King Charles I and the Twitterati

I hope you have not been put off by the title above and that you will read a little further! There is only a little bit of history to come but last week we may have seen a significant event to rival the attempt by King Charles I to arrest 5 sitting MPs by storming into the Commons Chamber with armed soldiers.

Frustrated by Parliament’s refusal to grant him money and irritated in particular by the speeches of the members, the King tried to arrest John Pym, Sir Arthur Hazelrigg, William Strode, John Hampden and Denzil Holles in the Commons Chamber, an event which helped to trigger the start of the Civil War in 1642. News of the King’s intentions had filtered through to the five who had long since fled the Chamber by the time the King arrived.

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Scary!

Over the weekend I heard part of a programme on the radio in which two employees of Microsoft Research in California were discussing what they described as “digitising your life”.

Apparently, this involves wearing some form of camera round your neck on a permanent basis which takes a photograph every 20 seconds and builds into a complete record of everything you do. Graham Bell and Jim Gemmill are conducting an experiment and have so far amassed over 300 gigabytes of material.

I could not help wondering why on earth anyone would want a complete record of what they had done!  I also thought I would rather be responsible for processing 300 gb of electronic data for a law firm client than seeing what I had had for Sunday breakfast at 20 second intervals!

The part of the programme I heard did not give a clue as to the reason for the research other than to suggest it was to see if it could be done and what it might look like.

Scary, huh?!

We happy few, we band of brothers

Every year Millnet throws a party for its staff on October 25th or as near as possible to that date. Apart from being a thank you to the staff for the year’s work, the party commemorates the date Millnet was founded  –  The Feast of Saint Crispin.

I admit to being woefully ignorant about St Crispin. Apart from the speech made by the King in Shakespeare’s play Henry V (Act 4 Scene 3), I knew next to nothing about him.

Apparently he fell foul of the Roman authorities because of his Christian beliefs and was martyred in about AD 286. He was beheaded, but as far as I can tell was spared the more horrible Roman cruelties.

While some have doubted if he actually existed he is the patron saint of cobblers, tanners and leather workers. The latter, according to Wikipedia, include bikers and “others who habitually wear leather”.

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Watch out! Costs About!

A Salutary Tale of Disclosure Obligations

Not everything in this blog is intended to be light hearted, as I found myself saying the other day. A kindly soul who had expressed approval of and interest in the blog had caused me to explain that there was intended to be a partly serious side to my musings as well as a bit of fun. So for those of you who only want to be mildly entertained, you should not read any further!

Actually, I rather hope you will read on, because litigation lawyers might have missed a recent decision which is relevant to everyone who conducts litigation in this jurisdiction.

I have to admit that I am a new convert to the webpages of the British and Irish Legal and Information Institute www.bailii.org.  The website is a veritable mine of information about recent cases, and what I like is that, at a click of not very many buttons, you can find a table of recent cases with very fast hyperlinks to judgments in cases which may be of interest.

I had been looking for the judgment in a recent case with a very different subject matter (and nothing to do with e-disclosure!) which had been reported in the newspapers last week, when my eye alighted on a case several places up the list of latest cases. I had stumbled across a judgment of His Honour Judge Simon Brown QC dated 8th October 2009 in the case of Earles v Barclays Bank PLC .

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Gone phishin’

It must be that time of year again. Last week, I started receiving a series of emails from HM Revenue and Customs, no less, informing me of Underreported Income.

This email – I received ELEVEN of them in the first day alone,  addressed to differently named people in the company – informs me of the most urgent need to review my tax statement online by logging into the HMRC website. Even the most superficial examination of the link supplied suggests that it would lead the curious clicker to a web site somewhere in Eastern Europe, or the Far East perhaps.

What is wrong with these people? Is there a whole generation of Chinese Schoolboys who think, “I know what I’ll do today, I’ll bombard the entire population of the UK with scam emails, lovingly composed in Pigeon English, just because I can”? After all, they must reason, by now the English who are clearly the most gullible nation on earth, must have had their fill of Urgent Security Notices from banks with whom they have no account; warning them of the dire consequences of not verifying the intimate details of accounts they do not hold by logging into a poorly disguised Czech or Nigerian website?

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Bloody Sunday and IT

When I was in private practice, I acted for the Bloody Sunday Tribunal. The inquiry is chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate (originally a Law Lord and now one of the Supreme Court Justices) and is likely to report next year, some 12 years after it was set up.

Much has been written about the inquiry, and doubtless considerably more is to come when the report is published in 2010, but I was interested to see that Lord Saville’s experience in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry helped to inform the design of the IT systems which have been developed for the Supreme Court.

According to a recent article by Richard Susskind  (‘How Bloody Sunday helped to future-proof the Supreme Court’s IT, The Times, 1st October 2009) Lord Saville chaired a committee including Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, Master of the Rolls, Jenny Rowe, Chief Executive of the Supreme Court and various legal technologists, systems specialists and ministry officials.

Susskind says “Introducing IT to the Supreme Court was made easier because a high-tech court was envisaged from the outset. The Ministry of Justice and various IT suppliers developed the systems and an IT user group oversaw the project”.

I had no involvement in the selection of the IT systems used by the Bloody Sunday Inquiry but there was a considerable amount of material to be handled and I will always be grateful to Kelvin McGregor Alcorn (then of Oyez Legal Technologies, now of Deloitte) for introducing me to the delights of electronic document management during the course of the almost 6 years I worked with the inquiry.

Happy memories!

Where have all the hours gone?

The song – or lawyers’ lament perhaps – about the gap between the anticipated rush of litigation and the reality of what actually seems to be happening, might go something like this..

  Where have all the hours gone?
Long time passing
Where has all the litigation gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the cases gone?
The big 4 picked them every one
Will lawyers ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Listening to Stephen Fry on the radio the other day  talking about the Y2K phenomenon ['In the Beginning  Was the Nerd' broadcast 3rd/5th October, 2009] brought back old memories. Firms were fascinated by the forebodings expressed by experts that on the stroke of midnight on 31st December 1999 all computer systems would crash as there was no facility to deal with dates after the end of 1999. It was said that nothing we had come to rely on would work on New Year’s Day 2000 and that that was nothing to do with monumental millennium hangovers.

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The Last Straw

I remember a time when law firms were at pains to make it clear that they did not accept service of proceedings by fax unless specific arrangements had been made in advance. Doubtless many firms still carry the necessary words as part of their email signature and/or on their notepaper.

Now, suddenly, there is a new problem!!

On 1st October 2009, the High Court jumped into the “Tweetosphere” (is there such a word, after Blogosphere?) by agreeing to allow a claimant to serve an injunction via Twitter.

Mr Justice Lewison agreed with Matthew Richardson instructed by Griffin Law that Twitter was the best way to reach the person behind www.twitter.com/blaneysblarney whose anonymous writer was said to be impersonating Donal Blaney. Richardson said that the ruling had widespread implications for identity theft on the internet. A spokesman from Strathclyde University called it a landmark decision.

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Blog Supreme

I have to thank Jon Robins of the newspaper City A.M. for the reference in his article on 30th September entitled ‘Pop Art and poetry in the Supreme Court‘ for alerting me to the existence of a newish blog about the Supreme Court which opens its doors for business today, 1st October.

The blog (www.ukscblog.com)  edited by Hugh Tomlinson QC and colleagues from Matrix Chambers and Olswang has set out since May 2009 to comment on the new court and its workings. As is well known, the new court replaces the Law Lords who, according to the blog’s strap line, have sat within Parliament for over 600 years since 1399.

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Twitter – boom or bust?

Last weekend’s  Sunday Times carried a full page article on Twitter entitled ‘What makes Twitter worth a billion dollars?

Readers of this blog (though apparently not my nearest and dearest, friends and neighbours) will know that  Twitter is a free online service which enables users to send and read messages of no longer than 140 characters known as Tweets.

I conducted a random poll around our house over breakfast amongst people ranging in age from 22 to 59 and no one had used the service nor knew what it was for. I assumed, as a result, that it must be for the very young who were not represented at the poached egg stage or for celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Barack Obama whose tweets have found their way into the press. 

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