Midsummer Madness

Madness by Rogier Van Der Weyden

When I initially thought of the theme for this round up the country was in the grip of travel chaos caused by an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano and BA cabin staff threatening to go on strike.  That’s all quiet now (for the time being) but midsummer madness abounds elsewhere, not least with the ritual post-mortem into England’s latest failure at the World Cup. Andy Murray gave Wimbledon his best shot but was found wanting. The druids, hippies and other odd-bods who really ought to have jobs to go to gathered at Stonehenge to celebrate the summer solstice and, perhaps, to mourn the likely continuing lack of a decent visitor centre serving a palatable vegetarian option.  Judging from the submissions received at blog carnival for this edition, some people misunderstood the nature of the RoundUp.  I could have included items such as “top 12 Fireman pin ups of 2010” or “10 great web resources for photographers” had they not been obviously spam.  More evidence(not that it is needed) of the madness of spam.  Why do it?

It would probably be more accurate to describe the build up to the World Cup as a fever rather than insanity, although anyone who really thought it would be different this time round is probably certifiable.  St George flags everywhere, pubs full, offices empty, lots of articles about how employers should protect their businesses from absenteeism, drunkenness and discrimination (ahem, yes I wrote one too).  To cap it all there was even Brian Blessed doing a good impression of Brian Blessed reciting the famous bit from Henry V:  “Cry God for Fabio England and St George”, before our gallant lads took on the might of, er, Slovenia. Not exactly an Agincourt moment, albeit I’m sure Shakespeare could have written a decent tragedy over the continuing failure of the England team to make a decent impact on the world stage.  I wouldn’t want to blow my own vuvuzela too much, but I could see it coming (who couldn’t?).

Til death us do part, or something better comes along

Aside from football lunacy, gadget lovers were gripped by the long anticipated release of Apple’s iPad, followed a few days ago by the sale of the iPhone4.  People queued and camped to get their hands on these devices. The airwaves and newspapers were full of it, Bloggers blogged about it, people even used them.  Peninsulawyer, who tweets as @beej777 has been writing about the iPad so much he’s set up a feed on Posterous just to cope with all his posts on the subject. He’s even being writing about other lawyers who’ve been writing about the iPad. Degrees and theses on the iPad are probably being prepared as we speak.  Peninsulawyer  is an invaluable source of information if you wonder whether the iPad is for you. He wrote a couple of very interesting articles on it called the iPad Lawyer, where he road tested the one he had just bought and considered how useful it would be for a practising lawyer. It’s undoubtedly a great looking and clever bit of kit, but Jon’s conclusion that it is better for consuming media than creating it means I probably won’t be flexing the plastic just yet.  Jon suggests that there is still a role for a netbook (upon which this is being written).

Furthermore it might be difficult to justify the purchase to Mrs Jobsworth, who is a confirmed Luddite.  Had Shakespeare been writing it the conversation might have been like this;

J: My dear, I am desirous of acquiring this new iPad that everyone is raging about

Mrs J: What folly dost thou propose now! What need hast thou of an iPad?  Thou already has a laptop, a netbook, a Blueberry and Lord knows what other pointless gadgets – what reason has thou for more electronic fripperies?

J:   O reason not the need! Our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous.
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is cheap as beast’s.

Mrs J: Where’s the handbag you promised me for my birthday?

J:  You think I’ll weep; no I’ll not weep: I have full cause of weeping …”

And so on.  I will be keeping a close watch on Peninsulawyer’s posts on the subject to see how he gets on with it in future.

Scholars discover evidence (above)  that Shakespeare thought of the “Big Society” first.

Mrs Jobsworth thought the cartoon below  particularly pertinent, but I can’t think why.

The Independent

Perhaps what I need is to be found inside Melanie Hatton’s Essential Toolkit for the In-House Lawyer: a magic wand. This would come in handy for many lawyers in private practice as well as for those working in-house. Melanie blogs as “In-House Lawyer” and I particularly enjoyed her blog post on this subject.  In addition to her own three essential items she asked her twitter followers to suggest additional items to go in.  That her respondents, all of whom are in-house counsel, felt the need for a “ten minute” gun which would kill someone for 10 minutes and an effigy of a sales manager into which pins can be stuck suggest to me that being an in-house lawyer may not be quite the verdant green field that lawyers in private practice sometimes mistake it for.  On the other hand, why only 10 minutes?

Melanie also wrote an earlier piece on the use of social media in the workplace, which is a topic I’ve written about on this blog before. She refers to a symposium for lawyers that took a different view on social media and presented it as an opportunity and not the threat that many perceive.  Any seminar that asks whether Abraham Lincoln would have used Linked In or Tweeted must be worth going to (click here for some more on this topic) .  That choice of politician, of course, hints at the sub-text here: it was an American symposium and Melanie’s article flags up why I set up this RoundUp in the first place: social media is much more understood amongst lawyers in the US than here.  Melanie sums up her philosophy thus;

“I’m very keen for lawyers to be seen as accommodators and team players, rather than as red-tape and obstacle creators, and so in my experience social media has been a perfect tool for all of us (in-housers and private practice lawyers) to engage with colleagues and clients on that level.”

Tessa Shepperson continued the theme of the utility of social media at her Solicitors Online Blog with a three part series of articles entitled Social media: what’s the point? .  In her third article the answer can be summarised as “communication”.  For anyone not sure about the advantages that social media can bring to a business the whole series is well worth reading, especially as Tessa has proved the point with the growth of her business.

It won't help Iceland's carbon emissions

How she finds the time to actually work as well as enhance her social media profile astonishes me.  She always seems to have a new project on the go and the latest is the blog she has set up for the Independent Law Network, a forum for sole practitioners in Norfolk.  Whilst Tessa is a specialist in landlord and tenant law, other group members practice in different areas, including Sally Davenport who, back in April, wrote a useful piece on the issues facing employers and employees alike when stranded abroad by rogue clouds of volcanic ash.

Tessa also reminded me of the merits of another blog I mentioned in the first of these RoundUps: NearlyLegal, which deals with housing law.  It’s very much a case reporting service and although I have little need to be interested in that area of law myself, I did find the article “An Offer you can refuse” on Part 36 offers very interesting. A Part 36 offer is a specific type of offer used in English and welsh civil litigation which imposes costs penalties on the other party if they don’t do as well in court.   Unlike most other offers to settle, a Part 36 offer remains open for acceptance even if the offeree has already rejected it.  More madness?  Perhaps, but the purpose of Part 36 is to promote settlement.  If as the offeror your Part 36 offer is not accepted it must be withdrawn otherwise the offeree may change their mind and come back for it later on.  NearlyLegal provides good concise reporting of cases and thoroughly deserves the number of visits it receives.

A welcome should be given to Gillian Bishop of Family Law in Partnership LLP who is new(ish) to blogging and devoted her first piece to a series of tips for finding the right divorce lawyer.  Hopefully I won’t be needing to heed the helpful advice she gives when I do finally succumb to iPad fever, but it is the sort of article that demonstrates how useful the internet can be.  Finding a lawyer may be a daunting experience for anyone, especially if their life has just been turned upside down when their marriage falls apart.

Mark Smith at The Intelligent Challenge submitted his entry to BlogCarnival saying “eek, I’d never realised the UK blawg scene was so vibrant”.  It is and getting more so.  He brought to my attention his thoughts on what to do with a generous pecuniary birthday present, especially if the recipient was a law firm seeking external investment after ABSs come into force from October 2011.  This is a subject that takes up a good deal of opportunity/threat aspect of the Legal Services Act.  His piece asks what law firms would spend the money that private equity would introduce on.  I doubt that this is the right question for all but a handful of large, already systematized firms.  The more pressing question is whether private equity is actually interested in investing in law firms.  An edition of the Law Society Gazette a couple of weeks ago reported that Jon Moulton, the well known venture capitalist, was distinctly underwhelmed by the prospect of investing large sums in a law firm.  I hadn’t come across Mark’s blog before and I’m glad I’ve found it – especially his recent piece on Superhero lawyers.

The other aspect of the Tesco law debate focuses on the issue of brand entrants into the hitherto protected world of legal services and nothing has brought that debate into sharper focus than the advent of Quality Solicitors. Over at the Law Society Gazette’s Linked In discussion page a very active discussion has been taking place on the effect of Alternative Business Structures on High Street firms.  I was delighted when Rory MccGwire, the founder of Law Donut, wrote a guest post on my new blog There May be Trouble Ahead, on this very subject.  Rory’s view is that “brands WILL soon emerge in the legal services market. The interesting question is: which brands will prevail?”.  It then provoked some good responses, including from Craig Holt of QS himself.  As every blogger knows, getting comments to articles – engagement – is the Holy Grail.  Thanks Rory, I’ll be inviting you back.

Enough of the Legal Services Act for now, time for some light relief.  Brian Inkster provided that with his post on Scott Greenfield wearing the Inksters Give T-shirt, promoting Brian’s fundraiser for the Argentinian charity project that I mentioned in my last RoundUp. Inskters blog also has photos of various people and family wearing the T-shirt (I bought one but modesty prevents me from posting a photo  of my gym-honed torso on this blog).  Scott, a New York criminal defence lawyer, writes the Simple Justice blog.  Strictly speaking it is outside the remit of this RoundUp because it isn’t about the UK blogging scene, but I was struck by his piece on the recent 50th anniversary of the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, entitled “You’re not Atticus Finch (and neither am I)”. Hear, hear.

Scottish Crofts

Back across the pond Brian Inkster has also been writing regularly about crofting reform.  On his blog he gave his Views on Crofting Reform (Scotland) Bill which summarised his submissions to the Scottish parliament. The Bill seeks to address the problems of absenteeism and neglect on crofts. Brian also followed that up with an article at The Firm Online, for whom he writes frequently, on the question of Should a Crofting Mortgage Bill be introduced?  I’m going to display my ignorance by saying that I know virtually nothing about crofting and Brian’s articles have helped to correct this to some extent.   I had no idea that you could not get a mortgage on a croft, although I can see that if there were no restrictions in place, the Highlands would see an influx of holiday homes and the destruction of crofting as  a way of life.  On the other hand, again at risk of demonstrating my ignorance, is crofting a viable institution for the 21st century? I can’t think of many harder ways to earn a living and it must be very difficult to persuade younger people to remain or move into the communities.

Time to mention Law Donut.  It’s an excellent site containing a wealth of useful material on most aspects of business law. There are section son credit control and recovery, disputes, IT Law and Data Protection and Employment Law.  There’s also an excellent blog (shameless plug, but so what) covering various issues of employment law.  Well worth a read and not just because I’ve written one or two pieces.  The Law Donut is now joined by the Marketing Donut, IT Donut and Start-Up Donut.

Finally, I note Geeklawyer is back following some technical difficulties.  Back in May he blogged about The Times’ mad decision to impose a paywall on its online material. One effect of this was to force BabyBarista to jump over the “prison wall”, as Geeklawyer termed it.  The newspaper expected it to reduce its online audience by 90% but still thought it could make money.  I, for one, hope it doesn’t catch on.  Geeklawyer asks what effect it will have on writers, who may find their work not getting the circulation (and thus the recognition) that it might previously have received before the paywall went up.

Right that’s it for this edition.  I’m off to read Lord Mandelson’s memoirs which reveal, apparently, that Tony Blair thought Gordon Brown “mad, bad and dangerous beyond redemption”.  And they ran this country for 13 years.  Madness.

The Times 15th July 2010

Michael Scutt, Employment Solicitor 

Employment solicitor with Crane and Staples, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. Blogger & writer. I like cycling, cricket, football and history.