Thursday, May 31, 2007

WEEKLY REVIEW

BEST OF THE BLOGS

OldFatherTime
Walking sticks, dentures and age old advice keep BabyB on his toes while he digs himself out of another hole. BabyBarista at the Times

Too few seconds, too much carbon
f/k/a discovers the death clock and that he may only have half a billion seconds of life left. f/k/a

Google is watching ... everyone!
Lawyer-2-be comments on an article in The Times which explains just how much information Google stores about our habits, our communication, and anything else it can extract from our 'on-line activity'. Lawyer-2-be

The Perfect Day
The Psychiatrist asks us to consider our perfect day. If we don’t have a clear idea about our goals, then life can become a bit aimless. Like reading blogs all day? The Psychiatrist Blog

A herd of libel actions is fast approaching
Niri Shan and Timothy Pinto warn that despite the myths, bloggers are just as vulnerable as conventional publishers to legal action - if not more so. Times

McJobs are giving Britain a reputation as Europe's offshore banana republic
Polly Toynbee comments on why Britain is earning a reputation as a playground of global tax-dodgers and as Europe's third-world, service-sector sweat shop. Guardian


LEGAL NEWS

CocaCola employee jailed for selling new Coke recipe to Pepsi
A former employee at CocaCola was sentenced last week to eight years in prison for attempting to sell trade secrets to Pepsi for $1.5 million. CPD Webinars

ABS threat to firms provokes Bill defeat
The Legal Services Bill completed its passage through the House of Lords, but not before the opposition inflicted one final defeat on the government over concerns about the impact of alternative business structures (ABSs) on high street law firms. Law Gazette

40% rise in LLPs fuelled by risk management
The number of law firms operating as limited liability partnerships (LLPs) has jumped by 40% in the last 12 months. Law Gazette

Chicken worker's manual handling appeal rejected
A factory worker who claimed she suffered wrist injury through handling chickens on a production line has lost the appeal against the rejection of her claim for damages. Journal Online

Unions win EU equal pay battle
Unions fighting the threat of cheap labour from migrant workers from new EU member states won the latest round of a legal battle over equal pay. Times


AND FINALLY...

999 war call pest is fined
A man who called emergency services and ranted about Tony Blair, George Bush and their spending on the war has been fined. Daily Record

Bowling club claims squatters' rights
A bowling club is claiming squatters' rights on its green in an attempt to stop houses being built on the land. Telegraph

Police arrest man for drunk driving in wheelchair
A wheelchair-bound German stunned police when they pulled him over for using the road and found he was 10 times over the legal alcohol limit for drivers. As the man was technically travelling as a pedestrian, he could not be charged with a driving offence. Scotsman

Tramp wins rights to prime land
A tramp has become the legal owner of a prime piece of land on Hampstead Heath in north London which he has lived on for more than 20 years BBC

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ghost Cabinet

One dark night, some leading anti-government bloggers decided that it would be a good idea to form a crack unit to provide firm government opposition. They decided to form a Ghost Cabinet. This team is to be organised like a Cabinet. The initial appointments are all popular bloggers with a strong interest or expertise in the given policy area. Freed from usual constraints such as collective responsibility or needing to win an election or grab a headline, these ghosts eschew normal political conventions by presenting ideas that will actually improve the country.Each ghost vows to haunt the relevant government minister on a regular basis. Further, ghosts offer alternative policies in monthly "blue moon thinking" slots and may occasionally host a guest ghost. I am delighted to have been asked to be the Ghost Attorney General and will take on the name of the Ghost of the Common Law! It is being launched tomorrow at http://ghostcabinet.blogspot.com/. Please add a link to your own site if it is of interest.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Why lawyers are in danger

This article was published on The Bar Council Blog on 2 May 2007. 'Why Lawyers Should Surf' by Tim Kevan and Dr Michelle Tempest can be ordered at Amazon.

On Monday, The Times newspaper reported that lawyers are being encouraged to take 'time out' in The Priory, usually well known for their high profile clients. This raises the question as to whether lawyers are more prone to psychological problems than those in other professions. At The Psychiatrist Blog, Dr Michelle Tempest reports on a book she has written with the author of this blog called ‘Why Lawyers Should Surf’. She reports in particular that several studies have shown that lawyers suffer from an above average rate of low mood. For example, a John Hopkins University study compared the rates of depression among one hundred and four occupations and found that lawyers were nearly four times above the average rate of depression. Dr Tempest then puts forward several hypotheses for this beyond the simple fact that law is a stressful and busy job.

First, Professor Martin Seligman argues that the key thing about lawyers is that they tend to have pessimistic personality types. The glass tends to be half empty since viewing troubles as pervasive and continuing is at the very heart of being a prudent lawyer. These ‘scepticism skills’ enable the lawyer to see every conceivable hiccup or catastrophe that might occur in legal transactions. Hence, ‘pervasive pessimism’ and possibly ‘catastrophizing’ can be seen as a powerful legal tool, helping to anticipate disaster, and encouraging lawyers to think the worst before it has happened. However, the flip side of this is that if you take that same pessimistic mindset home, it may form part of the answer as to why lawyers are more likely to suffer with low moods.

Another hypothesis is that lawyers tend to express ‘high-dominance’ as a key feature of their personality; again something which aids successful legal careers. Key features of a ‘high-dominance’ personality apparently include people who: interrupt others, talk longer, take charge of conversations, decide when to change topic, state strong preferences and opinions, have an unyielding manner and tend to enjoy giving instructions and advice. ‘High dominance’ personalities also tend to believe in statements, such as, ‘winning is more important than playing the game’. This may be an integral part of being a successful lawyer who never loses a battle, however, when this is mindset extended outside the workplace it fits less well with the challenges of daily life. When things have not gone the way high dominance personalities have planned, it can be a time when they struggle to manage or cope on a psychological level.

A further hypothesis is based on the emotional detachment often seen in lawyers. It has been shown that the more your job requires you to fake emotions, the more emotionally detached you become from those around you which ultimately can lead to ‘clinical burnout’. Since lawyers keep a professional detachment from their cases and avoid getting too emotionally involved, this could potentially lead to the burnout state of mind and symptoms of emotional exhaustion, fatigue, detached attitude towards others, low sense of effectiveness, helplessness and also low mood.

So, Dr Tempest provides a clear warning not to take the attributes which make you a great lawyer into other aspects of your life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Hitchin County Court

Contrary to popular belief, it turns out that it is possible to walk from the train station to Hitchin County Court. Clutching a hand drawn map sketched by a more senior member of chambers, I made the journey in less than 15 minutes. Unlike the taxi ride, the walk takes in Hitchin town centre (partly pedestrianised with a pleasant church). There's a cunning shortcut through an archway before the market square, which leads to the best sandwich shops in town as an added bonus.

Blogs as Free Speech

This article by Tim Kevan and Aidan Ellis appeared on the Bar Council Blog dated 24/4/07
In many ways blogs are the ultimate expression of free speech. They do not have to pass through the sanitising mind of an editor. Instead they are published directly onto the internet, directly to the reader. The best political blogs combine personal insights with cutting political comment, some of which might be too forthright for the mainstream press.

In this context it is interesting to note that some bloggers are now proposing codes of conduct for blogging itself. They tend to espouse common sense. Bloggers are advised, for example, not to respond to offensive comments and not to say anything about someone that they would not be prepared to say in person. Of course, like the pirate code, these are guidelines rather than binding rules.

However, the bigger question arises as to whether we should be limiting something as important as free speech any further than is already done by the law of the land. It is already illegal, for example, to incite racial hatred, to defame a reputation and sometimes to breach a person’s privacy. Such laws have very often been brought about after years of debate and refined further through the mechanism of the common law. On the other hand, blogging codes of conduct are nothing of the sort. They exist to limit free speech far more than the checks imposed by law and for that reason we should beware.

Ultimately free speech is one of the most important rights that we have. It is fundamental to a functioning democracy. Allowing different views to be expressed helps us to arrive at our own opinion. That is why, subject to the law of the land, free speech should be protected, even in the blogosphere.