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Book reviews

15 February 10

Reviews of Media Law and Human Rights (Nicol, Millar & Sharland); and vols 1 and 2 of the collected articles of Paul Gilbert

by Ros McInnes, Tom Johnston

Media Law and Human Rights: 2nd edition

Andrew Nicol, Gavin Millar and Andrew Sharland

PUBLISHER: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS

ISBN: 9780199217502

PRICE: £54.95

This is an excellent and user-friendly guide to the Strasbourg jurisprudence as it affects the media. Indeed, it goes beyond that, in providing, in its first chapter, a pithy international philosophical orientation to freedom of expression and privacy.

The book is very well-organised, along thematic lines, rather than as a linear progression through the Convention, an approach which works because the authors are steeped more broadly in the Convention jurisprudence than most of us can afford to be. As might be expected from these authors, there is a real weight of media scholarship in it.

It also contains useful practical guidance on the process of Strasbourg litigation, with detailed sections on standing, admissibility and “just satisfaction” which will be very useful to non-media lawyers as well. Similarly, it includes a full treatment of the role of the UK courts in terms of the Human Rights Act 1998. It is thus a book with value beyond its immediate audience. It is as up-to-date as any human rights textbook can be, given the runaway train of new jurisprudence from Europe.

The book has both the advantages and limitations of brevity. It is easy to find one’s way around it, and to carry it around; but many complex and important decisions for the media are either briefly mentioned or referenced only in footnotes. Given how fact-sensitive European jurisprudence tends to be – balancing one right against another and allowing for a greater or lesser margin of appreciation – and the relatively frequent dissents, summaries can be inadvertently misleading. However it is unlikely that the authors could have avoided this without creating an ultimately less usable book. A reader who is prepared to use it to some extent as a jumping-off point will probably be more gratified by how much is there than regretful about what is missing.

All in all this book is good value. It has astute, practical guidance, well-selected, up-to-date case law citation and an accessible style.

Rosalind M M McInnes, Legal Department, BBC Scotland

The Collected Articles of Paul Gilbert

Vol 1: Wise Counsel

PUBLISHER: LBC publications

ISBN: 9781898030546

PRICE: £9.95

Vol 2: One Prick to Burst a Bubble

PUBLISHER: LBC publications

ISBN: 9780955700842

PRICE: £9.95

I am ashamed to say that until I received his books to review, I had never heard of Paul Gilbert. He is founder and chief executive of LBC Wise Counsel, a specialist management consultancy for lawyers.

Wise Counsel is the first volume of his collected articles, written between 2000 and 2007. The collection highlights Mr Gilbert’s farsightedness. In 2009 it did not take Nostradamus to predict that the times they were a-changin’; however, an uncannily clear view of the future is evident throughout these 36 thought-provoking articles. There is a great deal of very good stuff indeed for in-house lawyers. As this is a path I have not trodden, I simply commend it to those involved. Suffice it to say that all the advice rings simple, clear and true. These are virtues not to be found in all management books.

For those of us in private practice, there is both sage advice, and a view of the apocalypse. What do clients really want? How much longer will they tolerate practices designed only for our benefit – the hourly rate without guarantee of success, the blank cheque approach to fee charging? What will life be like post-Clementi – read “The Legal Profession in the Year 2017” (written before the depression) and ponder. For any lawyer prepared to put his or her head above the parapet, this is essential reading. If you won’t put your head there, check your retirement plan.

One Prick to Burst a Bubble, his second volume (which I received ahead of the first), is a wonderful advertisement for his business, crammed as it is with sharp, shrewd observations about the state of our profession today, and the challenges we all face.

If you believe that the clock will soon turn back to the halcyon days of three years ago, read this and think again. If your practice makes you think that the lawyer is the most important part of the business relationship, read this and reassess. Viewing things from both the perspective of the private practitioner and the in-house lawyer, this slim volume is guaranteed to provide food for thought for all. What makes a great lawyer? How do clients perceive value? Networking – give more, seek less. These and many other topics are covered. Some are reminiscent of Tom Peters in iconoclastic mode – the article entitled ”Whatever you do, please don’t exceed my expectations!” being one such.

Well written, easily digestible and always stimulating, these books cannot be recommended too highly.

Tom Johnston, Young & Partners LLP, Dunfermline

The Book Review Editor is David J Dickson. Books for review should be sent to c/o The Law Society of Scotland, 26 Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh EH3 7YR

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