Monday, 27 December 2010

Snow, storms and a pencil sharpener

snow ploughLate on Christmas Day, in between stuffing my face with chocolate, I caught some of the news on TV and was shocked to discover a major Nor’ East-er had altered its course and would be hitting us on Boxing Day. I’ve always enjoyed US newsreaders’ love of melodrama and with the prospect of a Christmas blizzard on the horizon, they were all in their element pushing the panic button. Oh mawy gawwwwwd!

Anyway, no snow fell Christmas night, but yesterday morning was very overcast and it started to spit snow from about 11.00AM onwards, gradually building throughout the day.

In the middle of the afternoon, just as the snow started to get serious, I went out with a relative on an urgent trip to Staples to buy a USB hub and a new printer/scanner/fax machine which, it seemed, just couldn’t wait. We slithered our way over there and beached the car in the parking lot, having to guess where the lines were. The wind was already blowing the snow into drifts and I nearly froze my chucky off just getting to the door, but my cockles were warmed by the emo girl serving there who was still in a state of shock that a customer ventured out in the storm to buy a… pencil sharpener. I’m not sure a pencil sharpener can ever warrant a special trip, no matter what the weather. Computer peripherals, of course, are totally different.

Be right back

The wind has been the biggest thing rather than the snow; it’s been gusting 45 – 50 mph and really, really bone chillingly cold.

We’ve probably had 6 – 8 inches of snow in the end, which is thankfully nothing like the 10 – 14 inches we were due to get.  The city even had the audacity to cancel the Philly Eagles game last night. Given the litigious nature of America and the fact 60,000 people were expected to be out and about travelling to the game, it was probably a smart move – if only from a lawyer’s perspective. Philadelphia Int’l Airport is still a mess with a massive backlog after cancellations yesterday.  I just hope everything sorts itself out in time for my return to the UK on Wednesday evening.

Fingers crossed.

Friday, 24 December 2010

‘Tis the season to be…

DB102709001Embittered by a deluge of unwanted, socks, ties and chillingly festive Christmas sweaters? Enraged by pesky family members who crawl of the woodwork once a year to visit?  Sick to the back teeth of every kind of turkey dish imaginable being foisted upon you? All of the above?

We’re not quite there yet, but I’m guessing we’ll all be able to raise our hands to these come this time tomorrow.  

This Christmas is shaping up to be a bit of an odd affair, with my going sick for the last few days and the fact I’m out of the country at the moment. I think I’ve more or less bounced back from the dreaded lurgy now at least. I just hope Santa’s on track too.

Nowadays, of course, kids can track Santa’s progress on his annual deliverathon using sites like this -

I don’t know whether I would have been up for that as a kid. I guess it’s good to know exactly where Santa is, but then again, you might be heartbroken if you think he’s passed you by / had to divert to make an emergency landing. Christmas can be a tense time – even for the under tens.

And talking of that, I was amused to find a rather curious page on the Federal Aviation Administration website dedicated to Santa’s antics. It’s great to see Santa has abolished the old-skool  ‘step down’ approach when landing on rooftops and is keeping himself in line with the latest aviation practices.Santa landing

Anyhow, no matter how awful the Christmas sweater that’s currently lurking under the tree with your name on it, this girl’s takes some beating.  I don’t know if the pearls are accentuating the positive or negative, but at least she tried.  The battle-axe next to her is sporting a brarmer, too.  Don’t ya just love Christmas?

Christmas sweater

Found here.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Update from Philly

Update from Philly


For 2 Christmases in a row I’ve had a cold, but this year takes the biscuit by virtue of having to travel with a veritable stinker.  Now I think about it, the Christmas before that, even, I came down with something nasty on Boxing Day, (and it wasn’t just the effect the in-laws have on me) so you’d better make that 3 Christmases. 
Yep, this is starting to look like a curse.

Sod’s law dictated that I didn’t catch any of the colds going around right until the day I left but then I went down like a trooper - (and please no, “that’s what she said”, quips!!)  Travelling is really bad enough without feeling really crappy on top of it.  Luckily, though, I think the sinus pain brought on by the high altitude helped to take my mind off of my rasping sore throat so that’s something I guess.

Anyway, my nose is now Rudolph red, my lips dry, cracked and bleeding and I’m as snotty as could be.  As charming as ever in other words.

But, after being out for the count for the first few days, perhaps the rest of my stay here will perk up. I’ve picked up some more tablets and they’ve given me a new lease of life. 

As I’ve been laid up for the most part so far, I’ve not done a whole lot. Still, I've managed to get off of my deathbed a few times.  I’ve been reminded just how seedy the average American diner is – and how awful the food can be.  That slop was bad enough the first time around, so I really, really didn’t want to take it away in a doggy bag.  At the other end of spectrum, I’ve been to a couple of nice restaurants, too. So it’s not all bad.

I’ve managed to get some Christmas shopping in and have been into center city. I should be attending a basketball match at some point which will be good as it’s been ages since I did that this side of the Atlantic.

The weather has been pretty boring so far and am a bit gutted I've missed the chance to slip and slide my way around in the UK.  I just hope Heathrow sorts itself out in time for my return flight next week.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Toxic sofa syndrome – justice at last?

rootin' tootin' deal - toxic sofa syndrome

From Sky News 15/12/10:


A final group of victims who suffered skin complaints from chemically-treated 'toxic sofas' have won compensation.

Some 408 claimants, including 55 children, will each get £1,800 in payouts.

The case was launched against three retailers - Argos, Land of Leather, and Walmsleys - who accepted liability for selling the tainted sofas.

In total, more than 2,000 people received compensation after suffering burn-like irritation.

After medical tests, it was tracked down to the sensitising agent dimethyl fumarate (DMF) in the sofas manufactured by Chinese companies Linkwise and Eurosofa.

In April, an agreement was reached which saw £20m distributed between around 1,650 people, depending on the severity of their symptoms.

However, 408 customers who bought their sofas from Land of Leather - now in administration - looked set to miss out, as another judge had ruled that they were not entitled to compensation from Zurich, the company's insurers.

Zurich UK said it had been working since then to find a resolution for the 408 outstanding victims.

Toxic sofa syndrome is truly evil; I remember seeing a documentary about it a few years ago and some of the stories are just chilling.  The fact it’s attributable to a substance which was merely added to prevent dampness occurring whilst the sofa is in storage is just crazy.  I’ve never trusted those little packets of silica which were added to packaged products either – and I particularly don’t now!  It’s also rather ironic that people were resting up on their sofa in an attempt to get better and were simply placing themselves right in harm’s way.  Like I said: chilling.

Anyhoo, I thought this one was fitting, given that we’re approaching Christmas and all that that means in modern life. Whilst peace on earth and goodwill to all men might be the more traditional Yuletide message, it’s now more about consumers being able to get a brand spanking new sofa in their homes in time for Christmas. Quite why that’s so important is beyond me; why spend money on a new leather sofa just so your partner’s grandmother can come over and soil it with a urine stain after one too many eggnogs or so the kids can slash it with a wii controller in an overzealous Dance Dance Revolution move?

One of life’s little mysteries I suppose.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Is the iPad culture killing blogging?

ipad culture

I’ve been quite vocal about the decline in the UK blawgopshere in the last couple of years, but I’ve suddenly started noticing a few worrying signs about our counterparts in the US. They’re starting to drop off the map, too.

It’s not just the half-hearted hobbyist bloggers though. Suddenly some of the heavy-hitters who have been lynchpins in the ‘sphere for several years have decided it’s time to reserve their energies for more meritorious ends. So what’s driving this sudden exodus?

For me, the biggest question is what has happened to the stream of new blood that was flooding in a couple of years ago. New law students are still enrolling each year, so where are the fresh-faced upstarts ready to pick up the slack? Granted, only a tiny proportion would have ever become bloggers, but when those that would have done so 3 years ago, no longer regard blogging as a worthwhile activity, we’re suddenly on a one-way street towards extinction.

So, what’s causing the well-established regulars to wind up, as well as discouraging newbies from trying it in the first place? Has the ‘blogging may prove harmful to your career’ message frightened off the few that would have otherwise laid claim to a small piece of the blogosphere? Given the huge amount of potentially embarrassing material people freely serve on up on their Facebook accounts, I don’t think that quite cuts it as an explanation.

Perhaps, it’s simply blogging itself. Have law students on both sides of the Atlantic suddenly decided that blogging is just a bit too ‘2007’ to be worthy of their time. Maybe they’re too busy updating their Facebook or Twitter statuses or harvesting crops on Farmville to even care.

But maybe there’s another phenomenon at play here. Something I’ve witnessed increasingly over the last 12 months which has seriously impacted web use and how the web is regarded. For want of a better term, I’ve dubbed it the ‘iPad culture’.

What I mean by this is that web-users, engulfed in a universe of social media, are content to consume web content and participate in social media rather than produce content themselves. Sure, they’re tweeting their thumbs off on a regular basis as well as checking their Facebook account every couple of minutes. They’re more than happy to inanely point their camera phone at a mislabelled item in a supermarket or at their latest culinary concoction and share it with the world. But sit down and write a blog post? No – that’s too much like hard work.

I guess we’ve been on that trajectory for a while now with the social media explosion. But the upsurge has resulted in the line between participation and content creation being blurred beyond distinction. Creativity is curtailed by participating in more instantaneous, shorter and superficial channels of communication via Twitter and Facebook for instance. Put simply, it just aint blogging.

As far as I’m concerned, everyone from law students, graduates and academics right through to seasoned practicing lawyers can all benefit from blogging. Blogging still has an important place in the social media family. It’s not entirely without risk, and it does involve a time commitment but the benefits have always outweighed the downsides.

Quite what the future holds for blawgging is anyone’s guess right now. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this current downturn and I am left wondering whether this is the beginning of the end – if only for student blawgs.

I really hope it’s not.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

It must be that time of year again…

Yes, the Law Actually Christmas decorations have gone up in the form of updated header and footer banners.  I know, I know – big whoop.  Still, rather fittingly this year, we’ve even got some snow on there. 

I’m meant to be leaving for the US in a week’s time, and I’ve got next to nothing done in terms of Christmas shopping yet.  This could be awkward.  I think Amazon is going to be getting a fair bit of business from me this Sunday.

Coincidentally, this is also the 500th post to appear on Law Actually.  It’s a pity it wasn’t something more meaningful.  Oh well.

Monday, 6 December 2010

The Best Lawyer Adverts on TV - EVER

I actually discovered this quite by chance a few weeks ago, but haven’t got around to blogging about it before now.

This collection of TV adverts for law firms range from the bizarre to the hilarious, all the way through to the downright disturbing. Against a backdrop of the UK’s rather conservative approach to advertising law firms and legal services, they’re all the more outlandish.

Actually, some of the ads are a bit extreme (even for me) but it certainly beats a suited and booted Billy Murray, pleading with you in a slight ex-gangsterish way that you really NEED a personal injury solicitor and CAN get what’s rightfully yours, and you know what, that accident really WASN’T your fault. 

Still, maybe I shouldn’t knock it. While it might seem a bit of a come-down after the highs of starring in ‘The Bill,’ at least it makes a change from doing endless panto! Right, Billy?

Anyhoo, to the ads…

Rather than a scene of several conscientious-looking, smartly dressed morons poring over some papers a la the UK approach, how about a hard-hitting rap song, personal injury style?

In da hood: “If ya’v eva bin injad ina ak-sid-dent…”

Or let’s try running over a cute cartoon animal – to win the sympathy vote.

The best PI firm in town (for handling RTAs involving cartoon animals).

[Actually, I feel bit like Dennis Norden in “It’ be alright on the night …562” here; all I need is the chunky spectacles and clipboard and I’m set]. 
Winking smileDenis_NordenStumbling from one faux pas to the next, who the hell commissioned this brarmer, showing that being a bully in school is a great thing – providing that the bully goes on to become a lawyer and he’s working for you? Is this the image the legal profession wants to convey – even in America? Actually, don’t answer that.

Being a bully is fine–as long as you grow up to become a lawyer!

Next up is a smug, self-assured lady sat on a sofa, proudly describing how after her husband served divorce papers on Christmas eve, she hired a lawyer to, you know, ruin his New Year. Nothing like a mature, sensible and reconciliatory approach from clients eh?

And who said romance was dead?

Or how about a fat, bold, bearded ruffian in a suit representing the devil / some kind of creditor, who’s now quaking in his proverbials at the prospect of having a certain law firm on his tail. All to a chirpy little jingle – budget TV style.

Pay you?! Yep–I’ll pay you. To. Stop. Singing.

I’ve saved the best to last, folks.  It’s DivorceEZ with their imitable in-your-face style of charm.

“If you and your spouse hate each other like poison and want to get out of the hell-hole you call a marriage, you’ve come to the right place. Look, you can waste your time screwing around with a paper-pusher paralegal type, give thousands of dollars to some piece of crap three piece suit downtown, blow your brains to try and figure out why you wasted 25 bucks on the crappy forms you bought from the illiterate boob at the courthouse or do what I say and do it now”.


There’s the hard-sell, and there’s the downright obnoxious.

And to think Brits still question the taste and tact of American TV.  Be right back

Friday, 3 December 2010

Yes, they’re back: Wacky Search Terms

It’s been a while since I’ve done a wacky search terms post, in which I document the various weird and wonderful phrases people have Googled and gone on to stumble across Law Actually.

I thought it was high time they made a reappearance; think of it as an early Christmas special.


“is it a leggal for kid over 13 to trick a treat” Well, deciphering your question, I would say, yes, but only with his mummy's permission!  ;-)

“flying cow storm” - wow... is that like something out of the bible?

“how do lawyers use dictaphone” – well, funnily enough, they speak into them.

“disposable fountain pen and how useless they are” – you get what you pay for!  :p

“post man sues grit” - I hope grit’s got a good lawyer!

“poking yourself in the eye with a biscuit and missing your mouth” - what kind of person a) does this and b) googles it?!  And doesn’t the second bit necessarily follow – unless, of course, this person routinely eats through their eye.

“what ever happened to the girl that fell down the sewer?” – she got very wet and very stinky.

“how do they catch pervs” - with a perv-net of course.

“what is the law in britain about boys using ladies toilets” Check out section 3 (1) of the Public Toilets Act 1982 - (otherwise known as the ‘caught short’ provisions).

“will my lpc provider tell me they have reported me to the sra” - oh God, just turn yourself in now.

“Student mneumonics for contract Law” - student what?  :p

“google solicitors from hell then go to heaven law for less” Hmm.

“how to break into the paralegal law profession in England” - brute force, best ram it in a transit van.

“what can LLB lead to” - lots of debt.

“speeding but i can't afford solicitor” – diddums – you should have thought of that before.

“pornography and injuries” - to the reader from Germany who searched for this, I hope it was nothing serious and everything’s back in full working order!  ;-)

“are law students really mean” - I'm saying nothing.

“lawyer block” - a free add-on for Firefox and Chrome?

“santa claus - criminal record checks uk” - If you discovered he's on the sex offenders register, I don't think you'd ever regard Christmas in the same way again.

“injured big swell and struck bond fingers at work claim” - you've done what exactly?  I hope you called your doctor and lawyer, not necessarily in that order.