2021i11, Monday: reluctance or refusal?

Vaccination – mandatory or not? Wise words from the Family Division. And the bell tolls for mainstream specialist legal journalism.

Thing I wrote: I was going to do a short thing about whether employers could require staff to get Covid vaccinations. But it turned out longer than I anticipated, so it’s a separate piece here. tl;dr: I don’t think so, not lawfully; except for care homes and healthcare, where the health and safety picture is very different. And if someone’s imbibed the conspiracy theories and is trying to stop other staff from getting vaccinated – well, that’s a whole ‘nother story, with more room for an employer to take a firmer line.

Short thought: Applause to the President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane. His latest message (see paras 11-16) makes crystal clear why court hours – normally from 10 to 4.30 – are no more “part time” than are teachers’ hours, and why it’s simply not right or sustainable to make early or late listings a matter of course. No reason why what he says shouldn’t apply elsewhere.

Someone is right on the internet: David Allen Green does a fantastic job of public comms about the law. Increasingly, he and his ilk are on their own, though, since – as David writes – specialist legal correspondents in the press are disappearing. I remember, back in my reporter days, sitting round a table in the Law Offices with Joshua Rozenberg (then the Telegraph’s legal correspondent), elegantly roasting the then-AG about the just-published Fraud Review. He was, and is, a marvel. But he’s no longer a staffer. And with the exception of the Times and FT, there aren’t any left.

Sure, as I mentioned last week when talking about RSS readers, the internet is full of superb legal writers, from ol’ SB to Joshua himself. But they’re mostly read by us specialists. At a time when the rule of law is under assault – and it is – people with a popular platform who can explain why spin about legal aid, or Tribunal fees, or sentencing, or judicial review, is plain wrong are more important than ever.

And there’s barely any of them left.

(For a somewhat more optimistic take, Joshua’s own view is worth reading. He notes Dom Casciani has now added Legal to his Home Affairs brief. Dom’s really good. But the jobs aren’t the same. And that’s an awfully big beat.)

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The Queen’s Bench gets it right on bundles.

OK, I would say that, because the QBD requirements are pretty similar to what I’d advocate. Nonetheless, this is the shortest, clearest exposition I’ve seen. I’d go with it.

The torrent of official and quasi-official advice emanating from the judiciary about how the legal system can run through these strange times has ebbed somewhat. Probably much to everyone’s relief. And law firms and chambers are putting out useful guides to remote working. Too numerous to link to, but much of it excellent.

The slackening means it’s possible to pay proper attention to something special. And I think the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court has produced something that warrants that description. It’s only three pages long, and the gold is on page three: the most succinct and sensible description of how an electronic bundle should be put together that I’ve yet seen.

Which isn’t to say everyone else’s advice isn’t great. It’s just that this is really, really short, and hits the nail squarely on the head.

It’s so short, in fact, that the best thing I can do is repeat it. While also encouraging you to read the rest. Admittedly it’s only directly critical for those working in the QBD, and the bundle requirements are specifically for the QB Masters. But as with much of the other division- or court-specific advice, much of it is transferable.

So what does it say about how a bundle should be prepared? These are direct quotes, with my comments in brackets and italics.

  1. The document must be a single PDF. (The emphasis is the QBD’s, not mine.)
  2. The document must be numbered in ascending order regardless of whether multiple documents have been combined together; the original page numbers of the document will be ignored and just the bundle page number will be referred to. (So it’s crucial to use your PDF app’s tools to make sure the bundle numbers stand out from individual document page numbers. I realise I haven’t got to page numbers yet – when I get over an immediate deadline crisis early next week, I promise that’s on the agenda. PDF Expert is really good at doing this.)
  3. Index pages and authorities must be numbered as part of the single PDF document. They are not to be skipped; they are part of the single PDF and must be numbered. (A lot of people like to number index pages separately, perhaps with Roman numerals. The QBD says no. So best to put placeholder index pages in, number the pages in the bundle, fill in the numbering on your index pages in Word or whatever you use, then drop them back in and renumber just those index pages. Again, PDF Expert is great at this.)
  4. The default display view size of all pages must always be 100%.
  5. Texts on all pages must be selectable to facilitate comments and highlights to be imposed on the texts. (So either Adobe or PDFpen, with their built-in OCR, or an extra app like ReadIris, is a must. Unless your solicitor does it for you. It’s such a wonderful feeling when you get a bundle which has already been OCRed that I’ve taken to thanking solicitors who do so personally, and publicly…)
  6. The bookmarks must be labelled indicating what document they are referring to (best to have the same name or title as the actual document) and also display the relevant page numbers. (We’ve covered bookmarking, or Outlining as PDF Expert calls it (keeping bookmarks for the equivalent of Post-its). It’s really important. But remember that some apps, PDF Expert among them, don’t always carry bookmarks across in documents you merge or add later. So do the bookmarking afterwards – or automatically, as with Adobe. I admit it excels there.)
  7. The resolution on the electronic bundle must be reduced to about 200 to 300 dpi to prevent delays whilst scrolling from one page to another. (Not all apps do it terribly well. PDF Expert does it tolerably – look for Reduce File Size on the File menu – but won’t tell you what dpi, instead talking about high, medium or low quality. Medium should cut file size by half or thereabouts and is still usually fine for readability.)
  8. The index page must be hyperlinked to the pages or documents they refer to. (This can be tricky. I’ll get to it, honest. But it’s a great idea – and once you know how to do it, you can start cross-linking bits of your bundle for your own purposes. I know of one silk at Outer Temple who routinely does this and it works marvellously for him.)

All in all, a masterly (sorry) run-down of the key elements of a soft bundle that works for everyone concerned. Just, for heaven’s sake, remember to remove your own annotations (in PDF Expert, this is on the Edit menu) before sending it out…