Snips, comments and contributions from the legal world for this week April 30 2020
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
Readers of a certain age might remember singer/writer Leonard Cohen’s dystopian song The Future’ which includes the lines ‘Things are going to slide, slide in all directions/Won’t be nothing/Nothing you can measure anymore.’ Well, things are certainly sliding all directions right now among law firms in how they are managing the recruitment, retention, promotion and rewarding of ‘the talent’. Until three months ago the maturity of these practices meant that all the major firms operated pretty much to the same systems. But now whether it comes to furloughing, bonuses, partners’ allocations or student vacation schemes it’s all chaotically random. When it returns to ‘normal’ those norms are going to have to be reinvented. Or maybe they have gone for a generation.
The LEGAL DIARY of the Week
Dicing with Dyson
There were fascinating personal and professional revelations by Sir John Dyson (Lord Dyson) the Master of the Rolls from 2012 to 2016 when he appeared on Michael Berkeley’s Radio 3 programme ‘Private Passions’ (the upmarket version of ‘desert Island Discs) over the weekend. As well as his choice of music (all the top Bs – Bach, Beethoven, Bernstein and the Beatles) he was also impressively candid about mistakes he had made and a period of profound fatigue he had experienced. Most interesting though, maybe. were his views on former Lord Chancellor Grayling with whom he had to work quite closely over cuts to legal aid. Dyson was very unhappy about the whole process regarding the result as ‘not a badge of a civilized society’ But Grayling, apparently, had no hesitation, expressing the view that far too much money was being spent on legal aid anyway. Later ,in reference to music by Verdi, Dyson said, “If you are not moved by this then you have a heart of stone”. I wonder to whom he was referring?
Women lawyers in Lockdown
It is being assumed that women are bearing the brunt of the labour and stress of the lockdown experience especially if there are children to be home-schooled at the time. The ‘Next 100 Years Project’, which is backed by The Law Society, CILEX and other professional bodies, is seeking to collect first hand accounts of what is actually happening and how people are coping. They are inviting women lawyers to take part in their three minute anonymous survey
“With the impacts of coronavirus likely to stay with us for the long-term, we want to use the information collected to inform the priorities of the new Next 100 Years Taskforce so that we can create an actionable agenda to make lasting change for women in the profession,” says the Next 100 years. .
For more go to https://next100years.org.uk/
World IP Day was celebrated over the past weekend (April 26) with a special focus on the role of IP in sustainability under the theme “Innovate For a Green Future”. This prompted Marks & Clerk, perhaps the premier IP specialist firm, to point out that the energy sector is where we are seeing some of the world’s most exciting and ambitious green innovations.
“The innovation we are seeing in the green energy sector is particularly exciting with some truly cutting edge projects underway that could shape the future of energy production in ways we could never have imagined just a few decades ago,” said Giles Pinnington, a Chartered UK and European Patent and Trade Mark Attorney with the firm. “It’s not just green energy companies where we’re seeing great strides, but in the oil and gas sector we’re also seeing some fantastic innovation as it adapts for the future.” SO BP, Shell and co. might still have some life in them yet,
Cut Price Justice
The Bar Council revealed yesterday significant cuts to its staffing – at least in the short term – with seven of its 35 people being furloughed. Meanwhile the Bar Standards Board has decided it cannot at present furlough staff. This is probably a correct move given that any suggestion of ‘reducing standards’ would send out a poor message.
That said other professions – including notably the medical and care sector – are being monitored with much lighter touch these days and an interesting debate has started about whether standards in times of great emergency can continue to be upheld in the absence of proper facilities.
“We are a very small organisation, which relies heavily on our dedicated staff and some 400 volunteer barristers, and punches well above our weight, but we know that we need to be as lean as possible, especially now,” said Michael Cree, Chief Executive of the Bar Council.
COMMENTARIES OF THE WEEK
THE “55” SILENT SOLUTION FOR SUFFERERS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
It is now understood that one of the most alarming bi-products of the Covid-29 Lockdown has been a massive rise in domestic violence. Here REBECCA CHRISTIE of HUNTERS LAW examines the ‘silent solution’ for alerting the authorities when a woman (or occasionally a man) is under threat.
Whilst everyone knows how to dial 999 how many of our clients who suffer from domestic violence know about the 55 “silent solution” within it? It is a vital additional layer of protection that as solicitors we all need to make sure our clients are aware of, particularly during the lockdown
The ‘Silent Solution’ is a system that alerts the police to 999 mobile callers who are in need of emergency assistance but are too scared or unable to speak.
After calling 999 from a mobile, the call operator will ask the caller which emergency service they need. If the line remains silent, the operator may ask a series of questions and suggest that the caller tap the handset, cough or make a noise by way of response. If the caller remains silent and if the call operator cannot decide whether an emergency service is needed, they will forward the call to the ‘Silent Solution’ system. This is a Police automated message that begins with ‘you are through to the police…’ and lasts approximately 20 seconds. The message requests that the caller press 55 to be put through to the Police. If the caller does not press 55 the call will be terminated. It is therefore vital that victims of domestic violence are made aware that in an emergency situation they must press ‘55’, to ensure that the Police are notified of the call.
If 55 is pressed, the call will be transferred to the caller’s local Police force, where a call handler will try to communicate with the caller by asking simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions.
It is important to note that the system does not apply to 999 calls made from a landline. If a victim of domestic violence calls from a landline without specifying the emergency service required and the caller does not answer the operator’s questions, the call will be connected to the Police and, unlike a mobile call, the caller’s location can usually be traced.
BREACH OF CONTRACT: DO WE NEED A BREATHING SPACE?
The Covid-19 emergency is messing up the ability of businesses to deliver on their contracts right across the economy. So in these unusual times should the usual rules apply? Lord Neuberger has suggested not. But JONATHAN COMPTON of DMH STALLARD is not so sure.
On Monday, in a radio interview with the BBC, Lord Neuberger called for a breathing space for companies facing breach of contract cases during the C-19 emergency. But what looks like a sensible and reasonable proposal, is actually both a misconception, and a honeyed trap.
The idea is misconceived because, if we leave the ivory tower of the UK Supreme Court behind us, we can see life at the coal face is more subtle and complex. Any lawyer, before simply issuing a Claim Form and Particulars in the county court, will need to follow either a set of formal procedures called “protocols” or a general procedure called “the pre-action practice direction” before a claim is issued. If a lawyer – or even someone pursuing a claim without a lawyer – decides to issue a claim without following one of these set procedures they will need to explain why to the court. There are safeguards within the court procedure to ensure this compliance. A good lawyer will perform due diligence on a defendant company and get some idea as to the means to pay off the said company. Lord Neuberger’s intervention ignores these safeguards. Further, does his lordship propose a general moratorium on new claims during the C19 emergency? If so, then he runs the risk of commercial contracts and payments simply stopping.
Second, and more fundamentally, his lordship’s argument will tend to be taken advantage of by companies who will pray in aid an article written by him to justify late payment when they in fact have the means to pay. The result may be to encourage litigation rather than to discourage it. His lordship must also be aware that small businesses, which depend on prompt payment, may be prejudiced by any general rule that paying companies are entitled to a “breathing space”. Also, we all know that deferring or removing an obligation on one party is simply asking another to carry that burden – sometimes, that is – or can be – a fair result. But to impose a general moratorium, if that is indeed what is being proposed, is unlikely to result in fairness. By his intervention, his Lordship risks that companies will delay payment and actually precipitate legal action.
APPOINTMENT OF THE WEEK
– HARVINDER (Harvey) SONDH, CILEX
Amidst all the new partnership appointments announced in the past few days (not to mention an exceptional merry-go-round of moves between the big firms) the appointment of Harvinder (Harvey) Sondh as the new ‘Business Development Director’ at CILEX (the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the law’s third professional body ) is also significant. If the law is going to improve diversity and genuinely offer alternative routes to qualification then CILEX has a key role to play.
As the former Director of Innovation and Enterprise at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Harvey will bring fresh insights into driving CILEX’s growth both in the UK and internationally. The goal is to expand CILEX’s base among law firms, in-house legal departments and government bodies so as to to open up career paths for their workforce. Plus he wants to increase awareness of the CILEx route into law amongst the wider public.
“I have been struck by CILEx’s leading role in promoting social mobility and diversity within the legal profession,” says Harvey. “I’m pleased to be joining an organisation that is making such a positive contribution to opening up the profession to aspiring lawyers from all backgrounds.”
Speaking about CILEx ‘s mission CEO, Linda Ford says, “Training and qualifying with us offers a raft of opportunities for our members who take advantage of our flexible approach to on the job learning. As we continue to challenge the system and promote the benefits of our alternative route into the law, Harvey brings a wealth of knowledge and experience of working with professional bodies. His understanding of how to respond to the needs of members and develop opportunities for commercial growth will be invaluable.”
For more on CILEX go to https://cilexregulation.org.uk/who-we-are/
PRO BONO/CSR PROJECT OF THE WEEK –
UNIVERSITY OF BRISTOL’s ‘LAW CLINIC INQUEST TEAM’
Just released by LawWorks (the Solicitors Pro Bono Group) is the shortlist for the Attorney General Student Pro Bono Awards 2020 sponsored by LexisNexis. It’s an impressive collection of inspiring initiatives by students at universities up and down the land all still inspired by the fight for justice and keen to fill the enormous gap in provision of legal advice to ordinary people at affordable prices.
In the category ‘Best New Pro Bono Activity’ the entry from the University of Bristol’s ‘Law Clinic Inquest Team’ particularly caught Legaldiarist’s eye. The winner will be announced in a fortnight’s time but here are the details of one to watch:
University of Bristol’s ‘Law Clinic Inquest Team’
The Inquest Team at the University of Bristol Law Clinic consists of six students who have launched a service to support those who are unable to access legal representation in the face of an investigation into their loved one’s death.
The inquest process is a legal one, held in a court, with submissions often required on detailed points of law. Interested organisations are often legally represented, but the family that has lost a loved one is frequently left without any recourse to legal advice, due to the extremely limited provision of legal aid for inquests.
The Inquest Team aims to plug this gap that leaves the majority of bereaved families adrift, unsure and isolated in the face of potentially complex legal proceedings, whilst still grieving.
The team offers a full range of support through the coronial process from advice on the process itself, reviewing statements, suggesting questions for witnesses and even advocating on behalf of clients. This is the only law clinic able to provide a dedicated service supporting bereaved families in this way.
“This project is pioneering and will make a significant impact in assisting families who wish to hold public bodies to account,” said the selection panel.
For more information about al the awards go to www.lawworks.org.uk/student-awards
ARTWORK OF THE WEEK – ROLAND HICKS’ DISSEMBLAGE SERIES IN THE LINKLATERS ART COLLECTION
“Artists have been hit hard in the Covid-19 lockdown,” explains Catherine Shearn, who curates the Linklaters Art Collection. “Many have lost most of their income. Galleries have closed, exhibitions have been cancelled and freelance teaching has dried up. Studio overheads haven’t gone away, nor have production costs. Most artists are self-employed sole traders, and at the moment are still waiting to understand how any government help will work for them. But artists are fundamental to the creativity in London and it is critical to support them when times are tough and keep this area thriving. We all benefit from the success of these artists, as their ideas permeate through the creative industries and into the businesses of the City.”
Arising out of this emergency, continues Catherine, has come an initiative by artist Matthew Burrows on Instagram, #artistsupportpledge, which has spread throughout the art world. It allows artists a chance to sell some of their work while giving back to other artists at the same time. Via the scheme artists can sell a piece of their work for £200 or less (shipping not included) but as soon as their sales reach £1000 they pledge to buy a piece of another artist’s work.
Linklaters has been inspired by the creativity of the scheme through which they have now bought several artworks for their collection. They intend to continue to support these artists. Amongst them are three works from Roland Hicks’ Dissemblage series.
“These tongue in cheek paintings use trompe l’oeil techniques to create modernist abstract assemblages which appear to be made from chipboard offcuts,” explains Catherin Shearn. “This links fantastically to some of the earlier modernist works on paper in our collection from artists such as Terry Frost, Lynn Chadwick and Barbara Hepworth.
“Hicks’ works offer very different readings from different distances – from the back of the room they appear as pieces of minimal geometric abstraction, a little closer and they seem instead to be neo-dada or arte povera found material assemblages, and closer still they reveal themselves as painted illusions.
“The very term ‘trompe l’oeil’ implies deception – and such work often risks falling flat, both literally and metaphorically, once the illusion is understood – but these pieces aim to be more open and generous in their trickery, and genuine in their enjoyment of humble materials and creative acts both real and imagined.”
LexPODS – THE LEGALDIARIST’S RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE WEEK
EVERSHEDS SUTHERLAND – COVID-19 AND COMPETITION
A ’Magnificent Ten’ line-up of ES experts from around the globe, chaired by Ros Kellaway, Co-head of Global Competition and Trade, take on the issue of competition law issues arising out of the corona crisis and how the authorities are responding through enforcement (or lack of it).
FRESHFIELDS – DATA ETHICS
Freshfields experts from Washington, London and Hong Kong discuss how regulators are dealing with the issue of data ethics – with Europeans being clearly in the lead in this increasingly urgent area of concern.
ALLEN & OVERY – POST LOCKDOWN RETURN TO WORK
Another ‘Magnificent Ten’ line up of A&O’s global employment experts discuss the legal framework for a return to work. Lots of expertise but sounds in parts as if being broadcast from a submarine.
Consumer Goods & Retail in a Post-Pandemic World
Featuring Alyssa Auberger, global Chair of the Consumer Goods & Retail industry group, this American-sourced podcast discusses how the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating existing trends and highlights the data protection issues. But the emphasis is that ‘brick and mortar’ will never go away entirely.
We’ll do it again next week. If you have any stories, recommendations or comments do contact the Legaldiarist at email@example.com