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9 October, 2007  
London Calling

Nabarro wants to speak to its clients with clarity – it’s the law that should stay murky … Solicitors outraged by accusations of raucousness and rudeness … First barrister in 800 years to go to jail … The Poms love to queue, even if their money is safe in the bank

imageThe legal profession has been rocked by the claim of Caroline Newsholme (pic), a corporate partner at Nabarro, the English firm with the indigenous Australian name.

She says that clients these days don’t want to be confused by lawyers. Caroline was quoted by Kylie (they’re everywhere) Williams in an article in The Lawyer entitled “Nabarro lawyers learn to be lucid.” Lucid is the legal word for clear.

Nabarro has decreed that 500 fee earners must sign up to attend a Plain English seminar. Its Business Development Director, the wonderfully-named Guy Bigland said:

“It will help lawyers to think about what they say and make sure the language they use is understandable.”

Communications is the area that attracts the most complaints by clients and has done so since the year dot. The NSW Legal Ombudsman once commented on the great irony that lawyers pride themselves on their ability to communicate.

Yet it is not surprising. English trainees go to a two-day compulsory client care course and spend an hour or so learning the subject of how to talk to humans. At that stage, most of them have never seen a client. There is no more compulsory training once they have qualified.

Commendably, Nabarro wants to ban the use of words such as “therein” and “forthwith”. But legalese is not the entire problem. What about corporate speak like “cutting edge” and “blue sky thinking”?

Consider this sentence inserted in an ad in the same issue of The Lawyer for DLA Piper by recruitment consultants, Shilton Sharpe Quarry.

“Our market leading international finance practice advises on all aspects of financing in each major jurisdiction and global financial centre and provides a client service which we feel is unparalleled.”

On the next page, Nabarro Clarity Matters (as the firm is now called) has inserted a large recruitment ad asking applicants to contact their consultants, Shilton Sharpe Quarry.

* * *

A justices’ clerk, who advises lay magistrates in Totnes, Torquay and Newton Abbot has written to a number of law firms in South Devon complaining about bad behaviour in court.

imageHe cites swearing, laughing and joking, raucousness, inappropriate dress, rudeness and late attendance.

The trouble is that the complaint is not about the behaviour of the defendants, it’s about the solicitors.

This comes at the same time that the new Solicitors Regulation Authority is announcing the removal of compulsory training for solicitor advocates.

For the past seven years most solicitor advocates have been forced to complete six days of face-to-face training, a learning portfolio, two assessments and 12 months of specified advocacy experience.

There has always been unhappiness that solicitor advocates don’t get the chance to wear wigs and are forbidden from addressing each other as learned friends.

The latest move is seen as the quid pro quo for allowing barristers direct access to the public in certain cases without the intervention of a briefing solicitor.

The claims made by the justices’ clerk in Devon have been rejected by outraged solicitors. Said one:

“I have never come across any such behaviour”.

Said another:

“I think the courts are becoming slightly less formal and more user-friendly.”

* * *

At least the courts can still rely on members of the good old bar. Or can they?

A barrister who sent an email from a Tottenham Court Road internet shop has been jailed for 12 months.

imageThe unfortunately named Bruce Hyman sent a fictitious legal precedent and a note of support from “Families Need Fathers” to a litigant in person whom he was appearing against in Bristol Crown Court.

The litigant in person, a Wall Street banker called Dr Simon Eades (seen here in happier days), relied on the precedent in his submissions and Hyman, representing Eades’ ex-wife, leapt to his feet in confected indignation.

The judge warned Eades that he faced jail if the precedent was found to have been fabricated, so the banker became a sleuth and tracked down, with the help of CCTV footage, the email and its sender to an internet cafe in Tottenham Court Road.

imageHyman’s lawyer submitted that his client’s judgment had been clouded by drugs and alcohol. The newspapers reported that Hyman is the first member of the bar to have been jailed (caught) for perverting the course of justice.

Hyman (pic) was a former TV and radio producer and was inspired to take up law later in life after producing (among other things) the Radio 4 legal program called Unreliable Evidence.

* * *

The run on Northern Rock bank was an interesting example of the English psyche.

Despite a statutory guarantee of the first £2,000 they had saved and 90 percent of their savings up to £31,000, and then a government assurance to make good any savings lost, the burghers of Britain continued to queue.

It’s part Dunkirk and part Wimbledon, and they made an event of it – thermos flasks, foldaway chairs and travelling rugs – incontrovertible evidence of a nation in panic.