Friday November 27th 2020 Edition 36
Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments, blogs, webinars and arts from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
– FEELING ‘FERVENT’ ABOUT THE LAW?
Yesterday the CityUK launched its tenth annual report on the state of London’s corporate law industry. On the whole it was upbeat (see below) despite Brexit and the Corona crisis. But more interesting in some ways was the jousting on the margins between James Palmer (the top man at Herbert Smith Freehills and chair of the legal sector group at CityUK) and the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland.
James Palmer commented that in recent times the government’s rhetoric had been ‘less than supportive of legal services’ – the rule of law is crucial, he said, justice is of core importance. In other words a stinging challenge to the next speaker. Trying to retrieve the situation a few minutes later Buckland insisted that he wanted to reassure the audience of the government’s commitment to the rule of law – a principle to which he ‘fervently adhered’ (said with Welsh passion).
Buckland seems an honourable man. He probably meant it. Whether that is true of all his cabinet colleagues remains to be seen.
IN THIS WEEK’S EDITION
+ Legal Diary of the Week
– CityUK annual report
– Legal Services Board report
– Family law awards from LexisNexis
– Quiz along with the Liberty Choir
+ Legal insight of the Week: Recruiting paralegals
+ Case of the Week: Halliburton – Comment and Webinar
+ Blogs of the Week from Hogan Lovells
LEGAL DIARY of the Week
All’s Well with the Law, says CityUK
A 9.00 a.m webinar yesterday morning to mark the publication of the CityUK’s annual overview of UK legal services brought together a perky Lord Chancellor, a robust incoming Master of the Rolls, an upbeat arbitration chief and an energised representative of the city solicitors to spread a comfortable feeling that however many tough tiers might be in the rest of Britain the legal profession is still doing very nicely thank you very much.
The theme of the CityUK report ‘Legal Excellence: internationally renowned’ was that London has enjoyed a decade of success and despite the doomsters and the question-mark over Brexit the market could continue to flourish – provided that lawyers kept on innovating and focused on staying highly competitive.
Amidst a mass of impressive financial details the stand-out figures were that revenue generated by legal activities in the UK has trended strongly upwards over the past decade, reaching £36.8bn in 2019, a 3.9% increase on 2018, adding to a total growth in revenue of 44% between 2010-2019.
As Miles Celic, Chief Executive Officer, TheCityUK, said, “The sector has continued to steam ahead, consolidating the UK as one of the world’s leading centres for legal advice and expert dispute resolution.” Celic went on to highlight the importance of the UK continuing to build on its early leadership position in LawTech innovation.
This was the major point taken up by Sir Geoffrey Vos, currently Chancellor of the High Court. but taking over as Master of the Rolls in January. Most of the shortcomings in the current system, he seemed to suggest, could be sorted out by digitisation. Small civil claims which often drag on for years would benefit enormously from a move to legal tech. Arguing for an ‘online justice system available to all’ he suggested that the ‘slow justice’ system currently prevalent represented a cost to the economy which would be a drag on national competitiveness.
Catherine Dixon, Director General of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, was able to revel in the way that the arbitration process was well suited to operating remotely and was able to mitigate the absence of face-to-face contact. While Jennie Gubbins, the Senior Partner at Trowers & Hamlins explained that after an uncertain start following the arrival of Covid the firm soon adapted to the new ways of – demonstrating, once again, the adaptability and resilience of law done London-style.
Significantly Clifford Chance announced this week that it intends to launch next year a new curriculum to extend lawyers’ understanding of technology and its applications on client matters. At long last it seems that old breach between the two cultures of arts and technology is breaking down. Thank you Digital!
On the other hand….State of Legal Services 2020
Mind you, let’s not get carried away by how marvellous it all is. The Legal Services Board also had a ‘ten year’ report out this week – State of Legal Services 2020 – which looks at matters from a rather different angle – and, indeed, picks up on some of the points made by Sir Geoffrey Vos. As it comments
- 3.6 million adults in England and Wales have an unmet legal need involving a dispute every year
- More than 1 in 3 adults (36%) have low confidence that they could achieve a fair and positive outcome when faced with a legal problem
- Nearly nine in ten people say that “law is a game in which the skilful and resourceful are more likely to get what they want”
It also highlights that
+ Many people and businesses lack the capability and confidence to recognise legal problems and get help.
+ Comparison websites and customer review sites are not well established.
Strategically the LSB says that the public is looking for
‘Better services – giving consumers the information and tools they need to drive stronger competition, creating the right conditions for providers – including those yet to enter the market – to redesign legal services that respond to their needs. It also entails regulators fostering responsible innovation that commands the trust of both the public and legal professionals.’
Again it looks like lawtech would be the only way forward to achieve any of this. “There is an opportunity for the sector to reinvent itself and embrace a culture that puts the needs of consumers at its heart,” claims Dr Helen Phillips, Chair of the Legal Services Board, “If we are successful, we will reduce unmet need and provide a much more equal experience for consumers. Shopping around will be the norm, and people will find it easier to find and compare providers and reward firms offering high quality and affordable services. Consumers will consistently trust the advice they get, knowing an independent and effective regulatory system is providing the essential protection they need. That system will be equipped to respond to the changing market, provide better value for money and support innovation. If consumers receive poor service, whatever type of provider they use, they will be able to complain to an independent body and obtain quick and fair redress.”
Well, one can just hope.
Just click to connect.
POST SCRIPT The LSB report also underlines the importance of greater diversity within the profession to which the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives comments.
“We’re realistic, we can’t change the profession single-handedly. All legal professional bodies must act as one, and supported by government, should convene and implement a joint campaign committing to clear diversity targets for the legal services sector impacting themselves, law firms, commercial/public and third sector employers. This needs to be focused specifically on the retention and development of lawyers from under-represented groups. Unless all corners of the profession come together, we will fail to deliver a more diverse and inclusive profession.”
It’s Family-favourites at LexisNexis awards
Congratulations to Hughes Fowler Carruthers for winning the NexisLexis award of ‘Family Law Firm of the Year: London’ at a virtual event earlier this week.
Andy Sparkes, Director of Legal Markets at LexisNexis, said of the awards, “The pressures of the last year have been extreme. For many people across the country, social isolation, bubbling and quarantine hasn’t just been an inconvenience. It has been a stressful, unsafe and life changing experience. Looking after the vulnerable, protecting children and bringing legal justice to those in need is one of the unspoken chapters of this pandemic. When we celebrate the success of family law practitioners this year, more than ever before, we are thinking of the human stories.”
Among other firms who featured in various categories were Irwin Mitchell (Family Law Partner of the Year, Ros Bever), Family Law in Partnership – FLiP (Resolution Team of the Year) Shakespeare Martineau (Family Law Firm of the Year: Midlands and Wales), Jones Myers (Family Law Firm of the Year: North) and Corbett Le Quesne (Family Law Firm of the Year: South).
Among the family law barristers Coram Chambers did particularly well.
The full list of finalists and winners and more information on the annual event can be found on the Family Law Awards website familylawawards.co.uk. A video of the event can be found here: https://vimeo.com/483694562
Sing along to Liberty
Are you free on Monday evening at 8.00 pm (30th November)?
Well a lot of people are NOT free – they are stuck in jail but you can help them by participating in ‘The Big Give’ quiz virtual fund-raiser for the Liberty Choir for just a £5.50 registration.
Singing in a choir (along with baking for Britain) seems to be the national obsession at the moment and the former (if not the latter) also appears to be having a big impact on the prison community.
The development of Liberty Choirs within the prison estate, bringing together inmates and outside volunteers, is proving immensely beneficial to both groups. Uniquely ex-prisoners are also involved thereby creating a social spectrum which acts as a bridge between being inside and outside. As the charity explains, “It provides a joyful social benefit to prisoners and ex-inmates and in doing so aids in the rehabilitation of people who are often very vulnerable. Not only that, the Liberty Choir is also beneficial to the non-inmates who take part: by providing a social experience to those who would otherwise never see the inside of a prison, it breaks down social barriers in both directions and benefits the whole of society.”
The goal now is to have a Liberty Choir in every prison in the UK, with a network of community choirs which prison graduates could join to support them in their journey towards rehabilitation. “Liberty Choir sows the seeds of recovery within prisons – and helps to stave off despair that is leading to record figures of self-harm and suicide – and nurtures hope which can flourish when the graduates re-enter society,” says the charity. “It’s a fun, purposeful activity which changes lives.”
To find out more go to libertychoir.org
and for the quiz go to
LEGAL MANAGEMENT INSIGHT OF THE WEEK – PARALEGAL PROMISE
With recruitment of trainees uncertain and the growing use by firms of legaltech the role of paralegals is becoming increasingly significant. But how should firms recruit them? Here are some top tips on interviewing candidates by Amanda Hamilton, CEO of National Association of Licensed Paralegals
Most solicitors presume that paralegals are law graduates who want to be solicitors. Well, that is just not so! There are many qualified and experienced paralegals who have no degree but have been trained and/or gained qualifications through different routes.
Tip 1: spread your net wider than just law graduates
The presumption that a Law Degree gives an applicant the monopoly on competency, compared with someone who has no law degree but does have a paralegal-specific qualification and/or five years’ relevant legal experience on the job, is simply wrong.
Tip 2: the attitude and look of an applicant cannot be ignored
Remember that old adage about first impressions – well, they’re usually correct!
As an employer, I’ve interviewed many applicants for various roles. My assessment of the individual starts from the moment they walk through the door. I’m assessing their demeanour, the way they dress and whether or not they make eye contact. This tells me a lot about the individual. Dress code these days appears to have gone out of the window but for most, it shows respect if an individual has made an effort. Eye contact is so very important – there is nothing more uncomfortable than sitting opposite an applicant who is looking everywhere else but you.
Tip 3: has the applicant done their research and do they ask questions?
What’s the point of an applicant sitting before you, and several of your colleagues, who has nothing to say? There is no excuse for not researching a potential employer and asking a few pertinent questions – although preferably not ‘how much will you pay me dear?’ which one applicant asked me as her sole contribution when asked if she had any questions! To this my answer was: ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you!’
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP), a non-profit Membership Body and the only Paralegal body that is recognised as an awarding organisation by Ofqual (the regulator of qualifications in England). Through its Centres, accredited recognised professional paralegal qualifications are offered for a career as a paralegal professional.
STAND-OUT CASE OF THE WEEK: HALLIBURTON
HOT NEWS – THE DECISION OF THE SUPREME COURT
Following the Supreme Court’s decision this morning on the Halliburton case there has already been much comment and discussion about this controversial case which will continue into the days ahead.
See below two of the quickest comments off the block plus notice of a webinar on Monday from 39Essex.
Leigh Crestohl, partner and head of the international arbitration practice at Zaiwalla & Co. says:
“The Supreme Court today dismissed Halliburton’s appeal of its application to remove a court-appointed chair of an arbitration tribunal in a dispute between it and Chubb relating to a liability insurance policy. It has been almost four years since Halliburton made its application to the English Court, and over one year since the Supreme Court heard arguments in the appeal.
“The independence and impartiality of the ultimate decision-makers is a vital component of natural justice, and private arbitration cases are no different in that sense from cases tried by judges in the Courts. The Judgment from the UK’s highest appellate Court has been eagerly awaited by the international arbitration community. By its nature, arbitration tends to create greater potential for challenges to the impartiality of arbitrators, and international practice on these questions is neither uniform nor entirely consistent.
“Whilst it remains true that the English Court is reluctant to intervene in arbitration cases, the Supreme Court has sought to provide clarity on the English law position on impartiality in cases of multiple appointments in related arbitrations. It will take some time before the practical effect of this guidance is known, including the impact, if any, on London’s position as a premier venue for the resolution of international disputes, which may assume even greater importance post-Brexit.”
Neil Newing, Counsel at Signature Litigation says:
“For many in the global international arbitration community, the previous decisions in this case were perceived as being made to protect those members of the English Bar who have made a living from accepting the type of repeat appointments at issue in this case, in niche areas such as shipping and insurance. The Supreme Court’s decision is, unfortunately, unlikely to change that perception.
While the Supreme Court has importantly confirmed the arbitrator’s duty of disclosure, nonetheless in dismissing the appeal and thereby permitting the continue practice of multiple/repeat appointments, it has departed from the position that one would encounter before leading arbitral institutions (such as the International Chamber of Commerce, and the London Court of International Arbitration) and which international users of arbitration may expect to find in a modern arbitration jurisdiction. While this may be a relief to some members of the English Bar, it may adversely affect the confidence of the global community in England and Wales as a seat for arbitration.
With the use of arbitration on the rise, particularly in the light of challenges that may be faced in enforcing court judgments abroad following Brexit, it is disappointing that the Supreme Court has not taken this opportunity to bring the English courts into line with international best practice and cement England and Wales’ position as one of the foremost jurisdictions for arbitration.”
WEBINAR OF THE WEEK HALLIBURTON
HALLIBURTON – THE DECISION OF THE SUPREME COURT
THE IMPLICATIONS FOR INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION
A webinar from 39 Essex Chambers
After today’s Halliburton judgment, join members of the Commercial, Construction & International Arbitration Group based in London and Singapore to discuss, from UK and international perspectives:
“Does the maxim “Trust me I’m an Arbitrator” still hold good?”
The speakers welcome any questions in advance which you can send to firstname.lastname@example.org. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions using Zoom’s Q&A.
Date and Time
Monday 30th November @ 9.30am (UK)
Click HERE to register.
There is no cost for the webinar.
PLEASE NOTE: These webinars are hosted by Zoom.
BLOGS OF THE WEEK – BREXIT from Hogan Lovells
Just in case you had forgotten – amid shedding tears over Covid – we also have Brexit to look forward to. Here’s a selection of Blogs from Hogan Lovells to keep you up to speed.