Monthly Archives: December 2009

Grabbing the tiger…

One of my favourite animals is the white Bengal Tiger. I am no expert but there is a real majesty and suppressed fury in these magnificent beasts. I am ambivalent about zoos in general but I was privileged to see a number of these animals on a night safari at Singapore Zoo and, as I doubt if I will ever see them in the wild, this was an opportunity to see an animal which I would not ordinarily have been able to see. 

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Sic transit gloria mundi

Latin phrases used to be an important part of a lawyer’s armoury, if only to confuse those without a classical education into believing that a mundane set of words must be important because of the solemnity with which they were intoned. Doubtless this also justified instructing a lawyer and a fee as the ordinary person could not be expected to act for himself (and in those days it almost invariably was a male) if they could not understand the language used.

I have an affectionate memory of learning Latin although too often my reports complained that “he could do better at Latin sentences if he learned the vocabulary and the conjugations”. I am in favour of it being taught, not least because it is one of the foundations of our own language today. However, nowadays the use of Latin in the law is dying out and a good thing too! Plain English is what we need so that everyone can understand what is being said and written.

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Fantastic voyage of e-discovery

The world of e-discovery is full of surprises. After leaving private practice I never dreamed that I would be transported to the snowy steppes of Russia. This is a bit of an exaggeration, I admit, but I found myself recently at a reception in the Reform Club given by the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce. Standing, listening to the short speech given by HRH Prince Michael of Kent, I reflected that 90 years was as yesterday as I observed how extraordinarily like the photographs of Tsar Nicholas 11, his descendant actually is. It was like having a Romanov in the room.

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Ungreasing the wheels

A recent article in the Economist [Ungreasing the Wheels, 19th November] caught my eye. The  article confirms what we have been seeing in cases referred to us over the past few months, namely that the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act is providing litigation lawyers with a staggering amount of work.

For those of you not familiar with the FCPA, it sets out to punish US corporates who seek to bribe foreign officials in order to win business particularly in places like China. Of course it is not in any way limited to China, but that is where a lot of new business is located and tensions are beginning to show.

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From Middel Seaxe to Extradition

The county of Middlesex was the ancient home of the Middel Saxons. Originally it covered an area stretching from the western edge of Essex to include such ancient foundations like the City of London, through to Westminster Abbey and out to more modern “cathedrals” like Heathrow.

On the edge of what used to be known as Thorney Island there now stands an imposing building which surprisingly was only constructed in the 20th Century. On the site of an old belfry in the 13th century and the site of two previous Middlesex Guildhalls, the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is housed in the splendidly renovated Middlesex Guildhall of 1913.

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Fulbright & Jaworski 2009 Survey

US law firm, Fulbright & Jaworski, has offices all around the world in places as disparate as Dubai, Munich, Riyadh, Hong Kong, London and Beijing. 

This is the 6th year that the firm has polled corporate law departments on the state of global litigation and the results confirm not only that there is an upswing in instructions but also that increasing litigation activity is anticipated in the year to come.

I have commented previously on where I have seen the litigation coming from and it is gratifying to see the survey confirm the trends: 

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It’s behind you

Continuing last month’s seasonal theme (Mirror, mirror on the wall 19th November), I was delighted to see that there is a website dedicated to all things panto called www.its-behind-you.com

Fairy godmothers and magic lamps do not feature much, I suspect, in the setting up of vehicles to provide outside funding to litigants who cannot afford to fund their cases. It is far too serious a business for that. It is also a business whose time has come. One lawyer commented to me that “everyone is jumping on the bandwagon now” and I was engaged in a detailed discussion on the subject with another guest last night at the launch of two new offices of European Business Lawyers, Miller Rosenfalck LLP.  True to the aims of the firm, the new offices being celebrated were in different parts of the world as far apart as Norwich and New York. No surprise that I was invited to the party in Norwich and not in New York, but there you go! It was a very good party! 

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Lies, damned lies and statistics

Unusually for me, I found myself recently on a bus in a queue at road works at a bridge overlooking a swollen River Ouse on my way to London.

I should explain that I do not always travel to London this way. On the day in question I fell foul of one of those increasingly irritating quirks of public transport in this country when I arrived at my usual station to be met with an announcement that my train had been cancelled “owing to there being no train crew available”.

First Capital Connect has not had a good time recently. I recall weekend trains across the Midlands in the summer being cancelled regularly for this reason but this was the first time it had happened to me. Not for them the excuse of “leaves on the line”. They now have a leaf fall timetable which essentially means that trains take longer to reach their destination in the autumn but, because this is announced in advance, the trains are not shown to be late so that the statistics do not show a rise in late running trains. I look forward to the snow fall timetable, when appropriate, although this will presumably just be a long list of cancellations because the snow ploughs were in the wrong place.

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