Edward Fennell’s LEGAL DIARY

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

June 7 2024

Editorial contact: fennell.edward@yahoo.com

In a week when we are commemorating the historic fight for freedom and the courage of individuals it is timely to absorb also the findings of The IBA report on the social and economic impact of the legal profession.

Amongst a wide range of insights it showed that the countries with the best access to justice have 25 per cent fewer cases of governmental overreach and that jurisdictions with a strong independent legal profession can hold governments to account, attract more investment, provide better healthcare and improve gender equity.

The battle on the beaches of June 1940 was, ultimately, for the rule of law and justice. But as the Impact Report also states, as threats to the Rule of Law become more serious in many parts of the world, action must be taken to ‘improve access to representation, strengthen advocacy, improve education and pursue the highest ethical standards’. Those are the medals for our generation.

The Legal Diarist 

In this edition

+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK

Wanted – More Voters

Give Us a Break

Getting A Divorce? Get a Coach

No Competition – The Right Person for the Job

+ CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE OF THE WEEK

DON’T FORGET HOW TO VOTE by Maddy Vincent

+ LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK

on cohabiting couples and Labour, Google’s £13bn lawsuit, the TikTok attack, Harley Davidson versus Next

+ APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK

at Browne Jacobson and Clarke Willmott

Wanted! – More Voters

All political parties know that the big challenge on Election Day is to get their vote out. But maybe a bigger challenge for the UK as a democratic society is to get ‘the vote’ registered in the first place – and then for it to turn up with the appropriate credentials to exercise their rights on the day. (Okay, Boris Johnson couldn’t manage it for the Local Elections but even some quite sensible people were caught out).

Citizens UK is a grassroots alliance of local communities working together in England and Wales to promote public welfare. One of its current campaigns is voter registration where its priority is to work with organisations across civil society to get at least 300,000 ‘at-risk’ people registered to vote and participating in upcoming elections.

One of the ways it does this is through involving Voter Registration Champions – and the first law firm to become involved has been named as Stone King.

“As part of its commitment to good citizenship, Stone King is proud to be the first law firm accrediting with Citizens UK as a non-partisan Voter Registration Champion,” said Alison Allen, Chair of Stone King. A number of the organisations we work with, including education, charities and faith organisations, are all committed to voter registration drives. We feel it is important, as lawyers committed to wider civic engagement, that we also promote engagement with democracy on a non-partisan basis to our people. We hope to be joined by others in the legal community.”

So that’s the challenge – register with Citizens UK as a Voter Registration Champion at https://forms.office.com/e/UCL7HqT2Z3.

Give Us a Break

We have probably all got the message now that newly-qualified lawyers at elite law firms are on stratospheric salaries for 25 year olds (making young medics wonder why they were ever cursed by the call to their ‘vocation’). But maybe this is a case of, ‘If it looks too good to be true then…there’s probably more to it than meets the eye’. And exactly what that amounts to is now unveiled by the latest report from Chambers & Partners and Lamp House Strategy ‘Attraction and Retention Strategies: A Legal Market Analysis.’

The report is well worth reading in depth at https://crm.chambers.com/leading_teams_annual_report_2024 but the essence of it is contained in a critical sentence in the Introduction – “For many associates, it is accepted that in return for… career development opportunity and the high levels of reward, they commit themselves fully, often at the expense of life outside of work.”

The report goes on to analyse the implications of that in detail. It highlights that in addition to ‘sheer work volume’, there is over-servicing; poor project management; low work predictability, and a general lack of respect for associates’ personal time. This frequently becomes so intense that it becomes incompatible with how people want to live their lives. The great prize then become not great wealth just that familiar aspiration ‘to gain better work-life balance’.

Enough of lip service – firms should start taking this seriously. They cannot just accept that there will be ever more green graduates throwing themselves into the trenches. “Our survey showed there are levers that can help people to deal with the stress – minimising those frustrations by making work more predictable, effective project management and embedding pastoral support within teams.” Yes, definitely worth a read.

Getting A Divorce? Then Get a Coach

Meeting up with a group of pals recently the LegalDiarist realised that three out of four had been through a divorce – so there’s a lot of it about and mostly very painful. With quickie and no-fault divorce now making an impact things might be improving a little but Stowe Family Law (the largest specialist family law firm in the UK) believes that it is time to take a more holistic approach. That is why it is now launching a ‘divorce coaching service’ so as to enhance its approach to client care in the round.

In a recent survey by Stowe more than four out of five clients said they would use a divorce coach if needed. And it does seem to make a difference. Following a recent pilot programme 100% of all participants found coaching ‘extremely helpful’, and showed marked improvement in the reduction of stress levels, increase in happiness, improved communication and organisational skills, and feeling positive about the future.

So Stowe has now partnered up with the Divorce Coaching Academy, the UK’s only externally accredited specialist divorce training programme to enable divorce coaches to work alongside clients’ legal teams to add additional support to people as they go through the process of divorce and separation.

“We are delighted to add divorce coaching to our range of services. Divorce and separation are not just legal processes,” said Kate Nestor, Head of Brand and Content at Stowe. “They impact every area of people’s lives. Behind each case, there is a family struggling to navigate the changes it brings, and they need support in a variety of different areas.”

Other firms will now no doubt start to follow suit. 

For more  https://www.stowefamilylaw.co.uk/family-law/divorce/divorce-coaching/

No Competition – The Right Person for the Job

The Advisory Board to the Competition Law Forum at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) has a new Chair. Already a longstanding member of the Forum Helen Jenkins, (above) a respected expert who has appeared before courts and competition authorities across a number of English-speaking jurisdictions (including Hong Kong) is taking over with immediate effect.

Jenkins’ experience in the field is extensive based on more than 25 years of applying economic principles to issues of strategic importance for businesses, predominantly in the context of litigation and competition investigations. This is backed up by excellent credentials including being listed in The International Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers & Economists since 2001, and in WWL Thought Leaders Global Elite – Competition Economists since 2021. She is also the author of Economics for Competition Lawyers (Oxford University Press, third edition, 2023.

Speaking about the appointment Jenkinssaid, “I am honoured to have been appointed as Chair of the Advisory Board of the Competition Law Forum at BIICL, following in the footsteps of Michael Hutchings, who has provided exceptional guidance since the Forum’s inception over 20 years ago. The Forum plays a unique and vital role in bringing together leading experts and policymakers to address the key challenges in competition law worldwide. I look forward to collaborating with co-directors Dr Liza Lovdahl Gormsen and Phil Evans to continue the Forum’s significant work in shaping future policies and practices through informed debate.”

DON’T FORGET HOW TO VOTE by Maddy Vincent

In a year where nearly half the global population is heading to the polls and the UK general election fast approaching, campaigns are coalescing around the important issue of encouraging citizens to exercise their democratic rights. A 2023 Electoral Commission report estimated that up to eight million people were missing from the electoral register in the UK and that millions more were not registered accurately. These stark statistics tell only part of the story – only 47% of 18-25 year olds voted in the 2019 general election and 4.3 million young people are not registered to vote, whereas over-65s were most likely to vote (with an estimated turnout of 74% in 2019).

The ‘Right to Free Elections’ is enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights, lying at the heart of the rule of law, and companies across the legal sector are working to support campaigns encouraging under-represented groups to vote. On 3 June, The Politics ProjectHogan Lovells and the In House Pro Bono Group hosted a Hackathon, showcasing some of the biggest non-partisan voter registration campaigns in the UK, including Democracy Classroom, My Life My Say and Citizens UK. The deadline to register to vote is 18 June.

The Hackathon also launched ‘The Voter Handbook’ and an accompanying Guide, produced by Hogan Lovells in collaboration with The Politics Project and in line with Electoral Commission guidance. The Handbook provides employers with a non-partisan way to encourage voter participation amongst employees by disseminating clear information on how to vote. Evidence shows that companies that carry out corporate voter engagement can make a meaningful impact on voter turnout. The Handbook covers who can vote in UK parliamentary general elections, voter registration, the different methods of voting and voter ID requirements.

Maddy Vincent is a Trainee Solicitor at Hogan Lovells. The firm has has extensive experience supporting democratic campaigns, including advising the campaigns listed above pro bono on electoral law consideration and the Give an X campaign, which promotes the registration of youth voters.

TOPIC: The need for an incoming Labour Government to keep its promise to give separating cohabiting couples greater rights. 

COMMENT BY: Kate Daly, Co-founder of amicable, the online divorce service for couples

“For decades, there has been a cruel and damaging imbalance between the rights enjoyed by divorcing spouses and civil partners and the few and flimsy ones given to separating cohabiting couples. 

I have seen countless cohabitees find that after years of living together, they can be left with no safety net on separation. And it is almost always women who suffer most. After years of making invaluable contributions, if the home is not in joint names, they cannot re-house or face complicated and expensive civil proceedings to keep a roof over their children’s heads. It can be desperately difficult to move on with their lives

Labour must make sure that co-habiting couples, many of whom mistakenly believe in the myth of a ‘common law marriage’, are finally given rights and protections like those of married couples and civil partners.”

TOPIC: Google’s £13.6bn lawsuit

COMMENT BY: Iain Connor – Partner – Commercial & Regulatory Disputes | Michelmores

“Google’s dominance in search is unquestionable; all of which is maintained by its vast advertising revenues.  The fact that the Competition Appeals Tribunal has certified the case to go forward to test whether it is abusing that dominant position to prevent other AdTech companies competing is massive.  All this against a backdrop of the UK’s new Digital Markets, Competition and Consumer Act which will designate Google as a Strategic Market Status firm giving the Competition and Markets Authority the power to impose ‘Conduct Requirements’ on it, means Google is in for a rough ride over the next couple of years.”

TOPIC: The TikTok cyber-attack and breach of individuals’ legal rights

COMMENT BY: Hanna Basha, Partner at Payne Hicks Beach

“TikTok are the latest of many companies to be subject to a cyberattack, with reports today citing that the accounts of Paris Hilton and CNN were both targeted by hackers.  It is now almost impossible to avoid these sorts of attacks and therefore incredibly important that individuals consider carefully what they are sharing on social media platforms.  Individuals sharing private messages have legal rights in privacy, confidence and data to keep these messages private and prevent them from being published.  However, the practical advice must be to try to limit what you do share, even in direct messages, and before sending consider whether it could be damaging or embarrassing if published.”

TOPIC: The news that Harley Davidson is suing Next over trademark infringement

COMMENT BY:  Dr Beatriz San Martin, Partner, Arnold & Porter

“In the vast majority of cases, this type of brand dispute – which is very common between brand owners and retailers – is resolved without having to seek recourse from the courts.  Given that Next has design freedom to change the logos used in its clothing range and the t-shirt being complained about by Harley-Davidson is unlikely to have resulted in significant sales, I am surprised that this claim has been issued and that the parties were not able to come to an agreement out of court.” 

BROWNE JACOBSON

Jan Cumming (left0 has been appointed as legal director to the Browne Jacobson Government practice. Formerly Team Lead for Commercial and Contracts at Warwickshire County Council, where she held a complex caseload of high-value commercial contracts and procurements, Cumming has advised both the New Zealand and Australian governments on administrative decision-making and governance while working at the New Zealand Crown Law Office and Clayton Utz. She has particular expertise in governance processes (including governance of local authority trading companies), joint ventures, shared service options and delegations of functions, and trading powers.

“Having witnessed how Browne Jacobson works with its local government clients from the other side of the fence, I know the high regard in which this firm is held for its support, not just from a legal perspective but also as a supportive ally,” commented Cumming.“I am very excited to be joining at a time when providing this support has never been more important as local authorities seek to identify new ways of making efficiencies while ensuring they are meeting their statutory duties during challenging economic times.”

CLARKE WILLMOTT

Richard Saxton (left) has been appointed as a new partner to Clarke Willmott LLP’s Birmingham office where he joins the  commercial property team. He will specialise in the leisure, hospitality and retail sectors as well as in real estate finance and investment.

“I am delighted to be joining Clarke Willmott and particularly the commercial property team, which is doing really exciting work in the city and nationally,” comments Saxton. “The firm’s strong reputation for providing high quality legal services in the property sector was a major incentive for me and I look forward to working closely with the teams and our clients.”

Saxton is expected to advise on a range of commercial property matters for owners, occupiers, investors and lenders. “It’s great to welcome Richard to our property division,” said Rayner Grice, head of Clarke Willmott’s Birmingham office. “He’s an experienced and pragmatic lawyer with a commercial focus and a strong track record. He’ll fit in perfectly with our team of driven commercial property experts.”

(Interestingly, Saxton also has a side hustle in the wine business as both a writer and host of tasting events.)