It’s a new Victorian barrister blog a minute

Hardly news any more, but Carrie-Rome Sievers is the latest Victorian barrister bitten by the blog bug. Her blog ( covers insolvency and the Personal Property Securities regime.  And it turns out Carrie’s husband Chris Sievers, also a Victorian barrister, has a blog on GST ( with vast resources in the form of scores of case notes, and links to commentary on the GST. Welcome to the blogosphere Carrie and Chris.

Pia and twitter

Pia Warne has been distracting me from blogging recently.  She was born a bit more than a week ago.

But tweeting has also distracted me.  Twitter is a micro-blogging platform.  I had never been there until just before I started tweeting: here is my Twitter page.  Twitter involves following and being followed.  I tweet a short message of up to 140 characters and those 32 individuals who follow me get each message posted in their timeline, along with tweets from everyone else they follow. If anyone they follow retweets one of my tweets, then they get it too.  Similarly, a chronological amalgam of the tweets of those I follow appears in my timeline, along with any tweets of others that have been retweeted by those I follow. Continue reading “Pia and twitter”

Lord Bingham and Afua Hirsch

The rather beautiful English blogger, Afua Hirsch, at once a barrister and a Guardian correspondent, has posted a beautifully written obituary to Lord Bingham, pictured.  It is definitely a blog post, rather than something more formal belonging to the print version of a newspaper, and it is a fine example of its form, like much to be found in The Guardian, all the way down to Zia Mahmood’s bridge column. I commend it to you. Apologies to The Guardian for the theft of David Levene’s photograph.

Blogging and Media Law Seminar at Melbourne University

My enthusiasm for this seminar waned when I learnt that the special alumni price to attend is $50, but I’m still planning on attending. It’s up at Melbourne Law School, on Wednesday 18 November 2009. Drinks start at 5.30 p.m. and the 90 minute seminar ends at 7.30 p.m. Professor Brian Murchison from over in America is speaking.  Stephen Price of the New Zealand Bar is commenting.  And my old mate Andrew Kenyon is keeping it all together. Everyone’s invited.  The blurb is:

‘In this seminar, leading US commentator on journalism, media and law, Professor Brian Murchison, will address key issues about blogging that arise internationally, especially related to defamation and privacy law.  When can the identity of an anonymous blogger be obtained by a prospective plaintiff?  When can bloggers protect their own anonymity — the issue that faced English law in the recent “Night Jack” case?  And how much protection will the law give if those who have been targeted by blogs “speak back”?  Stephen Price, experienced New Zealand barrister and journalist, will provide commentary.’

Western Suburbs Law Association

Last night, I gave a talk to the Western Suburbs Law Association about how to respond to a Legal Services Commissioner complaint. I got a chance to meet some of the lawyers I most admire, met some impressive new people including the Law Institute’s in-house Ethics Manager, Donna Adams, caught up with some old friends, and generally enjoyed myself.

To all those solicitors reading my blog for the first time, a warm welcome. I realised that I forgot to answer one part of a multi-part question, and so will do so now. It was how to find quality blogs. In terms of blogs about the bit of the law this blog is interested in, have a look at the ‘blogroll’ by scrolling down to near the bottom of the right hand column of this blog’s homepage. See also this post and this one and this one on this blog. Each of the blogs referred to will have its own ‘blogroll’ or something similar, and that is the best way of exploring blogs. There is also a search engine devoted to blogs:

To my other readers, a word of explanation about the password protected post. I have not decided what to do with the 10,000-or-so-word behemoth. Because I finished the paper a few minutes before I needed to hop in a cab to get to Footscray to talk about it, I published it on the blog and gave the attendees the password.  If you did not attend, you do not know the password; there is no password which email subscribers have forgotten and no password associated with the blog in general.  If I do unpassword it, I will only do so after refining it a bit and fixing the errors of expression which no doubt remain to be edited. If you are presently the subject of a conduct complaint and are desperate to read the paper, contact me by email.

Free Victorian legal commentary

I like lawyers who state the law on the internet for free.  Australia is good at this in the sense of making raw materials available via Austlii.  What there is very little of is commentary, and exposition of the law. I have previously sung the praises of John Stratton’s NSW treasure trove of material about criminal law in NSW. And there is the extraordinary resource that is Jeremy Gans’s commentary on the Victorian Human Rights Charter.  Recently, though, I have come across two more Victorian lawyers who are stating the law for free on the web, Don Just and Julie Clarke (about whom, more below). And there is a new quality law blog in town: Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes, described by its anonymous author as ‘Some potted thoughts and meanderings about law, legal developments and summary prosecutions in Victoria.’  It has a link today to the Judicial College of Victoria’s Criminal Proceedings Manual, a work in progress in anticipation of the commencement of the revolutionary Criminal Procedure Act, 2009.

Continue reading “Free Victorian legal commentary”

Lawyers and the criminal law

Reproduced below is a blog post about ‘bill padding’ from the US site, Legal Blog Watch. That is where lawyers say work took them longer than it really did, and so charge commensurately more, or even make up the fact that they did work, and charge for it. Sometimes I read articles like this and wonder whether lawyers don’t think they live in a different world where, if they commit crimes, what will happen to them is that they will be dealt with by professional discipline. They think that, or course, because it’s more or less true, unless you get caught stealing from your trust account.  But the criminality of time sheet crime should not be allowed to be buried under anodyne euphemisms. ‘Bill padding’ sounds kind of cute, a necessary evil. It is a kind of newspeak. Time to do away with it. Let’s call it ‘rapacity fraud’.  It is tolerated by the profession in this sense.  There are generalised allegations of widespread bill padding.  Talk privately to costs consultants and they will tell you all about it.   But I have never heard of a firm which has even basic anti-fraud procedures to detect the practice.

My point kind of makes itself when the author says ‘allegations of bill padding … drew … strong criticism about the practice from legal ethics experts’.  Experts say fraud is bad?  Well shit Sherlock!  The 9th commandment does kind of feature relatively prominently in most systems of law.  We’re going to have the case one day when someone actually subpoenas a firm’s electronic billing system and its metadata, and diaries, analyses when the billing entries were made, and cross-examines lawyers on how they could have billed 180 units in a day and still made it to the client function at 6 p.m., or why, having billed relatively consistently every day, they would suddenly remember on the 30th of the month some comparatively vaguely described units they had forgotten to record mid-month, or why given that they had used a precedent for similar documents three times previously in the same month, they decided to draft the document from scratch, only to end up with — you guessed it — the same document as the precedent.  Now, that article: Continue reading “Lawyers and the criminal law”

An English legal ethics man in Miami

My impression is that the legal ethics dialogue is highly developed in the United States. The extent to which people practice what is preached over there is something I have heard word about but can’t guess at too accurately. Maybe its lawyers are more prone to extreme badness and so the discussion has more to feed on; they bribe judges over there, or try, or so it is alleged. And lawyers get access to their clients’ alleged victims’ laptops by having private investigators pose as researchers on internet use, and offering a new laptop in exchange for the old. And get away with it on the basis that they did not do the deed personally.

The extent to which the appearance of heightened discussion is merely a function of a huge population and a huge blogosphere is also something I find it difficult to guess at. Now there is an experiment which will help me work it out. An Englishman, John Flood, author of Random Academic Thoughts, is over in Miami, visiting a law school. And he’s blogging about it. So far, he’s impressed. While he’s in Florida, he could drop in on Jim Morrison’s birthplace, Melbourne, and let us all know how Melbourne, London, and Miami stack up against each other.

On blogging

The other day, I did a very geeky thing which was also a bit unonline. I had a coffee with fellow lawyer blogger, the mysterious Legal Eagle. One result of the coffee was that somehow I charmed her into writing a second case note of interest to readers of this blog — this time on the long and not entirely straightforward decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal in Equuscorp v Wilmoth Field Warne, referred to briefly in my post ‘Cases, cases’. Go read it. A second may have been that Ms Eagle has ‘tagged’ me with a ‘meme’. It’s very blogosphere. I will participate, but one of the three limbs of this modern day chain letter is going to die with me as I don’t intend to tag anyone else. I will be very grateful if some of the effusive commenters over at her blog migrate over to mine and get a bit of discussion going. So, 3 reasons why I blog. Continue reading “On blogging”

2007 a review: law and war

Happy new year, readers. 2007 was a big one for me, and it seems that lots of interesting things happened. So I made a list.

The Bar: My senior mentor, Peter Riordan SC, was elected Chairman of the Bar Council. Peter Hayes QC died, and the Ethics Committee took Peter Faris to task for commenting to excess on drugs in the profession. Mr Faris joined the Law Institute in lieu of the Bar. Former solicitor-advocate Andrew Fraser got out of jail and published his memoirs, Court in the Middle. Julian Burnside wrote an excellent book. Good people joined the Bar, including Tony Horan, formerly a partner of Phillips Fox, and Lisa Nichols, formerly a partner of Slater & Gordon Ltd, suggesting that it is a healthy institution. Mark Dreyfus QC was elected into Federal Parliament, Jeff Sher QC retired, and Peter Cawthorn, Dr Ian Freckleton, and Kerri Judd, all leaders of the professional negligence and/or discipline bar, took silk. Ross Ray QC assumed the helm at the Law Council of Australia.

The Bench: Justice Kiefel was appointed to the High Court from the Feds, the Howard Government’s 6th appointment after Justices Hayne, Callinan, Gleeson, Heydon and Crennan. She was the trial judge in Queensland v JL Holdings Pty Ltd (1997) 189 CLR 146, the case which is commonly understood to mean that you can always amend your pleadings at any time, contrary to her Honour’s view that sometimes, enough’s enough. Justice Callinan, the protagonist in Flower & Hart v White Industries (Qld) Pty Ltd (1999) 163 ALR 744, one of the key legal ethics cases of recent times, retired after nine and a half years. Lex Lasry was appointed to the Supreme Court. He was one of the blokes who campaigned against the execution of Van Nguyen, and was a legal observer at David Hicks’s show trial. Also appointed were Jack Forrest, Ross Robson, Paul Coghlan (ex-director of the Office of Public Prosecutions), and Tony Pagone (a tax lawyer with a keen interest in human rights who was reappointed after a tenure of 9 months in 2001 and 2002). The Court of Appeal had added to its bench Murray Kellam and Julie Dodds-Streeton. So 1 in 5 Supreme Court judges was appointed this year. Justice Gillard retired after ruling that Dr Abbie Lee was not defamed in the Herald-Sun‘s ‘Medibonk’ articles which called her a madam and a fraud. Justices of Appeal Callaway and Eames retired too.

Michelle Gordon, to whom the High Court’s Justice Hayne is married, was the only Melbourne appointment to the Federal Court. Former Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld QC was committed to stand trial for perjury after pleading not guilty.

Blogs: Melbourne lawyers Peter Faris, Leagle Eagle, Dr Mirko Bagaric, and Nicky Greenberg all wrote interesting blogs, mostly not about the law. Jamie Wodetzki, also a Melbourne lawyer, published the excellent Breakfast Blog. Club Troppo‘s ‘Missing Link‘ rounded up the best posts from Australian blogs twice a week or so: well worth subscribing to.

Books: Monash’s Professor Adrian Evans and Melbourne’s Christine Parker put out a book Inside Lawyers’ Ethics. Walmsley, Abadee and Zipser did great with the second edition of Professional Liability in Australia. University of Woollongong’s Ainslee Lamb and John Littrich put out Lawyers in Australia. Jason Pizer published the 3rd edition of his Annotated VCAT Act. The 9th edition of Keith Fletcher’s The Law of Partnership in Australia hit the stores. Former actress, barrister and ABC Radio National ‘Law Report’ compere Susannah Lobez published Gangland Australia. Leigh Sales published a book about David Hicks, Detainee 002. J.K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sold over 8 million copies in the first 24 hours of its release. Black Inc.’s The Monthly continued, unlike most in its genre, to publish, suggesting this might actually be the new quality news magazine which sticks around. Helps when your publisher, Morry Schwartz, is a property developer I suppose. (A bit off-topic, but Bali got Lawyers’ Lawyered this year, so: Black Inc. also published Under the Volcano; The Story of Bali. Former English property lawyer Jonathan Copeland published another good book about Bali — a rare thing — Secrets of Bali.)

Crime, and alleged crime: Christopher Hudson allegedly shot Norton Gledhill solicitor Brendan Keilar dead outside the Rialto where I had been working until a couple of weeks before. A martial arts enthusiast is suspected of killing Pumpkin’s mum, and cast Pumpkin adrift at Spencer St. Carl Williams said that in an ideal world, he wouldn’t have executed Jason Moran in front of his kids, and Justice Betty King responded to point out that in an ideal world he wouldn’t have executed him at all. In an ideal world wife Roberta probably wouldn’t have expressed disappointment that Carl would be behind glass, making spitting in his face problematic, and Jason probably wouldn’t have hired two hit men to gun Carl down at his daughter Dhakota’s christening, giving Carl the idea of the execution with kids in the first place. The Herald Sun must have been spewing about the 35 year fully catered luxury State holiday Justice King granted him despite his insolence. Tony Mokbel was found in Greece. Bad wig. Peter Dupas was convicted of another murder as a result of confessions made to Andrew Fraser. Paris Hilton went to jail, prompting this peculiar peaen from Dr Bagaric. Continue reading “2007 a review: law and war”

Australian law blogs go mainstream

Update, 18 October 2007: What’s more, major law firms are beginning to Vodcast. That’s kind of like grown-up YouTube. Take this example, where 2 Clayton Utz partners emphasise the importance for successful litigation of keeping the originals of documents.

The Sunday Age has an article on law blogs, hot on the heels of a Lawyers’ Weekly feature on some Freehills lawyers who are blogging with the blessing of the powers that be. I can’t find the latter online and so can’t link to it.

I suspect the proposition that ‘Many specialist lawyers and academics are blogging on pet topics such as intellectual property.’ might overtstate things a bit. But apparently ‘lawyers and judges’ (aren’t judges lawyers?) are the fourth biggest group of bloggers and of blog readers:

‘While the US Blawg site is now tracking 1773 blawgs across the US, exact Australian blawg numbers are impossible to find among the estimated 70 million blogs in cyberspace. A survey by US advertising firm found that legal professionals were the fourth-largest group of bloggers, behind people working in education, computer software and media. Lawyers and judges were the fourth-biggest group of blog readers, behind computer professionals, students and retirees.’

Firm publishes big book free online

I’m just going to cut and paste this article from Legal Blog Watch, and hope that its author Caroline Elefant won’t mind. I have little to say on the topic which is not already pithily set out by her, but will draw your attention to one section of the book in particular, the bit on Cross Border Legal Ethics.

I’m sure we’ll see this sort of thing in Australia. It will start by smart firms bundling up all their newsletters into one booklet on a topic, distributing it in hard copy and then making it available online too. That will happen when people realise the design possibilities of publishing in .pdf format. I write this blog in large part because having to explain a case in simple language makes me remember it much better than if I just read it. I think benefits will come to firms who encourage their solicitors to write for publication, despite what marketing folk might say. It is necessary to consider the benefit to the knowledge base of the lawyers who write, as well as the direct marketing potential of the publication. Here it is:

Law Firm Puts Treatise Online

Bruce MacEwen shares this news about a comprehensive, online book introduced by Proskauer Rose and entitled “International Litigation and Arbitration: Managing, Resolving, and Avoiding Cross-Border Business or Regulatory Disputes.” The book, prepared by 50 Proskauer lawyers, provides 28 chapters of readily accessible and detailed information on international litigation. Continue reading “Firm publishes big book free online”

50,000 page loads

This blog is published with WordPress. While I was watching the waves in Bali, WordPress’s page view counter clicked over 50,000. You looked at this thing on average 225 times a day.  If you want a blog of the same design calibre as this one, let me know, and I’ll put you onto a bloke who will do all the tweaking you need and tell you how to use it. After that, your grandpa could create a blog just like this one. Australia needs more lawyer bloggers.

A fantastic criminal law web resource: John Stratton’s site

A public defender in NSW has created a fantastic resource for criminal lawyers: John Stratton’s Criminal Law Survival Kit.  A lot of work has gone into this.  It is in the tradition of Ross on Crime, the legendary alphabetically organised encyclopedia of criminal law in Victoria, except there are hyperlinks to most of the cases, which is obviously bloody marvellous, and it’s free, which is also pretty damn good. Speaking of Ross on Crime, next time you see a copy, grab the opportunity to read the chapter headed “Jazz”.

I have mentioned before the Judicial College of Victoria’s Sentencing Manual. That’s an extraordinary document, and there should be more of them. There is a Criminal Law wiki under enthusiastic development by Englishmen, though I can’t find the link for the moment.

Criminal law is parochial, but parts of Stratton’s site will be useful to criminal lawyers throughout Australia.  Here’s a bit to show you what it’s like: Continue reading “A fantastic criminal law web resource: John Stratton’s site”

Melbourne lawyers blogging

There are a few out there. Most prominent is Peter Faris QC, one of the irrascible characters of the Victorian Bar about whom I have posted before. He rails against Islamic fundamentalism and what he perceives as the West’s wimpish response, and puts up hoops for civil liberties loving folk like me to jump their arguments through. Technology law blogs traditionally dominated the Australian legal blogosphere by number, early adoptiveness, and quality. Weatherall’s Law (now see Law Font), Barry Eager’s Bazpat, and the indefatiguable Peter Black’s Freedom to Differ, are just some examples. Melbourne barrister Warwick Rothnie is the Melbourne member of that class. He writes IPWar. In other stuff, Liz Harris, a costs lawyer, writes Allocatur. Then there’s the eclectic anonymous Melbourne mother, academic, artist, PhD student, and lawyer who writes The Legal Soapbox. Finally, there’s Peter A. Clarke, of the Melbourne Bar. Over in Cambridge, is a one-time Melbourne boy writing Courting Disaster. I’m sure there are more. Who are they? (I’m talking about Melbourne lawyers blogging at least in part about legal issues.)

Free notifications of new High Court and Vic Supreme Court cases; client legal privilege watch

I found some useful web resources yesterday. First, Peter Faris QC publishes blogs which do no more than consolidate in one place all the court-provided information (what I think of as the unreported version of a headnote) about the decisions of the High Court, Supreme Court of Victoria, and Victorian Court of Appeal. Each court’s decisions have a separate blog:

High Court blog

Victorian Court of Appeal blog

Supreme Court of Victoria blog.

They make searching across only the keywords a snap, a feature which Peter told me he uses extensively in his own research, but more importantly from everyone else’s point of view, provides an easy way to be alerted automatically to each new decision of each court (though there is a lag between the courts’ publications of their decisions on the web and Faris cutting and pasting it into his blogs). The blogs have instructions on how to set up the automatic notifications using RSS feeds which sound complicated but which either you or one of your nieces will be able to set up without any difficulty. This is a very simple application of technology providing significant benefits.

From Faris’s High Court Blog, I learnt of a new decision of the High Court on legal professional privilege, Z v New South Wales Crime Commission [2007] HCA 7 (see the next post). Then a Google search on that decision resulted in a new find: the Law Council of Australia’s Client Legal Privilege Watch, which digests new decisions about client legal privilege (also known as legal professional privilege).


Case specific blogs start appearing

Update: 22 December 2007

Legal Blog Watch’s Carolyn Elefant predicts:

‘2008 will be a banner year for single-issue blogging, like David Rossmiller’s coverage of “everything Richard Scruggs,” Above the Law’s coverage of Aaron Charney’s lawsuit against Sullivan & Cromwell or Durham in Wonderland, covering the Duke lacrosse team rape case.’

Dickie Scruggs, an American lawyer, and others pleaded not guilty to criminal charges that they schemed to bribe a judge handling $26.5 million in legal fees related to Hurricane Katrina claims. Aaron Charney settled his sexuality discrimination case against Sullivan & Cromwell. Mike Nifong was disbarred over his over-zealous prosecution of a rape complaint against a team of Duke University lacrosse players.

Check out, too, this analysis of the project of a blogger, Jane Genova of Law and More, who blogged 3 to 6 posts a day during a civil jury trial about lead paint in the US.

Original post: Apple has announced the iPhone. But Cisco owns a trademark “Iphone”. So Cisco has sued Apple. And a top Cisco exec is blogging about the case, waging the war in the court of public opinion. This post considers that blog and a handful of blogs set up by journalists covering cases of public interest, mainly murder trials of whites from the look of things. Continue reading “Case specific blogs start appearing”