Thursday, 11 October 2012

Why Alan Jones deserves our thanks

You all recognise this iconic picture of Alan Jones, taken after his appalling comments about the PM's late father. I think it says it all.  "You mean you don't like offensive comments? News to me!"



In many ways, though, I think that we should give him a round of applause. This has been one of the most positive things to happen to the left-wing's campaign since Abbott in a speedo!

Susan Mitchell's article HERE is a good comment, but I don't think it goes far enough.

They say that any publicity is good publicity. Maybe in politics, but in business, you can only take so much bad publicity before you can't afford it any more.

Julia Gillard demolishes Tony Abbott

Ok, I have decided that this blog is going to take a new direction. I make no bones about the fact that in politics, I lean left. I would probably support a liberal (IE progressive) government over a conservative (IE Liberal/Coalition) government 9 times out of 10. But I am so sick of politics and our two largely-ineffective leaders, that I am going to restrict myself to supporting positions and individual actions. Therefore, if Gillard makes a gaffe, I will laugh at her. If Abbott proposes a good policy (frosty hell), I will discuss it rationally.

Tony Abbott looking decidedly uncomfortable as Gillard demolishes his motion

As our two political parties are so close to centre, there is some scope for supporting either party without being called 'conservative'. Mind you, there is no scope for being called 'progressive.'

So this blog is now going to be commenting on the vagaries of anyone who appears in public life. If Gillard makes a brilliant speech, I will be right behind her. If Gillard cocks up, I will be laughing at her just as hard. Similarly for Abbott. I will no longer base my commentary on their position (left or right) but based on their efficiency, truthfulness, and message. 

I concede, reluctantly, that had Malcolm Turnbull remained as head of the Coalition, I might have been able to bring myself to vote for him. Fortunately, the 'left' has been gifted the hapless Tony Abbott on which to watch the 'right' hang itself.

Although I have just said that I will be impartial, I have to say that until Abbott says something without rhetoric, or with a positive message, I just won't be able to take him seriously. By the same token, if Gillard returns to her scripted, cliche'd 'grab'-filled messages of yester-week, I won't be able to take her seriously either. 

Ok; on topic. This week, Gillard performed a stunning feat of oration, and managed to make Abbott look even more foolish, hypocritical and baseless than ever before. That truly was a miracle. (I didn't think he could go any lower.) More importantly, she demonstrated that she had something of a backbone. Her speech was somewhat scripted, but it was performed with conviction, and that is something that is often lacking in politics. 

Here it is.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

How NOT to work with your colleagues

I recently attended the Australian Young Lawyers Conference in Adelaide, and one of the discussions was a panel discussion about workplace relationships.

A scenario was proposed:
"You and another person of similar experience to you have been given a task to do. Although you are of a similar level and position to the other person, you have been given the lead on this task. What's more, you know exactly why you have been given the lead. How do you make it work without too much awkwardness?"


One of the panelists indicated that this was a scenario that had actually occurred to her. 

Ok, so I read this and make the following assumptions. 
  1. For whatever reason, you are better than your colleague at this task. Either you are just less shit than them, or they have issues with this type of task. 
  2. Because of the above, your supervisor has given you the lead, hoping that you can make something of it, or at least preventing the other person from ruining it.
  3. For this to be an issue, then there has to be some form of tension between you and the other person already. Otherwise you would just sit down and get the job done. 
  4. The task is relatively major, otherwise it wouldn't be assigned to two people.

Jill Meagher and 'The Internet'

As all of you who have not been living under a rock will know, ABC journalist Jill Meagher was raped and murdered on about 21 September 2012 in Melbourne. She had some drinks with some mates, then walked the 800m back to her house.



CCTV footage shows her interacting with a man in a blue hoodie. Her body was later found buried in a 'shallow grave,' in large part due to the assistance of social media. The footage of her speaking to the male was shared by Victoria Police, and has been widely viewed.

Family Law Conferences and my lunch

I am in the middle of my first ever Family Law Conference, and I think I am about to lose my lunch.

Ok, not really in the middle. I am in a 'hiatus'.  The mediator has spoken to us for about 20 minutes, and is now speaking to the other side. My client is sitting in the waiting room, making my secretary's life miserable.

You see, my client is lovely. She has a great attitude to the mediation, she is positive about the father spending regular and significant time with the child, and she isn't saying anything stupid. The problem? She stinks.

I mean really, really stinks. I have witnessed worse BO, but by the time it gets worse, it gets visible. You can't quite see the miasma wafting off her, but it is a close thing. Seriously, gross!

She is quite obese, and although she appears well-kempt, she obviously hasn't heard of anti-perspirant or deodorant.

My secretary has a thing for smells. She will get out the Glen20 after even a hint of BO. I can't think what she must be going through out in the front room with her.

Did you know that doctors have found a new variant of penicillin that is effective against most resistant bacteria? Yeah, they found it in the folds of an obese person's waist.

Think twice about taking medication.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

'Girlfriend Mode' offends critics

How about we find a new way to stereotype gamers?



This article got a lot of people hot under the collar; a game developer used the term 'girlfriend mode' when describing a gameplay feature that made the game more accessible to non-gamers.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/08/13/borderlands-2-gearbox-stu_n_1771983.html?ir=UK+Tech

I think that the remarks a fairly dumb thing to say, but I don't have any problem with the stereotype itself.

I think it is fair to say that the majority of gamers (whether 90% of 55%, I don't know) are male, and certainly the most prevalent stereotype is of a fat, late-20s man on a couch with a console.

I also think that the feature the dev is talking about is a great idea. Whether it is aimed at making gamers more accessible to their partners, or making it easier for people to get into games, I think it is great.

I think, since gamers are the subject of so many stereotypes, the comment by this developer should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Also, for your viewing pleasure, I give you... World of Wifecraft."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVhwwFHGEFI

Anyone want a free holiday to Canberra?

The ACT tourism authority is offering 500 people a free holiday to Canberra, so long as they write about it on social media.

As a heavy Facebook user (and a light twitter user) this could be awesome! Also, I have friends in Canberra who I haven't seen for ages.

Link is here. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Typical Revenue Raising

My wife and I were driving on Sunday morning up North East Road towards the hills. On the way up, we noticed that the traffic lights at Grand Junction Road were out. There was a truck from the Traffic Management Centre which appeared to be working on one of them, and just as we passed, a police car pulled up.

We came back the same way about 30 minutes later, and there were now three police cars and two trucks. The traffic had become a bit heavier, and cars were navigating the intersection fairly slowly.

But the police were not directing traffic. They had placed temporary 25km/h signs, AND WERE ON BOTH SIDES OF THE INTERSECTION WITH RADAR GUNS.

Not directing traffic for safety, but pinging motorists who were doing a few k's over the 25 limit. Not just one, but TWO COPS had radar guns out.

Surely, safety could better be managed by standing in the middle of the intersection and directing traffic...

I can only think that the police officers were directed to raise some money on a cold, damp Sunday morning.

Barrister changes gender

This story bubbled up last week, and I thought it deserved a brief mention.

Respected barrister David Stokes is now identifying as Heather Stokes, and is continuing to practice as a barrister. She has applied for a practising certificate in her new name.

David Stokes:

Heather Stokes:


I just want to say a few things about this.

Firstly, congratulations to Heather for going ahead and doing this. It must take an amazing amount of soul-searching to make a decision like this, and kudos for sticking with it. I don't know what might motivate someone to change their gender, (although I know a few people who identify with genders other than their originals) but the stigma associated with this is massive. Well done, and best of luck to you.

Secondly, I would like to draw attention to this comment from Ralph Bonig, as quoted in that article.

"Law Society of SA president Ralph Bonig said there was "no question" Ms Stokes enjoyed her peers' support and respect. 
"Her ability to practice law has not changed from last week to this. As such, the society is as supportive of her this week as it was last week," he said."

Bravo. Such a wonderfully expressive statement that cannot possibly offend anyone, yet offers complete support to Heather. I think that Mr Bonig has struck gold in his response to this issue, and dealt with it very appropriately.

I have worked with Mr Stokes a few years ago, and I was struck by his professionalism and experience. I would not hesitate to rely on his judgement in criminal matters, whether before or after this change.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Pay with peanuts, get monkeys

My job is on the line.

I was hired to take up all the Legal Aid work that my firm does, primarily Family Law and Criminal Law. I work under close supervision of senior practitioners, who are able to assist me with any questions I have. My work is regularly reviewed by the principal and the other senior lawyers. My supervisor for Family Law no longer bothers to edit my letters unless I have specifically asked her to. My Criminal Law supervisor is in the office next door, and is only involved in my files now when I need a hand or am unsure of a process. 

The most important aspect of my employment was that I would undertake ALL the Court work for our office, meaning that the senior practitioner doesn't have to waste his time going to- and from Court. Why? Because he is paid more than me, and he makes more $$ for the firm than me. 

I was employed by my firm as a 'Law Clerk' before I got my practising certificate, and our family lawyer decided that we were losing money by doing Legal Aid Family Law. The solution? Hire someone to do exclusively Legal Aid, who isn't costing the firm money. 

It has been working out amazingly for everyone. I am covering my wages plus a bit more, so the firm is ahead. The senior practitioners are pumping out more private bills because they aren't wasting time on Legal Aid, so the firm is even further ahead. Finally, I am getting the most amazing experience under the supervision of some fantastic mentors, so I am light-years ahead. 

Then this happened. That link takes you to a letter that the Legal Services Commission has sent out to all firms offering Legal Aid. 

To summarise, "The Commission has become increasingly concerned about the number of newly admitted practitioners holding themselves out as representing clients in serious criminal cases. In fact, the Commission is being asked to assign matters direct to newly admitted practitioners as solicitor and counsel to prepare for and represent clients in Supreme and District Court trials."

As of 3 September 2012, the Commission will be assigning matters as follows:
  • Summary matters (minor matters in the Magistrates Court only) can be assigned to a junior practitioner in their first year of a restricted practising certificate;
  • Minor indictable matters (Magistrates Court or can be called up to the District Court) can only be assigned to practitioners in their 2nd year of a restricted practising certificate, and only if they are adequately supervised;
  • Major indictable matters, including anything in the District or Supreme Courts can only be dealt with by a practitioner on an unrestricted practising certificate. Junior practitioners can do specific tasks, but cannot do any Court appearances.

This severely limits what I can do. It also limits my use to the firm in preventing my supervisor from having to attend on criminal matters so he can focus on his other (more lucrative) work. 

Of the thirty- or so criminal files on my desk at any one time, probably 1/3 have a minor indictable matter attached. 

Previously, the LSC refused to grant me funding in a major indictable matter, so it is technically assigned to my supervisor, but I am doing all the work on it. On that file, however, I am supervised not only by my supervisor, but by the principal of the firm, who has recommended who we brief, how we brief, and what work needs to be done. That file has been tremendous experience for me, and was, in fact, my first District Court appearance, robes and all. 

In my private practice, I have now done pleas for firearms offences in the District Court, with very positive results. We act for a man charged with manslaughter in the District Court, and that matter has just been set down for trial. I have appeared on all of the arraignments in that matter, and have been the first point of contact in dealing with the DPP. Again, my principal is technically in charge of that file, and is supervising my every move. I have learned so much about file management, and everything that is required to actually take a file to trial.

I don't know if this is unusual, but my firm feels that its reputation depends on the work that each and every solicitor does. Therefore, they were not willing to let me send out ANY letters, or do ANY court work until they were satisfied that the letter was of high enough quality, and that I was sufficiently prepared. After all, if I screw up, it isn't the LSC that looks bad, but my firm. Therefore, the quality control aspect comes from the firm, not from the LSC. 

I say now that if I wasn't sufficiently qualified and experienced to do the work I am doing, my firm would not let me do it without significant supervision. 

If the LSC wants to salvage its reputation by increasing the quality and experience of its lawyers, here are some suggestions:
  • Pay better. If you want senior practitioners doing LSC work, pay senior practitioners rates. Hell, even if you only pay to the Magistrates' Court Scale, you will get far more firms offering Legal Aid services. At the moment, it just isn't economic to do Legal Aid if you are anything but a 1st or 2nd year lawyer!
  • Pay for more. Barristers have said to me that they don't mind doing the work for 1/2 the commercial rate, but they object to only being paid for 1/2 the work they do at 1/2 the rate. Same goes for solicitor work; pay for each necessary attendance, and each client interview if more than one is necessary, and you will find people giving much more attention to those clients.
  • Direct quality control. Audit practitioners, make sure they are being supervised adequately. Ask for statements from senior practitioners outlining the amount of supervision they give. Talk to Magistrates and find out if they have concerns about any specific practitioners. Offer accreditation courses with the LSC, funding being conditional upon either significant experience or passing an accreditation course (I don't know, like maybe a law degree...)
  • Upgrade the applications and correspondence process. This is the 21st century; I think we can probably move beyond letters now. Save paper, save time. I don't want to have to wait 4 days for a letter from the LSC to arrive telling me they won't pay for the work I have done. Use the internet! Email grants/refusals straight to the practitioner! Allow firms to apply for aid online. 
  • Liaise with Centrelink directly to get payment details for clients.
  • Answer your bloody phones! I know you want everything in writing, but if a 2 minute phone call can answer my question, we have saved 10 minutes on both sides drafting, printing, sending a letter. Plus, I know the LSC doesn't care, but if my client is in my office wanting to know if I am going to Court for him tomorrow, I don't want to wait for my fax to go off (up to 5 tries), and a letter to return.
  • Grant funding to a firm, not to an individual practitioner. Make it the responsibility of the firm to ensure that the lawyer they use is good enough.
I accept that the Commission has come under fire for paying for inexperienced solicitors to do Legal Aid work, but at the end of the day, it should be the firm's responsibility to monitor performance. 

I could keep going, and I want to rant some more about the Commission's attitude to country practitioners, but I will save that for another day.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

When do you 'feel sorry' for the other side?

We have a sticky situation at Court at the moment. There are supposed to be three prosecutors working all the time, but one of them is on maternity leave. The senior prosecutor left a few weeks ago on short notice, so he has been replaced by another senior prosecutor, but one who hasn't been in my town for very long. The third prosecutor has been on sick leave for nearly a month.

This means that one prosecutor is trying to do the work of three.

I spoke to the one prosecutor still standing this morning, who confided that she was about to physically drop from exhaustion and stress. The Court was still sitting after 7pm last NIGHT, and she hasn't got anyone else to fall back on.

If she comes down sick, she isn't going to get back up in a hurry; she is really looking worn down. And then what is going to happen?

As much as the prosecutors are always 'on the other side,' they are still our colleagues, and we can't do anything much in criminal law without them. Even if they are strenuously opposed to our position, we can still work together to sort out the issues for determination by a magistrate.

So when the prosecutors don't have time to read our letters because they are trying to prepare for two trials in one day, the whole process grinds to a halt.

I want my letters answered, I want to keep things moving, and the magistrate wants to get results, but that just can't happen until prosecution services gets enough people up here to man all the desks.

I have the greatest respect for my colleagues on the other side, but they are hamstrung by a lack of staff.

It probably goes back to the old issues of 'not enough funding.' Well, from a criminal justice perspective, you need to fund both sides of the issue if results are going to be fair, correct, and timely. It isn't fair on the victims, but it also isn't fair on the defendants.

As a solicitor primarily doing Legal Aid work, I want more funding for Legal Aid lawyers. But I also want more funding for prosecutors, because every delay on the prosecution side means more work and more appearances for me. My $245 solicitor, $245 counsel payments really don't seem that much if you are in court 5 times, and have to take updated instructions from your client 3 times, send 15 letters, 12 faxes, etc.

/endrant.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Letters to the Editor

Your esteemed writer of Miscellaneous Lawyer has just been published... sort of.

I wrote a letter to the editor of InDaily about the demise of 'Long Lunches.' Amazingly, they published it!

HERE is the link.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Legal Aid: Who gets it?

I refer to Rachel Spencer's article in InDaily on Tuesday, 7 August 2012. Well worth a read. 

I wrote back as follows:


I refer to Rachel Spencer's article about Legal Aid in InDaily, 7 August 2012.
Ms Spencer's article gives a good summary of the system for Legal Aid, and the alternatives, including Community Legal Centers and special interest legal services, such as ALRM (Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement) and Women's Legal Service.
The Legal Services Commission is, like many government departments, horribly over-worked, under-staffed and under-funded. Without wishing to criticise any of the staff there, there are serious access to justice issues involved in the process. 
Putting aside for a moment the amount of funding available or the limited types of cases 'deserving' of aid, a large issue is presently the delay in getting Aid.
All applications must be in writing. Although the LSC states that in urgent cases you can make a telephone application, they have never yet accepted that, and have always asked me to put something in writing. It is possible to fax applications through.
All applications must be accompanied by centrelink statements (if applicable) and three months of bank statements. Most banks won't give you more than one month without posting them to you, so there is a 3-4 day delay, or more if you are a country resident. 
That application is usually posted to the LSC, or faxed if there is some urgency. And then... nothing happens. There is a wait of at least two but usually more than three weeks before any response is received. Commonly I lost patience after three weeks and call up to ask if aid has been granted, only to be told 'cheque is in the mail.' That response takes another 3-4 days to get to us/the client, meaning we are more than 4 weeks in before we see anything.  
In the mean time, our client has had to front court un-represented and explain to a Magistrate why they don't have a lawyer. Worse, it is often the 2nd time in Court because of some delay, and the Magistrate starts getting testy. Understandably.  
Once aid is granted, it is a constant battle to secure further funding for reports and assessments. In many cases, a psychological or psychiatric report is necessary, either to explain a condition relevant to sentencing, or to provide the basis for a defence under the mental impairment laws.  
If we apply for funding after the client pleads guilty (maybe 3-4 appearances into a matter) we can't book the client in to see a psychologist/psychiatrist until funding is confirmed. That might be another 4 weeks and one/two appearances. Then we have to get the client a referral and an appointment to see the professional, who is usually as busy as we are. Assume another two weeks. Then that professional has to prepare the report, at which point they will send us an invoice for the funds. We can then claim the money (2 weeks for processing, paid in the next cheque run, which is once per month, so assume up to 6 weeks further delay) and then they provide the report. We then need to take instructions... 
This means that because of the time it takes to get and confirm aid, the client's matter, which could have been dealt with within a month or so, with no more than three appearances,l can take up to 6 months, with up to 10 appearances. 
The Commission's reason for those delays are usually that the file has not been sent on to the merits assessor yet, or has not yet been considered.
Rachel Spencer stated that the commission needs to be reformed. I agree, but have yet to see a plan that might work to a) reduce costs and b) improve efficiency. 
How about this: make all applications lodge-able online by registered lawyers, and make it paperless. Merge the CentreLink and LSC databases, so that with a signed consent, the LSC can see your centrelink records and confirm that you are on centrelink. Better yet, impose some legislation that allows the LSC to see your centrelink without signed consent. Finally, give the LSC a way to contact lawyers faster than by snail-mail. Hmm, email, perhaps? If the ATO can do it, why can't the LSC?


What do you think? How can we reform the LSC?

Friday, 3 August 2012

No-Shows on Legal Aid: What to do?

Most firms have a policy about what to do if your client doesn't show up to an appointment. Especially where there is a costs agreement in place, no-shows are often charged a portion of the interview cost even if they don't turn up.

Some doctors have the same practice, charging a nominal amount for a no-show.

But what about clients on Legal Aid? The Legal Services Commission policy for aid is that lawyers can't accept any more money for the work that is covered by the grant of aid. You could argue that waiting for clients to show up isn't part of the work covered, but I don't think the Commission would agree with that argument.

I have talked about this with owners of large firms who are always busy, and their policy is that if a person misses more than one appt, they cease acting for that person.

I don't think that works for everyone though, because I only just have enough work to meet my billing targets. If I turned away clients just because they missed appointments, I would never make a profit.

My policy is currently that if a client misses an appointment, I will chase them once, but if they miss another one, then it is up to them to contact me. If they haven't contacted me before Court, I just won't stand up when their matter is called on.

Usually, however, they ring me the day before Court and ask me what is happening on their file.

Today I had a client rock up two hours late for her appointment, and say "Oh, sorry I'm late. Can I see ML now?"

I was free. I had time. I could have seen her.

My secretary, (/bow in awe) sent her away after telling her that she could maybe squeeze her in to my schedule in about 2 hours more. Her view was that if I just saw her whenever she rocked up late (a perennial problem) she would always do it. Sure enough, she turned up 15 minutes early for her rescheduled appointment.

Some restaurants are charging a no-show fee, and some take a booking fee. I wonder if I could get away with asking the clients for $25.00 that we will hold on trust for them, unless they miss a booking, in which case we will bill for it. If they attend all their appointments, or cancel with notice, they get it back at the end of the matter.

This doctor has an interesting view on the matter. He argues that every missed appointment is an opportunity to get other work done, and to catch up on office tasks, or even take a break.

Sure, but that work could be done when you aren't expecting to make some money from a client, and I am a lawyer, for god's sake. I take my Friday long-lawyers-lunch very seriously! I don't need other breaks, especially not for an hour that I have blocked off for a client.

Thoughts?

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Olympic Ads and Gold-medal tanks.

You may be aware of the Commonwealth Bank's "CAN" adds, where a bunch of people dressed up as the letters C, A and N provide various comic abuse to the hated "T" at the end.

In another version the C A and N are encouraging a bunch of Aussies to pray for the diving team. The worst one is where Toni Colette reads a poem "Ode to CAN." Seriously poor performance. I think that CommBank probably did much better with their ads aimed at things like "I WILL get a motorbike, a REAL one, if I'm allowed to."

But they really came under fire for running a terrorist gag video about setting "T" up. Video found here. Seriously, how is this funny? Do they really think that they are going to make any money by advertising like this? Sure, the "I will throw food out when it's expired; give or take a few days" ad was hilarious, and I loved the line "I will buy things online, and tell my husband I've had them for years!" But how does that convert into bank customers?

Poor effort on the "CAN" adds, CommBank, poor effort.

Suppression Orders and the higher Courts

My firm acts for a reasonably high-profile murder case where our client is alleged to have murdered another person. The details of the case are fascinating in their own right, but an interesting issue about Suppression Orders was raised recently.

Background:
Firstly, police sought a Suppression Order shortly after our client was arrested under s69A of the Evidence Act 1929 (SA). That Order was made by a Magistrate in the Magistrates Court.

The matter progressed (painfully slowly), and included a Rule 20 application for a Preliminary Examination of a police witness. After over a year in the Magistrates Court, the matter was committed to the District Court of South Australia for arraignment.

After the first two arraignments, our client noticed that his name was appearing in the list, un-suppressed. He also heard that his photo, which had been suppressed along with his name, had appeared in a local newspaper.

The Law:
The legislation setting out the procedure on a Suppression Order is the Evidence Act 1929 (SA), relevantly S69A, AB, AC and s69B.

Close perusal of that legislation gives this summary.
  • A Suppression Order can be made in any Court.
  • A copy of that Order must be sent to every 'Authorised Media Representative'
  • The Order becomes liable for review (relevantly)  "on the completion or termination of a preliminary examination;"
  • When a Suppression Order becomes liable for review, the Court that made the Order must conduct a review as soon as possible.
  • Nearly anyone (prosecutor, defendant, witnesses, media) are entitled to be heard on that review.
That is pretty much it. The rest of the legislation deals with appeals and breaches, which aren't relevant here.

So when a matter is committed for arraignment/trial, it appears that all preliminary examination is completed. Thus the Magistrate should have conducted a review on that occasion, which he didn't. 

When the matter comes to the District or Supreme Court, the Order is still in force. Or is it?

I queried why my client's name was un-redacted in the list, and was told that "The Order lapses when it is committed in a higher Court." I queried that, and no one was able to tell me where that was written in the legislation. Counsel came in two flavours; some said that it lapsed, and some said that it didn't. 

I took this matter to the registry, and was told that the Suppression Order only applied to proceedings in the Court where it was issued, IE in this case in the Magistrates Court. Again, they were unable to tell me where this was based in statute. 

Today, I spoke to a representative of the registry, who told me exactly what the process was for Suppression Orders in the District Court, and seemed to think that the lack of a review meant that it automatically lapsed. 

Um...

After I began raising a fuss about all this (our client is quite sensitive), we were contacted by the clerk to the Magistrate who made the initial Order. She said "I have been asked to contact you both, regarding the matter of *name. The court is obliged to review the suppression order placed on this file on *date. It seems that the court has overlooked doing so in the past."

I think we may have stirred up a can of worms. I think the Magistrates Court has not been reviewing ANY of their Suppression Orders, and I think that they have been unofficially lapsing contrary to the Act. In any event, I think that people are beginning to look at the issue now, and will hopefully get back to me with an answer before the trial is resolved.

Upshot:
This raises a final issue. The Registrar is obliged to keep a record of all Suppression Orders, and to publish that record to Authorised Media Representatives. If the Registrar unlawfully publishes that a Suppression Order has been lifted, and a Media Representative unlawfully publishes something about that person, are they liable for the offence? 

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

'More buses in the city'... well Duh!

Indaily today ran an article titled 'Scrap bus loop urges city traders,' which contrary to it's title, was not a call to move buses from the city. Instead, it was a call to replace the two current 'loop' services in the city (one every 60 minutes and one every 20 minutes) with one service running every 15 minutes.

The problem with the 'Adelaide Connector' run by Adelaide City Council is that it doesn't run frequently enough for anyone to rely on using it, and even if it did, no one knows where it goes. The problem with the '99C City Loop' run by Adelaide Metro is that it basically follows the tram route, but more slowly.

Edit: I now know that the 99C loop runs in a circle around the city, and in actual fact does NOT follow the tram route. Still, taking 40 minutes to do a loop seems a bit excessive. The Adelaide Connector seems hell-bent on providing people with access to every part of Adelaide and North Adelaide, without considering how long that would take (1 hour). The problem here seems to be that these services are trying to take in too much of the city, making it inefficient.

Honestly, I'd rather walk from Victoria Square to North Terrace than wait 20 minutes for a bus.

What really grabbed my attention in this article was this line here:
"... the ACC's aims in its recently released Integrated Movement Strategy, which calls for an increase in public transport and a reduction in the amount of cars in the city."

No. Shit.

What plan would ever call for more cars in the city? This shows the fundamental idiocracy of Local Government. It should be self-evident that we need better public transport in the city, and that bus service running every 60 minutes won't get much patronage. The fact that no one at Council has noticed that the tram extension made the 99C redundant, and that it was pointed out by a business precinct group is sad.

In an ideal world (haha) Adelaide would have a flawless system of underground rail, regular buses that were clean and efficient, and flying pigs keeping the pigeon population down.

But seriously, the biggest issues with public transport are that a) they don't run often enough, and b) they don't go where I need them. Shouldn't this be a primary focus of Adelaide Metro and the ACC?

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Comedy or Tragedy, Part Deux

I recently recently posted about how I was competing in the Young Lawyers Golden Gavel competition last week. The results are in... I didn't win.

I did, however, come second, which means that I am competing in the national competition in September. The woman who won, Marita Pangallo, was truly exceptional, however I refuse to concede that the topics were even.

I had to argue why my firm should or should not conduct its own reality TV show.
She had to discuss "Size Envy: My firm is bigger than yours."

Seriously, there is no way she couldn't have won!

(She probably would have won even with reversed topics, but it is fun to bitch about it.)

See you at the nationals!

On handouts and booze consumption

I read an interesting comment in InDaily today, where a letter to the editor ran as follows:

WHAT a sad indictment of today’s society that there is a significant rise in smokes and booze consumption as a result of the Government’s latest giveaway. Whether one agrees with the giveaway or not, was it not intended to compensate for the increased cost of living as a result of the carbon tax? I wonder who will be the first to cry when the new utility bills continue to come in long after the booze and smokes have been consumed. Have we forgotten about saving for a rainy day or are we expecting the Government to come along with another handout?

The writer, Peter Hart, is right on the money. As a non-smoker who hasn't received any benefit from the handouts, I have very little sympathy for people who are at the bottom end of the socio-economic scale who spend so much on these cancer sticks.

Ok, that wasn't entirely fair. There is ample evidence about smoking and inter-generational poverty (see also this World Health Organisation article) and about how people who have less, smoke more. Also, regional centres have higher smoking figures than metropolitan centres. Clearly, people are either a) finding solace for their poverty in nicotine, or b) are finding it harder to quit if they are poor.

There are many justifications for this. You can relate poorer educational backgrounds to a lower ability to rationalise the effect that your 10 minute fix has on you or your budget. You can cite the lack of other stimulating experiences to combat smoking. But at the end of the day, when poor families are spending much of their disposable income on cigarettes and booze, you have to be concerned.

I appeared this morning in the Debtor's court at a series of Investigation and Examination summonses. This is where people who have had judgement on a debt can have the debtor examined, and the Registrar of the Court makes an Order for repayment. The debtor is required to fill in a financial statement which is given to the creditor (or the lawyer representing them, IE., me) who then cross examines them on the contents. These statements cover all their income and expenditures, including food, mortgage repayments, rent, bills, child-care costs, etc.

I had a debtor today who spent over $300 per fortnight on cigarettes. He owed a total of about $1,800 to the creditor I was representing, and had defaulted on several payments already. Based on his fortnightly income, he had about $135 per fortnight left over after all of his costs. He was effectively spending nearly 70% of his disposable income on cigarettes.

As mentioned previously, I don't smoke. I probably drink a bit too much, but that is always the first thing to go when money gets tight. My wife and I exist on a single income with two lots of rent (she lives in town where she is studying, I rent a room in a house in the city where I work), and significant travel expenses, however we still manage to make ends meet.

I have met couples earning MORE than us on Centrelink benefits who never seem to have any leftover income, and are usually far in debt on a credit card. In almost every case, they smoke like chimneys.

On the other hand, I have met single mothers on Centrelink benefits who are paying off a mortgage, putting their kids through school, and still having enough to pay for their children's sports clubs.

Given the huge noise about the extra expenses of the carbon tax, this splurge on extravagances post-handouts seems to indicate that people really don't care that much about it, or at least aren't worried enough to try to save the dosh.



Post-script: I mean no offence to people out there who are seriously battling addictions to cigarettes or alcohol. If you have taken steps to address your issues, then you are so far ahead of the crowd that my comments just don't apply to you. You have my respect and congratulations.

If you are bitching about the cost of your power bill, while sucking down on a XXXX Gold and smoking your 20th cigarette today, then you are what is wrong with this country.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

What to do with 'dead time'

I have come to a strange point in my legal life... I have no work to do!

Ok, that isn't quite true. I could go through the files sitting behind my desk marked 'action', but those are files that I just don't want to think about. They are usually low-urgency, and don't really require me to do anything immediately.

Asides from just making up inane blog posts (oops!), I have decided to pick an area of law that I practice in and research a new judgement. Find out what the latest and greatest in in respect of... something.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Comedy or Tragedy?

Oh...

Dear...

GOD!

I have just signed up to participate in the Young Lawyers Golden Gavel competition. As a stand-up comic.

If you are coming along, feel free to take guesses at which one is me. It shouldn't be too hard to guess, but I ask that you not comment (at least not publicly) if you think you know which one. Email me at miscellaneous.lawyer1@gmail.com if you think you have it.

Even if not, let me know how you think it went as an event! It is on at the Rob Roy Hotel at 106 Halifax Street, on Friday 13 July 2012 from 5.30. Free registration and cheap drinks!

What happens if you have been in prison and are later found not-guilty?

This is something that has bugged me for a while. What happens if you are in remand for a significant period of time, and are later found not-guilty? Or if prosecution withdraw the charges?

The issue is discussed HERE, and a lot of the comments seem to be blaming everyone from the government, to the solicitors, to the judges. One commenter even suggested that they wouldn't be arrested if they were innocent!

There are really very few options. If you can show that the police should NOT have locked you up, you might have a civil-law case for false-imprisonment, but other than that, there isn't much you can do.

Any suggestions to fix this? Forward them to the attorney-general, the government, the opposition, and the commissioner for police. Maybe someone will actually get something useful done.

Dissatisfied and bitter? Me?

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Aggravated Possesesing

As I am sure you will be aware, most offences can be either basic or aggravated. My favorite aggravated offence is that of aggravated possession, (usually of a firearm.)

I am trying to imagine how that would go: Police burst into your home and find you holding on to a firearm with every last bit of strength, yelling and screaming "I'VE GOT YOU NOW!" Alternatively, do they find you holding a wad of cash up against a wall, threatening to possess it? The notes struggling to get away, but being overpowered by a boorish bloke wearing a wife-beater.

And what do police yell? "STOP POSSESSING, YOU'RE POSSESSING!"

There are lots of aggravating factors, one of which is often that an offence is committed in company. Imagine that, two people sitting in a shed, both holding on to a stolen chicken... BAM aggravated possession! Alternatively, they have gone halves on purchasing it, but they are aggravated possessors! The charge: aggravated unlawful possession of a chicken aggravated by being in company.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

More media beatup on Craig Thompson

I think that this is likely to be a common theme in this blog (read 'beat into the ground), but I can't resist quoting another article in InDaily about media integrity.

Susan Mitchell writes in THIS PAGE about the hype surrounding the Lindy Chamberlain investigation, and how the media (and the populace) judged her guilty. Even when a judge pronounced her innocent, she was still 'hounded' by the media.

I am not a huge fan of Mr Thompson. (read 'I think he is an arrogant berk who quite probably is guilty of many of the allegations made against him). I am also appalled by the lack of focus on policy in the recent media. Neither party is blameless, but the constant character attacks on Mr Thompson have shrouded any economic policy decisions he might have been making.

Ms Gillard, too, is attacked for supporting him and continuing to support him in his current role. This frustrates me intensely. Where did the innocent until proven guilty' idea go?

There is an implicit criticism of a government where a minister is shown to be guilty of some offence. But is there really any 'misjudgment' about accepting ministers/speakers who LATER turn out to be guilty? If your school teacher turns out to have committed fraud in some way, is that a judgement on their students?

The debacle about  Mr Slipper seems almost comical in that light. Mr Abbott is criticising Ms Gillard for accepting him as speaker, yet the offences with which he is charged occurred while he was a parliamentarian for the coalition! If he was good enough for the Libs, why not for Labor?

Why don't we all sit back and watch how the investigations come out? Sure, scrutinize the investigation, but leave the parties out of it.

Update: Here is Mr Thompson defending himself on the basis above. Seems fair to me.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Knee-jerk politics and unusual policies

We have just been handed a budget by our great and glorious leaders, and quite honestly, it is pretty damn boring. I just don't care enough about it to have looked at it in great detail, and anyway, the media will hype anything of interest up anyway! Right?

Have a look at this comment about the front cover of 9 May's Australian. Really gives you some confidence in the impartiality of our journalists, right?

There seems to be a trend towards hyping up anything that will discredit or inconvenience the party in power. Since Labor have been in power, most of the news about them has been negative (ignoring the contents) or at least negative in spin.

Anyway, to this budget. The one thing that really got my attention was Suzie Keen's opinion piece in "In Daily" on 10 May 2012. In Daily is a free periodical that can be accessed at www.indaily.com.au, and is always worth a read.

Suzie noted that according to one budget calculator, she stood to gain $0.06 per week, or about $3.00 per year. That was because this budget, for all of its "Family Spending," (see "Business pain, families gain" type headings), did not have much for people who don't have kids in school.

The underlying policy to this seems clear. As always, our great and glorious are advocating an expanding population. Like Howard's "Baby Bonus", there is a push to stimulate the economy by increasing the population.

I guess there is some justification for this. We will need more people in the work-force as the baby-boomers begin to retire, but I object strenuously to the theory that economic growth is always good. As the economy gets bigger, the rich get richer, and that is good, but it always seems to be accompanied by a growth in the lower class. (Note that this is a blog, therefore an opinion piece, and no, I don't have anything to back that up with.)

Ok, so that is my first dig today, at the policy that growth is a must. That sorta (not really) leads me on to my second dig of the day, which is the Euro-zone crisis. Specifically, the response of the rest of the Eurozone that is NOT in crisis.

Take as the premise that Greece is in a terrible financial position and looks like defaulting on its debts. The terms of any bailout include harsh austerity measures. Increase the pension age, lower the pension. Reduce government spending, cut back on public sector wages.

The whole point of this bailout should be to stimulate the economy and promote good policy and management. The thrust of the current bailout seems to be to grind Greece's economy into the mud! Surely a better way to get government debt under control would be to try to increase employment, spending, and therefore taxation?

There are some policies that are necessary, such as increasing the retirement age. But firing all your public sector workers is just going to put them onto welfare themselves. Why not focus on reducing corruption, and developing the aspects of Greek economy that are producing a return?

Also, riots and protests don't make anyone any money. Except placard-makers.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Trials and Tribulations... well, more about Trials.

I was to have my first ever Trial yesterday. My very own trial!

Picture this, a young, enthusiastic new solicitor gets given a 'soft' trial by the top brass of the firm, and effectively told to 'just run with it.' I can't lose!

Ok, it wasn't quite that bad, and I wasn't quite that gung-ho about it, but I was pretty excited. The trial was a simple one, and involved very few issues. If effect, it was about whether a person was standing on the footpath, or on the driveway. The difference between the two witnesses (the complainant and the defendant) was seriously, less than one metre.

I stayed at work until nearly 10.00pm the night before, reading and reviewing statements, and putting together a case concept. I wrote out my draft closing statement, and prepared angles for cross-examination. I had the whole thing ready to go. (2.5 billable hours, including two in conference with a senior partner.)

The trial was listed for 2.15, but my client had about 6 matters in the 10 and 11.30 lists, all alleged breaches of an Intervention Order, all against the same victim. All of them were denied, and all of them looked like having to go to trial, since prosecution weren't going to budge on them. None of these other matters were ready for trial themselves, though.

His Honour, in his infinite wisdom, decided to adjourn my trial until all the matters could be heard together.

My client, needless to say, was ropable. Some of these matters have been hanging over his head since September 2011, and his Bail conditions are draconian. The problem? This isn't the main Court in the area; this was in a small circuit Court that sits every two months. Since all these matters have to go to a Pre-Trial Conference (that puts us in July) they can then be listed for trial at the NEXT circuit, which isn't until September.

Asides from a ropable client and a disappointed junior solicitor, this actually raises an interesting costs problem. Can I ask for costs in this matter, since Police were ready to go, but the COURT was the reason it didn't proceed? IE, should I ask for a fee on brief?

The client is paying privately, but is only just keeping up with his payments. Should I bill the client for a fee on brief, even though the trial didn't go ahead? I don't want to double-bill him, but I am almost certain that I will have to re-prepare for the next trail, given that it will include a whole bunch more material.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Plankers gonna plank?

http://www.loweringthebar.net/2011/12/planking-prosecution.html

The 5 Clients from Hell

I saw this by 'bitter staff' on Bitter Lawyer and couldn't HELP but re-post! I highly recommend you go there and read it all. For the moment, though, here is my favourite!

3. Basketcase
In a typical half-hour discussion with Basketcase, the notion of fairness surfaces about three dozen times. As in, “but I don’t see how that’s fair.” Each time after mentioning “fair,” however, the client collapses into heaving sobs and says she (or, on occasion, “he”) is not sure she “can go on like this.” You explain it all again as best as you can, particularly how things ended up in your office, but after the sixth time you figure the client isn’t going to absorb the fact that, by not paying rent, you probably are going to be evicted. Besides having a fresh box of Kleenex in your office—two boxes just in case—make sure you instruct the client not to show up at the office without an appointment. Otherwise, Basketcase will be in the law firm’s lobby thirty minutes before you start most workdays.

I have... well, hell, most of my clients are like this. I had one who had to do a significant amount of driving under a set of Orders, but had near total custody of the children. Her comment?  "It's not fair, how can he do this to me?"

Buh!


More musings about the Magistrates Court

I wrote recently HERE about an prosecutorial bungle that wasted nearly 12 months of the Court's time, and plenty of mine. It also raises a few issues that new solicitors should think about.

Costs:
The first issue is Costs. If you look at the Rules closely, you can see that a Magistrate has the ability to Order costs in favor of the successful party at the end of the matter, but that applications for costs for a Pre-Trial conference should be made AT that pre-trial conference. So, if you are appearing and no progress has been made on the file, perhaps think about asking for costs.

The solicitor who appeared in the matter directly before mine had a very aggressive approach to seeking costs which clearly put the magistrate offside. She strongly criticised the prosecutor individually, although the circumstances of the matter were such that the Magistrate really had no option but to Order costs. You could tell, however, that he didn't want to do so, simply because of the manner of her presentation.

A better outline is to refrain from cricitising the prosecutor directly; the Magistrate will see what you mean.
Outline your case simply and clearly.
  • What happened on the last occasion, and what was Ordered to happen.
  • What has happened since.
  • Why hasn't happened since.
  • Why it hasn't happened.
Finally, highlight the waste of COURT's time, not your own, before you ask for costs. "Your Honour, since nothing has happened since the last occasion, this Pre-Trial conference is essentially a waste of the Court's time. I would make an application for costs thrown away." or something similar.

Objections:
Another issue raised by last week's appearance is the niceties involved in Court-work. When do you object? When CAN you object? 

Last week I objected to the prosecutor reading out the apprehension report and making submissions. Clearly, in that case, it was a failure on behalf of the prosecutor, however there are other grounds too.

In another matter for another client, he was charged with obstruction of a public transport system, which carries a maximum penalty of $16,000. The matter was so minor as to be nearly trivial; he was sitting on the platform with his legs over the line. 

The only material that was provided was an affidavit of a public transport officer, who boarded the train at the request of the train driver some 2 stations later, and spoke to my client and his girlfriend. His affidavit set out the facts of the matter, and even said that it was a silly and stupid thing to do. (I could not disagree that my client was both silly AND stupid!). 

The prosecutor started reading out his submissions, and made some claims that were completely unsupported by the statement of the public transport officer. He made comments to the effect that my client saw the train coming, but waited until the last second to move away, causing significant distress. Upon the affidavit of the PTO and my client, that was absolutely not the case. I COULD have objected to that, but instead waited until it was time to make submissions in mitigation before I responded.

When I did so, pointing out that that allegation was a) not supported by the affidavit and b) not part of the allegations, I was stuck because the allegation was already before the court. The prosecutor couldn't withdraw it, because they had no clear instructions to do so. The prosecutor was in fact just reading from a sheet prepared by someone else! That was eventually resolved with a do not admit, do not oppose argument.

A senior solicitor once told me a story about an unusual objection. I can't remember the details, but in essence it was as follows.

The client had been charged with a regulatory offence under the Air Traffic Act or some such. It appeared on the surface a clear breach of the act, but the solicitor who was appearing walked into the trial absolutely gung-ho, and ready to go. From the very first minute, it was clear that he wasn't going to let this be easy.

The prosecutor got up, and said "Your Honour, I appear on behalf of the Crown," and the solicitor immediately said "I object!" 

It turned out that the solicitor had an argument to the effect that the prosecutor was not authorised under the act to appear to prosecute this type of offence, and indeed the Magistrate had to send that question upstairs before it was resolved. The moral of the story is that it is NEVER a bad time to object!

Musings, mutterings, and meanderings.

I had a 'first' last week. My first guilty plea as a solicitor. I have appeared on guilty pleas as a GDLP student, but that was always with my supervisor sitting in the Court looking over my shoulder.

This one was an interesting matter. It was in the Youth Court, so I can't publish any specific details, but here is the history (give or take or change a few details.)

The offences occurred in April last year, and occasioned an assault, disturbing the public peace, and breach of obligation. Once we explained to the client that 'assault' didn't necessarily mean that he hit the victim, but could also be assault by causing fear, he indicated that he would plead guilty. The only catch was that the report was quite specific when it described the things he said, and our client (Call him Jake) denied saying some of those things.

This isn't a difficult matter in most cases. We wrote to prosecution and intimated a guilty plea, but indicated that we disputed the facts.

Prosecution replied that they couldn't accept that fact scenario, as it contradicted their witness statement. They said that they would have to re-interview their witness.

This was in July 2011.

Over the course of the next 6 months, nothing happened. I appeared (by telephone) numerous times to say that nothing had happened, and that we maintained our fact-basis. In about February 2012, Prosecution said that they could re-interview their witness, but would like something in writing from us.

I then wrote a lovely letter to prosecution saying (in essence) the following.

"I note your request for a request in writing. I refer to the following documents.

  • Paragraph 5 of our letter to you dated xyz November 2011.
  • Paragraph 6 of our letter to you dated abc December 2011.
  • Paragraph 2 of our fax dated qrs January 2012.
  • Our fax to you of tuv February 2012
Copies of which are enclosed. I also refer to our telephone conversations on x, y, z, (from my file notes) and repeat the request therein, as follows.

We request that you re-interview your witness in this matter and put to her the fact-position referred to above."

Needless to say, nothing happened until the day before the next court date, when I rang prosecution and asked about their witness. "Oh," they said, "Oh, we reinterviewed her ages ago, and we agree with your position."

Seriously???

So, FINALLY, I get to Court (5 hours drive from my office... don't ask.) and sit in the Youth Court for a few hours while the Magistrate deals with the back-log of matters from the morning list. About 2 hours behind schedule, he finally gets to Jake's matter.

Jake pleads guilty to the charges, and the prosecutor gets up to make submissions. 
"On x date, Jake assaulted the victim by saying x, y, z..." He was reading from the ORIGINAL report, and had not looked at the updated notes. 

I objected. The magistrate looked at me and told me to sit down and listen to the prosecutor. I declined to do so, and repeated my objection. "Your Honour, this guilty plea was entered on an 'agreed facts' basis. These are NOT those agreed facts." 

His Honour proceeded to grill me for about 20 minutes about the basis for the agreed-facts scenario, at which point I pulled out my letters and faxes dating all the way back to July 2011 and laid them out before him. Then I pulled out my file note about the prosecutor agreeing to the fact scenario. The magistrate looked at me, and said "Oh." He then looked at the prosecutor, and said "Mr Prosecutor?" 

The prosecutor from another court room had come in by this point, and proceeded to whisper rapidly in his ear, pointing at various notes and highlights on the prosecutor's file. He then stood up and apologised, admitted that he hadn't read the file before today, and didn't know anything about the matter at all.

His Honour was less than impressed. The outcome was unbelievably favourable to my client; perhaps in part because of the prosecutor's bungles. My client (who had been slouching in his chair for the last hour) came out beaming. All in all, I call that a win!

Also, I will never be nervous about appearing before a Magistrate again. It just goes to show that if you know your case, and can argue it persuasively, you will never look bad in front of the Court. 

Also, I will never ever stop listening when the Prosecutor begins to speak.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

To degree, or not to degree, that is the question.

This is probably going to become an old topic fairly soon, but I do think it is one that bears examination.

Let's start from the premise from The Advertiser today.  Expert argues uni degrees overrated.

In short, the writer vacillates between extolling the virtues of university degrees and landing on the fence of tafe/uni. The writer seems determined NOT to come up with a position, but sound like he is promoting a vital piece of information.

How about this:
"The Federal Government wants 40 per cent of Australians aged between 25 and 34 to have a bachelor degree by 2020. Skills Australia has estimated that in the five years to 2015 Australia will need an additional 2.1 million people in the workforce with a vocational education qualification at Certificate III level or higher."
"Great!" I thought, "he is going to talk about the value of bachelor degrees, or the use of other vocational training and proffer a viewpoint!" But no, he just started quoting people who had got jobs in menial trades (bricklaying) or who MIGHT be able to get a job in a patisserie. But that is beside the point.

Ok, so let's look at the current view point.

You are fresh out of school. You didn't do particularly well, and you aren't thrilled by the thought of studying something that no one else wants to study at uni, like Shoe Polishing, or Basket Weaving. Your options?

Many people will assume that since they couldn't get into uni, they are doomed to a life of hard manual labor, destined to end up on the pension when your body gives out. If you are lucky, that will be within 5 years so that you can spend your remaining youth dole-bludging. 

This viewpoint, however irrational, is backed up by a societal distaste for non-university qualifications. Studying at TAFE is not looked upon as a path for an intelligent, ambitious person. I think I could dedicate an entire essay to why this is, starting with the old-school Oxford prestige.

Whatever the reason, many of our bright-but-not-scholarly youth will leave school with no idea how they are going to get a job doing something more interesting that digging holes for the council, and as a result, most of them end up digging holes for the council. Some of them even do it voluntarily. 

However TAFE, or other vocational based training centres, are a far more useful educational tool than most people realise. TAFE offers courses in things such as Paralegal training; it sure isn't a LLB, but my secretary knows more about Family Law than I do after 3 years studying part-time at TAFE. 

TAFE also offers business management courses that are far more practical than commerce, economics, or similar bachelor degrees. I mean, sure. If you have a bachelor of Business Management and Commerce, I am sure you can read the stock market like a pro, but do you have any idea how to hire and fire?

Then you have the snobbery associated with university degrees. There are some things that should never have been taught at university, but have become the sole possession of the unis. Nursing, for example, should never have been a uni subject. The practical aspects of that training would be far better taught at a vocational institution like a TAFE. Similarly, Teaching. Sure you want your child's teachers to be well educated, but surely a 3-year course at TAFE would be better than a rushed post-graduate course in one year at a uni?

There are other considerations, such as cost/benefit: most TAFE courses are far cheaper to run than uni degrees. 

So what needs to happen is that universities need to dump degrees that are purely vocational and stick to their traditional professions; IE engineering, law, medicine (but not medical sub-roles, such as nursing, etc). That way high school graduates will not go to uni to do a useless degree because they thing they are expected to, or because they think they will get a job out of it. Instead they need to be encouraged to look at what they want to do, and find more practical ways of achieving that. If a kid is a jock and wants to be a PT, don't make him study medicine or anatomical biology or even human kinetics, get him to attend a Personal Trainer course at a TAFE where he will be working and enjoying his job within 2 years.

And the writers at The Advertiser need to stick their thumbs out and come to a god damned conclusion once in a while!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The law and your health

There are plenty of cliches about stress leading to an early grave, but there are other concerns as well.  Perhaps the biggest one is obesity.

I spend most of my day sitting at a desk typing away.  Occasionally I drive to see a client, or spend 30 minutes pacing in a courtroom, but otherwise my only excursions are to get food. I tend to eat out at least one lunch per week, usually two or more, and I tend to eat pretty badly on the weekend as well.

I also note that almost all of the lawyers that I know (male especially) are at least marginally overweight.  Some are more than marginally overweight.

The cause is pretty obvious; we are paid well, but we are expected to spend a lot of time working. Even if that isn't expected, by the time we get home from work, we are totally wiped and just want to spend the evening in front of the cricket/computer/gossip girl.

I have a few solutions to avoid the bulge while not spending too much time or effort.

1:  Choose a hobby that gets you out and about.
Whether your hobby is a round of golf every weekend, or a game of netball on a Sunday night, choosing a sport to become involved in can get you moving and active.  More importantly, choosing a team sport, or a sport where you play in company, means you are more likely to continue. Although I run fairly regularly, I never feel any pressure to run, and so if I am tired, I just don't do it. However since I started riding with a group on Saturday mornings, I have been doing it reliably every weekend. Similarly, when I was playing netball, I would attend every game, partly for the fitness, and partly because I loved playing with the team. So pick something you can stick with, and stick with it.

On that note, choosing your hobby needs to be a considered decision.  If you aren't at all fit, don't start riding through the mountains on your first trip. Don't jump in to training for a marathon; you just won't get there. Instead, join a cycling group that rides 20km once a week, or a sporting team that has an 'F' grade. You might move up quickly, to 100km rides and A grade cricket, but at the least you will be able to play regularly and comfortably.

2:  Do something active every day.
This one should go without saying, but you need to get up and about every day.  It is recommended that you spend at least 30 minutes every day doing an activity that gets your heart rate up, but this seems to be a huge investment of time. It should be noted that this doesn't have to be all at once.

Some things to consider are as follows;
Walking to work (or walking from the carpark out of town into the office).  You might only walk 2 km, but that makes 4km a day, or at least 30 minutes of hard walking. You might actually save time parking your car, depending on where you work. Take a change of clothes and leave your work shoes at the office.
Racing up (or crawling up) 3 flights of stairs rather than taking the lift.  Honestly, you might save time by doing this, and hopefully you will beat the suckers who waited for a minute then stopped at floors 2, 3 and 4.
Walking to the sushi-joint on the other side of the mall, rather than the one on the ground floor of your office.
Going for a swim at lunch time (if there is somewhere nearby with showers)
Going for a swim after work. IF you can find a pool on your way home, just make sure you have a towel, goggles, and bathers in your bag, and off you go. It can be a really relaxing way of exercising, and you don't have to be fit to start. Also, since I started going, I have met about 4 other office-workers who swim every night after work.  The atmosphere at that time is so much better than weekends when you have hundreds of kids in the pool.

You get the idea.  Work out what little things you can do that might save you time and still get your heart rate up.  Remember that when it comes to exercise, time and distance are more important than speed. If you can sprint for 100m, that is great, but you will get a better workout from jogging 5k at 8km/h. Similarly, sure you can swim a lap in 20 seconds, but you will have more fun if you aim to swim 1km.

3:  Challenge yourself ever now and then.
Who isn't motivated by a challenge? Pick someone in your office and make sure you go an extra step than them! Go to the gym and push an extra 100m on the treadmill every visit, and try to get your first 1km done at .5km/h faster each time.

4:  Find time.
Duh.  This is the big one.  We are all too busy, but some of us are too busy and still manage to go for a swim every now and then.  Deal with it. Put aside 30 minutes every day. Get up 15 minutes early and walk to work. Leave work AT 5.30, not just some time between then and 7pm. Make commitments to activities, and keep them. (Hell, have kids, they will sweat pounds off you!)

I recently embarked on a month without alcohol.  I am one week in, and I think I have dropped 3ks already. It was challenging the first few days, but now I don't even think about reaching for a beer when I get home. I feel better, and I actually got up at 6am and went for a bike ride yesterday!  Amazing!

Any suggestions to keep the pounds off?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Adapt or Die... or become confused

Taken from Ernie the Attorney's wonderful blog.

The Darwinian mantra for most species on Earth has been "Adapt or die." The new mantra for the tech-laden world that we've created is: "Adapt quickly, or become disoriented and irrelevant."

I laughed.  As a smart-phone-toting, laptop-using, semi-computer-literate solicitor, I often feel bewildered by technology, but not usually the new stuff.  I have found that all new technology is designed to be user-friendly.  What I struggle with is old technology that has stopped working.  (Windows 98 is still around!  Beware the Windows 98!)

Friday, 2 March 2012

I Wish I Could Go Back To College

There is a song from Avenue Q entitled 'I wish I could go back to college.'  Sometimes I think this song is a wistful rambling from some disenchanted muppets, and sometimes I really agree.

When I am enjoying my work, I can work solidly all day and into the evening without complaint.  But today I am reading some delightful cases on fiduciary duties and preparing a report for my boss; wonderful.

I remember back at Uni when I would despair of studying indoors.  I would take my laptop, my textbooks and a highlighter out into the sun and spend a few hours studying outside.  I don't know if I retained any more or less than studying indoors, but I always felt a bit better about the work.

Now, I am tied to a computer at a desk, with no surcease from the glaring fluorescent lighting.  Sigh.  I wish I could go back to uni again.


KATE MONSTER:
I wish I could go back to college. 
Life was so simple back then.

NICKY:
What would I give to go back and live in a dorm with a meal plan again!

PRINCETON:
I wish I could go back to college.
In college you know who you are. 
You sit in the quad, and think, "Oh my God!
I am totally gonna go far!"

ALL:
How do I go back to college?
I don't know who I am anymore!

PRINCETON:
I wanna go back to my room and find a message in dry-erase pen on the door!
Ohhh...
I wish I could just drop a class...

NICKY:
Or get into a play...

KATE MONSTER:
Or change my major...

PRINCETON:
Or fuck my T.A.

ALL:
I need an academic advisor to point the way!
We could be...
Sitting in the computer lab,
4 A.M. before the final paper is due,
Cursing the world 'cause I didn't start sooner,
And seeing the rest of the class there, too!

PRINCETON:
I wish I could go back to college!

ALL:
How do I go back to college?!
AHHHH...

PRINCETON:
I wish I had taken more pictures.

NICKY:
But if I were to go back to college,
Think what a loser I'd be-
I'd walk through the quad,
And think "Oh my God..."

ALL:
"These kids are so much younger than me."

"I wish I could go back to college" from the musical Avenue Q.
Music and Lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx.  If you haven't seen it you have been living under a rock and need to buy fares to London and go see it live.  

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Cover your face and cry

Sometimes I am just blown away by clients, and other times... well, there is a story.

Picture this:  A mother of two kids, only 18 years old, several drug charges, and now in a custody battle with one child's father, which is getting bogged down because neither party will give up their drug use. 

And hey, I am only getting legal aid funding!  This will be a fun few months.

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Real Julia

Finally this is over (hopefully).  The caucus confirmed Ms Gillard as Australia's PM, and Kevin Rudd gracefully bowed in defeat.  Ignoring the fact that the most vocal Australian electors wish for Rudd over Gillard, the caucus has, for better or worse, decided to stick with the old.  No surprises, really. 

I await with great anticipation the response to this vehement affirmation of her leadership.  Will this signal a new era of cooperation between the now ex-foreign minister (and ex-PM).  I hope so. 

Here, then, is my question. 

Had there not been such a media storm about Rudd's supposed leaks and politiking, would he ever have declared for the leadership? 

I note he was so hesitant to declare that it wasn't until Gillard called the matter that he openly agreed to contest the position.  I suspect that if the media hadn't perpetrated the stories based on 'a minister close to the PM' or 'labor sources', there wouldn't have been any interest in a spill, and this would all have blown over.

Here are my postulations: 
  1. Most people who were clamoring for a leadership spill were conservatives/Coalition supporters.  
  2. The only people likely to benefit from Rudd challenging the leadership were those in Opposition. 
  3. The media (The Advertiser, Channel 9, etc) is very openly conservative and Coalition-leaning.  
  4. Most of the 'leaks' and rumors were started by the Libs.  
Might be going out on a limb with a few of them, but certainly room for debate!

Vultures and carcasses

I have already spoken here and here about the political and media blowout about the labor government's leadership issues. Here is another article in the Sunday mail by 'commentator' David Penberthy.

Julia or Kev? Take a stab.
"Along the way, pledges have been shredded - none mightier than the carbon tax - to accommodate their demands."  Doesn't this issue seem to be a bit thin now?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

More on 'Leadership Spill' farce


After my post recently (link) about the media blow-up of the Labor leadership crisis, it seems that I will have to eat my words now that Rudd has resigned as Foreign Minister.

Wait what? Not so much. 

What has actually happened?  Kevin Rudd has responded in a typically sooky manner to criticisms against him by Simon Creane and Wayne Swan.  He resigned as foreign minister because ‘I cannot continue to serve as Foreign Minister if I do not have Prime Minister Gillard’s support.’  However the PM has said that Mr Rudd was ‘a strong and effective advocate for Australia’s interests overseas.’  

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Government bungle means Family Court Australia didn't have jurisdiction for De Facto

Apparently, the Family Court has not had jurisdiction to hear De Facto property matters, even though legislation was passed ceding that power from the States to the Federal Courts.

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/legal-affairs/court-bungle-to-hit-de-factos-as-error-throws-property-settlements-into-doubt/story-e6frg97x-1226277646455

It will be interesting to see whether or not people begin to challenge decisions of the Family Court in De Facto property settlements between 2009 and 2011.  Since most Orders are made by consent, I expect most people won't want to spend more money to challenge them, but for the 10% that went to trial, maybe we will see a revisitation in the state Courts!

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Media blowout on 'Leadership Spill'

This just in... Costello denies leadership spill.  "No, that time is not drawing close."  Oh wait, haven't I heard that before?

What about this?  Gillard talks down prospects of a leadership spill. "I'm getting on with my job, Kevin Rudd's getting on with his. I'm doing that with the strong support of my caucus colleagues."  Wait, that sounds familiar as well.

How about this one?  PM denies need for leadership spill.  "Because I believe Kevin's doing a good job as the Minister for Foreign Affairs and I'm very confident in my leadership of the Labor Party."  Nope, same deal. 

Finally, what does Rudd think?  Rudd:   No leadership spill in prospect.  "Mr Rudd and I discussed the leadership in generalities only." "At no stage did Mr Rudd ask for my support on the floor of the Parliament nor did I offer my support."  Even Wilkie is playing it down. 

But still, we keep talking about it!

Labor leadership spill update:   "Well, she has repeatedly ruled out any suggestion of this but for several weeks now, it's been asked over and over and over. The other key thing here is that the Prime Minister leaves to go to Canada tomorrow for the G20 meeting. He leaves tomorrow afternoon and the Parliament finishes its last sitting by the end of tomorrow. So there doesn't seem to be an awful lot of time left here."
Quentin Dempster discusses leadership spill:  (Ok, fine, that is in the context of NSW, but shaddupstatistics)
Labor's leadership - what will happen?  What is needed?  "It seems as if the only thing people want to talk about today is the leadership of the Labor Party."  Bullshit. 
Jobs for the boys a new Rudd ploy.  "A Victorian MP has said he has heard a similar pitch that ''support will be recognised and rewarded''."   Really? Thank you Mr Victorian MP...
Labor Leadership Spill is on:  This seems to be completely speculative, because "We could be looking at another leadership challenge as early as next Monday or Tuesday when parliament returns."    

So can somebody please fill me in... why the hell does the media keep banging up stories of an impending leadership spill when the two parties involved are categorically denying it?  Does the media think that by asking the same questions again and again, the answer will change?  

#sickofthisshit