Edward Fennell’s LEGAL DIARY

Diary news plus insights, commentary and appointments from the legal world

November 18th2022

Editorial contact: fennell.edward@yahoo.com

SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: BLATANTLY OFFSIDE?

It hasn’t taken long for a serious legal clash to erupt at Qatar’s World Club. On the eve of the opening weekend it seems that the regime is attempting to ban beer from the stands (private boxes may be exempted) thereby creating a breach in FIFA’s carefully crafted contractual strategy.

Having seen what happened at Wembley during the men’s Euro Final last year one might have a sneaking sympathy for the Qatari perspective. But a deal’s a deal and trying to back out at the last moment only highlights the difficulties of dealing with autocracies. Add in the tensions over LGBTQ+ and the debate over workers’ rights and it will be interesting to add-up the score card of Qatar’s legal standing by the time we reach the Final in late December. It may need a long session with VAR (the video assistant referee) to determine just how many laws of the game have been broken.

The LegalDiarist

In this week’s edition

+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK

Payne Hicks Beach aiming to establish a leading sports law practice

Hogan Lovells joins with Goldman’s in Backing The Amani Project

– McAlister Family Law Team Wins Award

– Women Ahead in Ropes’ Private Equity Outfit

+ LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK on the MH17 trial, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and the latest insolvency statistics

+ APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK at Brick Court and Boodle Hatfield

LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK

Payne Hicks Beach aiming to establish a leading sports law practice

While not everyone will be going football crazy over the next month – indeed many people might just feel narked at wall-to-wall football coverage on TV – there is no doubt that the World Cup will remind the lawyers of just how much sports law has grown in recent years.

So it’s a good moment for Payne Hicks Beach to announce that it has acquired the sports practice of Solesbury Gay, a niche firm whoch has been operating exclusively in the field of sports law. Solesbury Gay partner, Mark Gay, a leading figure in sports litigation, is now joining Payne Hicks Beach and becomes a partner of the firm.  

Gay has built his reputation working for governing bodies and teams especially infootball and motorsport.  His track record includes acting in disciplinary proceedings, arbitrations and, where no arbitral network exists, in proceedings before the High Court. His experience before tribunals includes the all-powerful Court of Arbitration for Sport, the EFL League Arbitration Panel, the Contracts Recognition Board of the FIA, the International Court of the FIA, ICC and LCIA arbitration panels. Among his most recent high profile cases has been Alpine’s dispute with McLaren regarding the driver Oscar Piastri and Alpine’s successful appeal to the stewards over the five point deduction imposed upon them as a result of Fernando Alonso’s crash with Lance Stroll at the Austin Grand Prix last month.

 “I am pleased to be joining Payne Hicks Beach, a firm with whom I have had many connections over the years and for whom I have the greatest of professional respect,” he said. “My aim is to bring the sports practice of Solesbury Gay to Payne Hicks Beach and pull together the strands of existing sports work that the firm currently conducts to establish a leading sports law practice.”

With rows flaring up all over the sports field right now they should not be short of work.

Hogan Lovells joins with Goldman’s in Backing The Amani Project

Goldman bankers, Hogan Lovells’ lawyers and their ‘Amani’ mentees

Getting on IN life – as well as getting on WITH life – needs more than just the three Rs (vital though they are). It also needs being canny about how the outside world works and how to deal with relationships outside your friendship group. So who better to advise young people on the verge of adulthood than bankers and lawyers who know what it’s all about?

That’s probably the thinking behind the partnership that the The AMANI Project’ has set up with Hogan Lovells and Goldman Sachs who are now engaged in a six-month ‘soft skills and mentoring’ programme for 16–18-year-olds of African and Caribbean heritage.

The programme, which is running in partnership with Aviard Inspires and the National Mentoring Award recipient Mentivity, explores topics such as financial literacy, communication and reframing education support. Each of the 20 participants has regular interactions with the 35 volunteer mentors from the banker and the law firm who themselves have been coached in how to be ‘authentic and real’ about their own journeys while offering tips to their mentees.

The inspiration behind the project is Amani Simpson, as award-winning youth coach and film-maker. “This project is about uplifting the youths that society too often labels as unreachable and helping to install a foundation of self-awareness, hope and confidence before introducing them to other opportunities and support networks,” says Simpson. “ Someone did it for me when I was 16 so I’m paying it forward to the next generation!” 

Meanwhile Yasmin Waljee OBE, International Pro Bono Partner at Hogan Lovells, added, “At Hogan Lovells, we’re committed to creating thriving communities. We’re proud to partner with Goldman Sachs, AVIARD and Mentivity to contribute to this unique project which will help young individuals who have faced hardships or made mistakes and are deserving of a second chance or a boost in confidence.”

Family Law Team Wins Award

The winning McAlister team with award

While Hogan Lovells’ lawyers are directing their soft skills to support teenage kids McAlister Family Law has been applying their actual legal skills in representing society’s most vulnerable children. And in doing so they have been involved in some of the most prominently reported cases in the UK. Their reward has been that their specialist Children Team has just been named Team of the Year at the Manchester Legal Awards.

 “The team’s commitment to excellence and serving the community is to be commended, particularly during the lockdowns,” commentedthe Manchester Young Talent judging panel. “This is reflected in their client testimonials as well as their significant growth these past few years to be one of the Children Law teams in the UK.”

McAlister is a member of the Beyond Law Group which had an ambition for its specialist family and children practice to become the largest children team outside of London, giving representation not only to parents, grandparents and step-parents but also children themselves. Its growth over the past five years has been remarkable and its specialist team now consists of 22 legal professionals, 80% of whom are under the age of 35. Numbered among these are some of the country’s leading family law experts and the practice now holds  the most child law accreditations outside of London.

This award is incredible recognition for the most hard-working team I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” said. Ruth Hetherington, Head of the Private Child team at McAlister Family Law. “Each and every person in the team works tirelessly, day in and day out, to ensure that the most vulnerable children in society are protected and that their voices are heard. For the team to be recognised and awarded across the region for the incredible work that they do means more than anyone could imagine.”

Women Ahead in Ropes’ Private Equity Outfit

Shona Ha made women the PE majority

Ropes & Gray continues to build its reputation for having a (relatively) high quotient of women partners. For example in Law.com’s 2022 survey, 41% of the firm’s London partners were reported to be women putting it in the top three for the highest proportion of female partners in the UK – for the third year in a row.

The star specialism in this regard, however is Private Equity where, following the most recent partner promotion round, the appointment of Shona Ha the co-(author of the UK chapter of The Legal 500Comparative Guide to Private Equity) meant that the majority (55%) of the nine-strong London private equity partners are now women (five women and four men).

“In the London private equity team the three most recent partnership promotions have all been of women,” explained Elizabeth Todd, private equity partner and co-head of the firm’s London Women’s Forum. She added that each of them had benefited from the allyship and sponsorship of the PE partnership, including Helen Croke (who is the most highly ranked female lawyer in Chambers for UK high-end capability private equity buyouts). “Some of this is about the support of having a cohort with whom you can discuss how to deal with issues you are facing,” said Todd, “whether they be dealing with being the only woman in a meeting, being mistaken for a more junior lawyer or practical advice on how to talk to the clients you work with about upcoming maternity leave or dealing with unexpected childcare disasters.  It’s not quite that you need to see it to be it, but it definitely makes it easier.”

LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK

TOPIC: Judgment by District Court of the Hague regarding the Shooting down of MH17 Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 on 17 July 2014.

COMMENT BY: Peter Neenan, Partner in Stewarts’ Aviation team(which acted for almost all British families as well as families from South Africa, the Netherlands and Malaysia affected by the incident)

The judgment released today by the District Court of the Hague marks an important step in the families of the victims of the MH17 disaster’s fight for justice, truth and accountability. It is a long and difficult road, and our clients, and all families of victims, have shown amazing strength and resilience as they continue to seek answers about what happened and why.

The finding of guilt today is just one part of that fight for justice and truth. Those who actually fired the missile remain unknown. While the BUK missile launcher was traced back to 53rd Anti-Aircraft Brigade in Kursk, Russia, those specific masters who authorised its deployment remain unknown. Nevertheless, critically, the judge said today, that the court found that the Russian state had overall control; coordinating the military actions, providing financial support and providing instruction to the separatists.

In 2018, the governments of the Netherlands and Australia held Russia publicly accountable for the downing of flight MH17. They have sought to diplomatically discuss Russia’s responsibility and they have sought to legally enforce Russia’s responsibility through legal proceedings brought before the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

There were 10 British nationals on board Flight MH17. As one of the five permanent members of the United Nation’s Security Council, the UK must now use this moment to offer its weight and support to any diplomatic discussions, alongside the governments of the Netherlands and Australia, and bring legal proceedings against Russia before ICAO.

What comes next for the families will in many ways depend on how the nations of the world, not just the Netherlands and Australia, show their citizens that they truly wish to deliver justice for this atrocity.”

TOPIC: THE LATEST INSOLVENCY STATISTICS
COMMENT BY:
Jeremy Whiteson, Restructuring and Insolvency Partner, Fladgate

The latest insolvency figures show a worsening situation for companies in England and Wales.

Data on registered insolvencies for October 2022 were published on 15 November. 1,948 corporate insolvencies were registered. That is 38% higher than in the same month the previous year and 32% higher than October 2019 (being the last pre-covid comparison).

However, of particular concern is the increase in figures from recent months. The October 2022 figures are a 16% increase on the September 2022 figures – which may signal real concerns. We will need to watch whether this is a monthly blip or start of a more sustained increase in insolvencies. 

As government imposed restrictions on creditor remedies during the pandemic period were all removed by March 2022, an increase in insolvency figures around that date was expected – and occurred. However, recent months – up to the June figures – had shown a month on month decline. It will be important to see how the figures run for coming months. Are the increases in recent months’ figures a blip – running against trend – or do they show a change in the weather for businesses?

It would be unsurprising if the situation was worsening for businesses and this was not merely a blip. High fuel prices, inflation, labour shortages, post Brexit difficulties with international shipping, uncertainty in capital markets, raising interest rates and geo-political uncertainty all pose difficulties for businesses. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are a growing number of businesses in financial distress – although many are not yet reaching for formal insolvency procedures.    

The increase in overall figures was largely caused by an increase in creditors voluntary liquidations (CVLs). This is a procedure generally used for companies with no ongoing business to dispose of remaining assets, distribute available funds to creditors and dispose of the corporate entity. There were 1,594 CVLs in October 2022, a 28% increase on October 2021 and also 53% higher than October 2019. It was also a 16% increase on September 2022.

There was also an increase to 242 compulsory liquidations. That is a 15% increase on the preceding month. The Insolvency Service say that this is “partly as a result of an increase in winding-up petitions presented by HMRC” – which matches anecdotal evidence and is a concern if a more conciliatory concern from HMRC could have lessened the damage to businesses. 

However, the numbers of administrations and company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) – procedures more likely to be used to rescue a business- showed a significant decline on pre-pandemic figures. There were 107 administrations and five CVAs in October 2022 33% and 86% lower than October 2019 respectively. That is concerning as it suggests that despite rising numbers of corporate insolvencies there were fewer rescuable businesses. That could be caused by businesses being battered by a long period of difficulty and having few remaining assets, a difficulty in funding business rescues as investors and lenders become more selective, or business models being left stranded by changes in technology or customer preferences. The anecdotal evidence from advisers also suggests that there are a lot of businesses seeking informal accommodation with creditors, and taking advice while they hope to avoid formal insolvency – which could suggest an increase in the use of rescue procedures in coming months. “    

TOPIC: The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement

COMMENT BY: Mark Fenhalls KC, Chair of the Bar

While the Chancellor rightly recognises health and education as vital public services to be adequately funded, it is a mistake not to see justice in the same light. The cost of living crisis means those most in need are now even more likely to require access to justice for help with housing, employment, debt and other essential legal issues.

The justice sector was one of the hardest hit by austerity cuts a decade ago and was only just beginning to rebuild. This real terms cut to justice funding could put us back at square one and that would be devastating for those most in need.”

APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK

BRICK COURT

‘A superstar junior’

William Hooper (above) has joined Brick Court Chambers as a tenant.  Previously with another leading chambers, Hooper brings with him an established commercial practice which sees him regularly instructed in a broad range of high-value commercial disputes across multiple industries.

Hooper already has a number of distinctions to his name. He is listed in Band 3 in Chambers UK 2023 rankings for Commercial Dispute Resolution, which describe him as “a superstar junior”. He was nominated for Commercial Junior of the Year at the Chambers UK Bar Awards this year and also selected for The Lawyer Hot 100. He was The Lawyer’s Barrister of the Week in June 2021.

“I’m delighted to be joining Brick Court Chambers,” said Hooper, “given its reputation at the forefront of the Commercial Bar.” Helen Davies KC, Joint Head of Chambers, commented: “Will will add yet further strength to our talented group of juniors.” 

BOODLE HATFIELD

Judging the BIM Show Live Awards

Sarah Rock (above) has joined the construction team and wider property department at Boodle Hatfield as a non-contentious construction and design partner. Previously with Fladgate LLP, Rock specialises in transactional advice relating to a range of developments, particularly sporting projects and digital construction. With an established reputation in the field of BIM and digital twins, she has been a judge in the BIM Show Live Awards. She is a named contributor to the Chartered Institute Of Building’s Complex Projects Contract and is writing a chapter discussing the legal aspects of BIM for The Construction Manager’s BIM Handbook. She is regularly asked regularly to speak on this topic.

” Construction is a critical aspect to the property advice we provide to our private capital clients and Sarah’s appointment will continue to build on our busy practice,” said Simon Williams, Head of Property at Boodle Hatfield.

“It’s fantastic to have our third partner join us in our 300th year,” commented. Sara Maccallum, Senior Partner at Boodle Hatfield. “Sarah arrives at an exciting time for the firm and brings exemplary construction expertise and a strong reputation in digital construction.”

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this edition of the LEGAL DIARY. If so please circulate to colleagues.

Meanwhile, WIN or LOSE on Monday, we’ll be back next week so please send your Diary stories, legal comments and insights to fennell.edward@yahoo.com