The usual mixture of foul-ups and faux pas made headlines this year – here’s a selection of the best.
My favourite working moment of 2016? Sitting in a tribunal room full of highly qualified, serious people, the clerk attempted to ring solicitor-advocate Alan Blacker and put him on speaker phone.
Sadly, the phone was not picked up. Instead we were treated to a voicemail message which said: ‘Lord Harley, speaking from the north of England, please leave a message after the sheep.’ The beep was replaced by a bleat and the room creased up with laughter.
So what other memorable moments can we take from this year? Here’s a selection.
The ‘Value of Your Investment May Go Down' Award:
Highly Commended: Slater and Gordon. The Aussies showed few signs of recovery in the share price department. Warnings of a billion dollar trading loss are never a good sign. S and G shares are now going for 23 Australian cents (14p), down from 78 (46p) in February.
Winner: Fairpoint PLC. The Simpson Millar owner ended 2015 selling shares at 136p each. Today they’re worth less than 15p.
The ‘Boss, Can I Have a Word?’ Award:
London firm Schillings had solicitors across the country checking their contracts when it announced staff were not expected in the office more than two days a week.
‘Work is an activity, it’s not a place,’ said chief operating officer Christopher Mills.
The Donald Trump Award for Excellence in Social Media:
Saturday night could mean a night on the town, or perhaps a bottle of something at home watching Casualty. It is most certainly not a time to log onto Twitter and boast about your court victories.
Milton Keynes firm Baker Small did quickly apologise, after a series of tweets which included a picture of a kitten that appears to be yawning, with the message: ‘Some great tweets received today from people who just see a one-sided argument… just shared them with my cat… .’
Just put the phone down in future.
The ‘Floating Ribs in Peril’ Award:
Junior justice minister Sam Gyimah. With her legal qualifications questioned within hours of her appointment, the new lord chancellor Liz Truss needed an eye-catching announcement to make her mark. It’s safe to say that her idea to deter drones with barking dogs was certainly memorable – especially to her sidekick Gyimah who had to keep a straight face.
The ‘Bigger Picture’ Award:
There is an argument that ‘Dear Sirs’ on communications from law firms are outdated. It’s probably not worth spending so much time on that argument, mind you.
The ‘Say What You Really Think’ Award:
Michael Gove was justice secretary for barely a year, but he appeared to form some strong opinions on solicitor-advocates. In November he called for restrictions on these ‘second-class advocates’ and claimed barristers provide a better service. It was not universally welcomed by the solicitors’ profession.
The ‘Throwing Your Toys Out the Pram’ Award:
On 15 October an email was leaked from the Association of British Insurers lamenting the collapse of whiplash reforms. A month later and the reforms were announced, with extra cream on top. Quite the turnaround.
Here's to an even more memorable 2017.
John Hyde is Gazette deputy news editor