Thursday August 20 2020 Lunchtime publication Edition 22
Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and arts from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
The C-Virus pandemic began as tragedy and is now ending in farce. Becoming pastmasters at making difficult situations worse the Government’s absurd mishandling of A level results and university admissions has been breath-taking. Unfortunately the legal education establishment has not come out of it with flying colours either with attempts to run exams remotely/virtually blighted by technical failures and toilet humour.
One of the few bright spots has been the success of BPP – see our Legal Diary of the week story below. Among many other things BPP – along it must be said with the Open University – has pioneered legal education online. Likewise Kennedys is now offering online work experience. That looks like the way we must now go, much further and faster.
In this week’s edition
+ Legal Diary of the Week
+ Commentary of the Week by Tony Williams of Jomati Consulting
+ Legal Highlight of the Week by Keith Morton QC
+ Artworks of the Week with Pinsent Masons
+ Blogs of the Week from Forsters
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
MARTYRED FOR THE CAUSE
The announcement that Peter Martyr will be stepping down from the top job at Norton Rose Fulbright is something that everyone knew would happen eventually but could not quite imagine in fact (rather like Queen Elizabeth ceasing to be on the throne of England). But the announcement is now out that Gerry Pecht has been elected as the firm’s Global Chief Executive to take effect from 1 January next year. So it is over (almost).
The fact that this coincides with the UK’s departure (finally) from the EU is appropriate. Over the past thirty years Norton Rose (as was) has been transformed from a firm with ambitions along the M5 motorway up into the Midlands and the North of England into one with global presence. Martyr has been in the top position for eighteen of those years and the firm’s growth reflected the UK’s development into a world leader in finance and law – with Martyr being the man to turn that vision into reality for the firm. Often enough when other top lawyers were having a bit of a break over the Christmas/New Year period he would be flying to yet another destination with ambitious plans. This meant that when the Brexit result was announced he could make the point that the firm was now operating around the world and that a hiccough in Europe would not be big enough to throw the firm off-course. Martyr carried that off with panache – he will genuinely prove to be one of those ‘very hard acts’ to follow.
BPP PROVES DOUBTERS WRONG BY DEGREES
Go back a generation or so and legal education was a dull, sleepy affair, a drudgery to be got through in pretty grim surroundings. Then a revolution started. In the regions Nigel Savage stirred things up at Nottingham Law School before coming to London to do the same with College of Law. But also – to the amazement of some – the private sector started to become involved notably with the arrival of BPP.
Naturally they were viewed with suspicion by the legal education establishment not least because they came along with pizazz, smart design and new-kid-on-the-block boldness. And they also did a very good job in signing up big law firms to their LPC courses. They also offered training for the Bar in innovatory ways. And then, most astonishing of all, they offered degree courses in new, cost-effective forms. At each stage there were predictions of failure but on each point they got it right. In 2013 they we admitted into the hallowed halls of being a ‘proper’ university recognised by the Privy Council.
And this week – in the midst of a catastrophic educational landscape – BPP has been granted the highest accolade of indefinite ‘taught degree’ awarding powers under the Office for Students new regulatory framework. “The experience and expertise that our staff bring to programme design, delivery and review has been fully acknowledged with this decision,” commented BPP’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Tim Stewart. Few would have believed this possible when BPP first established itself on the South Bank all those years ago. Well, the doubters got it wrong.
[Moreover, to underscore its status. the latest figures from the official Graduate Outcomes Survey show that postgraduate students who study with BPP and go into employment are more likely to secure highly skilled employment roles compared to students from other universities. BPP heads the table followed by Cambridge, Imperial College, Warwick and Oxford. Quite some achievement]
VIRTUAL WORK EXPERIENCE OPENS OUT OPPORTUNITY AT KENNEDYS
Now here’s a brilliant idea – and maybe one which could only emerge from our current lockdown culture. Law firm Kennedys has launched a virtual work experience programme which will give insights into what it is like to be a lawyer to a much wider audience than would normally participate in their scheme. And with one leap the scope for diversity has been massively increased.
As the firm explains, the four-module programme offers real work experience as participants complete a variety of tasks to gain legal analytical skills, develop legal knowledge of the insurance industry, and learn critical legal communication, research and drafting skills.
Caroline Wilson, HR director at Kennedys, says: “In this new world we are now working in, this programme is a fantastic way to open up access to everyone and move on from the traditional on-site work experience. Students often feel under pressure to buy traditional office clothes which they might not be able to afford or perhaps have to travel long distances to come into the office, which can be overwhelming.
“Instead, students from any school, college or university can undertake real-life tasks that our junior lawyers complete.”
Students will watch videos from current trainees and apprentices who will ask for their assistance in completing a task. The platform allows for students to interact with virtual clients and colleagues in a way that replicates real-life work experience.
They will also be asked to prepare a witness statement (Liability), prepare a PowerPoint presentation for a client pitch (Insurance), leave a voicemail for a client (Healthcare) and undertake a legal research exercise on ‘force majeure’ (Commercial). There are both written and verbal instructions for each task.
After they complete each task, students have access to a model answer to compare theirs against. So they should learn a lot. And in addition they will receive a completion certificate at the end, which they can add to their CV and LinkedIn profiles. Other firms take notice – this definitely looks like a precedent to follow.
WORRIED? YOU SHOULD BE
According to a new report published jointly by legal PR consultancy Byfield and students from the London Business School there are six things which are keeping managing partners awake at night. The Legaldiarist is amazed – what only SIX things?
“It will become clear in reading this report that we believe communication lies at the heart of addressing the key business and risk concerns that law firms are facing,” comments Byfield. “By applying a lasersharp focus to the six areas of communication we identify at the end of this report, law firms can protect and enhance their reputations for the long-term and emerge with more resilient businesses as a result.”
The six worrisome items include
+ cash flow
+ employee wellbeing
+ client services
+ data/regualtory breach
+ professional negligence
but to see the report for yourself go to http://byfieldconsultancy.com/2020/08/the-six-things-keeping-managing-partners-awake-at-night/
LEGAL COMMENTARY OF THE WEEK – SAFE FUTURE FOR LAW IN HONG KONG?
Today sees the announcement that Watson Farley & Williams’ co-managing partner Chris Lowe is to relocate to Hong Kong this month, to ‘Take advantage of opportunities arising out of the region’. However Chinese national security law could undermine Hong Kong law, suggests TONY WILLIAMS of Jomati Consulting
The joint declaration of 1984 between the UK and China provided for the return of Hong Kong to China in 1997 and the creation of the “one country, two systems” approach. This should have meant an autonomous Hong Kong for a period of 50 years post-handover.
Many of the Hong Kong Chinese, whose families had often arrived as refugees from China, took the pragmatic decision (hoping for the best but plan for the worst) of securing Australian, Canadian or US passports and then returned to Hong Kong. Meanwhile, with what might be regarded as typical myopia, the UK’s door had remained shut to them. The British National Overseas Passport available to many Hong Kong residents actually gave no right to reside in the UK.
Many people feared that China would respect the ‘one country two systems’ model only for so long as it was expedient to do so. Inevitably, the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 (still denied by China) heightened their concerns.
The unrest in Hong Kong in 2019 changed the equation for China. Demonstrations, calls for greater democracy and the removal of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive were unacceptable to the Chinese leadership who within China require unquestioning acceptance of the authority of the Communist Party. The level of dissent (and the possibility of it emboldening dissenters within mainland Chinese) meant that the Chinese Government felt that it had to respond whatever the consequences for Hong Kong.
The imposition on Hong Kong of the National Security Law was a naked demonstration of power by China. The law is wide in scope and extra territorial in coverage. Potentially it could undermine the rule of law in Hong Kong. Arrests followed the introduction of the law but it was hoped that it would be used sparingly and allow a level of normality to return.
The international response to the National Security Law may be seen by China as an interference in its internal affairs but China’s approach is also potentially an abrogation of the Joint Declaration as an international treaty. The imposition of US sanctions, including against Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, raised the stakes further and was followed by the arrest of Jimmy Lai the prominent publisher of the tabloid Apple Daily, potentially sparking another round of insecurity among those in Hong Kong not prepared to tow the party line.
Hong Kong and Hong Kongers have shown remarkable resilience in the past and hopefully they will again. But, if basic personal freedoms are being removed and the rule of law compromised that resilience may be tested to the limit and beyond.
Tony Williams established legal management consultancy Jomati in 2002. Since then he has advised firms of all sizes in over 50 jurisdictions. In previous roles Tony lived and worked in Hong King from 1984 to 1990 and observed many of the turbulent events in China close up. He has been a regular visitor ever since. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
LEGAL HIGHLIGHT OF THE WEEK SAFETY AT WORK
‘RISK OF HARM’ NOT ‘ACTUAL HARM’ IS CRUCIAL ISSUE IN ‘RETURN TO WORK’ DEBATE SAYS KEITH MORTON QC
It hardly seems news worthy (The Times and others 13 August 2020) that Lord Hendy QC, a distinguished barrister and recently ennobled Labour peer, has advised clients on health and safety law. The story made the headlines because his clients are said to be public sector trade unions and his advice is said to be that coronavirus could be classed as a hazardous substance under health and safety laws, which could in turn allow teachers to refuse to return to work in September. The latter point is especially controversial in light of the government’s policy that schools are to reopen in full in September.
Lord Hendy raises an interesting point which is applicable to all employers. Health and safety law is concerned with the risk of harm, not actual harm. It does not require employers to create a risk free environment, but to reduce the risk of harm so far as is reasonably practicable. The law is generally concerned with risks that are work related, that is to say risks arising from work and which are within the control of the employer. A community transmitted virus does not easily fit into that category. But, health and safety law could extend to transmission of a virus in the workplace. Where, as with coronavirus, there is guidance on reducing the risk of infection and where the potential consequence of infection is serious, enforcement action could be taken if the guidance is not followed or other equally effective measures are not taken. Provided that is done it will be hard to establish an employer is in breach of its duty to employees and others.
Keith Morton QC, barrister is Head of Chambers at Temple Garden Chambers
ART WORKS OF THE WEEK – PINSENT MASONS
With this year’s crop of art graduates missing out on the usual end-of-course opportunities of exhibition and publicity Pinsent Masons art consultant MAGGIE O’REGAN has ridden to the rescue
In the current times, our world’s digital presence has never been so important in helping us to connect with others, facilitate conversations and provide much needed support. The pandemic has been a time when many of us have slowed down and collectively taken a break, reassessed and re-evaluated. This has been one of the many positives – but there is no denying the disruption to our lives.
For art college graduates the restrictions imposed by the C-virus left them grappling with no access to workshops. In normal times a graduate show is the ultimate ending to art studies and, typically, provides a vital opportunity for artists and designers to show their work and potentially get discovered. Instead there were ‘virtual’ degree shows and uncertain career prospects which, with the best will in the world, have serious and long-term disadvantageous implications for the young graduate. Put bluntly, without a physical show the artist is thrown into a future that is much more uncertain.
In response to this Maggie O’Regan, Pinsent Masons’ art consultant and herself a Chelsea Fine Art MA Alumna, decided to offer her support to the sector by providing free online daily consultations during June and July. The online sessions provided a sense of solidarity with other graduates, particularly when Maggie posted weekly slide shows of the graduates work on her art consultancy Instagram @insitu_art_consultants. There was reassurance to individuals in knowing they were not alone.
The response was huge and over a five week period Maggie held sessions with 40 graduates across diverse disciplines ranging from Fine Art Painting, Photography and Sculpture to Animation, Visual Communications, Media Cultures, Art History and Art Logistics. The global spread and cultural mix was also broad (one of the great advantages to how many of us are communicating right now) encompassing art colleges across the UK as well as Paris, Dublin, Madrid, Chicago, Singapore and the UAE.
‘‘The creative community has been particularly active online, with many exciting talks, collaborations and discussions taking place that would never occur under normal circumstances,” says Maggie. “In the lead up to offering my support, I was particularly struck by a short film produced in lockdown by some of the BA Fashion graduates from Central Saint Martins. It was humorous but also a sad evocation of the loss of opportunity. Events surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement prompted me to think deeper. I was inspired by a colleague at Magnum Photos who reached out to the photography community and I prioritised BAME and LGBTQ+ in my call out for graduates to engage. The need to pull together as a more supportive community was reinforced by turbulent world events.’
‘The ability to connect globally and experience cultural diversity was one of the most satisfying aspects of the whole engagement,” continued Maggie. “It has also been great to witness the adaptability and creativity of graduates despite the challenges. Additionally, it extended my typically London-centric focus to connect with a much wider geographic spread. Feedback from graduates was very uplifting, with a lot of appreciation for the opportunity to simply connect, discuss the challenges, set goals and identify the opportunities.’
NOTE Maggie posted the weekly slide show of work by the 2020 art graduates on Instagram under her consultancy @insitu_art_consultants and twitter @MaggieORegan. These are still available to view. For further information contact email@example.com
LEGAL BRIEFINGS OF THE WEEK – FORSTERS
Forsters’ lawyers have served up this week a juicy mix of updates on the law for both private clients and the commercial client plus that classic puzzle in planning law – what do we mean by beautiful?
So here they are…………………………………..
A Guide to Buying Residential Property in England & Wales by Residential Property Senior Associate, Anna Jassani and Associate, Jessica Scarlett
plus also NEW GOVERNMENT PROPOSALS ON PLANNING LAW by Sophie Smith:
- Government White Paper: Planning for the Future – Development
- Government White Paper: Planning for the Future – Beautiful and Sustainable Places
- Government White Paper: Planning for the Future – Infrastructure