THE first solicitor gave his spiel on behalf of a client facing a drink-driving charge, and Sheriff Elizabeth Jarvie, QC, announced a fine of £500 to be reduced to £330 because of the guilty plea, and a 12-month ban. A second solicitor stood and, after a similar routine, was told there would be a £500 fine, reduced to £330, and a 12-month ban. Then it was Ray Megson's turn to address the sheriff. Cutting to the chase, he asked: "£20 a week?"
STICKING to your guns can be a virtue for the court lawyer, continuing to argue your point under scrutiny from the bench. But there has got to be a limit, and Glasgow solicitor-advocate, Joe Beltrami, well remembers a young colleague learning a harsh lesson.
"He pled guilty to a speeding offence and proceeded to address the bench in mitigation of penalty. He was speaking from copious notes and, in the course of his lengthy peroration, told the sheriff that his client very much required his licence for his job," says Beltrami.
"He went on to say - and we all make mistakes - that his client did more than 30,000 miles per week. He was interrupted by the good, understanding sheriff who said: "You surely mean 30,000 miles per annum?" Unabashed, undaunted and unwilling to concede an error, he studied his notes for some little time before replying: "It says per week in my brief and I stand by that," thereby betraying an inability to adjust to the obvious. This was perseverance running riot!"
A to Z and beyond
TO ENSURE the anonymity of clients, the Scottish Solicitors' Discipline Tribunal has a system of referring in its judgments to Mr A, Ms B, Mrs C etc, but there just were not enough letters in the alphabet when it came to the case of John Taylor, 52, of Taylors, Moray Place, Edinburgh. His firm's books were inspected and "many problems with non-recording of deeds and poor record-keeping" were identified. So many, in fact, that, in detailing them, the tribunal reached client "OO". Taylor assured the tribunal he was "a good solicitor but not a good manager." He was fined 5,000 and had his practising certificate restricted for five years so he would have to work under supervision.
Short and sweet
IN GIVING directions on the law to juries, judges ought perhaps to work on the basis that "brief is beautiful" because, as Lord Osborne observed in the appeal court: "The more a judge says, the more there is to criticise."
DID Lord Clarke pull the short straw, or might his two, more senior, colleagues on the Court of Session appeal bench have pulled rank? In any event, it was left to him to deliver the court's 43-page judgment in a VAT case, the first 12 pages being required simply to set out the relevant UK and European legislation. No disrespect to his sterling efforts, but insomniacs ought to be able to get it on the national health.
THE question for the appeal judges was whether a notice served under the Scottish Arbitration Code was invalid because it had not proposed the name of an arbiter. The answer given was no, and Sir David Edward, QC, added: "We reach this conclusion with some relief since it would be unfortunate if a Code designed to promote recourse to alternative dispute resolution were to become a quarry for litigation over legal niceties."