30 September 2022
Diary news plus insights, commentary and appointments from the legal world
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SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: A Time for Reflection?
London might still be the world-leader in Royal funerals but its reputation politically and economically has taken a battering recently. Nice place to visit but do you still want to do business there?
That must be a worry to the organisers of London International Disputes Week who have just released details about their programme for next year (see story below). Richard Bamforth, the event’s Co-Chair, has commented that they must ‘consider the role of London in the international dispute resolution landscape through the lens of not just lawyers in London and the UK, but our peers overseas and, ultimately, our multi-jurisdictional clients.’
Good point. Need to see ourselves ‘as others see us’. Maybe not a comfortable exercise right now.
In This Week’s Edition
+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
- No Disputing London Still a Top Legal Centre?
- America: The New Frontier for LOD and SYKE
- Menopause Mindfulness
- Burges Salmon invests in its People
+ LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK on the latest figures for divorce applications
+ CONTRIBUTED ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
- Having the ‘courage to talk’ in National Inclusion Week by Grace Woolford
- Paralegals and Litigants in Person: How can they help by Amanda Hamilton
+ APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK at the Singapore Bar and Clyde & Co
LAW DIARY OF THE WEEK
No Disputing London Still a Top Legal Centre?
The global disputes market continues to grow with increasing revenue enjoyed by leading global litigation practices. But London’s role as a centre for resolving international disputes may be coming into question not least because of a shift to Asia – which is why the announcement of the themes for next year’s London International Disputes Week (LIDW), taking place in mid-May, is so important.
As the organisers point out key changes are being introduced aimed at boosting the number of international delegates and increasing the opportunities for member firms to host discussions on specialist topics.
“We are excited to be developing a programme which will attract our professional colleagues from abroad,and allow members and delegates to plan their own programme based on specialist interests and practice areas,” explained Co-chair Luke Harrison who is leading on the development of the conference’s international strategy. “The disputes profession is having to adapt to the changing world around us. This year’s theme will encourage members to host events that reflect on the evolving needs of our international clients and how, through innovation, we can better serve them.”
This year will see the return of “international day”, with events staggered to ensure access across multiple time zones. “London remains the pre-eminent centre for dispute resolution, not least because of its use of English law, that underpins hundreds of trillions of dollars of annual business activity, both domestically and globally,” said Co-chair Richard Bamforth bullishly. “London is in a strong position to lead the charge on global growth.” We hope so.
For more go to: https://lidw.co.uk/
America: The New Frontier for LOD and SYKE
While elite US law firms seem to be increasingly asserting their dominance in London there is another, less-showy movement gathering momentum in the way legal services are delivered on both sides of the Atlantic.
The announcement that LOD and SYKE, describing themselves as ‘the global alternative legal service providers’, is opening in New York, their first office in the United States, is a clear indication that there is more than one model in the new legal landscape.
Focused on supporting in-house legal teams to ‘build their ideal legal function’ LOD and SYKE are capitalising on the twin themes of the increasing importance of legal technology and the drive for more autonomy by individual lawyers.
As the duo put it, “The New York office provides in-house legal departments with a full-service, flexible offering through the LOD (Lawyers On Demand) and SYKE brands – secondments, managed services, legal operations consultancy and legal technology implementation.”
Already serving major tech, media and energy companies in the US it is expected that the new US LOD/SYKE office will accelerate demand. “We’ve been doing more and more work for our multinational clients across the United States, so it’s a natural step for us to accelerate our business here with a location on the ground,” said LOD Group CEO, Tom Hartley. “Supporting the best in-house legal professionals to love what they do, giving them the autonomy and flexibility they strive for, has always been a cornerstone of our success, so it’s very exciting to expand and grow this offering in the U.S.”
SYKE CEO and Founder, Alistair Maiden commented that, “Our international clients have reacted extremely positively to the combined technology and people offering that our partnership with LOD provides.” A marriage made in the Clouds?
Readers of The Times will have enjoyed the article by Deborah Ross yesterday on ‘Menopausal Clothes – now you can look as sexy as a dead salmon’. In her characteristically excoriating style Ross lashed out at ‘wellness washing’ – an attempt to cash in on the increased profile that the menopause now has. As she pointed out, this is a very big market.
Perish the thought though that this has any bearing on Baker McKenzie, for example, which has launched this week a new menopause policy for its London office to support employees who are experiencing the menopause or the perimenopause. Various facilities are now being made available in the firm including access to a menopause support group and GPs with specialist menopause trainingas well as on-site counselling.The Firm has also signed up to the Menopause Workplace Pledge.
“We are committed to providing an inclusive and psychologically safe working environment for all of our employees,” said Katherine Hallam, London Director of Talent Management. “By introducing this policy we aim to raise awareness about the menopause for all whilst at the same time supporting our employees who are experiencing menopausal symptoms and empowering our managers to work with people on an individual basis.”
The Menopause Workplace Pledge requires
– recognising that the menopause can be an issue in the workplace and women need support
– talking openly, positively and respectfully about the menopause
– actively supporting and informing employees affected by the menopause.
Burges Salmon invests in its People
There is delight at Burges Salmon at being shortlisted for this year’s Investors in People’s ‘Award for Social Responsibility’. It is in recognition of the firm’s activity in this area including working as a signatory to the UN Global Compact and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The firm is also a member of Business in The Community (BITC) and has made a series of public commitments regarding the respect of human rights, community engagement and diversity and inclusion. It also takes part in relevant benchmark exercises such as the Social Mobility Employers Index.
Investors in People was set up by the Government in the 1990s to provide a national standard of excellence in people management and development. Its profile has risen and fallen over the decades but it still provides a useful set of measures and an accreditation process. The annual awards event is designed to ‘recognise the amazing people and organisations in our communities, highlighting those reaching excellence and putting people first whilst building a stronger, healthier and happier society’.
“We are incredibly proud to have been shortlisted by Investors in People in recognition of our efforts to ensure Burges Salmon is open and inclusive and encourages a culture of social responsibility.,” said the firm’s Chief People Officer, Robert Halton. “This nomination is all the more significant given the firm’s focus on wellbeing and engagement, inclusive workplace culture, environmental sustainability, employability and human rights, and collaboration and innovation. It is of huge importance that our unique, collaborative culture continues to prevail and to be recognised in this way is very pleasing.”
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK
TOPIC: The latest round of ONS Family Court statistics showing a sizeable increase in the number of divorce applications filed compared to the same quarter last year.
FROM: Neil Russel, Solicitor and Head of Family at law firm Seddons
“So, one quarter in from 6 April and the introduction of no fault divorce, divorce applications have increased by over 20%.
Considering that 2021 saw an increase of 7% in the same period from 2020, on the face of it, the statistics show that the divorce rates continue to be on the rise. However, it must be taken into account that a number of people clearly waited in the first quarter of 2022 to be able to proceed with no fault divorce so this may explain the surge.
The figures for January to March were down 2% on the equivalent quarter in 2021. With the precarious situation in the economy right now and the bottleneck in the first quarter of the year, I think we need to wait longer before concluding there is a steep upward trend in divorce.
Interestingly, the statistics reveal a 31% decrease in the number of financial remedy cases, which may be as result of more people opting for alternative dispute resolution, including mediation, arbitration and private Financial Dispute Resolution Appointments.”
COMMENT FROM: Teresa Cullen, Family Law Partner at Fladgate
“The number of applications for divorce has increased, likely as a result of people waiting until the new no fault divorce legislation was fully in force to avoid fault having to be alleged against either Party.
“Notably, the ability to issue a joint application for divorce has not proved as popular as was anticipated by the law makers, and many within the family law community. Previously it was not uncommon for parties to work together to ‘agree“ the contents of a divorce petition so that it would be as mutual as possible and avoid conflict. Perhaps due to lack of awareness or complications on the online system, the ability to make a joint application does not appear to be as attractive as first thought. Time will tell if there will be a change once familiarity with the new law kicks in.”
CONTRIBUTED ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
HAVING THE ‘COURAGE TO TALK’ IN NATIONAL INCLUSION WEEK by Grace Woolford
Browne Jacobson’s ‘Courageous Conversations’ initiative was launched to enable people from all parts of the firm to share personal stories and learn from each other. Having myself experienced a homophobic hate crime motivated me to take part in our first ‘Courageous Conversation’ in last year’s National Inclusion Week.
Each session is carefully structured in advance to make sure everyone taking part feels safe and included – including the audience. Listening to real stories can be an uncomfortable experience, but one which can help everyone build more understanding and become better allies for marginalised groups.
Every conversation focuses on a different theme, usually run to coincide with a wider campaign across the Diversity and Inclusion spectrum. Topics vary, from gender bias and disability through to those traditionally regarded as taboo in a law firm such as the menopause or mental health.
Team members who are affected by these issues come together to share their personal experiences, to help raise awareness and increase understanding of how others might be affected or how they can help.
In doing so, the Courageous Conversations start a domino effect, taking people on a learning arc towards becoming a more inclusive person. It can also help them to come to realisations about themselves.
For me, it allowed me to channel my anger into something far more positive by helping others to have difficult conversations about challenges in their own lives, which have then led to real changes within the firm. For example, the conversation during Disability History Month resulted in further discussions around accessibility in our office spaces. This prompted physical changes to the workplace that have made a meaningful, quantifiable change.
There is no denying that having a Courageous Conversation in the workplace can be uncomfortable and difficult, but ultimately this is a price worth paying if we want to create a truly inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued.
Grace Woolford is a Practice Assistant in Browne Jacobson’s Nottingham office
This year’s National Inclusion Week runs from 26th September – 2nd October.
PARALEGALS AND LITIGANTS IN PERSON: HOW CAN THEY HELP? by Amanda Hamilton
The litigant in person is less rare a beast than was once the case. Courts are not unsympathetic to the challenges they face, but the courts are also not of the mind that the litigant in person (LIP) is entitled to special privileges; seeking some form of professional assistance is a wise strategy. Which is where the paralegal sector—where significantly lower fees are found—can help.
However, help from a paralegal practitioner is limited by what is and what is not permitted according to the activities that are reserved for solicitors and barristers only. There are six main reserved activities: the exercise of a right of audience; the conduct of litigation; reserved instrument activities; probate activities; notarial activities; and the administration of oaths.
Although these are activities that paralegals cannot perform, this does not mean that a paralegal cannot be an asset in a case being pursued by a LIP client. For example, a paralegal cannot ‘conduct litigation’, meaning that they are not able to be an agent of a client and receive service of documents or letters on their behalf, nor can a paralegal sign or file court documents on a client’s behalf. However, a paralegal can assist their LIP client by completing forms and draft documents on their behalf and by guiding the LIP client through procedures and processes, explaining relevant deadlines and responsibilities, etc. (always remembering that the client him/herself must sign and submit documents and forms).
There are many areas where paralegals can help their clients but there are occasions where a level of specialised expertise will be required. One of the most important ways a paralegal can help a LIP client is identifying a complex case where it really is in the client’s best interests to instruct a solicitor or a direct access barrister to assist.
Amanda Hamilton is Chief Executive of the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP)
LEGAL APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
Jern-Fei Ng KC (above) regarded as “one of the biggest names for Asia-related arbitration”, has relocated from London to Singapore where he has been formally admitted to the Bar to become the first King’s Counsel (KC) with triple Singapore/Hong Kong/London affiliation. With Singapore as his base, he will now undertake counsel work all over Asia, while continuing to build his growing practice in Hong Kong as an arbitrator from Temple Chambers, one of the key sets of chambers in Hong Kong. Meanwhile outside of Asia, he will maintain his practice from 7BR in London.
Jern-Fei Ng is also admitted in the British Virgin Islands and has experience appearing in the courts of the Cayman Islands. He is multi-lingual and is the only English KC who is able to accept instructions not only in English but also Mandarin Chinese (Putonghua), Cantonese and Malay. He has previously taught advocacy and arbitration in some of China’s leading universities, including the Peking University School of Law and Renmin University School of Law.
“For me, this relocation to Singapore with my family represents a homecoming to Asia,” he said. “Over the past decade or so, particularly after I was appointed QC in 2018, the epicentre of my practice as a barrister has moved gradually but decisively eastwards; a growing proportion of my clients are now based in Asia, including a large number of Chinese State-owned enterprises and also some of the leading multinational corporations across Asia. My decision to return home to Asia is a natural corollary of these developments in my professional career.”
With reference to his status as a King’s Counsel on the other side of the world he says, “The KC (former QC) kitemark remains a much-trusted barometer of excellence in advocacy around the world, even in jurisdictions like Singapore and Hong Kong which have their own SC kitemark.”
CLYDE & CO
Victoria Peckett (above) is joining Clyde & Co as a partner in its Global Projects & Construction Group, based in London.
Previously at CMS, where she was Co-Head of Construction, Peckett has advised a wide cross-section of the construction industry on the drafting and negotiation of complex construction contracts for a broad range of projects, both international and domestic. She has extensive experience assisting clients with the resolution of disputes (both before and after the commencement of proceedings), including through adjudication, arbitration, litigation and mediation. She has also worked extensively on international construction matters in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America – experience which she will now take into Clyde & Co’s construction teams.
Peckett chairs the drafting committee of the Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT), one of the main suites of standard construction contracts in the UK. “Victoria has been one of the leading construction lawyers in our sector for decades and so bringing her on board here is a real coup for us,” said John Morris, Global Head of Clyde & Co’s Projects and Construction Group.
We hope that you have enjoyed this edition of the Legal Diary and maybe even found it useful.
If so, please pass on to friends and colleagues.
The LegalDiarist has been out of the Uk for the past month so has been insulated from the mayhem emerging from Westminster. So, with some reluctance, we shall be back in Britain next week to see it all at first hand. We hope we can cope.