Law: Briefs

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IT IS the one word that can strike fear into the heart of the most litigation-hardened company executive. McLibel, the most fearsome neologism to ever enter the legal lexicon, was uttered again last week in the High Court in the case of Mansanto and Genetix Snowball, where Mansanto, the GM food producers, are seeking an injunction against five women who allegedly trespassed on their land. One of the defendants told the court that she and her colleagues had every intention of defending the case in much the same way as the McLibel Two had done, which ended in the longest case in English legal history. But perhaps just as worrying for the company is the fact the defendants are, unlike the McLibel Two, legally represented by another name that can cause directors' pulses to race - Leigh Day & Co, the personal injury supremos.

SENIOR PARTNERS in Northern Ireland law firms seem to have trouble sewing on their own buttons and brewing up a decent cup of tea. According to a survey carried out by the Equal Opportunities Commission of Northern Ireland, one out of three female lawyers has experienced sexual harassment. Although there were a number of cases of "wandering hands" and "body brushes" in the office, most complaints concerned old-fashioned chauvinism. Women complained of being forced to carry out "stereotypical tasks" including tea-making, babysitting, and "softening up" clients, as well as sewing on buttons. These findings compare poorly with the results of similar studies recently undertaken by the Policy Studies Institute on behalf of the Law Society of England and Wales, which showed that one in 10 women solicitors had experienced sexual harassment.

SOUTH PARK, the popular American cartoon series, has joined Linford Christie's lunchbox and Gazza as the latest example of contemporary western culture to escape the attention of the judiciary. Last week, Mrs Justice Arden came face to face with the cuddly toys alleged to represent Kyle, Stan, Kenny and Cartman, when they were carried into court as evidence in a passing-off action. While the judge had to admit ignorance, Adrian Speck, counsel for the claimants, said in court: "In my chambers, all the unmarried young men are very keen on it."

THE DOUR omnipresence of Derry Irvine has done nothing to dampen the spirits of those working in his department. In this month's edition of Hearsay, the strictly in-house journal of the Lord Chancellor's Department, there is a guide to what the now defunct legal Latin terms really mean. Ad hoc, according to the magazine, is "publicity for a pawnbroker" while Doli incapax is "the work-shy underclass that's undermining the fabric of our great British society". Other suggestions are: Ultra vires - you've got a heavy cold; Prima facie - what you look like before you put your make-up on; Forum conveniens - large public toilets.

CLIFFORD CHANCE, the UK's biggest law firm, is not content with its pre-eminent status in Europe. Rumours have been rumbling along for several months that its senior partners have been in negotiations with one of New York's finest, the attorneys of Rogers & Wells. If the rumoured deal goes ahead, this would be the largest ever transatlantic merger. The strategy behind the merger would enable Clifford Chance to take on the New York law firms in their own back yard, and give the combined firm some real global clout.