Edward Fennell’s LEGAL DIARY

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

10 March 2023

Editorial contact: fennell.edward@yahoo.com

SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES EQUALS WHAT?

A celebration or a declaration?

“I am proud to launch the first ever IBA Women’s Day today,” said the International Bar Association President, Almudena Arpón de Mendívil Aldama on Wednesday. “Women in law can achieve senior positions, they must dare to do so, their merits do matter for that purpose. This first celebration aims at giving visibility to women who are successful in their careers in the legal sector across the world, demonstrating that success is attainable and connecting all of them, thus multiplying the impact of the message.”

Just how successful women are in the UK’s ‘English’ law firms remains to be seen. The Women, Influence, Power and Law Awards 2023 announced this week included what might be regarded as an over-representation of US-based law firms for the London market. Most notably, the ‘Retaining Female Talent’ award went to American firm Sidley Austin. There has to be a moral there.

The LegalDiarist

p.s there is more than one IBA. There was some confusion in the Legal Diary’s office as a search for ‘IBA Women’s Day’ kept turning up impressive images of female boxers.There might be a lesson there. But anyway, good to see solidarity from the ‘International Boxing Association’.

In this week’s edition

+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK

– Demand for legal services still growing says LexisNexis GLP Index

– Ready for ‘The Mindful Conduct of Litigation’?

– Keepy-Uppy with Women’s Sport

– The Rule of Three in Nottingham

– Cooley backs Femtech

+ LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK on Cabinet Ministers’ comments on ‘lefty lawyers’, the case of Edith Thompson, the UK Data Protection and Digital Information Bill  and the track record of the Serious Fraud Office.

+ CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE OF THE WEEK

GIVE WOMEN THE FREEDOM TO SELF-DETERMINE A PATHWAY TO SUCCESS argue Kate McMahon and Tamlyn Edmonds

+ LEGAL APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK at DWF and Maples Teesdale

LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK

 Demand for legal services still growing, says LexisNexis GLP Index

Tax advice is always a winner Image courtesy of LexisNexis

Despite everything that the UK is going thorough right now – and what’s happened overall since 2016! – there has still been considerable growth by commercial law according to the just-published LexisNexis GLP Index.

“The legal sector has proven its resilience once again,” comments Dylan Brown, the Content Lead, LexisNexis. “While business is by no means booming, legal sector revenues are continuing to steadily climb.”

The wide-ranging report from LexisNexis covers developments across twelve major practice areas ranging from corporate and tax through to risk & compliance and family. It is packed full of detail, diagrams and graphs and is a useful source of key market information.

For example, according to the GLP Index the total number of companies that registered insolvency in 2022 was 22,109, the highest number since 2009 and 57% higher than 2021’s 14,059.

Meanwhile,  2021 statistics showed there to be approximately 68,300 individuals claiming non-domiciled taxpayer status in the UK on their self-assessment tax returns, according to HMRC statistics. This was a drop from 76,500 the year prior. One could go on with much, much more…

Maybe the key figure though is that demand for legal expertise is predicted to grow by 6% in 2023 overall when compared to 2022. And LexisNexis has picked out the winners and losers in the year ahead with competition law and risk and compliance law expected to make the most ground while immigration and property law are reckoned to make ‘noticeable rebounds’.

“We hope this in-depth report adds value in your planning for 2023 and beyond,” comments Brown.

For more go to: https://www.lexisnexis.co.uk/insights/glp-index-2022-overview/index.html

Ready for ‘The Mindful Conduct of Litigation’?

The Mindful Business Charter for litigators launches at DLA Piper

The adversarial nature of this country’s litigation processes have traditionally been regarded as one of its strengths. The tooth-and-claw testing of evidence is seen as a way of most transparently getting to the truth. But as many litigants realise, the emotional wear-and-tear may leave scars which take a long time to heal. Moreover it is not just the clients who have a toll to pay. It is increasingly understood that the professionals too can find it a traumatic experience. That is why this week’s launch of the Mindful Business Charter (MBC) Litigation Guidance at an event hosted by DLA Piper is an important event for all litigators.

“The practice of litigation has long been an area of legal work where unhealthy and unhelpful practices, particularly between opposing sides of a dispute, have proliferated,” comments the promoters of the guidance. “Over the last several months a taskforce of senior litigators from member organisations – in house teams, counsel and private practice lawyers – have been working together to produce guidance on the application of MBC to the conduct of litigation. That work is now complete.”

The guidance is based around eight core statements of principle which are then applied to a number of common scenarios to encourage practitioners to be more thoughtful about their conduct and its likely impact. It is now hoped that these will be adopted by chamabers and law firms.

“As a former litigator I well remember some of the behaviour that goes on and the impact it had on me and those around me, and how it often got in the way of the resolution of disputes,” said Richard Martin, executive officer of MBC. “The taskforce was established at the request of various members, and it has been a privilege to work with the team to develop the guidance. As with all things MBC, it is not a prescriptive rule book, but rather a framework and some language to encourage a more mindful approach to litigation. It would be my hope that we can use this work as an example for other areas of legal practice.”

For more go to: https://www.mindfulbusinesscharter.com/the-charter

For a list of signatories (including many law firms) see:

https://www.mindfulbusinesscharter.com/signatories

Keepy-Uppy with Women’s Sport

A good example of law firms backing women (amongst a number during this International Women’s Day week) comes from ‘new generation’ outfit Spector Constant & Williams which has become a major sponsor of this year’s Women’s Football Awards (taking place on May25).

While the Euro-winning Lionesses have garnered increased support at the top end of the game Spector Constant & Williams has opted for theGrassroots Initiative of the Year’ award as an expression of support for where talent is first nurtured.

“As a law firm, we believe in backing those with future potential,” said Alun Williams, a name Partner at the firm. “The unprecedented rise in popularity of girls and women’s football over the last year thanks to the success of the Lionesses England Women’s Football team is truly inspiring. We wanted to lend our support to those girls and those football initiatives which have the potential to create tomorrow’s Lionesses which is why we are honoured to be sponsoring the Grassroots Initiative at these prestigious awards. For us football and other sports are an important part of bringing communities together, encouraging teamwork and helping those with potential to reach their best.”

Set up just four years ago Spector Constant & Williams specialises in Real Estate, Dispute Resolution, Banking & Finance and Company & Commercial from its central London office between the City and the West End.  It says that it is are one of the few firms to have successfully embraced Damages Based Agreements (DBA’s) and is a pioneer in flexible funding arrangements. (Sounds as if it should be working for Manchester United).

Rule of Three In Nottingham

Excello Law’s Nottingham based Insolvency team
(from left to right) Nicky Calthrop-Owen, Annabel Whittaker and Victoria Dunstall

The surge in recent years of women into law degrees and professional qualification means that there is no shortage of talented female lawyers. The challenge is for them to move through the ranks on to the partnership ladder. One example of how things are progressing comes from Excello Law which has just opened a new office in Nottingham on the basis of three freshly arrived partners – and all of them are women.

The arrival of insolvency, corporate recovery and dispute resolution specialists Nicky Calthrop-Owen, Victoria Dunstall and Annabel Whittaker takes Excello into new territory in the East Midlands.

“Nottingham is an increasingly important commercial hub and it is great for us to have office facilities at the heart of our client base,” said  Joanne Losty, chief operating officer at Excello. “Our team is all locally-based and this solidifies our presence in the area, giving us a visible platform to recruit more consultant lawyers in the region.

“We have the largest office network of any of the consultancy firms –– and it was a natural extension of our growth ambitions in the central region to open new facilities in the East Midlands to support our team.  We’re delighted to have a permanent base in the city and look forward to recruiting more lawyers to the firm.”

As a sign of the self-confidence of the three new partners Annabel Whittaker commented. “We have reached a point in our careers where we are confident that our reputation and experience enables us to generate our own work, and additional work we can refer to solicitors in other practice areas. The freedom and responsibility offered by Excello Law’s structure and ethos was the main attraction of our move to an established and successful consultancy practice.”

Excello Law describes itself as as one of the first law firms in the UK to pioneer true agile or flexible working.It now has 11 UK offices in London (x3), Birmingham, Leicester, Nottingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Manchester, Leeds, Chester and Liverpool.

Cooley backs Femtech

Femtech Lab is an ecosystem of startups, experts and investors in women’s health and wellness – and it now has a partnership going with Cooleys which is contributing to the consultancy’s 12 week programmes of workshops, mentoring and intensive bootcamps..

“There is huge momentum in the femtech industry, and Femtech Lab plays a critical role providing a growth ecosystem for some of the most innovative companies in the space,” said Frances Stocks Allen, a partner in London at Cooley. “We are delighted to partner with Femtech Lab, and are very impressed by the wealth of talent in the businesses just starting the 12 week programme.”

So far Femtech Lab has worked with 39 femtech startups, helping them raise over £10 million in funding. The companies have included IVF platform Aura Fertility, eco-friendly period care company &SISTERS, breastfeeding and motherhood app LactApp, pregnancy and postnatal exercise platform MUTU, and Unfabled, a platform for menstrual wellbeing.

“Many femtech entrepreneurs turn to Cooley to help them establish, finance and grow their business,” said Karina Vazirova, Co-Founder and CEO of Femtech Lab. “We are thrilled that Cooley is a Femtech Lab partner and know that our members will hugely benefit from the advice and network access the firm brings.”

 The first cohort of 14 Femtech founders started this week. Cooley’s role will be to provide practical insights and coaching. Among the participants will be Plan Your Baby  a UK-based telemedicine platform for fertility treatment and end-to-end pregnancy medical care and My Fertility which connects patients with reproductive medicine, embryology, genetics, and fertility coaching experts.

LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK

TOPIC: the case of Edith Thompson, who was hanged 100 years ago for the murder of her husband is to be reviewed as a potential miscarriage of justice.

COMMENT BY: Nicholas Brown, Consultant and Parliamentary Agent at law firm BDB Pitmans

While this has been a challenging process, the Secretary of State’s decision to have the Commission review the sentence is hugely encouraging, and is another step towards achieving justice for Edith Thompson by granting a posthumous pardon.

Acknowledging and learning from past mistakes is vital for a humane, fair and civilised justice system, and this case will show that even a century-old conviction must be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

While there is still a long road ahead, I’m now really hopeful that we will eventually give Edith Thompson’s family the closure which they deserve.”

NOTE: Nicholas Brown made the application for the exercise of the Royal Prerogative of Mercy (RPM) regarding Edith Thompson on behalf of Professor Rene Weis, who is the heir and executor to the estate.

TOPIC: The UK Data Protection and Digital Information Billwhichwas introduced to Parliament this week.

 COMMENT BY: Pulina Whitaker, Global Co-Head of Privacy and Cybersecurity, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

Overall, we consider businesses will welcome clarity in the new Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, particularly with respect to flexible lawful processing grounds (as an alternative to consent) and the use of public interest and legitimate interest grounds. It will be interesting to see how (if at all) enforcement action will change with the proposed new ICO statutory board. The bill ensures greater clarity about when safeguards apply in relation to AI, as people will be made aware when decisions are made using AI, they can challenge these decisions and seek human review if the decisions are inaccurate or harmful.”


TOPIC: The remarks made about lawyers by the Home Secretary and Prime Minister following the publication of the Illegal Migration Bill

COMMENT BY: Nick Vineall KC, Chair of the Bar

 “The Home Secretary’s recent comments referring to ‘an activist blob of left-wing lawyers’, and the Prime Minister’s comment that the Leader of the Opposition is ‘just another lefty lawyer’ betray a startling and regrettable ignorance about the role of lawyers in society. 

 “Lawyers represent their clients within the legal framework that Parliament creates. Lawyers should not be associated with the causes of their clients as a result of representing their clients. Right-thinking people from across the political spectrum understand this. It is essential to the rule of law that members of the Cabinet do too.”

TOPIC: The decision of the Serious Fraud Office, after a nine year investigation, to drop charges against three former G4S executives who were accused of defrauding the Ministry of Justice.

COMMENT BY: Iskander Fernandez, head of white-collar crime and investigations,  Kennedys

Historically, the SFO hasn’t covered itself in glory when it comes to prosecuting individuals. But to offer no evidence, particularly after an adjournment, smacks of a total inability to pull together a robust legal case for trial. Let’s not forget that this investigation started back in 2014, giving the SFO nine years to prepare. How long does it actually need to prepare for trial? Although, the bigger question is perhaps, is the SFO is fit for purpose?

This case can now be added to the SFO’s catalogue of failings which includes its failure to successfully prosecute two Tesco executives in 2018 with the judge calling its case so weak that it could not be put to the jury. It was a similar tale with three Sarclad executives in 2019 and two former Serco executives in 2021.

This cannot be the swansong that outgoing Director Lisa Osofsky, whose tenure comes to an end this year, must have been hoping for. It looks unavoidable that among the new Director’s to do list will be a root and branch review of the SFO’s trial preparation approach.”

CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE OF THE WEEK

GIVE WOMEN THE FREEDOM TO SELF-DETERMINE A PATHWAY TO SUCCESS argue Kate McMahon and Tamlyn Edmonds

Kate McMahon

International Women’s Day invites us to contemplate the challenges women continue to face when seeking equity partnership in the legal profession. Women make up over half of the profession, yet only 35% are partners and a small fraction of those female partners (25%) obtain equity.

Many aspects of gender equality remain unequal, evidenced in the following: women earn less than men; are more likely to leave the profession; less likely to make partner; and much less likely to gain equity partnership. Action is urgently needed to retain, promote and support women to rise to the highest echelons. This would benefit not only the women themselves, but equally the teams within which they work and the entire business itself (including, the bottom line).

Need for Role Models—

We maintain that the more women achieve partner or equity levels and share visible leadership positions in their own firms, the bigger the pool of excellent role models with whom junior women can identify and gain inspiration to become leaders themselves. Current leaders in law firms would do well to acknowledge women’s successes and encourage them to do the same. Credit Suisse Research Institute’s recent Gender 3000 study reports a positive correlation between increased gender diversity in leading roles and superior returns on capital, ESG and stock performance. This is one of many studies that point to successes stemming from having women at the top.

Tamlyn Edmonds

Setting Women Up for Success—

Law is a challenging and time-consuming business but we need to set women up for success by giving them freedom to self-determine a pathway to personal success. We already know some of the ingredients. For example, Industry leaders often highlight the roles of flexibility and accountability. Female lawyers display high levels of accountability in the way, for example, they succeed in achieving deadlines at work. Combined with juggling multiple responsibilities at home, the demands on female lawyers calls for a re-think on optimal working hours, flexibility in those hours and how to task women in advance to produce their best work.

For our part in improving gender parity at partner and particularly, at equity level, we set up Networking Nuance, a unique e-mentoring programme offering female lawyers the tools to become rainmakers. Selected experts offer tips and advice on subjects such as attracting new clients, how and why to make networking part of a daily routine and public speaking. It demystifies the art of networking for female lawyers. It can only drive up numbers of female rainmakers in firms, making smoother the path for female lawyers to demand and expect equity in the coming years.

Kate McMahon and Tamlyn Edmonds are co-founders of Networking Nuance, an e-mentoring tool to coach women to rainmaking success within law firms.

APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK

DWF

Tracey Groves

Tracey Groves has been appointed as partner to head new ESG & Sustainability advisory practice at DWF. An accountant by background and previously an independent consultant with the firm, Groves has now joined the legal business as a London-based partner within the commercial, regulatory and data practice.

Prior to joining DWF, Groves had gained more than three decades of experience – mostly at PwC UK – working in professional services. This involved advising boards across a variety of industries and sectors to achieve ethical conduct and inclusive cultures together with accelerating growth and innovation and standardising responsible business performance.

In her new capacity at DWF Groves and her team will primarily focus on ethics, compliance, regulation, corporate governance and culture .”By integrating ESG advisory offerings to our ongoing relationships with clients, we are now, more than ever, committed to acting as a responsible business,” said Kirsty Rogers, Head of Environmental, Social & Governance at DWF. “This appointment is consistent with our ESG strategy and our stated priority to support, engage and collaborate with our clients to deliver a positive outcome for people and planet.”

MAPLES TEESDALE

Paul Burke

Paul Burke has been appointed Managing Partner at Maples Teesdale, the full-service real estate law firm. He succeeds Chris Wilkinson who steps down after six years as head of the firm.

Burke has been a Partner with Maples Teesdale since 2010 and specialises in corporate real estate law. He has acted for a variety of high profile clients including Patrizia, UK Commercial Property REIT and Tristan Capital Partners. As Managing Partner, he will now be responsible for overseeing a real estate practice consisting of 60 lawyers including 19 partners, advising clients on capital transactions and asset enhancement across disciplines including real estate, finance, litigation, construction, planning, corporate and tax.

“Maples Teesdale is a pre-eminent firm in the real estate sector and it’s a huge honour to be the new Managing Partner of such a strong team that supports our clients to deliver their strategic goals,said Burke. I look forward to building on the success [of my predecessor Chris Wilkinson]with the support of my colleagues, unlocking new opportunities, continuing our growth trajectory and delivering on our commitment to be the real estate industry’s leading full-service legal practice.”