Snips, comments and contributions from lawyers and the legal world
Thursday April 16th 2020
Remembrance of crises past – little could we imagine that Corona was to come!
Short Thought for the Week – Is CoVid-19 immune to the law?
Quite rightly the focus over the past three weeks has been on the measures to combat and treat the spread of Covide-19. There has been little, if any, talk of the law’s role in all this. But in the last few days issues of obligation and responsibility have started to emerge. Can a medic refuse to enter a danger zone without adequate PPE? How much can be demanded of pregnant staff? Meanwhile on an international level the performance of the Chinese government and the World Health Organisation are coming under scrutiny. Before too long these are likely to crystallise into legal questions. We all love the NHS – but that love should not blind us to errors that might have been made and the lessons to be learned for next time.
Sign Up TIGHT NOW for this BIICL webinar
THIS AFTERNOON [15.00-16.00] the British Institute for International and Comparative Law is hosting a webinar discussion between the distinguished international lawyer Philippe Sands, and the international health law expert and WHO former legal counsel Gian Luca Burci to explore from a legal perspective what may have gone wrong over governments’ handling of the C-virus crisis. Between them they will be considering the lessons to be learned, and future institutional and legal changes needed.
The event will be convened by Dr Constantinos Yiallourides, Arthur Watts Research Fellow on the Law of the Sea, BIICL and Kristin Hausler, Dorset Senior Research Fellow in Public International Law, BIICL. Well worth listening too I should imagine – especially if you are WFH. It’s free but you need to register in advance -s that means pretty quickly!.
Go NOW to
Pack Up Your Troubles
In the world of lockdown when most people are nervous of getting on a bus or a train what do you reckon on investing in a up-market travel cases? The idea seemed so counterintuitive that I was stopped dead in my pyjamas when I saw that RPC have been advising the owners of British luxury luggage brand Globe-Trotter on the sale of a majority stake to the private equity firm Oakley Capital. I presume Oakley must have got it for a knock-down price and maybe have warehouse space to fill unsellable – for the time being – smart bags even if linked to ‘premium brands; such as Hermès, Tiffany, Gucci, Berluti and Aston Martin. Nonetheless I thought that Oakley was chancing it a bit when it declared that it ‘intends to strengthen Globe-Trotter’s positioning in the GROWING luxury travel luggage market.’
Still it’s all good for business. Commenting on the transaction, RPC’s Peter Sugden.said: “It was a real pleasure to work in advising on the sale of a well-known British luxury brand. I am extremely pleased RPC’s market-leading Retail Group was able to help the client close this transaction smoothly.” NO coughing or high temperatures there then.
Digital Justice, DIY Prisons
The announcement by the of the need to prioritise serious crime during these days of C-virus crisis prompted Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar to comment that, “The Bar and our colleagues across the legal profession are doing our best to support the justice system and make it work as well as possible in these constrained times. The most important thing is the ongoing safe delivery of justice, in the interest of the public. We cannot afford as a society to shut down or put off justice until the pandemic disappears.”
Of course the resort to virtual, digital court-rooms has been one of the by-products of the state of emergency. Not always an easy matter, comments Rose Burns, a seasoned criminal barrister from12 CP Barristers in Southampton. “The Ministry of Justice would like nothing more than to do away altogether with real people, juries and lawyers – to say nothing of defendants and their families – and simply dispense ‘justice’ over the airwaves,” she says. Plus, with the whole nation in lockdown, there’s no need for gaols either. Just send the convicted to detention at home.
CHALLENGES TO DIVORCE SETTLEMENTS UNDER PRESSURE FROM CORONNA CRISIS
“A lot of people have lost a fortune in the stock market crash and will feel they can no longer afford the maintenance payments that they were paying. They can apply to the court for those payments to be reduced or completely cancelled. We saw a lot of these cases after the financial crisis when shares fell heavily and a lot of jobs were lost in highly paid sectors like investment banking.”
“If you have lost a very large part of your wealth or your income then the courts ought to take that into consideration as a ‘material change in circumstances’ when looking at an application to reduce or end spousal maintenance payments.”
“However, the court won’t look kindly on you if you have been reckless with your money, nor will it reduce the maintenance payments just to save the higher earning spouse from having to moderate their lifestyle. If your finances have taken a big hit you should avoid the temptation to just unilaterally cutting maintenance payments, that could get you into trouble with the courts. Many will not relish the prospect of returning to the family courts some years after their divorce was finalised.”
Katie O’Callaghan, Senior Associate, Boodle Hatfield
SILVER LINING TO BE SEEN IN INHERITANCE TAX RELIEF?
“Since the outbreak of Covid-19 we have seen a significant increase in the number of people looking to ensure their personal affairs are in order as the pandemic impacts both families’ health and finances. Relief on inheritance tax can offer a silver-lining on the coronavirus cloud and much needed capital during this economic crisis. As executors look to sell-off inherited portfolios which are quickly diminishing in value, a tax relief of 40% on losses is welcomed. The property market may of course follow suit, so it’s good to know that executors are given a longer time period to apply for loss relief from property sales.”
Tim Snaith, Partner at Winckworth Sherwood
APPOINTMENT OF THE WEEK
FORSTERS EXPANDS ITS REAL ESTATE REACH WITH REINFORCEMENTS FROM ORRICK
West End firm Forsters continued its process of renewal yesterday with the arrival of Orrick’s UK real estate team led by Anne O’Neill and including two other partners Andrew Denye and Sara Branch plus ten lawyers.
With over 100 lawyers in its Commercial Real Estate group this now makes the Forsters team one of the largest in London with a client base including names such as LaSalle Investment Management, British Airways Pension Fund, The Crown Estate, PATRIZIA, Knight Dragon and Aberdeen Standard Investments. To these will now be added, it is hoped Orrricks following of the Coal Pension Fund, intu and Notting Hill Genesis.
“We have very much enjoyed being part of Orrick’s success in London since 2005 but we are delighted to be moving to Forsters, a firm whose reputation and commitment to real estate we have admired for many years,” said Anne O’Neill.
Andrew Crabbie, Head of the Commercial Real Estate group at Forsters commented: “We are delighted to be joined by a team which will be an excellent fit with our culture and values at Forsters. Looking beyond the market disruption we are all experiencing as a result of COVID-19, we are absolutely clear about our commitment to real estate, which has been at the heart of the Forsters business since we launched in 1998. There is great synergy in the team’s work for Coal Pensions, a fund managed by LaSalle Investment Management, with whom Forsters has worked for many years.”
Simon Willis, partner and Orrick’s London Office Leader was gracious about his fortmer colleagues’ departure. “We will certainly miss them in our London office,” he said. “They are at the top of the game in their field and the Forsters platform will be a great fit for their practice and their clients.”
THE REALITIES OF WFH – When your children are ‘working’ alongside you!
WFH seems great in theory- and is, in effect, a necessity in these C-virus crisis days. But, as Charlotte Bradley, the head of the Family team at Kingsley Napley, wrote in the ‘Women in Family Law’ newsletter, the challenges of conflicting demands soon disrupt the best of intentions. Here are a couple of key extracts – but the whole article is well worth reading at the Women in Family Law website.
Parenting and ‘home schooling’
The first couple of days were a baptism of fire. My idealised vision of the three of us sitting down at the kitchen table working together harmoniously went out of the window within half an hour. First issue was IT problems; not mine (our firm’s IT systems have fortunately held out), but two different school systems crashing and my old home laptop (which my son was borrowing) had unhelpfully overnight developed ‘mouse drifting’. But, with IT support, I discovered it can be improved by lots of banging on the inbuilt mouse, so I had two willing volunteers to help. Second was a ‘quick trip’ to the local shop for a pint of milk which required three trips to supermarkets, only to discover when I got home that I’d lost my work mobile phone. After plenty of shouting and tears (the children have seen me cry more in the last two weeks than they remember) and hammering at the doors of the petrol station’s M&S (which was closed for stock taking), eventually the said phone was found, thereby avoiding a complete breakdown on day two of lockdown.
So far, our experience of remote hearings has generally been positive, with some clients finding remote mediation easier (not having to sit face to face) and others finding the options available on some of the online platforms better, including the ability to have ‘corridors’ for the barristers to meet or ‘breakout’ rooms (which inadvertently but maybe appropriately one of my colleagues called break down rooms in one hearing!). And at least lawyers and clients can wear their pyjama bottoms, have their pets near them or, failing that, have a cheeky drink to get through the day (a remote hearing is in fact more tiring than a face to face hearing). Everyone has had to get to grips quickly with the different on line platforms, with the main London family chambers leading the way – a sign of the times being a disagreement between two sets about which platform to use!
LAW FIRMS’ ART COLLECTIONS – REMOTELY
Many of the leading law firms in London and elsewhere have excellent art collections on their walls and in their vaults. But if you are WFH then, with a few exceptions, they are not available to enjoy.
To remedy that we intend to feature some of the best loved works from those who see them daily. To start the series we go to the brilliant Hogan Lovell collection, curated by Michael O’Donoghue, who explains why he has chosen ‘Into the Woods’ by Howard Hodgkin.
Howard Hodgkin | Into the Woods, Spring, 2000-2001 | Lift-ground etching and aquatint from four copper plates, with carborundum from four aluminium plates, printed in acrylic. | 80 x 52.5 inches (203.2 x 133.3cm)
I’ve chosen this piece as it was the first work I saw when I entered Atlantic House in 2016 for my job interview nearly four years ago. Despite being in competition with “Libra“, a stainless steel sculpture that commands the lobby some eight stories high; this is the work that caught my eye.
It is hard not to be drawn to Hodgkin’s work and this is one of many around the firm. The sheer scale of the work and the striking vibrant colours and emotional strokes are hard to ignore. One thing that I did struggle with was the condition. It is often difficult to see work of such importance left to dwindle, so as part of the firm’s focus on refreshing the collection this, and some other works by Hodgkin, were restored, reframed and glazed to bring them back to their former glory.
This work has now been repositioned and hangs proudly on our client meeting floor. This work in particular (before restoration) was one that was often referred to as the “marmite” piece in the office; people either loved or loathed it. Since its restoration, it is fair to say there is more of a romance with the piece and the people who pass it every day.
In 2001-2, Hodgkin printed the “Into the Woods” series which is said to represent the four seasons. The series began with “Into the Woods, Winter”. The series is named after the infamous Stephen Sondheim musical, which portrays the story of numerous fairy tales entwined, with the woods symbolising life and the passage of time. Following the completion of “Into the Woods, Winter”, Hodgkin used the same eight lithographic plates to produce the remaining three works in the series using his signature vibrant colours and emotional strokes. “Into the Wood, Autumn” is also part of the HL Collection.
We hope that you’ve found some/most/all of this interesting. If so do please send in your comments and contributions firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ll do it again next week.