Edward Fennell’s LEGAL DIARY

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

March 1 2024

Editorial contact: fennell.edward@yahoo.com

Ben Wallace MP – Going to War on Work Life Balance
Image UK Parliament Copyright: Richard Townshend Photography

In the press today former Defence Secretary-of-State Ben Wallace speaks about the addictive nature of work in Westminster but also the appalling toll it tales on MPs’ personal and family life. That is why he is giving it all up. The same might be said for life in some law firms as evidenced by accounts this week of City law firm partner Vanessa Ford’s 18 hour working day and “acute mental health crisis” before her untimely death.

Sitting alongside this, of course, are the recent announcements of stupendous partners’ earnings as well as extraordinary salaries for 20-something newly qualifieds (especially with US firms). So, yes, the golden treadmill of City law will continue to attract the ambitious and the high achieving. But, like Ben Wallace, everyone needs to have a Plan B. Because Plan A can grind you into the dust.

The LegalDiarist

In this week’s editions

LEGAL ACTION WHICH MAKES A DIFFERENCE

– BOODLE HATFIELD WIDENS SCOPE FOR NEW PARENTS’ SUPPORT

– INSURANCE LAWYERS WEIGH UP RISK FROM AI

– SOUTHAMPTON UNIVERSITY OPENS NEW PRO BONO LAW CLINIC

IP PUTS THE ZIP INTO FI by Sarah Coe, Amy Peacey and Chloe Osborne

on lawyers’ use of AI Chatbox, Drax’s green credentials and Millennials’ inheritance prospects

at HUNTERS LAW LLP and MORGAN LEWIS

LEGAL ACTION WHICH MAKES A DIFFERENCE

Set up in 2014 by Antonia Mulvey, a UK-qualified lawyer, LEGAL ACTION WORLDWIDE (LAW, an independent non-profit association) is marking its tenth anniversary with a survey of its hugely energetic activity across the continents pursuing justice for the marginalised and the powerless. As Mulvey explains, the original aim was to create an organisation of “Advocates who would be standing shoulder to shoulder with victims and survivors, and who would think creatively about legal redress and how to access it.”

LAW’s predominant focus has been on the justice deficit in the war-torn centres of violence in countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Myanmar, Sri Lanka – and Occupied Palestine. Summing up the record the report states, “Working with 28 partners, LAW has provided legal information to more than 30,000 individuals in conflict contexts and supported (including in providing representation) more than 850 cases before national, regional and international courts. LAW has initiated landmark cases, provided critical interventions, advocated for the views of our clients at the International Criminal Court, the International Court of Justice, the African Commission of Human and People’s Rights, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women – and in many other courts and justice mechanisms. 438 justice actors have received training or technical support across a wide range of topics relevant to their work. LAW’s team now numbers almost 100 lawyers, jurists and support staff.”

Given the often chaotic and lawless environments in which these crimes and human rights violations have taken place it seems extraordinary that any redress is possible. As the report comments, “The lack of accountability for perpetrators of serious human rights violations and international crimes is a central factor in the continuation of these acts.” Yet the long arm of the international courts is increasingly been seen to have power. That was how LAW was able to enable, for example, victim submissions to be made to the ICC and the ICC Prosecutor on behalf of LAW’s Rohingya clients. As one of them observed,“I could not believe I could tell an international court about my sufferings. I could not believe it until I stepped into the courtroom. It was difficult for me to speak about the death of my family and their names, but I did it for justice, for my grandchildren, for a future where we can return home with dignity.”

Over time LAW has won the backing from many institutions and indeed law firms including Allen & Overy. It is well worth reading its anniversary report.

Go to

file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/862-LAW%2010YR%20Reportv3b.pdf

BOODLE HATFIELD WIDENS SCOPE FOR NEW PARENTS’ SUPPORT

Andrea Zavos leading change at Boodle Hatfield

A new equal opportunity parental leave policy has been adopted by Boodle Hatfield. Available to all employees and Partners across the firm it is reckoned to be a ‘market first’ for an ‘independent’ London law firm. It follows a review of benefits for the firm’s employees and Partners and forms part of a phased roll-out of new benefits.

Hitherto the firm has operated a Maternity, Paternity, Shared Parental and Adoption Leave programme but the new approach will now include access to 26 weeks fully paid leave (spread across 39 weeks) to primary and secondary parents and carers (including adopters) for all employees and Partners with 12 months’ service regardless of gender. 

“Providing access to flexible parental leave no matter your gender reflects our dedication to fostering a supportive and inclusive working environment,” says Andrea Zavos, the firm’s Senior Partner. “We understand the challenges that come with balancing a personal and professional life, particularly when raising a family. We want to support our people to build their careers and fulfil their potential in and out of the workplace. We are pleased to be early adopters of equal opportunity policy changes and to provide a more comprehensive offering to our team and one that clearly aligns with our values.”

The new scheme will also offer support for those undergoing fertility treatment, with an entitlement to five days paid leave per annum to attend appointments and treatment. The overall policy is ‘A further step in the firm’s endeavours to encourage inclusion, diversity, and gender parity in its workplace’ it says.

INSURANCE LAWYERS WEIGH UP RISK FROM AI

The global alliance of insurance law firms Global Insurance Law Connect’sfirst ‘Artificial Intelligence Report’ is blunt. AI will bring greater efficiency to many areas of the insurance process but ‘does not come without challenges’.

“AI has already become an essential part of our daily lives and is quickly making its way into the insurance sector,” explains Gillian Davidson, GILC’s Chair and Partner at Australian law firm Sparke Helmore. “This trend is expected to continue as AI offers numerous benefits including faster claims processing, improved underwriting, innovative insurance products, streamlined administration processes, and more efficient chatbots.”

However the report also finds that the algorithms which drive AI may have ‘inherent biases and lack transparency’ which will raise concerns about data privacy and ethical issues. Plus the use of AI also increases the potential for cyber-related events.

Based on research from eighteen countries the report highlights AI’s capacity to analyse vast quantities of data quickly as being a powerful tool for insurers in predicting and assessing risks. But it is vital to understand the legal context so insurers and their legal advisers need to be closely monitoring the development of regulations and legislation specific to AI.

“The EU’s forthcoming AI Act will become the benchmark for many jurisdictions around the world,” points out the report. Issues of liability, privacy, and cyber exposures could also appear as policyholders adopt AI in their business models.

“Currently, insurance solutions tailored to the risks associated with artificial intelligence are still in the early stages of development,” says Davidson. “However, as the technology advances and becomes more prevalent, and regulatory bodies sharpen their focus, we can expect an increase in AI-targeted risk solutions.”

 Download the report by visiting www.globalinsurancelaw.com

SOUTHAMPTON UNIVERSITY OPENS NEW PRO BONO CLINIC

The Solicitor General, Robert Courts KC MP, surrounded by keen lawyers-to-be at Southampton University

 Robert Courts KC MP the Solicitor General, was at Southampton University this week to open a new legal clinic which will offer pro-bono advice to local residents.

“I am inspired by their enthusiasm and drive as they begin the first stages of their legal career,” said Courts about the students.“Pro bono work is so important and allows everyone to access legal support no matter their financial circumstances. In my role as Chair of the Attorney’s Pro Bono Committee, I support students volunteering their time for this – it is essential to contribute to the integrity of our justice system.”

As part of the clinic’s launch the Solicitor General joined a panel of speakers promoting careers in the government legal service alongside the Head of Southampton Law school, Professor Werner Scholtz and Daniel Denton, partner at Hodge Jones and Allen.

“One of our ambitions is to pass on the wealth of knowledge to the next generation of lawyers,” said Denton. “The clinic fits into our ethos of providing access to justice for people who cannot always afford legal advice, and it will offer great experience for the students.”

Clients of the new service will be seen by law students with legal advice supervised by clinic director, Dr Omar Madhloom who commented, “Legal information is not always readily available to the community, so we will fill the gaps left by legal aid cuts and help those in most need. The clinic will also offer our students hands-on experience and training to prepare them to become lawyers who are able to shape the world around them.”

Locals to Southampton (like the LegalDiarist) should take note.

IP PUTS THE ZIP INTO FI

With the new Formula 1 season starting this weekend there will be renewed interest in the teams’ latest look and re-designs. The outcome of the races depends as much on IP as on the drivers’ skills, suggest Sarah Coe, Amy Peacey and Chloe Osborne of Clarke Willmott LLP

As Formula One fans gear up for the start of the new Grand Prix season in Bahrain this weekend, it is crucial to understand how valuable intellectual property (IP) protection is within the sport.

Formula One teams lead the automotive industry in innovation as any performance advantage they produce based on the changes they make to the look and configuration of their car will roll out across the sector in time.

Any advantage gained due to any adjustment made in the design or component of a driver’s car can have a significant effect on the outcome of a race. There is a fine balance between the skills and experience of the driver and the performance of the engine and the dynamics of the car.

In order to protect the appearance of the vehicle or a specific component of it such as the rear wing, the F1 Teams apply for industrial design registration worldwide. Any three-dimensional shape that is used as a type or pattern in the production of an industrial or artisan product, giving it a unique appearance even in the absence of technological effects, is considered an industrial model.

It is not just the functionality of the engine that causes the buzz among F1 fans, it is the distinctive appearance of a sleek aesthetic that enables the teams to increase their fanbase and develop a productive line of merchandise as well. Due to their ability to preserve the car’s aesthetic and use it to market products like car toys and collector miniature cars, F1 and its teams benefit greatly from this.

Another IP right that is used effectively to protect their brand monopoly within the F1 industry is the protection of team trade marks, such as “Scuderia Ferrari”. The trade mark registrations carve out the F1 team’s right to quality control all named products and helps to distinguish the brand and car’s uniqueness from the cars of the other teams. This is an essential tool for setting out the unique, identifiable team features and information about their investors, their owners and allows for a return on the investment made by their sponsors who put so much money into this headline sport.

In recent years it has gone further than this and teams are not only protecting their name but also that of their drivers, the shape and look of their helmets and clothing and anything that is distinctive to their team.

For example in 2017, the owners of Formula 1 obtained a trade mark on “Shoey” as Daniel Riccardo celebrates his podium success with a “Shoey” – celebrating by drinking champagne from a shoe. This trade mark is registered in 25 countries and is only able to be used in media with the permission of the owner.

Intellectual property protection is highly valuable in the F1 world, as it is in businesses generally. It is so important to understand the relevance and value this can add to your business.

Sarah Coe is a partner at Clarke Willmott specialising in IP and tech. Amy Peacey is a partner specialising in commercial contract matters. www.clarkewillmott.com

TOPIC: A Canadian lawyer’s use of an AI Chatbot for legal research which created fictitious cases.

COMMENT BY: Dr Ilia Kolochenko, CEO and Chief Architect at ImmuniWeb and Adjunct Professor of Cybersecurity and Cyber Law at Capital Technology University

This case happening in March 2024 is pretty astonishing given that the inherit unreliability and unsuitability of ChatGPT for legal research has been mentioned by many courts around the globe for more than a year already, reprimanding and sanctioning lawyers for imprudent use of AI.

Moreover, several state Bars and legal associations have already published comprehensive guidelines on the responsible use of generative AI in the legal profession. While AI can and does bring valuable support to lawyers when prudently used with diligence and case, for example, for ESI triage in discovery or for summarizing long documents, it can also cause substantial harm if its output is used without control and verification of human.”

TOPIC: The suggestion that theMillennials’ generation stand to inherit a “massive transfer of wealth and assets”

COMMENT BY: Robert Brodrick, Private Client expert and Chairman, Payne Hicks Beach 

The level of wealth that is currently enjoyed by the parents and grandparents[of the Millenial generation] is all the greater because of inheritance tax changes introduced back in March 2006.  This has made it very difficult for parents and grandparents to manage the transfer of their wealth to the next generation other than by way of outright gifts which most people are reluctant to do.

In the US the Inheritance Tax exemption is currently a massive $13.61 million for individuals, so a married couple can currently give away up to $27.22 with no Inheritance Tax.They can also use trusts to manage the transfer of wealth in a responsible way.

By contrast the exemption in the UK has been stuck at £325,000 since 2009, and it is now very difficult to manage the responsible transfer of wealth to children and grandchildren without an up front Inheritance Tax charge which means people tend to hold onto their wealth for longer, and die richer.”

TOPIC: The controversy over the use of biomass pellets by Drax which has enabled the company to benefit from a total of c. £6.5bn in renewable energy subsidies from the UK Government.

COMMENT BY: Richard Leedham, Partner at Mishcon de Reya

“There are many ways in which companies who masquerade as “green” ought to be called to account. In this case, Drax’s misleading statements and omissions appear to have caused actual loss to its own shareholders. We are committed to ensuring transparency and honesty in environmental reporting and are looking to hear from anyone who held shares from January 2021 to discuss how we would run and fund a group claim. This is not only about seeking financial redress but also about upholding integrity in sustainable investing.”

HUNTERS LAW LLP

Dr. Maria Wright and Alex Brereton

Alex Brereton has joined Hunters Law LLP as a Partner in its family law team. Formerly with Mishcon de Reya (where he has been for the past decade) Brereton has been listed in eprivateclient’s Top 35 under 35 list for 2022/23, and also referenced in The Legal 500’s 2023 Guide. Specialising in High Net Worth and Ultra High Net Worth matrimonial finance claims, Brereton has extensive cross-jurisdictional experience involving complex asset and income structures. He is also experienced in child arrangement proceedings, including those with international elements.

 “I am delighted to be joining Hunters as a partner in its highly regarded family team,” commented Brereton. “The team is very well-known for the quality and breadth of its practice, and I am excited to work with my new colleagues to continue developing Hunters’ modern and creative family practice to best meet the needs of today’s clients.“

Also joining the Hunters family team as a Senior Associate is

Dr Maria Wright https://www.hunterslaw.com/our-team/maria-wright/

who was previously a Senior Legal Advisor for the charity Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB). She specialises in the 1996 Hague Convention, and has undertaken an MSc and a PhD on the operation of private international law in care proceedings in England.  She has specialist knowledge in cases involving issues of forced marriage, and honour-based violence and child protection.https://www.hunterslaw.com/our-team/maria-wright/

MORGAN LEWIS

Rebecca Ford (left) has joined Morgan Lewis in its Dubai office. Formerly with Clyde & Co she will be involved in contentious and non-contentious employment matters across the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the wider region.

With extensive experience representing clients in high-stakes employment disputes and advising on a range of employment issues Ford has managed cases in the UAE and Dubai International Financial Centre as well as in the High Court in London. She has advised on employment law and immigration issues linked to employment in the Middle East and has also overseen workplace investigations.

“Rebecca is recognized as a leading employment lawyer in the UAE, and her versatile practice and skillset fits well with our strategy to expand our UAE practice,” commented Grace Speights, leader of the firm’s labor and employment practice. “We’re seeing an uptick in discrimination claims and many more investigations due to new labour laws. We are eager to have Rebecca to help guide our clients in these sensitive matters.”