Monthly Archives: October 2011

Postcard from Boston

Why are you here? What do you do? Who is Millnet? Are you going to set up in the US?

Before I went away I mentioned that I had had the honour to be invited to the Fall Conference of the Litigation Counsel of America. What a splendid occasion it was in the beautiful city of Boston.

As the old postcards used to have it (although I cannot actually mark the spot) if you look closely at the above photograph at about 2 o’clock from the top of the Arch in the centre of the picture you will get some idea of the view to be had over Boston Harbor from my hotel.

The interesting domed structure below, rather like a mini St Paul’s cathedral but without the current crop of protestors, is the Foster Pavilion on the waterfront and the venue for the welcome conference reception and traditional clambake.

I must confess it was an interesting experience being the sole Englishman among about 150 US trial and appellate attorneys, or litigators if you will. Once I had answered all the questions about why I was there and what I did, I was able to enjoy a fascinating couple of days seeing how US lawyers get their CPD points (or CLE accreditation as they prefer to call them).

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A jewel beyond price

2011 is the 650th anniversary of the office of Justice of the Peace.

Most people will be only dimly aware that over 95% of the judicial work in the courts of this country is carried out by unpaid volunteers who have taken an oath that they “will well and truly serve” the Queen “in the office of Justice of the Peace and do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of the Realm without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”

“Justices of the Peace” have in fact been around for even longer than that! After trial by ordeal, with its illogical outcomes of innocence only being presumed after the accused had succumbed to the ordeal by fire or ducking stool and survival of the ordeal meaning guilt, there was a period when offenders appeared before their villages or local communities where innocence depended on the number of “oath bearers” or “jurors” an alleged miscreant could muster. If he could muster more than his accusers, he was innocent. Better than trial by ordeal but still far from perfect!

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Battle of the e-discovery bulge

In the last winter of the Second World War (1944-5), the Germans and the Allies fought a tank battle in the Ardennes region of France which has become known as the Battle of the Bulge, so called because of the initial German advance which caused a bulge in the Allied line as depicted in maps and newspaper reports of the time.

It was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Official estimates put American dead at 19000 with over 80000 casualties, and German casualties were said to be between 60000 and 100000.

Dramatised in the 1965 film Battle of the Bulge starring Henry Fonda, Robert Shaw, Telly Savalas, Dana Andrews and Charles Bronson, the allied victory marked the beginning of the end of the German war effort as their reserves had been depleted and the Luftwaffe smashed.

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No tea party

“Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere..”

Paul Revere’s ride, as retold in Longfellow’s poem, together with the Boston Tea Party are two of the iconic events leading up to the American War of Independence. On April 18th 1775, Paul Revere set off to ride to Lexington, Massachusetts to warn of the approach of British troops intent on the arrest of Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Sixteen months earlier, in December 1773, the destruction of tea at Boston harbour became a turning point in the struggle for independence of the United States from Britain. Known subsequently as the Boston Tea Party, a group of men had boarded three ships carrying taxed tea to Britain and destroyed the tea by throwing it into the harbour.

These days the Tea Party has other connotations but my reasons for being in Boston this week are professional rather than political.

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No magic roundabout

We have all heard about Silicon Valley and some of us have even heard about Silicon Fen (the area around Cambridge which is home to many dotcom and other technology start ups) and a few will even have heard of New York’s Silicon Alley!

However, just when you thought you were safe, along comes the Silicon Roundabout, the name given to the booming Old Street/Shoreditch area on the northern edge of the City of London.

Roundabouts are becoming somewhat of a recurring theme in this blog (it is only a few weeks since I was singing the praises of Nashville’s Music Row roundabout) but this roundabout doesn’t yet have the same cachet, sitting as it does in the middle of the busy intersection of Old Street and City Road, and above the entrance to the underground station.

I have worked in the area for some years now and I must confess I have never thought of it as a particularly noteworthy or pioneering area. Indeed, it could be said that after many years of upgrading the Tube, there is one station which really needs a make over, and that is Old Street.

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Lost for words

On the flyleaf of a book given to me by a friend appear the words “…I hope this book brings on an afflatus rather than a Winchester Goose….”

If you are anything like me, you will not immediately understand where the donor is coming from. Indeed, I had to look up the words in the very same book (The Superior Person’s Book of Words by Peter Bowler, first published in Great Britain by Bloomsbury in 2002) before I got the joke.

If you want to know the meaning of zzxjoanw, nepheligenous or thaumaturge you will need to refer to Mr Bowler’s entertaining book, available on Amazon and in good bookshops everywhere. I know what you will be thinking! He has lost his marbles, spent too much time overindulging or is suffering from sunstroke (on the Sussex coast, in October?) The weather was blistering but…

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