Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Are Your Lawyers from Heaven or Hell?

Hat tip to Neil Rose for this. Solicitors From Hell is a website devoted to letting clients anonymously post or vent their spleen at the horrible things done to them by solicitors.

There are 864 lawyers listed including both solicitors and barristers. Some are well-known names, others less so. But there is no doubting the anger of the complainants. The full list is here.

The website is run by Rick Kordowski from Essex who found himself engaged with solicitors who wouldn't take his calls or talk to him. After the case was lost, he complained to the regulators and won £500 compensation. Thus began his list. As yet he appears not to have lost a defamation battle. You can read more about him and his website in this Independent article.

To balance the equation, Rick has started a counterpart website, Solicitors From Heaven. It's a rather shorter, more anodyne site than the other. Necessary but not so much fun to read.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I Know Just How He Feels...

(Thanks to the New Yorker)

If only it were true!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The ABA Gets It Right and the LSB Doesn't?

(Thanks to ABA)
Jonathan Goldsmith of the CCBE has an interesting article in the Law Society Gazette, "Some lessons for the Legal Services Board".

The gist of his piece is that the American Bar Association's 20/20 Commission on Ethics is part of a measured and open approach to discussing and opening up legal services to global competition. They are taking 3 years to analyze, sift, and formulate proposals for the ABA House of Delegates to vote on.

Goldsmith is positively rapturous at the openness of the process, its willingness to engage, its measuredness. By contrast he portrays the Legal Services Board as the new kid on the block, eager to impress, importunate even, and hasty.

Let's go behind some of the rhetoric here. The ABA has been around many years and serves a good function, but it's a second order association. It has no direct power, something Goldsmith doesn't mention until near the end of his article. You could miss it. The ABA recommends. But the ABA is conservative and the House of Delegates is not known for being radical in its decisions. So is the 20/20 commission a talking shop designed to push away awkward decisions? Probably, and I say that knowing friends on the commission are working hard. The ABA has come to this question of opening up legal services late in the day. But it's playing a slow catch up.

The LSB has not sprung up from nowhere. It's the result of almost 10 years work by regulators, anti-competition officials, consumer representatives, government reviews in the face of obfuscation by the legal profession. All of which have involved extensive consultation, including contributions from the CCBE. I've written much on this (search for Clementi, Legal Services Act, alternative business structures for more) and I won't repeat it here.

The LSB has been formally in existence from January 2010 and in that time it has achieved much, often in the face of opposition from legal profession representative bodies who have been slow to act. Did you know, for example, that the diversity officials from the Law Society and the Bar Council hadn't met until introduced to each other by the LSB? The LSB has to act and act firmly. It can't dither, which is what Goldsmith seems to want.

The LSB is, however, committed to transparency. You can find all its publications on its website. The business plan, the consultations, the research, they're all there. It has been holding regular seminars with academics, regulators, professionals and others. I know because I've attended a number.

As to research, the LSB has put together a Research Strategy Group of which I'm a member. One thing we are clear on is that all research will be published. I hope the legal profession takes this on board. As yet I'm not fully convinced it has. If we are to understand the role and structure of the legal profession and its place in access to justice, then it must welcome and collaborate in research with no areas off-limits. The LSB will play a great part in bringing this about.

So Goldsmith is disingenuous. He's overplayed the ABA and underplayed the role and activities of the LSB. The CCBE is going to have to adapt to a more globalized world that sees the legal profession as part of a wider spectrum of legal service providers.

PS. A couple of hours after I posted this I received an email from Alex Roy, the research manager at the LSB, announcing that the LSB website now has an active research section available here

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ghost Bikes

Cycling is my main form of transport. And I like cycling in the city; I like the noise, the sights, the ability to expore on a whim. But there are times when it's not a joy. I was hit by a car once. I'm alive but others aren't. That's why we are seeing a rising number of ghost bikes in cities around the world.

Here's a trailer for a film that is being made about ghost bikes. Click on the blue title to see it.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Hamburger Theory of the History of the Legal Profession

This is the McDonalds Hamburger U class in the History of the Legal Profession. Listen up class--everything you need to know is that picture above.

Let's start at the bottom of the burger. That piece of bun is the 19th century, a time when the yeast of capitalism was raising expectations and creating a free for all atmosphere. Lawyers in the City were as much entrepreneurs as professional lawyers. They were writing the limited liability statutes and promoting the stock of the new railways they were putting together all around the world--Britain, Canada, Argentina, South Africa, and the US.

Law firms were small but employed many managing clerks. The need for formal ethics was slight. Gentlemen's club rules and family strictures were sufficient in most cases. Perhaps Charles Dickens would disagree but Max Weber realized how the craft tradition of the British legal profession was superior to that of the continent's academic inclination. In the many booms and slumps of the 19th century lawyers (and accountantts) thrived.

During the 20th century we encounter the meat, the burger. This is what we know as the typical professional law firm: partners and associates jousting in their tournaments. Lawyers become less entrepreneurial and more technical. Although they sit on company boards, they aren't quite as enthusiastic about promoting stock as they were.

This is the heyday of professional ethics. Bar Associations everywhere start to compose them. In some cases to exclude blacks, Jews and women; in others to stimulate better professional conduct. This becomes the golden age (depending on how well done you like your burger) of the professional, secure in their compact with the state, able to withstand incursions from outsiders. Remuneration is high.

But change is inevitable and so we come to the cheese and tomato--the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Capitalism, in its financial sense, is now at its most cutthroat. Extracting surplus (sorry "value added") becomes the highest expression of commercial art.

The lawyer is subsumed within the law firm, a cog to work and bill hours so that partners can score the best PEPs in the AmLaw 200. The tournament becomes more like Rollerball, and associates are dropped by the wayside, shunted into professional support, or given the consolation prize of a salaried partnership.

Lawyers, investment banks, and credit rating agencies collude to create hitherto unknown levels of debt. The ethos of professionalism is replaced by morality of business. Ethics seems less relevant as states investigate professions restrictive practices and eventually compel them to open up to external competition. Lawyers hold out for the longest but eventuall succumb.

All is not lost, however, as we rise to the lid, the final piece of bun, the capstone of the burger. Mine in the picture has eyes. These are the eyes of the state's regulators, local, national, and increasingly global. We enter the period, in the 21st century, of the alternative business structure, the limited disciplinary partnerships, the supermarket law firm, the legal process outsourcer--a free for all redolent of the 19th century.

Equity partnerships, post-recession, are shrunk and remain so. Associates are expendable with few opportunities of partnership, just like the seeds on the bun. Finally, law firms and businesses as entities are regulated instead of the individual lawyer. Even the regulators get their own regulator.

So there you have it class. In as much time as it takes to eat a burger, you have the history of the legal profession over the last three centuries.

Class, please ensure you eat all your burger.....It's your profession after all.

Based on a revised paper, "From Ethics to Regulation: The Re-Organization and Re-Professionalization of Large Law Firms in the 21st Century" available at SSRN.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Future of Legal Services

The Legal Services Board held a conference today on the Future of Legal Services: Emergent Thinking. Its key themes were: risk based regulation; alternative business structures; innovation and the future of law firms; and consumers, lawyers and law firms.

Rather than summarize each paper I prefer to focus on those that raised the most interesting questions for the future. For those who would like to know more, the Legal Services Board has produced a pamphlet with digests of the papers which you can obtain from their research manager, Alex Roy.

Julia Black dealt with risk based regulation and showed that it needed a determined approach if it were to succeed. Often institutions might have risk based frameworks in place but don't implement them when a crisis arises. The Financial Services Authority's handling of the Northern Rock bank debacle was evidence of that. To succeed it needs the commitment of the organization (eg. the regulator and the law firm) and active monitoring. Since inevitably resources are scarce where are they best deployed? It's clear that most complaints come from the small law firm sector and hardly any from the large corporate sector. But when Arthur Andersen blew up after Enron, its law firm--the ninth largest in the world by revenue--had to be wound up to the satisfaction of the regulator.

So far regulators have only had to deal with what they know (known knowns)--law firms--but with the introduction of alternative business structures (ABS) in September 2011 they will be faced with known unknowns. Tony Williams, who was head of Andersen Legal when it had to be wound up, sketched a future where law firms wouldn't necessarily have to travel the ABS route or take external capital, but they had to be absolutely sure about what direction they would take. They could not afford to ignore this movement. Those that did elect to take external investment from private equity funds would find their management and decisionmaking processes rigorously challenged and audited. Moreover, their remuneration, if lockstep, would be overhauled as their billing was changed from hourly billables to fixed price or value billing.

Jon Trigg, A4e, spoke about the opportunities that existed in the individual end of the legal services market. He gave an example of A4e's work in its partnership with the Community Legal Advice Centres in Leicester and Hull bringing a range of legal services including telephone legal advice under one roof, in conjunction with a law firm. He demonstrated that innovation was not limited to the corporate sector of legal practice.

Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) was described as a player that could truly exploit the legal services market. Mari Sako explained that LPOs were now beginning to move from low end, commoditized legal work into more high end work. With this is coming a new approach that sees LPOs forming ABS with law firms overseas and in India. In other words, LPOs will buy law firms. What LPOs have is the potential to colonize legal services in the way Apple did with combining hardware, software and music--iPod, iTunes, iPhone, etc. Their ability to take this road is because they are not constrained by the conventional wisdom of what law practice or the legal services market ought to be.

To remind you, if you want more information contact Alex Roy at the Legal Services Board. The board is committed to opening up research in this field and making all its research available via its website. They can't be any plainer than that.

The spaceship has landed and now it's time to contact the aliens.....


Monday, June 14, 2010

Great New Law and Society Publishing Venture

Alan Childress of Tulane Law School has set up a new publishing house of great interest to law and society scholars as well as others. Alan posted in Legal Profession Blog:

As a follow-up to my post yesterday on republishing the Kadish & Kadish classic and others as a Kindle book or an ebook, I announce more generally that I seek submissions to publish digitally your still-relevant dissertation or monograph-length thesis.  This is to post on Amazon and other sites for use on iPad, Kindle, and Nook, and related apps on PC, Mac, iPhone, and BlackBerry.  The fields are legal ethics, law, law and society, and legal history or biography. This would not be an SSRN-type download but instead would be marketed as a regular Kindle book and the like and available to a broader international market, easily searched on Amazon, Google, and Barnes and Noble sites. 
This is unlike some digital-dissertation services that essentially make it a vanity press by having it as a download from their site; my goal is to turn it into a real book, for use with readers and researchers through real channels and read by every device, with working links and footnotes. (And also unlike those sites, my royalty rate is much higher, and your book will accompany not only other dissertations but classic works in law and society, brought back digitally.)  Eventually they will also be featured on this website, but mainly on Amazon and iBooks.  Editing services are available for outsourcing at good rates (with legal writing professors!), but I will do all production, formatting, and marketing.
This service is not exclusive, in the sense that you are free to submit your work elsewhere in the meantime and pull it from this program should it be accepted by Penn Press or OUP ("making it to the show"), or for whatever reason; I'd facilitate that. This is exclusively digital publishing and is not meant to interfere with your parsing parts of it for articles (even to SSRN) or your seeking traditional publication of the whole.  Contact me at this email address with topic, description, and the history of your manuscript, and the goals you have for it, if interested. The imprint, as with the book above, would be with Quid Pro, these in a Dissertation Series or by subject matter, e.g., Legal Ethics. There is also an option of taking a reduced rate but funding a nonprofit law student project, which incentivizes a Facebooky student salesforce for you so it would seem to be the smart move.
Alan is about to revive some of the law and society classics by Selznick, Auerbach, Skolnick, and Messenger. Alan got his Ph.D from Berkeley--you can tell. And the picture at the top is from a new book he's published on Amazon.

Quid Pro Books is here and you can email Alan at

Alan is doing a great job on this and I can think of quite a few Ph.Ds lying around that could usefully be published here. Do it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sometimes You Feel That Way....

(Thanks New Yorker)

Friday, June 11, 2010

2010 Westminster Graduate Conference

The School of Law, University of Westminster, The Westminster International Law & Theory Centre and The Westminster Centre for the Study of Democracy cordially invite you to:

The 2010 Westminster Graduate Conference
Law and Politics: Democracy, Human Rights and Power

Friday, 11th of June, 2010
Room 358, University of Westminster: 309, Regent Street, London W1B

The School of Law, University of Westminster, the Westminster International Law & Theory Centre and the Westminster Centre for the Study of Democracy are pleased to welcome you to the Westminster Graduate Conference on “Law and Politics: Democracy, Human Rights and Power”. The conference aims to be a friendly, workshop-like gathering where graduate students present, discuss and challenge aspects of law, politics and theory in various subject areas.

The conference consists of four sessions dedicated to the problematic relationship between law and politics. The first session in the morning analyses politics and depoliticisation of international and foreign courts. The second session deals with international institutions seeking to organise human rights and democracy abroad. Just before lunch Eric Heinze, Professor of Law and Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London, will deliver the keynote speech on “Rights Consciousness and the Mass Media”. The conference resumes after lunch as session three explores the politics and regulation of space, globalisation and non-state actors. The last session lingers on identities and creativity in law and politics.

Attendance to the conference is free but please reserve a seat by emailing Samantha King For more information please email Laura Niada at


Registration and coffee (8.45 – 9.00)

Session One (9.00 – 11.40): The Foreign Trial

Daniela Nadj, “The Culturalisation of Identity in an Age of ‘Ethnic Conflict’ – Depoliticised Gender in ICTY Wartime Sexual Violence Jurisprudence” (University of Westminster)

Munir Nuseibah, “Applying International Humanitarian Law in Occupied Palestinian Territory: Case Study of the Wall” (University of Westminster)

Awol Kassim Allo, “Unruly Defendants and Defense Counsel, the Public and the Political Trial: The Politics of Occupation and Resistance vis-à-vis Terrorism in the Trial of Marwam Barghouti” (University of Glasgow)

John McGroarty, “Politics, the International Judge and the Advancement of Human Rights Jurisprudence at the ECtHR” (University of Glasgow)

Kryss Macleod, “Unbundling Sovereignty: Extraterritoriality and New Boundaries of Authority and Social Unity” (University of the West of Scotland)

Michael Freitas Mohallem, “Immutable Clauses and Judicial Review: the Constitutional Jurisprudence of India, Brazil and South Africa” (University College London)


Session Two (11.50 – 14.00): State Values and Failures

Iskra Andreeva, “‘Common Values’ and the European Union External Identity” (Ghent University, Belgium)

Rosa Freedman, “The United States and the UN Human Rights Council” (Queen Mary University of London)

Anna Blachura, “Collapse of a Vision – International Law and the ‘Failed State Concept’” (University of Westminster)

Frederick Cowell, “Preventing Military Coups in Africa – A Victory of Legalism” (Birkbeck College London)

Vasiliki Saranti, “A System of Collective Defence of Democracy: The Case of the Inter-American Democratic Charter” (Panteion University, Athens, Greece)

Keynote Speech (14.00 – 14.30)

Eric Heinze, Professor of Law and Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London, on “Rights Consciousness and the Mass Media”


Session Three (15.30 – 18.30): Spaces and the Unplaced

Debdatta Chowdhury, “The Politics of Spatial Identity: Marichjhapi Massacre, 1979” (University of Westminster)

Pravin Jeyaraj, “The Tension between Rationality and Relationality in Environmental Law and Policy” (University of Westminster)

Rezarte Vukatana, “The Fragmented Responses to a Global Phenomenon: The Case of Intermediated Securities” (University of Westminster)

Simona Di Sano, “The Third Road to Deal with the Insolvency of Enterprise Groups” (University of Westminster)

Willie R. Mbioh, “‘The Compulsory Licensing of HIV/AIDS Drugs: TRIPS, Africa, and the Political Economy of the Global Procurement of Generic HIV/AIDS-Related Medicines” (University of Kent)

Nlerum Sunday Okogbule, “Appraising the Impact of Human Rights Norms on International Economic Institutions in Relation to Africa” (University of Glasgow)

Avidan Kent, “‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’; the Story of Non-Governmental Organisations and International Law” (Cambridge University)


Session Four (18.45 – 20.30): Creativity and Identity

Danilo Mandic, “Copyright Law and Intangibility: Ideas, Creativity and Technology” (University of Westminster)

Muhammad Abrar, “Public Interest and Electronic Media” (University of Glasgow)

Kay Lalor, “Constituting Sexuality: Rights, Politics and Power in the Gay Rights Movement” (University of Westminster)

Richard Neve, “Making ‘Aliens’ Act like ‘Us’” (University of Westminster)


... And lastly: you are all welcome to join the organising committee to Chutney and Lager ( for... cosy drinks and Indian delicacies


Monday, June 07, 2010

Saint David of Clementi

Sir David Clementi

At the conference on Regulating and Deregulating Lawyers in the 21st Century at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies on June 3 and 4, I celebrated the beatification of Sir David Clementi.

I pointed out to the audience that each day I prostrated myself before my shrine of Saint David for he has wrought unto us a great industry of legal profession studies. We scholars, who toil in the soil prepared for us by Saint David, ought truly to give thanks to his great works. 

The Clementi Review is our bible, the Legal Services Act our book of prayer, and the Legal Services Board our ministry.



Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Librarians Do GaGa

HT to Michael Froomkin at

Remember, librarians are cool!