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Blog Name: Jamie Hamilton @ RoF

Court of Appeal: High Court Judge Peter Smith "disgraceful"
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16 June 2016

The Court of Appeal has brutalised High Court Judge Peter Smith in a judgment allowing an appeal against his decision, calling his letter to a barristers' chambers "disgraceful". It said Smith's "shortcomings" dealing with evidential issues were "so serious"  that the appeal "must be allowed".

Saudi prince Abdul Aziz had appealed against an unfavourable ruling by Smith on several grounds, one of which was an allegation that Smith was bias against Aziz' barristers, from Blackstone Chambers. In 2015 a Blackstone barrister, Lord Pannick QC, had criticised Smith in the Times for Smith's behaviour during a case involving British Airways, which Smith had hijacked to accuse the airline of deliberately losing his luggage. Pannick wrote in his article, “How we laughed. But the case raises serious issues about judicial conduct that need urgent consideration by the lord chief justice".

At Aziz's appeal, a letter from Smith to Anthony Peto QC, the head of Blackstone Chambers, was produced which revealed that Smith had called Pannick's article "quite outrageous", cried that, "I am extremely disappointed about it", sulked that Pannick's "opinion is not worth the paper it is printed on", and vowed "I will no longer support your chambers". Aziz argued that the letter was evidence of bias by Smith.

     Comes with baggage

The Court of Appeal has now given its judgment allowing Aziz's appeal. While bias is not one of its grounds for doing so, Smith's approach to the evidence is. The court has absolutely whalloped him, calling his performance "unsatisfactory in a number of significant respects". Drilling down with gusto, The Master of the Rolls, Lord Justice Moore-Bick, and Lord Justice McFarlane, said:

- "he failed to identify in sufficient detail the questions that needed to be answered" 

- "he failed to carry out a proper evaluation of all the evidence in order to test its strengths and weaknesses"

- Regarding criticisms of a witness: "he failed to deal with any of those criticisms and brushed them aside"

- On another witnesses' testimony: "he did not subject it to any serious degree of scrutiny"

- "he failed to draw together the evidence from the various different sources and analyse it in order to make his findings in relation to individual issues"

They ruled that Smith "owed it to the parties to identify the relevant evidence, discuss its significance and explain why he had reached the particular conclusion", which, "required him to analyse the various possible implications of different strands of evidence, as well as the inherent probabilities. He failed to do this".

In a extremely damning comment, they ruled that it was "clear" that Smith "in effect, took a short cut".

But they saved the motherload for Smith's barmy letter. Para 68:

"In his letter to the claimant’s solicitors dated 12 February 2016, the judge accepted that he should not have written the Letter. It is difficult to believe that any judge, still less a High Court Judge, could have done so. It was a shocking and, we regret to say, disgraceful letter to write. It shows a deeply worrying and fundamental lack of understanding of the proper role of a judge. What makes it worse is that it comes on the heels of the BAA baggage affair. In our view, the comments of Lord Pannick, far from being “outrageous” as the judge said in the Letter, were justified. We greatly regret having to criticise a judge in these strong terms, but our duty requires us to do so."

Allowing the appeal, the CofA ruled that the claim must be retried before a different judge.

Smith has not yet exploded over the ruling. He may not. In the notorious BA case, Smith said, "I have plenty of regrets about the way in which the Court of Appeal went about their decision [to remove me from another case], but, like you I suspect, we are no longer surprised by what happens in the Court of Appeal". .... read more >
Clients ditch firm which mocked parents of disabled children
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14 June 2016

Clients are deserting the law firm which mocked the parents of disabled children.

On Saturday evening, Baker Small posted a series of extraordinary tweets crowing that it had defeated parents of disabled children who had appealed to a tribunal to get their local council to provide their kids with funded specialist care. The firm's mockery, which included posting a picture of a laughing kitten, provoked widespread fury. National papers picked up the story after RollOnFriday reported it, with legendary paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson commenting with incredulity on the RoF article:



Now, Baker Small is losing the very local authority clients which led to its myopic boasts.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Lorna Dupré has said that the firm was paid at least £144,000 by her council between May 2015 and January 2016. But today it has announced that it will not be referring any new cases to Baker Small.

In a statement, Cambridgeshire County Council said that it had "decided to set up alternative arrangements for new cases". Adrian Loades, Executive Director for Children, Families and Adults, said, “We can confirm that we will no longer be using Baker Small for new cases. We recognise the damage that these tweets have done to parental confidence and by extension to the potential relationship between the County Council and parents".

Even though CCC is one of the local authorities which have been fighting parents, it is unsurprisingly unhappy at the manner in which Baker Small has depicted the battle, with Loades at pains to emphasise that while “there can be different views between parents and the Local Authority" in respect of support to the disabled children (i.e. you want it, we're not giving it), "we always work hard to avoid this relationship becoming adversarial if at all possible." So not this then:



Loades said that despite the firing, there may be a continuing (and presumably excuciatingly awkward) relationship between the council and Baker Small in respect of cases already underway. He said they “will be reviewed on a case by case basis", and that "in some instances it may be better for the all parties that Baker Small retain the case in order to avoid delay or disruption to decision making”.

Read the full story on Friday. .... read more >
Outrage at firm's spectacularly misjudged tweets mocking the parents of disabled children
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13 June 2016

A law firm has provoked disgust and complaints to the SRA after gloating on Twitter that it had succeeded in an action to deny specialised education to disabled children.

When councils decide not to provide disabled children with specialised education, parents have a right to appeal to The Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal. Buckinghamshire firm Baker Small, run by director Mark Small, routinely advises local authorities at SEND tribunals. Given the sensitive and emotive nature of the disputes, the importance of not appearing to revel in victories would appear to be obvious. On Saturday night, however, Small's firm decided to not only crow on Twitter that it had beaten an appeal by parents, but expressed bemusement that parents bothered to fight councils, and amusement that the latest unsuccessful appellants did not understand the verdict:



In a staggeringly myopic response to criticism of the tweet, Small, who is understood to have operated the social media account, replied that parents who mistakenly believe they have won "make me smile":




When the twittersphere reacted with fury, Small doubled down and attacked the protestors:







At one point, he tweeted gobsmacked followers a picture of a laughing kitten to illustrate his firm's disdain for the complainants:



In a subsequent tweet, Small expressed bitterness that parents' lawyers are applauded when they boast about winning against local authorities, whereas he is not. Indicating that he is somehow unaware that 'parents fighting for their disabled children' comprise a significantly more sympathetic demographic than 'lawyers boasting that they have beaten parents fighting for their disabled children'.





Images of the tweets spread quickly across blogs and discussion boards, with mumsnet users reacting with shock. One of the offended women who engaged with Baker Small on Twitter, Diane Kay, revealed that she has written to the SRA to complain that the firm has breached Principle 6 of the Code of Conduct, by behaving in a way which has failed to maintain the public's trust.

Just before midnight, as the onslaught persisted, Small took the last refuge of the twitter-shamed and claimed victimhood:



The next day, an abrupt change of tone indicated that Baker Small had belatedly realised it had committed a colossal PR error:




The apology tour continued on Monday:





Fittingly, Small's profile on his firm's website reveals that in 2008 and 2010 he was nominated for the 'Solicitors in Local Government Young Solicitor of the Year Award' for "his work with schools".

Small told RollOnFriday, "Inappropriate tweets were sent from the Baker Small twitter account, which in the context of the work we undertake both for public bodies and parents, were unacceptable and showed a lack of sincerity to Parents".

He added that, "We recognise that offence was caused", which is reassuring, because only a dead person wouldn't have, saying "they were immediately deleted and a written apology was issued". Small said, "We understand all too well the pressures of the SEN system and the challenges faced by parents to secure appropriate provision and we have tweeted and spoken extensively about those issues. We are sincerely sorry for the tweets and for the upset caused."

A spokesman for the SRA said, “We take all complaints seriously and will examine all the available evidence before deciding on an appropriate course of action”. .... read more >
Lawyer's profile on "TV Talent Supermarket" reveals he is basically Patrick Bateman
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08 June 2016

A proportion of solicitors harbour an urge to be something else, something more, something rockstar. As another heavy mark-up is emailed back, as another client can't give instructions because they're yachting off Monaco, there are days, maybe all the days, when it's all they can do not to shout "I have had enough, [client contact]!" and quit to invest everything in a boutique fishburger joint. But that can appear rash to a lawyer, particularly given that lawyering encourages an aversion to risk on a par with Howard Hughes at his pee-drinking best. So what's the answer?

    Not this

Charles Cook has an answer. He's the managing partner and founder of Cook & Co, and as you can tell from his firm's profile photo, he is damn busy.

    This

Notice how Cook holds his phone like a boss just between his finger and thumb, right on the edge, with just the tips, signalling that he's a maverick not afraid to gamble (sexy), or at least has strong finger muscles (also sexy, imagine if it was your hair he was gripping against his cheek). His phone cover is the naughty knickers of phone covers, featuring a status peephole for the Apple logo which ensures that he won't be mistaken for a scumbag with a Huawei. Look at Cook's ripe Apple, all on display, oh yeah. As you can tell from the tilt, the photographer was so aroused they fell over.

So what is Cook's answer? Cook's answer is to be a star part-time. He doesn't need to risk it all. In fact, his day job is his passport to the other side of the velvet rope. How? He's available to purchase at the "TV Talent Supermarket", that's how.



Admittedly, the "Do you need a charismatic, young TV lawyer? Well...here he is" line sounds apologetic. Like, "Do you need a charismatic, young TV lawyer? Well...here he is. Sorry." Or, as if the narrator is himself surprised and disappointed with the goods. Like, "Do you need a charismatic, young TV lawyer? Well...here he is. Jesus. Pauline! Pauline! There's been a mistake! Really? This is him? Ugh. Who got him? Well tell Ian he's embarrassed me in front of Schofield." Or, an evil djinn revealing a monkey's paw of a wish, like "Do you need a charismatic, young TV lawyer? Well...here he is. AHAHAHA! No backsies, Wishmaster out".

When pop singers start out, they give interviews in Sugar magazine or, nowadays, Oh my Vlog!, in which they provide tween-appropriate facts. For some reason, the TV Talent Supermarket has taken the same approach with Cook, and thus we learn that the future Dr Phil of property sales and litigation has a second home in Salcombe.



There are some top, top facts here. Laytons is an "international law firm", apparently, even though its offices are in Bristol, Guilford, London and Manchester.

Cook's favourite colour is red. You now know that.

He enjoys "listening to a wide range of music including music from the era of the 80’s".  Forsooth, didst thou enjoy the Phil Collins concerto? Verily, tis from the era of the 80's and the drumming is righteous. I suspect it's not a wide range including music from the era of the 80s, though. I suspect it's solely music from the era of the 80s, plus whatever Patrick Bateman is listening to now. Yeezy and Robin Thicke.
 
He is an avid reader of Tony Robbins books, "which he finds motivating". Which is lucky because Robbins writes motivational books.

And Cook hates seafood. He hates seafood so much it makes it onto the list of key facts about Cook.
"Charles, a fun one, what food do you like?"
"I hate cod."

"Ok, but what do you like?"
"Not just cod. All fish. Trout, swordfish, seahorses. If I could, I'd boil off all the seas and stamp on every last one of them."
"But what do you like?
We want to be positive."
"I hate eating them, too. Oh boy, don't make me eat them! I will literally gag. I puked up a clam the other day."
"We can..we can put that down."


Of all his family, he likes spending time most of all with his grandfather who, it is made explicit, is 92. That's a grand old age. This is how you win X-Factor, with a story. Cook and his ancient grandfather, watching Wall Street on a powerboat in Cannes, spitting on fish. Sign him up, Fern. .... read more >
Clifford Chance unveils impressive pay hikes
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01 June 2016

Clifford Chance has given pay rises of over £20,000 to its associates, with 1PQEs potentially earning £95,000.

Trainee salaries are rising, too. Backdated to 1 May, first years are now on £43,500, up from £42,000. Second years are on £49,000, up from £47,300.

The firm has adopted the same method of presenting its rises as Linklaters which, as RollOnFriday revealed in March, has decided to wrap up the bonus figure with the salary figure to give a total compensation figure. It makes CC and Links' numbers look very good compared to the rest of the Magic Circle, since Allen & Overy, Freshfields and Slaughter and May state bald salary figures, not inclusive of bonuses.

At NQ level, CC pay increases from a salary of £70,000 to a total compensation figure (i.e. salary and bonus) of £85,000. At 1PQE level, lawyers move from a salary of £75,500 to total compensation of £95,000. Those are both on a par with Freshfields, the highest payer of the MC. Freshfields' figures don't include a bonus, though, and so Clifford Chance's NQs and 1PQEs will need to be awarded theirs just for their total pay to match Freshfields' salaries. However, CC London Managing Partner David Bickerton said that "the vast majority of junior lawyers will receive it". It's being called a "Binary Bonus", said Bickerton, explaining "we expect our lawyers to work hard to develop the skills and good habits of an exceptional lawyer so their contribution is assessed on the basis of whether or not they are acquiring these skills and habits. This is a binary assessment. At these levels, lawyers receive a salary and a Binary Bonus. If the lawyer is developing the skills and habits they will require they will receive the Binary Bonus".

    "0110011100!"

Clifford Chance has told its lawyers they will fall into two camps above 1PQE: those who have made a "Good contribution" to the firm's "success over the course of the financial year" and those who have made an "Exceptional contribution". No mention of those who have made a Poor contribution, or even an Average one. Presumably they will be quietly catapulted off Canary Wharf. The firm is following Freshfields' lead with this approach (to splitting PQE bands, not to launching slackers off the roof). When RollOnFriday broke the news of Freshfields' rises in May, it had also split its bands, into 'Median Performers' and 'High Performers'. In a subtle jab at its rival, CC doesn't have 'Median' performers, don'tchaknow, beginning at 'Good' instead.

It means Clifford Chance's 2PQEs move from a salary of £88,000 to total comp of £100,000 if they're 'Good', and to £119,000 if they're 'Excellent'. 3PQEs move from a salary of £98,500 to a total comp of £111,000 if they're 'Good', and £130,00 if they're 'Excellent'.

RollOnFriday averages out the performance bands to give median figures. Here's how it looks:

  NQ
1PQE 2PQE 3PQE
Allen & Overy
 £78,500  £92,000  £104,500  £115,000
Linklaters*  £81,000  £90,000  £100,000  £111,000
Clifford Chance*
(old figures)
 £85,000
(70,000)
£95,000
(75,500)
 £109,500
(88,000)
 £120,500
(98,500)
Freshfields
 £85,000
£94,375
 £107,500
 £112,500
Slaughter and May
 £71,500
 £79,000
 £90,250
 £99,750 

*Figure includes bonus

CC also announced that it is expanding its remote working pilot scheme. Don't picture lawyers at home with their feet up and checking their phone every couple of hours, though. This is the Magic Circle, so it's more about being able to get them to work 24/7 wherever they are. As Bickerton said, "It is already the case that many of our lawyers work out of standard working hours to support our clients and therefore we see working remotely not as a perk, but as removing a barrier to effective client service".

Interestingly, it means CC has said that a portion of those big salaries is to be spent on a "technology boost" to "enable our lawyers to invest in technology (on top of the laptops we are providing) so that they can work effectively remotely". So those whopping rises aren't just for Lambos and Gucci. They're for associates to bring about, by their own hand, a dystopia in which their CC inbox is projected onto the backs of their eyelids and clients can shout new deadlines directly into their brains. A cruel twist. Still. £95k for a 1PQE.

    "I invested in MindBuzz, which uses my pain receptors to combat fatigue!" 

Slaughter and May, CC, Freshfields and Linklaters have now all raised pay this year. Allen & Overy kicked off the round of big rises when it hiked salaries enormously last year. It constituted a significant leap toward the amounts on offer from US firms, and now that the rest of the Magic Circle has followed suit (except Slaughters, whose lawyers feel it should have jumped higher), many of those same US firms are feeling the pressure to put some clear water between themselves and the UK elite. .... read more >
How to tie up the press: give a big interview about your job then quit it
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01 June 2016

Ripped from Monday's headlines on The Lawyer:



A Herculean task, for sure, but one she's up for, oh yes, and now it's Tuesday and she can't wait to -



Oh. .... read more >
The lawyer with laser beam eyes
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31 May 2016

Patricia Houlihan, a Vancouver real estate lawyer, can see through your clothes and, if she chooses, fry you where you stand.



Absolutely mad, but if you can shoot lasers out of your eyeballs, you might as well try and leverage it for business purposes. In the meantime, reddit users have been risking white hot agony followed by explosion by photoshopping the hell out of Houlihan:















And as it's miserable outside RoF Towers today, I wasted my lunch break, too:



You can find lots more odd law firm marketing in Bonkers Websites. .... read more >
A furious Senior Partner takes revenge
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25 May 2016

A year ago we ran a Bonkers Website story about a firm based in Middlesex called Bhogal & Partners. Here's the original article. The firm came to our attention because it gave all its lawyers terrifying blank faces:





I applied my full artistic talents to this important story and haltingly drew in what I imagined to be their actual faces. One was 90% beard:



We asked the firm for a comment but it did not respond.

Until now.

Senior partner Kenny Bhogal has got in touch, nine months later. This is Kenny Bhogal on the site:



This is Kenny Bhogal in Microsoft Paint:



It turns out the Microsoft Paint depiction was pretty accurate. Because Kenny Bhogal did not find the story funny. At all. He has, in fact, possibly spent every night for the last nine months sitting at his kitchen table staring at a print-out of the article consumed with fury. But after nine months of waiting, planning, drafting and redrafting and proofing and perfecting, his response was ready:




 

.... read more >
Exclusive: Recruiter's candid notes of meeting with Eversheds partners leaked
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25 May 2016

Candid notes of a meeting between legal recruiters and Eversheds partners have been leaked to RollOnFriday. They shine a baleful light on the inner workings of chinnys*.

Eversheds has disputed much of the content of the notes, which were emailed by a senior recruitment consultant to his colleagues. The notes were taken by the rec cons of a briefing given by two Eversheds partners on hiring requirements for their expanding practice.

RollOnFriday has redacted personal details to protect the guilty and also the innocent, particularly the lawyers who work in the Shed's regional teams. In an observation which would otherwise break their hearts (and which, it should be emphasised, Eversheds has told RollOnFriday it does not recognise), the recruiters noted that Eversheds' Birmingham and Cambridge offices are, "where they outsource less interesting work", whereas "the quality of work is really high in London".

According to the email, the Shed partners would ideally poach associates from Nabarro because it is "apparently a sweatshop", where "they have to work harder than Eversheds because of their fee rates". As Nabarro supervisors are, the note records the partners saying, "very systematic with checking emails", their associates "are well trained".

    Recruitment consultants preparing to tranq you, right now

The recruiters also summarise (their interpretation of) partners' issues with existing team members, providing an invaluable insight into the hard-nosed world of the working chinny.

There's the lawyer who doesn't know he's bungling it across the table:

  • "They made an offer to a star in [rival firm], but there are complications with [redacted], so on hold currently but [an Eversheds partner] is working opposite him on a case and not too impressed so they are ambivalent."

The lawyer playing hard to get:

  • "Recently, a senior associate resigned on the day she was made up to senior associate because her boyfriend is a [travelling clown**] so very seasonal work so they are going travelling, the partners want her to stay and negotiating a sabbatical for her."

And the lawyer who is hard to like:

    • "They have a senior associate who is quite demanding...[partner] thinks she will leave."

    Apparently before their meeting the recruiters also talked to a recent lateral hire into the Eversheds partnership. Their write-up of what happened when they relayed the new joiner's view of his prospects to the Eversheds partners is the saddest part of the note:

    • "[New junior partner lateral hire] is bringing work with him and he is particularly strong in [redacted specialism]. He thinks it could be a £2 million practice next year, both partners laughed at that."
    A spokesman for Eversheds told RollOnFriday, “This seems to be a third-hand internal note of a confidential meeting with us. We haven’t seen this interpretation before and do not recognise or agree with much of its content, especially the references concerning our competitors and our regional offices. I would take this with a pinch of salt”.

    *RollOnFriday for 'recruitment consultant', which may be derived from 'chinny beard'
    **not really, but a job even more ridiculous which would make her immediately identifiable if revealed
    .... read more >
    Magic Circle job application of the Month
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    24 May 2016

    RollOnFriday has been forwarded a superlative job application.

    The candidate for the 1PQE job at a Magic Circle firm boasts that he is highly proficient at Call of Duty and that his mum will "cut" him if he doesn't get the position. It was received by The Lawyer magazine's jobs team, which dutifully emailed the application to the legal recruiters who posted the vacancy. They presumably realised that a quality individual was in play when they read the covering email, below, which includes the foolproof tactic of begging: "plz give me the job.... my mum said she will cut me if you dont ;)"



    RollOnFriday was also passed a copy of Viron El Hameses' CV. It avoids the pitfall of being prolix, running a compact nine lines, but there are other issues. It is annotated it for the benefit of less street readers.




    In plugging news, serious candidates are using RollOnFriday's jobs board. Thousands of lawyers have also uploaded their anonymised profiles onto RollOnFriday's free Make Me An Offer database, enabling employers to make them a dream offer. You, yes you, can join them. Not you Viron. .... read more >

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