Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and arts from the legal world
June 10 2022
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Privilege Versus the Common Good?
If you watched the coverage of the Platinum Celebrations last weekend then you will have been struck by the theme of ‘service’. That was what the life of the Queen had been about, said the commentators. What some might have seen as privilege was really about serving other people.
Of course it is possible to combine service with privilege. Lawyers are doing it all the time through their commitment to pro bono.
There was a good example a couple of weeks ago when Shakespeare Martineau’s lawyers organised a litter pick along the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal towpath collecting kids’ shoes, clothes, bricks, a step ladder, duvets, cans, bottles and umbrellas along the way (see image above). Meanwhile at a rather grander level TrustLaw, the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s pro bono legal service, celebrated on Wednesday with its awards for what is described as ‘the extraordinary pro bono work undertaken by legal teams on behalf of NGOs and social enterprises through the TrustLaw service’.
Many of the usual top law firms featured among the winners including Milbank, Allen & Overy, Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, DLA Piper and so on.“The projects being awarded today show us what is possible when we combine our expertise across sectors for the common good,” commented the Foundation’s Chief Executive Officer, Antonio Zappulla.
Maybe the real privilege lies in being be able to serve that common good.
p.s For more on the TrustLaw awards go to www.trust.org/trustlaw/awards/2022.
In This Week’s Edition
+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
+ Net Zero by 2040 declares Irwin Mitchell
– BCLP Channels la Manche
– A Decade Supporting Development by Sidley’s
– Money for Nothing?
– What Worries Clients?
+ LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK on the Infected Blood Scandal, Pay at Sainsbury’s, latest advice from the Law Commission and Family Office Investments
+ APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
Net Zero by 2040 declares Irwin Mitchell
Among all the excitement about the Platinum Celebrations you might have overlooked that last Sunday was World Environment Day. But not Irwin Mitchell. The firm used the big day to announced an ambitious environment strategy that includes achieving 100% renewable energy use in its offices over the next three years along with reducing emissions from the firm’s facilities and vehicles by 60%. It then plans to move on to carbon Net Zero by 2040.
“With environmental sustainability taking centre stage in society, it’s never been more crucial to avoid ‘greenwashing’ and ensure a credible and authentic approach,” said Louise Needham, the firm’s Environmental Sustainability Manager.
“Our commitment to sustainability and the environmental approach are being ramped up to ensure we’ll be leading the way in the transition to Net Zero and a more sustainable future for all.
“The roadmap we have set out is ambitious, but it is an opportunity to challenge ourselves to do better and to proactively continue to lead on what we know is a key issue for our clients, colleagues and the communities in which we operate.
“These objectives give everyone within the business something to aim at and we’re looking forward to taking the steps necessary to achieve success and we hope, inspire others to follow in our footsteps.”
BCLP Channels la Manche
Anglo-French relationships are constantly in a see-saw motion. One week English football fans are being duffed up by the Paris police and the next President Macron is having a love-in with the Queen. So one wonders what the atmosphere is like on the double degree in English and French Law undertaken by students from Queen Mary University of London (Queen Mary) and Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1).
Anyway, BCLP has announced that it is contributing to the spirit of Entente Cordiale by offering these students the opportunity of working both in BCLP’s London office and in its Paris bureau which has more than tripled in size of late as part of what they call a ‘focused growth strategy’.
“Students of this new European program will be eligible to apply for a four-week summer vacation scheme at BCLP’s London office following their second year at Queen Mary,” explains the firm. “If successful, there is the opportunity of a further eight-week secondment in BCLP’s Paris office after the third year of study at Paris 1.”
Following this the lucky students can then apply for a training contract based at either the London or Paris offices with the chance of qualifying either as a solicitor in England and Wales or as an avocat in France. Sounds delicious/delicieuse (as you prefer)
“This opportunity reflects the increasing needs of our clients to have lawyers who, not only advise on legal matters, but understand different business cultures and the exposure to both during their training is a unique opportunity for them.” commented, Olivier Mesmin, the Paris Co-Partner In Charge of the programme. (Maybe it is too much to hope that they might also help crack the Northern Ireland protocol).
A Decade Supporting Development by Sidley’s
It is ten years since Sidley Austin launched its ‘Emerging Enterprises’ Pro Bono Program which provides free legal support to micro, small and medium-sized for-profit enterprises and other eligible organizations. Since then it has supported over 200 businesses that provide enhanced employment and livelihood opportunities in poor, rural and disadvantaged communities in over 55 countries.
So celebrations are due. “We are immensely proud of the hours dedicated and commitment shown to Sidley’s Emerging Enterprise Pro Bono Program,” commented Nicolas Lockhart, the program’s co-leader. “Over ten years, the program has harnessed the experience of hundreds of participating Sidley lawyers, using their strategic and technical know-how to help businesses navigate and overcome a host of finance, investment and trade challenges. This achievement has played an important role in improving income and welfare in some of the world’s more economically challenged areas.”
More than 56,000 hours have been contributed to the programme by around 1,000 specialists and legal professionals across 20 offices which started, initially, as the Africa-Asia Agricultural Program in Geneva. Since then it has won recognition as a unique and market leading initiative, winning awards including National Public Service Award (American Bar Association – 2014), Transatlantic Pro Bono and Public Service (The American Lawyer – 2015) and Innovation in Social Responsibility (Financial Times Innovative Lawyers – 2016).
Objectives for the future include empowering and enabling more women in businesses, providing pro-bono legal services and improving their access to information and communications technology, financial services and assets, legal rights, business management skills, and networking opportunities. “Here’s to the next decade!” says the firm.
Money for Nothing?
Is money everything for lawyers? Or do other things matter at work? According to the latest research by Thomson Reuters it is workplace culture and flexible working practices which provide the real glue in persuading lawyers to stick to their current jobs and not be lured away elsewhere. In short, with the right culture, big bucks won’t necessarily turn heads.
As Reuters points out, however, turnover among lawyers is a growing concern, with associate turnover at US firms hitting a record high of 14.1% in 2021, despite associate compensation rising 12.1%.
This level of turnover probably reflects the reality that in many (most?) firms the lawyers are NOT getting what they most seek – namely, a benign culture, the ability to work flexibly and being surrounded by good colleagues
The Thomson Reuters report ‘Law firms competing for talent in 2022: Will lawyers stay or will they go?’ also highlights that lawyers value the quality of work they’re offered over how much they get paid. By contrast “feeling underappreciated” and “lack of progression” were among the top five reasons to move firms.
“In this highly competitive market for legal talent, we know that work satisfaction drives employees who are both more productive and more likely to stay,” said Mike Abbott, head of the Thomson Reuters Institute. “A firm culture that encompasses meaningful work, strong support systems, and opportunities for growth can pay tremendous dividends to all stakeholders.”
This matters because experience shows that firms with low lawyer attrition grow revenue twice as fast as those with high attrition. So, paradoxically, the more a firm focuses on ‘quality of life’ issues the more it is likely to benefit financially by enhancing retention. Bingo!
What Worries Clients?
A survey by the legal comparison website LegalDrop has established the factors that most worry smaller businesses when they are choosing a law firm. These include
+ Confusion about what kind of legal help they need
+ Confusion about how to find and compare the right lawyer
+ Confusion about what engagement looks like and how the process works
+ Concerns around fees and potential additional fees
+ Uncertainty around what recourse they may have against the lawyer if they are unhappy or something goes wrong.
By giving confidence around these issues you are more likely to win more new work, comments LegalDrop. But just how unConfused do you want your clients to be?
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK
TOPIC: SIR ROBERT FRANCIS QC’S ‘Infected Blood’ REPORT laying out the basis for the victims’ compensation framework
Comment from: Des Collins, Senior Partner at Collins Solicitors, legal advisor to over 1,500 victims of the scandal,
“At long last, in Sir Robert’s report, it’s clear the government is encouraged to recognise the need to compensate the thousands of victims of this terrible scandal. The report is a considered piece of work that deserves recognition and scrutiny in equal measure. However, at first glance the recommendations appear to contain sensible solutions to many of the problems that have beset the victims for over 40 years. In many ways those who have suffered so much for so long will take some comfort from this report although, as always, the devil will be in the detail which we have not yet had the opportunity to examine.
“We will be advising clients based on our assessment of the framework options provided to government once we have had the chance to thoroughly review the proposals and heard Sir Robert’s evidence in July.
“It’s just crucial that the right framework is agreed and implemented by government as soon as reasonably possible so as to help end the daily challenges that continue to be faced by victims of the biggest treatment disaster in NHS history.
“That said, this is undoubtedly an historic day for the many campaigners who have fought so hard for up to 40 years, to have their suffering and those of their loved ones recognised and compensated by Government. Our thoughts are with them all. There’s still much to do, but this report is certainly a meaningful step in the right direction.”
TOPIC: The revelation that Sainsbury’s chief executive, Simon Roberts, received pay worth £3.8m in the latest financial year while rejecting calls from big investors for it to ensure all workers in its stores receive a living wage.
Comment from: Nathaniel Barber, Associate at class action law firm Keller Lenkner UK.
“While many of Sainsbury’s in-store workers are struggling to make ends meet, the CEO, Simon Roberts, received a shocking £3.8 million pay deal last year.
For years, these frontline workers – and similar employees at other supermarket chains – have been fighting for the basic right of equal pay for equal work in comparison with their peers working in Distribution Centres.
Yet, supermarkets remained unmoved by their employees’ plight, instead, forcing them to turn to the justice system and bring claims which have been bogged down in years of prevaricating by the supermarket Defendants.”
TOPIC: The Law Commission’s proposals to introduce a wider liability for criminal corporate misbehaviour.
COMMENT FROM: Liam Naidoo, partner at Hogan Lovells
“The Law Commission’s options paper rightly rejects a ‘one size fits all’ approach to reform of corporate criminal liability, and concludes that directors should not be made liable for neglect in relation to offences that presently require proof of dishonesty or intent. This approach will be welcomed by corporates already under compliance burden. However, the Law Commission have put forward proposals to include corporate offences including failure to prevent human rights abuses, and failure to prevent fraud. The possible introduction of a corporate offence relating to human rights abuses is a natural progression consistent with public discourse. At the same time, the Law Commission has highlighted important considerations that the government will need to tackle if it decides to proceed with these options, including the increased compliance burden on businesses.”
TOPIC: News that family offices managing vast fortunes for wealthy individuals have increased their allocation to private equity from about 15 per cent in 2019 to a fifth last year.
COMMENT FROM: Ragavan Arunachalam, partner at Collyer Bristow
“I am not surprised that in a bid to outpace inflation various custodians of capital are reassessing their attitude to risk. That said, you forget the fundamentals at your peril, and whilst there is more money to deploy, there has not been a similar increase in genuinely good investment opportunities. In this context, family offices having the resources to quickly and accurately sort the wheat from the chaff will be key to success.”
COMMENT FROM: Matthew Braithwaite, partner at Wedlake Bell
“Families’ twin concerns of seeking competitive returns in a prolonged, low-interest environment and rising inflationary pressures are certainly amongst the reasons for this trend. Thematic investing in sectors with strong growth potential such as digitisation and automation, healthcare, new living and decarbonization are particularly appealing to family offices. This is unsurprising, given the next generations’ socially-conscious mindsets and the fact that many of the recent exits have involved young, tech-savvy entrepreneurs, who are now at the helm of a new generation of multi-family offices.
“Family office investors tend to take a longer-term investment view, so private equity investment often works well for family offices provided they understand the investment life cycle and that such stocks cannot be disposed of ahead of time without a deep discount, unlike listed securities.
“Family offices are often willing to roll their sleeves up and add value to the business by serving on boards, introducing their network and in some circumstances providing useful business and sector experience and expertise gained from running their own businesses.
“Family offices often find that in addition to investing at the right price, they need hire in investment analysts to carry out the due diligence, financial modelling tasks and to develop sophisticated and robust risk management models to mitigate the idiosyncratic risk associated with direct equity investing. This often results in private equity investing being the reserve of the larger family offices who have got the resourcing to make the right hirers and carry out the required due diligence.
“Private investment into private equity represents a disintermediation, cutting out the PE fund manager in the middle and, potentially reconnecting capital to investment. Many family offices don’t need the additional layer of infrastructure between the office and the underlying investment.”
APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
Sarah Grimmer will be joining Twenty Essex as an arbitrator member in its Singapore office later in the Summer.
She joins from her role for the past six years as Secretary-General of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC). Previously she had spent ten years at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague and three years at the ICC International Court of Arbitration in Paris. As a result she can claim extensive experience across the Asian Pacific region with particular knowledge of China-related disputes, as well as Europe/the United Kingdom, Russia, and North America.
“Given Sarah’s background, particularly with the HKIAC, she will be perfectly placed to enrich the expertise within our Singapore hub,” commented Duncan Matthews QC, Head of Twenty Essex, “However, she is well-known, admired and liked in equal measure across the global arbitration community and I have no doubt she will be a great success not only in Asia but across the international spectrum.”
Karen Cruickshank has joined national firm Excello Law as a consultant lawyer. She has worked previously for Simmons & Simmons and has most recently been with Marshalls Solicitors. Cruickshank has had a wide range of real estate experience including commercial sales & purchases, landlord & tenant, restrictive covenants, easements and general conveyancing. Clients include SME, individuals, residential developers, lenders and receivers.
Excello was founded in 2009 by George Bisnought as a challenger law firm offering a new model of independence and agility to experienced senior lawyers. “I spoke to four firms offering the consultancy law model and was impressed by the support that Excello provided to its lawyers,” said Cruickshank. “Excello is one of the longest-established consultancy firms and pioneered the use of technology and modern working practices which have transformed the work life balance of many lawyers.”
The 2022 Heilbron Lecture will be about “Nature” and will be delivered by Prof. Lavanya Rajamani. Reception and tour of Old Bailey after.
About this event
To mark 100 years since the first women were admitted as barristers and solicitors in England & Wales in 1922, we are delighted to invite you to our first celebration of 2022 in real life: a centenary reception, preceded by our annual Heilbron Lectures. Private tours of the Old Bailey, the country’s most famous criminal court, are also available.
We will also be joined by some of the professions’ female legal trailblazers, from Lady Hale, our patron, to Lady Arden, former Supreme Court justice and many others.
Date and time
Thu, 16 June 2022
18:30 – 19:45 BST
Central Criminal Court
£8.14 – £27.54