August 31, 2009
I said in an earlier article (Recruiting one’s strength for post-recession litigation support) that I would come back to the difficult subject of e- discovery certification. The context in which it came up was that of the individual skills of litigation support professionals, and that is what this article is about. It is worth observing, however, that the assessment of e-disclosure / e-disclosure ability comes up also in other settings, including:
- The competence of services providers to render the services which they advertise.
- The fitness of a lawyer or firm of lawyers to practice in litigation in a world dominated by electronic documents, and of judges to manage cases.
- Specific technical skills acquired by following a curriculum and taking an exam, such as those required to use Guidance Software’s EnCase products.
- Training in the use of a particular application.
Whilst some or all of these link into my subject, I mention them mainly to emphasise that they are not my primary concern here. I am concerned with the question whether individuals employed within a firm or company ought to follow a course of study leading to a piece of paper which demonstrates their aptitude. I will say straight off that I am dead against this, but the arguments to the contrary are not to be lightly dismissed in a single sentence. Read the rest of this entry »
August 29, 2009
A few days after advocating the use of YouTube videos to promote new ediscovery understanding, I found myself in one with Browning Marean of DLA. Appearing soon at a cinema near you – well, on PivotalDiscovery.com anyway.
If you put a labrador, like my dog Saxon, down almost anywhere – the Moon, say – it does not take him long to find a stick or tennis ball. He does not look for them, particularly, but they just turn up. Much the same is true of me at an e- discovery conference – I wander around, confident that I will soon come across somebody I know or total strangers who seem to know me (which is one up on Saxon who does not generally get hailed by passing tennis balls).
I was walking around the opening party at ILTA 09 having, as I thought, spoken to everyone I knew, when a figure detached herself from a crowd and introduced herself. It was Kina Kim of PivotalDiscovery. com which describes itself as “the community for ediscovery and litigation professionals”. PivotalDiscovery has links to other sites and articles (including, as it turned out, one of mine), a career portal, and an index of events. It also has videos, including some on YouTube, and can be followed on Twitter. Read the rest of this entry »
August 29, 2009
I am not going to give you a full report of Richard Susskind’s talk to ILTA last week. Its basic premise is well-known to anyone interested in this area; I have written about it before; if you are interested, you would have read the book; and anyway, recording a Susskind speech is like trying to catch Niagara in a bucket. If you are not interested in what he says, then you will be dead commercially within five years anyway, whether you are in-house counsel responsible to the board, or a law firm hoping to receive instructions. This does not mean that you have to agree either with Susskind’s premises or his conclusions, but you do need to know what the arguments are.
Richard is not, it seems, much taken by my comparison between him and Private Frazer (see Richard Susskind End of Lawyers resources. Of course, (and as I acknowledged) a précis which characterises his message simply as one simply of doom ignores the fact that the title of his book The End of Lawyers? ends in a question mark. Even that chap who used to wander along Oxford Street with a banner proclaiming the imminent end of the world offered redemption to those who repented, and Susskind does the same. Redemption however, whether in business terms or in the wider spiritual context, lacks a simple road-map. We do not even have a destination, just the certainty that where we are is not the place to be. Recognising that much is a good start.
Instead of summarising the lot, I will pick one or two of the points which Richard Susskind made which seemed to me to have particular relevance in the litigation support context. Read the rest of this entry »
August 28, 2009
The Litigation Support Peer Group had a session at ILTA09 called The Future of Our Litigation Support Profession: What Lies Ahead? These are the people who actually do the work, so their reports and their views are worth having. They, and the high-level recruiter who sat with them, were optimistic, and that looks like more than mere hype.
What is interesting about discovery and electronic discovery, at least from where I sit, is that it embraces everything from state policy down to the minutiae of data handling, passing on the way some sophisticated technology, board-level strategy in law firms and their clients, and wider concepts like justice, winning and the like. It is also interesting, however, in career terms and in how firms and companies set up, structure and run the business unit which handles disclosure / discovery. Amidst all these high-flown business, technical and philosophical areas are people, in ones and twos or in teams, who are actually doing the work. Lest the reference to “business unit” may seem to imply big teams in grand departments, I see it as embracing also a single person in a small firm whose management is of projects and outsiders rather than of internal teams and who does not have to have responsibility for staff to need the tactical and strategic skills which were discussed in the session.
The Litigation Support Peer Group of ILTA is run by and for people like this. One of the many things that is interesting about the industry is that few have grown old working in it because it is itself too young (they may feel that they have aged fast, but that is a different point; Browning Marean claims to be 36, for example). Those in senior positions in litigation support have, by and large, transferred across either from the pure law side or from IT. Every firm has developed its own way of doing things, and three of those sitting on the panel are examples of those who have forged careers and taken on responsibility in what is a whole new area of practice. Read the rest of this entry »
August 26, 2009
One of my roles for sponsors is to pick up the nuances of language differences between American terminology and English English, which amount to a great deal more than remembering to avoid references to “attorney”. It is not that I claim anything special for English English (well I do, of course, but not in this context) but that if you are trying to sell solutions to English lawyers, you should do so in their language.
I was a little taken aback this morning to find a large and very smart black people carrier outside the Gaylord National Hotel with the name “Suburban” proudly emblazoned on its side. That would be the kiss of death in marketing terms in England. It is not that we don’t value the suburbs – people like to live and bring up their children in them and they hold an important place in modern British culture. Like so many other things which we value, however, we simultaneously despise them. Where Americans see (I assume) pleasant detached houses in large green plots behind low white fences, we think of rows of tacky 1930s semis or even tackier 1970s estates, where people with dubious accents and faux-posh expressions twitch their net curtains in between bouts of wife-swapping. Read the rest of this entry »
August 25, 2009
It overstates it more than a little to call this news. There are rumours of news but, as I write this on Monday, the vendor stands are still being put up and, if there are announcements being made, I am missing them [correction: FTI Technology has just launched Ringtail QuickCull Appliance for In-House E-Discovery sometime between my starting this article and reaching the end. More when I have seen it]. Mind you, you could miss the announcement of a war here. Read the rest of this entry »
August 22, 2009
It is obvious why American discovery must necessarily be bigger than discovery anywhere else. Everything else is bigger here and it is perhaps a point of honour – there would be a sense of failure if any other country had bigger discovery exercises than America.
Take the rain, for example. It was pouring down when I last left the US, after CEIC in Orlando in May. We could barely see the car in front as we drove to the airport. That same storm seemed to have reached Washington today, as Nigel Murray of Trilantic and I drove towards the Gaylord National Resort in Washington, the venue for ILTA09.
Like its twin in Dallas which was ILTA’s venue last year, this place is enormous. I spent the first hour or so exploring its vastness. It is not that there is nobody here. As its name implies, the Gaylord is a resort, and, for the weekend least, there are a lot of families here. There are two wedding parties going on – I can guess that they are separate parties because their respective guests are stunningly turned out in what appear to be themed uniforms, pale green silk for one and deep red and white for the other. Do only beautiful people go to weddings here or is there something about weddings which makes everyone look attractive? This is another of these “which came first” questions, rather like the ones which arise about the size of document populations – did the technology for document creation and storage develop to meet a need for more documents, or do we create more documents because the technology exists? Read the rest of this entry »
August 22, 2009
I will be at ILTA09 in Washington for most of the next week.
I have a few meetings and will go to some of the litigation sessions, but most of the time will pass in bumping into people and chatting. That does not sound like hard work, I know, but it is nevertheless what the job entails. I enjoy it and it tops up what I otherwise acquire by reading and e-mail contacts.
Reports will follow, not necessarily from ILTA itself (no time for that, too many people to talk to) but on my return at the end of next week.
August 21, 2009
I am a supporter of Women in eDiscovery and glad to learn from Laura Kelly of Epiq Systems that the London branch is active. They have a meeting on 17 September at the offices of Fulbright & Jaworski, 85 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1AE. Read the rest of this entry »
August 20, 2009
No time to précis it or comment on it, but George Socha and Tom Gelbmann have published their annual overview of the results of their annual survey on the Legal Technology News site.
If asked to pick the most important single observation from it, I would pick the shortage of expertise in the market-place, with providers, law firms and corporates reported as fighting each other for the few people who actually understand what is involved in handling electronic documents. That is important because it can only grow as a problem as we come out of recession. You can take or leave the predictions of 20% or 25% growth which some of the Socha-Gelbmann respondents apparently predict (I am prepared to take them myself) but it is certain that a generation of skilled and knowledgable people is not going to spring from nowhere.
I will give a more thoughtful assessment when I get back from ILTA in Washington. At the moment, my focus is rather more on clearing my decks before heading for the airport.
August 20, 2009
Having yesterday bracketed Richard Susskind with Private Frazer of Dad’s Army, that other well-known prophet of doom from Scotland (whilst immediately accepting that “We’re all doomed, doomed I tell ye” is an “unduly succinct and not wholly accurate précis” of Richard’s book The End of Lawyers?), I should make amends by pointing you to a list on the Legal Informatics Blog of what is a pretty impressive list of commentaries and reviews of the book and its thesis.
Richard Susskind is speaking at ILTA in Washington next week. I will be there and will report back in due course.
August 19, 2009
Guidance Software’s new EnCase Portable is interesting enough for itself. The way in which they are promoting it is even more so. The industry as a whole could make use of YouTube’s ability to point users to related material.
I happened to be with Guidance Software on the day that they announced EnCase Portable the new pocket-sized version of their forensic collection application EnCase, at a meeting of their Strategic Advisory Board at CEIC in Orlando in May. We were given a preview of the extremely neat kit — one USB drive containing EnCase and another to hold the data. The ability to put a forensic collection of data into your pocket looks like a proposition which should sell itself.
A couple of weeks earlier, I had written an article called the Untapped potential of YouTube as a promotional medium . The immediate context was the launch that week of a song called What Really Matters to Me by The Phoenix Fall, whose drummer is my son Charlie (it did very well, thank you for asking, and the second one is due out soon). The more important theme of my article, however, was that YouTube offered an instantly accessible promotional vehicle which went far beyond music videos. I raised, but quickly dismissed, the idea that Sir Rupert Jackson might launch his Preliminary Report (which was due out the next day) via a YouTube broadcast, but omitted to mention that Senior Master Whitaker once did a brief YouTube video about e-disclosure. Read the rest of this entry »
August 18, 2009
Everything was a mystery when I became an articled clerk in the late 1970s, not least that label “articled clerk”. Your articles were a period of apprenticeship, and the name also of the document which you and your principal signed by which he was bound to instruct you in the mysteries of legal practice. Of all the mysteries, the darkest was the job of the costs draftsmen. Literally darkest in fact, since these two elderly gentlemen shared a large gloomy room in the basement of the firm’s Georgian building in Gray’s Inn. My visits to them were rare, probably to deliver a file found to be missing from the huge piles which surrounded them. I never saw them anywhere else in the office. From time to time, a pile of files would return from its (always prolonged) stint in the basement, accompanied by pages of narrative and figures on stiff, strangely ruled, paper.
Firms of that size had not, until recently, had litigation partners. The client partner fronted the case, with the unglamorous parts falling to a managing clerk. The managing clerk’s office, also in the basement, had been turned into a stationery cupboard by my day, which gives some idea of his status.
In due course, the two old gentlemen disappeared and their role was contracted out. I recall taking part in only one formal dispute over the costs payable by the loser to the winner. My recollection is that my opponent was as ignorant as I was about the procedure, the principles and the components of the bill.
The costs of arguing about costs were a powerful disincentive to agree them, and it was usually possible to lump the costs in with the settlement figure or agree a rough and ready percentage of the fees actually paid by the winning party. Nothing much changes, I suspect, except that the amounts now are much larger, both absolutely and as a proportion of the sums in issue. Many cases are fought on, long after the parties have lost interest in the issues, because the sunk costs are so high. Read the rest of this entry »
August 17, 2009
Readers with long memories (I am talking ten days or so here) may recall an article Setting up dates for lawyers in which I extended an olive branch to anonymous Blogger 585 with whom I had taken issue in previous posts. 585 had written two articles about the scope for confusion caused by multiple date values stored within some files. Although I have served my time handling rows and columns of data, there is enough to cover in the wider legal and supplier market, and I rarely get into technical minutiae.
What I am interested in (and why I passed on the links which you will find in my post) is the message to lawyers and judges that, whilst there is a mass of technical detail underlying the handling of electronic documents, it is not generally necessary for the lawyer to dirty his hands with it. The lawyer does, however, need to understand what kinds of problems can arise, so that they can be anticipated, so that advice can be sought on them and so that the implications are factored into the time and cost budgets. One good reason for keeping off technical points is that there is usually more than one viewpoint, and I do not particularly want to play host to arguments about the finer points of data handling. Read the rest of this entry »
August 17, 2009
Technology companies make little use of technology to deliver their messages. Web demos may lack the personal touch of a face-to-face show, but you can reach many more people. They offer unparalleled opportunities to show off your products without the mutual commitment which a physical demo offers. The committed people will find you anyway – it is the others you need to reach.
The two web resources I talk about (from Anacomp/CaseLogistix here and Guidance Software in a separate article) are two I fell over (and the fact that I did so is perhaps interesting in its own right, since being found by people who are not looking is an obvious plus). I am sure they are not the only ones – let me know if you own, or have found, a web demonstration which is interesting as an informational medium.
I wrote recently about software demonstrations which I organised for Lord Justice Jackson (Jackson Litigation Costs Review consultation ends). Epiq Systems, Autonomy, and FTI Technology each sent along their best demonstrators and compressed their shows into 30 minutes each. The result was one of the most illuminating sessions I have ever seen.
You probably need to be a Lord Justice of Appeal with a report to write to command such a luxury. It is difficult for lawyers to organise multiple demonstrations and for suppliers to send their best men to every firm or company which expresses mild interest in their product. Not the least of the problems is that lawyers are fairly wary of expressing even mild interest. Merely putting their head above the parapet will, they fear, lead to a constant barrage of calls from an eager salesman keen to convert that mild interest into a sale, preferably a big one and during the current quarter. That dreadful question “so how soon will you be making a decision?” is the biggest deal-killer there is, and fear of it puts off those who simply know want what is out there or even just to understand the concepts. The supplier, for its part, has finite resources and an obvious wish to focus on the key targets. The salesmen himself (and it usually is a him) has an obvious personal interest in spending his time with those most likely to reach a quick decision. Read the rest of this entry »
August 14, 2009
US Magistrate Judge John Facciola has recorded a podcast interview with Sarah Haynes of IQPC. This follows a very successful judicial panel which Guidance Software organised at IQPC’s e-disclosure conference in London in May (see The discovery of disclosure commonality with a trans-Atlantic judicial panel)
The interview can be found here. You have to register to access it, but it repays that small effort.
Judge Facciola said that US judges now manage cases from their inception, including participation in the discovery process. Magistrate Judges, whose role includes trying to settle cases, are applying the same approach to the discovery disputes – trying to settle them. You cannot, he said, just sit there and wait for something to happen, but must be very proactive in dealing with matters in an anticipatory way. Judges cannot exempt themselves from the duty of competence which they expect from the lawyers, and the Federal Judicial Centre is holding two day conferences with a particular focus on discovery. Read the rest of this entry »
August 14, 2009
I am sent a fair number of press releases, although many of those who know I am interested in them seem to think that I acquire my information by some kind of intuition. Many of the PRs I do get add little to the sum of human knowledge. Many more, themselves worth following up, join a queue whose head they never reach. It is all a matter of timing. The upside to my refusal to do copy-paste journalism may be more reflective comment, but there are only seven working days in the week and a press release needs a wider context than merely its own news.
As I mentioned in a post last week (The right combination of skills at the best possible price) H5 dropped a press release into my InBox as I was writing an article about litigation lawyers dividing up cases and passing on the functions which they either do not do very well or cannot do cost effectively (or “cheaply” as the client would put it). I had in mind the marketing collateral, as well as the working benefits, of an approach which shifted the focus away from charging rates and towards placing tasks where they could be done best. The immediate context was outsourcing, for example of litigation coding and first-pass review, but I made the point that such a division of labour may be a marriage of equals rather than merely lawyers hiving off the unprofitable stuff and sending it down the food-chain. The H5 press release related to just such a marriage of equals, in this case between H5 and O’Melveny & Myers. Read the rest of this entry »
August 13, 2009
It is always helpful, when introducing something new, to be able to measure it against a familiar yardstick. When engines were first invented, their power was expressed as a multiple of the power of horses, and horses remain the comparator even now – highly sophisticated motorcars are still advertised by reference to the number of carthorses it would take to generate the same power output. We help each other to picture dimensions – height, length or area – by reference (in England at any rate) to Nelson’s Column, a London bus or a football pitch. I have heard document volumes expressed as “ESBs”, that is, the number of Empire State Buildings they would make if stacked (1 ESB = 7.57575758 Nelson’s Columns in case you wondered). We still refer to a “Gold standard”, although gold ceased to be the common medium of international exchange in 1971.
It is generally accepted by lawyers that the gold standard for accuracy of document review is reading by humans. For many lawyers, this is the standard to which they aspire and which they feel their duty requires of them. This is not the same as turning their backs on electronic review – they may be happy to conduct their review on the screen rather than on paper but are unwilling to delegate to a machine the task of deciding which documents must be reviewed and what decisions are made about them. It only when they get a case which cannot possibly be handled on this basis, that is, cannot be culled and filtered by humans, that they turn to technology. Read the rest of this entry »
August 12, 2009
It occurs to me that elephants have turned up more than once on this site as a source of parallels or illustrations. Their first appearance here was in May, when my attention was caught by some large plastic elephants in a hotel pool in Orlando (see Describing the ediscovery elephant). I concluded there that what discovery and elephants had in common that you could describe both of them to a blind person but that their impression ”though broadly accurate in outline, would inevitably be hazy on detail”.
A few days ago, comparing the UK and US approaches to e-discovery / e-disclosure in an article called Sugaring the e-disclosure pill , I said “On our side, it is the elephant in the room which no one discusses. In the US, it is just an elephant, big, ungainly, and very expensive to feed”.
Craig Ball was taken with this example, and leaped smartly in to point out that the expense of feeding elephants is only the beginning of the problem. You then have to deal with what results from feeding them. Craig says that he is “among the ranks who clean up after the elephant”. Read the rest of this entry »
August 11, 2009
If I were peddling porn or a political party, I would gauge the success of this site by the number of hits each day. I am content enough with that indicator, but what is more interesting to me are comments which suggest that people with a real interest in litigation and its management are reading my articles and finding that they strike a chord with them. It is particularly gratifying when, as last week, the comments come equally from Australia, the US and London – a reflection, I am the first to admit, of the universality of the subject matter rather than my own gloss on it.
Richard Harrison, a litigation partner at Laytons in London, was one of those who took the trouble to drop me a line last week. I value it because Richard is one of the few who combines actual practice in litigation for commercial clients with serious thought as to litigation’s place in society and as to how best to serve both the interests of justice and the clients’ needs. This cross-over between practice and thinking is vital: one of the biggest e-disclosure exercises I have been involved in, years ago, was for a Laytons partner; Richard and I exchange e-mails from time to time or meet at conferences, and he is one of those contacts who helps to keep my thinking rooted in the practicalities of life from the solicitor’s perspective. Read the rest of this entry »
August 11, 2009
I promised in an earlier post to follow up on a reference to the Society for Computers and Law Annual Conference. This takes place in Bath on 9 and 10 October, with the title The impact of changing economic cycles on the practice of IT Law.
The Speakers’ list includes some people worth listening to. Restricting myself only to the ones I know or have heard speak, the list includes the following: Read the rest of this entry »
August 11, 2009
It was usually fairly easy to give a date to a document in the days of paper files. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, one accepted the date typed or written on the face of document. If there was no date, the document’s place in the file was often a reasonable guide. There were usually few enough documents that one could look at the contents and draw a conclusion, at least as to roughly where in the date order list a document should appear. Since the lists themselves were hand-typed, the description could include “of approximately this date” or some such qualification to draw attention to the degree of uncertainty.
You cannot do that now – the volumes are too great for this kind of detective work and, except for scanned paper, descriptions generally consist of a file name or subject line derived automatically from the file. Besides, electronic files all carry their own dates, don’t they? Read the rest of this entry »
August 10, 2009
I am not sure how they keep the standard up, but CaseCentral has been publishing a constant stream of cartoons about e-discovery which must have done wonders for their profile. If I copied every one I liked, I would by now have run out of my allocation of storage space.
A recent one called The e-discovery black box encapsulates well the lawyer’s understanding of what goes on between asking “the system” a question and getting the answer. Charles Christian has beaten me to its republication, and it is easier to link to his copy than to make my own.
August 10, 2009
I may have brought you here under false pretences. I have no idea how big the London e-disclosure market is and I do not think that anyone else does either. I occasionally hear confident assertions suggesting that there is either much more or much less e-disclosure going on than people think but, since the starting point for these relative assessments is never specified, it is hard to deduce what “much more” or “much less” actually means. There is much less here than there is in America, but the same is true (for different reasons) of caribou and McDonald’s outlets. It is a statement of the obvious, rather than a valuable piece of market intelligence. Read the rest of this entry »
August 10, 2009
My adverse comments on a post by an e-disclosure blogger known only as 585 bring reactions from Craig Ball and from 585 himself. What level of debate gets the messages across? Politics shows us how easily we can turn people off a subject.
You can track the course of the sun by the flow of the e-mails. First you get the Australians at the end of their day. England gradually wakes up and then, in the late morning, the first messages start coming in from America’s east coast. By the end of our working day, when English e-disclosure cyberspace has only me and Jonathan Maas in it, the west coast of America is in full flow. Then, before I go to bed, Australia starts again. So regular is this relationship between the sun and the e-mail traffic, that to get a message from Austin, Texas, at breakfast time makes you wonder if Phaëton had not once again taken the reins of his father’s chariot and driven the sun off course (oops, sorry, a few days’ immersion in the language of Sir Rupert Jackson’s report, as I have just had, and classical allusions start popping up everywhere).
Jan Eyck: The Fall of Phaëton
It was not Phaëton burning up the earth, but the doyen of America’s ediscovery commentators, Craig Ball, burning the candle at both ends. He had read my post Well-justified anonymity of Jackson commentator. To recap, that article was about an anonymous blogger, known only as 585, whose comments on Lord Justice Jackson’s 650 page Preliminary Report on civil litigation costs included a 625 word exposition on the proper way to disclose PSTs (Sir Rupert had apparently fallen short of the standards to be expected of a senior judge in his mention of this subject) and a disquisition on the imponderables which arise when estimating e-disclosure costs which, again, suggested to 585 that his lordship’s technical grasp was not as good as – well, as 585’s own grasp. Other articles were rather too free, to my eye, with imputations of incompetence on the part of lawyers and consultants involved in e-disclosure cases. 585’s article is called Electronic Discovery: Lord Jackson Report. Read the rest of this entry »
August 6, 2009
I have some heavyweight writing in hand at the moment involving, amongst other things, an analysis of the costs figures which Lord Justice Jackson set out in his Preliminary Report on Litigation Costs. Most of my articles come from my head, fortified by occasional references to other sources. These heavier papers are rather different, with lots of cross-referring between, in this case, the Preliminary Report, its Appendix 19 and the Civil Procedure Rules.
With that section done, something made me look back through my as-yet unfiled InBox to the week before I went on holiday. I had a vague recollection that I had not followed up a message from Laurence Eastham, editor of the Society for Computers and Law’s excellent magazine and website. I found it eventually – a recommendation that I look at an e-disclosure article on the Computers and Law site. Remorsefully, I looked it up – to find that it was all about the costs figures which Lord Justice Jackson set out in his preliminary report. I could have saved myself some research. Read the rest of this entry »
August 4, 2009
“Outsourcing” is just a label for the distribution of functions into the hands best equipped to perform them at the lowest cost. Both the functions and the relative costs change over time and need constant re-evaluation. Cost reduction involves more than the lowest rates, and the right marriage of skills does not necessarily require foreign adventures.
I wonder if it was wise of me to write about outsourcing (Do two outsourcing stories in one week presage a trend?). Every mom and pop coding shop from the Himalayas to Kanyakuman has been ringing me up – well, two of them anyway and that is two too many – trying to press their services on me. I had thought that I had seen them off last year.
I object to these calls on so many levels, none of which stems directly from the fact that they emanate from India. One is their grapeshot nature – the fact that the word “litigation” appears on my website seems to warrant picking up the phone to me, without any attempt to determine whether my role is likely to involve outsourcing coding work (it does not). Another is the lack of any attempt by the caller to distinguish his company’s services from the hundreds of others offering similar services; each of them recites some basic litigation support functions as if they had just invented the concept, and if you ask the for something, anything, which makes the caller’s company better than (or even just different from) any other, this is taken as an invitation to start from the top again with the recital of basic functions. I resent the repeated calls – either they are not bothering to record the answer I gave last time or they hope to batter me into submission; perhaps they hope to catch me out in an unguarded moment so that I inadvertently send them a big job. Above all, I reckon that if you are ringing up somebody in England, you should choose someone with a basic grasp of English to make the call. If the salesmen cannot speak English clearly, what might I expect from the technicians if I sent them a job to do? Read the rest of this entry »
August 2, 2009
A few seconds before midnight on Friday, an e-mail arrived from Abigail Pilkington, the Clerk to the Review of Civil Litigation Costs. It was a bit eerie, really. The East Wing of the Royal Courts of Justice is a cavernous, Gothic place at the best of times, like Hogwarts without the wizards. I got locked into an upper corridor one evening, many years ago (accidentally, I should say, looking for a judge to grant an injunction) and found it a disquieting experience. I pictured Abigail on her own in the gloom, conscientiously sending out acknowledgements to late submissions like mine. Closer inspection showed firstly that the e-mail was an autoreply, and secondly that it had actually been sent within a few moments of me sending my e-mail earlier that day. Perhaps the RCJ needs some wizards to look at it is e-mail system.
The message included a reminder that submissions must also be sent as hard copy. Fortunately (since the 31 July deadline was due to expire 30 seconds later), I had finished my submission with a day in hand and had noticed the requirement to send a hard copy in the nick of time. That took me back a bit – I don’t think I have sent out a hard copy of anything this century. I blew dust off the printer, and found one of those plastic spines which had fortunately survived my recent cull of office equipment which I don’t use any more. After lots of faffing about with envelopes and Sellotape, I set off to find a post office. Gordon Brown’s commitment to public services has included closing many of these essential local services, and our nearest one, some way off, is run with that surly inattentiveness which results from having a monopoly. You can’t drive to it – there is usually a queue, and the traffic wardens are the only competent and efficient representatives of our local authorities here in Oxford. So I waited for a gap in the rain, and walked to the post office, queued by the notices warning of all the services which post offices do not provide any more, had my package weighed, paid for the stamp, and trudged back to my desk. Read the rest of this entry »