Edward Fennell’s LEGAL DIARY

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

22 December 2023

With thanks to Hilliers Arboretum, Hampshire

With things looking pretty bleak right now both internationally and domestically one might be hard-pressed to find much to say about comfort and joy in the present season.

But we are not without HOPE

Even in the legal community it is worth reflecting on the positive role played by law firms and individual lawyers in wider society across the year. Whether that be through engaging directly with local schools and charities, undertaking extensive pro bono work or fund-raising initiatives such as the Tour De Law (featured this week) which has generated 150K+ for Breast Cancer Now, no-one can accuse law firms of being Mr. Scrooge.

It means Christmas Today can be celebrated and sustain hope for better Christmases Future.

The Legal Diary team wishes you a Happy Christmas and New Year.

The LegalDiarist

In This Week’s Edition

– The Art of Law at Dentons

– Senior Women Lawyers: It’s Chile Outside

– Tour de Law Does it Again

– Christmas Wishes – All Pretty Academic

on easy IP, the commercial retail market and combatting ransomware

Skipton Building Society

The Art of Law at Dentons

Work by the winning artist Lauren Godfrey

Christmas came early for Lauren Godfrey, a London-based artist who came top of this year’s Dentons Art Prize competition and has collected a cheque for £5,000 to boot.

Now in it’s eleventh year, the Dentons Art Prize aims to support what are described as ‘promising artists’ as they start to move through their careers. But it is also an endorsement of the value of art in itself for the ‘vibrant and responsive insights on both local and global culture’ that it affords, as Dentons puts it.

The competition was organised this year in conjunction with with curator Niamh White and artist Tim A Shaw and the shortlisted artists display their work at Dentons Fleet Place office. An added benefit is the opportunity to have expert pro bono legal advice from the firm – a real asset for any artist at the start of their practice.

“Once a year, a number of artists, many of whom have gone on to great success, showcase their work at Dentons,” explained Lucille De Silva, the Dentons Parner who is the Art Prize lead, “For our lawyers and clients, who spend many hours in meetings, the changing art collection provides inspiration in challenging negotiations. We thank all our ‘Dentons Art Prize’ artists and judges for the superb competition!”

Lauren Godfrey has already received recognition from the art world with her work being held at Soho House and in a permanent installation at Newham Hospital, London. Her work was decsribed as ‘a space for the viewer to get lost in an overload of pattern on pattern, creating a dialogue and an atmosphere of joy and generosity’.

Other winners included Jimmy Merris, second placed with a prize of £2,500, for a series of small woodcut prints that feature a lonely figure, either weeping, wanting help or standing still (possible title ‘The Lawyer’s Client?’). Stephen Doherty was awarded the ‘Staff Prize’ as voted for by Dentons employees.

Senior Women Lawyers: It’s Chile Outside

The latest edition of research into gender inequality has been published by the International Bar Association (IBA)’s  Legal Policy & Research Unit (LPRU). The focus this time is on Chile where respondents to the survey reported that while women make up 39 per cent of lawyers in Chile’s law firms, they hold only 18 per cent of senior positions. This is significantly lower than previously published IBA research for women senior lawyers and judges in the Netherlands and Nigeria where the figure stands at 46 per cent, as well as Uganda where it is 40 per cent. However, the figures for the single jurisdiction of England and Wales is strikingly lower at 32 per cent – while in Spain it is lower still.

By contrast figures in the Report show that the corporate sector in Chile actually has a higher percentage of women in senior role positions (54 per cent) than the overall number (52 per cent) of women within the sector.

Meanwhile the Chilean public sector is winning a reputation for actively promoting greater female representation in leadership positions. “It has introduced innovative measures to encourage women to pursue positions of increased responsibility,” according to the report.

“[This data] invites us to reflect not only on the reasons why female representation in positions of responsibility is significantly lower than the total percentage of female lawyers and the challenges we face, but also on the path travelled to get here and the lessons we can draw from that experience,’ commented Andrea Muñoz, Justice of the Supreme Court of Chile

The 50:50 by 2030: A longitudinal study into gender disparity in law – CHILE RESULTS REPORT (Gender Report) is launched in partnership with the LexisNexis Rule of Law Foundation.

Tour de Law Does it Again

Before you sit down to that Xmas lunch just pause to take in the figures for this year’s massive Tour de Law fund-raiser. With an astonishing 15,327 kilometres having been clocked up by hard -driving legal legs – maybe some of them yours? – a massive £152K was raised, pedalstroke -by-pedalstroke, for  Breast Cancer Now.

Barristers and solicitors alike took part so, of course, there was plenty of competitive needle going on as the kms clicked by. But adding a unique piquancy to this year’s event – due to the happy coincidence with the Rugby World Cup – was the participation of a high-profile side featuring rugby referee-cum-barrister (or is it the other way round?) Wayne Barnes leading his team of Rugby World Cup referees in a ‘Race the Refs’ effort.

Overall the top cycling score came from Willkie Farr & Gallagher, who churned over a monumental 913 kilometres during their time in the saddle generating a cool £13,324 en route to claiming the title Tour de Law 2023 champion. They also won a team ticket to Breast Cancer Now’s Charity Golf Day next May.

However the biggest actual fund-raisers were Keystone Law who grabbed the Star Fundraising Award having chalked up an unbeatable £24,414. Latham & Watkins, the 2022 champions, won the Race the Refs award.

Since its launch in in 2012, Tour de Law has raised well over £1.1 million for world-class breast cancer research and life-changing support.  Registrations are already open for next year’s event taking place on 9 and 10 October 2024. For more go to  tourdelaw@breastcancernow.org.

Christmas Wishes – All Pretty Academic

Dr Liz Curran is an  Associate Professor and Impact Research Lead at Nottingham Law School and in what is certainly a ‘first’ for the Legal Diary she kindly relayed on to me a copy of her ‘Impactful’ Christmas present list whoch she sent to Santa for his consideration this year.

As a starter Dr. Curran is very clear about where she is coming from in terms of evidence-based research – ‘Societies that are equitable, fare better in terms of indicators on health, well-being and happiness’ she declares – and she then plunges into her wish list of which the following items are merely a judicious selection.

+Compliance with humanitarian and international law in countries where there is civil war and conflict. This is so that people (especially children and women who are often affected disproportionately) can live with dignity, safety and in peace. 

+ Fundamental rights under the law to humane housing, income security entitlements (especially) with increasing cost of living pressures, safety from domestic abuse, redressing discriminatory practices, averting homelessness and reductions in stress and anxiety are addressed through proper funding for legal support and expertise at the earliest stages

+ Safe harbour for those who are fleeing persecution by honouring the UN Convention on Refugees, so they are not detained or returned to unsafe countries by ensuring these people have proper, timely fair and just processing of applications and adherence to the law

+ For people to live in harmony without division, recognising that we have more in common than what divides us, that we are all human regardless of our economic, social, cultural, gender, racial, ethnic, or religious beliefs by ensuring protections that keep us united are not diminished

    We must now wait until this time next year in the hope that miracles might happen.

    TOPIC: The High Court’s ruling that Achilleas Achilleous – trading as trading as  www.easyliveauction.com was “riding on the coat tails” of easyGroup’s trademarks

    COMMENT BY: Sir Stelios_Haji-Ioannou

    It is a fact of life that brand theft is profitable for brand thieves. There will always be opportunists who want to trade off the back of the reputation of another business rather than invest to build their own.

    As easyGroup has extended the easy family of brands to as many as 100 different sub-brands, it is more likely that a brand thief will get away with confusing the consumer that they are a legitimate member of the easy brand family when they are not. I consider it a back handed compliment to our success that brand thieves try to pretend they are part of our easy family.

    Our court victory proves that all we want is to uphold the rule of law. We must protect consumers and the legitimate members of the easy family like easyJet.com, easyHotel.com, easyStorage.com and easyLife.co.uk and many others  who use the ‘easy’ logo,  under licence from easyGroup. It is the collective and exceptional efforts of the easy  family members that have turned the easy brand  into such a trusted institution. We don’t want them being mistakenly associated with people who like the Judge said, free ride on our coat tails.”

    TOPIC: Prospects for the commercial retail business in 2024

    COMMENT BY: Rabinder Chaggar, Commercial Property Partner, Clarke Willmott

    The high inflation and high cost of borrowing that we saw this year left many tenants facing potentially large rent review increases – even with ‘caps and collars’ – which helped caused the demise of well-known high street retailers such as Wilko,” he says. 

    Corporate occupiers with linked rent reviews may be able to breathe a little easier in 2024 with inflation trending down, but at 3.9 per cent it remains higher than the long-term average of 2.8 per cent. 

    We believe that until inflation rates come down to historical levels, corporate occupiers with rent reviews in 2024 will face material increases in rent that will impact on operational cost levels.  

    This will lead potentially to more store closures and the demise of retailers on the high street.”  

    Historically, landlords and tenants have operated rent reviews on an open market basis, which can give rise to disputes and commercial uncertainty.  

    Over the last ten to 15 years there has been a trend linking them to inflation, to provide a degree of certainty in terms of cashflow. As with rent reviews, rates of inflation above historical levels, allied with high borrowing costs, could lead to a partial return to the old open market system in lease negotiations.” 

    TOPIC: The seizure by international authorities of the ‘dark web’ site operated by the ransomware gang known as ALPHV (or BlackCat)and the provision of a decryptor to victims to enable them to recover ransom payments.

    COMMENT BY: Dr Ilia Kolochenko, Adjunct Professor of Cybersecurity and Cyber Law at Capital Technology University and CEO at ImmuniWeb

    “This interagency and multijurisdictional law enforcement operation crowns a historical record of ransomware takedowns conducted in 2023. It is an excellent example of how well-coordinated cooperation between the EU, UK and US authorities, with support from transnational agencies such as Europol, brings efficient results and slows down the surging pandemic of ransomware and interrelated hacking campaigns.

    Having said that, disruption of cybercrime’s infrastructure and selective arrests of identifiable cyber gang members is rarely sufficient. For example, a considerable number of seized hacking forums or marketplaces resurrected a few weeks after the seizure under a similar or new identity. Amid the global geopolitical uncertainty, many cybercrime groups safely operate from non-extraditable jurisdictions in absolute impunity.

    Payments of ransoms in cryptocurrencies – despite the several successful seizures of bitcoins that happened earlier this year – remain largely untraceable and immune to seizure. While somewhat utopic, unless nation-states manage to hammer out a truly global convention against cybercrime that would be ratified by all UN member states, the battle against organized cybercrime will be like fighting an immortal hydra.”


    Sara Mounsey (left) is to become the Head of Legal of the Homes and Money divisions at Skipton Building Society. Having graduated in Law from the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Mounsey trained and qualified with DLA Piper LLP. She subsequently joined Langley’s in York before being recruited by Skipton Building Society in 2014.

    In her new Head of Legal role, Sara will oversee the provision of strategic legal advice to Skipton’s Homes and Money functions. She will lead a team of financial services lawyers to improve operational efficiencies through technology and work with leaders to develop innovative solutions that benefit the Society’s members.

    “It’s an exciting time here at Skipton as we work across the business and the entire Skipton Group to find new ways to help our members into homes and make money work as hard as it possibly can,” said Mounsey. “With the cost-of-living crisis, our members are facing a challenging environment. As I take on this new role, with an incredibly talented team behind me, I hope to ensure I do my part to make a real difference and deliver on our promise to help more of our members to achieve their financial aspirations.”