Thursday July 23 2020 Lunchtime publication Edition 18
Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and arts from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
– NHS ANTI-HEROES?
Tonight on BBC1 at 9.00 PM a pack of celebrities will be celebrating the NHS’s Superheroes. That’s all well and good but the constant bombard of praise for the UK’s doctors and nurses is in danger of providing cover for the undoubted failures and errors within the NHS. This is embodied most notably by the horrendous problems in NHS maternity units at Shrewsbury & Telford.
But according to Nicola Wainwright, clinical negligence partner at JMW Solicitors failures in care and the reports of families being treated with a lack of kindness and respect are not unusual.“I have met many families who have had similar awful experiences at different hospitals and whose concerns have not be heeded and whose stories have not been listened to. The real question is why these failures and shoddy treatment were allowed to continue. That brings into question the ability and/or willingness of the NHS to learn from its mistakes to improve patient safety. It also raises the question as to why it is the families and not doctors, nurses, hospital managers or complaints or compliance teams or NHS England or the healthcare regulatory bodies that have led to these independent investigations.”
Unfortunately it is unlikely that any of the celebs on the BBC tonight will be asking those questions.
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
With all the throbbing and portentous urgency of a new car launch Thomson Reuters announced this week the arrival of Westlaw Edge, the company’s ‘next-generation legal research system for the UK market’. The vibrant bowing of violins signalled that this was something which was going to rock the world of smart young lawyers – and maybe older ones too – keen to show off that they were ahead of the game when it came to new developments in the law. Big frame pictures of a railway terminal and an island – at least I think that’s what they were – sent out subliminal messages about the dangers of being adrift in an environment of endless shifting change where the only hope of rescue comes in the shape of a computer screen displaying Westlaw Edge in all its reassuring , slick immediacy.
So, yes, there was a lot of super-hype going on. But, of course, the ad. was correct. Clients come to lawyers because they want to have the latest analysis of the law and its regualr updating. And if you don’t have it then they will go elsewhere. And as Thomsons Reuters points out, they are building on ‘200 years of legal content’ so they know what they are talking about allowing users ‘to stay ahead of regulatory change and navigate the legal divergence with the EU.’
So this is the law made into a high tech, quasi-engineering exercise with a user interface which displays ‘the right tools in the context of the legal research session, including new filters, updated toolbars, documents optimised for easier scanning, and more.’ Plus a lot of case analytics. To put it crudely, Thomson Reuters has put in the hard work of keeping abreast of new legislation so that you don’t have to. But the question to put to ‘the answer company’ is ‘Where does this led to next?’
PRIDE OF KENT
Thomson Reuters might have access to over 200 years of legal records but another Thomson , Thomson Snell & Passmore‘s claim to fame, goes back more than twice that far. So this week the Kent-based firm is celebrating the 450th anniversary of its foundation in 1570 when Nicholas Hooper, a curate of Tonbridge Parish Church set up his legal practice. Over the years one client led to another, partners came and went, new outfits joined and there were a series of name changes so that the title Thomson Snell & Passmore was not actually settled upon until 1968. Nonetheless the Guinness Book of Records has recognised a genuine chain of continuity across the centuries and awarded TSP the title of oldest law firm in operation across the whole world.
No doubt had it not been for Covid-19 all sorts of junketing would be taking place across these Summer months. As it is, the firm has just released a forty minute video of a panel discussion of distinguished partners, current and recent, reflecting on the firm’s resilience and longevity. [FULL DISCLOSURE AND SPOILER ALERT TSP kindly invited The Legaldiarist to chair the panel discussion].
Meanwhile though, as the firm points out, 2020 marks a key year in its history as it has also recently appointed a new senior partner – Joanna Pratt – in succession to James Partridge, who held the role since 2008. Commenting on the anniversary, Sarah Henwood, the firm’s CEO said, “Today is a momentous one for Thomson Snell & Passmore. We’re very proud of our long history, and we recognise that we wouldn’t be here today unless we were able to embrace change. From leading the way as early adopters of technology in the 1970’s and setting up a publishing arm producing the first set of legal precedents (which we later sold to Sweet & Maxwell), anticipating and responding to change is part of our DNA. As we start to navigate a ‘new normal’ with coronavirus continuing to impact on all aspects of life, this ability to predict and adapt to change will be more important than ever.”
To see the Thomson Snell & Passmore video ALUMNI panel discussion go to
EU Disclosure Regulation lies just over the horizon – March 2021 being the key date – and to guide travellers unfamiliar with this new terrain Macfarlanes has published this week a very useful timeline – a model of its kind – as to what happens when as we advance towards it. See
The Disclosure Regulation (or ESG Regulation/SFDR as it is known to its friends), is part of a broader legislative package under the European Commission’s Sustainable Action Plan. It requires firms to make strategic business and policy decisions regarding their approach to ESG which must be disclosed on their website and elsewhere. Although the focus of the Disclosure Regulation is the provision of information to investors, clients and other stakeholders, it is clear that the preparation of accurate and comprehensive information on ESG will be burdensome – so it’s the time to get started. Look at that timeline now.
[Post-script: Macfarlanes has a knack for well-produced visuals. Way back in 2005 it published a guide to IP legislation called ‘the brandbook’ – the coolest piece of hard-backed communication ever to come out of a law firm].
Slow to feel the initial impact of Covis-19 Africa now seems to bearing its full brunt. Meanwhile issues of growth and sustainabity are ever more urgent and were at the heart of Hogan Lovells’ seventh annual Africa Forum held earlier this week.
Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the First Female President of Liberia & Nobel Peace Laureate, appeared as the impassioned keynote speaker to an online audience of business leaders. Addressing the Covid-19 crisis facing the continent she said, “”The prevailing wisdom is that our continent will survive this pandemic but the effects it will leave are enormous. The truth is that unless we address the issues of the pandemic and its presenting challenges… not only are we all ultimately susceptible to poor health but also we risk all other aspects of our collective existence and enduring partnerships.”
Moving on to climate change Sirleaf observed, “It is a fact that Africa, unlike other regions of the world, has contributed less to the climate crisis we now face. However, such is the interconnectedness of our world that despite this and the fact that many on the continent are without electricity, Africa faces a higher burden than most on changes for climate. Is Africa ready for sustainable values? Is Africa ready to resume full responsibility for its development? Yes. Africa is ready.”
After the conference the Head of the Hogan Lovells Africa Practice, Andrew Skipper, said: “I was delighted to host our 7th Africa Forum virtually and with such an exceptional array of speakers. We were determined to remain present in Africa despite being in the midst of the global pandemic, COVID-19, and we did so. To say Covid-19 has changed the world is an understatement and featured as a backdrop to our discussions. The immediate and lasting effect of the virus is still reverberating, and whilst it will undoubtedly have a fundamental impact on the way we do business in Africa, from Africa and across Africa, the positive and robust discussions showed a way forward brimming with hope.”
LEGAL ARTWORK OF THE WEEK
– ALEXIS HARDING AT LINKLATERS
An artistic environment in a corporate setting can stimulate creative thought and examination. That’s why many of the top law firms have invested in art collections – and it might be one of the losses of ‘working from home’. At Linklaters Curator CATHERINE SHEARN has sought out paintings and artworks which reveal the process and deliberation behind the artists’ works. By including preparatory sketches, studies and works where the artist’s hand is clearly evident, she hopes to encourage, subliminally or directly, a creative thought process in the viewer. Here Catherine describes one of the most prominent pictures confronting visitors when they arrive in the firm’s London office.
Watching over the visitors to the (at this moment, empty) waiting area in Linklaters’ reception is a striking abstract painting. Two large pink circles appear to have collapsed at the bottom of the canvas by Alexis Harding. On closer inspection, their journey across the surface of the painting is revealed in the traces left on the black background.
Harding’s method involves pouring gloss paint onto a wet oil surface, in this case forming two circles. The paint is then left to dry and over a period of months is pushed, pulled, and squeezed into position. They reveals a dramatic scarred and puckered surface, giving clues about the journey of the moving paint circles, and encouraging the viewer to reflect on the artist’s process and the work involved in creating this piece.
This work follows a long line of abstract painters who have experimented and pushed ideas of abstraction using form, colour and materials. The choice of the circle echoes other artists in this collection – Tess Jaray, Jennifer Durrant, Terry Frost, Barbara Hepworth and Clifford Fishwick rely on this familiar motif in other works around the building – but Harding playfully disrupts the form of his painting by letting the materiality take over
Alexis Harding won the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize in 2004, and has been a key part of a contemporary movement loosely called Process Painting. The subtlety of his work and the analytical exploration of his medium appeals to many at Linklaters – he is a confident and single minded artist who has made his own path out of finding the beauty in process. Hopefully his exploration of paint and its properties provokes comparable questions in the minds of the staff and visitors who engage with this painting.