Law Lords refuse to be bored lords
What is it with retiring Law Lords? After decades of hard work, first as barristers and then in administering justice, they just can’t seem to throw in the towel.

This week two high-profile and respected lords retired from the bench. Lord Steyn stepped down from the House of Lords, but promptly announced he was to become an international arbitrator at Essex Court Chambers. And then it emerged he was also due to become the new council chair of human rights organisation Justice.

Not to be outdone, the outgoing Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf was snapped up by Blackstone Chambers as a non-resident mediator. Lord Woolf is also joining the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution as a special adviser – rather apt, given that the Woolf reforms were designed to promote alternative dispute resolution. On Friday (7 October), Lord Woolf also became patron of the Environmental Law Foundation.

Of course, Lords Steyn and Woolf are both also members of the House of Lords, able to participate in political debates should they wish. That is, if they can spare the time.

Lawyers down as practising certificate fees go up
Practising certificate fees have gone up. Again. Last year it cost £830 for a single lawyer to practise – this year the fee is £1,020, a rise of 23 per cent. Next year the fee seems almost certain to rise once more to at least £1,100, thanks to the implementation of the Clementi reforms and the contributions to the Law Society’s pension scheme.

One solicitor who contacted The Lawyer said that, while the increase angered her, the lack of communication was worse. “I think, however, the most disappointing issue is that this is yet another demonstration of the appalling communication policy of the Law Society or, on a worse analysis, an unbelievable arrogance that it can make these sort of changes without the need to justify them,” she said.

The breakdown in communication is even more surprising given chief executive Janet Paraskeva’s acknowledgement at last month’s annual conference that this was one of the society’s main failings. It’s past time for the Law Society to get its act together.

Simkins players pop off
Last week’s Grapevine told the sad tale of media and entertainment star Harbottle & Lewis‘s revolving door music practice. This week it’s the turn of The Simkins Partnership. Except the door there isn’t revolving, it’s slamming shut.

Simkins is if anything an even more venerable name in showbiz than Harbottles. Music partner Julian Turton is so well known he even featured – albeit as Jules Trouttman – in the music biz bonkbuster Powder. Now Turton is leading a breakaway faction to set up Swan Turton, an almost all-partner firm (only three assistants to the nine partners) that can genuinely claim a partner-led service for its clients.

The Simkins name will not die, however, as Michael Simkins LLP will be born on the same day as Swan Turton. The old Simkins had 12 full equity media and entertainment partners among its total of 26. The new Simkins is taking four and Swan Turton is taking five, with the other three spreading their wings into other media homes, including Robbie Williams’ favourite lawyers Sheridans. As they say, the show must go on.

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