Thursday July 2 2020 Lunchtime publication Edition 15
Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and arts from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
Thirty-three years ago this week, the Legaldiarist started writing about law firms and the legal world. A review of the diary of that time shows that– aside from Simmons & Simmons and Slaughter and May – all the law firms featured in those first few months have now disappeared. So while the overall trajectory for the law business has been upwards – bigger, more international and more diverse – many firms have found it a difficult path to tread.
Right now that path has become even more slippery and steep. No one knows any longer the formula for long-term survival. To coin a phrase, ‘Stay Alert’ is about as wise as one can get. But, also, to read a headline in the legal press this week that announces ‘Andersen Global Enters Caribbean with Collaborations in 4 locations’ demonstrates that, sometimes, there can be life after (seeming) death.
In the week’s edition
+ The Legal Diary
+ Artworks of the Week at Travers Smith
+ Locations of Legal London – Temple Bar
p.s with Summer now here The Legal Diary is scaling down somewhat for the next few weeks – but do, please, keep sending in your stories.
THE LEGAL DIARY
Lock ‘Em Up
It’s a big day today in the fight by the determined campaigner Simon Dolan to overturn the government’s lockdown strategy as the High Court hears an application for permission to seek Judicial Review.
The nice irony, of course, is that because of the lockdown the hearing will take place via video link and not physically in the High Court. Anyone who wants to observe the proceedings will only be given Skype access at the discretion of the judge. So what about justice being seen to be done? But compounding the irony is that the lock-down is about to be lifted – at least partially in England- on Saturday. So if Mr Dolan and his team are successful they can – if they wait 36 hours – go out and celebrate in some suitable hostelry. (How long, incidentally, before a certain pub is re-branded as ‘The Whig and Keyboard’?).
But, jokes aside, these are serious issues which are setting precedents for the future. How far should democracies succumb to arbitrary restrictions on freedom to travel and socialise? So a lot hangs on the jousting today between Philip Havers QC for Mr Dolan and, probably Sir James Eadie QC, the Government’s counsel. Like the virus itself the case might be microscopic but the ramifications to the body politic are enormous.
You Take the High Road
Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled by a majority of 3 to 2 that Mr Charles Villiers – who is related to the Duchess of Cornwall – would not be allowed to have key aspects of his divorce from Mrs Villiers heard in Scotland. Instead they can go to England. Mr Villiers’ motive, it is fair to say, is that England’s courts tend to be much more generous than those in Scotland to wives. But, significantly, the only element in the divorce to go south are the maintenance arrangements. “This “loophole” that the wife has successfully found is linked to the EU Maintenance Regulations but is embodied in domestic law as part of the jurisdictional interplay with Scotland,” commented Julian Hawkhead of Stowe Family Law.
Of course everything these days is viewed through the lens of either Scottish independence or Brexit. Or in this case both. As Laura Burrows of Collyer Bristow points out, Lord Wilson – the court’s most experienced family judge and part of the dissenting minority – was moved to pen “A highly unusual postscript to his judgment that is searingly critical of the ramifications of the majority decision. The tactic used by the wife in this case is only applicable between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and is likely only to be available until 31 December 2020, upon Brexit being finalised.” How this will impact on Scottish wives who are eyeing up divorce to vote in IndyRef2 remains to be seen.
Hidden Gold in overlooked IP?
All sorts of special measures linked to Covid-19 are now starting to see their horizons looming with a hint/nudge/shudder that ‘normal’ life is about to return. One of the most overlooked deadlines, probably, is the ending of the special ‘interrupted days’ period introduced by the UKIPO at the start of the Covid crisis. This had the effect of extending the application dates for patents, supplementary protection certificates, trade marks and designs. And a jolly good thing it was too. But July 30 now looks likely to be the date when it’s back to the old regime.
Never one to waste a good deadline Joe Dearing of Global Intellectual Property Solutions at UnitedLex and his new pal Patrick Woolley, IP Department Chair at Polsinelli, are now encouraging in-house lawyers to take advantage of this prompt and make more of their IP assets to help their companies through the Coronavirus-challenged economy. “Smart Intellectual Property investment and management is one of the levers GCs can pull to successfully deliver new revenue opportunities,” they say, pretty much with one voice as their two organizations have come together blending Polsinelli’s patent experience with the ‘workflow engineering’ of legal services company UnitedLex.
Mind you, it hardly needs to be said that probably the most valuable IP in the word right now lies in a cure for this Covid-19 virus. Does one of your clients have the next dexamethasone? Worth checking out.
Computer Says ‘No Comment’
Channel 5 ran a fascinating documentary on Tuesday evening about the Harold Shipman case ‘Five Mistakes which caught a Killer’ (OK, it was a repeat but isn’t everything these days?). One of these mistakes related to Shipman’s attempt to edit the case records of his victims on his GP practice’s computer. The IT specialist police sergeant who caught him out declared triumphantly on camera “The computer doesn’t lie.”
Ironically that was exactly the same claim made by the Post Office in its pursuit of the sub-postmasters whom it alleged had been fiddling their ‘books’ on the Horizon computer system. But whereas the police were right about Shipman, the Post Office authorities could not have been more wrong over the sub-postmasters. The Horizon system was plagued with malfunctions.
As previously reported in this blog, sorting out the horrendous consequences has been – like Windrush – long drawn out and still continues. The latest developments include 45 (or more) of these cases being referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) to the Court of Appeal. The CCRC says there was an “abuse of the process of the court” by the Post Office. A further 900 prosecutions have now been referred by the Post Office for review to a specialist crime law firm.
The good guys in this are Aria Grace Law which is working as part of a pro bono team (including also Paul Marshall, a barrister at Cornerstone Barristers) on behalf of a number of people appealing their convictions. I bet their computers have a clean bill of health.
ARTWORKS OF THE WEEK – TRAVERS SMITH
BELLA HALL, SORIN BOGDAN SOFIAN and OSARETIN UGIAGBE
Notwithstanding the C-Virus restrictions Travers Smith LLP has persevered with its annual CSR Art Programme featuring artwork by students from the University of Westminster and the Royal College of Art (RCA).
And last week they announced the winners from this year’s selection. Admittedly it was not through the usual process of intensive face-to-face discussion by the judges. Instead the panel, consisting of Natalia Grabowska (Assistant Curator, The Serpentine Galleries), Nemo Nonnenmacher (CSR Art Programme alumnus and Associate Director of Unit 1 Gallery) and Alex Deveruex (Artist) had to confer virtually to decide the winning artwork and artists from a selection of 57 shortlisted pieces.
So the winners are Bella Hall, (University of Westminster) who received a prize for her “Untitled Blue” and “Thorns of Christ”, an abstract series of paintings exploring the formal elements of painting along with Osaretin Ugiagbe, (RCA) for his piece “Heads 2018-2019”, which aims to re-address the tradition of portraiture.
In addition Sorin Bogdan Sofian (University of Westminster) was announced as the winner of the popular vote, which was open to everyone who works at Travers Smith, for his series of striking photographs titled “The Last Place on Earth”.
All three winning artists have been awarded £2,000 to support them with their transition towards professional practice.
Engagement by the firm’s staff in the exhibited works is crucial to the project’s success. “Sorin’s landscapes are a complete contradiction,” said one staff member. “On first viewing they are beautiful abstracts until you realise what he has photographed is the result of the shocking environmental damage caused by chemicals used in the local mining industry. The surreal images of the submerged church and yellow river are counterpointed by portraits of smiling locals. A really powerful set of thought provoking images that stay with you long after you have seen them.” Meanwhile another added, “I really enjoy the CSR programme. It draws together people from right across the firm and it was really interesting to view lots of different works and shows. It’s fantastic the firm helps to support emerging artists and it’s a pleasure to walk around the office viewing gallery standard art every day, I never tire of seeing it.”
Sorin Bogdan Sofian‘s ‘The Last Place on Earth
Commenting on this year’s event Travers Smith’s CSR Partner Donald Lowe, said, “I am delighted that our judges were able to come together virtually to choose this year’s winners, and many congratulations to all the students that have been awarded a prize. Now in its fifth year, we are extremely proud of our CSR Art Programme and the way in which it emphasises our commitment to CSR from the moment someone enters our offices. As a firm, we remain fully committed to nurturing artistic talent and supporting the participating graduate artists as they transition from student life to professional practice.”
Rounding up, the judges Natalie Grabowska and Nemo Nonnenmacher praised the initiative saying, “Over the years, through their CSR Art Programme, Travers Smith has manifested its commitment and dedication to contemporary art by focusing on promoting and supporting emerging artists. This programme is even more remarkable this year, when many art organisations and networks are readjusting to the changed reality. We have a huge respect for Travers Smith for striving to go ahead with this programme, as it is a support mechanism for emerging artists evermore needed in these demanding times.”
Osaretin Ugiagbe‘s ‘Heads’
LOCATIONS OF LEGAL LONDON
In the second in an occasional series about key places of legal significance to London Daniel Dodman of Goodman Derrick LLP reflects on Temple Bar.
The Royal Courts of Justice are perhaps one of the most recognisable legal buildings in London. They are regularly besieged by camera crews who accost the victors and losers of various legal battles and its grand gateway sits prominently in the public perception of the English legal system. But the immediate surroundings to the Court weren’t always as they are now.
Very close to the entrance to the RCJ sits the location of the original Temple Bar which marked one of the first entrances to the City. Built in its earliest form in 1351, shortly after the Black Death and housing a prison above it, the gate was further renovated for the coronation of Anne Boleyn. Her daughter, Elizabeth I, passed under it to celebrate the destruction of the Armada.
Sir Christopher Wren built the final version of the gate in the 1670s and it was regularly used as a place to exhibit the heads of traitors (telescopes could be hired for those wanting to get a better glimpse of the offenders’ remains). Bizarrely, it is also one of the first examples of flat pack building, having being removed in 1878 to assist with the traffic flow near the Royal Court of Justice. It was resurrected in an estate in Hertfordshire where it stood for 100 years slowing falling into disrepair.
Fortunately in 2004 it was returned to the City newly polished and installed next to St Paul’s at the entrance to Paternoster Square. It looks so at home there that I wonder how many people getting their Pret sandwiches realise its remarkable history.
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