Friday December 18th 2020 Edition 39 Xmas/New Year
Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments, blogs, webinars and arts from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
You’ll be pleased to know that the Legal Diary has no year-end philosophising to offer its reader. However there are plenty of other people and institutions in the legal world who do. Among a number that I have read over the past few days one that sticks out is from Italian law firm BonelliErede (not least because it appeared under an image, above, of the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II in Milan).
“This year more than any other, courage, strength and tenacity have been crucial to get us through the trying times we are living in,” BonelliErede said, and certainly northern Italy has seen more than its fair share of the Covid catastrophe. The firm adds that, ‘Our daily commitment is aimed at becoming closer to our clients and the communities to which we belong. We do so in a sincere spirit of service both to those we work with and to the communities and countries we operate in.’
Admirable sentiments which, perhaps, other law firms would share. But one of the few good pieces of news at the end of this year is the vindication of the many Sub-Postmasters who were wrongly accused (and often convicted) of theft with dire personal consequences following the malfunction of the ‘Horizon’ Post Office computer system. The Post Office now accepts there was ‘an affront to the public conscience’ in the way the cases were conducted. Maybe, at the end of this awful year, the lawyers who pursued these innocents should review their actions in the light of the sentiments espoused by BonelliEredi.
A Merry Christmas to you (but I fear little chance of a Happy New Year).
Good Bye ….for Now
This is our final Legal Diary for this year and the Christmas/New Year period. If we survive the next few weeks we hope to be back next year on Friday January 8th.
Do send your news, views and insights regarding the year ahead post-Brexit to
And do circulate this to your colleagues and friends.
IN THIS WEEK’S EDITION
THE LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
– Xmas E-Cards have more fun
– CMA wants further change to the legal profession
– Self-congratulatory Xmas messages
– Law students work pro bono
– Client-service apps for distributed law firms
WEBINARS FOR NEXT YEAR
+ BDB PITMANS
THE LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
Have yourself a non-Covid little Christmas card
Now that the traditional law firm Christmas card is as dead as last week’s Covid rules it has been entertaining and encouraging to see how much inventiveness is going into the e-card (or at least some of them). Among the images that struck me this year are the dragged-up partners at Hughes Fowler Carruthers.
But maybe this self-mocking is a British thing. US firm Cadwalader could hardly come up with a duller more virtue-signalling image than its minute passport photo assemblage of the crew-shot. But maybe the way it has selected a snowflake to ’cancel’ some of the faces is an ironic joke. (Somehow I suspect not).
Meanwhile Farrer & Co’s clever quiz featuring reputation-damaging headlines was a lot of fun (although we were slightly surprised to read that ‘the Reputation Management team at Farrer & Co would like to bid a very fond farewell to 2020’ – most of us would say good riddance).
Further change signalled for legal profession
Meanwhile back in the real world it looks like another review of the current framework for legal services is on the cards following the Competition and Markets Authority’s latest recommendations in the wake of Professor Stephen Mayson’s report earlier this year.
Already the CMA’s assesment is winning aupport from some of the key players. “Although the legal services sector is becoming more competitive, there are still areas requiring intervention in the interests of consumers that can only be achieved by legislative reform,” said Professor Chris Bones, the chair of CILEx (the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives).
Professor Bones went on to say that lawyers needed to be regulated by the work they do rather than their professional title.“The rigidity of the current framework does not recognise large pockets of existing providers, and without additional flexibility risks excluding also those novel technologies and solutions that lawtech can bring for the benefit of consumers and healthy consumer choice.”
Professor Bones added that the legal profession had much to be proud of but that the CMA’s recommendations should “help open it up to the large swathe of the population increasingly denied access to otherwise affordable and effective legal representation.”
Meanwhile there is also appreciation that the CMA has recognised recent improvements. ‘It is very encouraging that the CMA has concluded that there is already progress on better information for consumers following the measures we introduced two years ago,” commented Sheila Kumar, Chief Executive of the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). “We have begun work with other regulators on the next step, to identify quality information that can guide consumer choice. We will also be keeping compliance by CLC regulated practices under regular review in the consumer and client interest.”
So as Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s CEO observes, “It is positive to see changes that have already been made, but more progress is needed.
We encourage the Ministry of Justice, the Legal Services Board and other legal services regulators to continue to work towards reform and to make sure the sector works well for consumers long into the future.”
Darlings, you’ve all been wonderful
As usual we have an array of end-of-year commendations, congratulations and self-congratulations from law firms and organisations linked to the law. Some of these, however, might best be kept for internal consumption only. They are probably sincere but they might look gauche to an outside observer.
One such came from John Rogers, Chief Executive of Skills for Justice the organisation which oversees training for policing and law enforcement, community justice and offender management, courts tribunals and prosecution.
“I have been extremely proud in the way that our staff at Skill for Justice have responded to the pandemic,” he says. “At heart, we are a values-based organisation, and our values of respect, innovation, passion, and integrity have never been more evident in the way our staff work, than in the last eight months. They have focused on how we can best support those providing front-line services, and have quickly adapted our own services to provide continuity, and the most effective support possible through the pandemic – and I know from the feedback we have received that this has been very appreciated.”
Put this alongside yesterday’s observations from Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, who said: “The backlog of cases in the Crown Court increased quarter on quarter, with greater numbers of trials being put off for longer. An overall increase of 20% in time from receipt to completion of cases is very worrying because it includes those cases that do not even involve a trial. Even in the magistrates’ courts, where significant inroads have been made to achieve more cases disposed of than received, the outstanding caseload remains a phenomenal 43% higher than the same period last year.”
So, yes, no doubt everyone has worked hard and tried to do their best. But at this stage in the war against Covid maybe more prudent just to admit how tough it is.
Students’ Pro Bono work ramped up by Covid
Perhaps law students are one group whose contribution to countering the effects of Covid has been under-appreciated. According to The Law School Pro Bono and Clinic Report, just published byLawWorks and CLEO (the Clinical Legal Education Organisation ), the pandemic has strengthened students’ enthusiasm for pro bono volunteering, and also required them to adapt to LegalTech in order to maintain delivery for vulnerable people. According to the report, law schools are doing more pro bono work than ever before. Over 90 per cent of student respondents said that the law school they attended carried out pro bono work, with 75 per cent of law schools reporting that their institutions plan to extend existing pro bono work opportunities.
“I know law schools recognise the importance of having a law Clinic and offering pro bono work experience for students,” said Penny Carey vice Chair of the Committee of Heads of UK Law Schools. “This not only equips students with employability skills, but also strengthens the university’s relationships with its local community – from the law firms who will be employing students, to charities that need support, and to the public who need access to justice. It is heartening to hear the clinic students surveyed rating ‘helping others’ as equally as highly as improving their CV.”
It is pointed out that the findings come at a critical time in the evolution of legal education, as regulatory and training requirements are overhauled. From next year in England and Wales, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will introduce the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), which will include a requirement for work-based learning that can be undertaken in clinics. It will eventually replace the current route to practice – the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
A Feel-Good experience at Christmas?
It’s anyone’s guess what the practice of law will look like come December 2021. Will WFH be so-last-year? Or will the office commute have become a long-lost memory.
What does seem likely though is the inexorable growth of ‘distributed’ law firms. A good example is nexa law which has seen its lawyer head count grow by 300% during 2020. nexa’s Co-CEO Nigel Clark says that he is committed to completely re-imagining what it’s like to work in law in the UK. “We want to save clients time and give them a feel-good experience,” he says.
One of the ways of doing this is by the greater use of lawtech with client-service apps now likely to be the next big thing. nexa already has its own app available on Apple’s App Store and on Google’s Play Store. “The first priority for the app was to save time and hassle with onboarding new business or individual clients; a process that used to require laborious certification of documents and other KYC (know your customer) and AML (anti-money laundering) requirements,” says Nigel Clark.
Possibly worth checking out if you have any slack time VAHing (vegetating at home) on Christmas Day.
AND SOME WEBINARS TO LOOK FORWARD TO……
from the British Institute of International and Comparative Law
Teaching International Law Webinar Series
8 January – 23 April 2021 (online)
The practice of teaching international law is conducted in a wide range of contexts across the world by a host of different actors – including scholars, practitioners, civil society groups, governments, and international organisations. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that reflections and collaborations on the practice of teaching international law remain relatively rare.
In recent decades, notable contributions concerning international legal pedagogy include: comparative analyses of how different national communities of international lawyers construct their understanding of international law, regional and national reflections on the teaching of international law, critical perspectives on the politics of teaching international law, as well as reflections on the professionalisation of international legal education, teaching techniques, and the use of new technologies for teaching international law.
This series composed of 10 webinars over 5 sessions will explore some of these issues and developments. Bringing together teachers of international law from across the globe, and who apply a range of techniques and approaches to their teaching, the series is sure to inform and inspire.
- Central Issues from the Periphery
- Teaching International Law in Asia
- Tools and Techniques in Teaching International Law
- Teaching IHL in Crisis: A Strategic Response for Troubled Times
- The Promises and Perils of the Pedagogy of International Law in the Philippine State of Exception
- Critical Perspectives on Teaching International Law
- New Directions in Core Subjects of International Law Teaching
- The International Law Teacher
Pricing and Registration
This webinar series is free to attend but pre-registration is required.
|For more information, please visit: www.biicl.org/events|
BDB PITMANS’ WEBINAR INVITATION:
‘COVID-19 VACCINES – WHAT DO THEY MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS?’
Thursday 14 January @ 9.00 am
After the chaos and disruption caused by COVID-19, the news that a vaccine is being made available offers hope that we may soon be able to return to some form of normality.
The availability of a vaccine will raise a number of important and potentially complex workplace issues for employers. BDB Pitmans Employment Team would like to invite you to our first webinar of 2021 where we will consider a range of questions on this topic including:
- Can employers require employees to be vaccinated?
- Can an employee’s refusal be a disciplinary offence?
- Do employees have to disclose if they’ve been vaccinated?
- Can vaccinations be taken into account when considering sick pay?
- What discrimination risks could vaccinations pose?
- Can employers require employees to return to the office once they are vaccinated?
- Can employers buy the vaccine and give it to their employees?
This will be an interactive session where you will be able to ask questions of our expert panel and we would welcome any advanced questions. If you would like to submit one, please click here.
Register for your place by clicking here or by using the RSVP button on this mailing.
The session will be held using Zoom, a link will be sent to you in your registration confirmation email and will be resent on the morning of the webinar.
We hope you can join us.
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