first_imgI reckon I’ve found something better than my BlackBerry. No, really. Since the Gazette got into social media in an increasingly big way, it’s been my duty (or pleasure, or bane, depending on the day) to keep an eye on our different media ‘channels’ and interact with them increasingly regularly. As law firms make more and better connections with their clients, this is something you’re likely to face too. So I’ve also been casting around to see how I can keep up with and work on our different social media outlets and the Gazette’s own site while not at my desk, and I can tell you right now that doing that on my BlackBerry is a pain in the backside. Because I can’t tell our IT department to change its IT policy, probably for very good reasons, I can’t get a Facebook application on it and I couldn’t log on to LinkedIn at all (nor Hotmail, but I can live with that, it’s not work). Twitter does work on it, but not very well, and it looks like trash when I’m using it. Cue endless grumpy exchanges with long-suffering IT people. However, I don’t need to worry now, because I upgraded my own personal phone to an HTC Hero the other day, and it can do all these things in the most gorgeous way. After months of deep philosophical thought on the nature of customer lock-in, the price vs intangible benefits of good-looking IT, I stepped away from the O2 shop doorway for the last time and resolved that Android, Google’s mobile operating system, was the way to go. And it is. Android rocks. I’m writing this up because, a few months back, the really nice people at Vodafone’s PR company (I’m not on Vodafone by the way, and neither is the Law Society) lent me an HTC Touch Pro, which runs on Windows Mobile. I’ve never liked Windows Mobile, though I’ve always tried to laud its good parts and older HTC devices like the TyTN were great, but the Touch Pro was shockingly rubbish to use. Ponderous is a word that springs to mind. I’m glad it’s already been replaced in Vodafone’s shops. Once you’ve used iPhone or Android, you probably won’t want to go back. And loads of applications, including office applications, are free or dead cheap on Android. I’ve done nothing but play with my new phone for two days straight – and I’ve not had that feeling since I used my first ever MP3 player back in 1999-2000. BlackBerrys are still great for email – but Exchange is on Android now, and it’ll only get better. In my hand I’m looking at the next generation of mobile devices, that let me use Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook (though I’m not personally on Facebook) and browse the web ‘properly’, and use multiple email accounts with ease, but they’re not branded Apple or BlackBerry (both of whom use proprietary interfaces), and they don’t run Windows Mobile (which is rubbish). Let me say that bit again, because that’s why I’m so impressed: it’s a great email, social and web browsing device and it’s a phone, and it’s not by Apple or RIM. It’s a business mobile device, and it really works, and it’s built on Google. Wow.last_img read more

first_imgThe Law Society announced the winners of the 2009 Excellence Awards last night at a ceremony attended by 550 at the Royal Horticultural Halls in London The winners were: Law Society president Robert Heslett said: ‘The winners have made the promotion of best practice an integral part of their work. All the shortlisted entries should be extremely proud of their achievement. The Excellence Awards are part of the Law Society’s commitment to promoting excellence in legal services. The solicitors’ profession and legal sector as a whole have taken significant steps in the area of innovation, development and availability of legal services in recent years. These awards, which celebrate the very best in our great profession, recognise the central role that legal services play in all areas of society.’ Awards for individuals: Solicitor of the Year – In-houseSponsored by Hiscox Winner: Roger Clayson – Nuclear Decommissioning Authority Highly commended: Geoff Wild – Kent County CouncilSolicitor of the Year – Private PracticeSponsored by DXWinner: Jason McCue – H20 Law Highly commended: Ian Rosenblatt – Rosenblatt Solicitors Junior Lawyer of the YearSponsored by Zurich Winner: Natasha Catterson – Fisher Meredith Highly commended: Gwendolen Morgan – Bindmans and Young Legal Aid LawyersAWS Legal Businesswoman of the YearWinner: June Venters QC – Venters Solicitors Legal Executive of the YearSponsored by The Institute of Legal Executives Winner: Darren Hill – United Utilities Highly commended: Alexandra Loxton – Anthony Collins SolicitorsAdvocate of the YearSponsored by Logica Winner: Paul Bowen – Doughty Street Chambers [London]Highly commended: Peter Rees QC – Debevoise & Plimpton Team awards:Excellence in Client ServiceSponsored by Moneypenny Winner: The Law Shop Highly commended: Legal Services Unit – Staffordshire County Council, and Thaliwal Bridge SolicitorsExcellence in Equality & DiversitySponsored by the Equality and Human Rights Commission Winner: Simmons & Simmons Highly commended: Legal Directorate – Royal College of NursingExcellence in Community InvestmentSponsored by Deloitte Winner: Allen & OveryLegal Sector Alliance Award for Excellence in Environmental ResponsibilitySponsored by Canon UK & Ireland Winner: Travers Smith Excellence in Marketing & Business DevelopmentSponsored by Orange Winner: Jackson Barrett & Gass Lexcel Award for Excellence in Practice ManagementSponsored by Lloyds TSB Commercial Winner: Watkins & Gunn Solicitors Excellence in InnovationSponsored by TFBWinner: ThomasMansfield Highly commended: Legal Services – Lincolnshire County CouncilExcellence in Exporting Legal ServicesSponsored by American AirlinesWinner: Trowers & Hamlins Highly commended: Clarke Willmott last_img read more

first_img‘Today’s drink-driving hearings are brought to you by Gethomesafely Ltd personal breathalysers.’ Excuse our flippancy, and it will be infinity and a day before that message is broadcast across an HM Courts Service public address system. One hopes. But our disclosure this week that commercial advertising is being allowed into magistrates’ courts does fire the imagination. Private company Executive Legal has been given permission to install advertising boards and charge local law firms £424 a year to display their business cards. There appears to be a lot wrong with this. First, law firms that opt out of this ‘service’ will be placed at a competitive disadvantage that is unrelated to their efficacy and competence as solicitors. So what?, you may ask, bigger firms can afford to advertise – that’s life. But what is especially worrying is that unsophisticated potential clients might reasonably assume that public display of the solicitor’s card within the court precincts amounts to an official endorsement – which of course it does not. In any case, if HMCS is so concerned about making sure clients are provided with solicitors’ cards it can make them available itself at no charge. Then there is the broader point: courts are places for the dispensation of justice, not vulgar commerce, are they not?last_img read more

first_imgTo respond to all of Andrew Hopper’s and Greg Treverton-Jones’s points about the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s prosecution policy, ‘Ticking all the boxes?’ (see [2010] Gazette, 1 April, 12), would be a major undertaking, but two key issues need addressing. First, it is simply not true that the SRA prosecutes ‘on the basis that any breach of the rules is deserving of a sanction’. On the contrary, the vast majority of rule breaches that we identify attract no formal sanction at all and are frequently addressed by using guidance and advice. Second, the SRA’s proposals for outcomes-focused regulation (OFR) – on which we are launching a debate throughout the profession from May – are indeed designed to ensure that both the SRA as the regulator and members of the profession concentrate upon issues which matter to clients rather than the minutiae of over-detailed rules. Part of OFR will be the publication of a new draft enforcement policy, on which we shall consult – I think it a safe bet that early respondents to that consultation will be messrs Treverton-Jones and Hopper. Antony Townsend, Chief executive, SRAlast_img read more

first_img Graeme Hydari,consultant, Needham Poulier & Partners, London N17; member, Law Society criminal law committee I observed the following incident at a north London magistrates’ court. A defendant, who was clearly mentally ill, had been charged with an offence that was contrary to section 5 of the Public Order Act. The facts were that he had been shouting at a group of children in the street in an agitated state. He had obviously not been represented in the police station because he would not have been interviewed. Therefore, no one had made any representations to the police as to whether it was in the public interest to charge the defendant. He was effectively being prosecuted for being mentally ill. He was unrepresented at court because the offence was non-imprisonable. Therefore, he was not entitled to legal aid or the services of the duty solicitor. The bench had clearly noted his mental illness because they had allowed his sister to accompany him into the dock of the court. He entered a not guilty plea. At no point had he had the benefit of face-to-face legal advice. When he was told that the case had to be adjourned for a trial date, he changed his plea to guilty, despite saying that he was not guilty. He then started talking about hearing voices in his head, which were being received from an imaginary sinister organisation. Despite this, the legal adviser and the bench accepted this as an unequivocal guilty plea. He was sentenced by means of a conditional discharge, but on leaving the dock the members of the bench seemed to be laughing among themselves about what the defendant had said in the court. This suggested a total lack of sympathetic understanding of mental illness on their part. The Crown prosecution should have been persuaded not to proceed with the charge. A vulnerable person received a criminal conviction, which should not have happened. The whole episode made me feel very uncomfortable and ashamed to be part of a criminal justice system which operates in this way. Legal aid eligibility rules prevented this person from receiving legal advice and representation. The cuts to funding are only going to make scenarios like this one more common. last_img read more

first_imgCampaign groups have vowed to continue their fight against the government’s legal aid cuts, following the rejection of opposition amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill by a committee of MPs. The Public Bill Committee, charged with scrutinising the proposals, last week voted to reject amendments submitted by Labour MPs seeking to return into the scope of legal aid the areas of law that the government wants to exclude, including welfare benefits, clinical negligence and housing. Law Society legal aid manager Richard Miller said: ‘This is one stage among many in the legislative process for the Law Society to put forward its arguments and concerns, and we will continue to press our case both in the remaining Commons stages and in the Lords.’ As a priority, the Society wants all cases brought on behalf of children to be eligible for legal aid. Together with lobby group JusticeRights, the Society’s Sound Off For Justice campaign has released a report showing that the cuts will remove direct, free legal aid advice and support from 6,000 under-18s and affect a further 140,000 children whose parents will be denied legal aid for family, welfare benefits and housing cases. The report goes on to warn that the cuts could cost more than they save if young people are denied the legal support they need. Law Society chief executive Des Hudson said: ‘Young people with problems relating to employment and welfare benefits should be given the correct legal advice and support today. If not, we will only be storing problems and further costs that the government will have to pick up tomorrow.’ James Sandbach, social policy officer at the Citizens Advice Bureau, said he did not expect concessions at the Public Bill Committee stage. CAB will continue to lobby for changes as the bill returns to the Commons and when it goes to the Lords.‘Most scrutiny committees are simply part of the parliamentary regime, with members appointed by whips and told how to vote. It is in the next stages where we hope to get changes to the bill,’ he stressed. Sandbach said CAB is seeking ‘targeted changes’ to the bill, including the establishment of a more flexible mechanism for funding early advice that would see funding decisions devolved from the LSC to local partnerships. Areas which CAB would like to see retained in scope are: housing cases where there is a prospect of homelessness, but where possession proceedings have not been commenced; and welfare benefits appeals and reviews. The third reading of the bill is expected next month. Join our LinkedIn Legal Aid sub-grouplast_img read more

first_img Roger Smith is director of the law reform and human rights organisation Justice Join our LinkedIn Human Rights sub-group In the modern world, the domestic and the international become entwined. News of David Cameron’s assault on the Human Rights Act in the aftermath of the riots was noted around the globe. The Tehran Times quoted the prime minister as saying that ‘human rights and health and safety can interfere with morality’. The Voice of Russia agreed with what it thought he had meant on human rights: the Brits need tougher policing. Cameron shares with Tony Blair ‘people’s princess’ syndrome – the capacity to express, and thereby accentuate, a public mood. But, like his mentor, he can also get it spectacularly wrong. Remember how Blair declared that ‘the rules of the game have changed’ after the London bombings of 7 July 2005? We now begin to see the full extent to which they did. Actually, the game may change but the rules are constant – we play as a democracy committed to human rights and civil liberties or we lose. We do this both because it is morally right and, in the long term, practically best. UK interests are not, for example, assisted by successful Libyan resistance leaders claiming that MI6 conspired in their rendition for torture. Cameron would appear to have pulled some old prejudices out of the drawer rather than advancing an analysis to meet a set of events that, frankly, took everyone – from police to rioters – by surprise. Typical of the prime minister’s response was an article in the Daily Express entitled ‘Human rights in my sights’. Back in Iran, the Tehran Times summarised Cameron’s arguments as twofold. First, the very notion of universal human rights ‘undermines personal morality and responsibility’. Second, ‘the interpretation of human rights legislation has exerted a chilling effect on public sector organisations, leading them to act in ways that fly in the face of common sense, offend our sense of right and wrong, and undermine responsibility’. This approach probably meets with a good deal of local support: the Iranian regime shares a concern that notions of human rights undermine its ideas of personal morality and responsibility. Did the Human Rights Act or its interpretation play any part in inciting or encouraging the rioters? It would seem inherently unlikely. The rioters appear to have been a mixture of outright criminals, some in gangs, and others caught up in the excitement of the affair. The appeal for many would very likely have been that what they were doing was: quite precisely wrong; without justification in law and morality; and that they were, for a day, lords of misrule. In her first Reith lecture, Eliza Manningham-Buller had interesting things to say about terrorists that would apply equally to rioters. She was clear that terrorists were not all swivel-eyed psychopaths or crazed fundamentalists, but that their numbers included others who joined up for a variety of reasons that include a search for a shared identity as much as anything else. It is for rioters as it is for terrorists: complicated. The rioters seemed to have remarkably little that was political behind their actions. One recalls the extraordinary outburst of the ‘Hackney heroine’ Pauline Pearce: ‘We are not all gathering together and fighting for a cause. We are running down Footlocker and thieving shoes. Get real.’ As a number of commentators pointed out, rioters left libraries and public buildings largely untouched. Their targets of choice were shops selling trainers and mobile phones. It would seem more likely that looters were driven by a distorted form of consumerism rather than any false interpretation of human rights. Nor does it seem that the slow police reaction was caused by interpretations of the Human Rights Act. The truth is the police were unprepared for riots of this kind. There were just not enough officers on the streets to maintain public order. There is a world of difference between the use of gratuitous force of the kind that killed Ian Tomlinson and the necessary action required to quell looting and violence. To argue that the Human Rights Act creates confusion between the two is just mischievous. And there were undoubtedly operational failures. For example, at the critical moment in Tottenham, there was no senior officer to talk to demonstrators because of holidays and a football match. That allowed matters to escalate out of hand. Blaming the Human Rights Act in these circumstances is just sloppy. The only direct relevance of human rights to the events is the requirement for an independent investigation of a death at the hands of the police. This is a longstanding interpretation of article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights by the European Court of Human Rights. It reflects good practice; desirable accountability; and was exactly what the original protesters were demanding. At the core of the concept of human rights is: a respect for human dignity; a concern that the state, through parliament or elsewhere, should have powers limited by basic values; and a specified set of those values, very few of which are absolute and most of which are balanced and nuanced. The great advantage of the language of human rights is that it is international. You can use it in Moscow, Tehran or Tripoli. And we do. Rather a lot – expending not inconsiderable money, diplomatic effort and, occasionally, military action in its support. It is surely not helpful to repudiate the concept of universal rights at home while saying we are advancing them abroad. Moreover, domestically, the riots were either a one-off or a warning of more to come. If they were the latter, then we will need a bit more precision in our analysis than Cameron – and, to be fair, most other politicians – are currently displaying.last_img read more

first_imgTo continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe now for unlimited access Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletterslast_img read more

first_imgTo continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe now for unlimited access Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our communitylast_img read more

first_imgGet your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe now for unlimited access To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our communitylast_img read more