wanted to.

"The only problem is it can get rather hot if you are riding the moped and blast the flames when the wind is in the wrong direction."

But he added: "I've been told that if I fire the flames while riding on the road it's equivalent to using a fire arm and I could be in a lot of trouble," he said.

Wow. If I found myself driving behind him, I think I’d find myself a lay-by to pull into pretty sharpish.

And it’s not just ‘being in a lot of trouble’, for his homemade flamethrower being equivalent to a firearm that he’ll have to worry about; off the top of my head, I’d say he’d be caught by s6 of the Road Traffic Act 1991 amongst many other things.Colin Furze flamethrower

Monday, 29 March 2010

University stipulates font for printing emails

eco print From 26/03/10:

The University of Wisconsin at Green Bay announced this week that it was switching fonts to save money, from Arial to Century Gothic.

[The University] says that while the change sounds minor, it will save money on ink when students print e-mails in the new font.

Diane Blohowiak is the school's director of computing. She says the new font uses about 30 percent less ink than the previous one.
That could add up to real savings, since the cost of printer ink works out to about $10,000 per gallon.

That's nothing to sneeze at, to be sure. Except for that little part about printing emails.

Who prints emails these days? Why not just disable that function? With the exception of things like concert tickets, boarding passes, and so on, what needs to be printed? 
Another, probably more impactful tool for university officials who want to go green: Buy and install printing optimization software that removes unnecessary images, cuts HTML headers from web pages, and prevents printing those one-line or blank pages that so often make their way into printouts.

N.B. Eco Printer Ink and Paper saver can be a Godsend here or for the web, try the Aardvark Firefox extension.

If you're already thinking about switching fonts, why not consider the "eco-font"? By incorporating tiny holes into each character, the company behind ecofont says it saves 25 percent or more of the ink over traditional fonts.

Or what about specialist ink-saving software such as the excellent eco-print or Inksaver. I’ve vouched for this type of software before and seriously, I just couldn’t be without it.

The eco-font idea is kind of funky, particularly as the font displays on-screen without the holes. It is said that it’s the little things in life that can make big changes and I guess mandating a more ink-conservative font when printing emails might be one of them.  It’s also preferable to removing the possibility of printing emails all together, though it wouldn’t surprise me if some overbearing universities choose to go this route in the future. the greenest font is the one you never use

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Failure to wear seatbelt, not contributory negligence

From the Solicitors Journal 03/03/10:

A 16 year-old boy who sat in the front seat of a friend’s car without a safety belt, but with a female friend “on his knee or lap” should not lose a percentage of his damages for contributory negligence, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

William Stanton suffered serious brain damage when the driver, who was also not wearing a belt, lost control of his car driving a group of young people back from a bar in South Yorkshire.

The court heard that Matthew Collinson was driving too fast on a single lane road, at a minimum of twice the 30 mph speed limit, when he hit an oncoming vehicle. He was killed immediately and the car ended up on its roof.

Giving judgment in Stanton v Collinson [2010] EWCA Civ 81, Lord Justice Hughes said the High Court had declined to reduce the damages awarded to Stanton on the grounds that it had not been shown that wearing a belt would have sufficiently reduced his injuries.

Hughes LJ said Collinson was just within the legal alcohol limit at the time of the crash and there was no evidence that Stanton had drunk too much.

“Who was sitting on whom in the front was hotly in issue at the trial, but the judge’s finding, which is not now challenged, was that the claimant had the girl on his lap or knee,” Hughes LJ said.

“Neither had the seat belt on. Nor did the driver or the other passengers wear the belts available.”

Lord Justice Hughes went on: “It seems to me that the decision whether the evidence nevertheless showed, on the balance of probabilities, that a seat belt would sufficiently have reduced the injuries to require a reduction for contributory negligence was a fine one.

“Some judges might, as it seems to me, have been persuaded that this was more likely than not, given the apparent agreement to that effect of both experts, with relevant experience, and given the element of restraint which at least the lap part of a seat belt would have provided.

contributory negligence seatbelts As Hughes LJ highlighted, the decision whether or not to find that not wearing a seatbelt had amounted to contributory negligence was a fine one – particularly as Stanton remains seriously brain damaged and in need of considerable care since the accident. The real question, perhaps, is whether the judge should have found against the claimant on the grounds of policy. In other words, should he have found that failure to wear a seatbelt did in fact amount to contributory negligence on the basis that such a decision would send out a strong and more meaningful message to the public at large about the undeniable importance of seatbelts.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Choc-Actually: Chocolate Designed with Lawyers in mind

choc-actually chocolate for lawyers

Coming to all good confectioners...

As Donald Trump might say, 'The confectionary industry... it's a big business.  And I want a slice of it ... (or should that be square?)

Introducing a new range of dreamy, creamy chocolate - designed particularly for a lawyer's vices.  Legal professionals, students and graduates  up and down the UK are discovering the revolutionary pleasure sensation that is Choc-Actually.  Made with 78% cocoa, it's sure to deliver 200% pleasure.  With a patented ultra-quiet foil wrapping, it won't give the lawyer with a craving away.  Choc-Actually so sensually satisfying, it never stops at one bar...

Be sure to  get your bar of Choc-Actually today, available at all good confectioners.

Choc-Actually...  Yes it's chocolate.  No actually - really!

What people / obscure publications are saying:

"Just what I needed to get through that deposition", Adrian, 42, slightly bored divorce lawyer.

"God that's good chocolate", 'Nicky', 24, trainee with a magic circle firm.

"I never really thought of chocolate this way before", Susan, 42, legal secretary from Hull.

The Chocolate-Box Review: "It's pure, unadulterated stimuli for the pleasure senses"

Generic Trashy Mag: "Yes, oh Yesssss!!!"

Guilty Pleasures in Chocolate: "it's instant gratification for lawyers - lucky them!".

"Oooh - it set my senses a-tingle", Rosie, 19, Law Student (quite the little madam).

Cocoa-Today: "Takes chocolate to a whole new level.... It's time to reconceptualise the chocolate experience ... [it's] sheer brilliance in a wrapper."

"This much pleasure can't be legal, surely?" - Justice of the Peace from Croydon.

"I just can't get enough, I can't", - Jamie, 25, Licensed Conveyancer from Cardiff.

Another trashy magazine ran with the story, "Legal secretary in shock-sensation ... caught chomping on senior partner's bar".

"You'll want a stock for your desk drawer", - Addictive Lawyers' Bulletin

"Cah-ching: It hits the spot, baby", - Loose Lawyer's Weekly.

"It's crazy, everybody seems to have a bar in lectures, seminars",  and “My lecturer imposes a 10 minute chocolate break during lectures now... it's the pick-me-up we all need - particularly in land law!” say generic students from new university.

"It's utterly choc-tacular" - The Enthused Observationist.

Confessions from a mid-life crisis: "My secretary's always trying to get her hands on mine..."

"It's quick and satisfying under-desk pleasure", says anonymous (and slightly desperate) paralegal, 22 from Rotherham.  "Thank God for that ultra quiet wrapping!"

"Not to be enjoyed judiciously - wow... they got that right", Anon.

"It delivers an instant high for needy law students" says student rep from undisclosed London university.

"Be prepared for ultimate pleasure-addiction", Anon.

"You'll certainly go off on a frolic of your own... who knew chocolate could be this satisfying", says High Court judge from 'the home counties'.

The Modern Barrister: "This is no ordinary chocolate bar - it's more like chocolate for the bar". 

“Seriously Goood!!  .... the client certainly wasn't getting my full attention.  But I don't feel guilty - after all, I'm a lawyer - I've done far worse!  ;-)”,  Rebecca, 27, solicitor with a craving.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Another one bites the dust: ASP Bites bows out


In case anybody didn’t see the comment left on Law Actually by ASP, here it is:

Well, I'm afraid to report that the Blawgosphere is now getting ever smaller.
I apologise unreservedly to Michael for using his post in this way, but I need to post things to my fellow blawgers whilst not, for reasons that will become apparent, putting it in the blog.

Over the past few months, I've known that some of my work colleagues have come across and read 'Bites. I, personally, did not see that as a problem. I've been careful with my posts, not referred to people by names, and not mentioned any cases I'm involved in any detail whatsoever.

The problem with blogs though is that it's a very 2-dimensional platform. There's no body language or tone of voice to show how things are intended. People can comment, but generally don't.

Today one of my colleagues, who knows about the blog etc, gave me what I would professionally term as "certain advice". This included a warning that some of posts could even get me struck off - doomsaying I'd think, but not a risk I'd rather take.
I've stewed on these comments all day, and have - with deep regret - taken the decision to close Asp Bites for the forseeable [sic] future.

It's the time of my training contract where the "big decisions" are going to be made as regards September, so I don't need any complications towards that.

I'm not going to vanish. I'll probably still stay around commenting. And I may, when things have settled down, return. But it'll either avoid all mentions of work, or be under a completely new identity and starting afresh.

Many of you have my e-mail addresses and even Michael's my "facebook friend", so do stay in touch. But, I just wanted to explain why I've done what I've done - to stop to rumours of my demise!

There’s no doubt that this will be a real loss to the blawgosphere as ASP has been one of the members of the inner sanctum since I coined the term over 2 years ago.

This isn’t the first time blawgers in the ‘sphere have ran into difficulties; off the top of my head, I know that Pooni’s had trouble, Andro had a couple of run-ins during interviews, Legally Ginge quickly wound up her blog after being ‘found out’. And I’m sure there have been others.

One thing that did occur to me in this is that perhaps the simple solution would have been to not have blogged about about work. Another option may be found in bloggers better maintaining their anonymity?  Or maybe that spoils all the fun?!

So I think I’ll throw this one out to the sphere and ask, ‘was ASP right to take a breather from blawging?’

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Favourite stories of the day

Here are two of my favourite news stories that have been floating about today:

From The Register 24/03/10:

"Facebook gives you the clap: Official"

The sharp rise in syphilis cases in Teesside has been partially attributed to social networking sites which incautious locals are trawling in search of casual sex.

According to the local Evening Gazette, the number of reported cases jumped to 30 last year, up from less than 10 in 200 8. Professor Peter Kelly, executive director of public health for NHS Tees, said that "reports from doctors and nurses diagnosing and treating patients suggest some sufferers are using social networking sites to find and arrange meetings with new lovers".

facebook stdNow I'm a FB user, let's hope I won't be doing my own stint in the STD clinic.

And secondly this brarmer from the Guardian:

The police have issued a warning for harassment against an airport worker after he allegedly took a photo of a female colleague as she went through a full-body scanner at Heathrow airport.

The incident, which occurred at terminal 5 on 10 March, is believed to be the first time an airport worker has been formally disciplined for misusing the scanners.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "Police received an allegation regarding an incident that happened at Heathrow Terminal 5 on March 10. A first-instance harassment warning has been issued to a 25-year-old male."

The BAA employee took a photo of his co-worker, Jo Margetson, when she inadvertently went through a scanner.

"I can't bear to think about the body scanner thing," she told the Sun. "I'm totally traumatised. I've spoken to the police about it. I'm in too much of a state to go to work."


But I really love the headline comparison for this story between the Guardian and the Sun:

"Airport worker given police warning for 'misusing' body scanner"


"I love those gigantic t**ts"


sun headline

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

County Court: Sorry litigants, we're too busy to respond

Happily, I've managed to sufficiently pacify a rather aggrieved customer from pursuing the legal action he started against us.  He settled his rather frivolous claim for about 1 fifth of of what he was initially asking for.  The time and hassle of me preparing for the hearing and myself and commercial director travelling up to London for it was not worth the measly few hundred quid it ended up costing.

However, after the claimant and I informed the relevant county court that we had settled, the court then had the temerity to send back a letter essentially saying they were too busy to respond to us properly but hopefully would in the near future.  Just charming.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Office Competition

The PA to the director has recently taken to baking cakes and cookies each Friday for the staff to consume - then including the recipe in the company's internal blog.  Quite honestly, it's long been apparent that nobody reads the internal weekly blog post summarising events in each dept., so the chances of someone taking the time to go and try baking that week’s recipe are, quite frankly, pretty negligible.

Still, I found it rather amusing yesterday when the ‘significant other’ of another employee had gone head-to-head with the PA’s offerings and baked a competing cake.

I love the competitive forces present in the workplace sometimes. They’ll be holding weekly heats culminating in a bake-off soon!office cook off

Friday, 19 March 2010

Why the Blawgosphere is doomed

blogosphere is doomed On Barmaid's blog, I recently suggested to supposedly avid blawgosphere reader, Katie, that she create her own blog and join the party properly, if only as a means of serving as her 'help meet'.  Sadly, she wasn't keen.

"Hey Michael - nice idea, but i have far too much fun ready you're [sic] blogs! And plus it would be more like a distraction for me(rather than motivational). but nice suggestion though."

Oh well.  It's your loss, Katie.  But does the blawgosphere lose too?

The ‘sphere needs new blood - desperately, if the out and out truth be told.  And it's not going to get it from an ageing bunch of law graduates, now slightly squidgy round the edges, growing bitterer by the day.  (Speak for yourself, Michael :p).

Indeed, I seem to have attracted the reputation of being the Victor Meldrew of the blawgosphere - and not, I might add, without good reason. 

We've lost that air of virginal innocence and thirst for life under the years of strain, studying and exams. And now, weighed down with the tedium of working life, that former sense of life and vibrancy in the blawgsphere is seeping away.  Save for Andro & Charon QC who are choking my RSS reader daily, most members of the blawgosphere are now notable by their absence.  I don't include the ever-dwindling members of the the inner sanctum of blawgers in that - Asp Bites, AW, CBC, Lost LLS, BM, Swiss, Pooni, Travis and yours truly.  But the point remains that blawgosphere is a mere shadow of its former self. 

When you look at some of the blogs the most recent newcomers have fielded, it doesn't look encouraging at all:

-  Alan Plawtridge - possibly holding the record for the most-promising yet shortest-lived entrant of all time.  Blink and you missed it.

-  That other kid?  (Oh, that was it - Loony Uni) - enough said, I think.

-  Pink Polka Pimple - a blog which degenerated into nail-varnished, red-lipped and rose-cheeked farce.


You get my point.

So why this great reluctance with the legally-inclined youngsters out there in cyberspace to blog? There are more law students than ever.   You can't tell me that they're busier than we used to be.

I don't want to see the blawgosphere age ungracefully to the point that we're all croaking to one another, 'what's that dear?' followed by 'ooh, did she?' and the inevitable, 'well, I never?!'  That's not what the 'sphere should be - a retirement home for washed-up blawgers.

Perhaps we all need Minxy back, to cheer us up with her boundless maternal energy.  Maybe she'll make a comeback a la Michael Schumacher to launch her second career after a few seasons in retirement?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Don’t Shave and Drive

don't shave and drive On the way to work this morning, I actually saw a guy with his electric razor looking up to the sky shaving at the wheel.  But even so, it's nothing compared to this:

From the Metro 08/03/10:

"A car crash in Florida is being blamed on the fact that the driver was attempting to shave her pubic hair while at the wheel.

According to reports, Trooper Gary Dunick says that the two-vehicle smash was caused by the fact that the woman was attempting to shave her bikini area, while her former husband held the wheel.

Her car then crashed into the back of a pickup truck.

I realise that people do all kinds of things in cars and act as though nobody can see them.   But this?!?

Couldn't her old hubby have taken over the driving before she started her grooming.  Or couldn’t they have called at a service station?  Was giving her nether-regions the once-over, really that crucial?

And did she get lathered up at the wheel before she started trimming her topiary?  Surely she wasn't dry-shaving down there - far too painful.

And seriously, I hope she didn't slice anything at the moment of impact.  Else that would really have put the lash in whiplash. 

But not to worry:

Two female passengers in the pickup truck were treated for minor injuries following the crash in Cudjoe Key last Tuesday.

So I'm sure there's a personal injury claim in there!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Online Legal Services Promotions, Not Black and White

legal advertising websiteI came across this rather polarised blurb on the Law Gazette, featuring some rather questionable views of marketing strategies for a law firms’ website:

Websites and online services raise many questions and issues for solicitors. One point firms need to decide is if their website is primarily to retain or gain clients. For many firms it’s a mixture of the two, but the emphasis is important in deciding how the website is then promoted.

To gain clients requires effort and expenses that includes fighting for position on search engine rankings, competing against the many websites already out there and setting up your firm to take the incoming enquiry volumes (should they materialise).

To retain clients means looking at how you can help the people you already know by reinforcing their view that your firm is ‘their solicitor’; promoting the benefits of and how easy it is for the clients to get immediate help via the website.

Both approaches are there to capture client enquiries. The question to ask is not how good the website looks or what is does, but how good the promotion of it is to the people that you want to use it.

I don’t believe that a well designed website can’t efficiently help solicitors to gain new clients on the one hand, while retaining existing ones on the other. I appreciate that a one or two page very basic website looking positively circa 1999 can’t do everything. Maybe it’s more a question of better website design and implementation rather than putting needless roadblocks in a firm’s overarching marketing strategy from the get-go?

Friday, 12 March 2010

Pringles: Weird, Wacky Flavours

wacky pringle flavours

Grilled Shrimp, Seaweed and Soft-Shell Crab?

I initially suspected a Photoshop job but a quick look on Google revealed that this monstrosity of snack flavours is actually genuine.


seaweed pringles green seaweed pringle














Yes, the green Pringle is real, too.

So what’s next: Apricot, Marmite and Spinach?  Dried Placenta and Lemon?

A Voyage For Madmen

First and foremost, A Voyage for Madmen (AVFM) written by Peter Nicols is an absolutely brilliant read – an unquestionable 10 on 10. I’ve read a number of sailing books (particularly those which are touched by tragedy – my reading tastes run the macabre) and nothing even comes close. AVFM, however, isn’t as downbeat as many of the 1979 Fastnet disaster titles I’ve read, though the story is heavily touched by tragedy. It’s a maritime masterpiece and its literary crafting is as exquisite as it gets.

stormy voyageAVFM essentially tells the story of the first ever solo, non-stop, round the world yacht race held in 1968/69. While Robin Knox-Johnson emerged victorious, the real story arguably lies in the utter tragedy that befell competitor Donald Crowhurst.

Crowhurst’s voyage was ill-fated from the beginning, ill-conceived in every possible way and executed in such a manner that would ensure there could only ever be one outcome. He was merely a weekend sailor – his furthest voyage prior to his round-the-world attempt had been to the Bay of Biscay. His trimaran was a plywood trainwreck of nautical design: ill conceived, poorly and hurriedly constructed between different boatyards and totally ill-equipped. The weeks leading up to his very late departure were utter pandemonium and much of his crucial kit for such a voyage was left at the quayside.

In the lead-up to the event, Crowhurst immersed himself in the one world he was comfortable in – electronics. He intended to design a range of fancy sailing gizmos including a self-righting system for his doomed trimaran, that would be marketed through his electronics business later on. These were never finished – and he set sail with just endless bundles of wires leading nowhere, which Peter Nichols hints at as being chillingly poignant as a metaphor for Crowhurst’s life. He took a boatload of electronics, spare parts and the like but virtually nothing in the way of tools or supplies so often needed during a voyage.

Looking back on Crowhurst’s misadventure is utterly chilling: never in the history of sailing has someone worked so feverishly and resolutely in constructing the means of his own unhinging and ultimate demise.

Once underway, Crowhurst quickly realised his boat for what it truly was and abandoned any possible hope of sailing around the world. He meandered in the North Atlantic, while making a herculean effort to create the illusion that he actually had circumnavigated the globe. His voyage was funded through onerous sponsorship deals and re-mortgaging, resulting in his family’s financial welfare perilously hanging by thread.

madmenThroughout the chapters dealing with Crowhurst’s voyage, I was repeatedly reminded of the similarity with Jack Torrence’s slow but unfaltering decent into insanity - in Stephen King’s book, The Shining. The glimpses of a talented if fundamentally flawed man, the immense pressure he felt stuck with his dilemma, the need to provide for his family and leave his mark on the world, fear of unliveable shame of failing (and later, cheating - all interlaced with guilt) and, perhaps most unhinging of all, final doubts emerging over his previously held belief in his own superiority.

Notwithstanding the attempted deception, it’s very easy to emphasise with Crowhurst’s position who, stuck firmly on the horns of a dilemma, had nowhere to go forward but was unable to turn back.

Towards the end of his deception, there were obvious attempts to indirectly admit his scheme to the world and gave positions which could not possibly be true. Sadly these were not picked up on until it was too late.

In the last few weeks and days before his disappearance, Crowhurst worked feverishly in fixing his broken radio – and succeeded – often working 16 hours at a time and ignored any attempt to look after himself, sail or even stay afloat. Then, in late June, he poured out his heart to his logbook and re-examined the meaning of life, man and even some of Einstein’s theories. He did this through a series of deranged ethereal observations and chilling poems which suggest be went on to believe he was the son of God, with the final entry in his logbook reading:

“It is finished, ... [i]t is finished. IT IS THE MERCY... I will resign the game.”

His final decent is as chilling as it is certain and Nichols captures it brilliantly.

It is believed Crowhurst jumped into the abyss on 1st July 1969 with the boat’s clock and his own inner-torment.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Facebook, Grooming and the Regulatory Mix

social networking dangers From the Guardian 09/03/10:

Senior police officers clashed with the UK's most-used social networking site today, accusing Facebook of ignoring worrying trends that it is providing a safe haven for predatory paedophiles by refusing to sign up to a "panic button" for children and young people.

Jim Gamble, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Unit (Ceop), was joined by the country's lead officer on homicide to tackle the site about its repeated refusal to sign up to a key safety practice adopted by many other similar websites.

The American-owned site has 23 million active users in the UK but refuses to display an official "panic button" that links users directly to Ceop to report suspected activities by predatory paedophiles.

Chapman, a convicted double rapist, posed as a young man called Peter Cartwright on Facebook and spent time grooming Ashleigh before the pair exchanged mobile phone numbers and agreed to meet. Ashleigh was raped and suffocated by Chapman, who dumped her body in a field near Sedgefield in County Durham last October.

Facebook has refused repeated requests by Ceop to include a panic button on its site. Information from the button is used to build intelligence reports on suspects which can become part of police investigations into paedophiles, rapists and violent individuals.

User education is key here. I’ve propounded the idea for greater use of panic button functionality before but that’s only part of the story.

Young, naive users are doing exactly what Ashleigh Hall did all the time. Re-examining the dangers of social networking at a grass roots level is what is needed – and exactly why I’ve been calling for online safety to be made part of PSE (or whatever it’s called in schools now) for ages.

There are also greater societal and parental issues brought into stark focus by cases like this – and better education of the risks is crucial here, too.

A more pro-active, ex ante means of regulating these situations must start with user education. While other elements of the regulatory mix can be added into the pot – such as code and law, from a Lessigian standpoint - a strong foundation of user education remains vital.

While profiling stalkers and groomers is a very important cog in the overall regulatory machine, over-reliance on it can also result in the ‘Fisher-Price Fallacy’ – the false sense of security that users are lured into by cloaking technology from which potentially serious harm can flow with a benign and innocent user interface. ‘Bad’ or ‘false’ security is worse than no security at all.

If user education breeds good judgement in society, that has got to be made a number one priority. Otherwise tragic stories like this will continue unchecked.

Monday, 8 March 2010

More business travel: stuck on a stinky tube

stuck on a stinky tube
I got another spell of business travel tomorrow - to London again; I'm usually up there every fortnight or so now at industry meetings / various working groups etc. 
Like so many people, I abhor public transport in general but at times, it just can't be avoided.  The tube, though, provides a fascinating insight into the weird and wacky characters out there. And they seem be flock to London in spades.

There's something very comforting about the smell of a tube station - that oily, dry, stale warm air rushing up your nostrils.  It seems to be a smell common to underground train stations across the world in my experience - having been on few in the US and across Europe.  I don't know what it is about this smell, but I'd buy an Ambi-Pur refill of it!  ;-)

The aromas given off by many of the commuters, though, tend to be far less pleasurable to one’s olfactory sense - particularly after a long day at work.  I frequently clothes-peg my nose when travelling after 4.30PM on the tube.... maybe you've seen me?  I cut quite a distinctive figure in the carriage!  :p

Let’s hope tomorrow passes without major mishap.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Law Firm Advertising an Utter Waste of Time

law firm advertising From the Solicitors’ Journal 02/03/10:

A survey for the MoJ based on telephone interviews with more than 900 law firm clients has revealed that only five per cent chose their lawyer through advertising.

This proportion is smaller than the eight per cent who “saw local offices” and the same as those who found their law firm through research, either online or in directories like Yellow Pages.

The survey, by the National Centre for Social Research, aimed to give an overview of the legal services market before full implementation of the Legal Services Act and the arrival of ABS. The telephone interviews were carried out between March and June 2009.

The most popular way of finding a lawyer was through word of mouth recommendations by friends or family (29 per cent) or because clients had used the firm in the past (23 per cent).

A further 23 per cent found their lawyer through a referral. In most cases, 14 per cent, the referrals were made by non-legal businesses, such as estate agents or financial advisers.

Apologies for the slightly sensationalist headline!

But I guess the findings of the survey kind of make sense in many respects – certainly as far as traditional high street firms are concerned. But for the firms out there operating what could be euphemistically referred to as Tesco-law-type services - who typically handle bulk personal injury or conveyancing work, I guess the story is rather different. Browsing around the web, I’m continually amazed at the various banner ads for various types of personal injury lawyers who flaunt their services in the strangest of places within cyberspace.

Forging a great reputation for doing quality work is ultimately always the best marketing approach a small or medium size law firm can take.  They will also presumably be perfectly happy for the Tesco-law firms offering wholesale legal services out there to continue with their scattergun approach. 

You get what you pay for, after all.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Down time: Half Life 2


halflife2Long-time members of the blawgosphere may recall me previously talking about my penchant for the fantastic first person shooter, Half Life – over which I became totally obsessed and very nearly lost my mind in the summer of 2001.

Skip forwards nearly 10 years and I’ve finally, finally managed to get around to playing the equally fantastic sequel, Half Life 2. I don’t get much time for gaming but I have the odd flurry of activity amusing myself with aging racing titles. Half Life 2 was released in 2004 and I remember gearing up to play it back then. Alas it never happened but I guess it’s better late than never.

index_alyx In short, Half Life 2 is fantastic and I’m itching to begin Half Life 2 Episode 1 - (I snagged a bargain on Amazon and bought the Orange Box). Even my GF’s had a go at shooting the hell out of the Combine’s Civil Protection dudes and the Overwatch, not to mention a shedload of zombies!! I’ve virtually finished it for the second time, playing during odd moments at weekends. I’ve definitely found HL2 much less claustrophobic and oppressive than being stuck in Black Mesa in the original Half Life. The bottom line: HL2 is an incredibly immersive and stimulating game.

And talking of stimulation, isn’t Alyx Vance quite the gun-wielding, fiery hussy, flirting with Gordon at every opportunity, even while her father was in mortal danger. Some girls are just like that I guess.

Mortgage Appointments

mortage My girlfriend and I have a couple more mortgage consultations scheduled for the next two weeks. We’ve already had one with a well-known building society in the high street (and one that amazingly hasn’t been subsumed into Santander ). Happily, they’ve agreed to offer us more than we’ll need for a nice two bedroom semi in one of the areas we’re considering.

I’m actually quite excited about the prospect of finally moving on from renting and my GF is certainly as keen as mustard.

That said, the prospect of dealing with estate agents again fills me with abject horror.

I guess I should also swot up on the conveyancing process and am already dusting down my property law materials.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Reforming Legal Education: Death of the Training Contract

From The Law Gazette 24/02/10:

Could a new holistic approach to training solicitors, being trialed by Northumbria University Law School in partnership with national firm Irwin Mitchell, be the future of legal education?

The Master of Law (Solicitor) degree combines the academic, vocational and training stages of qualification as a solicitor. At the end of the full-time, five-year degree course graduates can apply to the SRA for enrolment as a solicitor.

The course, made possible by an SRA initiative and designed to pilot work-based learning as a means of increasing access to the legal profession, incorporates a qualifying law degree with the legal practice course and work-based learning replacing the training contract.

Increasing access to the profession is no doubt important in the light of recent surveys that have revealed the legal profession to be drawn from increasingly narrow sections of society, but could this new form of qualification create a two-tier system in which some are regarded as inferior?

Or will this route catch on and herald the end of the training contract?

It’s not just fears of creating a two-tier structure with one seen as inferior to the other but this throws up a range of other issues, too. For instance, how exactly does the vocational element work and how is performance in that stage of it best assessed? How are positions allocated: do a range of firms essentially sign up to offer placements to candidates and they’re taken on a first-come, first-served basis? What if they later withdraw? At what stage in the process is a position on the vocational element of the course allocated?

And this kind of degree is absolutely fine for those who have their career plans mapped out nicely from the start but what about those who think they’ll love the practice of law only to find they wish to pursue academic law? For me, there are question marks over the interchangeability of the constituent elements of the degree – are they subject to the same credit transfer rules, particularly once the student has partially completed the vocational stage?

Also, I’m presuming this is an optional means of qualifying. To allow the legal education system sufficient flexibility and fairness it should only be seen as another way of qualifying – not THE way. One advantage of the current building-block system is that students have a plethora of options available to actively pick and choose and shape their legal education and career as they see fit.

Many students experience a change of heart during their degrees and often wind up doing different things from what they ever imagined.

I’m all for reforming legal education but I’m just not convinced this is the right way to go about it.