Edward Fennell’s LEGAL DIARY

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

December 23rd 2022

Editorial contact: fennell.edward@yahoo.com

SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: PASSED THE POST?

Having blown the Legal Diary’s creative budget many months ago we were unable this year to commission our own E-Christmas greetings card – so instead we have pirated this rather fetching one from that excellent organisation the British Institute of International and Comparative Law instead. (And very fine we think it looks too). But it does underscore how times have changed. Back in the day while working for a national newspaper the office would be inundated by floods of Christmas cards sent via the post by law firms (and even a few chambers). So much so, in fact, that we knew not where to display them all. But over time they drained away and finally trailed off completely. Instead the e-card arrived but, by and large, there was not much feeling to it.

So while Christmas seems as vigorous as ever as a national festival the combination of long-Covid and austerity combined with multifarious strikes seem to have taken the gloss off being in the office. And in that context the news that a handful of Shearman & Sterling partners are likely to quit due to the mooted merger with Hogan Lovells hit home hard. Christmas, we know, can be disastrous for marriages. Can they be bad for partnerships as well?

So enjoy your holiday break-up – and we will return after a well-deserved Christmas and New Year blow-out in mid-January.

The LegalDiarist

In this week’s edition

+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK

– Burges Salmon – Not a Retiring Firm

+ Data? – Deal with it Later

+ Carrie Morrison’s Centenary Commemoration

+ Serle Court puts trust in pulling together

LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK on the Shoreham Airshow Disaster and the Home Secretary’s ‘Rwanda plan’

LEGAL APPOINTMENT OF THE WEEK at KPMG LAW

LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK

Burges Salmon – Not a Retiring Firm

Is being of ‘pensionable age’ a protected characteristic? Unfortunately not – but maybe it ought to become one given the vulnerability of some pensioners to scams and deceptions.

But at least it is good to know that some law firms really take their pensions work seriously placing pensions into the context of wider society. Take Burges Salmon which this week is celebrating that it has been nominated for three separate categories in the Pensions Age Awards 2023. Amongst these is the Diversity Award which endorses what is described as the firm’s ‘open, collaborative and inclusive’ culture. Interestingly one of the firm’s activities here includes the ‘Working with Schools’ programme for which the firm had already won the CSR Initiative of the Year at the British Legal Awards. There was also a black and minority ethnic work experience week as part of the Bristol Future Talent Partnership as well as providing mentoring and work experience for disadvantaged mums through engagement with Womens Work Lab. And to cap it off there was backing for Talk Club, an organisation which addresses that, so-to-speak, ‘Cinderella’ field of male mental health.

More specifically regarding pensions issues, the firm’s nomination for Pensions Law Firm of the Year relates to its work with a number of schemes which have been in very difficult circumstances in recent months. This has included providing emergency legal support for schemes affected by the liability-driven investments crisis where it has ‘come up with innovative new transfer arrangements; has devised pragmatic and cost-effective approaches to complex legal issues; has protected poorly funded schemes – and is doing it all with innovation and value-add’. Sounds like a winner.

Data? – Deal With It Later

The General Data Protection Rules (GDPR) were always complicated and now that the UK is trying to reform its data protection law it’s not getting any easier. “The DCMS consultation on data protection is continuing to cause confusion,” commented Rob Masson, CEO of The DPO Centre (a data protection officer resource centre) this week. “Since the last Data Protection Index, there has been two changes in Prime Minister, leading to some uncertainty regarding the direction of these planned reforms. My concern is that organisations need to understand that any regulatory change is unlikely to be realised for many months, or even years from now. Therefore, businesses should be mindful of the fact that, for the foreseeable future, the UK GDPR as it stands still applies.”

A recent opinion survey of data protection officers revealed that “data retention” was ranked as the biggest GDPR compliance concern. Indeed, 29% of respondents identified it as their organisation’s top compliance challenge for the next 12 months (an increase of 1 percentage point since last quarter). Also very interesting was that when privacy and data protection experts were asked whether “your organisation would pay the ransom?” when faced by a malware encryption attack the proportion of respondents answering “Yes” (their organisation would pay the ransom) fell from 26% to 17%, by comparison with the previous quarter. In other words, suggests The DPO, there is a hardening positioning amongst companies regarding cyberattacks.  (How many law firms were involved in the survey is not revealed).

Carrie Morrison’s Centenary Commemoration

Collyer Bristow – along no doubt with many other law firms and lawyers – has been celebrating this week the 100th anniversary of Carrie Morrison (above – image courtesy of ‘100 years’) becoming the first woman to be admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales.

Among Morrison’s many striking features was that she had ACCOMPLISHED so much before she qualified at age 34. (A marked contrast, one might say, with so many solicitors today). Articles in those days normally lasted five years but as a graduate that was reduced by a year for Morrison. Moreover Morrison had a further year knocked off in recognition of her service during the First World war. So the war for her – indeed for a whole generation of women – was transformational in itself. After she left Cambridge with her degree in Mediaeval and Modern Languages she had spent time with the Military Permit Office of MI5, the Ministry of Munitions and then in Constantinople with the Army of the Black Sea. Oh, and she also fitted in some teaching as well!

Given such prior experience she was no doubt fully equipped in terms of maturity and self- confidence to take on the role of a pioneering woman solicitor – not just in terms of her gender but for wider society as well. For example, she was the first woman to speak at the Law Society’s Annual Provincial Meeting where in 1931 she advocated the institution of “Courts of Domestic Relations” to deal with matrimonial difficulties. And she continued to pursue a successful, campaigning career in the law throughout the rest of her professional life. Quite a story.

Serle Court puts trust in pulling together

Who can you trust when it comes to legal matters around the management of trusts? Well the answer seems to be Serle Court chambers. In a landmark Privy Council case originating in Bermuda regarding the exercise of fiduciary powers in a Bermuda-based trust no less than eight of the eleven barristers involved were from Serle Court. These included Dakis Hagen KC, Emma Hargreaves and Stephanie Thompson (instructed by Baker McKenzie (London) and ASW Law Limited (Bermuda) who acted for the appellants in the first appeal while Richard Wilson KC, James Weale and Charlotte Beynon  were instructed by Stewarts, MJM Limited (Bermuda) and Baker McKenzie (Taipei)) for the appellant in the second appeal. Then to top it off Jonathan Adkin KC and Adil Mohamedbhai acted for the respondent in both appeals instructed by Skadden Arps (London) and Conyers Dill & Pearman (Bermuda).

The case, to put it mildly, was complicated but, put baldly, related to whether fiduciary powers in a Bermuda-based trust had been exercised for an improper purpose. Yet when the Privy Council handed down its judgment the conclusion was clear. “The Board will… humbly advise His Majesty to allow the appeal.”

So that was that then. However, as to whether these eight Serle Court briefs will now be bonded for life, who knows? At the very least though they know that they could make up a boat crew.

LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK

TOPIC: The conclusion of the Inquest into the Shoreham Airshow Disaster in which  eleven innocent men were unlawfully killed

COMMENT BY:  Sarah Stewart, Partner in the Aviation department at Stewarts  who represented the majority of the families

The families we represent would like to thank the Senior Coroner for her thorough investigation. The Senior Coroner has found that the deaths of the eleven innocent men in the Shoreham Airshow disaster on 22 August 2015 were avoidable. The bereaved families have waited more than 7 years to reach this point and although the Senior Coroner’s conclusion will not ease the pain of their loss, their voices have been heard.”

TOPIC: The High Court’s ruling on the Home Secretary’s ‘Rwanda’ plan for expelling refugees

COMMENT BY: Antonia Torr, Immigration Partner, Fladgate

 “Whilst the High Court has ruled that the Rwanda asylum plan is legal, this issue is far from over. We should expect an appeal against this decision as well as individual challenges for anyone considered eligible under the Rwanda asylum plan. It is important to note that the High Court also ruled that a number of asylum seekers (due to be deported) should have their cases reconsidered. This would indicate the Home Office are not actually fulfilling their international obligations and that the Rwanda asylum plan is not as safe as the Home Office would suggest.

LEGAL APPOINTMENT OF THE WEEK

KPMG LAW

Stuart Bedford (above) has been appointed as the new UK Head of Law at KPMG UK. He will start in April of next year coming across from Linklaters where he was a Corporate Partner advising on a broad range of deals. These included including mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures and fund structures across Europe, Asia and Africa.

Prior to Linklaters, Bedford’s experience included being in-house counsel with BAE Systems, a partner with a private equity firm and a senior consultant for consultancy, Grosvenor.

Bedford succeeds Nick Roome who will now concentrate on growing KPMG’s global legal solutions. “I know [Stuart’s] extensive network and expertise will be a great asset to our business and our clients as we look to build on two years of stellar growth and deliver on our ambitious investment plan,” said Roome.

Jon Holt, KPMG’s UK CEO, commenting on the appointment said: “We know there is a huge opportunity in this space to help clients succeed, and these leadership appointments position us well to accelerate that growth, both in the UK and globally.” 

The KPMG Law business recently revealed an ambitious investment programme to double in size over the next two years by taking on a further 220 legal professionals, including 45 new Partners and Directors. This investment plan would take the number of legal professionals in the UK to over 400.

The Legal Diary will now be closing down for a two week holiday but we wish our reader an enjoyable few days off from the rigours of the law. We look forward to coming back in mid-January so please continue sending your Diary stories, insights and comments to

fennell.edward@yahoo.com