The journalist’s jinx, government reshuffles, QualitySolicitors and celebrating two centuries of legal practice

The ‘commentator’s curse’ is well known in sporting circles. Keen followers of footballer, for example, will have seen its effects first-hand. One minute a player is having the game of their life; next, they make a clumsy challenge, concede a penalty, are sent off or, heaven forbid, score an own goal. This only ever seems to occur shortly after a sports commentator begins to wax lyrical about what a great game the player is having: the commentator’s curse.

Yet this phenomenon is not limited to sport. It can also be found in other areas of the press. I like to refer to it as the ‘journalist’s jinx’ and I have felt its bite more than once in my career.

The latest occurred just this week when I finished penning a piece on a quintet of attorney generals, hosted by Dominic Grieve QC, who came together last week to discuss a host of subjects including the issue of juries in the digital age. Only once my article was whisked off to press, to hit the desks of our loyal readers on Tuesday, was it announced that the government reshuffle had claimed Grieve as one of its first victims.

Lawyers on Twitter reacted to the news with surprise, and tributes to the former attorney general have been tweeted thick and fast. SJ’s editor at large, Kevin Poulter, said: “Dominic Grieve is a surprise and disappointing exit.”

Sean Jones QC said: “Grieve was a former FRU rep who did the London Legal Walk raising money for the BPBU. Grayling was a management consultant.” Fellow silk Nigel Pascoe QC tweeted: “Dominic Grieve: a first-class lawyer and a good, honourable and courageous man. The Bar respects him – he attended and listened.” While the official account of the Criminal Bar Association tweeted: “We thank Dominic Grieve QC for his contribution to legal and political debate during his period in office and wish him well for the future.”

Then the shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan MP, chirped: “Very sorry to see Dominic Grieve leave the government. He is an excellent lawyer and was one of the few in the government who knew about rule of law… With the departure of Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve goes any last remnants of support for human rights in senior Tory ranks.”

Former justice secretary Ken Clarke and Oliver Heald, the solicitor general, also faced the axe in this week’s reshuffle. I can say with some confidence that I had nothing to do with their departures. However, judging by the disappointment expressed by some lawyers in the Twittersphere, perhaps I should have written more often about our still present lord chancellor.

Quality control

I can only hope that the fate of Grieve, Clarke and Heald doesn’t befall those I have spoken to this week. Yesterday, I met the chief executive of QualitySolicitors (QS), Eddie Ross. The national franchise leader (who stepped up in January) is keen to dispel the myths surrounding QS and admits that some of its big ideas may have been “poorly executed”.

The new QS, under Ross’ leadership, plans on empowering its members with training and investment in new technology that will ultimately provide its firms with a return on their investment.

Ross also told me that he is confident of adding a further 35 to 40 firms to the QS ranks by the end of the year and a new ritzy advertising campaign will be hitting our screens in the autumn. So stay tuned for that. You can read my full interview here.

Someone who once considered joining QualitySolicitors is Nicola Poole, managing director of Hedges Law in Oxfordshire. Instead of signing up to the franchise, she chose another path for her firm and despite difficult market conditions has helped Hedges reach 225 years of practice, a significant milestone for any firm.

With so many solicitors still struggling as a result of the financial crisis, and significant changes to the legal profession, the success of Hedges is surely something to be celebrated. It shows that innovative and progressive firms can compete with the new market players so long as the core of the firm’s practice concentrates on excellent customer service.


This blog was first published in the Solicitors Journal on 16 July 2014 and is reproduced with kind permission.