Friday May 28 2021 Edition 59
Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and e-vents from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK – POSITIVE CHANGE?
How the world will look by the end of next month is less clear than we might have hoped. The locks could still be on if the Indian variant gets out of control. But in the legal industry the future is starting to come into focus.
First, despite initial fears, many large law firms have weathered the storm well enough. Not atypically, Clyde & Co’s Chief Executive Officer Matthew Kelsall was able to observe this week that, “The response of our people to the pandemic and all of the personal and professional pressures that came with it was extraordinary. Thanks to everyone’s efforts we have continued to perform strongly.”
Second, new ways of working are being adopted extensively and confidently for the future. As Andrew Levander, Chair of Dechert’s Policy Committee, remarked a couple of days ago when announcing the implementation of a ‘flexible hybrid model’, “We believe we can balance in-person and virtual working in a way that engages and empowers our community to better support our clients and meet the professional and personal needs of our people.”
Third, and maybe most important, the sophisticated use of data has been brought centre-stage. As the recent InterAction Marketing & Business Development Survey from LexisNexis revealed, the law firms whoch saw high growth in 2020 were four times more likely to use tracking metrics for their marketing and business development efforts.
Ane when you then add in all the diversity initiatives which were launched – including, for example, A&O’s Black Aspiring Solicitors Mentoring Scheme – we might look back and reflect that from a purely commercial dimension this past year has been a period of positive change. It might taste bitter-sweet but seize the time.
In this week’s edition
+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
– Long Walk to Justice
– Snapshots from Dickens’ Legal Life
– Data quality critical to law firms’ marketing success
– Drive at Your own Risk
– Hope for Crime
+ CONTRIBUTED ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
SUBSIDISING THE WEALTHY: ARE THE COURT COSTS OF CIVIL FRAUD TOO LOW IN MEGA CASES?
asks Dan Dodman
+ APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK with Kennedys and Farrer & Co.
Brick Court Centenary series continues
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
Long Walk to Justice
Get out your boots and stretch out those muscles because this year’s season of LEGAL WALKS is about to commence. The Access to Justice Foundation (in partnership with the regional Legal Support Trusts and committees) is gearing up again for a series of walks between 21 June and 21 October to raise thousands of pounds for frontline free legal advice services. The first batch in June will take place in Preston, Derby, Doncaster, Northampton, Sheffield, Brighton, Eastbourne, Tunbridge Wells, Hastings, York and Guildford. Most other towns and cities will then follow in the subsequent months until we trudge to a stop in the Autumn. Imaginatively the Leeds walk will be virtual – this could catch on.
Last year, of course, the majority of walks had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic. So there is a lot of ground (and money) to be made up. “There is still time to sign up for any of the Legal Walks taking place this year,” said Laura Cassidy, Fundraising and Development Manager at the Access to Justice Foundation. “Not only are they great fun, but they are a brilliant way to raise awareness and much needed funds for the free legal advice sector at this challenging time. We’re encouraging everyone who is passionate about access to justice to make a difference and walk side by side with us again this year.”
For information, or to register for the Legal Walks taking place in the North East, North West, Yorkshire, the East of England, the Midlands, the South West, Wales or Scotland, visit atjf.org.uk/legal-walks, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Snapshots from Dickens’ Legal Life
Anyone familiar with Dickens’ Bleak House will know that the great Victorian novelist had a sceptical view of legal processes as well as being deeply suspicious of the motives of lawyers themselves. But Dickens was actually a member of Middle Temple and, had things worked out differently, he might well have gone on to have a successful career in the law.
So, timed to link with Middle Temple Library’s current exhibition (May -August 2021,) the Inn has produced a short but charmingly well-produced digital display of 10 short videos which explore Dickens’ involvement in the legal world and how his writing was inspired by the experience.
Narrated by Barnaby Bryan, The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple’s Archivist supported by voice actor Tim Vaughan, the videos take the viewer from Dickens’ early days as a court reporter and subsequent affiliation to the Middle Temple through his friendship with the great judge Talfourd to his time with Doctors’ Commons. It ends with his final departure from the Inn in 1855 when he collected his £100 deposit paid many years earlier. As he pointed out when he left, he had no idea when he joined the Inn how much his novels and journalism were to take over his life. So definitely worth a watch at https://sway.office.com/dLytdenUoAhfkocj?ref=email
Data quality critical to law firms’ marketing success
According to the just-published Global LexisNexis InterAction Survey an overwhelming majority of law, accounting and financial service firms report that marketing and business development strategies have changed significantly over the past year. And it was the switch to digital outreach – eight out of the top ten marketing techniques used by firms were digital – which made the biggest diference to their success. Significantly the main challenge to marketing effectiveness cited by both law firms and A&FS firms has been data quality.
“The Covid-19 pandemic exposed business development and marketing strengths and weaknesses across every industry, but it also sheds some light on how law and accounting and financial services firms can improve,” said Brendan Nelson, General Manager of LexisNexis Software Solutions. “As technology adoption continues to help firms better capture, manage, and gain insights from their valuable data they can adopt a holistic and strategic approach to business development that will successfully drive firm growth.”
Key findings from the study include:
- Pandemic-related issues were the top challenge for 51% of law firms and 42% of A&FS firms.
- 54% of high-growth firms experienced a positive impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. The same could be said for only 11% of no-growth firms.
- High growth firms are investing more in marketing and business development. High growth law firms project an increase of 38%. High growth A&FS firms spent an average of 15.5% of revenue on marketing, which was almost three times more than other firms.
- When it comes to marketing/business development investment, A&FS and law firms differ greatly. Law firms will heavily invest in their firm’s website, CRM, and training for lawyers, whereas A&FA firms will direct investments to social media and email marketing in addition to CRM.
The 2021 InterAction Marketing & Business Development Survey is available for download here.
Drive at Your Own Risk
This coming Bank Holiday Monday (31 May 2021) sees the the Whiplash Reform Programme coming into force across England and Wales. It means a big change in the way people injured in a road traffic accident (RTA) can claim compensation. But not everyone is happy about it arguing that it is too complicated and will put off those with genuine injuries.
“The lack of compassion and common sense shown by the government with the introduction of this programme beggars’ belief,” says Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers. “While the government might sell these reforms as an opportunity for claimants to settle their claims quickly and without the need for court, the reality is quite different.”
The introduction of a do-it-yourself online portal for claims worth up to £5,000 has been accompanied by a ‘snappy’ 64-page user guide, explains Anwar.“How many claimants do they think will sift through 64 pages to guide them through their claim? Worse still, how will claimants know if their claim is worth more or less than £5,000?
“And let’s not forget the new portal go-live date comes on a bank holiday, when it appears that the call centre to support injured claimants won’t even be open. Only this government could launch such a fundamental change to consumer rights, and then have no one on hand to assist claimants with what are going to be at best, teething problems. The portal has already had number of technical difficulties for professional users, so it doesn’t bode well for claimants.”
So if you detect a pattern of central government incompetence here you may well be right. [Bring back Dominic Cummings, say some readers].
Meanwhile, the LegalDiarist’s advice? Don’t take your car out on Monday. Or maybe best not to take your car out at all.
Hope for Crime
Memories of the recent ‘Line of Duty’ series might be starting to fade but what cannot be erased is the awful image it presented of criminal solicitors. Without fail they appeared either dodgy or deadbeat.
So it was a breath of fresh air to hear the bold and inspirational words from the Criminal Defence team at Hodge Jones & Allen (HJA) this week. “At a time of continued pressure on the criminal justice system, we are delighted to welcome three young new lawyers to the department,” commented Raj Chada, Partner and head of department. “Our ethos is to provide the best service to all clients, from the protestor to the murder suspect, from the shoplifter to the city trader. Whatever their status, we will fight their corner.”
HJA is ranked as Tier 1 by Legal 500 and has defended some of the country’s most high-profile and complex cases. It has recently had a rebrand to reflect its diverse client-base and continuing effort to “fight for what’s right”. Among the new recruits is Higher Rights Advocate, Sania Shah, who has more than five years’ experience and specialises in serious and complex crime and youth crime. Surely she should be a model to inspire the next Line of Duty defence solicitor.
The Rich are Different
The launch by Fladgate of Walgate Family Office, a new London-based service to deal with the personal and domestic needs of wealthy families, is an interesting example of the growing diversification of services by law firms.
To be frank, it’s such an obvious move that it is only surprising that it’s not been done before.
Certainly one elite Lincoln’s Inn family law firm reported last year that it was often asked by clients not only to recruit chauffeurs and butlers for hyper-wealthy foreign families but also to recommend the best restaurants. But the Walgate development takes it up to another level. Other firms with that elite clientele should now follow. Assuming, that is, London can continue to attract the immensely wealthy despite the rapidly growing ‘Not Welcome Here’ list.
CONTRIBUTED ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
SUBSIDISING THE WEALTHY: ARE THE COURT COSTS OF CIVIL FRAUD TOO LOW IN MEGA CASES? asks Dan Dodman
Civil fraud is responsible for some of the some of the greatest war stories in the legal world. For example, the battle between Boris Beresovsky and Roman Abramovitch springs to mind. Similarly, the USD6 billion claim in the BTA bank fraud which saw its chief perpetrator Mukhtar Ablyazov arrested whilst in France after he skipped the country.
These kinds of cases are legal legend that make careers. They also drive innovative uses of the legal system. Asset tracing, freezing injunctions, document/evidence collection and third party orders are some of the tools used to advance cases. This requires a huge amount of Court resource and these claims create fundamental issues within our legal system.
Take, for example, the issue of Court fees. These are supposed to be representative of the cost of a Judge looking at a matter across the entire length of a claim and the cost of a Judge actually sitting and hearing a trial. The issue fees on claims are capped at £10,000 (with a further £1,000 if a claim actually gets to Court).
But £11,000 in a claim of USD6 billion? If a trial goes on for six months, this must count as the greatest bargain that the private sector can make from the public.
It also changes the way clients with smaller claims can interact with the system. Recently, I worked with several individuals have lost their entire life savings to a fraudulent scheme. Rather than watch their entire pension pots disappear they clubbed together to pay legal fees and begin proceedings Explaining to them that they then had to put their hands in their pockets to find a further £10,000 to bring a claim was a real challenge. The legal system is supposed to represent everyone and there is a real risk that huge civil fraud claims prejudice this.
What is the solution? There is an opportunity for these claims to effectively sponsor those people who cannot afford to bring proceedings. Would it not be fairer for a trial fee of 1% to be levied on a claim of USD6 billion in order to allow claims of £300,000 or less from others that have lost everything to go ahead? I would certainly think so.
Dan Dodman is a civil fraud lawyer at Goodman Derrick LLP, the London law firm.
APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
Farrer & Co has appointed Gerard Heyes as a partner in its Disputes Resolution team. He joins from Simmons & Simmons, where he was a managing associate in the London office specialising in financial services litigation, disputes and investigations and in managing contentious risk.
“Gerard has great experience in a field that we see as strategically important to us,” said Siobhan Jones, Head of Disputes Resolution at Farrer & Co. “His appointment will add further strength and depth to our existing contentious financial services and regulatory expertise.”
Antony French, Anthony Rawlins and Deirdre Burgess are joining the Kennedys’ catastrophic injury team having left the BLM (formerly Berrymans Lace Mawer). They will be bringing with them six associates and a litigation assistant
French had been head of the team at BLM’s having previously worked at Greenwoods. He handles complex, large and catastrophic injury claims arising out of road traffic accidents and casualty claims.
Burgess joined BLM from DWF and was also, prior to that, at Greenwoods. She has particular expertise in fatalities, serious orthopaedic injuries, chronic pain cases, brain injuries as well as suspected exaggerated and fraudulent claims.
Rawlins defends complex motor, employer’s liability and public claims. He has a particular interest in defending brain injury, spinal, amputation and chronic pain claims.
”Kennedys presence and forward-thinking attitude along with the experience we bring means that we can create the “go to” law firm in London for large and catastrophic injury claims for the next 20 years and beyond,” says French.
In the week when whiplash injuries are in the news the timing seems oddly appropriate.
BRICK COURT CENTENARY SERIES CONTINUES
5:30pm Wednesday 9th June 2021 online
Richard Susskind is the world’s most cited author on the future of legal services. He has been the IT Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice since 1998, and is, amongst many other roles, the Chair of the Online Dispute Resolution Group of the Civil Justice Council, the President of the Society for Computers and Law and the Chair of the Advisory Board of the Oxford Internet Institute.
The Brick Court centenary presents an opportunity, alongside reflection on the past hundred years, to consider what the future holds for the individual barrister and the Bar as a whole.
Please join us for a talk on precisely that subject from Professor Susskind, which will be followed by discussion/Q&A, featuring responses from some specially-invited guests.
Please register here:
WOMEN WHO WILL – LAST CHANCE TO NOMINATE (Act now!)
For the second consecutive year Obelisk Support and Next 100 years are welcoming nominations from senior general counsel and other senior leaders in law to feature in the 2021 report.
For this year’s “Women Who Will” report, they are asking general counsel to nominate the women they work with who they think are the leaders of the future. Please find the 2020 report here.
They are looking for women who have shown exemplary leadership. This might be in a position that comes with leadership responsibilities. They might also be showing leadership in the wider sense, through vision and action in the community or by acting as a champion for diversity, for new technology, or for new ways of delivering legal work.
Nominate a “woman who will” from your team or law firms today, for inclusion in this year’s report.
The deadline for submissions is 31 May.
Click here for more information.
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