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The Legal System and the Running of the Bulls***

John Bowie – I stepped off the train at Pampalona and contemplated watching the running of the bulls before stepping back on and continuing to San Sebastian where I contemplated eating them instead. The food here is surely some of the best in the world and the nonsense of these festivals and events is to be seen in the Spring Breakers and interlopers who have swamped these festivals and occasions including the drug riddled Full Moon Festival in Thailand to the swampy music event at Glastonbury where every New Zealander and Australian abroad is drowning in the rustic cocktail of heavy rain and vomit. There must be more drugs at these “events” than is present in the intermindable Tour de France, which I’ll glimpse next week all things being equal.

I left the Running of the Bulls to my son and the others who donned the mandatory red-and-white to dash madly while the bulls attempted to send them to their maker. He described it as the most terrifying moment of his life. Had he not been at his own birth?

Taking the Legal System for Granted

The rapid law-making machinery permitted under our political system creates its own sinister connotation as politicans promote and often pass legislation (think: manslaughter defense removal) in stopwatch-activated time, but which slowly alter the foundation of the system itself.

The latest dalliance, romanced to considerable effect by the fastest law reformer in the West, Simon Power, is the inquisatorial system. The “reform” suggestions by Labour’ Andrew Little show the politicians have not dropped their love affair with it, even if it means dumping a few sacred cows of the common law with it. Danger lies here. Dallying with systems that rely upon mere accusations, reversing burdens of proof and assuming false complaints are a rarity is hardly a judicial system worthy of serious contemplation and yet we must fear its introduction.

The political machinations that come with legal system tinkering are nothing new, as we’ve seen with the legal
aid reforms and famiy court changes most recently. Reform is necessary and healthy, but politically-inspired changes that are used to win votes carry a dangerous edge.

Interestingly, in the UK the Justice Minister Chris Grayling has been assailed by lawyers of all stripes for his ongoing changes to the justice system. Britain’s former most senior judge, Lord Woolf, said the proposed legal aid changes and restrictions on judicial review procedures were “ill considered”
and risked Britain’s international role in promoting the rule of law. Additionally, there are changes to the role of the Lord Chancellor who can also be justice secretary and a non-lawyer, were creating the impression that Grayling was a politician “in a great hurry” Lord Woolfe said. That’s the problem with politicians, they’re
all in a hurry for reform, position, power and a footnote in their nation’s history.

Another leading jurist with the delightfully labelled “Lord Judge” (wouldn’t some of our jurists love that title?), has said we should not take lightly the ability to attract quality
judicial appointees.

Slapping Down

Sometimes, to be frank, politicans just need to pull their heads in. Here in Spain there has been a refreshing incident where a local councillor for the ruling Popular Party threw a glass of water over a socialist MP before slapping him and calling him an “arsehole and a shit” (I don’t know which letters to asterix, here). This latin vibrancy is somewhat lacking at home, but helps convey a certain sense of npurpose that our policians with their flim-flammy airing of dopey ideas might well require.

The closest we’ve come to such name-calling House vibrancy has been the
Mallard-Henare bout, which was as disgraceful for its incidence as for its implementation.

Tony Williams, Contd

My conversation with legal consultant and former leading law firm CEO Tony Williams in London lead to a discussion about the entree of the major Big Four accounting practices into the law business.

Mr Williams’ clear view is that while there is nothing to fear from the move by the accountants, the move should not be underestimated by mid-level or large law firms given the massive size, branding power and client connectectiveness that the accountancy practices exhibit.

While Tony Williams wryly observes that he still “bears the scars” of his Anderson adventure he remains firmly of the view that the accounting giants will have a major impact on the law business, particularly given not just their massive size, but also their catalog of skills.
“The smallest is 10 times bigger than the biggest law firm. They have the systems, the clout, the pricing, the skills and the brands.”

“They are very effective at cross selling and with business relationships,” he says.

“They can have very sharp elbows in terms of getting their work.”
In the UK at least, he believes their initial focus will be in the middle and ‘upper middle’ work areas but they have the ability to massively alter the legal landscape in time.

Tesco Law

As for the alternative business structures which have started transforming the UK legal landscape under the 2007 Legal Services Act, Tony Williams says it is a healthy but as-yet largely experimental New legal brands like the Co-op, Saga, Direct Line and others are emerging to challenge the way legal services are delivered, using the ABS structure permitting non-lawyers to either own or invest in law firms.

Even barristers have jumped on the bandwagon creating the opportunity to remove solicitors from the multi-level marketing that currently existings. Will it all work?

“It’s a petri dish situation at present,” Tony Williams says but one that will doubtless deliver some very workable business models that deliver legal services more efficiently. It is also an opportunity for insurance companies and other to enter the market, but more at the “retail end”.

It is a period of experimentation that will alter how firms use paralegals, contract lawyers, technology and other issues already facing most law firms. Some will work, some not. But it will serve to change the way law businesses operate that will impact on all firms.

Enough, already

Enough said. It’s 32 degrees and I’m off to the beach.

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