Edward Fennell’s LEGAL DIARY

Friday October 16 2020 Edition 29

Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and arts from the legal world

SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK



Law firms taking the right route to Shanghai?

Earlier this week the Head of MI5 described the security threat from Russia as ‘stormy weather’ but the challenge posed by China, by contrast, was ‘climate change’. This was reflected, meanwhile, in the legal sector by the report that China is offering substantial cash handouts to law firms to persuade them to establish new offices in Shanghai’s special free trade zone.

Firms which are tempted by the offer face an existential dilemma. Will the money come with strings at some point further down the line? Will they find themselves in hock to the Chinese authorities?

Oddly enough this parallels the attempt by the top six football clubs to bribe lower league teams to join a newly formed division. It will give them more money but at the cost of handing over key decision-making to the likes of US-owned Manchester United and Liverpool.

‘Beware Greeks bearing gifts’ was the old adage. Just substitute ‘Americans’ or ‘Chinese’ according to your business sector.

The Legaldiarist

CONTENT

In this week’s edition, stories about

– Reed Smith

– Travers Smith

– Axiom Stone

– ‘Practical Law’

– Learmond-Criqui Sokel

– Legal Action Worldwide’

– Del Canto Chambers

– Block 336

LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK

Reed Smith’s Innovation Structure

Like any progressive industry the law business keeps on looking for new ways to develop its expertise and deliver its product. Unless innovation is threaded through a firm it’s not able to keep up.

Reed Smith has now institutionalised this through the launch of a new corporate programme under the titleInnovation Seasons’. Operating across the firm worldwide the programme adopts a theme for each quarter as a ‘grounding to its lawyers, business services staff and clients across the globe in one specific innovation theme’.

Interestingly Reed Smith is drawing on some of the established models for innovation in tech businesses such as f’ive-day design sprints’ and ‘ideas campaigns’. So, maybe unsurprisingly, the launch season commenced earlier his month with a focus on the use of data in legal services.

“Each season will consist of presentations and discussion forums involving legal and other industry professionals as well as technology demonstrations, explainer videos and case studies of successful innovation projects at the firm,” says the firm. “At the end of each season, the ‘innovation engagement manager’ will be supporting people internally with formulating ideas and converting them into formal innovation projects.”

Occupying that role is Adam Curphey. “We’re delighted to be launching Innovation Seasons globally across the firm,” he says. “Having a three month period dedicated to a specific theme will  provide a focus within the firm and ensure that the collective knowledge and idea creation can be channelled into tangible outputs.”

Open to Offers

Continuing on the theme of innovation you have to give credit to

Travers Smith LLP for the launch this week of Etatonna, an innovative contract labelling tool, which has been developed in-house by the firm’s Legal Technology team. This is now an open source code, meaning that others can use it within their businesses and benefit from being able to efficiently label legal documents to train AI models.

“There is no doubt that using artificial intelligence to unlock insights from historic contracts is of immense value to organisations all over the world,” said Travers Smith’s Head of Legal Technology, Shawn Curran. “The main issue at the moment is the quality of the AI. Therefore, model training needs to be optimised and companies shouldn’t be overlapping by labelling the same or similar clauses. Law firms need to combine expertise in the most efficient and cost-effective way for our clients. Our hope is that by open sourcing Etatonna we can inspire this collaboration.”

Interesting idea.

LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK

Reed Smith’s Innovation Structure

Like any progressive industry the law business keeps on looking for new ways to develop its expertise and deliver its product. Unless innovation is threaded through a firm it’s not able to keep up.

Reed Smith has now institutionalised this through the launch of a new corporate programme under the titleInnovation Seasons’. Operating across the firm worldwide the programme adopts a theme for each quarter as a ‘grounding to its lawyers, business services staff and clients across the globe in one specific innovation theme’.

Interestingly Reed Smith is drawing on some of the established models for innovation in tech businesses such as f’ive-day design sprints’ and ‘ideas campaigns’. So, maybe unsurprisingly, the launch season commenced earlier his month with a focus on the use of data in legal services.

“Each season will consist of presentations and discussion forums involving legal and other industry professionals as well as technology demonstrations, explainer videos and case studies of successful innovation projects at the firm,” says the firm. “At the end of each season, the ‘innovation engagement manager’ will be supporting people internally with formulating ideas and converting them into formal innovation projects.”

Occupying that role is Adam Curphey. “We’re delighted to be launching Innovation Seasons globally across the firm,” he says. “Having a three month period dedicated to a specific theme will  provide a focus within the firm and ensure that the collective knowledge and idea creation can be channelled into tangible outputs.”

Open to Offers

Continuing on the theme of innovation you have to give credit to

Travers Smith LLP for the launch this week of Etatonna, an innovative contract labelling tool, which has been developed in-house by the firm’s Legal Technology team. This is now an open source code, meaning that others can use it within their businesses and benefit from being able to efficiently label legal documents to train AI models.

“There is no doubt that using artificial intelligence to unlock insights from historic contracts is of immense value to organisations all over the world,” said Travers Smith’s Head of Legal Technology, Shawn Curran. “The main issue at the moment is the quality of the AI. Therefore, model training needs to be optimised and companies shouldn’t be overlapping by labelling the same or similar clauses. Law firms need to combine expertise in the most efficient and cost-effective way for our clients. Our hope is that by open sourcing Etatonna we can inspire this collaboration.”

Interesting idea.

Entertaining Pensions’ Law

Rosalind Connor of Arc Pensions Law

We try to be topical in the Legal Diary and round about now (Friday morning) Rosalind Connor, managing partner with Arc Pensions Law will be speaking as part of a debate about proposed changes to pension tax at the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association’s Annual Conference 2020

The motion under discussion is ‘This house believes pensions tax relief should continue across all earning categories’ and the other contributors include François Barker, Head of Pensions at Eversheds Sutherland; Paul Brice, Head of Pensions Advisory at Grant Thornton; and Philip Brown, Director of Policy and External Affairs at The People’s Pension.

The speakers will be debating for what they call ‘entertainment purposes’ – although maybe it is only lawyers who would describe anything connected with pensions as entertaining. They also make clear that anything they say cannot be taken down and used against them as evidence of their own opinions. Very wise.

For more information on this event,click here.

Where’s your faith?

Also about now (publication time, Friday morning)  the Supreme Court is handing down its judgment on the role of faith-based charities in the case of the Agudas Israel Housing Association (AIHA)  This focuses on the legality of AIHA’s policy of offering their housing exclusively to the Orthodox Jewish Community whom it was set up to serve.

“Up until this point, the Courts have ruled that AIHA’s policy is legal as the organisation had not yet met all the needs of the many Orthodox Jews in Hackney whom AIHA cannot accommodate and who still suffer disadvantage,” said a spokesperson for the charity. “It has also been noted that the allocation of properties to non-members of the Orthodox Jewish community would fundamentally undermine AIHA’s charitable objectives. Previous judgments have also noted that anti-Semitism was at an unacceptable level making it more difficult for Orthodox Jews to find housing.”

No doubt representatives from all faiths -and maybe none – will be looking on with interest.

Jewish Legacy welcomes Axiom Stone  

Echoing the story above Axiom Stone Solicitors has been appointed to the Approved Panel of solicitors for Jewish Legacy, the umbrella organisation for more than 40 Jewish charities. “Having personally been very active in the Jewish charity world for many years, I am delighted with this appointment which gives Axiom Stone the opportunity to make its mark in the Jewish charitable world.” said Jonathan Metliss, Axiom Stone’s Chairman. Meanwhile Vassos Vassou, Head of Axiom Stone’s Private Client department, added that “We will be doing our utmost to assist Jewish legacy with activities in relation to the subject of charitable giving.”

The firm emphasises, however, that its scope and relationships with the wider community are very diverse. Last year, for example, it sponsored the Diversity Award in the Westminster Business Council’s Award Event in London. As it comments itself, the firm prides itself as ‘a racially-diverse practice and this is yet another example of this policy.’

Divergence Tracker’ Helps Lawyers Keep Up 

With those Brexit negotiations back on track (well, sort of) Thomson Reuters is launching a new series of enhancements for its coverage of Brexit, European Union and EU member states in its publication ‘Practical Law’. This ‘Divergence Tracker’ as it is being called will enable users to keep up-to-date with the new EU and country-specific legislative landscape.

“The effects of Brexit continue to impact many areas of law. Understanding prevailing EU regulation will be critical for many businesses and clients as the UK exits the transition period,” said Lucinda Case, head of Legal Professionals Europe at Thomson Reuters. “Legal professionals need to be certain they are advising clients or their business appropriately on the far-reaching changes that are about to affect cross-border operations and impact many aspects of business, finance and the law across Europe.”

A special team of lawyer-editors, from across five European countries, along with other lawyers and law firms is being convened to undertake the work. They will also be covering immediate topical issues such as the holding of board and shareholder meetings as a result of the pandemic. (Given the rapidity of change one wonders how they can keep up!).

Feeling Sick about 5G?

You think 5G is safe? Then be aware that not everyone agrees with you.

Jessica Learmond-Criqui, a partner in north London firm  Learmond Criqui Sokel  has become involved in challenging the Government over its 5G strategy which effectively dispenses with the need for planning applications before the erection of mobile phone masts and cell towers.

Ms. Learmond-Criqui is now the legal advisor to the application for judicial review directed at the Secretary of State for Housing Communities & Local Government (DHCLG) and the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DDCMS) for the way they adopted the policy.

 “We are campaigning for a rational review of the Government’s process in coming to this irrational decision to allow mobile phone companies to erect 5G masts, antennae and cell towers anywhere, anytime, without even having to apply for planning permission,” she says.  

 “It is clear that the consultation process has been completely undermined: the Government has now admitted that the scientific evidence about adverse health concerns submitted by these campaigners was never presented to the Ministers making the decision.  When questions about risk to public health have been raised, it is simply not right for civil servants to take it upon themselves to withhold vital scientific and other evidence.”

So once again the tricky relationship between scientific experts, civil servants and politicians is being put under scrutiny. And as science and technology become increasingly ‘political’ it is maybe time to find a new way of dealing with these decisions.

Contesting Slavery in Lebanon

A debate is developing about the legitimacy of using the term modern slavery but certainly the word ‘slavery’ – whether modern or classic – seems appropriate in the case being brought currently by the organisation Legal Action Worldwide (LAW) before the First Investigative Judge in Lebanon regarding a woman named Meseret, an Ethiopian migrant domestic worker.

LAW argues that Meseret was subjected to slavery, slave trading, forced labour, gender and racial discrimination, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. The first defendant is her former employer (kafeel) and the second defendant is the individual who recruited her.

Kafala is widely used in the Middle East for the employment of domestic servants who frequently end up, in effect, as the slaves of their employers. Meseret, forexample, was held captive in her kafeel’s apartment for more than seven years – she was not paid; subjected to physical and verbal abuse and allowed no contact with her family.

Meseret, unusually, had the chance to escape back to Ethiopia but Legal Action Worldwide, wants to make her case a starting point for disgracing and displacing Kafala throughout the Middle East.“Meseret, has had incredible strength in coming forward,” says Antonia Mulvey, LAW’s Executive Director. “We believe that this case could contribute towards ending the ‘kafala system’ within Lebanon and the systematic abuse and exploitation of female domestic migrant workers.”

There are more than 250,000 domestic migrant workers, mainly female, in Lebanon.” 

For more on LAW go to www.legalactionworldwide.org

APPOINTMENT OF THE WEEK

DEL CANTO APPOINTS

MRS MARYAM JASSIM AL BADER AS DOHA HEAD

In what might be seen as a ground-breaking move Del Canto Chambers has appointed Mrs Maryam Jassim Al Bader to head up its Doha office. “Mrs Al Bader’s joining is a huge asset to Chambers,“ says Leon Fernando Del Canto, head of Del Canto. “She will play a big role in the Turnkey Project Management service we offer our clients, which allows UK businesses to benefit from local knowledge and expertise when setting up an enterprise.”

Mrs Al Bader is believed to be the first female Qatari lawyer to be working with a London Chambers and has impressively cosmopolitan credentials to match the role. With a law degree from the University of Wales Mrs Al Bader went on to gain a Masters in law at  Boston College before working in-house with one of Qatar’s biggest organisations. Subsequently she worked with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for almost and decade.

In a post-Brexit world Qatar is seen as, potentially, a major investor in the UK with a suggestion of billions likely to be poured into real estate and infrastructure in this country. And there could also be investment in the other direction as Qatar starts to flex its regional economic muscle.

The post-Brexit world, however, is also a post-Covid world so nothing is guaranteed. Nonetheless Mrs Al Bader is optimistic. “I look forward to playing an important role in helping encourage foreign investment, which forms part of the UK’s plan to support Qatar in their ambition to become the Middle East’s global hub for banking and finance,” she says.

THE ART OF LAW

Lawyers talk art (and vice versa)

For anyone interested in art and the law we cannot recommend too highly Block 336’s Artists’ Legal Rights Sessions, an excellent trio of recordings of discussions between lawyers and artists, Chaired by Jon Sharples, a consultant with Simmons & Simmons. and featuring distinguished lawyers such as Dr. Eleonora Rosati – known as the ‘Queen of online IP law’ and Associate Professor in Intellectual Property Law at Stockholm University, Of Counsel at Bird & Bird and an Editor of the Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice – they are both intellectually stimulating regarding the law and artistically enlightening. Definitely worth taking time to hear.

Session 1: COVID-19 Special

Please click here to view the recording. 

Session 2: Copyright: Challenging Categories

Please click here to view the recording.

Session 3: Copyright: Infringement

Please click here to view the recording.

For more on BLOCK 336 go to https://www.artland.com/galleries/block-336?tab=exhibitions

Please send your news, views and stories for next week to

fennell.edward@yahoo.com

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