Edward Fennell’s Legal Diary – Edition 37

Friday December 4th 2020 Edition 37

Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments, blogs, webinars and arts from the legal world



Anyone in?


Law firms Burges Salmon and Herbert Smith Freehills (along with big name supermarkets) are earning plaudits for doing the right thing by handing back their furlough funding. Meanwhile Clifford Chance is now being celebrated for its role in deploying IP expertise to speed through approval of the anti-Covid virus in what might be seen as ‘Dambuster’ terms.

So when the dust settles on this terrible crisis it will start to become evident who has ‘had a good Covid’ and who has ‘done well out of Covid’ – in much the same way as happened to individuals and industries after the world wars.

In keeping with the talk of ‘building back better’, business is now looking forward to what the new ‘new normal’ will be like. But as the LexisNexis Bellwether report (see below) illustrates, some fundamental questions have arisen not least for law firms. Is WFH viable long-term? Should the capacity to operate solo and be a self-starter loom larger in recruitment? These and many other questions remain to be resolved.

The LegalDiarist





– LexisNexis Bellwether Report

– Travers Smith ‘London Business’ report

– Peace Palace pays off

– Farrer’s lawyer in Pro Bono award at DadsHouse

– Bird & Bird takes flight with digital assets


+ WEBINARS OF THE WEEK from BIICL and 42 Bedford Row



Big waves but less stormy weather ahead suggests latest Bellwether Report


With an anti-Covid19 vaccine now almost on our doorsteps law firms are starting to feel rather more positive about the future according to the latest Bellwether Report from LexisNexis which was published yesterday.

Ironically most concern is now focusing on the issues arising from homeworking and whether, overall, it is a good or bad thing for lawyers’ effectiveness and motivation. How quickly to get back into the office and whether we should do so at all will now be weighing heavily on managers’ minds.

The findings of the survey include:

  • The devastating impacts of COVID have started to ease and firms are regaining their confidence.  4 in 5 firms believe they will be in business for the longer term.
  • 49% say COVID is one of their top 3 worries, down from 63% at the height of the pandemic.
  • With move to homeworking, 58% flag staff welfare as one of their top concerns. 3 out of 4 lawyers are now experiencing feelings of isolation and a lack of motivation.
  • Miscommunication or insufficient communication is a growing problem for homeworkers – 44% see this as a problem, compared to 26% in March. 
  • 1 in 4 firms are implementing cuts – 23% versus 4% during first lockdown.
  • 73% of respondents see COVID as an opportunity to drive change and innovation.
  • 40% of firms are changing their practice area base, whether that be becoming more generalist or specialist, with the majority deciding to specialise.

“Law firms have worked exceptionally hard over the last 6 months to continue practicing and supporting their clients,” said Marin Daley, Small Law lead at LexisNexis. “The relief and positivism in this latest Bellwether is notable.  However, it is clear that with one problem receding, the future is still uncertain.”

The report can be downloaded from: www.lexisnexis.co.uk/Bellwether2020


In-House fret over challenge of virtual team work

Who needs the Tube when you’ve got teams?

Meanwhile a report published this week by DLA Piper on the role of In-House legal teams  – the WIN (What In-house lawyers Need) Insights Report – has also highlighted the importance of new ways of working. “Since the global pandemic began, many in-house legal teams’ priorities and working practices have changed,” commented Andrew Darwin, the firm’s Global Co-Chairman. “It is encouraging to see a shift towards a more strategic and advisory role, which is hoped will continue as we all return to normality. However, with fewer resources, teams are under pressure to deliver more for less.  How to build and maintain internal and external relationships in the virtual world has become much more of a focus along with the prioritization of health and wellbeing of team members.”

In-house teams realise that now, more than ever, developing relationships is key to securing their future. However, this is clearly made more difficult when working remotely. As a result, the report goes on to say, in-house lawyers now value collaboration tools most when it comes to the tech that’s helped whilst remote working Indeed, 80% are expecting the speed of technology adoption to increase to help them achieve something akin to in-person human interaction, rather than focusing purely on efficiency, as has traditionally been the case in legal innovation.

For a full copy of the report please download here.

Maybe it’s a London thing


Opening up after the Campden Lockdown – Greener, fairer?


Along the same theme of ‘life after Covid’ Travers Smith has partnered with the CBI and University College London to produce this year’s London Business Survey, which shows reasons for longer-term optimism, and demonstrates that London businesses have set their sights on ‘rebuilding a fairer, greener and more inclusive economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic’. This is despite the fact that two thirds of firms in the capital experienced lower output this year.

Key Findings from the report include:


  • Almost one third of respondents (32%) said they were unprepared for the impact of a possible no-deal Brexit – and 58% said Covid-19 had impeded their Brexit preparedness.
  • A trade deal with the EU, including comprehensive services coverage, was a priority for London’s recovery with more firms (72%) than any other factor. 


  • Four out of five respondents (80%) said their output had been impacted by the pandemic. 68% had yet to see trade return to normal (even before the second national lockdown) and 34% expected to still be operating below normal levels in a year.
  • Companies operating in arts, entertainment and recreation face a tough outlook. 94% of respondents from this sector have yet to see a recovery, and three quarters (75%) expect their business to still be suffering in 12 months’ time.  


  • Investing in innovation and technology (55%), supporting employees’ mental health and wellbeing (53%) and supporting new ways of working (51%) were immediate priorities for most respondents.
  • In the longer-term, improving diversity and inclusion (58%), developing or enhancing sustainability and net-zero strategies (53%) and supporting social mobility (45%) were the most common goals.

“I hope that the survey findings will provide a good template for how we can start to rebuild London’s economy and support businesses in the capital to unlock their potential in the post-Covid world,” said Travers Smith’s Senior Partner Kathleen Russ.

View the full report at https://www.traverssmith.com/media/6484/cbi-london-business-survey-2020-december-2020.pdf

Mash up of food bank and legal advice charity gets Farrers on the Pro Bono shortlist


In the pink, Farrers partner Simon Bruce along with DadsHouse founder Billy McGranaghan and supporters at the DadsHouse law clinic

Congratulations to Simon Bruce, Senior Counsel in the family team at Farrer & Co, for being shortlisted for the ‘Best New Pro Bono Activity’ Award at this week’s LawWorks Pro Bono Awards for his involvement in the charity, DadsHouse.

Inspired by Simon, DadsHouse now offers free advice on issues from child contact to financial disputes, at a time when the family courts are facing unprecedented pressure and families are in crisis in the wake of the pandemic. In the six months since it opened back in the Spring, the DadsHouse’s law clinic has helped over 100 fathers and mothers in need of legal support.

Significantly DadsHouse was actually established primarily as a foodbank but it became apparent that many of its clients were also in need of family law advice. It was also the first charity in Europe to offer fathers temporary accommodation during separation, divorce and bereavement. 

“Initially when dads and mums come to use our food bank, sometimes as a referral from social services, they have no idea that we are more than a food bank,” explains DadsHouse founder, Billy McGranaghan. “We have started to see these parents come to us increasingly for support through our law clinic as well.”

Peace is good for business

All we are saying is give….. the Peace Palace some credit

 A recent study by Decisio (funded by the Carnegie Foundation) shows that the Peace Palace in The Hague – which houses two of the most important Courts in the world, the United Nations International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration – contributes very positively to the international economy. According to the report “By solving conflicts in the courtroom, the Courts in the Palace help avoiding billions of damage and loss as a result of warfare.”

Although it is difficulty to quantify exactly how much money is saved by ‘giving peace a chance’ the report posits three different scenarios ranging from solving one small-scale conflict (thereby saving 18 bn. Euros) through to solving four small-scale conflicts and two large-scale conflicts (thereby saving 500 bn. euros).

Keeping the peace is also a big jobs generator, says the report, not least for the Dutch hosts. Apparently the Peace Palace accounts for more than 720 jobs (of which 229 are within the Palace) and the institutions located at the Peace Palace annually spend 120 million euros in the Netherlands, contributing an added value of 70 million euros to the Dutch GDP. (So nice work if you can get it).

More widely, however, the researchers state that ‘a high rule of law score saves money, brings trust and investments and prevents people from getting stress-related diseases’.

“In the Peace Palace, international jurisdiction, cultural heritage and international relations come together on neutral ground and the fruits of these endeavors are made accessible to a broad public,” explains Mr. Piet Hein Donner, chairman of the board of the Carnegie Foundation and former Minister of Justice of the Netherlands. “We can be proud of this, but at the same time, we also have an obligation to maintain this successful concept for future generations.”

In other words, peace is for keeps, not just for Christmas.

The full report can be read and downloaded on the website of the Peace Palace.

Link: https://www.vredespaleis.nl/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Decisio-Economic-and-social-impact-of-the-Peace-Palace.pdf 

Bird & Bird takes flight with digital assets

It’s another sign of the times that technology-led Bird & Bird has just launched a new cross-practice group to deliver what they call ‘a coherent firmwide strategy to help clients across all sectors and jurisdictions build and implement effective digital rights and assets strategies’.

The argument for the new group is strong. “Digital information, data, content, currencies and online reputations are a valuable part of the asset base of many of our clients,” the firm says. “These digital assets are often essential to the effective understanding, management, operation and growth of organisations, and at the forefront of their thinking as they look ahead to a world of interconnected devices and ultrafast connectivity. Good digital asset management is commonly a core component of compliance and positive reputation management in regulated industries. Investors, buyers and financiers are taking an increasingly keen interest in how digital assets can be leveraged, and many businesses – especially those that are strongly digital – are progressively valued on the scale and potential of their digital assets rather than purely traditional metrics.”

So, as we have seen this week in spades, goodbye bricks-and-mortar. Welcome to the new world of digital rights and assets.




In the wake of theof the alleged international vaccine supply chain cyber hack, Mark Tibbs Cyber Intelligence Director at Mishcon de Reya  observes:

 “Following the development of viable vaccines, many nations are now in a race to vaccinate their populations and this news is a sign that intelligence priorities have changed. Previously in the year, vaccine research organisations were targeted but this new development suggests now attackers are seemingly interested in not just how the vaccine is made or works, but how to store and distribute it effectively. There appears to be a sense that those who can vaccinate fastest and most effectively have a lot to gain, even though the process should not be seen as a race.

 “Our research into cybercrime this year shows that the reduced economic impact from COVID-19 will be the biggest driver of increased cybercrime. We expect to see cyber criminals begin to use the vaccine to push malicious e-mails and other attacks, as they have with other issues such as lockdown and stimulus packages.”



Wednesday 9 December at 6.00pm


A webinar full of advice, tips and anecdotes from a distinguished panel including Sir Anthony Hooper (former Court of Appeal Law Lord), HHJ Vera Mayer (senior Family court judge), HHJ Edward Connell (Criminal Court judge), Barrister Joanna Hardy chaired by Gemma Taylor QC and Rehna Azim.  To register and receive a personal invitation, please follow this link:                https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_1YbJ18C9Tj6JnvmRBqJ0GA  




Annual Harry Weinrebe Memorial Lecture: Inclusivity and the Law: Do We Need to Prohibit Class Discrimination?

10 December 2020 | 16.00 – 17.30 (UK time)

This year, the Harry Weinrebe Memorial Lecture will celebrate Human Rights Day by highlighting the key cross-cutting human right: the right to be free from discrimination. The debate will focus on the issue of inclusivity within the legal sphere to assess whether the current grounds prohibiting discrimination under human rights law are sufficient to ensure equal treatment before the law and, more widely, in our societies. In particular, experts will discuss whether the existing prohibition of discrimination based on social origin under human rights law should be strengthened and, if so, how?

Joshua Rozenberg 


  • Professor Geraldine Van Bueren QC, British Institute of International and Comparative Law
  • Michele Statz, University of Minnesota
  • Alexandra Wilson, 5 St Andrew’s Hill 
  • Professor Sandra Fredman FBA, QC hon, University of Oxford

Event convened by Kristin Hausler, Dorset Senior Research Fellow in Public International Law and Director, Centre for International Law BIICL

Pricing and Registration

This event is free to attend but pre-registration is required below.https://www.biicl.org/events/11444/harry-weinrebe-memorial-lecture-inclusivity-and-the-law



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