Monthly Archives: June 2012

Keeping up with the Joneses

Now seemingly dated, the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” was slang for the phenomenon described by certain snooty commentators who noticed that the occupants of houses in suburban streets appeared to be copying one another in the acquisition of the latest material goods. I say it seems outdated because the phenomenon is now so widespread as to fail to evoke any comment or reaction when the latest piece of “electronica” is paraded in front of the neighbours.

The law is often said to lag behind reality, at least that is one of the politer epithets applied to our profession!

For once, it is satisfying to report briefly on three cases where the law appears to be forging ahead.

There is no need for me to do other than mention the three cases for my reader to understand what I mean and, therefore, I propose to do little more than that.

We start with the rolling southern charms of Hampshire, once the home of the late great Lord Denning. In a case which has hit the local headlines for all the right reasons, we discover that the Chief Constable of Hampshire is experimenting with paperless trials. It had to happen somewhere some day and I did not expect it to be Hampshire. Indeed ,my own home county of Norfolk reported a recent trial whereby police and social services were to be issued with tablets instead of notebooks!

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Case study: All in the mix

Many of you may have wondered what is actually involved in a project where lawyers decide to use some of the latest technology to help them and their clients make sense of a vast amount of data in a way which is relatively quick, straightforward, reliable and cost-effective?

Further, I suspect that many people will have read at least one of the numerous articles on predictive coding, aka technology/computer assisted review, over the past few months and wondered whether this was really something which was relevant to their everyday practising lives.

Advertising makes it relatively easy to assert that such and such a technology, this particular application or that particular tool will solve the problem in hand. It does not matter whether we are talking about washing powder, window cleaner or air freshener. Indeed all advertising relies on the same simple technique. Put in front of the viewer a pretty picture and some simple words which illustrate the good points of whatever is being promoted and sales will follow.

That at least is the theory. So what about the practice? Continue reading

The pace is hotting up

In two recent articles to which I have already referred, His Honour Judge Simon Brown QC, the judge in charge of the Mercantile Court in Birmingham, has sought to set out his views, (some might go so far as to say his tips) on what to expect from the new regime being introduced for disclosure and case and costs management when the relevant provisions of LASPO come into effect in April next year:

All serious practitioners in the contentious area of the law should read the articles in full and acquaint themselves of the new rules and how they will operate. However, to assist in the familiarisation process I thought I would set out in brief what the judge has said so that this piece can act as an aide memoire for the future conduct of litigation. As they say in all the best disclaimers, the views expressed here are the views of the author (and possibly of Simon Brown) and there is no substitute for reading the real thing!

In no particular order the comments which stand out for me are: Continue reading

To hell in a handcart

The summer (ha ha) is a time when I often find that work gets in the way of my social life. I am sure I am not alone in that, even if the weather is more like the Falkland Islands (30 years on) than what we expect of a reasonably temperate island to the north west of the European continent in June.

Which is not to say that we are all going to hell in a handcart, whatever that may mean. I found myself wondering recently about the origin of the phrase which had tumbled into my mind while I was enjoying a few rays of improbable sunshine and thinking about the future development of the world of e-disclosure – as you do!

Before dealing with issues beloved of common law lawyers the world over, such as Peruvian Guano, you may be interested to know that to go “to hell in a handcart” is a phrase of uncertain origin. Many suggestions have been made about its derivation but the one which strikes me as one of the most colourful and one which is at least as likely as any of the others may be found in a church in Gloucestershire.

The great west window of Fairford church depicts the Day of Judgment in stained glass. Amongst the mediaeval images of the innocent going to heaven and the guilty going to hell, is the picture of an old woman going to hell in a wheelbarrow being pushed by a blue devil.

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Master of the Universe

Litigation lawyers and others with regular dealings before the High Court in England and Wales will be familiar with the role of the Master.

Essentially, Masters deal with the administrative aspects of a case in order to facilitate its arrival at trial in good order. Our own Senior Master Whitaker is the senior of the Masters in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court and is, of course, well known to practitioners as a staunch advocate of the judicious and proper use of electronic tools to make the process of disclosure both quicker and more cost effective.

Masters occupy an important position in the judicial hierarchy and I have often wondered why the role of Master has not been increased, some might say enhanced, by powers to deal with specific issues which arise in cases before them where they are the undoubted experts in the field under discussion or in dispute and where they can bring this specialist knowledge to bear on the case for the benefit of the parties and the swifter disposal of litigation.

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When I started out writing this blog almost three years ago I confess I did not think I would still be doing it in 2012, still less that I would come to write about soteriology.

I admit I had to look it up, having never heard of it before. Apparently the word comes from the Greek word “soteria” meaning salvation, something which I fear I must have missed in my classical education. According to one definition, soteriology is the study of religious doctrines of salvation. A number of religions are concerned with salvation and Nirvana is the soteriological goal of Indian religions such as Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. I stand to be corrected by those more knowledgeable than I but Nirvana is, I believe, a state of transcendence permitting the mind to experience a sense of great peace and a unique form of awareness or intelligence.

I suspect that, however important they may seem, recent speeches by Lord Neuberger and Mr Justice Ramsey will not claim to induce either a sense of great peace or a unique form of awareness or intelligence. Nonetheless, they are definitely part of the ongoing process designed to achieve some kind of Nirvana for clients and litigation lawyers alike.

Let me explain what I mean. Continue reading

Life on Venus, Dull and Boring

You could be forgiven for thinking that the camera man had a dirty lens, if you saw any of the pictures of Venus “transiting” the sun last week. We are becoming more attuned to astronomical phenomena these days with attention being drawn to eclipses, sunspots and craters on moons orbiting Jupiter more regularly than in the past. Personally I think this is all to the good and that we would all benefit from a greater awareness of what is going on around us even if it is many millions of miles away.

I did not see the actual “transit” partly because frankly I forgot to look (it was very early in the morning) but more realistically because of this month’s seemingly interminable grey skies. However, there are lots of pictures out there which enabled me to observe the spot as it crossed the huge surface of the sun. Actually, I thought the best comment was made by one Van Webster, described as a member of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society who said: “If you can see the mole on Cindy Crawford’s face, you can see Venus.”

Life is certainly not dull. Continue reading