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Conservative manifesto promise to ‘rebuild confidence’ in justice system

first_imgA Conservative government would carry out a ‘fundamental review’ of legal aid, and introduce measures to ‘rebuild confidence’ in the criminal justice system, it said in its manifesto published today. The manifesto, An invitation to join the government of Britain, promises to look at alternative methods of legal aid funding. It also pledges to review and reform libel laws to protect freedom of speech, reduce costs and discourage libel tourism. The party says it will fight back against the ‘crime and anti-social behaviour that blights our communities’, taking steps to ‘reduce the causes of crime’ and ‘put the criminal justice system on the side of responsible citizens’. It claims that violent crime against the person has risen sharply under Labour, while police officers spend more time on paperwork than they do out on patrol. David Cameron’s party will redress this by introducing tougher measures against knife crime and cutting ‘paperwork to get police out on the street’, the manifesto says. The party pledges to ‘rebuild confidence in the criminal justice system so that people know it is on the side of victims and working for law-abiding people not criminals’. It will ‘introduce honesty into sentencing’ and examine the case for greater parliamentary scrutiny of sentencing guidelines so the public is confident their views are accounted for in deciding sentences, it says. While recognising the need for criminal sanctions like ASBOs and fixed-penalty notices, the manifesto describes these as ‘blunt instruments that often fail their purpose of deterring people from committing more crime’. A Tory government would introduce a series of early-intervention measures, including ‘grounding orders’ to enable the police to use instant sanctions to deal with anti-social behaviour. To improve the experience of the criminal justice system for victims and their families, the party will seek to ensure they are better informed about the progress of criminal proceedings and the release of offenders. A Conservative government would also change the law so that anyone acting reasonably to stop a crime or apprehend a criminal is not arrested or prosecuted, the manifesto says. It says the party will give householders greater legal protection if they have to defend themselves against intruders. On civil liberties, the manifesto says Labour has ‘subjected Britain’s historic freedoms to unprecedented attack’. To protect citizens’ freedom from state encroachment, Cameron’s party will replace the Human Rights Act with a UK Bill of Rights. On families, the Conservative manifesto says the party will give families ‘more control over their lives’ by extending the right to request flexible working to every parent with a child under 18 and introducing a new system of flexible parental leave which lets parents share maternity leave between them. It says the party will review family law in order to increase the use of mediation when couples break up and look at how best to provide greater access rights to non-resident parents and grandparents. Of interest to education lawyers, on schooling matters the Conservatives will make it easier for teachers to deal with violent incidents and remove disruptive pupils, by removing the power for head teachers’ decisions on exclusions to be ‘overruled by bureaucrats’. In addition, the party says it will give teachers the strongest possible protection from false accusations and reinforce powers of discipline by strengthening home-school behaviour contracts.last_img read more

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The practicalities of using judicial review

first_img In 2007 a judicial review was threatened against the London Borough of Islington over proposals for a new academy in Islington. The proposal was withdrawn for reconsideration. To many clients, judicial review provides the opportunity to seek redress for the subjectively perceived wrongdoing of a public authority. It is a perception replete with misunderstanding and contradiction. Most often the complaint is that a body charged with a responsibility to provide public service has ignored the popular will and chosen a course that appears to the complainant to be in its own interest. With righteous indignation, the complainant ironically wishes to place their trust in the unelected judiciary to take a stand for the people’s liberty against the oppressive system, to do what’s only right and just in the eyes of the common person. Some will even extend that optimistic faith in the judiciary to their wish to challenge any person or organisation exercising authority in relation to them as individuals. Trade unions, for example, are often thought to be vulnerable to judicial review of their controversial decisions upon the initiative of a disaffected individual. There is a particularly important reason to do this – judicial review is a two-stage process in court and there is a pre-action protocol to be followed to get there. At the first court stage the claimant must secure the court’s permission to proceed to the second stage of a full hearing. Occasionally the two steps are conflated into one hearing at the option of the presiding judge, but even then, notionally at least, two steps will be taken. It is important to securing permission that the court should have clarity about the legal issues and about exactly what is at stake. Then there is the evidence strategy. In judicial review, the court is normally construing the law. The pre-action protocol for judicial review requires complete candour in the provision of evidence. Evidence of fact is usually uncontested and supported by exhibited documents. Some relevant evidence of fact may be introduced about the sequence of events leading to a decision and its implementation, and defendant evidence is particularly significant in claims where inadequacy of consultation is claimed. However, again, contest over this evidence is rare. It follows that evidence before the court in judicial review is normally on affidavit. The sworn statements for applicant and defendant are likely to be different in what they say about the impact of a contested act or omission. It is important that these issues are addressed by witnesses whom the court will respect and acknowledge as authoritative. The courts are not interested in considering for their own sake obscure arguments over acts and omissions that in the end have made little difference to anyone. The judge must be clearly told, by evidence as expert and authoritative as is available, that the judgment they will give actually matters to the lives of real people. There is one common type of judicial review case that illustrates many of the strategic considerations in the pursuit of a claim. It is the allegation that the public authority concerned has failed to carry out a proper consultation before making a decision. Even when statute does not expressly require consultation prior to the making of a decision, the courts have applied, as settled law, rules and principles which require that public decision-making bodies must consult meaningfully about what they propose to do. However, here again, the client’s expectations of what the court can or will do can often be confounded. The client may have an unassailable belief that if the decision-makers had only listened to what consultees were saying, they would certainly have been convinced. The fact they were not is, the client will believe, incontestable evidence that the consultation has not been proper. This claimant then expects the court to judge the issues. The court will not. The law insists that consultation must be genuine. All that is relevant must be taken into account and all that is irrelevant must be denied influence. The consultation must also be conducted with an open mind, but this does not mean that the decision-makers cannot come to the consultation without an opinion. They may already have narrowed down the options by discarding those preferred by consultee groups. They are not even required to offer choices. A consultation on a single proposal may be entirely proper provided that the proposers are at least open to being convinced that they ought to go back and think again. They are never required to call upon the consultee constituents to make their decision for them. A lawyer will have a lot of questions to ask of a client wanting to sue the system. Some of them the client will find surprising, perhaps even frustrating their lay expectations. There really is no point in feeding expectations with undue optimism. However, once all the boxes have been ticked and the claim proceeds to a successful conclusion, the outcome can be very satisfying – and not only for the client. Most lawyers I know who have acted for successful judicial review claimants have enjoyed some professional satisfaction in striking a blow for the common person against the system. It is all to do with our shared commitment to the enforcement of Lord Denning’s assertion: ‘Be you ever so high, the law is above you.’ So, now you have got your client with a legitimate interest and the complaint is that a public body is, in the client’s terms, ‘out of order’. You have just entered the dark wood. You are going to need a strategy to penetrate it. First you have got to find an act or an omission to be reviewed. The making of a final decision to proceed with a proposal can be treated as an act and the publication by a public authority of guidance which is claimed to be legally wrong is also an act that is reviewable. However, a mere proposal cannot be made subject to judicial review unless the authority concerned had no legal power even to put forward the proposal. When a client comes along with a proposal they would want to challenge if it were taken further, the proper step is to write setting out the client’s case. This is to be coupled with a warning that judicial review will be sought unless the proposal is amended or abandoned. You then have to pin down at least one of three possible complaints: Managing expectations But Bracewell J also found that Mrs Evans had been lawfully suspended after further allegations of pupil mistreatment were made against her, and therefore she should not return to St Mary’s Junior School in Caldicot, south Wales, until after a three-day hearing had been held. In her ruling the judge said: ‘Mrs Evans faces very serious allegations, but she has been presented with three versions [of disciplinary proceedings] inconsistent with one another and none applicable with disciplining a head teacher.’ Evans had been suspended on full pay after being accused of slapping a special needs pupil. She was convicted of assault but cleared on appeal. The suspension continued because police were investigating further claims of mistreatment. However, in October 2000 the Crown Prosecution Service said it would be taking no further action. the authority has failed to do something it was legally required to do; the authority has done something it didn’t have the power to do; the people responsible for making the decision in the name of the authority have acted irrationally. It is the last of these that many clients will latch on to in order to support the belief that the court will fairly sort things out for them. They tend to substitute ‘unreasonably’ for ‘irrationally’. The test is definitely one of irrationality, once described by a senior lawyer, with only a little exaggeration, as an allegation that the decision-makers must be regarded as having temporarily taken leave of their senses. People – even those in jobs with high levels of decision-making responsibility – quite often act in ways that many other people consider unreasonable. The courts flatly refuse, in this context, to allow themselves to be the arbiters of different points of view of what is reasonable. Many practitioners have found it an uphill struggle to explain to clients that it just does not work like that, so provoking only contemptuous criticism that the law is an ass, or that the legal adviser is a wimp too dim to understand that the law is supposed to be about fairness and justice. Lesson one in judicial review is that democracy prevails and parliament is supreme – even in matters of European law, although this becomes, these days, rather more theoretical than real. The point is that if a public body or public official has the authority of statute enacted by the elected parliament to do as it has done, then it is not for unelected judges to intervene. Nor is it for judges to interfere by way of judicial review process in the affairs of private organisations. Private organisations may be answerable to the courts for offences against the law itself and the legally protected rights of others – including their own shareholders or members – but their decisions cannot be reviewed by reference to any duty considered to be owed to the public at large. That is what judicial review is all about. It is the court performing the public function of ensuring that other bodies with functions to be carried out for the public good do not do that which they have no legal right to do and do not fail to do what they are legally required to do. Moving on to lesson two – not everyone can be a complainant just because they are a member of the public. Your client has to be someone who has an interest in the outcome of the case that is greater than that of the generality of members of the public. Lessons learned In 1986 Sudbury Infants School headteacher Maureen McGoldrick was suspended by Brent Council for allegedly making a racist remark to one of their officials. A judicial review action, supported by the NUT, was threatened, but the issue was resolved by a direction of the secretary of state. It is pretty obvious then that claims based on irrationality alone are going to be very difficult indeed. If that is all you have, you are likely to have to show that this public authority, accountable to an electorate or to the elected representative of an electorate, has done something so silly that no reasonable person could consider it sensible. More commonly, irrationality arguments are attached, as a ‘belt and braces’ job, to claims also made out on the other grounds. Even then some strategic thinking is necessary. If the irrationality claim cannot stand up, there really is no point in running the risk of leading the court in the wrong direction. To strengthen the case on either of the first two grounds, you will need to understand clearly what the law actually says and what purpose it has in the public interest. Law is always better understood and applied when its regulatory objective is understood in social terms. That is central to judicial review. When what is being challenged is the way in which a public authority is carrying out a public duty, it cannot be expected that the court will construe statute in a purist way which would defeat or limit its purpose. So if you are dealing with something the authority was legally required to do, but has not done, be as precise as possible in defining the omission. Similarly, if it is a matter of saying that the authority has exceeded its powers, be as precise as possible about the extent of the relevant power and the definition of the act that is said to have gone beyond it. The judge ruled that Blunkett had acted outside the powers of the 1991 Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Act. He said the threshold standards should have been placed before parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the School Teachers Review Body. ‘Albeit with good intentions’, the education secretary had effectively ‘evaded scrutiny’ by legislators. In 2008 a judicial review was threatened against Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council over the closure of Hayward Community School. The issue was resolved by the postponement of the closure to allow for proper consultation. Out of order The judge declared that education secretary David Blunkett’s Education (School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions) (No 2) Order 2000, which came into effect on 1 April and effectively rewrote the contracts of 400,000 teachers, was a ‘hybrid and flawed’ document. Double trouble In March 2001, Marjorie Evans, the Monmouthshire headteacher who was cleared on appeal of slapping a 10-year-old pupil, won the right to a fair disciplinary hearing after High Court judge Mrs Justice Bracewell ruled that her employer had not followed proper rules and procedures. In R v Secretary of State for Education and Employment, ex parte National Union of Teachers [2000] a High Court judge ruled that a statutory instrument setting conditions for appraisal and access to higher pay for teachers was beyond the powers given under the Education Act 1996. As a result the statutory instrument was declared void. Belt and braces The National Union of Teachers has turned to judicial review in several prominent cases, often with dramatic results. Consulting room Graham Clayton is an education law consultant and former senior solicitor at the National Union of Teacherslast_img read more

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Shifting the burden: support for stress

first_imgThe suicide last year of a senior local authority solicitor who felt unable to cope with the demands placed on him following a 30% cut to his department’s budget shocked the profession. The pressure to do more with less is evident across all areas of practice, in local government, in-house, as a sole practitioner, in a small or medium-sized practice or in a major City firm, and at all levels – from heads of legal to law students, with those providing support commenting on the increasing number of calls from young lawyers and trainees. The inquest into the death of David White, head of legal services at Suffolk County Council, heard he was working weekends and long hours following the budget cuts. He committed suicide four days after becoming (in addition to his other duties) an interim monitoring officer to replace one who had left. ‘The tragic news made us all think about our own working lives,’ says Bev Cullen, chair of Solicitors in Local Government (SLG). ‘There are lots of positives to working in local government but you can’t ignore the context in which we are working and the pressures it is putting on everyone, from junior lawyers to heads of legal.’ The legal health support charity LawCare, which runs a confidential helpline, says seven out of 10 callers ring because of stress; blaming workload, financial problems, disciplinary issues, bullying, actual or threatened redundancy and relationship problems. Over a quarter of callers suffering from clinical depression or alcohol abuse blame workplace stress for their illness. Of the calls involving stress, two-thirds are from women and four out of 10 from either trainees or those with fewer than five years’ post-qualification experience. At the same time, increasing numbers are accessing information through LawCare’s website – with 56,000 hits in the first five months of 2012. Visitors to the site viewed documents offering support 24,000 times. The most visited page was the alcohol treatment centre page, closely followed by stress and depression, then alternative careers. While stress can be a positive force, if it becomes all-consuming it can lead to debilitating and sometimes career-ending depression. Jean Booth, a former partner in a small law firm, wrote in the Gazette last month how her ‘body and mind ground to a halt’ after recurrent stress-related insomnia and depression. In May, former Hogan Lovells litigation partner Christopher Grierson was jailed for three years after pleading guilty to defrauding his firm of £1.27m. In mitigation, the court heard how he threw himself into work after suffering depression for many years. When cracks started to show, the firm expressed concern that he was driving himself too hard and he agreed to see a psychiatrist who diagnosed bi-polar disorder. But his private life continued to fall apart. It is a tough market across the board, as the latest annual survey of more than 350 HR professionals across the economy – including law firms – by City law firm Speechly Bircham and King’s College London shows. It found smaller, stretched workforces are driving higher levels of stress, presenteeism, employee disengagement and staff turnover. So how can individuals protect themselves and what should people managers in law firms, companies and government be doing to protect their employees from burnout, stress, and physical and psychological illness which can have such heavy personal and economic costs? The Law Society is, for the first time, to include research on members’ well-being as part of its membership survey this summer. Its pastoral care helpline receives about 2,000 calls a year, with members seeking help on personal, financial, professional and employment problems. Nasrin Master, the society’s practice advice service manager, says the helpline is primarily a referral service, but all the solicitors answering calls have been in private practice so they can offer practical advice, with half the calls being dealt with internally. She says they have noted a ‘sharp rise’ in the number of training contract issues. Where callers are seeking legal advice, they are referred to the Solicitors Assistance Scheme (SAS). Other callers are referred to LawCare and SBA The Solicitors’ Charity. The three support charities work together closely while remaining distinct in the help they offer. LawCare, for instance, has the widest reach across the profession – taking in all legal professionals from paralegals to judges – while SBA helps solicitors and their dependants with loans and grants. The SAS provides a panel of solicitor volunteers who give an hour’s free confidential legal advice to fellow solicitors, their families and employees on professional and personal problems. They can give further advice but this will be at normal rates. Both refer those in need of counselling to LawCare. ‘There are a lot of desperate people in the profession,’ says LawCare co-ordinator Ann Charlton. ‘It is very important people know we exist, but it is difficult to get the message out there. We want to be busier than ever, going to more conferences, giving more talks. ‘We should be part of the profession’s risk management in helping people recognise when they are suffering from stress, advising them how to avoid it, what to do when they find they can’t cope, as well as helping firms support their staff in difficult times.’ LawCare is funded by a per capita fee for every judge, solicitor, barrister, chartered legal executive, paralegal and barrister’s clerk. It provides free CPD-accredited presentations tailored both to staff, enabling them to cope with the pressures placed upon them, and to partners, helping them recognise problems and prevent the problems stress can cause from harming their firm. So far this year, it has made presentations to more than 2,000 lawyers. The helpline volunteers come from across the profession. ‘They are a wonderful bunch of people,’ says Charlton. ‘Many know first-hand what callers are experiencing, though we have a strict rule that they must be at least two years free of the issue. We try to match gender, location and subject matter, so if a solicitor rings up who is drinking too much and fears losing their job, we will put them in touch with a lawyer who has had an alcohol issue.’ SBA made grants and loans totalling more than £1.7m to 344 beneficiaries last year. An increasing number of applicants are young, with some unable to work due to stress-related breakdown. The charity supports them in returning to work or retraining if that is not an option. Just under half its £16m fund comes from conditional donations from unclaimed client funds. Last year, the conditional donations, which have to be repaid if the client materialises, increased by 70% from £650,000 in 2010 to £1.1m. SBA’s priority for 2012 is to raise its profile within the profession. Martin says: ‘Every charity looks for extra donations and income streams but our top strategic priority is finding more beneficiaries. ‘One of our aims is to support transitions to more sustainable lifestyles. We want to get people back on their feet rather than just dole out cash. We don’t want to make people dependent – we want to make them independent.’ David Morgan chairs the SAS panel. Set up in 1972, it currently has 80 volunteers who can help with regulatory and employment matters, partnership disputes and insolvency. It also provides a pro bono duty solicitor at SDT pre-listing meetings. It receives over 1,000 calls a year, with more people contacting the volunteers directly through the website. It is exempt from disclosing information to the SRA, so callers are assured of confidentiality. Morgan says it has approached the Law Society for more funding because it believes that issues involving age discrimination and staff management are likely to grow. Other trends include calls from trainees whose firms are trying to cancel their training contracts and from firms worried about a visit from SRA inspection teams. Case studies The sign in the chemist says it all: ‘People find it easier to deal with my cancer than with my depression’. It struck a very painful nerve with Jean Booth. A partner in a small practice for 23 years, she had managed her life with hard work and efficiency. She worked up to the day before her sons were born and, when breast cancer led to a mastectomy, she kept working through months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. ‘I felt no one was acknowledging I was ill – as the chemist sign says, depression is still a taboo subject. Not everyone who gets stressed ends up with depression but some people are clearly vulnerable. You want to be seen as coping and admitting you aren’t is seen as a sign of weakness.’ SBA website Law Society’s Pastoral Care Helpline: 020 7320 5795 LawCare helpline: 0800 279 6888; to book a presentation: 01268 771333 She suffered recurrent stress-related insomnia and, in 2007, was diagnosed with depression. She took two extended breaks from work but last year, she says, her mind and body ground to a halt. With hindsight, she can see she ignored the warning signs until she was in such a downward spiral she had to stop completely, despite the difficult fallout at work and at home. ‘I had always managed to keep working through everything but this beat me,’ she says. He gave up law and moved to Scotland but had a serious relapse in 2000 when his marriage broke down. ‘If it hadn’t been for the kindness of a lifelong friend, I wouldn’t have survived. He helped me back in to the profession and I now act as a consultant doing private client work. But working excessive hours is not only bad for the individual but also for the profession in the long run, she warns. ‘It is difficult to deal with these issues in a small firm where there aren’t many to share the load. But it is so important everyone is open in discussing these problems.’ In 2009 she was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 2010, she returned to full-time practice at the bar with the support of family and friends and feels working in a more measured way means she is a more effective advocate. Once she had regained her confidence, she became a volunteer with LawCare, keen to use her experience to support others – ‘I know what an enormous step you have to take just to pick up the telephone.’ ‘When I heard about LawCare, I thought it would be a way I could help others because I can empathise with what they are going through. Mental illness is the only illness where you are almost punished for having it because people don’t understand you can’t just snap out of it.’ Training provider Kaplan Altior offers a stress and time management course as an elective on its professional skills course. The company’s head, Chris Sweetman, says most of the delegates are trainees, but qualified lawyers also book places on the six-hour course to learn what causes stress, how it varies, what are the symptoms, how to separate healthy adrenalin from permanent stress, and how to assess their own stress levels. City firms know their success globally depends on attracting and retaining the brightest lawyers. Hogan Lovells sets out its strategies on its website, which include a formal ‘women’s initiative’ to encourage women to stay and progress within the firm, affinity groups and employee networks, mentoring, diversity retreats (including a multi-day retreat in the US for the firm’s ethnically diverse, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, lawyers), widening access and work-life balance initiatives. Clifford Chance has set an aspirational target that 30% of its partners will be women. It acknowledges this will take time but hopes to ease the stress of juggling work and family life with enhanced maternity/paternity policies, a flexible working policy which is open to everyone, an emergency childcare and homecare service, and childcare vouchers. One option for larger firms is to buy support for their staff through commercial employee assistance programmes (EAPs), which offer 24-hour helplines, counselling and online interactive content. LawCare’s Charlton says the programmes can be a major asset: ‘The problem we find is that some people are wary because it is an employer provision. ‘We don’t fight them for business. If a caller comes to us and it transpires they need counselling, we would then turn to the EAP and ask them to step in. Usually, by this time, the caller has realised that the most important thing is to get well physically and mentally and that most people in the firm are aware why they are off work or having problems. ‘But the problem is some firms think that, by investing in an expensive EAP, they don’t need us. I am very grateful the programmes are there but there is still very much room for our service running alongside and we are trying very hard to work with them.’ She says LawCare’s strength is that it is free-standing. ‘Callers say they won’t go to the doctor because they are frightened of it being on their notes. Callers want to know what they should say at an interview if they have had a month off with stress. There is still a stigma with some employers but you have to remember you have to be physically and mentally well or you won’t be getting a job.’ In smaller firms, partners and principals can be very good at looking after their staff, while bigger firms have HR departments which should know their duties under health and safety regulations. However, the pressures on firms have been exacerbated by the recession, says fellow LawCare co-ordinator Trish McLellan: ‘People can feel trapped in a bad fit because there aren’t jobs to move to. Fear of redundancy is still great so people are afraid to take sick leave. ‘But anyone with any business sense would say providing a supportive environment means you get the best out of your employees with lower staff turnover, fewer mistakes and fewer burnouts.’ Having someone to turn to is critical. Barakzai says many in-house lawyers will still not talk openly about pressure and stress ‘despite a very real risk of burn-out through overload’, because they fear it may adversely affect their career paths. However, she says many larger employers recognise this and implement EAPs as part of a package of flexible benefits for their employees. But if an in-house lawyer is under pressure and does suffer from depression, she says, it is still important for the employer to maintain adequate levels of supervision and management to spot any symptoms and take supportive action. What is clear is that failing to support staff can have far-reaching consequences. Robert Thomas, employment partner with Speechly Bircham, says employers ignore the potent cocktail of leaner workforces, longer hours, and higher levels of stress, absence and discontent at their peril. ‘Increased stress from long hours can affect performance,’ he says. ‘If you close your mind to the cause and implement performance management processes that could be masking the true problems. If it results in disciplinary action and the employee argues it was out of their control, you could be looking at unfair dismissal. If you haven’t looked at the underlying reasons, there could be disability issues which could potentially mean unlimited compensation.’ There are also issues around the Working Time Regulations. ‘If staff don’t contract out of the regulations, it is not just a contractual issue, it is a potential criminal offence,’ he warns, ‘and even if staff do opt out, you still need to keep an eye on health and safety obligations’. If someone goes on sick leave and then returns, occupational health involvement is important, he says. ‘If you don’t do anything about the workload or reduce stress, you could be on the hook for a PI claim. Failure to provide support can also have reputational issues. Barakzai says platforms such as Twitter may be used to comment on company practices. ‘Unless the organisation has robust monitoring and review of social media postings about itself, this channel may cause substantial brand damage until the issue is addressed.’ For many lawyers, it is about recognising they need help. Many find support through mentoring schemes, networking opportunities and soft skill courses offered by the special interest groups. The JLD, for example, has started running skills events for trainees, to mirror events for LPC students and newly qualifieds, which include a stress management class. For Underwood, the best advice the SPG gives sole practitioners is to get involved in one of its local groups. ‘The best antidote to fear is hope in the future and that sort of positive approach comes from mutual encouragement and empathy,’ she says. ‘SPs should never be afraid or too proud to ask for help – fellow lawyers are not the “enemy’’.’ ‘I experienced the classic signs – waking at 4am night after night, grinding my teeth and clenching my fists; being snappy; having a drink as soon as I arrived home rather than socially with family or friends, taking up smoking, losing control of my weight through comfort eating.’ LawCare website SBA: contact 020 8675 6440 Useful contacts Ralph Cross, a solicitor for 40 years, has been a LawCare volunteer for six years. He suffered a serious breakdown to the point of attempting suicide in the 70s when he was running his own practice. He recovered with family and medical support and joined a small partnership but, when he saw the signs of stress building up again, he left. ‘I didn’t want to let anyone down,’ he says, ‘so, since then, I have always worked on my own.’ Sara (not her real name) has been a volunteer with LawCare for the past two years. A barrister, she moved from chambers to a City law firm to work in a training role in 2001 but found it very stressful. ‘I ended up feeling very isolated and unsupported,’ she recalls. ‘It may have been a mid-life crisis but it is almost forbidden for lawyers to admit that things aren’t going well. Grania Langdon-Down is a freelance journalist A year on, she is feeling better but is still dependent on medication. ‘I just keep hold of the thought that I will eventually be able to work again – I am only 53 with lots still to give.’ The sources of stress are many and varied. Sarah Bolt, of the Junior Lawyers Division executive committee, says the ‘mentality of law firms needs to change from the top down’, so suffering from stress is not seen as a weakness but something that should be supported at every level. Problems can arise when supervisors have not been trained so they ‘belittle’ junior staff, she says. ‘Many people expect junior members of the profession to be up to the level they expect of qualified solicitors,’ she says. ‘There is no account [taken of the] difference between the levels in training. This means that many junior members often feel exploited and unable to keep up, despite the number of hours that they put in.’ A survey of students and graduates by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer found respondents had a ‘more holistic view’ than previous generations about achieving a work-life balance. However, trainee recruitment partner Simon Johnson noted: ‘Students need to be realistic about what it takes to become a high-flyer in the legal profession or anywhere else in the City. The financial rewards are good. But advising on the best mandates requires tremendous commitment.’ Alasdair Douglas, chair of the City of London Law Society, says its Associates Forum looked at the ‘trials and tribulations’ of being a young lawyer in 2010 and recommended flexible working and better partner recognition of their work. But he says it is significant the forum did not address stress as a separate issue. ‘Young people coming to us are pretty high-flyers. It is challenging. But the insecurity of a new job, peer pressure, hoping to get kept on at the end of a training contract, are part of the job,’ he says. ‘It is important to distinguish between clinical stress and depression and finding the job blooming hard. Through appraisals and knowing the people you work with, you can sense if something is going wrong beyond that. Firms are acutely aware of their role as employers in getting that right.’ Spotting when someone may be at risk is key in any area of practice. But this can be particularly hard for sole practitioners. Hilary Underwood, immediate past-chair of the Sole Practitioners Group, highlights ‘loneliness’ as one of the sources of stress. ‘Many SPs may not openly admit to this, particularly as we have chosen to practise alone,’ she says, ‘but it can be a lonely job and the lack of colleague-contact is certainly something that I underestimated when I opened up solo eight and a half years ago. Loneliness can be the breeding ground for worry, anxiety and fear. The old adage is very true – a problem shared is a problem halved.’ Money worries have been exacerbated by the changing legal landscape, with competition from larger firms, ABSs, the internet and DIY legal services taking their toll, while many SPs fear the new compliance regime and how it will be implemented, she says. SPs can also feel trapped. ‘Getting out of practice can be a huge source of stress,’ she continues. ‘Exit strategies are few and far between – one of the largest obstacles is the cost of run-off cover. Many SPs simply cannot afford to stop practising even if they want to – unless they can find someone with whom to merge, or sell to, which is often easier said than done.’ But support is there. She says the SPG’s executive committee members offer pastoral care, while LawCare, the SAS and the SBA are ‘wonderful organisations, which have all been great supporters of SPs’. For in-house lawyers, the pressures, says Nina Barakzai, chair of the Commerce and Industry Group, come from juggling the multiple demands on their time with the breadth and scope of the queries they receive while managing the legal risk for the business. She says the way in-house lawyers build their internal relationships influences how they cope. ‘Setting clear expectations gives the in-house lawyer some headroom to free up thinking time for risk management and to build processes and structures so they aren’t constantly fire-fighting.’ Local government also has its own particular pressures, says Cullen, highlighting cuts in government funding; no let-up in public expectations; pressure to do ‘more with less’ ; downgrading of some jobs; job insecurity; and ‘rhetoric from government ministers who don’t always make you feel as valued as you should be’. She adds wryly: ‘A view has been expressed that, as solicitors are in daily conflict situations, they should be more able to deal with stress. I’m not convinced this is a reasonable conclusion to come to.’ So while you cannot eliminate stress, how can individuals and firms manage it positively? Practical tips include increasing exercise, improving diet, stopping smoking, and taking up holistic therapies such as the Alexander Technique. At work, relentless emails can create huge stress. Stephen Shepherd, in-house lawyer at Molson Coors, suggests: ‘Check your emails at certain times of the day, turn off your email notifications and alerts, and manage your inbox down to zero at the end of each day by deleting, scheduling, actioning or delegating. Looking at your emails throughout the day is like looking at all of your clients all at once with their various demands, knowing that you can’t action them all at the same time.’ SAS: email; volunteers’ contact numbers can be found on the website For support, more information and case studies see featureslast_img read more

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Bar 2015: Gove will need to defy backbenchers on prison reform

first_imgMichael Gove will need to face down the right-wing press and many Tory MPs if he is to succeed with the biggest reform of the penal system in a generation, shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter said.Speaking at a political debate, Slaughter said the lord chancellor will enjoy a ‘large measure of cross-party support’ if he perseveres.Earlier this month, Gove told the Conservative party conference of his intention to bring ‘reforming zeal into the dark corners’ of the prison system, citing rehabilitation as a priority. But Slaughter warned that he faces formidable obstacles: ‘The Mail and the Sun won’t be on his side, and part of his own parliamentary party won’t be either.’Slaughter acknowledged that Gove, who has ditched some of his predecessor’s more controversial policies, is an improvement on Chris Grayling. ‘We have a new lord chancellor and different is not always better. But in this case it is,’ he said.However, Slaughter noted Gove’s relative silence on a new UK bill of rights, notwithstanding his victory in cabinet over the Saudi prison contract: ‘Gove “dipped his toe” into human rights with the Saudi decision, but we have heard very little so far. Perhaps the problems they will have (replacing the Human Rights Act with a bill of rights) are beginning to dawn on the government and they are having second thoughts.’Solicitor-general Robert Buckland urged ‘patience’ as lawyers and others await proposals on a bill of rights, expected within weeks. ‘The concept of human rights has been with us much longer than the 1998 act and it does not help if one party tries to claim the mantle of “guardian” of human rights,’ he responded.last_img read more

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Mariazellerbahn commissions a stairway to heaven

first_imgAUSTRIA: More than 2500 people attended celebrations at the Mariazellerbahn’s Laubenbachmühle depot on December 16 to mark the unveiling of the first of nine low-floor electric multiple-units which Stadler Rail is supplying for Austria’s longest narrow gauge railway.Bishop of St Pölten Klaus Küng and Superintendent of the Evangelical Church in Niederösterreich Paul Weiland named the first unit ‘Die Himmelstreppe’ (Stairway to Heaven), a name chosen for the fleet to reflect the line’s terminus in the pilgrimage centre of Mariazell. The branding for the new trains was developed by Hannes Rausch and includes a gold livery with ‘Stairs to Heaven’ logo. Designed to accommodate tourists as well as regular passengers, the 2 650 mm wide three-car articulated EMUs offer 116 seats in one class, plus 11 folding seats and space for up to 12 bicycles, prams, luggage or up to 100 standing passengers. One of the two toilets is wheelchair-accessible. The EMUs are designed to operate at up to 80 km/h, and are expected to bring a reduction in journey times on the mountainous route when they enter service by December 2013. From Easter 2014 the EMUs will haul panoramic coaches during the tourist season. Four 16·6 m long panoramic cars are on order, and will have 36 first class seats arranged 2+1. The €65m order for new stock was placed by transport authority NÖVOG in December 2010 as part of a €117m programme to modernise the 85 km route between St Pölten and Mariazell. The includes modernisation of the 760 mm gauge track and infrastructure (€20m) along with the unusual 6·5 kV 25 Hz electrification (€7·5m), signalling systems (€4·5m) and depot and buildings (€20m). The aim is to increase ridership on the line from 500 000 to 700 000 passengers a year.last_img read more

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LIAT warns of possible flight cancellations due to impending storm

first_img Share 150 Views   no discussions LifestyleNewsRegionalTravel LIAT warns of possible flight cancellations due to impending storm by: Caribbean News Service – August 19, 2015 Share Tweetcenter_img Regional airline LIAT has placed customers on notice that it could be forced to cancel flights on Sunday August 23, Monday August 24 and Tuesday August 25 due to the impending passage of Tropical Storm Danny.The carrier said customers affected by the disruptions who wish to rebook for a later date will be allowed to do so without change fees or fare differences for a period of two weeks from the date of their original scheduled travel.Following the two-week grace period, passengers will be required to pay applicable fare and change fees when re-booking, LIAT said.LIAT is also advising that passengers who decide to travel but are unable to complete their journey due to disruption caused by weather conditions that they will not be provided with meals, transportation or hotel accommodation.LIAT said it regrets any inconvenience caused as a result of the passage of the storm. Sharing is caring! Sharelast_img read more

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Bikers Gallery Sdn Bhd (Alor Setar) launches First Kawasaki Ninja Shop…

first_imgBikers Gallery Sdn. Bhd. located at Jalan Raja, Alor Setar, Kedah has become successfully launched the first ever Kawasaki Ninja Shop in Northern Malaysia. The Ninja Shop was officiated by Yang Amat Berhormat Datuk Seri Diraja Ahmad Bashah Md. Hanipah together with En. Ahmad Faez Tan Sri Yahaya (Executive Chairman of Kawasaki Motors (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.), Mr. Hee Sze May (Director & Owner of Bikers Gallery Sdn. Bhd.), Mr. Wee Hong (Chairman of Malaysia Motorcycle and Scooters Dealers Association) and Yang Berbahagia Dato’ Jeffrey Lim (General Manager & Director of Kawasaki Motors (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.).What makes this particular Kawasaki Ninja Shop special? Apart from being the first Ninja Shop to open its doors in Northern Malaysia, it is also one of the biggest covering a massive 33,000 square feet which includes the display area and also the Kawasaki Exclusive Service Center (KESC).Those who are unfamiliar with the Kawasaki Ninja Shop, it is actually a concept stop dedicated solely to the Kawasaki brand and all its offerings. Whatever you desire from the Kawasaki, you can be sure that the Ninja Shop will have something to suit your motorcycling desires from Sport, Super Sport, Scrambler, Touring and other categories.The people of Alor Setar and nearby areas can now visit the Kawasaki Ninja Shop to have a look at all of their bikes and merchandise including all of their 2017 line up; Kawasaki Z650 ABS, Kawasaki Ninja 650 ABS, Kawasaki Z900 ABS and Kawasaki Versys – X 250 . Already own their bikes? They also have a lot of official Kawasaki riding gears and merchandise to go along with that wonderful motorcycle of yours.The service area is taken care of by trained personnel from the Kawasaki Exclusive Service Center (KESC) with the sole purpose of taking care of all Kawasaki bikes to ensure optimum performance every time a bike is sent in for servicing. There’s even a comfortable waiting area for bikers to hang out while waiting for their bikes.To further support Bikers Gallery’s Ninja Shop and Kawasaki Exclusive Service Center (KESC) opening in Alor Setar, Kedah a convoy of Kawasaki CKD Ride 2017 which consist of about 100 Kawasaki bikers led by Yang Berbahagia Dato’ Jeffrey Lim himself attended the grand opening.So if you’re nearby, don’t forget to stop by the new Kawasaki Ninja Shop located No. 380, Jalan Raya, 05000, Alor Setar, Kedah for great Kawasaki discounts and offers and we’re positive that they extend their great services to ensure the good times keep rolling with Kawasaki.Interested to own your very own Kawasaki bike? CLICK HERE to check out all of the available models here in Malaysia via or Bike Buyer’s Guide!Photo source: Kawasaki Motors (Malaysia)Biker’s Gallery Kawasaki Ninja Shop Grand Opening Gallery –Ads– The first ever Kawasaki Ninja Shop in Northern Malaysia was launched earlier today by Bikers Gallery Sdn Bhd.Located in Alor Setar, Kedah, the Kawasaki Ninja Shop is also one of the largest in Malaysia covering over 33,000 square feet of space for the bike display area and Kawasaki Exclusive Service Center (KESC).The Kawasaki Ninja Shop is a concept store dedicated to the Kawasaki brand which covers motorcycles, riding gears, merchandise and many more to suit all types of riders in the country.last_img read more

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Browns Cut Safety Tyvis Powell; Not Aware He Was Set to Throw Out First Pitch at Indians Game Friday Night

first_imgTalk about bad timing.Earlier Friday the Browns announced that they had waived safety Tyvis Powell, a player who is a local product from Bedford and fans were excited to welcome back to the Cleveland area to play for the hometown Browns.What’s more, Powell is supposed to throw out the first pitch at the Indians game tonight against the Chicago White Sox at Progressive Field at 7:10pm.A team spokesman from the Browns stated that he had no idea that Powell was scheduled to throw out the first pitch. Pro Football Talk says that Powell is still expected to throw out the pitch despite not being a part of the team anymore. More bad PR from a team that won one game last season. Matt Loede has been a part of the Cleveland Sports Media for over 21 years, with experience covering Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, the National Football League and even high school and college events. He has been a part of the Cleveland Indians coverage since the opening of Jacobs/Progressive Field in 1994, and spent two and a half years covering the team for 92.3 The Fan, and covers them daily for Associated Press Radio. You can follow Matt on Twitter HERE. Related TopicsBrownsTyvis Powellcenter_img Matt Loedelast_img read more

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Local Fishing Event Provides River Stewardship to Children

Fourth grader Cadence Fisher, 9-years-old, said this was her second year attending the event. She described how her guide last year saved the day when her salmon nearly escaped. FacebookTwitterEmailPrintFriendly分享The Boys and Girls Club and Kenai River Foundation partnered for the 5th Annual Take Our Kids Fishing event. The Kenai Peninsula’s Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Heather Schloeman said the children enjoy fish themed games, Safe-Kids of the Kenai Peninsula provides life jacket fittings, and the Kenai Watershed Forum talks with the children about salmon cycles before fishing during the free event. Soldotna Senator Peter Micciche said he appreciates all of the effort put forth to offer a day of safe fishing, especially from the guides. Association President Josh Hayes said he enjoys fishing with the kids. Nearly 60 local children fished the Kenai River with 15 members of the Kenai River Professional Guide Association who volunteered their time. read more

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Kitada ahead by one

first_img IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5 GET THE BEST OF THE JAPAN TIMES KIKUYO, Kumamoto Pref. – Rui Kitada, who turned pro last summer, carded four of her day’s six birdies in the back nine on her way to a 3-under-par 69, taking the lead with a one-stroke advantage after the first round of the Saishunkan Ladies on Friday.Sae Takamura produced five birdies against three bogeys and closed at 2-under 70 while Shiho Oyama led a trio of golfers including Misayo Fujisawa and Kozue Azuma who took a share of third with 71.last_img read more