Friday, 29 June 2012

Mayors do the funniest things

lincolnshire sausagefnar fnar

From this is Lincolnshire 29/06/12:

The Mayor of Louth has made national headlines after an Olympic Torch Relay stunt - with many people saying her novelty sausage costume was mistaken for a penis.

Councillor Jill Makinson-Sanders, 61, wore the unusual 8ft-tall pink costume to promote the famous Lincolnshire sausage on the national stage.

Is it really that penis-like? Not many have two sticky legs at one end – or a cheeky face, eyebrows and a penchant for carrying literature around (so far as I know, anyway).

Despite this plea, Coun Makinson-Sanders secured the 'phallic' costume and stunned many residents in the Lincolnshire town who branded it 'obscene'.

Oh get over yourselves.

Comments on Wednesday's story on This is Lincolnshire included: "The costume makes her look like a gentleman's appendage," and "she is clearly deluded if she thinks that costume looks anything like a sausage."

What would make it look more sausage-esque? A few pricks with a fork? Ahem.

Some local residents have defended the mayoress - even praising her for being bold and imaginative initiative.

Hear, hear!

Some mayors get up to far worse!!

Thursday, 28 June 2012

RBS/NatWest-gate – incompetent offshore team to blame?

computer despair

Well, sort of. But let’s not let fine detail get in the way of blog post titles.

From the Register 28/06/12:

Cost-cutting RBS management had halved the team within which the banking group's recent data disaster happened, sources have told The Register. The sacked British employees were replaced by staff in India, and there had been concerns about the quality of the work done in India for a lengthy period prior to last week's catastrophe.

Damn offshoring – it gives me the utter squits.

Mishandling of batch schedule data while backing out of an update to CA-7 batch processing software last week caused the disruption that led to 16.9 million customers at RBS, Natwest and Ulsterbank being frozen out of their accounts for days, and ongoing issues in some cases.

As luck would have it, I closed my RBS account (of nearly 10 years) right at the beginning of last week – right before this fiasco occurred. I’d been lured by Halifax and their attractive switching deal and monthly payment in lieu of interest, and heck, I’m a bit of a comparison site whore.  RBS had been fine, but I felt it was time to show my disdain for the Fred ‘the shred’s antics (better late than never, right?) and I couldn’t cope with the prospect that my local branch’s royal blue facia will soon be replaced with a sickly Santander red.

The chap who dealt with my account closure was very polite, helpful and concerned, questioning that it was nothing RBS had done that had caused me to defect. Oooh – if only he’d known what the following 48 hours would bring!

Still, worth trying for compensation? As Brucie might say: “you’ve got to be in it, to win it.”

Eye rolling smile

“Is it possible to speak to one of your colleagues in the UK please?”


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Ofcom releases draft code for online copyright infringement

copyright law digital economy act

From Ofcom 26/06/12:

Internet users will be encouraged to download music and films through legal channels under measures outlined today by Ofcom.

Oh no! Don’t open that spectacularly nasty can of worms again. I remember attending the Parliament & Internet Conference back in 2009 when the (then) ill fated Digital Economy Bill was the talk of the town and BIS’ inconsistent use of the terms “legal” and “lawful” resulted in a lot of head-scratching and looks of bewilderment amongst attendees.

Surely they knew there was a difference? I don’t think anyone dared ask the question for fear of what the answer might be!

But that wasn’t just an exercise in pedantry; the ill-conceived and half-baked ideas that (sadly) came to fruition in the Digital Economy Act were bad enough, without adding confusion and ignorance into the mix.

Ofcom has published a draft code for consultation that would require large internet service providers (ISPs) to inform customers of allegations that their internet connection has been used to infringe copyright.

The code, which Ofcom is required to publish under the Digital Economy Act 2010,1 includes measures to help inform the public and promote lawful access to digital content such as music and films.

Phew – we’re back on track now (just the inconsistency between legal and lawful to try and grapple with). Oh, and the simple trick of actually getting content creators (or more specifically, their greedy publishers/labels) to get over themselves and start charging sensible prices via attractive means to consumers. ISPs black listing torrent sites will be about as much use as a tin tack in a jockstrap in stopping anyone with half a brain downloading content unlawfully (if they want to).

Yep – good luck with that one.

When notifying customers of reported infringements, ISPs must explain the steps subscribers can take to protect their networks from being used to infringe copyright and tell them where they can go to find licensed content on the internet.

Copyright owners are expected to invest in awareness campaigns to help educate consumers about the impact of copyright infringement and further to develop attractive online services to offer their content. Ofcom will report regularly to the Government on the effectiveness of both the code and these broader initiatives from copyright owners.

I don’t hold out much hope.

Something tells me that overseas providers offering Virtual Private Network (VPNs) to internet users in the UK will soon be enjoying a tasty increase in business as users look at technical ways to get around the UK’s ill-conceived and botched copyright infringement laws.

By the way, something smells bad in here. Oh wait – it’s the DEA festering in the corner.

Booo, I say, Booooooo!

Monday, 25 June 2012

Floormats that suck


door mat
From MSNBC (no date):

[T]his floormat [...] vacuums dirt off the soles of your shoes when you step on it.

No. It really does.

Each mat is about 20 by 40 inches, and comes attached to a vacuum unit and sensor. The sensor detects when someone gets close and turns on the vacuum, but no air is actually sucked in except where a foot depresses and opens the tiny nozzles.

Naturally it's not quite as useful for snow, mud and other sole hazards, but it could probably handle those with some modifications. As it is, it could be useful in labs and clean rooms where outside particles are carefully safeguarded against; the bottoms of feet are popular vectors for contaminating dust and bacteria, so a system like this might be considered by places making such considerations.

Actually, I think we’re missing a trick if it’s only being considered for specialist applications in labs and hospitals.

I think it would be very useful for more widespread use.  How about removing excess wetness from the public’s shoes in wet weather – something soggy doormats fail miserably at?  That could be invaluable in high street shops where visitors routinely, um, visit and shoppers tend to slip ‘n’ slide about like they’re on ice during wet weather.

It might also prove a nice way of keeping those nasty pollen grains in check in hay fever season. Ahh-chooo!

As well as reducing the risk of being sued, (I’m sure you’ll be diggin’ those lower insurance premiums!!  --ahem --) is the shed-load of money a business can save on reducing vacuuming duties. Heck, you might even be able to sack streamline your cleaning team.

Now that’s what I call spend management!

Be right back

suction doormatOooh – suck my feet!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Why, Lexis, why?

Why Lexis, Why copySometimes it’s the simple things in life which puzzle me.

For instance, why do Lexis continue to measure the estimated time of your download in relation to a 56 kbps connection (i.e dial-up)?  It’s been saying the same thing since year dot (oh and it’s always “<1 minute” isn’t it).  Fancy that.

So, Lexis, I think a little house-keeping is in order.  Just get rid of it. 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Screen Slaves all the rage! Lawyers among the worst?

law firm stressFrom BBC News 19/06/12:

People are risking their health by working on smartphones, tablets and laptops after they have left the office, according to the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

God bless ‘em!

It says people have become "screen slaves" and are often working while commuting or after they get home.

The society said poor posture in these environments could lead to back and neck pain.

Oh come on - and all the rest! If my work just resulted in neck pain I’d be happy.

An online survey, of 2,010 office workers by the Society found that nearly two-thirds of those questioned continued working outside office hours.

And of those office workers, I’m guessing lawyers are amongst the worst for ‘workaholism’.

She said: "While doing a bit of extra work at home may seem like a good short-term fix, if it becomes a regular part of your evening routine then it can lead to problems such as back and neck pain, as well as stress-related illness.

Doing a bit of work at work leads to all that and more for me. The arm/shoulder of my ‘mousing’ arm tends to flare up badly from time to time, my stress levels are through the roof (nothing new there) and I find myself slouching permanently at my desk. I still fancy substituting my office chair for a fitball (a la Leo Laporte), but I don’t think my colleagues could cope with that sight.

I’m contemplating stepping my caffeine intake back up to compensate (can I get away with a 3rd coffee at work or will it push me over the edge?) and the results of our staggeringly frustrating open plan office gives me the utter squits on a daily basis. But hey – it’s all in the aid of efficient communication, so I can thank the sweet Lord for that.

I’m permanently stressed (a symptom of the modern age or so I’m told), email drives me nuts and I can no longer sit at table seats on trains (I find the cretins that invariably sit opposite me just freak me out too much!!). I’d rather stand quite frankly (albeit that invariably means being wedged between two smelly mo-fos in the vestibule usually right next to the toilet which stinks like like a stable that’d horrify an RSPCA inspector.

"Individuals who find themselves unable to leave their work in the office should talk to their managers and learn to switch off their smartphones."

If an individual can’t leave his work in the office, his manager’s not the right person to talk to; a therapist would be a far better option. ‘Leaving it at work’ is an excellent (albeit sometimes unrealistic) policy but one the western world rapidly needs to rediscover if society isn’t going to implode under the rapidly elongating workday. I have heard that some law firms make it a rule not to be seen sending emails in the evening (at least to the outside world). The best practise of law occurs during daylight hours apparently and working late into the evening smacks of desperation and unprofessionalism. I suppose an exception can be made if there’s a particular client that needs to be impressed (usually to help justify the, um, fees), but otherwise it’s a strictly colleague-only policy when it comes to evening emails.

But the fact that emails are being sent at all kind of underlines the problem.

Perhaps we’re all just doomed?

Monday, 18 June 2012

Blogging, Blogs and Blog Posts

legal blogger at work

I like to think I’ve been a fully fledged blogger (you know, as distinct from a half-baked one) for quite a few years now.  I’ve always thought I was comfortable in using blogging terminology – comfortable in the sense I knew what it all meant. 

So, when I’m blogging, I update my blog (Law Actually) with blog posts (like this thing I’m writing).  I might update my blog by writing a blog post, but it doesn’t seem quite right that I “write a blog”.  Does it?

So, “to blog” is a verb, “a blog” is a noun (a portmanteau of web log) which is the whole shebang (i.e. the site), made up of individual “blog posts”.

So why do people seem to take delight in knocking the universe out of kilter by referring to “writing a blog” or even “doing a blog” (yes, really!) when what they mean is to write a blog post.  It just doesn’t sit quite right with me - no matter how much I try to ignore it.

So, have I got this horrifically wrong, are they wrong, or are we both right?   Or does it not even matter?  Please don’t say yes to the last one.

I am right on this, aren’t I?

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Reconceptualising the over-supply problem...

poor law students

From Roll on Friday 08/06/12:

Michael Todd QC, chairman of the Bar Council, claimed on Wednesday that over-recruitment of students wasn't doing the profession, the students or social mobility any favours. Todd said it was a "great concern" that law schools were pumping out a hefty oversupply of grads with "no realistic prospect of pupillage". And he worried about those chucking £16,000 at a qualification which, for those who fail to obtain pupillage, adds little to employability.

Shhhh! Shhhh!

Michael, just because something’s painfully true and glaringly obvious, doesn’t mean it should be said out loud. Yes, there is a massive disparity between the number of students studying on the BVC (ahem) BPTC and LPC compared to the number of pupillages and training contracts available. Oh my GENTLE JESUS – are lawyers a dying breed?

But why the sudden fuss? We’ve had this sorry state of affairs for years and years now. Surely law schools haven’t suddenly grown a conscience overnight?

Be right back

What happened to the ol’ chestnuts, “it’s a worthwhile qualification in its own right” or “the experience will prove invaluable regardless of your future career (if any)”. Can’t they be dragged out and polished up a bit?

Plus, can’t we just accept that students study law for a variety of reasons (however misguided some might be) and that qualifying as a solicitor or barrister might never be on the agenda of many? There are plenty of warnings out there now. If students are still going ahead and enrolling, maybe they just damn well want to.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Masters of the Universe - London Business School

Contemplating a Master’s degree?  I can sympathise – I have been uncomfortably placed on the horns of that particular dilemma myself.  In the end, I decided to take the plunge and I’m very glad I did.

I strongly believe that my Master’s degree made a huge difference to me.  Although I decided within the first semester of being an undergraduate that an LL.M was something I’d like very much, the twists and turns of my law degree (which included participating in ERASMUS for a year) meant I very nearly didn’t get chance to fulfil my LL.M desire.  Thankfully, when it mattered, the stars aligned themselves correctly and everything came good.

I don’t think it was a total coincidence that on completing my Master’s, I walked into the very first job I applied for.  I had barely submitted my dissertation when I had snagged an opportunity I thought was too good to be true. I’ve a lot to be thankful for.

Whether you’re a contemplating a change of direction or want to supplement your knowledge or increase your employability, a Master’s at the London Business School may be the perfect solution.

The London Business School (LBS) is currently ranked number 1 in the world by the Financial Times for its post-experience Masters in Finance programme (and, come on, that’s really quite something!!).

The Masters in Finance degree was launched by LBS in 1993 and quickly become synonymous with academic excellence.

Its students are taught by the School’s world-leading finance academics – including Professors Stephen Schaefer, Julian Franks, Ian Cooper and Suleyman Basak – many of whom act as consultants to financial institutions, industry and government, and hold directorships in a wide range of organisations.

The School is conveniently based in the global financial centre of London, and works closely with organisations such as Credit Suisse, Deloitte, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Standard Chartered and UBS.  All such organisations have recently recruited from the School’s talented pool of Masters in Finance graduates.

The Masters in Finance course is available as a full-time one year programme, or as a part-time programme running on weekends over the course of two years.

The School’s students are supported by a Career Services team based in London who act as a guiding hand and enhance their graduates’ job prospects and earning potential.

Why not download a programme brochure today.

Click here to download the latest Masters in Finance employment report or here to view student and alumni profiles.

Sponsored Post

Viral video by ebuzzing

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Exploiting aftermarkets – the curse of printer ink


From 16/03/12

At today's prices, HP represents a solid value, driven in part by the value of HP's printing business. Printing is a cash cow, and according to my estimates, its milk accounts for 40% of the value of the company.

No kidding. It’s a bitch of a cow (and my udders are sore!!).

HP is No. 1 in the printing market with 42% market share, which is more than the next two competitors combined. HP uses a razor blade business model: printers are sold at low cost, encouraging frequent upgrades to a wide array of printers with non-standard ink cartridge or toner fittings. HP then generates a recurring stream of revenue from cartridge sales. The economics of HP's printing business are phenomenal. To put it in perspective, printer ink costs more than blood by volume and more than caviar by weight.

I’d far rather fill empty ink cartridges up with blood than pay the odious printer suppliers ridiculous prices. 

The cost of printer ink has always wound me up. Bring back the dot matrix, I say.

Talking of dot matrixes, weren’t they just great? My Citizen Swift 90c (bought sometime in the mid-nineties) used to work like a dream before I sold it and bought an inkjet. Ok, it used to scream like a banshee in use, but printing has never been so cheap. I remember feeling a bit embarrassed submitting GCSE coursework printed on a dot matrix (I wasn’t avant garde enough to go for an inkjet until 6th form) but it was cheap and printed in colour too.

citzen swift 90c

My first inkjet was an Epson and like most Epson products (in my experience) it was a pile of junk out of the box. It lasted 18 months before it was launched out of a 2nd floor window. The next chapter of my printing adventure came courtesy of an HP Deskjet something-or-other. The build quality was superb (read “heavy”) but it was extremely ink-thirsty and wound up throwing endless hissy fits after just 4 years of moderate use. Heck, it really was a reptile of a thing.hp deskjet

After my foray studying abroad in Sweden, I plumbed for a cheap Canon (a Pixma iP1500) in 2005 to take care of my printing needs while I finished my degree.  Little did I know at the time, I landed myself an absolute gem. Not only was it robust (ok, the build quality was a touch plasticky – but its reliability was as solid as rock), it was quiet in use, lightweight and as cheap as chips to run.

canon pixma IP1500I quickly discovered I could buy compatible ink cartridges at £1 a pop via eBay which worked like a charm and used to last for ages. Combined with Inksaver 2.0, and Tesco value paper, my LLM degree saw me printing anything and everything while still costing me next to nothing. I hate to think of the cost that fellow law students used to pay for ink supplies. Sadly, my faithful old Canon started to cease up and generally wear out in late 2010 when I made the painful decision to decommission it.

In the interim, I’d bought a Canon multifunction machine in 2008 when Amazon had an offer on and Canon were offering a voucher rebate. It ended up costing me 15 quid and I used the ink -- the cartridges are m’chipped and it won’t accept compatibles – until it ran dry and it’s been my scanner ever since. It’s still in regular use (as a scanner) today.

canon pixma mp210

In December 2010, I bought a Samsung Laser (a ML-2525W if anyone’s interested) which turned out to be a superb choice.

ML-2525WThe toner cartridge it came with lasted me almost 12 months and I’m hoping to get at least double out of the larger capacity cartridge I fitted subsequently. I’d never have another inkjet again.

Anyhoo, I you enjoyed reading about my printer odyssey, (riveting, wasn’t it?). I guess my point is that printers are cheap and I’ve been through a lot of them in my time.  It seems to be an accepted practice for manufacturers to use printers as the loss leader, stacking ‘em high and selling ‘em cheap, while they claw it all back on the lucrative aftermarket of over-priced ink supplies.

And that really gets my panties in a bunch.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

iPads, iPhones and drafting legal documents

In several meetings recently I’ve noticed just many of the solicitors present had iPads with them. Suddenly, from once being a fancy plaything confined to over-paid partners, editing legal documents on mobile devices is clearly becoming an established way of working. And it’s not just the more junior staff; seasoned lawyers of maturing years love nothing better than slipping their iPad out of its expensive leather pouch, hoping to be met with glances of envy and approval from those present.

A word of caution: having an iPad doesn’t necessarily increase competence or common sense. One particular solicitor who never has his iPad out of arm’s reach has also been known to mark up hard copies of agreements (and make corresponding notes) with a chunky permanent marker. Yep, you read that correctly. Well, some mothers do ‘ave ‘em – let’s hope the iPad wasn’t just for show.

While an iPad isn’t necessarily the tool of choice for hardcore drafting -- you probably won’t be minded to start a fresh draft of a master services agreement with a gazillion service schedules using it -- there’s nothing that surpasses it for portability and simplicity.

The vast majority of lawyers spend their lives managing endless drafts of versioned documents, whether they’re a commercial contracts solicitor in the middle of a drafting rally with the other side, or a litigation fiend pulling together statements of case with their team. A lot of information tends to be conveyed on drafts of documents as balloon comments, too.  In my experience you can accurately gauge the receptiveness and reasonableness of the other side by the snarkiness of their comments in a marked-up agreement.  Regardless of your area of practice, tracking and commenting functionality is absolutely crucial and having that functionality be fully compatible with Microsoft Office (are there any law firms still using WordPerfect now?!?) is non-negotiable.

As “bring your own” hardware policies are hitting the big-time, it’s pretty clear that a lot of lawyers are going to be increasingly editing documents on their iPads and other mobile devices going forward. That’s always been a major headache - as anyone who’s tried well knows.

Thankfully, for all iPad wielding lawyers screaming for a compatible office suite with versioning and commenting functionality, you’re in luck. The latest version of Office2 HD launches today which includes the solution to all these needs and more. It’s available via the Apple App Store.

And if you’re inclined to flick through the latest draft of an agreement on your smartphone (come on, we’ve all done it, no matter how inefficient and awkward it might be) the ability to make sense of the latest amendments has always been the missing piece of the puzzle. Office2 HD should solve that dilemma as well, as it works superbly on your iPhone, too.

The app looks well worth checking out and should be the answer to a lot of lawyers’ frustrations when trying to use their iPad or iPhone to get work done.

Office2 HD screenshot

Monday, 4 June 2012

Impoverished lawyers … practising law on a shoestring

poor law

From Business Insider 01/06/12:

While in law school … Erin Gilmer developed a passion for health law and policy, but pursuing that passion has made it exceedingly hard to pay her bills.

Since her 2008 graduation, Gilmer has completed a variety of health policy-related fellowships and other advocacy work, but all have been time-and-funding limited.

Since this fall, she has been on her own, attempting to build a practice, Gilmer Health Law, in the areas of patient advocacy and health care technology.

Good on her!

It’s just stressful, really stressful," she says. "But it gives me a new angle to when I’m helping people. I can understand exactly what they’ve been through. I know how hard it is to apply for food stamps. I know how hard it is to apply for medical assistance."

Geez Louise!!  Who me?

[A]t times she has her doubts. She can't afford a car, so she has to rely on the bus to get around Austin, Texas, where she lives. And currently unable to pay back her growing pile of law school debt, Gilmer says she wonders if she will ever be able to pay it back.

"That has been really hard for me," she says. "I have absolutely no credit anymore. I haven't been able to pay loans. It's scary, and it's a hard thing to think you’re a lawyer but you’re impoverished. People don’t understand that most lawyers actually aren’t making the big money."

Or any money by the sounds of it. A number of US bloggers I follow have been laid off since I first stumbled across their blogs and they have been forced to turn their (legal) hands to other things.  There’s something stomach-wrenchingly sickening about that (David Brent would no doubt have summed it up as “wasted talent”).

Many think (quite rightly) that we’ve had it bad in the UK. Still, it sometimes looks like a patch on what the US have endured since their mighty legal gravy train derailed so spectacularly during the economic slump.

Presumably the legal recruitment situation will come full circle (eventually) but the good times are probably a good way off yet. I’m sensing it’s still not a great time to be contemplating a career in law on the other side of the pond.

I’d like to think that I was brave, passionate and determined enough to pursue a legal career in the face of these massive obstacles that Erin et al have battled with.  I’m not totally convinced of it, though.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

The scourge of geo-tagging

geo tagging and the law

Sad but true.

I generally avoid apps which reveal my location and I disable geo-tagging on any apps I do use.  I think I’m less paranoid risk-averse than I used to be about this stuff but I prefer to try and stay reasonably un-trackable.  

I fear it’s a losing battle, though.

Found here at How to Geek 02/06/12