Monday, 25 November 2013

You can’t get the senior partners these days: a lesson in style from Ashurst Morris Crisp

In 1988, when dinosaurs roamed Hyde Park devouring hideously-attired yuppies, I wrote to the senior partner of Ashurst Morris Crisp. I’d spent an uncomfortable evening at the theatre in a badly upholstered seat sponsored by his firm.

Martin Bell's reply, dictated by the flickering light of a tallow candle, makes me wonder which senior partner today can match his style.

And has the Law Society changed?

If you can’t read the text in the photo below, this is what he wrote:

27th April 1988

Dear Miss Williams

Thank you for your letter of 23rd April. I am sorry to learn of your discomfort.

There seems to be something of a curse on that seat. When our name first appeared on it a complaint was made to the Law Society that we were thereby breaking its rules against advertising, as it might attract clients’ custom. My predecessor replied that if that had been the intention the ploy had proved singularly unsuccessful, but offered to have the plaque and, indeed, the Seat removed entirely. Unfortunately his offer was not taken up but the Law Society warned (and I do not jest) that if the Seat did effect the introduction of a client then their rules would have been broken.

It was, therefore, at first of some comfort to me, though I appreciate of none to you, that the Seat was unlikely to have that effect; but on reflection one does not wish one’s reputation to be at the mercy of an unstuffed seat and I will therefore write to the Manager of the Barbican.

Yours sincerely,

M. G. H. Bell

To find out if Mr Bell is still with us, I telephone Ashurst. The operator hasn’t heard of him and puts me through to an answering machine in the HR department.

A search of Ashurst’s website yields nothing but an exhortation to ‘adjust various search criteria’ and press the ‘Go’ button. There is no ‘Go’ button. There is something which says ‘submit’. I wonder what Mr Bell would have said.

We will be forgotten too. Now get back to work.


Friday, 22 November 2013

Supreme Court art: unpicking immigration law

My father's father is unknown. He got an 18-year-old factory girl from Toxteth up the duff then disappeared from history. He must have looked Semitic. Not Lloyd George, then.

The only visual representation of him I have - apart from my face - is the straight line of reproof in the relevant box on my father's birth certificate.

At least my father's nationality was neither questioned nor an obstacle to life. My dinner guest tonight is a German Jew whose family tale is inevitable.

Today's case involves refugees.

AA (Somalia) v Entry Clearance Officer (Addis Ababa) concerns a Somali girl born in 1994. Separated from her mother and siblings by the fighting in Mogadishu in 2002, is she entitled to enter the UK as the adopted child of her brother-in-law who has been granted asylum, even though she does not comply with certain Immigration Rules?

For all the general slagging off I give to some aspects of it, I don't live in a country that has failed at being a country and is famous for exporting female genital mutilation to other countries such as, well, mine, but that's another story.

Someone in court says: 'In immigration law there is more than one purpose or policy at play at any one time.' (I note down the comment but not who said it, relying on short-term memory. Hah!)

Is that why the law has so far failed to give an answer in this case? Language is secondary to intent. Not even the meaning of  'parent' is clear here, let alone 'adopt'.

And if you tell me to go back where I came from, I won't know where to go.

I can retrieve only one certainty from today: Lady Hale did not arrive in Court 2 with a hole in her cardigan and dodgy antecedents. That was moi. The most senior female lawyer in the land was wearing a glorious non-black ensemble - a flattering dress in deep, rich colours and an elegant knitted jacket with clever ribbing at the shoulders.

The hole is almost undetectable but needs mending, like holes in the law.

More pictures if you scroll down.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Another audience with Pandemonia...

...and her engaging companion Snowy, of course, who never leaves her side.

Serene as ever after a recent hectic trip to Brazil, Pandemonia holds forth on anatomy and the proportions of the ideal body, borrowing my pens to sketch rapid demonstrations.

I marvel at her unlined complexion, never besmirched with a tan or bronzer.

'Look at the back of the picture,' commands Pandemonia: she takes one of my drawings and holds it up to the light the wrong way round. 'It usually looks more free.'

My previous encounter with Pandemonia is at

More pictures if you scroll down.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Supreme Court art: too much/not enough information

I learn that Fine Cell Work, a charity which trains prisoners to create beautiful embroidery, is planning a fundraising auction. Somewhere secret. That sets the tone for the day.

Freedom of information boffins are fixated on Kennedy v The Charity Commission. Are a public authority's inquiry documents exempt from disclosure for 30 years under the Freedom of Information Act 2000? If so, does this interfere with Times journalist Dominic Kennedy's human rights?

Kennedy wants to see documents from the Charity Commission's inquiry into an appeal launched by George Galloway and -

Pause. That cat moment with Rula Lenska. I've never watched Celebrity Big Brother, but because of the way certain gobbets of information are hurled around like custard pies that image appears, unbidden.

Down at the Old Bailey, more unwelcome information (about Rebekah Wade's unedifying affair) is ricocheting off the walls in the trial about hacks hacking.

Meanwhile, over at the High Court, the Naked Rambler Stephen Gough is losing his appeal. Is nudity too much information? I don't mind him. How could I, having been naked myself in public (sort of) over the summer, modelling for a very select life class. But today Lord Justice Leveson says people would be 'alarmed' by him. Here's a sketch of Lord Leveson I did earlier - at his inquiry last year which was prompted by phone hacking (see above).
What's he doing here? Lord Justice Leveson,
whom I sketched at his inquiry last year

In the Court of Appeal, cameras are rolling for the first time today. Transparent justice, or slithering towards sensation? During the O. J. Simpson trial, a TV show hired burlesque dancers to portray the judge. Go on, waste some time on YouTube with the Dancing Itos.

When today's Supreme Court hearing is over, lawyers go into a post-match huddle: 'It was very amusing how we managed to garrotte him on ....'
But I won't tell you who said it.

There is information.

There is truth. Somewhere.

And there is enlightenment.

Here is an Enlightenment figure, the blind magistrate Sir John Fielding, his elegant hands resting on a book called 'The LAW'. This portrait by Nathaniel Hone hangs in Court 1, today's arena.

I head for a concert given by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and things start to fall into place.

More pictures if you scroll down.