With the Olympics just around the corner, the competition bug is spreading, muses Catherine Burtinshaw
Competition currently seems to be omnipresent. We’re in the midst of the Euro 2012 football while watching our capital prepare for the Olympics. The bug has even spread to my children’s ordinarily emphatically non-competitive school, as I was shocked to hear news last week of a belated Jubilee cake competition which would see prizes awarded to winners in each class. They are usually reciting mottos such as ‘everyone’s a winner!’ which has my husband grimacing before later ensuring that our girls understand that, factually speaking, only the person who comes first is actually the winner.
On a more touchy-feely note I am being inundated with requests to mediate cases at the moment, with four of my cases having proposed mediator names and availability dates circulating currently. However, mediation is in some of those cases being used rather like a big stick, with the request to consider alternative dispute resolution accompanied by an aggressive threat to issue proceedings should we decline. It seems that the competitive edge is never far below the surface.
I have also just settled a claim, which used to be a fairly tidy affair. You could agree a payment for the claim and costs, draw up a settlement agreement/court order as appropriate and then close the file, creating much-needed shelving space. This seems to no longer be the way of the world. We are seeing an increasing number of cases where settlement of the claim itself can be agreed fairly uncontroversially but the spiralling costs of claimants, which have success fees and astonishingly high after-the-event insurance premiums bolted on as almost standard, means that cases hang around for longer and are in danger of costing more if satellite litigation results from uncompromising stances on costs. Costs-inclusive settlements are of course favoured by our insurer clients, for reasons of both speed and certainty, but they may soon be in need of species protection as they are in danger of extinction.
Competitively-speaking, my colleagues and I enjoyed running in the Manchester 10k last month. None of us worried the event’s winners, who were Haile Gebrselassie in under 28 minutes, with Linet Masai of Kenya finishing in 31:35 for the ladies. However, the firm’s two teams did place 12th and 47th out of a total 74 in the Large Business Mixed Male/Female category. Seven of our 11 runners came in at under an hour, with our fastest man and woman running in 47 and 53 minutes respectively. I managed to just squeak in under an hour by 11 seconds, as I realised in the last 500 metres once the timing clock came into vague focus that I needed to find some spare energy from somewhere if I was to finish under my 60-minute goal. Together we raised more than £1,000 for the firm’s charity, Warchild, and everyone enjoyed the atmosphere on the day which was brilliantly supported as always.
Back in the office
Three of my team’s cases are going to trial next week. In one, the other side decided in their wisdom last week to make that most terrifying of applications: to vacate the trial date. Their reasons for so doing were set out in the application as being, pretty much, that they did not like the joint expert’s evidence and would like some additional time to shop around for more. On reading this, I was genuinely tempted to come into Manchester on my day off, even though this is not a case on which I work, just to see quite how cross on the Richter scale the judge would be. The answer was, predictably, very. The application was dismissed with harsh costs penalties and the trial will go ahead next week as planned.
My own trial case is one that I mentioned in this column earlier in the year (156/9, 6 March 2012) and I will let you know how the case itself goes next month. We are in addition requesting that the London court which adjourned the trial back in February (in order to transfer the case up north, after having twice refused our applications to do just that) reimburses our client’s wasted costs of four witnesses travelling down to London and counsel attending court for a trial that ultimately did not proceed. I am awaiting their response but not bothering to hold my breath as I could write the anticipated blanket denial of all responsibility for them myself. Or perhaps I’m becoming too cynical in my old age.
I’d like to finish by welcoming a friend and colleague to the UK from our Dubai office. I worked with her briefly at a previous firm before she emigrated, and we were reunited under Kennedys’ international umbrella when I arrived here last year. She emailed last week to inform me that her family are moving over here and she will be working in our Taunton office. She asked what I could offer in terms of UK plus points to sweeten the loss of her generously proportioned private office (what’s one of those, again?) and sea view. It took me all day to come up with just two glimmers of positivity. Alcohol is more freely available here, and you can engage in public displays of affection in the street, to a degree of course, without fear of being jailed. Clutching at straws perhaps, but an office with a sea view – how was I to compete?