Doggett docket and duck

By | 12th April 2012

Easter Saturday saw the 158th Annual University Boat race between Oxford and Cambridge. As is now well known, the race resulted in a hollow victory for Cambridge after a self styled anti-elitist campaigner with a degree in contemporary urbanism from the LSE narrowly failed in his bid not only to have his head neatly removed from his shoulders by the passing blades of the Oxford crew but also to be skewered by the bow of their boat.

Describing himself on LinkedIn as: ‘Open-minded, multi-disciplinary, efficient, focused, intelligent, honest, unique,’ (Surely some mistake, Ed?) the swimmer’s dismal failure was captured on camera after his arrest when millions saw his shivering smirk as he was led away covered in a red blanket to appear before magistrates later this month. I have no wish to prejudge the outcome of the case against him but my guess is that he will not suffer a fate nearly as devastating as being hit by the oars or by the boat. What is certain is that he will not be handed over to the crews to deal with nor, as I have seen suggested, will his head be mounted on the blade of the broken Oxford oar and hung outside the OUBC boathouse as a permanent reminder of his stupidity.

As an oarsman in my youth, I have Jack Phelps to thank for making rowing more glamorous than it may first appear. Jack was the boatman at my school and was one of the legendary winners of Doggett’s Coat and Badge.

The story goes that Thomas Doggett fell into the Thames and his life was saved by a waterman. As a result Doggett offered a rowing wager to six Watermen just out of apprenticeship, the prize for which was a coat and badge as well as a small sum of money. I have been slightly in awe of these watermen ever since partly because of the wonderful scarlet coat with a silver badge and partly because of the feat of strength and skill required to complete the course. The race is reputed to be the oldest rowing race in the world and even in today’s sculling boats it takes a single oarsman almost 30 minutes to complete the course from London Bridge to a point near Albert Bridge, compared with the approximately 20 minutes taken by the eights to complete the Putney to Mortlake course. First rowed in 1715 and approaching its 300th anniversary, the race remains an example of supremely dedicated effort and expertise as yet unsullied by the antics of a pathetic protester with a cause which lamely tries to equate perceived elitism with tyranny.

What has this all to do with a blog on the ups and downs of life in the e-disclosure arena? While ruminating on the events on the Thames (and surfing the “net” and even Twitter messages), I came across an article by His Honour Judge Simon Brown QC, designated mercantile judge sitting at the Birmingham Civil Justice Centre entitled “Costs control.” The secondary title poses the question: Costs Management and docketed judges: are you ready for the big bang next year?” [New Law Journal, 5th April, 2012]

I was asked recently what a docket system entailed. Put simply, it is a system whereby a case is allocated to a judge who is then responsible for managing that case until its disposal. Simon Brown is well known for his enthusiasm for managing cases in a proportionate, cost effective and efficient manner and it is no surprise that he has espoused the use of technology in his cases where appropriate.

His theme in this article is not so much the use of technology but rather case management and cost control. It is worth a read particularly if you are about to start a case in Birmingham and want to know how the court is likely to approach this issue.

As the article says: “The days of putting in a bill at the end of a case based on a multiple of billable hours x £x per hour and expecting to be paid are over.”

Technology is, however, never far away. It is, or should be, part and parcel of the process of litigation these days. It is one of the weapons in the armoury of the well trained litigator. Consideration of its use is essential, or to put it another way, failure to consider its use may land you in hot water.

That is a fate which may be preferable to having your head knocked off by a passing oar but which will almost certainly result in either the red faced lawyer and/or discontented client facing a bill for wasted costs or the excess over what is reasonable or proportionate.

 Illustration: Dogett’s Coat & Badge Race by Thomas Rowlands (1756-1827) (Wikimedia Commons)