Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Brexit agreement proof-reading balls-up

Tee hee. This is a good one.

Brexit deal mentions Netscape browser and Mozilla Mail - BBC News:
References to decades-old computer software are included in the new Brexit agreement, including a description of Netscape Communicator and Mozilla Mail as being "modern" services.

Experts believe officials must have copied and pasted chunks of text from old legislation into the document.

The references are on page 921 of the trade deal, in a section on encryption technology.

It also recommends using systems that are now vulnerable to cyber-attacks.

The text cites "modern e-mail software packages including Outlook, Mozilla Mail as well as Netscape Communicator 4.x."

The latter two are now defunct - the last major release of Netscape Communicator was in 1997.

I think all solicitors have experienced that sinking feeling when they find they've left something in an agreement that really should have been removed from the precedent on which it was based. The name of a previous client is a classic or the product/service that that previous client provided. Instances of irrelevant technical crap being left buried in a schedule isn't unheard of either.

But this stuff happens; it's not the end of the world. And it's proven that someone's reading the Brexit agreement at least.

I remember Netscape Navigator fondly. On my first PC, back in 1999, I found it to be much more reliable than the pesky installation of Internet Explorer 4 with which I had to grapple. As I recall, it would often freeze my entire system without warning, forcing me to switch it off at the wall.  

It was eventually fixed after I completely corrupted that computer in late December that year — apparently, uninstalling software wasn’t as straightforward as manually deleting the programme files, sigh — and it necessitated a mercy dash to computer man extraordinaire ‘Slim Steve’.

Once Steve finally got round to it some days after the drop-off, he reinstalled Windows for me and generally saved the day, allowing me to get my teenage kicks through the internet once more. 

Thanks again, Steve, wherever you are now.

Thursday, 24 December 2020

What happened to the Law Society’s professional development centre?

I've come to rely on the Law Society’s professional development centre (let’s call it PDC) as part of my diet of CPD or continuing competence or whatever we’re meant to call it these days. Over the past 12 months or so I viewed webinars the Law Society offered on vertical agreements, legal privilege in 2020, cyber security and a contract law update. All were pretty good. And all were reasonably priced (not that I personally pay for it).

The Professional Development Centre... gone, but not forgotten

In November, the Law Society pulled the plug on their PDC service. The portal is still there, but all courses have been marked as ‘inactive’ and you can’t purchase new material. I still had a webinar to complete before the switch off occurred. Damn!

It turns out the Law Society put out a blog post out about it in early November, but my attention was elsewhere at the time.  

Changes to the Professional Development Centre | News | Communities - The Law Society

From 23 November 2020, the Professional Development Centre (PDC) will no longer be available.

You’ll need to complete any courses you have begun by this date. You’ll also need to download any training records and certificates you want to keep while you still have access.

Members can soon access future training through our new platform – Law Society Learning.

Ah — so that’s the plan. 

The advent of Law Society Learning is all well and good, but there’s a paltry selection of content on there currently — just practice management stuff. 

And that’s a real shame. What I don’t get is why they couldn’t port across all of the existing content from PDC. They seem to be starting completely from scratch. Perhaps it's a licensing thing.

Oh well. I’m sure it’ll improve over time.

Friday, 18 December 2020

A Christmas checklist from B&Q

 I received the following piece of nonsense in my inbox earlier from B&Q. 

Seriously? A Christmas checklist. I've annotated it accordingly!

Because that's what you really need over Christmas, isn't it - a fricking toilet seat! Actually, they say 'seats' - PLURAL. What sort of digestive calamities are B&Q anticipating here??

What utter bollocks this is. Mindless consumerism at its absolute worst! (On second thoughts, that award probably goes to secret santa arrangements in workplaces up and down the land. Suffice it to say that I always opt out of that nonsense.)

Friday, 25 September 2020

The last six months…

They’ve been interesting, haven’t they?

Thankfully, I wasn’t furloughed, unlike many of my colleagues, and work for me has stayed pretty buoyant throughout (apparently commercial deals are still being done, generating a need for contract negotiation and drafting — and us commercial contracts lawyers haven’t been (totally) replaced by AI just yet).

2020 was meant to be the year we finally moved house. We thought COVID had put paid to that, but when the property sector reopened with gusto in the early summer, we decided to give it a go. We’re glad we did: our house is sold (STC) and our offer to purchase has been accepted. We’re hoping to move pre-Christmas… provided the moving gods are still smiling on us.

So the summer was largely a blur of estate agent viewings and that sort of stuff. All pretty tedious — and it wasn’t helped by two of our neighbours also listing their houses within a fortnight of us going on the market. Bastards.

I worked from home even before COVID hit — save for two or three trips to the office per month — so there wasn’t a great deal of adjustment needed for me on that front. The daily firm-wide webcam calls have been a bit of a drag, but it’s been a small price to pay in exchange for avoiding all commuting.

I’ve also had no issues adjusting to wearing a face mask — provided I use my ‘ear saver’ (a rubber strap with notches onto which the mask’s ear loops can grip*). Fun fact: I’ve sensitive ears and I don’t like things pulling on them. One of my hobbies (nothing kinky) requires me to wear a respirator for lengthy periods of time, so popping on a surgical mask whenever I womble around Sainsbury’s isn’t much hardship.

* For the benefit of the uninitiated, this is the type of thing I'm talking about:

I suspect the next few weeks and months will be a continuing ball ache of conveyancing nonsense, mortgage applications and quotes for removals. Actually, we’re quite a way down some of those roads already — and I even had to dust off (electronically) my property law and practice materials from the LPC to remind myself of certain points in the conveyancing process. 

The law firm we’ve instructed in connection with our sale and purchase are all right, but that’s about as much as I can say for them. I’m sure my numerous emails, letters and phone calls to them have been getting on their ‘thruppney bits’ (to quote Sharon and Tracy from Birds of a Feather that my wife and I are currently re-watching, episode by episode**). Having a client who’s both a lawyer and a bit of a control freak must be a bit trying. Still, I have to bear it as part of my day job, so why shouldn’t they?

** That’s the original nine series that ran from 1989 to 1998 on the BBC, not the subsequent ‘comeback’ drivel that aired on ITV more recently.

Friday, 13 March 2020

Movies to self-isolate by

Actually, that should be: 'movies to watch while self-isolating'. Ne'er mind.

I saw yesterday that the Guardian had compiled a list of movies that people self-isolating from the Coronavirus could watch to while away some of the time.

That list was strange, very strange — to say the least of it.

I’d not heard of at least half of them, and they were supposed to be ‘comfort films’.

Even those that I had heard of, wouldn’t have brought any comfort to me.

So instead of the utter trash that the Guardian suggested, here’s my suggested list of films.

Airplane (you can't beat a spoof)
Airplane II (you really can't beat a spoof)
The Big Bus (spoofs are the best, you know)
North Sea Hijack (also knows as ffolkes)
Jurassic Park, I, II, and III (my wife’s suggestions, seconded by me)
The Core (it’s surprisingly watchable)
The Mummy, I, II, and III (or whatever their correct titles are)
Die Hard (I, II, and, at a push, III)
Airport (the 1970 original)
Airport 1975 (in some ways better than the original - watch out for the singing nun that inspired the corresponding scene in Airplane)
Airport 1977 (this was a corker)
Airport 1979 (turns out there was nothing you couldn't do with a Concorde)
Speed (but not Speed II)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick's obviously, not the Stephen King's mini-series abomination)
Jaws, I, II, III (and the revenge if you get really desperate)
Piranha (the 1970s version)
The Final Destination movies (cos we're probably all doomed anyway)
The Bond movies — any until Pierce Brosnan’s rather lame attempts in the 1990s, and absolutely none since)
Journey to the centre of the earth (my wife's choice, not mine)
Fire, Ice and Dynamite (Roger Moore and Simon Shepherd and a complete lack of meaningful plot or acting). Actually, don’t watch this: it’s atrocious.

You'll be pleased to know that I might update this list over time.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

The world is falling down around us

I just can’t COPE with this Coronavirus business. It feels like the world as we know it is disappearing in front of us, and it’s far from clear whether it will ever be the same again.

Schools are closed in Ireland.

Tom Hanks has been bitten by the bug and is mopping his fevered brow as I type.

McLaren have withdrawn from the Australian grand prix.

My work meeting next week has been cancelled and replaced with a call, but I’ve already bought an advance train ticket in the GWR sale to travel to London. Bum! Do I go into the office and do the call from there, or write off the cost of the ticket (it was cheap, stupidly cheap, compared with the standard price), or do I try to exchange it for £10 and use the ticket at a later date. I like to show my face in the office occasionally, as it helps to underline the fact to my colleagues that I’m still alive and I still do work.

My wife and I want to stick our fricking house on the mother fricking market, having been focusing for the past 8-9 months on getting it up to scratch. It’s an absolute outrage. First Brexit, now Corona. 

Still, you kind of feel that humanity has brought it on itself. We’ve long been due a plague: just think about what Stephen King prophesied in The Stand — not that we can rely on him as being an authority on anything, save perhaps for writing (too) many verbose books.

And now there’s a dirty great big bluebottle crawling on the outside of my office window — a bad omen, if ever there was one.

To paraphrase the great Murray Walker: if we didn’t have bad luck, we’d have no luck at all.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Smallbone Deceased

Back in late 2015 I discovered the range of classic crime books that are being re-published by the British Library.

Aptly titled ‘British Library Crime Classics’, these books are a mixture of whodunits and other formats of the crime genre written during what it recognised as the ‘golden era’ of crime fiction — that is, the period between the two World Wars. The books published include those written by a number of eminent authors of detective fiction, including E.C.R Lorac, John Bude, J. Jefferson Farjeon, Freeman Wills Crofts and George Bellairs.

The list of BLCC titles has grown to nearly 80 now — and I’ve read about three quarters of them. Most are good to very good, a few are sensational, with just the odd let down (‘Somebody at the Door’ by Raymond Postgate immediately springs to mind for the latter category). I eventually had to cast that aside, not fully read.

Aside from the BLCC range, I’ve also become an avid fan of George Bellairs’ Inspector Littlejohn mysteries — and Bellairs now ranks among my very favourite authors.

Smallbone Deceased is a whodunit written in 1950 by Michael Gilbert — who was a practising lawyer himself. The story is set in a London law firm, Horniman, Birley and Craine, where a body is discovered in one of the large deed boxes. It’s as good a place as any in which to hide a body (and it certainly beats hacking the body up in the lavatories and depositing segments of the cadaver into lever arch box files).

I particularly appreciated the book’s legal setting as well as a number of elements of the story’s backdrop. But its appeal is by no means confined to those with experience of legal practice; it’s a corker of a crime novel and is written with a well-judged humour and wit (something that Alan Melville didn’t quite get right in my view in his book, Quick Curtain).

I’m not going to review the Smallbone Deceased per se. There are plenty of reviews of it out there and I’ve nothing particularly remarkable to add.

But I will share some of my favourite excerpts. Being able to download all of your notes and highlights from a novel in a couple of steps is one of my favourite features of the Kindle.

So, without further ado…
  • In reference to one of the recently deceased partners of the firm (not the body discovered in the deed box by the way)… “[he died] as I am sure he would have wished to die—in harness. It scarcely seems a month ago that I walked into his room and found him at his desk, his pen grasped in his hand—[.]”
There’s many a time when I’ve been working on a particularly fraught matter that I’ve thought I’ll die ‘in harness’, where someone will come in the next morning and find me slumped over my keyboard — cold, stiff and lifeless.

Get the violins out, people!

  • “It had been on my conscience a bit—but a trust isn’t like a conveyancing or litigation matter that has to be kept marching strictly along—and you know how it is. I was a bit rushed and the least urgent job went to the wall.”
I think all of us in legal practice can relate to that. In fact, shortly after reading the book, I paraphrased this quote about the least urgent matter ‘going to the wall’ as an explanation to a colleague as to why I hadn’t done something. It beats a bold-faced lie, I suppose.

  • “A man who hunted down facts with the passionless pleasure of a butterfly collector and pinned them to his board with the same cold precision.”
Every law firm boasts one of these characters.

  • Describing a scene in the Law Society eatery: “Their nearest neighbours were two middle-aged solicitors, one of whom was eating spaghetti and reading a law journal, whilst the other appeared to be amending a draft contract on a diet of fish cakes.”
What an image! I’ve been guilty of slurping (and spilling) soup over a draft contract on many occasions in the past — although these days I tend not to eat at my desk.

On a related note, I tried a Sainsbury’s taste the difference fish cake the other day — the first fish cake I’ve eaten since my home-made attempt in June 2008 when I managed to give myself chronic food poisoning. Sadly, this latest fish cake was a real disappointment; it was basically a fish cake shaped potato croquette; you wouldn’t have known it was supposed to have a fishy theme at all. It was so bad, the other one was deposited without grace or ceremony into our compost bin.

  • In reference to a cat: “He had long had his eye on a particularly stupid pigeon which roosted in the plane tree at the south end of the garden. He had noticed that lately it had formed a habit of making its evening toilet perched on the lowest branch of the tree.”
We have a pigeon who loves to perch on the sycamore tree in our front garden and make his toilet there — at any time of the day.

  • “I hate the law. I loathe and detest all this pettifogging round with words and figures, and hours and days and weeks spent mangling bumph”
Don’t we all feel like this sometimes? (In my case, most of the time.) And what a fabulous word: ‘pettifogging’. I was introduced to it through a George Bellairs novel, no less. And it was used in the context of, yes, you guessed it — a lawyer.

  • “He thought of the future. Ahead of him stretched unbroken reefs of trouble. Endless shocks to his nervous system; endless assaults on his gastric fluids; endless nights when fear of insomnia would prove more potent than insomnia itself.”
This might have been describing me!