Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and arts from the legal world
August 5 2022 Editorial Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: WHERE HAVE ALL THE THOUGHT LEADERS GONE?
This week our story (below) about BCLP features its Global Inclusion & Diversity Client Relationship Partner Daisy Reeves who was appointed to focus on thought leadership with clients and communities.
Bravo! But it seems that ‘thought leadership’ is rare and diminishing among the largest law firms. The results of a recent survey by Passle, the content marketing software provider for professional services firms, shows that five of the top 10 largest law firms in the UK and US fail to make it into the Top 30 when it comes to thought leadership (defined as blogs or articles, excluding firm news, that demonstrate lawyers’ knowledge).
“By analysing firms’ thought leadership performance, we can clearly see who is establishing themselves as market leaders,” said Connor Kinnear, Chief Marketing Officer at Passle. “Larger firms with more than 1,500 lawyers struggle to give their experts a voice, with the average lawyer producing 57% fewer insights than their counterparts in smaller firms.”
Of course it could be claimed that the larger firms are too busy getting on with delivering for clients. But the indications are that NEW clients are won over by firms’ thought leadership profiles. Worth a thought..
[To see the full thought leadership benchmarks firms can request a free report at www.rankmyfirm.com]
In this week’s edition
+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
– Courts Crisis? Technology Will Cure It
– Where’s the Beef? Asks McDonald’s of its Lawyers
– Financial Stress Snaps Marriages
– The Cap Sticks at the ELA
+ CONTRIBUTED ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
– WHAT NEXT FOR THE SERIOUS FRAUD OFFICE? asks Shula de Jersey
– IS MODERNISING LASTING POWERS OF ATTORNEY THE RIGHT APPROACH? questions Elizabeth Young
+ LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK on enforcing divorce settlements, the status of unmarried couples, and insolvency statistics
+ APPOINTMENT OF THE WEEK at Dechert
+E-VENTS at Cadwalader
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
Courts Crisis? Technology Will Cure It
Somehow it is hard to compute that at a time when barristers are going on strike the Government is also boasting that it is keeping the UK’s legal sector at the global forefront of innovation through a £4 million investment in the LawtechUK programme.
LawtechUK was launched with Government financial backing in 2019 to transform the UK legal sector through digital solutions. But is it making any difference?
“Technology has the potential to transform business’ and peoples’ experience of law, meet unmet legal needs and support professionals to deliver the next generation of legal services,” said Alexandra Lennox, Director of LawtechUK. “We have seen great progress towards this future since LawtechUK’s inception and this next phase of funding will build on those important foundations, helping cement the UK’s position as a global hub for technology and law.”
And what about those striking barristers and the leaky courts?
Well as part of its mission to improve understanding of the potential of technology LawtechUK has produced a free online learning and research hub as well as a website to allow the sharing of experiences of ‘remote alternatives to traditional court hearings’.
The new investment will also continue to support and promote the work of the LawtechUK’s Jurisdiction Taskforce to ensure English law keeps pace with technological developments – ‘helping the UK to maintain its place as an international hub for emerging technologies’. “A thriving lawtech sector will help ensure the UK continues as a world-leading legal services centre and attracts the very best talent,” said Justice Minister, Lord Bellamy QC. “This investment will support the market to develop the technology it needs to drive modernisation and deliver first-class legal services.”
Where’s the Beef? Asks McDonald’s of its Lawyers
From L-R: Ronald S. Safer, partner, Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila Daisy Reeves, partner, BCLP, Desiree Ralls-Morrison, Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, McDonald’s Patricia Brown Holmes, Managing Partner, Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila , Christian Poland, partner, BCLP.
Much is said about the power of clients to influence change – especially over issues of diversity – in their legal advisers.
A good example comes from McDonald’s and its EMPOWER Award for commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). This was launched in 2020 by the company’s Global Legal Department to recognize those of its legal service suppliers who ‘actively demonstrate the important role diversity, equity and inclusion play in their organizations’.
The awards this year went to BCLP and Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP. “Both firms share McDonald’s core values and demonstrate an innovative and strong commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion,” said the burger brand. “Through their work to embed and operationalize the principles of diversity, equity and inclusion into how they manage their organizations, these two firms have gone above and beyond to create and drive meaningful change.”
In the case of BCLP much of the credit for the award is probably due to Daisy Reeves who was announced last year as the firm’s inaugural Global Inclusion & Diversity Client Relationship Partner. Believed to be the first-of-its-kind in the legal sector, the purpose of the role is to focus exclusively on collaboration and thought leadership with clients and communities on best, and next, practice, in DEI.
“BCLP places a high priority on DEI – it is a core value of BCLP,” said Reeves. “It enriches the quality and fabric of our firm, our people and our clients. We are truly proud to have been recognized by our global client McDonald’s based on the shared values of our organizations.”
NOTE: in 2020 BCLP enacted several I&D Aspirational Goals, including:
· 4% U.S. LGBTQ Partner Goal by 2026
· 15% U.S. / U.K. ethnic diversity representation
· 35% global Female Partner Goal by 2026, and
· 50% diversity in the aggregate of its partners by 2030.
Financial Stress Snaps Marriages (but denies chance to escape)
Covid and the rising cost of living are delivering hammer blows to romance and wedded bliss. According to a survey conducted by dealchecker the percentage of people who want to spend holidays with partners has dropped from 63% in 2019 to 53% in 2022 In other words, after Covid people just ‘want to be alone’ a lot more. And that is feeding through to their long term commitment. According to Stowe Family Law over half of UK couples feel friction in their relationships (55%) because of the cost of living crisis, while 70% fear their relationship won’t survive the crisis.
“It is not too difficult to see how tensions in relationships might arise here”, says Amanda Phillips-Wylds, Managing Partner at Stowe Family Law, the firm that conducted the survey. “We often find financial tension cited as the reason behind a divorce enquiry, particularly where a person feels their current lifestyle can no longer be maintained. Now that we are in August – a month often spent on holiday and spending some hard-earned disposable income – the reality that many couples can’t afford to take a proper break and go abroad is causing a lot of friction.”
The catch, of course, is that while belt-tightening makes people want to escape their marriages the cost of separation could also make this financially impossible. “It is very concerning that a quarter of the people we polled feel trapped in unhappy relationships, particularly those who may be trapped in abusive relationships,” said Phillips-Wylds. “Unfortunately, increased financial pressure can act as a trigger for abusive partners, and means their victims cannot afford to leave the home.”
The Cap Fits at the ELA
Paul McFarlane, an Employment Partner at Capsticks Solicitors LLP, has been elected as the new Chair for 2022-24 of the Employment Lawyers Association. As you might imagine, he is a trail-blazer in a number of respects having previously spent time in Transport for London and Royal Mail’s in-house legal departments advising on complex and high value discrimination and whistleblowing claims. His recent track record also includes undertaking grievance investigations into allegations of historic racial discrimination for various clients of his firm.
“I feel proud and privileged to be elected as ELA Chair, particularly as I will be its first Chair with Afro-Caribbean heritage,” he said. Paying tribute to his predecessor Marian Bloodworth, Partner at Deloitte Legal, he said, “During the [past two years], she has had to grapple with leading an organisation through the unique challenges that COVID brought us, together with Brexit and an uncertain geo-political landscape both in the UK and abroad. Marian is strategic, calm, well organised but also someone with a sense of fun. Through her leadership ELA has emerged a stronger and more resilient organisation ready to deal with the next challenge) put in front of it. I have big shoes to fill!”
CONTRIBUTED ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
WHAT NEXT FOR THE SERIOUS FRAUD OFFICE? asks Shula de Jersey
On 21 July 2022 two much-anticipated reports into the Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) were published: the review of Brian Altman QC into the collapse of the Serco trial and Sir David Calvert-Smith’s Independent Review into the SFO’s handling of the Unaoil investigation. As Lisa Osofsky, Director of the SFO, said on their publication, the reviews made a “sobering read”.
The two reviews laid bare a catalogue of failings at every level of the SFO: individual, managerial and leadership weaknesses and fundamental deficiencies in systems and controls in the disclosure process. Sir David Calvert-Smith’s review makes a total of 11 recommendations and Brian Altman QC’s review a total of 18 recommendations.
The reports raise issues concerning the internal running of the SFO including a lack of trust between the case team and senior management, a lack of quality assurance and poor compliance with relevant internal SFO policies. A key theme running through both reports is the need for the SFO to have effective disclosure strategies and management, as well as ensuring that the disclosure process is properly resourced, that those conducting it are properly trained and their work is properly reviewed.
In response to the publication of the reports, Lisa Osofsky made it clear that “implementing the recommendations put forward by Brian Altman QC and Sir David Calvert-Smith is our pressing priority”. The Government, in the form of the Attorney-General’s Office, accepted all the recommendations. Yet, since publication of these reports, the Government has asked the SFO (and the National Crime Agency) to model the impact of a 20-40% cut in headcount.
The SFO’s remit is to investigate and prosecute serious and complex fraud and corruption cases. Such cases inevitably involve huge volumes of material and a properly conducted disclosure process is integral to the fairness of proceedings which the SFO chooses to bring. Such a process requires proper resources including investment in technology and people. The SFO must learn from its mistakes, but it cannot be expected to do so with its hands tied behind its back.
Shula de Jersey is a partner in the economic crime team at BCL Solicitors LLP
IS MODERNISING LASTING POWERS OF ATTORNEY THE RIGHT APPROACH? questions Elizabeth Young
Modernisation of ageing processes is slowly making way for increasing digitisation. It’s this agenda that has led to the Ministry of Justice and Office of the Public Guardian (OGP) beginning a journey towards making changes to Lasting Powers of Attorney.
While the proposals published following a recent consultation on this topic intend to meet several aims related to witnessing, security and automation, there are several reasons to be cautious with the route forward.
Suggested reforms include the transition from a paper-based LPA registration process to an easily accessible online system. Where this can offer valuable time savings for some, it may also entail the worrying prospect of removing the role of witnesses in person and replacing it with a digital witness – or no witness at all.
Another potential outcome of the discussions is the role of the witness being combined with that of a certificate provider – an independent person who signs an LPA to confirm that that no fraud, undue pressure or abuse is being used to influence the individual supported by the LPA.
Although the OGP may be tasked with undertaking identification checks for all parties to an LPA, it will not be tasked with enhanced checks for attorneys – such as background criminal record and bankruptcy searches.
In the vast number of cases, this will not be a problem or a cause for concern. However, there is no intention to reintroduce the requirement to give notice of registrations, so objections are still only possible before the process begins. With no notice needed, any objecting individuals will not be given adequate consideration under the current process that will not form part of the potential changes.
Managing the affairs of someone who is incapable of doing so independently is a huge responsibility and something that should not be awarded without a stringent process. The concern among practitioners like myself is that the suggested reforms are set to make LPAs easier to gain but not yet secure enough.”
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK
ISSUE: Arising from the Barclay divorce, what is the risk of prison for a former spouse who refuses to pay the sums ordered by the Family Courts?
COMMENT BY: Victoria Sterritt, family Partner at Seddons,
“The image often portrayed of the family courts is one where poor conduct is treated with kid gloves. There is all too often little or no consequence for poor conduct in proceedings and loose compliance with directions and court orders.
The same applies after the event, when a hard won settlement has been achieved. Against the backdrop of a crumbling court process and inherent delays, the offender can usually be confident that failure “to do as required” will go unchecked for some time before it ever comes to the attention of a Judge. The wronged party is left with weighing up the cost, emotional and financial, of returning to the court system to simply achieve what was intended in the first place.
This has been played out (in multi-colour!) in the case of Sir Frederick Barclay. The decision of the court meaning that Sir Frederick could face a jail sentence as a result of his failure to do as he was required is welcomed. It sends a clear message that orders are there to be followed and if not there will be consequences.
However, the decision for Lady Barclay to return matters to Court and ask for the Court’s help was presumably not inhibited by the financial cost of having to do so. That is not the case for the majority of the population who after usually exhausting their financial resources to achieve a resolution in the first place are then left without the means to enforce it if the other party simply ignores the order.”
TOPIC: Across-party Committee of MPs is demanding reform to laws which leave cohabiting couple with inferior protections as opposed to those who are married or have civil partnership.
COMMENT BY: Neil Russell, Family Law Partner at Seddons,
“Cohabitees often believe that they are “common law spouses”. There is no such thing. It is a myth. You are either married or you are not. Unlike for married parties, entitlement to share in a home is not automatic for the non-owning party. Only strict property rights apply. There is no entitlement to maintenance, other than for children. Also there is no entitlement to automatically inherit on death or to share a pension.
People need to be informed of the potential dangers of not securing their position in the event of a relationship coming to an end on the break up, or death of a party where they are not married. The number of cohabiting couple families continues to grow faster than married couples. In the 25 years since 1996, the number of couples living together as cohabitants has more than doubled to 3.6 million, representing around 1 in 5 couples living together in the UK today. Is it time for reform to provide cohabitants with greater legal protection?”
TOPIC: The significance of the Insolvency Service Statistics for April-June 2022
COMMENT BY: Frances Coulson, Partner at Wedlake Bell LLP
“Signs of distress are increasing with the latest Insolvency Service statistics released on 2 August for the Q2 to June 22. If not a “tsunami” as was predicted at the start of the pandemic, largely staved off by government support schemes and the work of the Insolvency Service itself, then there are signs of high waters in sight, with the Service reporting that after seasonal adjustment, the number of company insolvencies was 13% higher than in Q1 2022 and 81% higher than in Q2 2021.
Even more startling is the fact that creditors’ voluntary liquidations increased to the highest quarterly level since the start of the series in 1960. The number of compulsory liquidations also increased, but remained lower than levels seen before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and it seems that creditors, including HMRC are taking petitions more slowly than was anticipated, but they are building.
It is hard to avoid the view that insolvencies will continue to rise given the perfect storm of the supply chain problems, inflation and rate rises as well as staffing shortages. The insolvency profession and the Insolvency Service are likely to be stretched and developments in the corporate rescue regime, aided by the courts, (such as the recent approval of an SME restructuring plan in the Houst case where HMRC debt was crammed down) will be much needed medicine.”
APPOINTMENT OF THE WEEK
Emmet Quish has been appointed by Dechert LLP as a partner in its funds practice in its Dublin office. Formerly with Dublin firm Dillon Eustace, Quish is an experienced funds lawyer with a focus on the structuring, establishment and ongoing compliance for all types of investment funds. He brings with him strong relationships at leading asset management firms across Europe and internationally.
“Emmet is a highly-regarded and experienced lawyer, and we are delighted to welcome him to Dechert,” said Gus Black, co-chair of Dechert’s global financial services and investment management group. “His arrival further enhances our market-leading and growing global funds practice.”
Dechert was the first law firm with a funds practice in all key European fund domiciles, including the UK, Ireland, Luxembourg, Germany and France, as well as the U.S., the Middle East and Asia.
“This is an exciting time of growth and expansion for Dechert, a firm known for its breadth and depth in financial services,” said Emmet Quish.
CRT Structuring in the United Kingdom and EU
Please join Cadwalader Capital Markets Partner Nick Shiren and Special Counsel Assia Damianova for the final part of a four-part webinar series discussing capital relief trades for U.S. banks. In this session, relevant UK and EU considerations for capital relief trades will be discussed, including:Applicable rules – Capital Requirements Regulation and the EU bank capital rulesSecuritisation Regulation and how to report and retain riskImpact of EMIRExamples of structuring issues in European deals
Wednesday, August 101:00 PM – 2:00 PM EDTConfirmation email with Zoom link to the Webinar will follow registration.
In Case You Missed It!
Session One: CRT Overview and Regulatory Capital Basics Watch Here
Session Two: Unpacking Regulation Q Watch Here
Session Three: U.S. Legal and Regulatory Considerations Watch Here
Please reach out to Heidi Schmitt with any questions about this series.
The LEGAL DIARY will continue to appear throughout August – you may be taking some time off but we are not. So please continue to send your Diary news and legal comment and insights to
Meanwhile, having commended the Lionesses on this spot last Friday we are delighted by their success – not least because match–winner Chloe Kelly attended St. Mark’s School, Ealing – at which The LegalDiarist’s daughter teaches.
No surprise then that St.Mark’s has been awarded ‘School of the Year’ at Ealing sports awards. And Chloe is being nominated for the Freedom of the Borough of Ealing. Celebrations all round.