Briefcase Blog – John Bowie – LawFuel.co.nz – NBR – Repo Men & QCs
The QC season has started with gusto with more senior counsel involved in the banking ‘repo’ cases that kicked off this week in the Wellington High Court than you’d find at one of the Chief’s cocktail parties. The one-line fee notes that the banking tax cases are generating, immaculately printed on Croxley bond and followed by figures only banks can understand is redolent of the good old days when banks were moderately venerable institutions, frequently with money. Now banks and whole countries are going broke. I read in an investment letter this week that the only difference between Iceland and Ireland is one letter and six months. The BNZ is the first of the repo cases off the block this week with Brendan Brown for the IRD, who are claiming up to $2 billion in tax and interest from the seven different defendant banks. Alan Galbraith acts for the bank we used to call our own. The case is set down for 10 weeks, although indications are it is likely to conclude sooner than that and the result will be awaited with high interest by the banks, taxpayers, tax collectors and tax specialists.
The Civil Mr Reed
Michael Reed may be one QC missing out the banking action, but he’s turning on some of his own action with the occasional testy clash in the Bain retrial. His transformation from civil representation to the criminal jurisdiction has lead him back to something of his natural habitat, where a little aggressive confrontation never goes amiss. A little audacity was never beyond him, either. I recall a civil case where I had briefed counsel, now on the High Court, in which I was called to give evidence. His final question to me was: “Mr Bowie, it’s correct isn’t it that you would normally instruct me on cases of this nature?” The judge, Justice McGechan, told me I didn’t need to answer the question. It’s all part of something complex called ‘The Michael Package.’
I can’t find Judge David Gendall anywhere on Facebook, although he’s become their newest friend. His hip decision to permit service-by-Facebook follows an earlier decision from the ACT Supreme Court last December to permit something very similar. There are dangers here, what with identity theft, email hacking and so on, but doubtless digital service will find its place in the everyday occurrence of court life. Personally, I don’t trust Facebook. I’ve got friends in the hundreds over there and yet in real life only two and I’m not at all sure about Kevin. It can’t be trusted.
The recession has taken some hefty bites out of associate pay packets in the US and UK, which is not surprising given that they were compensated like the extinct bankers they once represented. Some major firms are looking at new remuneration packages based on performance and merit rather than, as one consultant put it, the “medieval guild” model of payment based on lockstep, non-performance criteria. The increased use of salaried associates, who are not destined for partnership is also on the increase. Indeed, the salaried partner is certain to become increasingly popular here, too.
Joining The Bench
A Kelburn soiree recently caught me enjoined in conversation with a disturbingly attractive, seven-foot tall Brazilian beauty before being politely interrupted by one of Her Majesty’s judges. We were then both interrupted by Chapman Tripp veteran Barry Brown, who addressed us both with the “Justice” honorific. Barry is seldom wrong and is exquisitely connected. Does this mean an impending appointment? It would certainly be in keeping with the government’s imaginative approach to current difficulties and it would most certainly be churlish to refuse. Maybe a knighthood in the fullness of time? If I’m wrong, however, (and I doubt it very much, knowing Barry) then I’ll see you here next week.