Thursday August 13 2020 Teatime publication Edition 21
Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and arts from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
It is clear that the A level results published today are unlikely to go uncontested. The reviews and revisions may drag on for months. Rather like, in fact, the legal challenge to the Government for its lockdown policy by businessman and founder of the Keep Britain Free movement Simon Dolan. This is now deep into judicial review territory and is expected to be held at the Court of Appeal during the week commencing the 28th September. That’s the result of a ruling last week by Lord Justice Hickinbottom who said that the legal challenge “potentially raises fundamental issues concerning the proper spheres for democratically-accountable Ministers of the Government and judges.” Not too surprising really after the lockdown was described by the court as “possibly the most restrictive regime on the public life of persons and businesses ever.” And if is decided that the lockdown was wrong all along, what happens then? (Don’t ask, it’s too hot!).
Meanwhile in law firms the effects of the lockdown are starting to be felt as the mirage that ‘we’re all in it together’ begins to lift. Partners are grabbing work from assistants while lawyers who are WFH long-term are being told they will lose entitlement to their offices. Sharpen your knives now.
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
From across the pond comes an encouraging story of how entrepreneurial businesses can take on, effectively, fraudsters and win.
Patent law is often murky and complicated and has given rise to rich pickings for ‘patent trolls’ who cobble together bogus claims for patent infringement so as to extort ‘compensation’ from genuine innovators. (Astonishingly it is believed that cases of this kind represented 90% of high-tech patent litigation last year in the USA).
Refusing to be cowed Genetic Inc. – a technology company operating in the security, intelligence, and operations field – stood firm and took on through the courts the ‘non-practicing entity’ which had lodged the claim. And it won. Moreover it actually secured a payment from the plaintiff.
“Unlike the way many other companies deal with these sorts of attacks, we do not negotiate payment with patent trolls,” said Pierre Racz, President of Genetec Inc. “Despite the potentially high cost of litigation, bending to their anti-innovation tactics only encourages their behaviour and, as a matter of principle, Genetec will always vigorously defend its technology and the hard work of the people who create it. Though we have quietly followed this course since the first patent troll arrived at our door, we felt that this occasion was a good time to speak out against this practice.”
Jean-Yves Pikulik, Director of Intellectual Property at Genetec added, “This represents an important symbolic victory for Genetec, and a clear demonstration of our policy of never paying nuisance value settlements. While we would much rather spend our time patenting our innovations than fighting off patent trolls, we will continue to vigorously defend ourselves against NPEs and seek legal costs in lawsuits that we perceive as frivolous.”
A patent lesson for us all.
MONEY LAUNDERING – CHECK THE LABEL
Deciphering what’s going on in the money laundering business is getting as complicated as sorting out your acrylics from your synthetics. Having reflected last week on the City of London’s leading role in global money-laundering it appears from the Basel anti-money laundering index that the top 10 countries at greatest risk of money laundering are Mozambique, Laso, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Liberia , Haiti, Kenya, Vietnam , Benin and Sierra Leone.
Is this encouraging news for London? Well, not really given that none of those jurisdictions has any anti-money laundering regulations. So the bar is pretty low. But, surprisingly given the anxiety about money laundering, it seems that the UK is now rated at 106 in the league table (‘demonstrating a low risk of money laundering’). This is MUCH further down the table than the USA which ranks at 72. Confusingly though it is reckoned that in the USA £300bn was laundered in 2019 while in the UK it was £325 bn. In other words it looks like these numbers just don’t add up – suggesting maybe that the discussion of money laundering is often speculative and based on back-of a-fony-fiver calculations.
Still there is always room to be alarmist. “Despite ranking 106th in the Basel anti-money laundering index, money laundering is set to rise in post-Brexit Britain, which could lead to huge losses,” says John Dobson, CEO at SmartSearch which develops anti-money laundering software. “The Government’s plan to create 10 ‘freeports’ is certainly a risk. These freeports are areas inside the UK that are legally considered outside the country for customs purposes, so that goods brought in through these do not face import tariffs. While these are being created in a bid to boost trade, attract inward investment and increase productivity, they have the potential to set the UK’s anti-money laundering efforts back and put us at greater risk of becoming the money laundering capital of the world.”
Oh well, we can always hope.
The deadline of 15 August is looming imminently (that is this coming Saturday!) for applications to be made for the Autumn 2020 grant round from Therium Access – the pro bono arm of litigation funder Therium.
The priority areas this time round includes agencies and organisations working in housing, employment law and education needs, as well as those who are helping people facing legal issues reltaed to Covid-19. “As usual, Therium Access commits to preserving legal specialisations (people and organisations) and supporting work which have an impact locally, nationally or internationally,” comments the organisation.
Since launching last year, grants made by Therium Access exceed £1.4million and are expected to benefit tens of thousands of people across the UK. John Byrne, Co-Founder and CEO of Therium Capital Management Limited, comments, “We are living in unprecedented, and for many, extremely difficult times as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and as such, supporting access to justice has never been more imperative. We are proud to offer the necessary support to a variety of brilliant organisations that are seeking to provide justice to some of the most vulnerable in our society.”
Among the eight organisations which were successful in the Summer round of awards were the Environmental Democracy Team at ClientEarth which tackles environmental challenges through the power of the law and Crosslight Advice which provides a debt advice service and supports vulnerable and marginalised individuals and families.
For more go to www.theriumaccess.org
LEAP INTO THE NEW TERM
How is the law business going to survive post- Summer holidays and our heat-ridden state of suspended animation?
LEAP UK (a cloud-based practice management system for lawyers with integrated time recording, billing and client accounting) has developed a series of digital discussions aimed at helping law firms ‘survive and thrive’ after the pandemic. The programme will run daily from Monday 7th to Friday 11th September at midday and the events are free to ‘attend’. The topics to be covered will include conveyancing, family law, professional indemnity insurance, working digitally and setting up a law firm (for those who might have decided that enough is enough with their present employer). Speaking on them will be industry experts, such as Rob Hailstone of the Bold Group together with representatives of law firms and LEAP experts.
“We want to help law firms to succeed in the new abnormal, “ said John Espley CEO of LEAP UK. “These seminars are bite-sized nuggets of information, with advice for law firms. This will be thought provoking content, delivered by law firms and industry experts.”
For more go to https://www.leap.co.uk/innovateonline2020/
WEBINAR OF THE WEEK – BDB on Health and Safety
Monday 17 August 1.00- 2.00 PM
HEALTH AND SAFETY TOP TIPS FOR EMPLOYERS: A BDB PITMANS WEBINAR
As employers consider a ‘Return to Work’ they must remember their statutory duties to provide a safe place of work and also general legal duties of care towards anyone who may be accessing or using their place of business..They will also need to review and adapt their work practices and procedures in light of Government Guidelines and advice issued by the Health & Safety Executive including undertaking a Covid-19 risk assessment as soon as possible.
To help you work your way through this Alan Davies, a partner in the Insurance and Risk Team at BDB Pitmans LLP will discuss employers’ obligations as they plan for and execute a safe return to work and provide some ‘top tips’ on how to comply with their health & safety duties.
ARTWORK OF THE WEEK – SIMMONS & SIMMONS
Stuart Evans. former parter at Simmons & Simons and the inspiring genius behind the firm’s highly-respected art collection, introduces the work of Rachel Jones.
In the last several years the Simmons & Simmons Collection has acquired a number of artworks which explore issues of gender including by Rachel Jones – painting; Kayde Anobile – pencil drawing on birch ply; Jesse Darling – photograph and Irvin Pascal – ebonized wood construction.
I met the painter Rachel Jones at a Royal Academy Schools exhibition in 2018 and was impressed by the way in which she talked about her work. “All the work I have been making for the past couple of years has been about the replication of the black figure in the history of art and contemporary society,” she explained. “It is a massive subject and my most recent paintings are focused on the representation of violence and sexuality within black communities and refer back to things I have read from the 1700s and 1800s. I use colour and the energy I have as a person to alleviate some of the seriousness and darkness of the subject matter because I want the paintings to be accessible and for people to engage with them. I am attracted to things which are intense. I like it when you can feel the real presence of the person who has made a work within the painting.”
I chose the recent large painting, ‘Sisters’, with its vigorous, expressionist brush strokes and vibrant palette. When we discussed the painting I said to Rachel, “You know, I thought the figure on the left was a man.” “Stuart” she replied, “They’re both men!”
The legaldiarist team hope that you are enjoying this peculiar Summer and learned something new from this Summer-lite version of the Legal Diary. Please share with friends and colleagues and continue to send in stories and comments to