Friday 16th April 2021 Edition 53
Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and
e-vents from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK:
What lies through the wood?
There’s a school of thought which believes that the past year has marked the transition from the 75 year ‘Post war era’ into a new ‘Post Covid era’.
Certainly, as the UK moves out of lockdown, there is a feeling of a new start. And that was borne out this morning by the announcement from Clyde & Co. that it is to vacate its space in Beaufort House and, as Chief Executive Officer Matthew Kelsall put it, “Look holistically at all our working practices to ensure they are as effective as possible for the firm and our people.”
Quite what role lawyers will have in this new era and how they will perform is now an open question. The ‘State of the UK Legal Market 2021’ report, published this week (see below) by the Thomson Reuters Institute gives some clues. However, one only has to looks at that is happening in India and Brazil and even Japan to recognise that the world is not out of the covid covert yet. There is still a long way to go – in a global economy – and maybe some unexpected twists and turns in the path ahead before we can see clearly how it will all shape up.
PLEASE SEND YOUR NEWS, VIEWS, STORIES AND COMMENTS FOR NEXT WEEK TO
In this week’s edition
+LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
– Great Technology + Savvy Relationships = Satisfied Clients
– Happy Coexistence?
– Something to look out for next Friday
– Is Lugano a No-No?
– Media Coup by Agency Captures BBC Legal Guru
+ SPECIAL REPORT OF THE WEEK: SO WHAT DID YOU DO DURING COVID?
+ STUDENTS PIONEER NEW VIRTUAL WORLD
+ APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
McCarthy Denning and Stokoe Partnership
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
Great Technology + Savvy Relationships = Satisfied Clients
The State of the UK Legal Market 2021 report, published this week by the Thomson Reuters Institute (TRI) threw up two big complementary findings. But if you were a law firm managing partner you would be forgiven for sighing that some clients are just never satisfied.
In a nutshell, the report stated that clients want a combination of fantastic, cost-cutting innovative technology-based services. Well fair enough. you might say. But, on top of that, they also want highly attentive, charming, personal service based on long-term relationships. In the words of the release from TRI, “The report found that strong client-firm relationships are increasingly important, especially when a firm invests the time to thoroughly understand a client’s operations and business strategies, and views the relationship as more of a business partnership. Nearly half of corporates (47%) state that the main way firms can bring more value is to commit to a longer-term partnership.”
Meanwhile though, “89% of corporates believe their firms should be looking to explore more innovative ways to use technology.”
Of course, in an ideal world better technology would be a money saver enabling firms to devote more human resource to developing those relationships and improving understanding of clients’ businesses. Great people and great technology. That’s the recipe for success. But who can afford it?
The State of the UK Legal Market 2021 report can be downloaded at: bit.ly/UKSOLM2021
Happy Coexistence? Or too many hungry IP caterpillars?
The LegalDiarist has always suspected that the true intellectual titans of the legal world are to be found in the groves of IP (well the title ‘intellectual property’ is the giveaway, isn’t it?). And that view was confirmed just yesterday on BBC Radio4 by a forensic analysis of the mouthwatering IP contest in the High Court between M&S’s Colin the Caterpillar and his deadly rival, Cuthbert, from the other side of the tracks at Aldi.
Space does not allow, unfortunately, for us to serve up the various complex and detailed arguments but it certainly illustrated why being an IP lawyer is no cake walk.
All of which is an appetiser for the announcement that M&S, one of that elite group of dedicated IP specialists, is launching a new commercial IP services outfit to focus on ‘valuation services’. (No, not Marks & Spencer; this M&S is Mathys & Squire – yes, IP is complicated but do keep up).
All of which follows the acquisition some four years ago by M&S of IP consulting firm Coller IP. Having been co-habiting happily – unlike Colin and Cuthbert, it must be said – the two firms have developed their relationship to a point at which their legal and commercial services fit ‘seamlessly together’.
“We are proud to be able to offer our existing and prospective clients the full range of commercial IP advice and services they need to help their business grow under the Mathys & Squire umbrella,” said partner Alan MacDougall . “Being part of the innovation environment means we are always seeking to identify innovative ways of enhancing our range of services to clients and help them manage all IP aspects of their businesses.”
Yes, but can they persuade Colin and Cuthbert to make up and play nice? And will Mathys & Squire’s next venture be a butterfly cake?
Something to look out for next Friday
On 23rd April the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division – in the final act of an extended drama – will give its judgement regarding more than 40 appeals relating to the “Post Office Scandal”. These Appeals are by sub-postmasters who, over a 13 year period from 2000, were convicted quite wrongly of theft, fraud or false accounting. In nearly all of the cases, Post Office did not contest the appeals because it accepted that evidence in its original private prosecutions was incomplete and that the Horizon system’s faults were not disclosed to judges and juries.
Unfortunately, the Post Office in its warped wisdom has mostly denied that it was wrong to have prosecuted in the first place. Some might think that this is a model exercise in the higher arts of casuistry. It doesn’t do much for the public image of lawyers either. Fortunately though some key lawyers could not stand aside and let the scandal roll on unchallenged. But it has been a long journey. For example, in the case of Aria Grace Law’s three clients no less than a total of 44 years have been wasted in waiting for the appeals heard. Let us hope next week brings this miserable saga to an end.
Is Lugano a No-No?
Will they, won’t they? One of the key questions facing the UK in the post-Brexit world is whether the EU will permit the UK to join the Lugano Convention. This could be a vital development in normalising commercial life because the convention allows legal judgments to be enforced across borders, with all EU countries plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland members of the pact.But the weight of expectation swings back and forth. Not so long ago Paul Chaplin, counsel at Hogan Lovells’ Litigation, Arbitration and Employment practice reckoned that the Europen Commission would endorse the UK’s accession to the Convention. “This is very welcome news for businesses both sides of the English Channel,” he said. “The UK Government had been lobbying hard in various European capitals and these noteworthy efforts appear to have paid off.”
But since then the suggestion, rather more strongly, is that EU will oppose the UK application to join the convention on the grounds that it is not a member of the European Economic Area or the European Free Trade Association. Like many other EU-related matters (not least trade via N. Ireland) it all seems a confused, arbitrary muddle. But what it illustrates is the difficulty of being a lawyer advising on these matters right now.
Media Coup by Agency
Marcel Berlins, Joshua Rozenberg, Frances Gibb – all the great names of legal journalism become part of national life and the on-going debate about law in this country. And alongside them, of course, is Clive Coleman, the BBC legal affairs correspondent for 16 years, who has now departed the Corporation to join Maltin PR, one of the top-rated legal and litigation PR agencies, as a consultant.
Interpreting complicated legal matters at speed to a general audience is always demanding but Coleman did it with unfussy, exemplary skill across the biggest stories from the Hillsborough tragedy inquests to the Supreme Court’s 2019 decision on the prorogation of Parliament.
And speaking personally from having had the pleasure of Coleman’s company on various occasions at press conferences and awards events, the LegalDiarist knows what a good egg he is. “Clive’s qualifications as a barrister and broadcaster, as well as a legal news expert, make him the perfect fit for Maltin,” said Tim Maltin, the agency’s Founder and Chief Executive.
SPECIAL REPORT OF THE WEEK
SO WHAT DID YOU DO DURING COVID?
The lid might be lifting but many clients are licking their wounds and wondering how they survived the past year. Law firms have helped get them through – as these examples show.
ALL ROUND ADVICE
“Our agile operating model meant we were well prepared to support our clients on all fronts during these unprecedented times,” says George Bisnought, managing director of Excello Law.
“Our employment team have advised clients on a range of claims including unfair dismissal claims tied to furlough, health and safety issues whereby staff were required to work on site as opposed to home, and the implementation of furlough schemes and the various changes to these, often with real time issues arising before any government guidance was issued.
“Our family law team supported their clients through some of the most stressful periods they will experience, and our practices have had to become even more flexible and tailored to each individual to ensure access to justice. Some of our clients have seen their incomes drastically reduced and had to negotiate changes in financial arrangements, and others have had issues with interim maintenance where ex-spouses have claimed a reduction in earnings due to the pandemic. Our lawyers have had to navigate clients through these shifting waters and often adapt on short notice, whilst also adjusting to the changing work practices of the courts; many applications are now being dealt with online, more hearings taking place by telephone and via video conference, and an increase in advocacy as it can be more cost effective.
“On the commercial side we found many clients requiring advice in relation to the various financial support packages made available to companies across the nation. Our lawyers have helped clients analyse what they will be eligible for and whether they might be able to apply for loans under the Bounce Back Loan Scheme or the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans Scheme, as well as participate in The Future Fund. We also have clients who now require assistance understanding the new Recovery Loan Scheme.” Pensions Problems —— “Some employer clients needed to protect their own financial security and several considered lowering employer pension scheme contributions,” explains Danyal Enver, associate at pensions law firm Arc Pensions Law. “We provided urgent and pragmatic advice on what temporary action they could take to swiftly lower contributions, and what to communicate to employees. We fully expect those contribution rates to rise again as the market stabilises post-pandemic.” “During the pandemic, trustee clients had difficulties in lockdown as many necessary scheme changes required deeds to be executed and witnessed in person. We took a pragmatic approach to help. For example, pre-pandemic we would have advised against family members witnessing signatures, but due to the challenges presented by the pandemic we had to revisit the law and decide what our clients feasibly could do in their households while still complying with the legislation.”
AND WHAT ABOUT LAW FIRMS THEMSELVES?
The legal industry has been one of the few sectors that has partly benefited from the pandemic. Many of the cuts, furloughs and redundancies we saw last year were precautionary as opposed to necessary, says SOMAYA OUAZZANI, Founder and CEO of specialist legal executive search firm Mimoza Fleur.
The slick and smart firms have exploited the situation to capitalise on strategic lateral hires in the form of partners and senior associates. A lot of the legal industry’s national law firms lost nervous teams to firms with strong buying power – American firms played this well, as did the likes of Stewarts, Taylor Wessing and Howard Kennedy.
Firms have become more prepared to offer partners greater control over their personal lives and more autonomy in their careers. So, providing fee earners are billing well, consistently and originating their own work, they can essentially wrangle for whatever it is that’s important to them. This has revolutionised the legal industry and will hopefully help to improve diversity and inclusivity.
Senior non-partner lawyers have also done well out of this. They’ve been able to leverage their experience and relative affordability to secure ‘Day One’ partner roles sooner than they might have at their existing firms.
Media, sports and private wealth are hot areas right now. Attracting more affordable senior non-partners (with fertile and well cultivated networks) is a strategy a lot of my clients are wanting to deploy having seen it work in other sectors for a diverse range of firms including Hogan Lovells, Payne Hicks Beach, and Kirkland & Ellis.
Ultimately, the legal industry has weathered this very aggressive Covid storm extremely well. Those firms with forward thinking, ambitious mind sets have fared the best, as have those with healthy cash reserves, good cash collections and sophisticated non legal operational input and frameworks. The shorter sighted firms resisted advice against losing support staff, the outcome of which is overstretched fee earners. Others gave up their premises or massively downsized prematurely.
AND LOOKING AHEAD FROM THIS WEEK– A REMINDER from PROFESSOR ALASTAIR HODGE, barrister, 5 ESSEX COURT
12th April was potentially, a day like any other. For some, it was a birthday – such as the playwright, Alan Ayckbourn. But 12th April 2021 will be remembered for an altogether different reason – the second key date in Prime Minister Johnson’s “roadmap” out of lockdown.
The day on which in England:
- Pubs & restaurants were allowed to open outdoors.
- Non-essential retail, including clothes shops, reopened.
- Hairdressers and nail salons got the green light to trade.
- Theme parks, zoos, gyms & leisure centres threw open their doors.
However, whilst many businesses no doubt leapt for joy, they still remained subject to onerous, complex and, at times, unintelligible Government guidance on what they could and could not do.
For example, we know that pubs & restaurants will be allowed to serve food and alcohol outdoors. Unlike the period of lockdown at the end of 2020, there is no longer the requirement for “a substantial meal” to be consumed; nor is there any 22.00 hrs curfew. However, the rule of six will apply (up to six people, or two separate households) as will social distancing rules. Face coverings must be worn when not seated.
In terms of non-essential retail and other businesses, social distancing must be observed. Face coverings are mandatory for anyone who is not exempt.
In order to comply with the law & guidance, a Covid-19 risk assessment is essential (save for those businesses with fewer than five employees). This will enable businesses to identify potential health & safety hazards; ensure that hand sanitisation and hand washing facilities are readily available; encourage social distancing with appropriate signage; and limiting the potential for transmission of the virus.
Putting such measures in place at the earliest opportunity is advisable, thereby allowing businesses to focus on profitability, rather than worrying about being penalised and/or fined for non-compliance with the law.
So, no room for relaxing just yet.
+ STUDENTS PIONEER NEW WORLD:
JUMP STARTING LEGAL CAREERS UNDER COVID
For students exploring legal careers and those just starting on the career ladder these are weird times. Here we have two perspectives from the new virtual world of ‘insight events’ and the first few weeks of work with a major law firm.
FINDING OUT ABOUT LEGAL CAREERS VIRTUALLY
Legal ‘career insight ‘events in a virtual world are more than just a fad – they’re here to stay and worth embracing, argues INDERPREET MATHARU, second year law undergraduate at Nottingham Trent University
Although virtual legal career events have been set up as a response to the Pandemic, they still offer a highly engaging snapshot into the operations of a successful law firm.
And if the 7000-plus attending Browne Jacobson and Young Professionals’ first two day virtual event under the firm’s FAIRE initiative (Fairer Access Into Real Experience) over Easter is anything to go by, they are likely to remain a firm fixture in any law firm’s calendar post pandemic.
The numbers attending can appear daunting at first but, similar to any career or networking event – virtual or not – you only get what you put in. Preparation is paramount so treat it just like a job interview. And don’t be late!
Make sure your research beforehand puts you in a strong position to ask insightful and specific questions that will help you get information to bolster your application
In doing so go beyond the firm’s website and look on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to see what the firm is saying and doing.
It is also important to have a different strategy for “working the room” if you get the chance. Make sure you register for any relevant workshops and streams or speeches well in advance.
Making a connection is understandably more challenging so use social media platforms such as LinkedIn post event to connect with attendees and speakers.Most people using LinkedIn ask to connect and then never reach out again – be the one that does!
Post-Pandemic may see us return to the “normal” in-person legal career event we are so used to but the virtual world is unquestionably here to stay and worth getting up close and personal with.
GETTING STARTED AT WORK
Research from Ezra, a provider of digital coaching, has revealed that a fifth of UK workers feel they get less recognition within their career as a direct result of working remotely.But many law firms are adjusting successfully to the new normal. Here EMILY GREATRIX, Paralegal, M&A, Corp Finance and Private Equity at Osborne Clarke LLP describes her experience.
Merely fourteen months ago, I attended a face-to-face panel event looking at the biggest potential disruptors to the legal industry over the next five years. It’s amusing in hindsight, because the discussion focused on tech and the green economy; remote working was simply a star in the sky. Fast forward and, like the majority of the country, I now study and work entirely remotely.
My virtual education experience came when I started the LPC LLM. By nature, the course is a practical one and a vital element of an aspiring solicitor’s route to entry. So whilst the technical side of joining an online call has been straightforward in the context of learning, for example, the skill of client interviewing, I’ve had to rely on imagination and commercial experience. On this point, I think institutions should consider incorporating teaching on areas such as how to deliver remote client care, in order to reflect the changing times and future of hybrid working.
On the professional side, I think the best firms will stand out for how they prepare new joiners to virtually build relationships and support clients as well. I recently joined Osborne Clarke, as a full-time Corporate Paralegal, working remotely 9-5. Despite the fact I would have loved to start my career in the bustling Temple Quay office in Bristol, joining virtually has been nothing but a smooth and supported process. The training has been intricate yet manageable. My relationship with my line manager has been entirely virtual, but we have frequent catch up calls, including a video call on my first day, and I know I can always pick up the phone if needed. Since the lockdown started, they’ve also had a programme of virtual events to support networking and engaging with colleagues. I’m certain that my positive experience can be attributed to the firm’s kind culture; a huge part of my attraction in the first place. The question of when I might be able to go to the office is one that is still in development, but I’m hoping I will get to try an infamous OC bacon butty by the Summer.
Emily Greatrix gained a First Class Degree in Law at the University of the West of England (Bristol) before joining Osborne Clarke LLP
APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
McCarthy Denning, one of the first ‘next generation’ City law firms, has recruited Soulla Berger as a partner in its international hospitality practice.
Berger has had more than a decade of experience both in private practice experience at Goodwin Procter LLP and in-house with Marriott International and Four Seasons. Her expertise extends through the development, management, acquisition, disposition and financing of hotels, resorts, branded residences, and other mixed-use hospitality assets.
At McCarthy Denning, Berger will join Partner John Sipling to advise on the contractual relationship between the ownership and brand/operator side of the industry. “I originally joined McCarthy Denning because I wanted to work in a more flexible, less bureaucratic environment, where I could focus on my clients in a creative and productive way,” said John Sipling. “It has worked brilliantly, and my practice has grown stronger and stronger. ”
This is what attracted Soulla Berger.“The optimised infrastructure that McCarthy Denning offers will enable me to provide the specialist advice that hospitality and leisure clients require without the overheads of a traditional firm during an unprecedented time in the hospitality industry,” she says.
Stokoe Partnership Solicitors, the criminal defence firm, has recruited Richard Cannon as a partner to its Central London offices.
Cannon is a highly experienced white collar crime solicitor, practising primarily in serious fraud and joins from Gunnercooke, where he was a partner. Previously he had been a partner at Mishcon de Reya and before that at Janes Solicitors.
Cannon’s track record covers a wide range of experience including cross-border financial crime allegations, Ponzi frauds and alleged bribery and corruption for both private and corporate clients. He has acted in a range of high profile matters, including cases brought by the Serious Fraud Office and HMRC prosecutions in relation to alleged tax fraud.
“Stokoe Partnership Solicitors has a strong reputation for handling some of the most serious and complex criminal defence matters and I am delighted to be joining the team,” said Cannon.
E-VENTS, WEBINARS etc.
BDB Pitmans in conjunction with St Philips Chambers are delighted to invite you to our latest Mock Employment Tribunal which has been designed especially for HR professionals and managers.
The virtual event will be run by our experienced employment team along with barristers from St Philips Chambers, and will be presided over by a ‘real-life’ Employment Tribunal Judge.
You will hear from a disgruntled claimant, experience and participate in the cross examination of witnesses and will follow the proceedings through to its conclusion.
The Mock Tribunal will provide you with:
- an opportunity to help demystify Tribunal proceedings;
- an insight into how online proceedings are being conducted;
- a chance to learn how to prepare for, present and defend a Tribunal claim; and
- a forum to question and discuss Employment Tribunal issues with our team of experienced barristers and an Employment Judge.
This practical and interactive session is a great opportunity to experience the theatre of an Employment Tribunal (albeit in a virtual setting), understand how the process works and build your confidence to prepare for any future Tribunals without risk to your business.
The Mock Tribunal is free to attend but please register for your place by clicking here
Once registered, Mock Tribunal documents, including witness statements, will be sent to you via email no later than seven days in advance.
The session will be held using Zoom, a link will be sent to you in your registration confirmation email and will also be re-sent on the morning of the webinar.
We hope you can join us.
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Brave New World:
What Brexit Means for Litigators
Enforcement of Foreign Judgments and Service of Proceedings after Brexit
We are delighted to invite you to our #HardwickeBrew taking place at midday on Wednesday, 21 April.12:00 – 12:30 | Wednesday, 21st April 2021
Michael Levenstein and James Shaw will discuss the new legal landscape following the end of the Brexit transition period. In particular, they will address legal and tactical issues arising from the disapplication of the Recast Brussels Regulation, the UK’s accession to the Hague Convention and changes to CPR, Part 6 as concerns service of proceedings outside of the jurisdiction.
Please register your interest by using the buttons below. We will be in touch to confirm places in due course. If you have any questions, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to catching up at a safe social distance!
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Structuring and resourcing your legal team
In conjunction with Thomson Reuters please join us for a discussion about how in-house legal teams can best be structured and resourced to deliver an effective service to their organisation. Whether you lead a team or work within one, it’s important that you understand the context in which structuring and resourcing decisions are taken.
Date: 19 May 2021 Time: 2.00pm-3.30pm
Legal teams are frequently restructured in part and sometimes as a whole in order to meet challenges caused by crises, mergers, expansion or budgetary cuts or simply as a consequence of the realisation that the previous structure was no longer working effectively enough to meet the developing needs of the organisation. In this discussion we expect to explore a range of practical issues – strategic, people, financial – relevant to this important topic, including:
Questions to ask yourself before deciding on the right structure for your team
Helping clients to understand their needs and wants
Deciding the size and scope of the team
Using other resources to help you deliver the service – outside lawyers, the client, and others
Developing your legal strategy and making the case for your resources
Aspects of change management involved in decisions on structure
Link between structures, recruitment and career development.
If you have any questions, queries or comments, please contact us at email@example.com
We hope that you have enjoyed this edition of the LEGAL DIARY,
Please relay on to friends and colleagues.
And we look forward to publishing again next Friday.