Archive for the ‘ICLR’ Category

HHJ Pennyweather: Young barristers need to up their game @theiclr

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PennyweatherJ_Circuit

More musings from the bench with the most honourable and learned HHJ Pennyweather

Now here’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say: it’s high time that barristers started being a little more confident. Now, I’m not talking about their current woes with the government. Nor am I talking about established members of the Bar who may lack many things but confidence or the complete absence of self-doubt most certainly aren’t among them. No, I’m talking about the young barristers plying their trade who increasingly seem as if the worries of the whole world rest upon their shoulders.

Gone are the days, it seems, when they’d be carousing until the early hours and then putting in fine performances in court the next day. Instead we appear to be breeding a whole generation of swots who roll over at the first challenge I throw at them even when I’m just doing it for sport. It’s far too much of the please and thank yous for my liking and too little of the rock star attitude which has the potential to mature into something truly great.

I don’t know whether it’s the fear of getting sued or just a lack of confidence in these younger members of the profession but in the last few years Skeleton Arguments for even the most measly of disputes have been getting longer as are the submissions. In my own time you were paid for the hearing however long it lasted and so there was always an incentive to be somewhat succinct in what you had to say. But these days it’s all ‘for the avoidance of doubt’ and ‘in the alternative’ without anyone ever daring to pin their colours to the mast and simply run their best point.

That is until a young pupil landed in court this morning and blew away his opponent’s bundle of fifteen irrelevant authorities with the following submission: “Your Honour, in answer to my learned friend’s, er, full submissions on the issue, I could perfectly well spend the rest of the day making lots of irritating, nit-picking little points in reply. But I’m sure you’d agree with me that that’s not what being a barrister is about. Instead I would simply refer you to the following case report from the ICLR online…” After which he sat down.

Talk about hitting the right note with what obviously turned out to be the winning combination of brevity and the most excellent ICLR. So if I have one message for the future members of our esteemed profession it is to ditch all the pusillanimous pipsqueaking and let the lion roar once more.

January 22, 2014 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: ICLR

HHJ Pennyweather: Why can’t we have the TV cameras in our county courts?

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PennyweatherJ_Circuit

It’s just not fair. Not fair at all. One minute, the policy is that it’d be wrong to have cameras in our courts and the next it appears to have changed but only for the likes of the Court of Appeal. I can’t believe that I spent years appearing in the Court of Appeal and not getting any of the so-called oxygen of publicity. Not even a single molecule – excepting of course my inclusion in a long list of new silks in that particular year.

Then, long after I leave it’s suddenly all change. Some barristers are now talking about negotiating the right to have advertising logos on the back of their gowns which might appear in the highlights on the news. Others are saying that they’re simply going to wing it with the first big advert and threaten restraint of trade if anyone tries to stop them. I wish them luck there but even so, it’s still not fair. How did I miss out on this new age of what will truly become the celebrity barrister? Double page spreads ‘At home with the Pennyweathers’ could very happily fund our Summer holidays as far as I’m concerned.

What really gets my goat is that they’ve supposedly opened up the courts but only the really senior ones. As if to say that those of us judging in the lower courts really don’t matter at all. That we’re not even on the radar. I mean, okay, it’s not all high-flying law-making down here. But even so, what about the human drama of a good old road traffic accident or boundary dispute? I’d like to think that any television producer frequenting my court for more than an hour or two would see the potential for live coverage all day. A whole channel devoted to the court hearings of the learned and, with a bit of publicity, the rich and famous HHJ Pennyweather.

But it wouldn’t only be entertainment. I’d be able to add an educational element into my judgments too, making diversions into explanations as to the particularly tricky areas of law so that regular viewers would slowly become acquainted with the great body of learning and wisdom which is the English common law. Not only that but I’d be able to tell them about the ICLR and how law reporting really works as well as flagging to those in the esteemed practice of law the great benefits of using the ICLR online.

Then of course there’d be the groupies who waited patiently outside of court each evening for a learned autograph in the learned and ghostwritten autobiography as well as perhaps a little bit of wisdom from on high. Not to mention the TV cameras asking one’s opinion on the matters of the day. A few late night discussion programmes on issues of high culture or international affairs and that’d probably be my working week rounded off quite nicely.

As for those neighsayers who suggest that to allow the circuit judges in on the game would be to open the floodgates to crusty old loose canons full of vanity and grandstanding, all I can do is laugh in the face of such an absurd suggestion.

December 4, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: ICLR

Lawyers are just glorified car mechanics

Brought to you with the support of our friends at The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting

UpTights“All we are is glorified car mechanics,” said UpTights at Chambers tea today. “Just fixing minor errors caused by solicitors.”
“Except not so glorified,” said TheBusker.
“Yes, I doubt there’d be many mechanics who’d be pleased with the comparison,” said HeadofChambers.
“What’s the problem?” asked OldSmoothie. “Not had any trials of late?”
“I should be so lucky,” said UpTights. “Everything in sight just settles at the moment.”
“Do you think solicitors are just becoming more reasonable?” said TheCreep.
“Not in the slightest,” said UpTights. “Just more desperate not to risk their entitlement to costs.”
“Nice to hear that the client’s interests are continuing to prevail,” said BusyBody.
“Oh, it’s all self-justified on the basis that they don’t want to risk the client having to pay any costs,” said UpTights, “but with my solicitors I know full well that what they’re really worried about is getting something back themselves.”
“Serves you right for encouraging instructions from the likes of SlipperySlope’s firm,” said OldSmoothie.
“Well, even despite the odd bad egg, it’s still hard times at the moment,” said OldRuin, “what with the referral fee ban and fixed costs.”
“Not to mention the fact that there are big firms hovering and just waiting to gobble you up,” said UpTights.
“I quite like the idea of the law being the engine chugging away quietly under the bonnet of society,” said OldRuin.
“Or noisily in some people’s cases,” said OldSmoothie looking again at UpTights.
“So if that were the case, what would the ICLR be in those terms?” asked TheBusker.
“I guess it’d be the detailed car manual,” said TheVamp.
“For a top of the range luxury car,” said BusyBody, “with the ICLR online being the modern go to guide for all your mechanical needs.”

November 17, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: ICLR, Sponsored

How not to do pupillage with new recruit PupilBrag (and a new picture by Alex Williams)

Brought to you with the support of our friends at The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting

PupilBrag colour_alt

Within only a few weeks of starting his pupillage, one of the pupils has already garnered quite a reputation as a show-off. Not a show-off in a theatrical, maybe kind of charming but just a bit too much energy sort of a way either. More of a show-off in an insecure, in your face and too much information thank you very much type of way. “Didn’t I mention, I got a first from Oxford, don’t you know?” “Yes, I was a child genius on the violin, don’t you know?” Or even to non-barristers, “Oh, yes, I’m a barrister, don’t you know,” said in a tone that barrister is the biggest word in the whole of the English language. The latter was a line he did in fact try to use on TheVamp in a bar recently before he realised that not only was she a barrister but worse than that she was in his chambers and many rungs above the grade of “BabyBarista pond life” as she politely described his pupillage status.

But hey, each to their own, I say. That is, if it weren’t for the fact that he’s triggered not only the nickname PupilBrag (Don’tYouKnow having been the other alternative) but also a craze around chambers for mimicking his voice, his mannerisms and above all the brags themselves. So whereas usually people wouldn’t mention if they were appearing in the Court of Appeal, it’ll now be “Haven’t you heard? I’m in the Court of Appeal today, don’t you know?” Or, “I’ve just earned five figures for doing virtually nothing, don’t you know?” Actually, this isn’t too out of character for OldSmoothie but for most barristers it’s causing them much hilarity finally being able to shake off their professional humility and tell the world how brilliant they are. All in the name of irony, naturally.

But this has now led various members of chambers into a spin-off of mimicking this trait itself. “I’m in Slough County Court, don’t you know,” or “My practise appears to have completely dried up, don’t you know.” Except of course, the only people taking up this double or sometimes even triple irony (barristers, huh?) are those who in fact have the most successful practices and possess sufficient self-confidence (arrogance?) to take part in what is in reality a sort of barrister version of the humble brag.

All of which was being discussed in chambers tea the other day.
“If you always remember that almost everything’s vanity when it comes to barristers then you really won’t go very far wrong,” commented HeadofChambers.
“The thing is, with lawyers held in such low esteem these days, I never even admit to being a barrister,” said UpTights.
“These days?” said HeadClerk.
“So what do you say?” asked OldSmoothie. “That you lie for a living?”
“Actually, more that I twist the truth for a living if you must know,” said UpTights. “Make people see the world in a different light.”
“I always say that I dress up in silly clothes and perform on demand, just like a clown,” said TheBusker.
“I listen to other people’s secrets,” said BusyBody.
“I flirt with judges,” said TheVamp.
“I’m a profession orator,” said TheCreep, as always completely failing to get even the first layer of any of the humour.
“Well, I always say that I help people along their bumpy ride through life. Help them with their troubles and pick them up when they’re down,” said OldRuin. “With the help of the ICLR, of course.”
“I wonder how you’d describe the ICLR online in those terms?” mused TheVamp.
“Liberating people’s stories from down the ages off the dusty shelves of our law libraries,” said OldRuin.

November 13, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: ICLR

HHJ Pennyweather: Judicial eccentricities amplified on Twitter! @theiclr

Brought to you with the support of our friends at The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting

PennyweatherJ_Circuit

Having enjoyed a few weeks of the extremely generous holiday allowance afforded to judges over the Summer, it was quite a shock to the system arriving back to the land of bickering barristers and snivelling solicitors. The only thing that’s getting me through it at present is my new-found toy which is The Twitter. You see, there are a whole bunch (or perhaps a bore?) of judges who have now signed up under assumed names and they’re certainly being a lot more indiscreet than the judicial guidelines would usually permit. All I can hope is that no litigant gets wind of these accounts and starts looking up some of the extremely rude comments that are being made about the various people appearing before these learned tweeting titans. The appeals which would inevitably follow would not be comfortable reading for any judge caught in the crosshairs.

But as well as indiscreet live case commentaries, there are plenty of other ways in which Her Majesty’s judiciary are articulating their daily grind of boredom and sloth. For example, there’s one judge who sends out a motivational message every couple of hours. Now that might just work for a twenty-five year old wannabe still finding their way in the world. But for the tired old never-has-been that he is, an injunction that it’s never too late to drop out and follow your dreams makes you wince just to read it. My dear friend, it was too late the day you decided to take up your place on the bench and no amount of motivational candy is going to circumvent that reality. All you can hope is that you live long enough to enjoy the lucrative judicial pension when the golden day of retirement arrives and in the meantime, make do with red wine and the limited camaraderie that comes through surviving the judicial trenches that we all have to suffer.

But even that particular judge hasn’t fallen as low as another who keeps posting judicial self-portraits. Not that they are rude in themselves. But donning an enormous fake moustache along with his ceremonial judge’s wig and posing in front of any shop he happens to visit is hardly becoming of someone in the business of dispensing justice. But for good or for bad, it is unlikely that this extra-judicial tweeting will reduce in the coming months. Indeed, trying to control a profession which prides itself on its independence and eccentricities is like trying to herd stray cats or perhaps more appropriately in this case stray sloths. What’s more it all goes further to underline the point about justice not only not being done but being seen not to be done.

Meanwhile, I think perhaps my favourite tweet has come from my good friend the barrister OldRuin who when forced to write something with this new technology came up with simply, “I very much like the ICLR online”. When he was then challenged to be a little more colourful in his utterings, he followed up with, “A full peal of my local church bells for the ICLR online.”

September 24, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: ICLR

Birds of a feather with @theiclr

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UpTightsUpTights was a bundle of energy at chambers tea yesterday. “I had the most terrible experience on my way to court,” she said.
“What? Your witch’s broomstick came unstuck?” said OldSmoothie.
“I was dashing for the start of a trial over the road when a seagull landed one on me from a great height. Not just any small little offering either. This was an almighty effort which smeared right down the front of my jacket and blouse.”
“So what did you do?” asked BusyBody sympathetically.
“What’s the problem?” said OldSmoothie. “Gowns are perfectly designed to hide such sartorial difficulties.”
“Maybe for a fat lazy slob like yourself,” said UpTights, “but I certainly wasn’t going to court in that state. So I asked my pupil to go to court and seek an adjournment for a couple of hours whilst I popped out and bought some replacement clothes. Told her to tell the judge that I had an unavoidable personal difficulty.”
“Wow, that makes it an even more expensive bird dropping than guano,” said TheVamp. “Two hours of time at court with, say, five lawyers on each side. That’s probably four or five thousand pounds worth of dropping in fact.”
“I have a solicitor who always reminds me of a seagull,” said TheVamp. “I set off for court all prepared and raring to go only for him to land a great big stinking pile of the unexpected on me from a great height the moment I arrive.”
“Pupils often remind me of little robins,” said OldRuin. “Always feeding around the feet of the big beasts.”
“I like to see myself as a falcon,” said OldSmoothie. “Fast, ruthless and with the killer instinct.”
“More like a cookoo mercilessly tricking your way into the little nests lovingly made up by junior members of chambers,” said BusyBody.
“Which would make you what?” came the reply. “A magpie chasing every shining, sparkly new legal fad.”
“All of which leaves OldRuin as the wise owl,” said TheVamp.
“Oh, I’d prefer to see myself as the traditional humble house sparrow,” said OldRuin. “Enjoying the chatter in amongst the crowd.”
“And of course the ICLR would be the golden eagle, flying effortlessly above and impressing all they pass,” said TheBusker.
“Particularly the ICLR online,” said TheVamp.
“Well all birds in the Temple should be shot in my opinion,” said UpTights.
“Perhaps a little extreme,” said BusyBody.
“They’re vermin,” she continued. “Nothing more than high-flying rodents.”
“In which case some might say they’re in good company around the Temple,” smiled TheBusker.

September 12, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: ICLR

Palm tree justice from HHJ Pennyweather @theiclr

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PennyweatherJ_Circuit

I hate judging. I really, truly despise the whole process. The dressing up, the sitting around, the having to listen to jumped-up young barristers carping on earnestly about this and that point of obscure law. But above all I hate that I was forced to do this terrible job simply because I was misguided enough to apply for silk and was then unlucky enough to get it. What? I hear you say. There are people queuing up to become a prestigious Queen’s Counsel. Quite true and there are also plenty of people who wish they could slip out of silk, so to speak, and return to their previously successful practice as a junior. People like me who found that although solicitors were happy to feed them bread and butter in the early years they did not have the star quality necessary to pick up the cream later on. Which put me in no-man’s land with virtually no practice save for the odd sympathy brief and even less of a pension. Which of course, like so many other judges before me, left me no alternative but to turn to the bench.

When you’re doing a job you hate, what makes it even worse is when everyone else seems to be out enjoying themselves. All the more so when the sun is shining and worse still a few of your good friends are emailing you photos of their latest catch from your local river whilst you’re sitting hearing a particularly tedious property dispute. Which explains why I got even more grumpy than usual yesterday morning when one of the barristers accused the other first, of going on a frolic of his own and then, of setting off on a fishing expedition. To mention such things in these circumstances really just wasn’t cricket and if you’ll allow me to mix my metaphors even further I wrought my revenge with my own particular form of palm tree justice.

So around midday, I told the two barristers that I would spend the afternoon giving careful consideration to their arguments and in formulating my judgment. Which is exactly what I did alongside my friends on the riverbank and far far away from the hot and stuffy courtroom and, as it happens, even stuffier barristers.

Come this morning, after further cogitation and fine-tuning of my judicial thoughts, I decided the case, as I have often done before, on the quality of the law reports which were offered by either side. I therefore gave a very short judgment in favour of the barrister who had presented me with print-offs from the impeccable ICLR online. Despite my reasoning being almost non-existent I do at least have one factor going in my favour: that the winning barrister with the ICLR reports would in my view be the most on the ball with his law and therefore the most likely to appeal a bad judgment. Which, given that I found in his favour on all points, avoided that particular risk.

So, whenever you hear that famous mis-quote ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’ think of me and have a little sympathy. Some of us are forced to judge even when we’d much rather say ‘live and let live’ and ‘what will be will be’ whilst passing the hours on the side of a river.

July 9, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: ICLR

Legal aid cuts will not only bring injustice but also increased costs @theiclr

Brought to you by our friends at the ICLR

HeadClerk

HeadClerk called an emergency Chambers Meeting yesterday. “I’m afraid that we need a bit of a shake-up of our practice structure.”
A general groan before OldSmoothie said, “Yes, yes. Time for us all to work harder and bring in a few more solicitors.”
“Quite the contrary,” said HeadClerk. “In the light of the government’s proposed cuts to legal aid I want everyone to make a conscious effort instead to start shedding solicitors…criminal ones that is.”
“But that makes up half of my practice,” said BusyBody.
“And that’s all the criminal law will be from now on in this chambers…” said HeadClerk, “…practise. A place to learn a bit of advocacy and then move on. If the government’s taking away the cash I’m not having my barristers wasting their time for less money than they could get doing a paper round. So from now on, criminal law is for pupils only.”
“But…what about the serious criminal matters?” said BusyBody.
“It’s all serious when it comes to someone’s liberty,” said TheVamp.
“And so is paying the rent on this expensive chambers,” said HeadClerk. “So if anyone wants to do charity work they can do it away from here. In the meantime, the pupils get the lot.”
The pupils looked horrified at the prospect of suddenly being thrown in at the deep end of the criminal law.
“You see, this is the problem,” said UpTights. “They’ll pay a pittance up front, think they’ve saved a few pounds and then find that suddenly appeals and compensation claims start exploding all over the place.”
“It’s always the same,” said OldSmoothie. “Whenever the government starts trying to reduce legal fees at the expense of justice, they just start a whole new line of appellate work.”
“They’d be better off getting their own house in order if they really want to save costs,” said BusyBody. “The amount of adjournments I’ve seen which could easily have been avoided with better organisation is ridiculous.”
“In the meantime,” said HeadClerk, “I think we’d better get our pupils access to the ICLR online since I fear they’ll be needing more than the Highway Code this year.”
“Well at least the ICLR is one constant we can rely on,” said OldRuin, “even when the rest of the legal world is in complete turmoil.”

June 12, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: ICLR

HHJ Pennyweather, the legal arms race and grumpy old judge syndrome – @theiclr

Brought to you with the support of our friends at The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting

Sometimes I really think that the supposedly cleverest people in the world are in fact the most stupid. A case which came before me last week illustrates this point perfectly. It started life as an uncomplicated personal injury matter which should have settled out of court many years ago. But instead what happened was that the solicitor in his wisdom passed the case to a barrister for advice. All well and good except that this clever young and earnest barrister was out to make a name for herself and thought the case was in fact far more important and complicated than it actually was. So she advised bringing in leading counsel. Said solicitor then passed this advice first to his client and then to the legal expenses insurers who duly brought in a very learned and esteemed Queen’s Counsel.

But this is where the stupidity arises since as soon as the other side realised that they’d be facing a much more senior barrister in court they decided that they too needed to instruct equally learned and esteemed leading counsel if they were to avoid being massively out-gunned and have any chance of winning whatsoever. So then we had two barristers instead of one on each side and probably four times the costs to boot. The problem is that it’s like a never-ending arms race or I suppose a very expensive game of chicken where each side simply matches the other and cancels out the advantage. Which ultimately leaves them all in no better position than if they’d just gone along with their original cheapo lawyer in the first place.

Now when I came to give judgment I made it very clear that I found for the claim for perfectly good reasons that would be impossible to appeal. But if you want the real truth then you should listen to my wife. She pointed out many years ago that my actual reasons for deciding a particular way are many and varied and rarely have anything to do with the law and only occasionally with the facts. In this particular case it had a lot more to do with the fact that one side provided case reports from the splendid ICLR online which to be fair is I think a perfectly legitimate reason in itself. But sometimes it can be as superficial as a barrister donning clip-on braces (a pet hate of mine) or perhaps threatening me with appeal or using the phrase ‘With the greatest respect’. Whatever it might be, I have long since given up trying to self-justify the outcome on other grounds. Judicial caprice is how my wife politely describes it even though grumpy old judge syndrome is what she usually calls it.

So unless you have a crystal ball and think you can predict the mood of a grumpy old judge (an impossible task according to my wife) or you plan on playing the cunning ICLR card, then I’d say you’d be far better off not spending a penny on lawyers and instead simply agreeing to draw straws at the beginning of the process and sticking with whatever comes from that. Because unless you do the only people who are going to win are the lawyers.

Which come to think of it, makes me think that they are perhaps not as stupid as they perhaps first appear.

May 6, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: ICLR

Taking all the credit for a pupil’s hard work – with @theiclr

Brought to you with the support of our friends at The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting

OldSmoothie was against a very traditional opponent today who always insists on bringing along to court the original volumes containing the particular law report in question. This meant that as he came into court both he and his pupil were weighed down by piles of authorities whilst OldSmoothie rather smugly carried his slim bundle of authorities in a folder under his arm.

The judge was an old sparring-partner of OldSmoothie’s and after he entered he smiled at OldSmoothie and said, “I’m particularly grateful to OldSmoothie for the extremely helpful bundle of authorities printed off using the excellent ICLR online.”

“Thank you, your honour,” came the reply, “I always like to be one digital step ahead in the technology stakes.”

“Ah, yes,” said the judge. “I’ve always had you down as a shiny new moderniser and not the prehistoric old fossil that others might cruelly suggest.”

“Tradition with a modern twist, your honour. I even have a fan page on The Twitter, you know.”

The judge winced and continued, “Yes, I’m sure your dictaphone and typist make you a real whiz on, er, The Twitter. I also thought, for what it’s worth, that it was an unusually well-crafted skeleton argument if you don’t mind my saying? Somewhat less skeletal than your usual.”

“Again, your honour, I like to be thorough in these things.”

“And it also elicited a surprising grasp of this particular area of law in which, as I understand it, you usually don’t practise.”

“Oh, there’s nothing I love more than swotting up late into the night on new little points of law.”

“All of which brings me to the conclusion that you had nothing whatsoever to do with the preparation of either this bundle or the skeleton argument.” Then, without pausing to give OldSmoothie a chance to refute this the tone of his voice changed and he barked at the pupil sitting behind OldSmoothie, “Young man, there, hiding behind his hands. Please stand up.”

The pupil rose slowly to his feet.

“Tell me this, young man. Did OldSmoothie put a single second of work into either the bundle or the skeleton?”

“Er…” the pupil blushed.

“Or was it, as I guess, all in fact done by you?”

“I, er…” the pupil remained unable to answer.

“And now he’s standing in this court taking not only his big fat fee but also all the credit.”

“Er, I, er, OldSmoothie…”

Before the pupil was able to start dissembling OldSmoothie was back on his feet and objecting. “Your Honour, I think my pupil is having difficulties answering when he is concerned that anything he might say as to the preparation of this case,” he pushed out his chest, “indeed the backstage of this particular performance, is of course protected and quite properly hidden from view by the stage curtains of legal professional privilege.”

“Ah, yes, OldSmoothie, I’m absolutely sure that’s the reason,” said the judge raising an eyebrow. “I quite understand and though I shudder to think what goes on backstage in OldSmoothie-land, I recognise that in stealing another’s limelight, as you might say, you follow in fine theatrical tradition.” Then he added, “But anyway, I would still like to congratulate you on your impeccable taste in providing me with authorities from the ICLR online.”

After which, having put the smugness who is OldSmoothie firmly in his place, he went on to give judgment in his favour with a knowing nod to the pupil.

March 28, 2013 · Tim Kevan · Comments Closed
Posted in: ICLR