Heads or Tails

It is wonderful to have choice – provided that we choose correctly.  As wise old Albus Dumbledore explained to the boy wizard, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  Sometimes it does not matter how much choice we have, it is still a good thing.  Go into any half decent supermarket and you can take your pick from around half a dozen different types of Camembert.

If you go home and find you do not like your choice, you can always return next week and try another one, and so on, until you find one that really suits.  Even if no supermarket Camembert does it for you, there are local delis and specialist cheese shops to try.  More choice and more chance of finding what you want.  That is good.

Of course, sometimes too much choice can lead to some very unexpected choices.  Just ask the Natural Environment Research Council.  These are exciting times for the NERC.  They are building a state-of-the-art £200million polar research vessel.  It is due to be launched in 2019 and will ultimately replace older Royal Research Ships named RRS Ernest Shackleton and  RRS James Clark Ross.  The NERC wanted to find an “inspirational” name for their new flagship and decided to launch an online poll and throw it out to the intrepid British public to make suggestions and vote on them.

True, there have been a number of serious and popular suggestions: among those is RRS Henry Worsley, named after the explorer who died trying to make the first unassisted solo crossing of the Antarctic in January, and even RRS David Attenborough.  However, by far (and so far, ‘far’ is a 27,000 majority) the most popular suggestion is RRS Boaty McBoatface.  It may not have the cachet of a great British explorer but it is definitely Boaty McBoatface that the British public want to see forging through Arctic seas.

Perhaps it is because of the risks of offering too much choice that the architects of the upcoming EU referendum are offering only a simple ‘yes or no’ and none of the plethora of other types of relationship which could be negotiated.  In or Out.  That is your choice.  Take it or leave it.  Literally.  Incidentally, why is everyone calling the “No” campaign “Brexit”, but nobody is referring to the “Yes” campaign by its corresponding title “Eurin”?  (I would love to claim credit for that, but actually it was a letter in The Times).

Actually, litigation lawyers know a lot about choices too, because that is what we need to offer our clients.  They bring the problems to us, unwrap them (sometimes messily) on our desks and say “Hey, what can we do about this?”  Then we have to examine the problem carefully, sometimes by prodding, weighing or smelling it as well, and come up with the various options as to what can be done.  Done properly, each option comes with its own price tag (although only an estimate) and a risk assessment.  Lawyer’s job done.

Clients then have the crucial role of making a decision.  The right decision. Sometimes it is a decision not to be taken lightly.  If the choice made turns out to be wrong the results can be costly, sometimes too costly.  Your lawyer can help guide you through the choices. Ask him nicely and he might even give you an opinion of what he would do in your position.  But that is only an opinion.  Choice will always be the clients’.

So, it may be our own choices that define us individually, and for those choices we have to take responsibility.  However, sometimes, we just have to live with the consequences of the choices of others.  That is a point on which the captain of the RRS Boaty McBoatface may one day ruminate.  I wonder what President Trump will make of it all?

Warren Usden