Saturday, 18 December 2010

Greetings and Many Thanks

Dear All

Many thanks for another year of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance. We explored so many themes utterly (but really really there is only One Philosophy) and are grateful to the many speakers and scores of participants who generously shared their knowledge and wisdom. I especially enjoyed the carefully choreographed reading sessions descending into screaming matches, signalling sugar lows and the need to find refreshment at Vapiano's or other restaurants a la Marylebone or Fritzrovia.

And many thanks for Rezi carrying on from Laura. Rezi salutes her favourite themes and guests in her roll call below--and those worthies she does not mention will go to Heaven as compensation for their contributions over infinite time.

"But I feel I really don't know what it is that we know."

That is, throughout this series I have never felt satisfied with any of the intentional rationalist methods (Plato, Kant, Cantor, Heidigger, Russell, Badiou) or extensional imperial empirical dictats (Aristotle, Van Fraasen, Big Science) and the theoretic clarity offered by calculative algebraic compositions of Category Theory (mainly Lawvere 2009) has only driven us further and further into collisions with dense impossibilities and , exceptionalities (Gerdt and Negrii) of order. Our dream is the mathesis universalis of Leiniz. But our own poetess Fiona and the Sirens of Danielle and Rezi have stab our hearts and plucked our eyes with the aesthetic, the brutale and the quizzical. We learned philosophy bleeds as well as bleats.

In our search for Truth, early on after reviewing the ancients we realised that the comforts of the old mysticism have been closed off. Our new knowledge with new tech and in the name of the new normale cuts into our body and re-attaches the desires of civilization to the net . And as the inimitable Dr. Laura Niada reminded us so often contra the rhetoric of Kirkegaard, Heidigger and Plato, that one should be extremely careful whose model you use for beneath them all is nothing. Nada for Niada.

Along this vagary, I'm reminded of one of my teachers, Richard Rorty, the best American philosopher of last quarter of the 20th century and its worst literary critic. I asked him once what is the function (the use) of a philosopher. He said he liked Nietzche's image of the watchman on the wall, waving a lamp and warning passer-bys of entry to the city.
And so here we are, snows are coming again, take care, be safe and look forward the 66th Session and beyond of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance in the coming year.

Ciao
Joe

______________________________________

Dear All,

The 65th session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance represented the last session for another shaking year full of rich and complex issues that captured our attention and became the subject of many discussions and speculations among us. In only one year we joggled with ideas from philosophy, law finance, sociology and practice. We brought together in our table Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Descartes, Beltram & Thomas, FED, Agamben, Badiou etc.

Joe fascinated us with the potential of the discourse and methodology. Sky was our limit when it comes to the subjects of our discourse, varying among the foundations of law and finance, the art of rhetoric, God, faith, sacrifice, death, the concept of the groupoid, category theory, classification of rights, methodology, fraud, profession v. practice, globalisation and regulation, conflict of laws, Islamic finance, capital markets, financial crisis, business plans, ethymemes, mathemes , information, asymmetry, causality v. acausality, monetary policy measures, the Entropy of Law and Finance, risk measurement, certainty v. uncertainty, investment banking and recruitment etc. Special guest honoured us with their presence and their captivating presentations such as Andrea Calvi (partner of Loiacono e Associati), Ardeshir Atai (PhD candidate in International Investment Law at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies), Marco D'ercole' (LLM Corporate Finance at the University of Westminster), Fiona O’Connor (guest lecturer at the University of Westminster), Patrizia Cozzoli (CFO of Barclays Capital).

I would like to extend special thanks to Joe, Laura and all of you that joined our brainstorming of life and its natural or human ingredients. We enjoyed each others company not only during these sessions but also afterwards while exploring the restaurants and food in the area. We are looking forward to another interesting and challenging year. You are more welcomed to invite family, friends or acquaintances to this event by just inviting or suggesting their addition to the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance distribution list.

And last but certainly not least we would like to wish you enjoyable holidays with your loved ones.

All the best and see you next year,

Rezi

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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Research Does Have Impact


The Legal Services Board has today published a paper published a consultation paper on its diversity priorities. The paper sets out its case thus:
This paper discusses our policy proposals in relation to increasing diversity and social mobility at all levels of the legal services workforce. It focuses on the role of providers (firms and chambers) and approved regulators in this process, and does not  directly address the separate but related issues of:
ensuring access to legal services for diverse groups of consumers the potential for reforms to the existing framework for legal education and training, which could create additional opportunities to open a career in legal services to the widest possible pool of talent.
What I find cheering about this is that it is based on the recommendations made by my colleagues' recent research on diversity. It's great to see a regulator taking care to make evidence-based decisions.

The consultation is open to 9 March 2011 and all responses are welcomed.
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Friday, 10 December 2010

‘Ijere’: Questioning Ethnicity (2)

‘Ijere’ is an Igbo word for ‘soldier ants’. Widely known for their ‘ecological syndrome’ or ‘legionary behaviour’, soldier ants offer crucial metaphorical tools for interrogating the ethnic perspective.

Peter Kropotkin’s masterpiece on ‘Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution’, (first published by Heinemann in 1902, and republished in 2008, by Forgotten Books), employs a related metaphor, to argue the need for cooperation. On ants’ and termites' highly successful lives, based on cooperation, (Kropotkin: 2008) writes:
Their wonderful nests, their buildings, superior in relative size to those of man; their paved roads and overground vaulted galleries; their spacious halls and granaries; their corn-fields, harvesting and "malting" of grain; their rational methods of nursing their eggs and larvae . . . and, finally, their courage, pluck,and superior intelligence-all these are the natural outcome of the mutual aid which they practise at every stage of their busy and laborious lives.


Kropotkin’s observation inspires a nostalgic feeling. Growing up as a young boy in a rural Nigerian village, surrounded by beautiful green vegetation, I spent time with playmates searching and finding colonies of soldier ants, with the sole purpose of breaking their movement. We drew lines on sands to disorganise them, but we were often amazed by the ease and speed with which they re-grouped. Their forward -looking mission and resolve were unbroken by the predatory threats of mischievous children.

The metaphor of ‘ijere’ exposes the short-sightedness of the North-South discourse. At the national level, the ordinary Nigerians are hardworking and resilient people that are united in needs: electricity, clean water, efficient and effective transport system, access to healthcare, access to education, employment, speedy and efficient justice delivery system, winning the war on corruption. The list could go on and on. For the common Nigerians, whoever supplies these needs is a hero. Contrary to what the self-interested elites tell us, no one really cares whether this hero is tall or short, male or female, Northerner or Southerner.

At the trans-national level, we observe a striking similarity. In the counter-hegemonic struggle of the global commons, from Prague to Seattle, the common people are asking for accountability, responsible leadership, socio-economic justice and leveraging of the people’s power. The champions of the ethnic perspective, employ the tactics of ‘divide and rule’ to break the ‘ijere’ solidarity of the people, both at the national and trans-national levels. For quite some time, this tactics seemed to have worked, for them. The counter-tactical challenge of today is to institutionalise the ‘ijere’ consciousness of the people, both at the national and trans-national levels.

How we do it is to emphasise the things that unite us and de-emphasise the things that divide us. As (Appiah 2007: 97), rightly observed:
...the points of entry to cross-cultural conversations are things that are shared by those who are in the conversation…Once we have found enough we share, there is the further possibility that we will be able to enjoy discovering things we
do not yet share.


In the light of current realities, there seems to be no alternative to increasing and sustaining conversations/dialogue, within and across borders. Such conversations offer opportunity for learning as well as an avenue for dismantling stereotypes. In cross cultural conversations, however, carrying the victim stigma rarely strengthens a discussant’s case, it tends to weaken it. The illogicality of the exclusionary tendencies that tend to block such conversations must have to be exposed, using the contrasting methodology of inclusion. 'Methodological cosmopolitanism’ that (Beck &Sznaider, 2006) recommend, does not close its eyes to the reality of staggering inequality. What it does is to challenge inequality by demonstrating the power and potentials of egalitarian solidarity.

At the normative level, it is remarkable that every functional legal system endeavours to trace allegiance to the legitimising power of the people. ‘We the people...’ is the building block of the Nigerian constitution. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is also founded on ‘we the people...Although, the invocation of people’s power in legislative documents/treaties may turn out to be a ploy to mask autocracy, with legitimacy, the invocation gives credence to the vibrancy of popular mandate; a vibrancy that every dictator detests and fears.

What the North-South discourse does, in Nigeria and anywhere else, is to break the ‘ijere’ consciousness of the people. When consciousness is broken and visions are clouded by primordial egotism and sense of revenge, the common people may abandon the ‘elephant' at hand and scramble for the ‘cricket’ in the bush, thus allowing the very few elites to unleash havoc in our name!

But something else is happening…There is resurgence of what (Sousa Santos, 2005) calls subaltern cosmopolitan consciousness. The ‘divide and rule’ strategy of the few power drunk elites has no future. Like ‘Ijere’, it is recommended that the common people, everywhere, endeavour to work together, no matter how difficult, and fashion a world where people can be whatever they what to be. The narrow perspectives of ethnicity, racism or other similar binaries, which the liberated political elites employ, in drawing lines on sands, will surely hinder progress, but these barriers are not insurmountable. As Beck himself rightly observed the ethnic perspective is a ‘monologic imagination, which excludes the otherness of the other. The cosmopolitan perspective is an alternative imagination, an imagination of alternative ways of life and rationalities, which include the otherness of the other’ (Beck, 2002).

In sum, my goal is to show in these blogs that our traditional understanding of ‘North’ and ‘South’; ‘local’ and global’; have been ruptured by complex interconnection and bundling of fates. At the local, national level, we continue to face the tensions of 'us and them'. At the global, trans-national level, the North-South discourse remains heated. What this reality demonstrates to me is that in order to comprehend the complexities of today, our frame of analysis must invariably change. The North-South methodology is too elementary to aid understanding of complex ‘glo-local’ issues that we face today. It seems to me that the way forward is for us to begin to see, on a consistent basis, ourselves in others; the local in the global and the global in the local. It stands to reason, therefore, that in this ‘age of comparison’, to borrow from Nietsche, it is more productive to choose the ‘dialogic’ over the ‘monologic’ and inspire a forward -looking -Ijere vision; capable of surmounting the barriers of binaries and other predatory threats of the vanishing ‘hegemons’.

[Excerpts from Wilfred Mamah’s Random Meditations]
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Thursday, 9 December 2010

65th session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance (Friday 10 Dec, 6-8pm, Room 5.16, 309 Regent Street, University of Westminster)

Dear all,

this session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance promises to be attractive for all of you who are interested or even curious about the hiring experience with an investment bank. We will be graced from 7-8PM by the presence of our special guest Patrizia Cozzoli, CFO of Barclays Capital and the person in charge of hiring. During this time Patrizia will guide us through the bank’s procedure, policies, expectations and most importantly hints regarding hiring prospective employers and interns. We highly recommend participation in this Friday’s session as one of those rare occasions where you can meet the person who really matters. 

Before the arrival of Patrizia, from 6-7PM, the subject of our talks will be "Why Law and Finance are Social Experiments Gone Wild?". We will read and comment on the New York Times article To Test Housing Program, Some Are Denied Aid, (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/09/nyregion/09placebo.html?_r=1&sudsredirect=true)  drawing analogies to financial product experiments in the real world. Joe will also take up Professor John Flood's ideas of "legal profession" versus "legal processes" presented at the Legal Theory seminar at the University of Westminster, School of Law, and apply the distinction to "financial profession" versus "financial practices." He will advocate the need for a fundamental theory which enlightens us on the continual discovery of "humanity" versus "machinery" in our human-to-human communications.

Best regards,

Rezi & Joe





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Friday, 3 December 2010

Questioning Ethnicity (1)

Why is it that the ‘North-South,’ discourse tends to become more heated, during election periods in Nigeria? Why is it that the discourse changes, dramatically, as soon as issues like ‘resource control’ are mentioned? Why is it that the leaders of thought, in this discourse are mainly ‘liberated elites’, whose eyes are fixed on the stool? Why is it that soon as elections are ‘won’ or ‘rigged’ the champions of North/South discourse erect other binaries, further fragmenting North into North West/North East; South into South West/South East, and so on? Could it be that something is fundamentally wrong with the ethnic perspective? Does it really matter where one comes from, or rather where one comes from, originally? Should relationships be created and sustained on the basis of accidents of birth or common humanity? Does it really make any sense, that at a time, like this, when realities of increased interdependence continue to demonstrate the inadequacies of ‘methodological nationalism’ and the urgency for ‘methodological cosmopolitanism’(Beck & Sznaider, 2006), one could be arguing for setting national priorities on the basis of North-South divide within ‘one indissoluble country under God’?
It seems to me that the paradigm has shifted irreversibly…Where one comes from is not as important as the fact that one is a human person; a mortal being that grows old and dies. There is certainly a lot of sense in the philosophical assertion: ‘I am a citizen of the world’, which although attributed to an ancient Greek philosopher, could easily be read in the largely undocumented sayings of thinkers across the world. In Africa, for instance, the philosophy of ‘onye biri, ibe ya biri’ (live and let live) is time honoured. To live happily alongside others, one needs to see oneself in the other. To do so, one must broaden one’s vision. At the national level, such a broadening of vision exposes the fallacy of North-South discourse. At the international level, it opens up the limiting and obfuscating nature of ‘political realism’.
To create the desired change at the national and trans-national levels, we MUST transcend the narrow and limiting binaries of ‘us and them’. The first critical step we must take is to challenge our thinking by shattering our comfort zones and tackling the illusions of gender, creed, colour and place. The second will be at the normative level: developing Kant’s (1795) third condition for ‘Perpetual Peace’. Ethnicity could become a ‘camera obscura’ and a clog on the path of progress/peace. Is it not better, therefore, to de-emphasise ethnic cleavages and in their stead accentuate what (Held, 2010) calls ‘the bundle of needs, desires, anxieties and passions that define us all as members of the same species’?
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Friday, 26 November 2010

Representing Judges

(thanks to reuters)

Last night and this morning I've been to two fascinating seminars on visual and media representation of judges. For those of you who don't know who is the picture above, it's Jan Moors, a judge picked to oversee the trial of Geert Wilders, a right wing member of the Dutch parliament, for hate speech against Muslims. Moors commented on Wilders claim to remain silent and so was ejected from the case.

The first was a lecture by David Sugarman on "The Law Lords, Amnesty International and the Pinochet Case: What Happened and Why?"

Because of Lord Hoffman's failure to recuse himself in the appeal against Pinochet's extradition to Spain, as he was associated with the intervenor, Amnesty International, the House of Lords' decision to extradite was vacated and the appeal reheard. This was the first and last time the court took this decision.

The consequences for the judge, the court, Amnesty, the politicians, and the lawyers were profound. The House of Lords was converted into the Supreme Court some years later. Lord Hoffman resigned before the Supreme Court was formed.

Amnesty International had to account for its apparent move away from impartiality into the political scene.

Perhaps the greatest damage was to the use of law to hold to account former heads of state who commit crimes in their countries for which they believe they have immunity.

This morning it was Researching the Visual Culture of Law. How do we analyze visual data? What is the appropriate methodology?

There were a number of papers on judges that caught my attention, so let me focus on one.

Les Moran has been researching portraits of judges and how diversity is represented in them. (See also Images of Justice.) Taking two judges, Michael Kirby of Australia and Sir Terence Etherton of the UK, both of whom are gay, Moran shows how the ambiguity and ambivalence surrounding the personification of being gay is illustrated in the portraits and photographs of these two judges.

For example, Etherton has no official photograph on on the courts' website, but there is one of him on Birkbeck's website where he is a visiting professor. In the latter on the desk is a photograph (images within images) of him with his partner. It's discreet.

Michael Kirby, however, is a well-illustrated judge as his website demonstrates and doesn't hide the fact that he's gay. But he has inspired some interesting paintings. Take the one below:

(thanks to national portrait gallery, canberra)

Moran points out a number of interesting features: it's a group portrait not a single person; it's in landscape not portrait; most of the judges' faces are hidden except for Kirby (facing us) and two others in wigs.

When asked for permission to be included in the picture by the artist, Ralph Hiemans, the other High Court judges refused. The two others one sees are dead. Draw your own conclusions on that.

 
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64th session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance (Friday 26 Nov, 6-8pm, Room 5.16, 309 Regent Street, University of Westminster)

Dear all,

As we circle in on truth, we tend to spiral out in fantasy.

All mathematical problems like objects in real life are essentially about the domestication of wild animals, the Absolute (infinity) being the wildest.

For the 64th session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance, we will examine a hypothetical matheme and attempt to step back from the indefinite infinitude to the secure but still dangerous edge of a definite infinity.  The title to the investigation is:

The Entropy of Law and Finance - Towards a Principle of Uncertainty as a Definite Infinity.

Entropy may be defined as "the measure of the number of arrangements that conform to some specific recognizable criterion" [Susskind 2008 @131] or simply "the hidden information".  We will see whether we can translate this matheme into law and finance. The argument runs: (1) the pricing function in finance is analogous to the legal judgment in law, with a phenomenological certainty at the time of pricing and judgment equivalent to an entropy of 0; (2) we hypothesize the principle of uncertainty for law and finance is in the form of:

(ΔX)(ΔY)≅C

Where:
Δ is “delta” or change
X is price
Y is the judgment, and
C is a constant.

So, ΔX is a form of “price risk” and ΔY is a form of “legal risk”. Because C is a constant, the higher the value of ΔX, the lower the value of ΔY and vice versa.


This form of the Principle of Uncertainty in Law and Finance may help us glean a first approximation of the concept of “risk event” e.g. “Eurozone Risk”, “Contagion Risk” and “Systemic Risk” and the “truth procedures” that instantiate chimeras of regulations in our politically and economically hijacked media narratives.  [For illustrations of “event” and “truth procedures”, see passim Badiou’s (2005) Being and Event, and for a view of infinitudes, his “Meditation Twenty-Six: The Concept of Quantity and the Impasse of Ontology” id @ 265-280.]  

"Why do we need a physics of law and finance? Because regulators and traders appear to unconsciously make Black Holes. The EURO is having a near-death experience." http://link.ft.com/r/J0VG55/ZBEK8W/2OBT4/QFM56W/KEB3KW/28h?a1=2010&a2=11&a3= 25 

Afterwards, at around 8pm we will continue our exploration on the restaurants in the area.

Best regards,

Rezi & Joe


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Thursday, 25 November 2010

My Alter Ego

(thanks to unc.edu)

We try to avoid silo thinking in the law school and occasionally stray into other activities. My colleagues--such as Guy Osborn--who study culture have a sympathetic understanding of this. So I thought I would tell a little about me.

Few know about the other life I lead. After all in Confucian terms--and Bruce Lee was a bit Confucian, wasn't he?--a wise man should be modest. I do read the I Ching. (And if you think this has nothing to do with law, then let me point you to Jack Balkin's [law, Yale] version.

I'm not claiming to be Bruce's reincarnation or anything like that. But I was in one movie with him. Unfortunately, it wasn't one of the originals, it was made in 1980 after the great man's death.

Fist of Fear, Touch of Death (or The Dragon and the Cobra) is about finding Bruce Lee's successor. It contains lots of early footage of Bruce plus other stuff.

If you go down the cast list at IMDb, you'll notice a character:

Annett Bronson   ...   ... The Jogger

John Flood   ...   ...   ...   Cyclone

Ron Harvey   ...   ...   .. Jasper Milktoast


You see, I'm not making it up. I'm neither at the bottom, nor is the company I'm keeping offensive.

The film, despite what you may think, received rave reviews, although my central role seems to have been inadvertently overlooked. Here's what Watch Kung Fu had to say
This “Brucesploitation” classic was billed as starring the “3 Greatest Masters! Bruce Lee, Fred Williamson, Ron Van Clief”. This is Brucesploitation at its finest (cheesiest) moment and unabashedly pure exploitation schlock. Oh, and yes, it is hysterically, unintentionally funny. Despite what many purists would consider a “disgrace” to the name of Bruce Lee, this film serves as more of a campy action packed tribute, with footage of Bruce artfully spliced into the mix.
They fill some blanks so the reader is not left in the dark
Clips from an old Chinese soap opera are re-dubbed to make Bruce’s “biography,” which then introduce a flashback-IN-a-flashback (got that?) about Bruce’s great-grandfather, who was apparently a samurai. The footage for this segment is taken from the “Invincible Super Chan” (a cult classic in its own right – wire tricks, a midget, and some guy with an abacus – yes, a true classic). Who knows what the writer was smoking when he wrote this, but if I had to guess, I would venture some of that golden triangle sticky icky icky (Thai Stick maybe?). No matter, the guy’s a B Movie genius.
You might pick up the implicit reference to Kurosowa's Rashimon, with the flashbacks within flashbacks and samurai in China.

Not all of us are equally gifted, but talent will out...somewhere. Needless to say I'm open to offers although Hollywood can be a drag at times.....
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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Changing Face of Legal Process Outsourcing

(thanks to xsquare2)

The biggest media company in the world, Thomson Reuters, has bought the legal process outsourcer, Pangea3.

Jordan Furlong analyses the deal very carefully and demonstrates that this deal has the capability of changing the nature of the legal services market. (H/T to Peter Lederer) Is this to be the law firm of the future?

What astonished me is the list of firms contained within the Thomson Reuters stable. Jordan lays them out as follows:
  • WestLaw: Legal research, legislative and case law resources
  • West KM: Knowledge management services for lawyers
  • ProLaw: Law practice management software
  • Serengeti: Legal task management and workflow systems
  • Elite: Financial and practice management systems
  • FindLaw: Website development and online marketing
  • Hubbard One: Business development technology and solutions
  • Hildebrandt Baker Robbins: Law firm management and technology consulting
  • GRC Division: Governance, risk and compliance services
  • IP Services: Patent research and analysis, trademark research and protection
  • TrustLaw: Global hub for pro bono legal work
  • BAR-BRI: Bar training course
  • Pangea3: Legal process outsourcing services
No law firm can match the range of services on offer here, especially if they are combined in synergistic ways. And it comes close to my idea of Google becoming a law firm...sorry supplier of legal services. Who is going to match it?

One interesting aspect is that this could be the end of legal process outsourcing. Does that sound a little bizarre? Yes but what I mean is that LPOs have shown the way. Now they will become become components in the giant consulting firms--part of the service delivery chain, rather than being the service deliverer. Pure LPOs have served their purpose. A short but sweet life. It's their processes that are valuable not necessarily the companies themselves.

This then puts the new mega-LPOs on a different level and on a global level firms like Thomson Reuters are going to be hard to beat on price and quality. Watch out law firms....

PS. Disclaimer: I recently gave a talk for Hildebrandt Baker Robbins in London. Number 8 in the list.


PPS. The ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 has now issued a discussion document on outsourcing.
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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

More on the Proposed Legal Education Review


Look what happens when you google legal education--Tony Soprano pops up! What are we coming to?

Following on from my previous post, there have been some interesting contributions around the blogosphere worth reading.

Richard Moorhead at Lawyer Watch warns us that there is very little evidence around and we are going to need proper research for this review to work. Amen to that.

Stephen Mayson in his paper--with which I agree in part--argues for removing the training contract. Why not? It's really a form of indentured servitude that lets the legal profession get recruits on the cheap and erects a barrier to entry.

And Charon QC has more links on this. It's going to run and run. And I have a feeling that it's not going to turn out the way the legal profession thinks it will. At some point the Law Society and the Bar Council will have to wake up to the fact they are not the only players in the game now--bit of a rude shock though.
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Sunday, 21 November 2010

Legal Regulators To Investigate Legal Education and Training--So What?


(thanks to starpulse.com)
Legal Futures reports that the three main legal regulators--Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board, ILEX Professional Standards--are to "review" legal education and training. The aim is to calibrate legal education against the objectives in the Legal Services Act.

All in all, a laudable initiative.

I just wish that was all there was to it. I recently went to a symposium on the teaching of legal ethics in the UK where a disturbing subtext ran throughout. It is that law schools are producing too many law graduates for the legal services market. Both the Law Society and the Bar Council have been assiduously promoting this view.

Let me state my position: it's pernicious. The reasoning isn't difficult. In a variety of ways the legal profession has desperately clung to the idea of enforced closure as a way of maintaining its privileges. These having come under attack, rightly so, through the LSA and the enlightened oversight of the Legal Services Board, are no longer sustainable.

So, who else can be assigned the blame for the woes of the profession? The law schools are next on the list.

Law schools are on the whole part of the university system and have a range of values and ideals to pursue. But they aren't the servants of the legal profession. That is only one of their stakeholders.

In fact if the legal profession and its bodies engaged more fully with the academy we could have a real dialogue instead of one based on "evidence-lite soundbites" by profession leaders. The UK legal profession falls behind the US in this regard.

The academy doesn't produce too many graduates: the market isn't sufficiently liberalized to take them. Despite that, I think the regulators' review has the potential to engage all those concerned in legal education and the profession in a serious, thoroughgoing, rational investigation and debate.

At least I hope so.
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Thursday, 18 November 2010

63rd Session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance (Friday 19 Nov, 6-8pm, Room 5.16, 309 Regent Street, University of Westminster)

Dear All,

Following from Joe's association of SWOT analysis with Duns Scotus, Fiona offered to engage us in a further exploration of this instrument for thinking by asking this question: Is the SWOT Analysis an emblem for our times or is it really perhaps trying to be an engram? (engram comes from field of neuro psychology/behaviourism - a physical brain change supposed to take place as a result of experience and to represent memories - Karl Lashley)

This prompts questions such as what is the relationship between experience and knowledge, nous and pathos, the one and the many? We can then bring into the frame some of Agamben's thoughts on the scholastic philosophers and particularly Duns Scotus. We shall start with an exploration of the emblem in Western culture from the 1977 work, Stanzas, and consider allegory in relation to evil, followed up by the more metaphysical account in The Coming Community of Singularity - Principium Individuationis - looking at two lovely terms: quodlibet (translated as 'whatever' which is good given we live in a 'whatever' culture) and Fiona’s favourite - 'haecceity' meaning 'thisness'.

Agamben writes, 'Whatever is the matheme of singularity, without which it is impossible to conceive either being or the individuation of singularity...Whatever is constituted not by the indifference of common nature with respect to singularities, but by the indifference of the common and the proper, of the genus and the species, of the essential and the accidental.' (18.9)

What’s matheme? According to Joe, mathemes are the type’s math signs and symbols which certain philosophes following Badiou are using in reacting or responding to the technical mathematical-scientific thinking occurring today. For example, in Badiou's "Logics of the World", Badiou takes his mathemes from set theory to some of the technical language of algebraic topology. This is rough going if one hasn't a familiarity with the basic hieroglyphs. But the point worth making is that the nuances and precision implied by mathematical tools looks much like the creations of modern poetry. Here sign and symbols form their own networks of meaningful worlds which we may or may not draw down into our own.

All of this obviously critical to an adequate engagement with the SWOT vehicle and not always taken into account. So, Emblem or Engram, any thoughts?

Further to an exploration of the ontological significance of SWOT incorporating the scholastic notions of haecceity (thisness) and quodlibet (whatever) we will consider the symbolic of the SWOT emblem as well as its diabolic (according to Giorgio Agamben). Friday night at Joe's for a date with the devil (really).

Afterwards we can head for one of the restaurants in the area, where we can combine good company with delicious food (Italian, Korean, Japanese, British etc whatever we feel like).

Best regards,

Rezi, Fiona, Joe

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Friday, 12 November 2010

62d Session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance

Dear all,

For the 62nd session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance (Friday 12 Nov, 6-8pm, Room 5.16, 309 Regent Street, University of Westminster), we will hold our own "G-20 Conference" and ask:

What does the current currency (?) crisis mean to mere mortals? 

If we read the business and finance press, we see Ben S. Bernarke, the chairman of the US Fed very unusually arguing publicly for quantitative easing (QE2) [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/03/AR2010110307372.html] while China, Brazil, Germany [http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/981ca8f4-e83e-11df-8995-00144feab49a.html#axzz14zm57rHG] and South Korea [http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/commerce/101110/qe2-global-economy] vehemently against QE2.

So far as of Nov 11th, 2010, a dozen countries have responded to Ben's QE2 with quantitative tightening [see, the Asian biz-chicks on Bloomberg television accessed at 12 midnight London time.]

All of this talk leads to a symmetric race to the bottom, evidenced in the 1930's as "trade wars" [http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/article-1322002/Mervyn-King-A-1930s-style-trade-war-ruinous.html] and in the current G-20 as a "currency war" [http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2010/11/20101111135923477349.html].

This current period is trader's paradise because there is risk symmetry between Quantitative Easing (QE) and Quantitative Tightening (QT). QE is what the US does, and QT is what the rest of the world does to protect itself from QE.

This is a period characteristic of DICTATORIAL FINANCE where sovereign states are trying to preserve their status by pledging to protect their currencies (read here economies and way of life) but are being beaten continuously by the disciplining force of the financial markets.

To understand how far and how deep the nature of dictatorial finance has reached into the regulatory realm, we will begin reading the Dodd-Frank Act, Title II, entitled the "Orderly Liquidation Authority" [sections 201 to 217] which empowers the Authority basically to segregate and strip out the good assets of a financially active company in the US and place them in a Corporation controlled by an agency of the US government. This will be done without any constitutional right to bankruptcy and only with the minimal right to judicial review based on an "arbitrary and capricious" standard.

The entirety of the Dodd-Frank Act can be found at http://www.sec.gov/about/laws/wallstreetreform-cpa.pdf.

For the afterwards dinner, we are currently indecisive about the restaurant choice but it will most likely be Korean in honour of the G-20.

Regards,
Rezi & Joe

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Friday, 5 November 2010

We Don't Need Legal Ethics in the UK!

(thanks to joelp.com)
Yesterday I went to a symposium on whether legal ethics should be part of the curriculum. It was organized by Tony King of Clifford Chance. To American readers this will seem a strange event as legal ethics is compulsory in US legal education.

I've lamented before about this gap. A year ago Kim Economides and Justine Rogers were asked by the Law Society to report what ethics training there should be. They concluded that it was an essential part but how it should be implemented was left open.

My colleague, Andy Boon, was asked to come up with ideas on how to take this next step. His draft report lays out some clear directions. He tackles the challenges of undergraduate legal education, issues of morality and law, and the profession's role in regulating the content of a "qualifying" law degree.

Support came from Chris Perrin, general counsel of Clifford Chance, and the City of London Law Society.

How or even whether anything will come of this is an open question. The Law Society, which is sponsoring this, isn't the most forward-thinking of professional organizations. For example, it does or sponsors very little research on the profession, unlike the Bar or the accountants. It's in danger of implementing ideas with little in the way  of evidence to back up what it proposes.

The Law Society supports a Joint Statement by the Bar Council and the Law Society on something they grandly call "The Foundations of Legal Knowledge". These foundations include:
i. Public Law, including Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and Human Rights; 
ii. Law of the European Union; 
iii. Criminal Law; 
iv. Obligations including Contract, Restitution and Tort; 
v. Property Law; and 
vi. Equity and the Law of Trusts. 
If you were to enquire what research underpins this selection, you would find there is none. Most of it was put together by lawyers sitting around a table and dreaming up a list. Is it the right list? I've no idea.

Now that they are considering ethics as another foundation, the question is what gets dropped or abbreviated. I've argued they should thoroughly research this, especially in the light of the Legal Services Act changes coming through, and start from a blank slate. So far this has been met with utter incomprehension.

The most dismal aspect of this is that the legal profession hasn't come to terms with the fact that the academy controls the entry to the profession. Instead of being antagonistic they need to work with us. Ultimately they will be the losers, and in fact they don't have to be.

The answer is simple. Talk. Fortunately, some in the legal profession understand this and are willing to engage. Maybe we can convince the others....
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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

61st Session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance

Dear All,

The 61st Session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance (Friday, 5 Nov, 6-8pm, room 5.17, 309 Regent Street) will be devoted to:

Overcoming Information Asymmetry in Law and Finance

with simple illustrations from entrepreneurial business plans to more complex examples from securities prospectuses.  

A very sophisticated use of information asymmetry theory can be found in http://www.federalreserve.gov/pubs/ifdp/2010/1010/ifdp1010.pdf (Nov. 2010) where Beltram & Thomas argue that information asymmetry alone is sufficient to explain the credit crisis and to provide a criterion for judging the potential success or failure of proposed regulatory solutions to the credit crisis. Joe recommends all Corporate Finance Law and International Banking Law students read the article since it provides a particularly good review of the recent scholarly literature and shows how information asymmetry may be used in arguendo to reach surprisingly general results.  The article was spotted by Edmond Curtin. Many thanks, Edmond.

As part of our philosophical investigation we shall ask, "What are the assumptions underlying information asymmetry?"  One possible answer comes from the concept of "mutuality of information" based on the symmetric correlation of probabilities between information-communication systems. [See, Seth Lloyd (1996) “Causal Asymmetry from Statistics” in Physical Origins of Time Asymmetry edited by J.J. Halliwell, J. Perez-Mercader, and W.H. Zurek, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.] We will try to elucidate mutuality of information in relation to social phenomena and legal systems.  For example, the goal of Plato’s Laws was to attain “social amity" which could not be had unless there was a mutuality of information at every level of society.  [See, Plato's Laws, Book I.]

In class readings of Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric will continue on the forensic, epidetic and deliberate forms of enthymemes (available a http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/rhetoric.html).

Afterwards if we feel for pan-Asian food and good company please join us for a nice dinner at Wagamama at 101a Wigmore StreetPlease RSPV so that we can arrange for reservations.

Regards,
Rezi & Joe







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Monday, 1 November 2010

Corporate Law....

Look, this is a really important distinction...

(Thanks to New Yorker)
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Thursday, 28 October 2010

60th Session of Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance--Examining Nuclear Financial Structures -- Covered Bonds and Business Plans

Dear All,

We have arrived at another anniversary of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance. This 60th session will bring us to examine the new risk symmetries of the post-credit crisis world.  First up will be a reading of Marco D'ercole's LLM Corporate Finance Law Dissertation on "Covered Bonds in Europe." This paper won the Watheqaa Prize for the best dissertation in 2010.  It is a remarkable piece of sophisticated legal analysis of an important segment of the asset-backed markets. Bravo Marco!  

We will also begin to investigate and philosophize on a rather prevalent but critical document in the legal and financial system, which for some reason "social scientists" of the grande ecole type have completely ignored--i.e. the innocent seed of "capitalism" called the business plan.  Nobody theorizes about the philosophical foundations of "business plans" because, I suspect, social scientists are no good at writing them and because a serious business plan is not merely an ETHYMEME in the Aristotelian sense of a persuasive argument as a short-form syllogism but it is also a positive link to the great market cycles and the individuated whims of discretionary spend-investment of a ruthless global tribe sharing common valuation models and measurement.  In other words, the creation of business plans allows one to enter the vestibule of "capitalism" which is a highly accelerated and dangerous field of material creativity.  Another way to view business plans is that they are the artefacts of market nuclei--if they are successful, they create both the leisurely wealth ("otium cum dignitatis") and the pollutive systemic limits of "our world."  As Van Nordstrom said, "the essential engine of global pollution is man's inherent creativity in the Noos-sphere." The catalyst in the Noos-sphere is the business plan.

An hour on covered bonds and an hour on business plan to sharpen the mind.

At about 8’o clock we will head towards the Italian restaurant called Zizzi, at Wigmore Street where we have made a preliminary reservation for a big table. Pls RSPV if you would like to join us at this restaurant so that we make the necessary arrangements to accommodate everyone.

Regards, 

Rezi and Joe  

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Difference Between Men and Women

(thanks to susonna)
Following our workshop on diversity recently, I've been introduced to interesting research on women and medicine which has tremendous utility for law.

Paul Coombes and Helena Cronin were members of the oversight steering group for the Royal College of Physicians on its project on the future of women in medicine. The project analyzed data from NHS workforce statistics as well as various forms of entry statistics. The full report is available here.

In a short summary article Paul Coombes drew out some the significant findings. Rather like law, the numbers of women entering now form the majority of entrants and by 2017 women will constitute the majority of the medical profession. Yet there are dramatic differences in the selection of specialties by men and women which can be explained by work characteristics and patterns.

Coombes notes
Two areas of systematic difference stand out from the latest research:
1. Women doctors’ comparative preference, on average, for working in specialties that offer a relatively greater amount of patient interaction and/or more ‘plan-able’ working hours.
2. The far greater preference of women doctors, compared with men, for part-time or other forms of flexible working.
For example, as the internal characteristics of the specialties change so does their attractiveness to women. Hence, as anaesthetics has become more shift-based and less open-ended with more predictable working patterns, there has been a rise in women trainees.


The differences are also found across other health systems and is not merely a function of the NHS funding model.

It is now possible to predict how women's working practices are formed and will change. It will be interesting to see how analogous predictions play out in the legal profession.
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Thursday, 21 October 2010

Bankruptcy Pays!

(Thanks to Business Insider)

The American Lawyer reported today that billings for professional services in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy broke the $1 billion mark. You can see the filings here. And to think that bankruptcy practice was once considered a legal backwater by most mainstream law firms.


I've been following this because some years ago I interviewed Harvey Miller (the lead lawyer on Lehman) for a research project and he always impressed me. Rather like some other lawyers of his generation I know, his career shows no sign of stopping. And he is ready to take on new challenges at any stage. I also secretly enjoy the war stories told about Harvey and I know I wouldn't like to be on his wrong side.

I am currently reading Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System---and Themselves. He cleverly details how the interlocking systems of banking and regulation could not but intensify the problems inherent in the financial world. In many ways Lehman was a symptom not a cause but the ramifications are still being felt.


We know this  in the UK as we've just had our government's Comprehensive Spending Review that will cut government spending by anywhere between 25% to 40%. Mind you the banking sector seems to be doing well now.
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Wednesday, 20 October 2010

59th session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance

Dear All,

 

You are welcomed to join us for the 59th session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance, this Friday, 22 October 2010, from 6.00 to 8.00pm, in room 5.16, 309 Regent Street (University of Westminster).

 

We will continue with a close reading of Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric (available at http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/rhetoric.html). Last week, we asked how could Aristotle believe that forensic arguments are such that the "true and approximately true are apprehended by the same faculty"? Here we will link our investigation to the indeterminability of the law (Dr. Laura Niada's favourite transform) which in turn shall be aligned to Knopf's convergent, definitely divergent and indefinitely divergent infinities.  Our goal is to understand the use of the potential infinitudes (the truth) behind Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric.  More shall be said about Aristotle's long lost invention, the "enthymeme" and the schema of unconsciously powerful arguments.

These types of rhetoric arguments find their way in the current discourse, (e.g. yesterday’s New York Times opinion by Judith Lichtenberg “
Is Pure Altruism Possible?” accessible at http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/is-pure-altruism-possible/?ref=opinion).



At about 8 o’clock, depending on whether we feel for local, mediterranean, oriental or other exotic food we will explore the area for a nice place to enjoy each other’s company.

 

Regards,
Rezi and Joe




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So You Want to Go to Law School



(h/t to Legal Blog Watch)

It's American but it applies elsewhere....

I especially like the statement by the lawyer to the woman (at 3.38), 
"I do not like my Blackberry. I would like to torture it until it begs me to kill it. Do you know I am required to check my Blackberry every 6 hours 24 hours a day...."

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Monday, 18 October 2010

Solicitors Regulation Authority Balks at Separate City Regulator

Top-hatted city gents in discussion outside the Westminster Bank in the City of London, 1931 
(FoxPhotos/Getty Images)

The Smedley Report last year recommended to the Solicitors Regulation Authority that it needed a specialist division to regulate large corporate law firms. The SRA gave every appearance of agreeing. Then the Hunt Review stepped in and endorsed the idea.

Unfortunately the SRA has balked at this and instead appointed an ex-Linklaters lawyer as Solicitors Regulation Authority's Chief Adviser on City law firms. The SRA news release describes the role
It is planned for Eastwell to act as a "bridgehead" between the SRA and City law firms, something that takes on added importance with the approach of multidisciplinary practices (MDPs) and alternative business structures (ABSs).
Quite why the SRA has wimped out this way is unclear. Maybe it couldn't stomach the idea that it wasn't fully competent to regulate large law firms. I doubt this half-way house will satisfy the City firms.

It does leave it open now for the large law firms to think about forming their own regulator. There is nothing to prevent them from doing so. Three years ago the City of London Solicitors Law Society hived itself off from the livery company. And the CLLS now engages in much regulatory activity. This could be the moment.

Time will tell.

The City Today

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Friday, 15 October 2010

Will There Be Diversity in the Legal Profession?



The Westminster-Legal Services Board workshop on diversity was a great success. Around 100 people attended the presentation of the new research commissioned by the Legal Services Board. The workshop was organized by the Law School's Centre for the Legal Profession and Legal Services. You can download the full report and summary from here.

Researchers Liz Duff and Lisa Webley from Westminster, Daniel Muzio and Jennifer Tomlinson from Leeds, Hilary Sommerlad from Leicester, and Anna Zimdars from Manchester presented in-depth, qualitative research that illustrated people's feelings about discrimination and diversity in the legal profession. It wasn't too depressing as Chris Kenny, CEO of the LSB, showed that trends were improving--it's just that we need to know more why the profession hasn't fully come to terms with the problems.

The presentation was followed by a discussion panel composed of David Pittaway QC of the Bar Council, Stephen Ward of the Law Society, Crispin Passmore of the LSB, and Andy Boon of the Law School.

Neil Rose reported on the research and conference at Legal Futures. He noted:
Launching the London conference, LSB chief executive Chris Kenny said diversity was a key LSB objective. “We believe passionately that unless you’ve got a diverse profession, a profession that looks like the society which it serves, actually you probably won’t have a fully effective profession either.”
Crispin Passmore, strategy director for the LSB, also wrote in the Guardian:
The LSB is working to increase transparency about the makeup of the legal workforce. We're considering requiring law firms and chambers to publish and report the findings of regular surveys of their workforces in order to shine a light on the diversity of the profession. Some law businesses will already reflect their local community. Others will rightly take credit for improving diversity.
 It's clear more work needs to be done in this area.
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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

58th Session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance

Dear All,

We would like to invite you for another engaging session of the Philosophical Foundations of Law and Finance, this Friday, 15 October 2010, from 6.00 to 8.00pm, in room 5.16, 309 Regent Street (University of Westminster).

 

We will read Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric (available at http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/rhetoric.html) and consider the art of persuasion from a hypno-unconscious communication system perspective. Consider why is it that certain individuals are able to control situations with their voice, their posture and gestures.  Aristotle's genius was to establish whole fields of knowledge.  Rhetoric is a technical art, skill, useful and dangerous in the wrong hands.  In this work, Aristotle publishes a scientific account of rhetoric with little warning of its potential for abuse.



 The Art of Rhetoric was a required element in the classical tradition for over 2,300 years. It fell out of the compulsory curriculum in England in the early 20th century.  That was a mistake.  If you read Aristotle, you will get smarter and maybe even wiser.

Thereafter, at 8 o’clock we will head towards Vapiano (19-21 Great Portland Street, W1W 8QB) where we can test our skills of rhetoric into finding a good table and have a nice Friday evening.

Regards,
Rezi and Joe 

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Monday, 11 October 2010

Diversity Workshop at Westminster on October 13

(Thanks to New Yorker)

I am sure we won't have this problem on Wednesday at the Diversity Workshop. Find the details here. You are all welcome.
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Friday, 8 October 2010

Diversity Workshop at Westminster 13 October--You Are Invited


A while back I wrote about my colleagues' research project on diversity in the legal profession for the Legal Services Board (LSB). At last that research is completed. A multi-faceted team from the Universities of Westminster, Leeds, and Leicester have submitted their report to the LSB.

We, at Westminster, are holding a seminar/workshop for the launch of the report. Here's a brief clip of what to expect:
The seminar is being held to launch a new research report commissioned by the Legal Services Board on diversity in the legal profession. There have been dramatic changes in the legal profession in the last 20 years. In 2008-09 women made up 46% of practising solicitors and 60% of entrants to the profession. For the Bar the figures were 34% (women barristers) and 50% (women entrants). In the case of black and minority ethnic lawyers there has been a 244% increase in their numbers in the ten years between 1996 and 2006. Despite these increases the legal profession is still dominated by white males. There is a greater division with white lawyers being over-represented in City law firms and at the Bar, while BME lawyers are found in greater numbers in smaller High Street law firms.

The research examines the causes for these differences, their persistence and what strategies are available to change cultures and expectations. Despite the implementation of procedures meant to neutralize discrimination, they are easily bypassed. Interviewers raise inappropriate questions about ethnicity, gender, and background. For those in the profession work was allocated unfairly and to question this was deprecated.

The biggest obstacle was the culture of informality that made it difficult for people to raise problems or question established ways of working. Moreover, racial stereotyping was pervasive.

Even though many law firms are trying hard to counter these inequities, the majority still abide by them.
(thanks to idsgn.org)

On October 13 the University of Westminster and the Legal Services Board are hosting a workshop/seminar to launch the report and discuss it.

The research team--Liz Duff (Westminster), Daniel Muzio (Leeds), Hilary Sommerlad (Leicester), Jenny Tomlinson (Leeds), Lisa Webley (Westminster), along with Anna Zimdars (Manchester)--will present their findings.

This will be followed by a panel discussion and questions with David Pittaway QC (Bar Council), Pat Corcoran and Stephen Ward (Law Society), Crispin Passmore (Legal Services Board) and Andy Boon (Westminster). I will be moderating.

It should be a lively and intriguing time. You are all invited.

DATE: October 13
TIME: 1500--1800
PLACE: Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, 309 Regent St, London W1B 2UW (Streetmap link)

(thanks to chrisjfry)

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