Law: Briefs

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The Independent Culture
HALF OF Britain's lawyers have been diagnosed as suffering from stress, according to a survey published last week. Research by SolCare and the legal recruitment company Bygott Biggs paints a picture of a profession on the verge of a nervous breakdown.The worst affected are lawyers aged 45 to 54, living in the South-east and doing private client work. Forty- eight per cent of lawyers questioned said they wanted to "crawl back under the bedclothes in the morning". Forty-five per cent had suffered from racing pulses and sweats. Two-thirds found that managers dismissed their complaints about overwork with replies such as "change your attitude", "I'm under stress too", and "get out of the profession".

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THE LAW Society has finally got the Lord Chancellor to do something it asked. Last week Lord Irvine announced a government committee to investigate the role of claims assessors, a breed of ambulance-chaser who provide legal advice but don't have any legal qualification. In one case, the Law Society said, an assessor helped a woman bring a claim to a tribunal. She won pounds 3,000, but the firm charged her pounds 3,350. A Law Society spokesman said: "There have been cases of concern for some time. The very worst rip off the most vulnerable... the best just cost too much money."

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OSCAR WILDE and Jonathan Aitken both initiated libel actions that backfired and ended with their standing trial at the Old Bailey. But an 1895 Times law report indicates that Wilde was not without public support. When his barrister, Edward Clarke, summed up, "If... the jury felt it their duty to say that the charge was not proved, I am sure that they would be glad that his brilliant promise... had been saved", there was loud applause in court. On Tuesday, Malcolm Rifkind's testimony to Aitken's political skills was met by a stunned silence from the public gallery.

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