Arbitrary Arbitration Award Ahoy

To be fair, it’s not the first time I’ve been mistaken for an arbitrator. Or a QC. I wasn’t either of those things in 2012 and still am neither of those things. But it’s an easy mistake to make…

Anyway my total lack of skill and experience in arbitration hasn’t stopped me winning an international award for arbitration. Oh no, dearest chums, it has not. And *this* time they aren’t confusing me for the OTHER Lucy Reed (who hails from New York and IS an actual arbitrator). I know this because they emailed to tell me that I had won the award because they were ‘impressed’ with my ‘corporate profile’ (which they helpfully linked to in case I didn’t know how to find it). Those of you who have studied my web profile (as I know many of you are fond of doing) may note the tiny absence of any mention of arbitration at all in my chambers profile. But I like to think such points are merely minor details, and I prefer instead to focus on my effortless achievement of the International Arbitration Law Award in the UK (yes, I even won it for not-arbitrating in a country I don’t have rights to practice in – *waves to Scotland*).

The same email which told me that I had been chosen because of my impressive corporate profile ALSO told me that

International Advisory Experts is a global alliance of well-established and experienced legal, financial, tax and consulting firms and each year we pay tribute to firms who have been successful over the past 12 months and have received exceptional praise from their peers. 

Wait – was my corporate profile SO stand-alone impressive that peer praise was not necessary? Or are there other imaginary arbitration experts who have offered imaginary exceptional praise about me? Who can say… who can say…

I had foolishly binned the first email (skeptic that I am). But a few days later the determined Sebastian emailed me again to assure me that there was no financial obligation (at least none unless I wanted to become a member of their esteemed organisation) and to offer me a winners logo and access to their LinkedIn group. Such glorious prizes – almost irresistible. I brushed away doubts, the feeling that there was some sort of dodginess here, that this might be an attempt to make money from gullible lawyers who are suckers for having their egos stroked – sales of paid for advertising space dressed up as a professional association. Usually these bogus emails ask for money up front (for the trophy, of course), but this one was different. Plus it had a website replete with glossy brochures full of smiling lawyers. So it must be legit.

No of course I didn’t think that. I’m not a complete muppet! I did a bit of digging.

They very obviously have NOT received any exceptional (or even ordinary) praise from my peers about my arbitration prowess. And they very obviously haven’t even READ my web profile (and apparently are working on the basis that I haven’t read it either). Because (did I mention this?) I am not an arbitrator or arbitration lawyer!

So. Their website :

  • Has no address or company registration details. I can’t even work out which country it is based in (international, innit), although the contact page does have a UK number listed (somewhere in the North East I think).
  • The site invites people to ‘nominate now’ and is apparently still open for nominations. For awards that have already been awarded. That’s confusing, no?
  • The site has a large number of news items about big firms, all attributed to one author. Those that I checked out by image comparison on google or by searching for particular sentences all seemed to originate from the firm’s own website, and appear to have been scraped or pasted wholesale (the wording in the posts I checked is identical, including in several posts the retention of the word ‘today’, even though there is a gap of several days between the original posting and the identical item on IAE). There is no attribution of the source. Hhhmmmm.
  • I took a look on their site for who the members of International Advisory Experts are. I search for arbitration experts in the UK : zero results. I search for members in my actual area of practice in the UK (family) : zero results. There are a couple of pages of lawyers doing corporate-y type law in the UK listed as members, less than 20 in England specifically. This organisation may be large abroad but they are not established here.

Oh, and the site contains an impressive looking list of ‘strategic partners’, with all their lovely logos displayed. Most are foreign law firms. One is the International Bar Association. I emailed the IBA. They confirmed pretty much immediately that :

…the IBA has no connection with this organisation. We will be taking steps to get the IBA’s details removed.

What a surprise that was (alright, not much).

Some might begin to have minor suspicions that these ‘awards’ have nothing at all to do with excellence and aren’t of any value at all. Some *might* begin to think that it would be more efficient and cost effective to just tattoo the word ‘gullible’ on your forehead than pay to be listed on their site. Maybe IAE have a rigorous and well oiled system of ensuring their awards do truly denote excellence and this is an isolated error? Maybe. You will forgive me for being skeptical about that.

But I haven’t told you all of it yet – I mentioned fees. Turns out there ARE fees involved after all… (IKR)

So, apart from checking out their site, I also replied to IAE’s email, and asked for more information about how they had selected me, and for information about the costs and benefits of membership. My correspondent replied promptly, saying that :

I have asked the design team to send you the 2020 winners logo, you will receive it shortly, you can now promote the news to your clients.

which seemed a bit presumptuous, because I had actually just asked for more information, and had not given any indication of whether I wanted to accept the award. He also told me all about the benefits of membership (essentially it would bring lots of referrals from their huge network). I’m unclear about the costs of membership per se, but apart from reiterating that the use of the award winner’s logo was free (woot woot!). he mentioned that an award listing would cost £395 and a full page profile a further £1,000 (distinctly less woot-wooty!).

What Sebastian hadn’t answered at all was my question about the selection process. When I pressed him in a further email for information on how they had chosen me he said :

Firms are nominated through the LinkedIn group and website and are also selected through rankings, you were chosen as your firm is ranked by Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500.

Passing over the pedant’s point that I am not a firm, and I don’t work for or own a firm, and the fact that this is inconsistent with the reason originally given, neither I nor my  *cough* chambers is ranked by Chambers & Partners for arbitration (though we are of course ace in many ways and are ranked for lots of other things), and although the chambers’ Legal 500 entry shows the Construction Planning and Environment team as being jolly good at international arbitration, I am not a member of this team (and am not even mediocre at arbitration – I may have mentioned this before). It seems pretty unlikely that anyone in the LinkedIn group has nominated me for an award in an area in which I don’t practice, especially since almost none of the members appears to be based in the jurisdiction in which I practice.

Dudes, listen : I’m not an arbitrator. I’ve never even BEEN to an arbitration. You didn’t find out about my arbitration excellence from my web profile and nobody nominated me and I don’t have any peers in the world of arbitration. You just drew my name from a hat marked ‘suckers’. And I’m no more a sucker than I am an arbitrator. I am afraid I shall have to politely decline this award because I truly am not worthy. Logos and copy might be something you are happy to borrow from another organisation without their consent, but I’m not planning on using an award winner’s logo that suggests I am something I’m not, even if it is for free. I rather think there might be a cost to my reputation if I did.

Anyway, looking on the bright side, I’m hoping that next week will see the exciting announcement that I have unexpectedly been appointed silk, because of my impressive corporate profile….

Wellness & Therapeutic Justice

The University of Plymouth are hosting an interesting looking one day conference on Wellness and Therapeutic Justice on 16 April, which some readers may be interested in attending.

Programme of Events:

Time Speaker
10.30 10.45 Penelope Welbourne & Dr. Anna Kawalek
10:45 12:15 Professor David Wexler (Honorary President of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence.)
12:15 12:45 Dr. John Stannard “Taking care of the losers in legal cases: the rhetoric of winners, losers and thecourts”
12:45 13:30 RLB Foyer Lunch Provided
13:30 14:00 Professor Nicola Glover-Thomas “Therapeutic jurisprudence and the evolution of mental healthtribunals”
14:00 14:30 Amber Turner “The Lawyer As A Therapeutic Agent”
14:30 15:00 Professor Joanna Shapland “Restorative justice and therapeutic justice -towards the samegoals?”
15:00 16:00 Round Table Discussion

The event is very reasonably priced at £50.00.

Further details can be found on the University website here.



Transfixed by transcripts

The rules about recordings of hearings and transcripts are changing with effect from 6 July April (see the Statutory Instrument that makes the changes here). I wrote about some issues around transcripts at length here. The old and new rules are set out in full at the foot of this post. This post just looks at the differences between old rule 27.9 and the new one. They aren’t major, but having written about this rule before I thought I should record that they are going to be a bit different, and how.

The old archaic references to shorthand note which we all had to read as audio recording have finally been abolished. The rule now sensibly refers to tape or digital recording (yes, a few courts still use tapes, but most are now digital).

The wording around permission has been adjusted – in my experience courts sometimes interpreted the old rule as requiring permission in all cases where a transcript was sought (wrongly in my view – the old rule always said parties were entitled, others required permission, but some of the forms suggested otherwise). The new wording is I think clearer – a party may REQUIRE a transcript as long as they have paid the fee. The wording also makes clear that the court can make an order prohibiting the provision of a transcript if appropriate, but in my view that should be used sparingly – one example I’ve thought of is where a vulnerable witness has given her address on the court tape, at a hearing where a perpetrating party had not turned up, and the perpetrator subsequently tries to rely on their party status to obtain the transcript. They would be entitled to REQUIRE that transcript, but it might well be that the court would prevent that if provision of the transcript might place her at risk (a better way would be to avoid this situation by remembering that just because someone isn’t present doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to know what is said – if an address is confidential it is better not to ask the witness to speak it into the recording equipment in the first place). There might be other examples.

It is also now clear that someone not connected to the case may apply for a transcript, with the court’s permission (e.g. a journalist or perhaps a lawyer involved in connected proceedings where there was some factual overlap).

A new addition is that the court may now give directions ‘to assist a party, in particular one who is or has been or may become unrepresented, for the compilation and sharing of a note or other informal record of the proceedings made by another party.’

Now, Rule 29.11 already gives the court the power to direct a party to draw up its order or judgment (yes, I bet you didn’t know the court could direct you to draw up its JUDGMENT lawyer chums, did ya?), so all this really adds I think is a prompt to courts to consider directing this in cases where a litigant in person is involved, presumably mainly where an appeal is anticipated or where the cost of a transcript might be prohibitive for a litigant in person. More one way costs shifting to the legal profession. 🙁 

Finally, the rule spells out the existing prohibition on the making of informal recordings that is contained in the Contempt of Court Act. Again this seems to be about reminding and signalling, as the rule itself has no effect above and beyond the statute itself. It is a simple recital of existing law. However, this part of the new rule does make clear that the court has power to permit unofficial recording (again not an actual new power, its contained in the CCA). This might be for example where a journalist has made a case that this would be appropriate to aid accuracy in reporting of a case where the court has permitted or might permit recording at the end, or might be permitted to enable a person with a disability to make a record for their own personal use – in either case the court would I think want some reassurance the recording would not be misused or distributed.

So, nothing groundbreaking. But maybe an indication that the rules committee perceive that there are issues and confusions around obtaining transcripts and recordings that need clarifying, and / or problems with known delays and frustrations around appeals where litigants in person struggle to navigate the system to get hold of transcripts? Or possibly the rules committee just had a quiet moment (!) and finally got around to updating the language around shorthand, and whilst there had an opportunistic tidy up. Either way, probably an improvement on the old rule.

OLD (existing) RULE 27.9 :

  1. Unless the judge directs otherwise, an official shorthand note will be taken at the hearing in open court of proceedings pending in the High Court.
  2. An official shorthand note may be taken of any other proceedings before a judge if directions for the taking of such a note are given by the Lord Chancellor.
  3. The shorthand writer will sign the note and certify it to be a correct shorthand note of the proceedings and will retain the note unless directed by the district judge to forward it to the court.
  4. On being so directed, the shorthand writer will furnish the court with a transcript of the whole or such part of the shorthand note as may be directed.
  5. Any party, any person who has intervened in the proceedings, the Queen’s Proctor or, where a declaration of parentage has been made under section 55A of the 1986 Act, the Registrar General is entitled to require from the shorthand writer a transcript of the shorthand note, and the shorthand writer will, at the request of any person so entitled, supply that person with a transcript of the whole or any part of the note on payment of the shorthand writer’s charges authorised by any scheme in force providing for the taking of official shorthand notes of legal proceedings.
  6. Save as permitted by this rule, the shorthand writer will not, without the permission of the court, furnish the shorthand note or a transcript of the whole or any part of it to anyone.
  7. In these rules, references to a shorthand note include references to a record of the proceedings made by mechanical means and in relation to such a record references to the shorthand writer include the person responsible for transcribing the record.


NEW (from 6 July April 2020) RULE 27.9 :

(1) At any hearing, the proceedings will be tape recorded or digitally recorded unless the court directs otherwise.

(2) No party or member of the public may use unofficial recording equipment in any court without the permission of the court. (To do so without permission constitutes a contempt of court under section 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981(6).)

(3) Unless the court directs otherwise, a person to whom paragraph (4) applies may require a transcript of the recording of any hearing in proceedings to be supplied to them, upon payment of the charges authorised by any scheme in force for the making of the recording or the transcript.

(4) This paragraph applies to—

(a)a party to the proceedings;

(b)the Queen’s Proctor; and

(c)where a declaration of parentage has been made under section 55A of the 1986 Act(7), the Registrar General.

(5) A person to whom paragraph (4) does not apply may be provided with a transcript of the recording of any hearing—

(a)with the permission of the court; and

(b)upon payment of the charges authorised by any scheme in force for the making of the recording or the transcript.

(6) At any hearing, the court may give appropriate directions to assist a party, in particular one who is or has been or may become unrepresented, for the compilation and sharing of a note or other informal record of the proceedings made by another party.