Monday, 24 December 2012

‘Twas the night before Christmas (legalese style)

The night before Christmas (Small)I stumbled across this gem the other day which seemed too appropriate to pass up.  Thankfully, it says more about lawyers than Christmas.

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse. 
A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and 
around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter. 
The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House, were 
located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, 
i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited 
to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams. 
Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as 
"I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the parts of the 
second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.) 
Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the 
unimproved real property adjacent and appurtent to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance. 
At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of 
wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter the "Vehicle") being 
pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) 
reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the 
previously referenced Claus. 
Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the 
approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal 
co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen (hereinafter the "Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is 
further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named Rudolph may have been involved.) 
The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer 
intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences 
located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney. 
Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations. 
Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor 
children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts.  (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.) Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination. 
However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House,  the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry 
Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Or words to that effect.

Have a good ‘un. 

Friday, 21 December 2012

Professional Negligence Claims against your Previous Solicitor

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professional negligence claim2012 has seen an alarming increase in the number of professional negligence claims brought by clients against their previous solicitor. Cases of professional negligence involving solicitors often result from a claimant’s case being undervalued and consequently under-settled by the law firm representing them.

However, that is by no means the only reason. Some firms provide legal advice which simply does not pass muster. Clients may have been subjected to shoddy service where their previous legal representative lacked the required experience to deal with a complex matter. Sometimes firms fail to act in their clients’ best interests by settling claims or completing other work in a self-serving way. Worse still, some clients are reported to have fallen victim to a scam in which unqualified handlers undertake work on their behalf.

Of course, it is important to keep the matter in perspective; the vast majority of legal firms are reputable and provide good quality, appropriate legal advice. However, a small minority of firms are giving the profession a bad name, causing professional negligence cases to rise to rise significantly.

How can you spot when a solicitor firm has been negligent?

Solicitors, like any other advisory business, are there to provide a service. If that service is not provided adequately or you feel you have been unfairly prejudiced by the solicitor acting for you, then you should instruct a different solicitor to act in that matter and seek independent legal advice as to whether you have a claim against your previous solicitor on the grounds of professional negligence.

In order to decide whether your previous legal adviser has been negligent, their conduct will be measured against that of a similar legal professional. Expert evidence may be sought from a lawyer in the same field to prove that the actions of the defendant solicitor were unsatisfactory.

Examples of a negligent conduct by a solicitor include them missing a crucial deadline which results in a failed claim or extra costs being incurred, or if you are incorrectly advised as to whether you have a valid claim when you first consult them.

Top tips choosing an appropriate solicitor

1. Choose a solicitor you can see on a face-to-face basis and ensure they offer you regular contact.

2. Recommendations can be useful. Ask friends and relatives who have used the services of a solicitor in the past.

3. Research the best firm to handle your case; the Internet is an invaluable tool for this.

4. If you’re unsure about a solicitor’s specialism in a certain field, ask if they hold any accreditations.

Depending on the circumstances, the Legal Ombudsman may also investigate your complaint.

St Helens based solicitors Hattons Law provide expert legal advice and support for a full range of legal services including professional negligence claims against solicitors.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Lasting Power of Attorney and What It Means

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power of attorney (Small)
There are many reasons that someone might want to allow a family member or loved one the power of Lasting Power of Attorney (L.P.A).

When someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness such as cancer, Alzheimer’s, brain injury, or suffers from drug misuse, effects of medication or serious bouts of mental illness, giving someone that power allows their estate to be managed by the nominated person whilst they are too ill to do so themselves. This is designed to allow a better degree of peace of mind if the worst happens. It is not necessary for the person to be diagnosed with something terminal, some people put the process in place as a cautionary measure.

Being given the power of attorney over someone can be a large responsibility, especially as it will be for someone close to them or at least someone in a position of great trust. Whether or not someone is ill, mortgage payments still need to be paid, as do utility bills, any credit cards, business transactions or any other process that involves finance. Any welfare benefits must be claimed as well as tax credits or legal proceedings that might arise.

There are two types of Lasting Power of Attorneys. One person can be put forward as either one or both of those positions. The first of those, as discussed, involves financial and property related issues and the second is with regards to personal welfare.

A personal welfare L.P.A will deal with affairs such as what different courses of medication are to be followed and whether the person shall be cared for at home where possible or in an environment with more professional care. These decisions will be made according to the wishes of the person who appoints the L.P.A and will have been discussed beforehand.

To appoint someone with the lasting power of attorney, the person in question must be in sound state of mind. This makes perfect sense when you consider the vulnerabilities that can go hand in hand with some degenerative illnesses, to help protect them from any potential abuse or financial mishandling.

The other thing to consider when appointing an L.P.A is that without the correct wording, the nominated person may take control of any of the finances and decisions (including who you can see) in your life before you are too ill to do so yourself. It is worth seeking legal advice to protect yourself should that happen. Remember that you can pick and choose what powers in such circumstances you wish to relinquish and to whom.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Not to be a pedant or anything, but ...

Clinton’s Christmas card sent to (valued) clients this year.

Clintons Christmas CardClintons, based in London, “is one of the foremost law practices in entertainment, sport and media, with an extensive general practice.”

Hat tip to Legal Cheek.

Thank God - a law firm with a timely sense of humour at Christmas!  Good stuff.  It makes a pleasant change from all the shallow yuletide philanthropy that firms are so desperate to be seen doing.

Anyhoo, not to be a dick pedant or anything, but I have a problem with striking out “new year” and amending it with “12 (twelve) months from the date hereof” because it could materially change the meaning from that which was intended.

When you wish someone a “happy new year”, convention dictates that you are wishing them well for the forthcoming new calendar year - whether for the first few days of it or for its entirety.

This is borne out by the OED which provides:

new year” noun
  • the calendar year just begun or about to begin:Happy New Year!
    • the first few days or weeks of a year:the band is playing at Wembley in the new year

Amending the words to “a happy 12 (twelve) months from the date hereof” would mean that the sender’s good wishes would expire 12 months from the date of the card. (This assumes it was dated; it would cause considerable problems if it wasn’t).  We don’t know how the card is being delivered here (and let’s not open that particularly ugly can of worms by speculating), so let’s just say that the card was dated 12th December 2012 and delivered (via whatever method) 2 business days* after that.  Accordingly, in this example, the good wishes would end on 12th December 2013.

* “means any day which is not a Saturday, a Sunday or a bank or public holiday in England.”

Given that Christmas cards are written and exchanged well before the end of December (save for those sent by the tardy and the forgetful) adopting the suggested amendment would mean that the good wishes would cease before 2013 had ended (in my example, they would end some 19 days too early).

It seems to me that the simplest way of rectifying this would be to expressly state the calendar year in question (“2013”).  After all, you might not feel inclined to wish the recipient a happy new calendar year in 12 months’ time, so any further good wishes should be subject to a new card being sent.

If, however, the sender intended “new year” to mean only the first few days of the new calendar year, that should be expressly stated.  (There’s no substitution for specificity, after all).

Remember children, using words which are unclear in conjunction with the phrase “for the avoidance of doubt” will almost certainly negate any clarification it was intended to provide.  Sorry - life’s tough like that.
Personally, I’d like to see “festive period” capitalised and defined appropriately, too.  Be right back

Wait!  I’ve not over-thought this, have I?  Eye rolling smile

Sunday, 16 December 2012

‘Tis the Season for an Injury

Tra-la-la-la-larrr …. la-lar-lar-lar.

christmas decoration accidents & injuries

Quotes from the Telegraph 24/12/11:

Christmas trees
Christmas Trees are the root (ahem) cause of a number of accidents during the festive season. According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, 2007 saw around 1,000 people injured in incidents involving Christmas Trees, including pine-related eye injuries as people reached for presents.

Those of a cautious nature are reminded that prickly Christmas trees can be made (more) safe by plucking the needles prior to erection.  Ahem.  Your Christmas tree might be bald, but at least your loved ones won’t get a pine needle stuck in their eye, nor will you have to suffer the stress of hoovering up those newly formed piles of needles that your tree would’ve otherwise shed each and every day.

Last year, [in the Czech Republic], one man received £35,000 in personal injury compensation after he was crushed by a 101ft Christmas Tree in Prague.

Numerous accident claims are made to insurance companies for furniture that has been damaged by a fallen or irresponsibly handled tree.

I can sympathise; the memory of wrestling with that damn tree on my Black and Decker Workmate - trying to trim the trunk and get it stood up correctly in the frickin’ stand - is still painfully vivid.   Marmite (the Law Actually bunny) proved absolutely no help at all.

Decorating the tree and the walls can be a fun experience for all the family, but this annual tradition is also not without its dangers. In 2008/9 over 5,000 people were admitted to hospital after falling from a ladder whilst attempting to hang decorations.

Society’s love of drawing pins are an added danger too (particularly for those not wearing shoes!).  Youch!

Others, however, skip the ladder altogether and choose to clamber over furniture to get to those hard-to-reach areas leading to hundreds of broken bones every year.

Guilty!!  The control widget for our Christmas tree lights is safely installed up on the curtain pole - well out of the reach of Marms (who has a penchant for nibbling such things which are at ground or periscoping level).  Sadly for us, the lights’ default twinkle is a fit-inducing imitation of disco lights on steroids, meaning we have no option but to risk serious injury to life and limb by clambering on the sofa to change the setting to something more suitable each time we put the lights on. 

2007 also saw two fatal incidences of people eating decorations they mistook for chocolate.

What were they then?  Cyanide coated baubles?  Surprised smile

In an attempt to alert people to the dangers of Christmas, the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer issued more than 150,000 leaflets which highlighted the risks associated with baubles. Readers were advised to avoid these spherical ornaments as they are easily broken and can be very sharp underfoot.

Heck, just look at how Kevin in Home Alone used them to good effect on poor Marv’.

Bauble Injuries - Home Alone

And it’s not just irresponsibly-placed decorations at home you’ve got to watch out for; workplace decorations can prove particularly hazardous to your health.  The other day, I spotted an office stairwell which had tinsel wrapped all the way up the handrail in a spiral fashion.  Anyone could have caught their hand in that mess on the way down and ended up in a heap at the bottom, spread-eagled with broken bones and a Christmas in ruin.  They might as well have set up a tinsel tripwire at the top of the stairs.

But, hey, it’s amazing what a personal injury claim can do to focus minds and heighten aware of risk. 

Fairy lights
Around 350 people are expected to be injured in a fairy light-related accident each Christmas, as a result of falling whilst attempting to hang them, electric shocks, burns, or by children swallowing them. Lights can also have fatal consequences with an alarming number of deaths caused by people watering the tree with the lights switched on.

Come on, people.  Just because it’s Christmas, it doesn’t mean you’re excused from engaging your brains!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Christmastime once again

You see, I know it must be that time of year again, faithful reader, because Law Actually has received its annual festive makeover.

Be right back

I’m a bit more satisfied with this year’s attempt; it’s good to have the horrors of trying to decorate that nauseating coffee and cream monstrosity from last year a full 12 months behind me.

Never has the expression, “putting lipstick on a pig” been more appropriate.


20112011 Christmas header

The 2010 version still has a special place in my heart, however.  I think it was the falling snow.2010 Christmas header

Which, it turned out, was just an improved version on the 2009 attempt.2009 Christmas header

And 2008’s theme seems like centuries ago!  Still, happy days as I recall.2008 Christmas header

Ah – and the Christmas header which started it all off back in 2007.2007 Christmas header

Nothing like a trip down memory lane, eh?

There aren’t many left in the blawgoshpere who have been around for all of my LA Christmas makeovers - save for the lovely Andro, of course. 

Party smile

A Guide to Choosing a Solicitor in the UK

Guest Postaccident solicitor

Thousands of solicitors work in the UK and choosing the right professional for your situation may seem like mission impossible. Picking the right legal expert will often have a significant bearing on the outcome of your legal proceedings.
It is important to do the right research in advance of choosing a solicitor to represent you.  The following simple steps should help take the uncertainty out of the equation.

What Kind of Solicitor do You Need?
Solicitors are experts in different niches. Find someone who is experienced in the particular legal sector that you need help with.

Just like in other professional spheres, specialisation is of uttermost importance.

Assuming that someone is a great solicitor because of their professional successes can be misguided. Look for the person that works with cases like yours and who is familiar with all aspects and procedures of those types of cases.

Recommendations can always be helpful. Ask friends and relatives who have used the services of a solicitor in the past for information.

Be mindful, though, that what works for the needs of one individual may actually be inappropriate for somebody else. You should ask questions about the solicitor’s education, experience, fees and everything else that interests you.

The Internet will give you an opportunity to get recommendations as well. Websites and forums are full of opinions and reviews – so make the most of them. See what people are saying about the professional that you plan to work with. Look for patterns in the experiences of others in relation to a specific lawyer.

Talk to the Shortlisted Solicitors
Use your research to create a shortlist of the solicitors that you are interested in. The next step will involve an interview and a (usually) free consultation. Most professionals in the legal sector will usually be willing to offer you a free session that will help you make up your mind.

Draft a list of questions in advance. Some of the most typical things to ask include background information on the solicitor’s practice; how many years of experience do they have, what kinds of legal problems does the solicitor deal with most frequently and what the cost will be.

Describe your situation and try and determine whether the solicitor has handled similar cases in the past.

Do your research before hiring a solicitor, even if you are in a hurry. Taking the time to find the right professional for your case will dramatically increase your chances of success.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Approach the Bench: The Chess Set for Lawyers

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With Christmas just around the corner, here’s a stunning gift idea for any lawyer – chess lover or otherwise.Lawyer chess set

These exquisite chess sets are handmade in the USA out of cold-cast bronze, travertine tile and mahogany. Each piece is modelled on an iconic courtroom figure which stands on a uniquely "stepped" board designed to resemble a bench and jury-box.

The board measures 18 x 19 x 8 inches, with the tallest piece (the king) standing 5 inches high. The whole set (pieces & board) weighs 25lbs.

legal chess pieces

An engraved personalized plate can be added as a finishing touch.

This distinguished looking chess set would make the perfect gift for an attorney, law school graduate, judge, or anyone associated with the law. Equally, it would make a wonderful piece of objet d’art for a firm’s office – looking particularly good as the centrepiece in a display case in the firm’s reception area or waiting room, for instance.

Heck, if anyone can be persuaded to have a game, it might even afford stressed fee earners a little escapism during their lunch break.

Visit Approach the Bench for more details.

legally theme chess board

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dolphin enjoys a bite of lunch

dolphin lunch

From Sky News 03/12/12:

Jillian Thomas was holding out fish to feed to dolphins at Orlando's SeaWorld when she got an unexpected surprise.

Ah yes – holding out fish along with scores of other children, taunting hungry dolphins with food. Don’t ya just love these sealife theme parks?

While she was feeding the usually friendly mammals, a dolphin lunged at her and nipped her hand.

Hmm - more of a loving squeeze judging from the video. And besides, miscalculations do happen whilst eating from time to time. I got a teaspoon wedged in my mouth the other day. The poor coffee shop owner didn’t know what to do!

Be right back

The girl, whose parents posted the video on YouTube to make other people aware of the dangers, suffered three small puncture wounds.

Jillian's father, Jamie Thomas, told local media the family were angry at the theme park for not warning them of the dangers of dolphin feeding.

Because wild creatures are notoriously predictable aren’t they?  Besides, aren’t the dangers self-evident – signs or no signs? It sounds like Jillian’s parents would’ve been better leaving her at home with a stuffed toy dolphin. I bet he wouldn’t have nipped her.

"We felt powerless," he said.

Now wouldn’t that have been an opportune moment for an unconscionable firm to spam-text Jillian’s parents about making that personal injury claim? 

"We thought, look, we've got this video, let's make it public, and let's try to put some pressure on SeaWorld to make some changes."

How about getting parents to engage their brains as well? ;-) Just a thought.

A SeaWorld statement said: "Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our guests, employees and animals.

Well thank God the poor animals get a mention. Humans can be infuriatingly ignorant sometimes.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Darts, Tweets and ‘Defer-mating’

defamation darts

From Yahoosport 17/11/12:

Darts fans have been forced to apologise to former BDO world champion Ted Hankey after accusing him of playing while drunk - when in fact he had suffered a stroke.

Hankey appeared disoriented and suffered a comprehensive 5-0 defeat to Michael van Gerwen, in which he averaged just 59 and missed the board twice.

After the match, Hankey apologised for his performance, saying: "I was shocking I have had the flu since sun(day) night and couldn't see out my left eye".

However, this could not stem a tide of criticism accusing him of drunkenness [.]

But his manager David Stevenson has revealed the results of a hospital CT scan showing that Hankey suffered a stroke.

Holy Cow!

Stevenson tweeted: "The docs have confirm (sic) that @TedHankeyDarts has had a stroke he's got very high cholesterol and blood pressure and diabetes got to have 6/8 weeks rest and will need more tests in the coming weeks the doctors report will confirm this might use it to sue the people that have been defer-mating (sic) Teds [sic] character."

Yikes. You’ve got to watch out for that darn ‘defer-mating’ malarkey. It can land you in a whole heap of trouble – or so I’ve heard.  Ahem.

I guess the moral of the story (besides the need to remain vigilant for stroke symptoms displayed by men of a certain age and, ahem, lifestyle) is that while you might defame someone, you never, ever ‘defermate’ them.  That sounds like it’s something else entirely!!

I wish people proofread their tweets (or looked up things they weren’t sure of) before posting. It would make the web a much better place.