Edward Fennell’s Legal Diary – Edition 1

“The law may be an ass – but lawyers are pretty sass”

The Legal Diarist


Yes, legal life does go on

In the age of the C-Virus, sadly, receptions, conventions, briefings and public lectures have disappeared from the daily life of the legal community. But, in their adaptability and inventiveness, lawyers will soon find other ways of communicating between themselves and with the wider world. So there is still value in having a LEGAL DIARY to offer snapshots of some of the more interesting and imaginative events (in the broadest sense of that word) which are taking place.

Towards the end of each week then we will aim – in brief – to distil the best of what’s happening as well as capturing the ebb and flow of the life of law firms. You’ll be welcome to drop in and glance around at what we have found.

And if you have an interesting event or activity you would like to reveal to the wider world then it will be welcomed at fennell.edward@yahoo.com

The people may be gone but the minds are still here

We look forward, very much, to hearing your comments!


Diary: Thursday 26th March


Use of artificial intelligence is, you might say, going viral among the leading law firms right now.

A survey published this week by Thomson Reuters shows that every one of the top One Hundred firms in the country aims to harness AI for some function during the next year. There are plenty of obvious factors driving this advance but the most impressive is that AI’s capacity actually to handle legal work – as opposed to mere commoditised processes – is accelerating rapidly. Whereas AI has been adopted previously because it was cheaper and quicker on routine tasks it is now proving its mettle by actually being better than the typical lawyer (at least in some areas).

The figures show the trend. According to Thomson Reuters “Ninety percent of the Financial Directors [in the law firms surveyed] still see reducing the time spent on routine work and cutting costs as the primary drivers for investing in legal technology ….[but] 55% of Top 100 law firms surveyed that are planning to use AI for legal and regulatory research in the coming year, up from 44% last year.”

The key areas highlighted for further innovation, says Thomson Reuters, lie in

+ Litigation analytics tools that can predict the outcome of cases by analysing the context of evidence and previous similar cases

+ M&A due diligence tools which can intelligently analyse documents such as portfolios of leases and loan agreements, then extract and summarise the key information

+ AI transcription tools which provide accurate real-time written versions of verbal statements in court, or of video/audio evidence.

Legal IT gurus such as the Suskinds – father and son – have been saying this has been predictable for years. Now it is truly happening.


Lord Gold and friends gets further backing

Balance Legal Capital, launched back in 2015, is starting to make its weight felt on the London legal scene with the announcement that it has raised a further US$100 million from 8 institutional investors in a new UK fund for deployment in the UK, Australia and other common law jurisdictions.

Balance’s oversight management team, it must be remarked, can be compared to a squad of football ‘galacticos’ whose leading lights who could hardly be brighter . Heading them up is Lord David Gold (former global senior partner of Herbert Smith ) along with Ian Terry (former managing partner of Freshfields and global head of disputes). Meanwhile completing this line-up of gilt-tipped strikers are Fraser Shepherd (former litigation partner at Gilbert + Tobin, Sydney) and Nick Gardner (former head of Intellectual Property Litigation at Herbert Smith).

Given this combination of talent and experience it is no surprise that Balance underlines that it has complete delegated authority over its litigation investment decisions across all sectors and commercial claim types including contract, tort, shareholder disputes, joint venture disputes, competition, intellectual property, class actions and more.

“These are difficult times but we feel it is nevertheless important to publicise important milestones – being the launch of our new fund, and the next step in the firm’s growth,” said Robert Rothkopf, Balance’s Managing Partner. “The interest we’ve had from investors is testament to the success of the business so far, the calibre of our team, and our ability to provide a great service to litigants and law firms.”

Unsurprisingly Balance was advised on the establishment of its new fund by Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, London.


Liz Cathelain comes from tech company Vodaphone to market LOD’s legal formula worldwide


In a striking example of how generic management skills are being brought to bear on the legal market, LOD (the ‘alternative’ legal services provider formerly known as Lawyers on Demand) has announced that it is appointing Liz Cathelain, a senior sales and marketing professional, from multinational telecoms company, Vodafone as its first Commercial Director.

Cathelain will be joining LOD’s top table along with other senior managers from non-law backgrounds including Maria Passemard who came from John Lewis Partnership as Director of Innovation & Design and Andrea Klieve from Bertelsmann who now heads up of LOD’s new Düsseldorf office.

Cathelain’s role is to lead LOD’s global marketing team at a time when the firm, which originated in London, is spreading its wings across the ‘Anglosphere’ to reach Australia and New Zealand but also has ambitions elsewhere around the globe. “As our portfolio of client services continues to grow, including the recent launch of LOD Legal, it is essential that we have someone of Liz’s undoubted experience to help us coherently sell our solutions to existing and target clients,” said Tom Hartley, LOD’s CEO,

Among Cathelain’s various responsibilities at Vodaphone was the launch of the companies 5G network and 5G Unlimited plans which represented a first for the industry. At a time of turmoil when everything in the legal market seems to be up for grabs LOD clearly sees that the mood is right for its more flexible and entrepreneurial service.


Legals stars of the week have been Des Collins of Watford-based Collins Solicitors and David Wilby QC (now of Parklane Plowden Chambers but formerly Old Square) who featured in Monday’s BBC2 documentary ‘Toxic Town: The Corby Poisonings’ as they battled on behalf of children who had been the victims of airborne pollutants in the 1990s.

Inspired by the passion of nineteen mothers desperate for justice for their disabled children, Des Collins persisted for almost a decade in drawing together research reports and expert opinion to demonstrate that Corby Council had profoundly mismanaged the transport of toxic waste away from the town’s old dismantled steelworks. “Des was our captain – he focused us” declared one mother.

The stakes became increasingly high given the sustained and stubborn denial by the Council of any culpability. In the end it all hinged on a tiny but vitally important mathematical formula to determine how far the toxic materials could have spread across Corby. If ever an expert witness was critically vital to a case then this was it. Collins’ scientist was able to show that – through a banal error – the council had got its calculations fundamentally wrong. Wow, what a climax!

“If a lawyer ever tells me that he has never lost a case then I reply ‘Then you haven’t fought enough difficult cases’” said Collins wisely. “We had to do this for the children,” said the mothers. Collins and Wilby did it for justice.

So that’s all for this week. Let’s do it again.