Barristers

Be careful what you write when you’re young and idealistic.

In 2003, David Wolfe, a lawyer who works alongside Cherie Blair at top London human rights shop Matrix Chambers, decided he was unhappy with the way the British legal hierarchy works. So he co-signed an open letter criticising the Queen’s Counsel (QC) system –- a process that sees a handful of barristers (British trial lawyers) promoted to the elite QC rank each year, enabling them to charge clients more money. “The QC system cannot be justified as being in the public interest or promoting competition,” the letter stated.

Nine years on, and last week Wolfe found himself made up to QC — an honour which, despite the name, involves no input from the Queen or her family members. He didn’t decline. Indeed, all QCs have to actively apply in order to gain the title. Unfortunately for Wolfe, someone mentioned his youthful letter to RollOnFriday, a widely read U.K. legal blog.

When contacted about the letter, Wolfe responded….

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Rima Fakih: should she go to jail?

* Close, but no cigar? The ABA has updated the way that it will collect graduate employment and salary data from law schools, but the new method could still use a few tweaks. [National Law Journal]

* Kilpatrick Townsend is expanding into Saudi Arabia. I don’t really have anything witty to say about this, but now the “Arabian Nights” song from Aladdin is stuck in my head. [Atlanta Business Chronicle]

* British barristers behaving badly: Kevin Steele, a former Mishcon de Reya partner, was convicted of fraud and forgery charges in connection with a $28M loan scam. They don’t serve tea and crumpets in jail. [Legal Week]

* Joshua Monson, the serial defense attorney stabber, was in court yesterday for sentencing. Still no word on whether he was wheeled in on a Hannibal Lecter-esque gurney to prevent more stabby behavior. [CNN]

* No, Ophelia, when you’re a transgender prisoner in Virginia, the state is not going to pay for your sex change operation, no matter how many courts you appeal to. [Houston Chronicle]

* Will Rima Fakih, 2010’s Miss USA, have to do jail time in Michigan for reportedly being a “super-drunk”? Check back after we get the results from the swimsuit competition. [MLive.com]

* Happy American Censorship Day! Sign these petitions in celebration so you can keep your internet the way you like it — full of infringing and fabulous content. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* A prospective law student got married at Zuccotti Park this weekend. Best protest wedding ever? I guess the honeymoon ended after they were evicted. [The Stir]

* Before you waste your tears crying over how much your fantasy team sucks, you should probably check and see whether it’s even legal to play. [Legal Blitz]

* Chase is giving away over $3M in grants for small charities, so why not take a second and vote for our friends over at Ms. JD? [Chase Community Giving]

* Using free beer to lure criminals into an arrest trap should be a violation of your right against self-incrimination. They should at least be able to drink it before the cuffs go on. [Legal Blog Watch]

* Have you ever wondered why barristers wear black? Yeah, neither have I. [Futility Closet]

* The attorneys for Justin Bieber’s alleged baby mama, Mariah Yeater, have pulled out. Just like the Biebs should’ve done. Allegedly. [Improper]

* Regular twelve-step programs are for the uninspired. Here’s one that only true professionals will be able to survive. [Constitutional Daily]


To qualify as a lawyer in the U.K., you first have to eat 12 dinners. Seriously. OK, it’s only barristers (British trial lawyers) who must meet this requirement. And they have to pass legal exams as well as eat. But the essence of my slightly sensationalised opening sentence is true: no dinners, no qualification.

Here’s what happens: students go to law school in the day, then every month or so go and eat a formal dinner at one of London’s inns of court (ancient clubs for trial lawyers). The medieval ritual has its roots in the pre-law school days when “sons of country gentlemen” from across Britain would come to lodge in the inns, attending lectures, taking part in mock courts, and dining together in the inns’ main halls (Harry Potter-style places that are famous for hosting Shakespeare’s original plays). Certain traditions are still followed, like toasting the Queen and refusing to shake hands with anyone (barristers are historically forbidden from shaking hands each other’s hands). But mainly it’s about getting drunk — on port, the U.K. establishment’s tipple of choice.

Why am I telling you about this? To give you a sense of port’s central role in the education of our young, as a primer for a story about the Oxford University Conservative association accidentally revealing its hate-filled Nazi soul at a recent “port and policy” night….

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Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the day a little-known heroin addict called Russell Brand turned up for work dressed as Osama Bin Laden, and was promptly fired by his then-employer, MTV.

After some ensuing years knocking around the lower echelons of British light entertainment, Brand got himself together and landed a role presenting the VMAs — from which he launched himself into mega-stardom when he branded George W. Bush a “retarded cowboy fella.”

Now, you don’t get career paths like that in law. Having said that, I do know of a London Biglaw associate who was once asked to replace his brightly-coloured socks with a more sober pair in advance of an important client meeting, in which he performed impressively.

Please don’t interpret that as a snarky suggestion that all lawyers are boring. As legal market-watchers well know, many attorneys — especially the litigators — are often anything but. They’re just good at hiding the madness. Usually, anyway….

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In this file picture taken on July 14, 2008 pr...

Max Mosley wants to be warned next time he's the subject of a (s)exposé

Max Mosley, former head of international motorsports organization FIA, has been fighting with British tabloid News of the World for almost three years. In 2008, News of the World published a story about Mosley’s raunchy role-playing rendezvous with five sex workers, in which they played prison guards to his naughty prisoner. One of the sex workers had a camera supplied by the tabloid, so the story had a graphic video component. The News of the World focused on the fact that the sex workers spoke German throughout the role-playing, and thus described it as a “Nazi orgy.”

Not only was Mosley miffed to be part of a sex sting story, he said News of the World mischaracterized his sex fantasy. He said it was just a German prison camp, not a Nazi German prison camp (a crucial distinction — especially given that his father was Oswald Mosley, head of the British fascists, who did associate with Nazis).

Max Mosley sued News of the World for defamation and invasion of privacy. He won his case and was awarded nearly $100,000 plus legal fees. Heil yeah.

But by that point, it was too late to undo the reputational damage….

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Mosley_orgy.jpgBritish barrister Max Mosley is the president of the International Automobile Federation (F.I.A.). When he’s not overseeing Formula One, he’s allegedly into sadomasochistic sex play. Unfortunately for him, a $5,000 “party” that he arranged was caught on hidden cameras by News of the World, a British tabloid. The encounter, now on YouTube, involved German prison guards and lots of spanking.

Mosley is now seeking punitive damages from News of the World for invasion of privacy — and for giving the story a Nazi spin. Such suits are almost never a good move from a PR-standpoint, since the trial brings even more attention to the source of embarrassment. Now every one from the New York Times to ESPN is reporting on it.

Taking the witness stand at the start of a two-week High Court hearing, Mosley said he had paid $5,000 for the “party,” but insisted no Nazi fantasies were involved. The News of the World said participants wore German-style uniforms and spoke in German as they acted out scenes involving prisoners and guards.

Mosley said he and the women had acted out a German prison scenario, but without any military aspect.

Next time, Mosley should probably stick to British prison scenarios, to avoid the possible Nazi confusion.

The Nazi allegations are especially sensitive because Mosley is the son of the late Oswald Mosley, leader of Britain’s fascist movement before World War II and a friend of Adolf Hitler.

“There was not even a hint of that,” Mosley said of the Nazi claims. He said he could “think of few things more unerotic than Nazi role-play.”

But, apparently, having a prison guard tell him to bend over a bench does the trick. More salacious details, after the jump.

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