Humour · Oxbridge · Routes to the Bar

Integrity – The Man Speaks

Mr Myerson,

The following comments refer to the blog ‘Integrity and a Suitable Place for It’ posted on your website on March 31st, 2009.

The blog is both highly deceptive and defamatory and we demand its immediate removal, the deletion of associated comments and that you print a retraction making very clear the deceptive nature of the comments printed there hitherto.

More or less every person in England, except apparently Vader 101 and yourself, is aware that the street numbers given to premises in the UK refer usually to entire buildings and where they have them to their several floors – and not merely to the ground floor. Thus even the most casual observer of 91 Charlotte Street, by merely tilting up his eyes by a few degrees would notice in fact that The Oxbridge Research Group (parent to OTC) is based on the four floors of 91 Charlotte Street that lie above Italia Uno – as well as having additional premises at 97 Charlotte Street. The usual way that people observe our occupation is by looking at the large silver plaque (clearly visible in your photo) which has the name of the company on it – or by looking at the two metre tall blue flag hanging from the side of the building, also above Italia Uno.

It appears that your journalistic ‘integrity’ – to use your fondest word – does not extend so far as to check such basic facts as would be undertaken by a prep school student writing for his school magazine. Sadly, this sloppiness and superficiality is all too clear in your writings on our enterprise: had these been even a little more substantial and objective, we would have happily replied to your comments – it is clear though that no such ‘fair hearing’ was impossible: an observation compounded by this most recent blog.

No doubt, as a man of integrity, you will keep the pledge you made in your initial blog ( ”. . . Meanwhile, if Mr Foster would like to get in touch I promise to publish – unedited (within the bounds of legality and taste) – anything he sends me.”) and print the contents of this email.  Let us see if you have such courage or whether you manufacture a pretext for its omission.

We will also be posting details of this deception to Charon QC and on other such legal blogs so that interested readers might see another side to the journalistic integrity so are so fond of espousing but, hypocritically, so loathe to apply to your own activity.

The aforementioned actions to remove this content should be completed no later than 12.00 Noon this Monday.

Yours Sincerely,

John Foster

Head of Sales

The Oxbridge Research Group

I don’t think that Mr Foster really wants me to delete the whole blog, but have taken his comment to refer to the post.

His letter – fully set out above as promised – essentially repeats the comments in the post. It seems to me therefore that, as he wants the letter published, there is no point in deleting the original post, and the answer to that request is ‘no’. Moreover, I don’t think I actually implied that OTC didn’t operate from this address.

The rest of his comment about integrity you may judge for yourselves. My own view – forgive me for repeating it – is that if you write things for other people, do not cooperate with anti-plagiarism software, do not police whether people pass off your work as their own and ask members of the Bar to charge applicants for things they should do for free then you are helping people cheat.

Mr Foster could, of course, have addressed any or all of these issues. As I say, I have published what he has said in full. I also don’t assume (thanks Andy) he meant to say that no such fair hearing was impossible. That’s the trouble with double negatives. I think he meant to say no fair hearing was possible and just didn’t check his work (only a 3rd then). But what he has actually written is correct. Although his excuse is that he wouldn’t get a fair hearing I am afraid I don’t believe him. In my opinion he has not answered because he has nothing he can say.

I certainly agree I invited people to giggle. There is nothing defamatory in that. If there is humour in the situation then we should all enjoy it. If Mr Foster doesn’t find it funny – he doesn’t have to laugh.

I ought to add that I have posted his letter within 20 minutes of finding it in my in-box, having been in con all day.

PS. In the penultimate paragraph it’s “loath”, not “loathe”. “Loath” means reluctant. “Loathe” describes my feelings towards OTC. However, don’t worry – Mr Foster is only ‘Head of Sales’: he won’t be writing your essay for you.


32 thoughts on “Integrity – The Man Speaks

  1. Well Simon, I’m glad at least that Mr. Foster believes that “no such ‘fair hearing’ was impossible”, showing that [a] even he acknowledges the just and noble sentiments inherent in your work regardless of extreme provocation to the contrary, and [b] anyone hoping to secure his written advocacy services vis a vis securing a pupillage needs their head examined 🙂 Speaking as a student, I’m more than capable of failing on my own merits without OTC’s bloopers to help me along.

  2. What happens come 12.01 pm on Monday ?

    OTC, having set out their stall with such gusto, will presumably have no realistic alternative but to commence an action for the defamation complained of.

    Getting some help beforehand with the writing would have been sensible, as would some expert legal opinion. With it being apparent that the former was not seen as necessary, one presumes the company also eschewed the latter.


  3. I think he had it all wrong from the start.

    Mr Myerson QC it should have been.

    Tut tut. They can write you amazing OLPAS forms for a couple of K but obviously can’t write a letter for themselves.

    I’m sure that anyone using their services must obviously get a pupillage or at least… or cleaning cars

  4. I cannot help but wonder if the head of sales is ,in fact, aslo engaged in ‘preparing’ OTC answers, given the manner of his grammar and spelling…….

  5. Will they ever let go?!

    They’re just digging the hole deeper and deeper with their ‘threats’ and loud allegations…

  6. How upsetting that good, upstanding national institutions like Woolworths have been swallowed by the economic crisis – and little rats like this still survive.

    All that can be said has already been said on this. This is unethical to the extreme and needs to be stamped out. We might not be able to get rid of the essay writing service, but we can do something about the OLPAS form writing.

    The Bar is a small profession and we can kill this virus before it manages to take hold.

    I would encourage everyone to contact their Inn – it may be possible to introduce a little section on “Help with your OLPAS form – what is and isn’t acceptable” in Education Days for BVC students. Let’s let the E+T Departments know what is happening.

    I have also let those involved in pupillage selection at my chambers know about it and steps are being taken to ensure our selection is as “plagerism proof” as we can make it.

    I actually think SMQC has been very fair. Thankfully, the only people who could possibly think using this service is a good idea are those with so little judgment or integrity that they would have no chance of impressing in interview. Grrrr.

  7. Of course everyone knows that addresses can refer to a block of buildings – hence why the picture of the caff was funny!

    The letter writer acknowledges this himself, thereby admitting why it is not defamatory (without even resorting to justification and fair comment defences).

    I don’t think this letter will do much good for business!

  8. they all seem to go on at such length. i’d apply to work as an editor for them if i wasn’t busy trying to get to the bar.
    personally, i have no problem with their offering a letter writing service; they might get a bit of stick from me on an implied term to use reasonable care and skill.
    as i said everywhere ad nauseam (sorry, world) it’s capitalism, seems legal and if chambers really like their letters well lord help them.
    if those using the letters are rubbish they’ll get chucked out at interview, and if they aren’t, they have as much ‘right’ to their shot at pupillage as the rest of us.
    it’s a crap shoot anyway. i wouldn’t use these people because they aren’t very good.

    it’s a tense time of year for us all, so at least it’s been an opportuity for us to vent.

    i trust simon, charon et al are now crapping themselves at the thought of the enemy using geeklawyer in a defamation claim.
    ah well – off to make a few more non-olpas apps.

  9. My Dear Simply,

    I do not believe any one has a right to a shot at pupillage if they get that shot through the use of web sites like OTC. Application life is indeed tough , but it does not need to be made any tougher by sharp practice.

  10. I can only say, Simon, that I am as upset as you about this email. How very dare they threaten you first? This is tantamount to saying that my blog doesn’t matter the most. Where was my threat?
    To compound the defamation as of writing this comment, 5th April, I have not been threatened.

    This offensive slur is quite intolerable.

  11. Hey GL,

    I knew you would feel like this and I can only apologise. All weekend long I have been worried about how you will feel once you find out that I was threatened first and that you are in line to be a witness for the Claimant!

    I can only apologise for such a lamentable error of judgement on the part of OTC. If they possessed the ability to which they pretend this would not have happened.

    However, I recall that I said something mildly unpleasant about the LSC some time ago and I have this very afternoon arranged for you to be threatened about that. I can only help this makes you feel better.

  12. Simon,

    1. Mr Foster has not contacted me.

    2. I fail to see what defamation or deception is being made with your post.

    3. You have given Mr Foster ample opportunity to publish his response to your posts

    4. In my podcast, while I made clear my antipathy to the OTC service, particularly in relation to the tailored essay service, I believe Mr Foster was given a fair opportunity to state his posaition and justify his service.

    5. The Bar Council has acted to warn students about using this service.

    6. BPP has warned students about using the OTC and similar services. Other institutions may well do so.

    7. The difficulty lies in part in the failure of the universities to make clear what plagiarism involves, consistently across the range of law schools, academic and vocational. When I ran BPP it was made clear to studnets that they were not permitted to discuss coursework with any third party and must cite all references used in the submitted coursework. By definition any student who uses a tauilored essay to assist with ideas, research, in such coursework is in breach of a requirement so defined. Submission of a tailored essay as original work by a student is cheating.

    8. Law Schools are required to report instances of cheating and plagiarism to the SRA and BSB. It is a professional conduct issue because it goes to honesty.

    9. Perhaps the SRA, BSB and University authorities should define precisely the rule on cheating and plagiarism to make it plain and clear to students – including the prohibition on seeking any third party help, even discussion of specifics with other students.

    10. I cannot understand why a student who pays £200 or more for a tailored essay can say with a straightface that they are simply using it for general research. There are plenty of Q&A books on the market priced at 310 which give examples of essay and problem answers to ‘typical questions’. These are, of course, in the public domain and can be searched by universities to prevent plagiarism. Tailored essays, confidential to individual students, cannot be scanned by plagiarism softweare because they are ‘confidential’ to the student.

    11. defining riules and regulations is all well and good, but as in life – catching those who break them is an altogether different matter.

    12. Perhaps Mr Foster would do well to follow the advice of our fellow blogger, Geeklawyer, and stop digging.

  13. Apologies for typos – I can spell – but I have large fingers and a glass or Rioja to hand…. I tend to type more accurately when there is a fee involved – a truly appalling excuse for the carelessness of my fingers this night.

  14. Charon,

    I think it is the sandwich bar stuff that has upset the ‘Oxbridge’ chaps.

    The barrister eating his sausage sarnie will be suing too.

  15. I’m thinking of setting up a company, ‘Devils Ltd’, which allows members of the Bar to ask somebody else to write their opinions for them, and then they send them out in their own name and charge a normal commercial fee for them.

    Is that any different to the lovely OTC?

  16. Don’t you think you have advertised OTC enough now?

    They must be extremely pleased with the publicity you and Charon have provided and continue to provide.

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