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Trafigura releases report

The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers

Carter-Ruck in new move to stop debate in parliament | UK news | The Guardian.

I understand all the concern about injunctions preventing the reporting of Parliament, but why are the lawyers at Carter-Ruck the villains (and partner Adam Tudor in particular?) There have been flash mobs outside their offices and they have been vilified across the British blogosphere.

Why is the headline to the linked article not "Trafigura in new move to stop debate in Parliament?" Lawyers do nothing without instructions. Those instructions come from their clients and whatever actions they take are on their clients' behalf and in their name. If Mr Tudor has been asked to block publication, then that is what he must try to do - whether he personally approves or not. You may say he is liable to criticism for failing to advise his clients that their actions would be counter-productive (as they certainly have been - who had heard of Trafigura before?). However, you don't even know whether the actions were on his advice or against it. He can't tell you without his client's permission, which is hardly likely to be forthcoming.

Perhaps Adam Tudor is the ass or the villain you think he is. A first class degree from Oxford doesn't speak to his morality or his common-sense. You should at least accept that he is the agent of his clients in these matters. If you want to be angry, be angry with them. Except maybe you shouldn't. At least not just yet.

If there is anything to make Adam Tudor smile in the media today, perhaps it's this quote from Prodicus, in the course of roundly criticising him and his partners and calling them asses;

These are the world's smartest legal brains with vast collective experience.

If the partners of Carter-Ruck have a collective sense of humour, they will use that quote on their website, to the irritation of the world's smartest legal brains. After all, they didn't go into defamation work to be loved. As I am sure they are reminding themselves today.

An independent legal profession, free to serve the interests of (popular or unpopular) clients, is a pre-requisite of a free society. You may not like how much some lawyers earn for doing this important work, but if you want the big bucks what's stopping you? There's almost always a shortage of legal talent. Get the qualification, put in 20 years of hard work, and maybe you can nose through the flash mobs in your Porsche too.

Because that's really why the lawyers are the villains here, isn't it? The English Vice: Envy. I can understand "rich bastard" rhetoric from the envious left, but the rest of the blogosphere should really know better.

[I am a partner in a City law firm. I am not, and have never been, a partner or employee of Carter-Ruck]


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On the one occasion that I have used the services of a barrister the onus was very much on me to prove the validity of my case and my ability as a witness before he would take my case to court.

Perhaps my experience was atypical.


If they were not to "defend the indefensible," they would be judging what **is** defensible. That, for the Nth time, is the job of the judges. However foul you may think a client (and who, frankly, are you to judge?) s/he is entitled to have the case presented in its best light so the judge can make the right decision. That's all advocacy is. Simple, but there is no justice without it, because clients have widely differing abilities to understand their legal situation and present their cases.

If you don't like the law, criticise the legislators. If you don't like the clients' conduct, criticise the clients. Your criticism of the lawyers in this case is, as you say sarcastically, common ignorance. I would have expected better of you, based on past experience. I can only sadly beg to differ.


It would be churlish of me to make an issue of the fact that Harriet Harman is a lawyer, advocating the view of her long term client the Labour party, so I won't.

I have not said that anyone should not receive legal advice or representation, merely that the very best legal minds should be able to find something more productive to do with their time.

I would make the same point to a talented physician who wasted their time on breast augmentation rather than oncology. Money should not be the only consideration when deciding how to allocate your skills.

"The only thing about them that most people don't seem to like is how much money they make."

Eh? The only thing? Have you missed the bit about them defending the indefensible, mitigating the irreconcilable and excusing the unconscionable. Most people, in their common ignorance, spot that stuff.


Excellent. I have sent you a guest author invitation, which will allow you to post your draft directly whenever you are ready. I look forward to it.

David Davis

yes I would, any time you want but not this week as I have students and then I am at the LA conf in London at the weekend.

If you can wait a week or so, I will email you something for you to agree/edit/whatever, and put up. I understand the brief precisely!

Tom Paine

That's an important and interesting remark. Would you write a guest post on anti business content of the GCSE syllabus?

David Davis

I think I understand what Tom Paine is saying, and he is not wrong when he maintians that in a liberal ordered society of essentially Libertarianism, lawyers are not totally indispensable. It is quite irrelevant whether he is one himself, or not. Law, after all, needs to be clear and explained and operated. No use for it without that.

But perhaps it was a "too good to be true", and it might have been got away with if nobody had noticed in time, and perahps alspo Carter-Ruck merely just needed some blasted money really fast? After all, it's only some stuff being let go, and it's only, er, sort of, Africa, and so on. Not that I get my rocks off on "companies wanting to release some toxic waste into the environment" as I have day in day out to teach the bloody heresy to poor gullible children who must be made to believe that all companies are always evil all the time....for ther GCSEs.

How can we ever tell if it was not so?

Hungry Horace

phhhh.... come off it.


The article I linked to gave detailed examples, but in principle I would suggest where issues of national security are involved, or where the existence of the injunction would make it obvious (because of the circumstances or the identity of the parties) what it was about (or would give rise to speculation damaging to the applicant).


If lawyers chose their clients on that basis, they would become the judges; the unpopular innocent would undefended and the unpopular guilty would have no pleas in mitigation. It would be mob justice, Harriet Harman style, and I am disappointed to see you advocate it. For a profession which is trained and dedicated to persuasion, we seem to be doing a poor job. I don't meet any of the sleaze-bags you imagine among my colleagues. The only thing about them that most people don't seem to like is how much money they make. As I can discern no other cause (and you have produced nothing but mere populist nastiness to support your thesis) I shall hold to my theory of envy. It's the best diagnosis for the symptoms, but I am open to a differential.

Peter Whale

Tom, under what circumstances would you think that an injunction that says you are not allowed to say that you are injuncted against would be reasonable.


Please excuse the crude analogy.

Justice is not for sale, neither is the FA Cup but for some reason the same teams keep winning, probably because they spend more money on their teams. Though granted it's the referee who runs the game and reports who the winner is.

Were C-R obliged to accept the Trafigura brief? No.

This company are responsible for the dumping of tonnes of toxic waste in an african city, if C-R represent such a company and expect to come up smelling of roses they are dreaming.

The quaint disconnect that lawyers feel there is between themselves and their clients exists only in the minds of lawyers. To the public the lawyer has simply chosen to work for the company in the full knowledge of the accusations.

I am bemused by your idea that critics of C-R are motivated by envy, are critics of Trafigura also motivated by envy? When the former hitched their wagon to the latter they became fair game.

It is up to C-R to decide whether to represent such people given that to do so these days has a distinct downside, that being that everyone (who isn't a lawyer) will think they are scum.


With all due respect (as we lawyers say when we mean the opposite) that's rot. Whatever Mr Tudor knew or didn't know, his client was entitled to his best efforts. It's for judges to decide. Advocates are there to put their client's case to best effect (within ethical limits which preclude lying) so that judges can decide intelligently.

Justice is not being "sold" here. What tosh! The court fees are the same, regardless of the price of the lawyers and it's the judges who are there to dispense justice (as far as possible within the often unjust parameters set by Parliament). I have a problem with the defamation laws. As a libertarian, I would abolish them. While they exist, you have a problem with parliament, not with the lawyers.

I am not sure what you mean by expensive lawyers using "...a little responsibility..." in the exercise of their "powers". They have no powers, only abilities and experience. Those they must use "full on" at all times. It's not for them to compensate for the abilities and experience of their opponents, (though judges may sometimes attempt to do so).

I am afraid that envy has everything to do with the attacks on C-R, though their profits per partner (I can't confirm because they are too small a firm to feature in the rankings I have to hand) are probably not even that great by City standards. I am sure they make a comfortable living though, and I am sure they work harder for it than most of their critics do for theirs.


'Lawyers do nothing without instructions', nor do hitmen or soldiers.

The 'we were only following orders' defence is never a good one.

What is at issue here is what Carter-Ruck represent. The idea that justice is sold by the fleshy pound to the highest bidder.

Carter-Ruck are successful because they represent value for money. They will, I imagine, facilitate a better outcome for their clients than Messrs Bog, Standard and Cheap could. That is a great power and should be wielded with at least a little responsibility, if public contempt is a factor that yields a bit of moral compass, that's fine by me.

The huge fees and the shortage of talent in this field are a result of the mercenary nature of the work. If C-R did all their work pro bono it wouldn't make this particular action any more palatable. Envy has nothing to do with it.

It is possible that Trafigura are as innocent as an apricot, if so good luck to C-R they will have earned their money. If however Mr Tudor accepted this brief in the knowledge that this company is responsible for many deaths then the opprobrium is richly deserved.


As a libertarian I can only look forward to that day. We can get rid of all the second rate lawyers and the remainder can do good work enforcing property rights and defending those accused of the few remaining (and important crimes). The good ones will still be needed.


You seem to be misremembering Diderot's famous observation that "Mankind will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest". Nice try though.



"There will be no peace on earth until the last priest is hung with the bowels of the last lawyer" but I can't remember who said it

Old Holborn

More laws, more lawyers.

Less laws, less lawyers.


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