With the year drawing to a close, it’s time to look back at some of the moments in 2013 we’d prefer to forget.
The pot, kettle, black award: The Association of British Insurers, which complained that the Law Society’s ‘Don’t Get Mugged’ advertising campaign was ‘little more than public name-calling’. This just months after the ABI’s own press release called for an end to ‘ambulance-chasing lawyers’.
The ‘don’t panic but we’re all doomed’ award: The SRA board member who let slip at a meeting in June that 20% of the top 200 firms were under ‘intensive supervision’. Cue weeks of frantic speculation and no doubt some indemnity insurers adding a zero onto many cover policies.
The ‘nothing to see here guv’ award: Then-justice minister Helen Grant, responding to a justice committee report on the interpreting contract that labeled it ‘shambolic’ and a ‘multiple train crash’. Grant simply replied they were ‘teething problems’. More of her later.
The England cricket award for anti-climax: The gaggle of legal regulators who took two years to produce a 350-page Legal Education and Training Review. Kudos to anyone who can remember a single memorable thing from it.
The Jack Straw award for extra-curricular activities: Jack Straw (of course), who excelled himself during 2013. According to his register of interests, the Blackburn MP this year claimed £6,150 for speaking engagements, £60,000 for consultancy work, £30,703 for his book (£1,230 of which was for the audio version), £1,600 for newspaper articles and trips to Istanbul, Stockholm, Hong Kong and Beijing. Just think what he can make once he’s retired from politics in 2015!
The foot in mouth award: David Fisher, claims director for insurer AXA, told a parliamentary event: ‘Some smaller law firms will ignore the referral fee ban as that is the only way they will continue to get work.’ A throwaway comment perhaps, but the hornet’s nest was duly stirred.
The David Brent ‘good news and bad news’ award: The 27 Pannone full equity partners will no doubt have been delighted with the firm’s £33m sale to ravenous Australian acquirer Slater & Gordon. The 100 or so people at risk of redundancy after the deal are presumably less thrilled.
The ‘how is that working out’ award: The Co-op, which said in its financial report in March: ‘We are working to become the number one legal service provider in the UK and are creating thousands of new jobs in the process.’ Unfortunately losses stood at £3.4m for the first half of 2013 and by November the company announced 60 job losses. And let’s not even mention Paul Flowers…
The Sarah Palin award for assuredness on camera: Our old chum Helen Grant, by now moved from justice to sport, who failed to answer five sports questions put to her in a live interview, including the Wimbledon ladies champion and the England rugby captain. Her response to a question on the FA Cup holders was the pinnacle. Having looked to her (off-camera) assistant and said: ‘Come on help,’ she then answered: ‘Manchester United, because it’s my favourite club.'
And finally, the Ebenezeer award must surely go to everyone’s favourite justice secretary: Christopher Stephen Grayling. Many of you will have your own personal highlights from Big Chris during 2013, but nothing tops this week’s news that he has banned prisoners from receiving Christmas cards or presents from friends and family. Seasons greetings from all at MoJ towers.