Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Recommendation: The Colour of Law by Mark Giminez

A. Scott Fenney is a hotshot corporate lawyer at a big Dallas firm. At 33, in the prime of his life, he rakes in $750,000 a year, drives a Ferrari and comes home every night to a mansion in Dallas's most exclusive neighbourhood. He also comes home to one of Dallas's most beautiful women, with whom he has a much-loved daughter, Boo. For Fenney, life could not be better.
But when a senator's son is killed in a hit-and-run, Fenney is asked by the state judge to put his air-conditioned lifestyle on hold to defend the accused: a black, heroin-addicted prostitute - a very different client to the people Fenney usually represents. And, more importantly, she is not going be paying Ford Stevens $350 an hour for the privilege of his services.
Under fire from all sides, Fenney drafts in a public defender to take the case on. Yet as Scott prepares to hand over to Bobby, he feels increasingly guilty about the path he is taking, because Scott still believes in the principle of justice.
The question is: does he believe in it strongly enough to jeopardise everything in his life he holds dear? And to what lengths is the dead man's power-hungry father prepared to go to test Fenney's resolve?

Available from Amazon

Monday, December 23, 2013

Book Recommendation: A Voyage Round My Father by John Mortimer

John Mortimer's autobiographical play is the affectionate portrait of a son's relationship with his father. Growing up in the shadow of the brilliant barrister, who adored his garden and hated visitors, and whose blindness was never mentioned, the son continually yearns for his father's love and respect.
A Voyage Round My Father opened in June 2006 at the Donmar Theatre, London starring Derek Jacobi.

Available from Amazon

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Recommendation: An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

They lied to protect their country. He told the truth to save it. A gripping historical thriller from the bestselling author of FATHERLAND.
January 1895. On a freezing morning in the heart of Paris, an army officer, Georges Picquart, witnesses a convicted spy, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, being publicly humiliated in front of twenty thousand spectators baying 'Death to the Jew!'
The officer is rewarded with promotion: Picquart is made the French army's youngest colonel and put in command of 'the Statistical Section' - the shadowy intelligence unit that tracked down Dreyfus.
The spy, meanwhile, is given a punishment of medieval cruelty: Dreyfus is shipped off to a lifetime of solitary confinement on Devil's Island - unable to speak to anyone, not even his guards, his case seems closed forever.
But gradually Picquart comes to believe there is something rotten at the heart of the Statistical Section. When he discovers another German spy operating on French soil, his superiors are oddly reluctant to pursue it. Despite official warnings, Picquart persists, and soon the officer and the spy are in the same predicament.
Narrated by Picquart, An Officer and a Spy is a compelling recreation of a scandal that became the most famous miscarriage of justice in history. Compelling, too, are the echoes for our modern world: an intelligence agency gone rogue, justice corrupted in the name of national security, a newspaper witch-hunt of a persecuted minority, and the age-old instinct of those in power to cover-up their crimes.

Available from Amazon

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Recommendation: The Queen's Counsel Lawyer's Omnibus: 20 Years of Cartoons from the Times 1993-2013 by Alex Steuart Williams

In 1993 the Queen's Counsel cartoon strip first appeared in the law pages of The Times. The authors were Alex Williams and Graham Defries, two young lawyers determined to make fun of the legal profession even as they attempted to climb its greasy pole. The strip soon settled on a handful of key characters: Sir Geoffrey Bentwood QC, Head of Chambers at 4 Lawn Buildings, a study in pomposity and all-round Master of the Legal Universe; Richard Loophole, ambulance chaser and senior partner at Filibuster and Loophole; and Rachel Underwood, oppressed associate who never quite makes partner no matter how good her work is. The strip has been published continuously in The Times ever since. Collected here for the first time is the author's personal selection of the very best cartoons over the past 20 years, showing that, despite all the changes in the legal profession in over two decades - nothing much has really changed. These cartoons show Britain's best-loved legal cartoon satire maturing into ripe middle-age; good-natured, funny, and a bit flabby around the middle.
Available from Amazon

Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Recommendation: Sycamore Row by John Grisham

For almost a quarter of a century, John Grisham's A Time to Kill has captivated readers with its raw exploration of race, retribution, and justice. Now, its hero, Jake Brigance, returns to the courtroom in a dramatic showdown as Ford County again confronts its tortured history. Filled with the intrigue, suspense and plot twists that are the hallmarks of the world's favourite storyteller, SYCAMORE ROW is the thrilling story of the elusive search for justice in a small American town.

Available from Amazon

Friday, November 29, 2013

Drink Driving Rates At Their Lowest: But Could Law Do More?

Brought to you by our friends at McMillans Solicitors

As winter approaches, police forces tend to see a gradual increasing trend of drink driving rates compared with other times of the year – whether it’s Christmas parties or people tempted to drive home rather than walking in an attempt to avoid the bitterly cold weather, the statistics make us all hugely aware of this problem.

Earlier this year, the Department for Transport released its revised drink driving accident figures for 2012, and in November the Emergency Medicine Journal showed that annual car deaths are at their lowest in 50 years. This guest post, provided by McMillans Solicitors, looks at the wider statistics to ask whether changes in law are necessary.

Will The Rates Begin To Rise As Law Remains Unchanged?

Looking at the figures over the last three years as a whole, drink driving accident rates in the UK are at the lowest they’ve ever been since records began, and the overall number of car deaths in England and Wales are down 40% in 50 years – so current laws are working, right?

Well, not necessarily – isolated figures just for 2012 show a 26% rise in drink driving deaths, and research released this month from the Emergency Medicine Journal suggests that road accidents are expected to become the fifth leading cause of death by the year 2030.

There have been a wide range of suggested changes to laws ranging from calls for a reduction in blood-alcohol limits to immediate driving bans for anyone awaiting trial for a drink driving offence. The latter comes from the family of a teenage student killed by a (now convicted) drink driver, stemming from their understandable frustration at the accused being able to continue driving before standing trial.

Would such a drastic change be actually helpful, or is it merely a grief-fuelled reaction? The effect on potentially innocent or those whose cases would fall within special reasons may be negatively affected – facing job losses or ‘exceptional hardship’ before they’re able to show they shouldn’t be banned.

Are Changes Necessary Or Would They Be Reactionary?

As it stands, the UK’s laws on drink driving are considered by some to be far too liberal when compared with other EU countries; the maximum legal limit is currently 80mg per 100ml of blood, which is higher than any other European country (except for Malta, whose limit is also 80mg).  

The UK’s Institute for Alcohol Studies has conducted research that suggests drivers with 50-80mg of alcohol per 100ml are at six times greater a risk of dying in an accident when compared with drivers who haven’t drunk anything – yet they would still be legally fine to drive. So it would seem that, for some changes, evidence exists for changes in the law, and many organisations have called for this shift in legal limits.

As well as the IAS, who carried out this research, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) have also called for stricter limits on alcohol levels for drink-related motoring offences, hoping to bring the UK (at the very least) in line with a vast majority of other EU countries at 0.05%.

In all likelihood, major shifts in in-depth drink driving law are unlikely – anything significant will likely come from case law. However, based on IAS research, the introduction of a lower legal limit (ie. 50mg per 100ml) could have massively beneficial knock-on effects.

This guest post was written by Tom McShane – blogger, driver and writer for McMillans Solicitors, who are a UK-based drink driving solicitors firm.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Book Recommendation: The New Penguin Guide to the Law by John Pritchard

  This book is established as the best home reference guide to the law. It covers all aspects of the subject in an easy, accessible style which cuts through the legalease of the normal law guides. New topics covered in the fifth edition include pensions, child support changes, tax credits, squatters, unmarried fathers and parental responsibility, pre-nuptial contracts, the Adoption and Children Act 2002, commonhold, leasehold enfranchisement, limited liability partnerships and the Enterprise Act. In particular, there have been extensive updates to the employment section of the book, covering new disciplinary and grievance procedures introduced by the Employment Act 2002, new rights for fixed term and part time workers, adoption leave, paternity leave and maternity leave rights and a new right to request flexible working and changes to discrimination law. Available from Amazon

Monday, November 18, 2013

Book Recommendation: Sycamore Row by John Grisham

For almost a quarter of a century, John Grisham's A Time to Kill has captivated readers with its raw exploration of race, retribution, and justice. Now, its hero, Jake Brigance, returns to the courtroom in a dramatic showdown as Ford County again confronts its tortured history. Filled with the intrigue, suspense and plot twists that are the hallmarks of the world's favourite storyteller, SYCAMORE ROW is the thrilling story of the elusive search for justice in a small American town.

Available from Amazon

Thursday, November 14, 2013

3 Reasons to be worried about Independent Medical Panels

Brought to you by our friends at Spencers Solicitors

The proposal to introduce independent medical panels to examine people suffering from whiplash may sound like a good idea.  But there are reasons for concern about the wider impact of the government’s plan.

In fact I think there are three reasons.

     1. Another excuse for insurers to under settle legitimate injury claims
When someone is injured in a road traffic accident, it is common for the insurer of the driver at fault to contact the injured person and offer them an early settlement.  Over the phone this is ‘sold’ as a more convenient solution than having to push their compensation claim through the court system.

The conversation usually takes place before the injured person has had a chance to see a lawyer or medical professional.

The insurer’s agenda here is clear; by convincing an injured person to accept their pre-medical offer, they avoid a legal battle and paying what would likely be a much more significant compensation amount.

Now while the government intends to wipe out fraudulent whiplash claims by making independent medical examinations compulsory - the proposal’s implementation would create another opportunity for insurance companies to leverage more early settlements and dodge their obligation to compensate innocent drivers for their injuries.

Just as the insurer currently pitches an early settlement as an ‘easier option than going through courts’, they will also be able to pitch it as an ‘easier option than going through a compulsory medical examination’.

John Spencer’s recent blog refers to the same and offers alternative suggestions to make it better rather than just pick holes as a lot of reports are currently doing. 

So only when the practice of contacting accident victims prior to legal advice or medical consultation is stopped, will I consider the government’s proposal as holistically positive.
Until then I’m seeing it as a double-edged sword.

      2. Who watches the watchmen?
The proposed medical panels will be ‘independent’ and necessarily so.
But who will manage the panels? Who will fund them? And who will appoint the professionals to be on them?

The points were raised by John Spencer here. Not only do his questions need clarification but they also need the right answers.

If there is any indication of a body like the Association of British Insurers being involved in the selection process, then there is a danger that the panels will be pulled away from any true ‘independence’.

     3.     Injured party’s freedom of choice is removed
The proposal may carry with them a host of benefits to the justice system; however innocent claimants ought to have a right to choose their appropriate medical expert (and the opposing side the right to object).

Simply being assigned to a panel where you would have no say in who you are being examined by is an almost dictatorial way of doing things.

As an alternative, I side with the idea of introducing a pool of accredited medical experts, from which each claimant can choose to be examined by. The principle behind the proposal would remain the same and the accident victim would retain their freedom of choice.

What do you think?
Are there any other solutions, or are whiplash panels the way to go?  Put your thoughts down in the comments below and have your say.

About the Author
Susan Randall is a Chartered Legal Executive and motor accident litigator at Spencers Solicitors.  Susan handles a variety of medium to high value claimant personal injury cases arising from road traffic accidents, including those involving pedestrians, motorcycles and low velocity impact.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Recommendation: Last Friends by Jane Gardam

Old Filth and The Man in the Wooden Hat told with bristling tenderness and black humour the stories of that Titan of the Hong Kong law courts, Old Filth QC, and his clever, misunderstood wife Betty. Last Friends, the final volume of this trilogy, picks up with Terence Veneering, Filth's great rival in work and - though it was never spoken of - in love.
Veneering's were not the usual beginnings of an establishment silk: the son of a Russian acrobat marooned in northeast England and a devoted local girl, he escapes the war to emerge in the Far East as a man of panache, success and fame. But, always, at the stuffy English Bar he is treated with suspicion: where did this blond, louche, brilliant Slav come from?
Veneering, Filth and their friends tell a tale of love, friendship, grace, the bittersweet experiences of a now-forgotten Empire and the disappointments and consolations of age.

Available from Amazon

Health and safety doesn't stop the fireworks this year in Ilfracombe!

Delighted to read in the North Devon Journal that health and safety didn't stop the fireworks this year in Ilfracombe. This is in contrast to this story from the Daily Mail back in 2009 in which it was reported that a bonfire had to appear on a big screen! You can read more about Ilfracombe on our new website

Braunton's Andrew Cotton hits the big time!

Really great to see that Andrew Cotton has hit the big time with an incredible wave out in Portugal. You can see the wave as well as a link to his interview on Newsnight at About Braunton.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Recommendation: The English Legal System: 2013-2014 by Gary Slapper and David Kelly

Slapper and Kelly’s The English Legal System explains and critically assesses how our law is made and applied. Annually updated, this authoritative textbook clearly describes the legal rules of England and Wales and their collective influence as a sociocultural institution.
This latest edition of The English Legal System presents and analyses changes made to the legal system and digests recent legislation and case law. The Protection of Freedom Act 2012, the Defamation Bill, the Justice and Security Bill 2012, the Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill 2012, and the July 2012 vote on Parliamentary reform are all incorporated into the text, and this edition also considers changes to the Crown Prosecution Service, Mediation and Judicial Diversity. The cases Alvi v Secretary of State for the Home Department (judicial review), AXA General Insurance Limited v The Lord Advocate (Scotland) (devolution), R v J, S, M and R v KS (jury tampering), and Rolf v De Guerin (mediation) are all digested in the text.
The text also includes the latest government papers on antisocial behaviour, and criminal justice reform, the Practice Direction on citing authorities in court, and the Leveson Inquiry.
Key learning features include:
    • a clear and logical structure with short, manageable, well-structured individual chapters;
    • useful chapter summaries which act as a good check point for students;
    • ‘food for thought’ sections help to deepen understanding of key issues in each chapter;
    • sources for further reading and suggested websites at the end of each chapter to point students towards further learning pathways;
    • an online skills network including how-to-do practical examples, tips, advice and interactive examples of English law in action.
Relied upon by generations of students, Slapper and Kelly’s The English Legal System is a permanent fixture in this ever evolving subject.

Available from Amazon

Monday, October 28, 2013

Book Recommendation: The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly

Mickey Haller gets the text, 'Call me ASAP - 187', and the California penal code for murder immediately gets his attention. Murder cases have the highest stakes and the biggest paydays, and they always mean Haller has to be at the top of his game.
When Mickey learns that the victim was his own former client, a prostitute he thought he had rescued and put on the straight and narrow path, he knows he is on the hook for this one. He soon finds out that she was back in LA and back in the life. Far from saving her, Mickey may have been the one who put her in danger.
Haunted by the ghosts of his past, Mickey must work tirelessly and bring all his skill to bear on a case that could mean his ultimate redemption or proof of his ultimate guilt.

Available from Amazon

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Book Recommendation: Pupillage Inside Out: How to Succeed as a Pupil Barrister by Daniel K Sokol and Isobel McArdle

The ultimate guide to pupillage, providing practical advice to all aspiring barristers for navigating this crucial stage in the path to practice, well-founded on the authors' own recent experience and the wisdom of their peers, clerks, and supervisors.

Available from Amazon

Monday, October 7, 2013

Book Recommendation: Old Filth by Jane Gardam

FILTH, in his heyday, was an international lawyer with a practice in the Far East. Now, only the oldest QCs and Silks can remember that his nickname stood for Failed In London Try Hong Kong.
Long ago, Old Filth was a Raj orphan - one of the many young children sent 'Home' from the East to be fostered and educated in England. Jane Gardam's new novel tells his story, from his birth in what was then Malaya to the extremities of his old age.
Brilliantly constructed - going backwards and forwards in time, yet constantly working towards the secret at its core - OLD FILTH is funny and heart-breaking, witty and peopled with characters who astonish, dismay and delight the reader. Jane Gardam is as sensitive to the 'jungle' within children as she is to the eccentricities of the old.
A touch of magic combines with compassion, humour and delicacy to make OLD FILTH a genuine masterpiece.

Available from Amazon

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Introducing 'The Queen's Counsel Lawyer's Omnibus' - the most entertaining legal book of the year!


 This Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of the first 'Queen's Counsel' cartoon in The Times and to celebrate that fact, its cartoonist Alex Williams has put together a bumper edition Queen's Counsel Lawyer's Omnibus. This really is the all-singing all-dancing humongous collection of the very best of Queen's Counsel. It's published by my company Law Brief Publishing Ltd and we really do think that it's the most entertaining legal book of the year. You can buy it for £9.99 from

Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Recommendation: Lives of the Law: Selected Essays and Speeches: 2000-2010 by Lord Bingham

Tom Bingham (1933-2010) was the 'greatest judge of our time' (The Guardian), a towering figure in modern British public life who championed the rule of law and human rights inside and outside the courtroom. Lives of the Law collects Bingham's most important later writings, in which he brings his distinctive, engaging style to tell the story of the diverse lives of the law: its life in government, in business, and in human wrongdoing.
Following on from The Business of Judging (2000), the papers collected here tackle some of the major debates in British public life over the last decade, from reforming the constitution to the growth of human rights law. They offer Bingham's distinctive insight on issues such as the role of the judiciary in a democracy, the implementation of the Human Rights Act, and the development of the rule of law, in the UK and internationally.
Written in the accessible style that made The Rule of Law (2010) a popular success, the book will be essential reading for all those working in law, and an engaging inroad to understanding modern constitutional and legal debates for the general reader.
Available from Amazon

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

How to Prepare a Budget For a Court Case

Brought to you by our friends at Vannin Capital

The process of preparing a budget for a court case has changed in recent months due to the new rules governing civil cases recommended by Lord Justice Jackson, which became law on the 1st of April, 2013.

Changes to the way cases are budgeted for, and the professional obligation that solicitors face to prepare an accurate budget prior to the case, make the process more transparent than ever before and closer to the heart of litigation.

High Court judge Master McCloud delivered the following statement on the 1st of August, driving home the importance of budgeting and how it relates to solicitors dealing with civil cases:

“Budgeting is something which all solicitors by now ought to know is intended to be integral to the process from the start, and it ought not to be especially onerous to prepare a final budget for a CMC (Case Management Conference) even at relatively short notice if proper planning has been done.”

“The Court must now, as part of dealing with cases justly, ensure that cases are dealt with at proportionate cost and so as to ensure compliance with rules, orders, and practice direction.”

The new rules for civil procedures focus primarily on cost budgets and managing the cost of a court case. Some of the most important aspects of the rules include:

1.      Each party is required to prepare a full costs budget in a standard form, with details of the costs that the party has incurred prior to the preparation of the budget and the estimated costs of the ongoing litigation.

2.      The court will review and approve the budget for each party relatively early in the proceedings. This typically takes place at the first case management conference.

3.      In order to ensure that the case complies with the agreed costs budget, the court will oversee the case.

Given that most lawyers have known about the new rules since 2010, it’s far from surprising that Master McCloud has adopted such a focused attitude to endorsing them.

When the rules haven’t been obeyed, as was the case in the recent dispute between former chief whip Andrew Mitchell M.P. and News Group Newspapers – publishers of The Sun – the results can be disastrous.

The failure of Mitchell’s legal team to comply with orders to file their costs budget before the case hearing left them with a very limited claim. In fact, his claims were limited to the applicable court fees – a remarkably pear-shaped outcome.

While leave was granted in this case and the test case isn’t yet finished, the failure of Mitchell’s lawyers to comply with the requirements and the obvious disadvantage it left him with makes it clear how important strict budgeting is for success.

The new requirements have also been used in defamation cases, as well as several cases in the Technology and Construction Court and Mercantile Courts. Several of these cases have reached the Court of Appeal.

Although the rules apply to almost all civil cases, there are some exemptions. High-value commercial cases are currently exempt from the budgeting requirements, but the stringent cost management rules are expected to soon extend there.

One of the purported objectives of the Jackson reforms was to reduce the growing costs of litigation, as well as the uncertainty of the total cost of a case. A major part of the new rules emphasises that costs need to be proportionate to claims.

This gives a greater amount of certainty regarding costs to would-be litigants. The previous rules made it difficult for would-be litigants to accurately estimate what their costs might be, particularly if losing a case would lead to them paying for the winning side’s legal costs.

Under the reforms, these difficulties have been improved, as the costs that winning parties can recover are specified in the court-approved case budget. Since the case budget must be submitted relatively early in the proceedings – the first budget is submitted six weeks prior to the first case management conference – both sides enjoy a greater degree of certainty regarding cost awards at the end of the case.

A recent ruling of the Court of Appeal helps to explain the new rules:

“The management of costs is the responsibility of all parties to the litigation, and ultimately, of the court as well. The court has a responsibility to manage the proceedings, so it also has a responsibility for managing the costs of those proceedings.

The starting point must be that an approved costs budget is intended to provide ‘the financial limits within which the proceedings are to be conducted’. They are intended to provide some constraint.”

Despite the obvious uncertainties of dealing with a new system, the new rules are clear in their requirements and ethos. Effective costs budgeting and management will now become a major force in civil litigation.

With the rules clear, simple and available for all lawyers to understand and follow, and Master McCloud’s rigid interpretation an obvious statement that they will be enforced strongly, lawyers that fail to follow the rules or advise their clients can expect little in the way of understanding or leniency.

The rules, however, make it easier than ever for lawyers to accurately budget and prepare for a case. With straightforward, accurate rules and an enforced system, it’s now clearer than ever before what lawyers need to do in order to prepare a budget for a court case.  

This article was written by Vannin Capital. Learn more about budgeting for a court case on their website. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Book Recommendation: Jez Butterworth Plays: One (Mojo, Parlour Song, The Night Heron, The Winterling) [Paperback]

Jez Butterworth burst onto the theatre scene aged 25 with Mojo, "one of the most dazzling Royal Court main stage debuts in years" Time Out. This first volume of his collected work contains that play plus the three that followed, as well as two short one-person plays, Leavings and The Naked Eye, providing a complete record of his work up to to the multi-award winning international smash-hit sensation Jerusalem.
The four early plays published here for the first time in one volume are: the Olivier Award-winning Mojo, a sly and vicious black comedy set in 1950s Soho clubland; The Night Heron, a funny, sad, haunting, and strangely beautiful play about a group of outcasts gathered in the Cambridgeshire fens; The Winterling, a menacing comedy thriller about a group of misfits waiting out the winter on a moor in Southern England; and Parlour Song, a hilarious investigation of cunning, paranoia, and treacherous desire.
This volume also includes an interview with the playwright about his work.
Available from Amazon

Monday, September 16, 2013

Book Recommendation: Brothers-in-Law by Henry Cecil

Roger Thursby, aged twenty-four, is called to the bar. He is young, inexperienced and his love life is complicated. He blunders his way through a succession of comic adventures including his calamitous debut at the bar. His career takes an upward turn when he is chosen to defend the caddish Alfred Greenat at the Old Bailey. In this first Roger Thursby novel Henry Cecil satires the legal profession with his usual wit and insight.

Available from Amazon

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Leo Houlding: From Amazon to Antarctica Lecture Tour 2013

A big heads-up for top UK climber and adventurer Leo Houlding's 2013 Lecture Tour which has the title Amazon to Antarctica. From the very depths of the Venezuelan Amazon to a mile-high cliff in Antarctica this promises to be as breath-taking as ever. You can read more about Leo and the Tour at his website. See below for a video clip on his incredible ascent of El Capitan.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Recommendation: Rose Heilbron: The Story of England's First Woman Queen's Counsel and Judge

Rose Heilbron QC (later Dame Rose Heilbron), was an English barrister, who became a world famous icon of the 1950s and 1960s. She was one of the two first women King's Counsel (later Queen's Counsel) in 1949 and the first woman Judge in England in 1956 when she became Recorder of Burnley. This biography, written by her daughter Hilary, also a barrister and Queen's Counsel, charts her rise to prominence and success against the odds, excelling as an advocate and lawyer and later as only the second female High Court Judge in a career spanning nearly 50 years. She broke down many barriers with a string of firsts in the legal profession. She became a pioneer for women at the English Bar and for women generally, championing many women's causes in an era when it was not fashionable to do so. The biography highlights her role as an inspiring and successful defence advocate in many famous and fascinating cases as well as in cases of great legal importance. These include the Cameo murder case in 1950; the trial of Devlin and Burns for capital murder; the representation of the striking Liverpool Dockers in a case of national importance; the defence of the notorious London gangster, Jack Spot; and the representation, in an early anti-discrmination case, of the world renowned cricketer, Learie Constantine. Also chronicled are her years as a High Court Judge and the wide range of other legal and non-legal activities she undertook as a result of her fame including her appointment by the governmnet in 1975 to chair an Advisory Committee on Rape. With the added insights and recollections of her daughter it portrays a multi-dimensional picture of the young and beautiful Rose Heilbron - barrister, judge, working wife and mother - who not only managed to combine these public and private roles in an era when to do so was extremely rare, but who did so with the combination of warmth, flair and determination which was to make her an internationally acclaimed role model for women. Many people over the years have wanted to write about her: this is the first authorised biography.

Available from Amazon

Friday, September 6, 2013

Charitable grants vs. contracts

Brought to you by our friends at Baker Tilly

Although the accounting arrangements for private businesses can be complicated, the finances of a charity or charitable organisation can be even more complex. Whilst charities, businesses and individuals can enter contracts, charities can also receive financial grants which serve to help them achieve their objectives.

Although the contracts which charities choose to enter may also serve to assist them in achieving their aims, there are clear distinctions between contracts and grants and they must be treated differently. As grants are governed by trust law and contracts by contract law, there are different rules which relate to each type of arrangement as well as differing accounting measures and tax implications.
If a charity enters into a contract they may be agreeing to supply goods or perform services in return for payment. If a grant is given, however, this is a voluntary payment and the charity is not obliged to provide goods or services in return but the grant must be used for its intended purpose.

Many grants given to charities are known as simple grants which often require no more than a report on how the money was spent or the impact it had. A performance related grant is somewhat more complex and allows the donor to have more control over how the grant is spent. The complexities of such a grant mean that it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between a grant and contractual arrangement.

The importance of distinguishing between grants and contracts, however, becomes apparent when we look at the different accounting practices for each. If a grant is received and its intended purpose is to advance the work of the charity, it is recognised in the Statement of Financial Activities. If the grant criteria has yet to be fulfilled and there is uncertainty as to whether they can be, the grant should be carried forward as a liability until it’s certain that the relevant conditions can be met.

Conversely, income which comes from a contractual agreement must be accounted for under the requirements of the Charities Statement of Recommended Practice as well as SSAP 4 and FRS 5. Until the performance of the contract has taken place, the transaction is treated as a payment in advance, providing the payment has been made. Once the transaction is completed the income is recognised in the Statement of Financial Activities.

Although contractual income received by a charity can be subject to certain tax exemptions, charities remain liable to pay tax in some instances. As grants are considered to be a donation they are not regarded as income and are not, therefore, taxable.   These tax implications can affect the way in which a charity operates, particularly as income which exceeds the VAT threshold means the charity must also register for VAT.

Although distinguishing between grants and contracts is essential to ensure accurate charity accounting, it is a difficult and complex area. It is generally recommended that charities, however big or small, access independent advice to ensure they meet the relevant criteria and adhere to the relevant guidelines. In addition to helping charities meet their legislative obligations, specialist charity accountants and advisors can help ensure that charities and charitable organisations are operating as cost effectively as possible whilst minimising risk and maximising their funds.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Claiming compensation without accident book evidence

Brought to you by our friends at Direct 2 Solicitors Ltd

By Ian Morris, Direct 2 Solicitors Ltd

One of the most important factors in making a successful personal injury claim is to ensure the details of the incident have been properly recorded. And depending where it happened, this would usually include an entry in an accident book.

An entry will note the type of accident, a slip or trip, for example, and also the injuries sustained, such as a broken bone. It may also confirm that an ambulance has been called or that first aid had been administered.

When combined with medical evidence and witness information, the accident book can be the final piece of the jigsaw that forces a 3rd party to admit liability, or for an employer to admit negligence.

But what if there is no accident book entry?

Can you still make a claim for personal injury compensation if the details of your accident have NOT been recorded within an accident book?  Thankfully, there is no law that states that you cannot make a claim in such circumstances, but for obvious reasons it does become much more difficult to pursue a claim if this is the case.

Without such evidence, the prospects of succeeding with the claim are reduced.  So the first obstacle you face is finding a solicitor willing to run your claim on a No Win No Fee basis. The lack of an accident book entry gives the 3rd party some room for manoeuvre should they wish to deny liability. They could say you were not injured, or even deny any knowledge of the incident, and the onus would then be on you to prove that what you have said is true.

Of course, if the injuries sustained were so serious that the injured party was incapacitated and whisked away from the scene by paramedics, there is a chance that an accident book entry has not been made, especially in a shop. In this case, ambulance records would prove that you were injured in a certain location and therefore this could not be denied. In such cases, you would still have a reasonable prospect of pursuing a claim for compensation.

If details of your incident were not recorded in an accident book, and you still wish to claim, there are things you can do to help prove your case:

       Write to the relevant 3rd party (eg shop or employer) describing your injuries, how they were caused and explaining your accident. Request that they make a record of it within their accident book. Send the letter by recorded delivery and retain a copy for yourself (along with proof of postage). This could become a useful document when it comes to pursuing your claim.
       Contact the 3rd party where you sustained your injuries. Ask if anyone has made a report. Ask if there is any available CCTV footage of the accident and if so, request that it is retained.
       Seek independent witnesses that can support your version of events. The witnesses must be independent as they could be cross-questioned should the claim reach court.  If you can provide details of witnesses and these witnesses can corroborate your version of events, your prospects of successfully claiming personal injury compensation will greatly increase.

       Make sure that you inform your GP, A&E doctors or physiotherapist as to the cause of your injuries. If they have recorded your injuries as being caused at a certain place and in a certain way, again, this helps you with your proving liability against a 3rd party.

Article on suing a restaurant for food poisoning

I've written an article for Bartletts Solicitors on suing a restaurant for food poisoing. You can read the article here

Article on hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)

I've written an article for Bartletts Solicitors on hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS). You can read the article here.

Article on claiming compensation for food poisoning

I've written an article for Bartletts Solicitors on claiming compensation for food poisoning. You can read the article here.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

Book Recommendation: Tomorrow's Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future

Tomorrow's Lawyers predicts fundamental and irreversible changes in the world of law. For Richard Susskind, best-selling author of The End of Lawyers?, the future of legal service will be neither Grisham nor Rumpole. Instead, it will be a world of virtual courts, Internet-based global legal businesses, online document production, commoditized service, legal process outsourcing, and web-based simulated practice. Legal markets will be liberalized, with new jobs for lawyers and new employers too. This book is a definitive guide to this future - for young and aspiring lawyers, and for all who want to modernize our legal and justice systems. It introduces the new legal landscape and offers practical guidance for those who intend to build careers and businesses in law. Tomorrow's Lawyers is divided into three parts. The first is an updated restatement of Richard Susskind's views on the future of legal services, as laid out in his previous bestselling works, The Future of Law, Transforming the Law, and The End of Lawyers?. He identifies the key drivers of change, such as the economic downturn, and considers how these will impact on the legal marketplace. In the second part, Susskind sketches out the new legal landscape as he predicts it, including the changing role of law firms, and in-house lawyers, and the coming of virtual hearings and online dispute resolution. The third part focuses on the prospects for aspiring lawyers, predicting what new jobs and new employers there will be, and equipping prospective lawyers with penetrating questions to put to their current and future employers. This is the essential introduction to the future of law for those who want to succeed in the rapidly changing legal landscape.

Available from Amazon

Friday, August 23, 2013

North Devon Conservative candidate Peter Heaton-Jones takes up the fight against the Atlantic Array!

So pleased to see that North Devon Conservative candidate Peter Heaton-Jones has taken up the fight against the Atlantic Array. You can read the full story in the North Devon Journal. Don't forget to register your view on the Atlantic Array. See AboutBraunton for more details.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Can We Do More to Help Asbestos Sufferers in this Country?

Brought to you by our friends at Spencers Solicitors

The Mesothelioma Bill is now under consideration from the House of Commons and, once officially passed, will allow asbestos sufferers to claim for compensation - even if the body responsible for exposing the individual to the cancerous microfibers cannot be traced.

It’s a positive move but, for me, the minutia of the Bill has triggered a series of concerns - which echo those highlighted by Labour’s Lord McKenzie:
  1. The compensation level for those claiming against untraceable bodies is insufficient
  2. Not every type of asbestos-related disease is covered by the Bill
  3. The Bill only applies to those diagnosed after July 2012
The first point refers to the 70% cap on compensation detailed within the Bill - for sufferers who have no means of claiming against an actual organisation responsible for their disease (usually because the organisation has dissolved).

On what grounds should one person living with exactly the same disease deserve less compensation than another (up to a third less)?

The Bill exclusively applies to those suffering from diffuse mesothelioma and any ‘long-tail’ diseases are not covered.

Again, why the inconsistency?

The final point makes the least sense to me. There is a ‘cut-off’ date which excludes thousands of genuine sufferers who need (and deserve) the compensation, just as much as somebody receiving an unfortunate diagnosis say, tomorrow.

I welcome any shift towards more accessible justice but if the Bill is truly to be hailed as a ‘major step forward’, it ought to completely rectify the injustice of neglected asbestos victims in this country.

Many share this view, as The Justice for Asbestos Campaign calls for members of the public to sign the petition urging for the bill to be amended.

A Lesson from Down Under
Just over a month ago, a statement from the government’s Committee on Carcinogenicity suggested that children are more susceptible to developing mesothelioma than adults. This gives us cause to zoom further into the picture and focus on the ongoing issue of asbestos in British schools.

We know that 75% of British schools still contain cancerous asbestos fibres, yet the government has no widespread removal plan in place - instead, the policy is to ‘manage’ asbestos materials.

Contrastingly, Australia’s government passed an Asbestos Safety and Eradication Bill in June. An agency has been formed and is now tasked with investigating asbestos in schools. Following its thorough investigation, the agency will be responsible for orchestrating a nationwide eradication process.

This focus on reducing exposure to asbestos ought to be praised. Meanwhile, the UK could be accused on paying far too much attention to what is seemingly an inadequate Mesothelioma Bill.

My view is that we need to at least iron out the three flaws in the Bill discussed earlier and work on a long-term prevention scheme (like Australia) in the meantime.

What do you think? Outline your thoughts in the comments and let’s generate some further online insight for this topic.

Also, please share this post to help raise awareness and we might just influence the government to take inspiration from Down Under.

About the author
Emma Melia is a Solicitor and lead litigator within Spencers Solicitors catastrophic injury team.  Emma has over 16 years extensive experience with major injury cases achieving a number of settlements in excess of 2 million pounds involving traumatic brain and spinal injuries.

Book Recommendation: The Shawshank Redemption

A Stephen King novel telling of unfair imprisonment and escape.

Available from Amazon

Friday, August 16, 2013

John Hagan of DPP Law: Law Society’s Fight Against Insurers Warrants Industry-Wide Backing

Brought to you by our friends at DPP Law

The following is an article by John Hagan of DPP Law. Note that the opinions in this blog represent those of the author and do not represent those of either Tim Kevan or of any other writers on this blog

Following a car accident, the insurer of the guilty party often calls the victim directly and offers them an early settlement. The Law Society has revealed that, on average, anybody who refuses this ‘deal’ goes on to secure two-to-three times the offered amount in compensation.
As a collective, I feel it is imperative for the legal sector to support the Law Society in raising awareness of this issue and help to educate the British public on the risks of early settlements.

The Law Society’s campaign, Don’t Get Mugged, takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to highlighting the agenda behind insurers contacting injured people soon after their accident. The agenda is clear – to save time and money (mainly the latter).

An early settlement is pitched to an accident victim as a convenient alternative to fighting for compensation through the recommended legal channels.

The reality is that those who accept such an offer will be accepting a dramatic under-settlement. The agreed amount is unlikely to justify the extent of their injuries and could even leave them struggling to afford long-term care.

Without an experienced accident claims solicitor at hand to judge the figure as sufficient enough for the individual and their new set of circumstances, the ball is truly in the insurer’s court.

Therefore, I feel the Law Society’s light-hearted campaign is absolutely necessary. It is not a direct attack on insurers but instead shines a big spotlight on what is a practice bordering on unethicality.

Don’t Get Mugged campaign comes under (anticipated) fire
Otto Thoresen, director general for the Association of British Insurers (ABI), recently called for an end to the campaign in a letter to Law Society president, Nick Fluck.
Within the letter, he referred to Don’t Get Mugged as ‘a gross error of judgment’ and that it represents ‘little more than public name-calling’.

I’d argue that, if Nick Fluck wanted to, he could have launched the campaign from a much harsher angle and whereas ABI may view the light-hearted approach as ‘name-calling’, I view it as a diluted way of underlining something extremely serious.

Fluck responded to Thoresen the following day:

“I trust you will understand that for the reasons above we do not consider the campaign to be a gross error of judgement but, rather, that it communicates an important ongoing message to consumers. I have no plans to abandon it.”

It is good to see the president holding his ground here and it was also nice to see he offered to discuss the issue with ABI directly.

At face value, the Don’t Get Mugged campaign may seem propagandistic but it is simply an effort to prompt what is an important debate – one which will hopefully see accident victims become unexposed to under-settlements ever again.

Where do you stand on this? Place your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll get back to you.

About the AuthorJohn Hagan is partner and Head of the Litigation department at DPP Law. APIL accredited, he regularly deals with the more complex cases and enjoys nationwide repute for his much sought after legal expertise. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Article on holiday claims

I've written an article for Bartletts Solicitors on holiday claims. You can read the article here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What candidates need to know about jobs in the legal industry

Brought to you by our friends at Roberts Jackson Solicitors

Whether you are looking to start a legal career or switch roles after working in the industry for a few years, having a clear understanding of what law firms look for as they recruit can help you to land the right job role in the right organisation.

What entry level jobs are most available?
Paralegal and administrative training roles are the most needed and popular within the industry.
Legal administrator positions are ideal for those looking to start careers in law. The roles allow you to build up experience in the field, while giving you the opportunity to learn and develop as you support other staff.
Meanwhile, paralegal roles are best if you already have relevant legal education and an understanding of the law and legal system. Some firms won't necessarily require any qualifications, while many do expect candidates to have previous experience working in a law firm. Top salaries for paralegals can reach up to £70,000, so it is a strong legal career path to consider.

Do many legal firms offer career progression?

Legal firms tend to offer development programs and promotions to committed, hardworking professionals, with seniority, partnerships and management positions available. There are often also training opportunities for administrative staff, allowing you to move up to a fee earner role once you have built up the knowledge and skills required.

Ongoing in-house training can sometimes be available to all staff at law firms so that you are able to keep up-to-date with legislation. This can help you to maintain a strong level of legal knowledge, which can prove useful as you move up the career ladder.

Are there plenty of non-entry level vacancies?

During periods of expansion, law firms not only want to hire entry level roles but also look out for lateral hires.

In light of recent legal changes such as LAPSO, where a number of organisations have closed down, there are an increased number of RTA and PI lawyers looking to retrain. With excellent transferable skills accompanied by a strong level of education and experience, growing law firms will often look to make these lateral hires and also recruit professionals with relevant legal knowledge.

What skills are the most valuable to legal firms?

Law firms are businesses, so you should always look to showcase your business acumen during interviews. Being professional and responsible is also key, while a good dose of common sense is essential.
Many organisations focus on a specific area of law, so will always look for candidates with a strong level of knowledge or interest in that field, accompanied by a willingness to learn. Sophie Clark, head of PR at Roberts Jackson, said: "As Roberts Jackson specialises in the niche areas of industrial disease and clinical negligence, we tend to look for candidates with relevant experience or who have studied appropriate electives during university in order to gauge whether or not an applicant is genuinely enthused by our legal area."

Starting your job search
With this valuable insight into what to expect from the legal jobs market as well as the skills, experience and knowledge required from candidates, you can start an informed search for a job in the legal sector. Now, it is imperative that you update your CV and think carefully about your interview techniques to help you land any strong roles that you unearth during your jobs search.