EDWARD FENNELL’S LEGAL DIARY
Diary news plus insights, commentary and appointments from the legal world
May 12 2023
Editorial contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK: Convinced by Axiom Ince?
Some names just keep bouncing back Image courtesy of Aukett Swanke
Once upon a time the name Ince was revered in City legal circles. For shipping work in particular it was a brand to conjure with across the seven seas. More recently, not so much. Sentimental observers were saddened to see it, somehow, steered on to the rocks.
But like gallant naval titles – such as Dreadnought or Vanguard – some names are too good to be allowed to flounder. That is why it is encouraging to see that now Axiom DWFM, a vibrantly diverse firm, has agreed to rescue the Ince Group the new entity will be called Axiom Ince (and not abbreviated to AI – one hopes Chairman Jonathan Metliss will protect it from that humiliation).
This is not the first time that a misfiring law firm with a great heritage has been saved from oblivion due to the power of its name. Maybe the best example in recent times is Dentons. When a variety of European and North American firms were yoked together into a new union the canny management decided to market-test its various constituent names. Strikingly, in terms of recognition it was not the most successful firms which came out ahead. It was the names which were most storied – and the topmost was Dentons. Which is why a firm from Chancery Lane which lost its way is now thriving as ‘the world’s largest law firm.’
Good luck to Axiom Ince.
In This Week’s Edition
+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
– 2+2=Browne Jacobson
– UK and India: Developing A Special Relationship?
– AI Moves to the Main Chance
– Gen Z’s Legal Career Aspirations
+ LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK on alcohol limits, ‘Rights Removal Bill’, decline in weddings, Upper Tribunal opens up, Coronation arrests by the Met, probate hold-ups, ‘Non-Compete’ clauses
+ APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK at Clyde & Co. and Stephens Scown
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
The old maxim was that while lawyers knew about words, accountants knew about numbers and never the twain would meet. But Browne Jacobson has decided to overturn that assumption by partnering with Plain Numbers a social purpose company that works to promote understanding of numerical information.
Over the course of a three-year partnership members of the firm will be trained as ‘Plain Numbers Practitioners’ in order to introduce improvements to the way the firm communicates financial information to its partners, employees – and clients.
“As a firm we are committed to making a positive impact across business and society and this ground- breaking partnership is another opportunity to do so, and to support our clients to do so,” said Claire Stripp, the firm’s Head of Talent & Knowledge.
“We understand that numbers and data can be confusing and off-putting to many people, but they can be so informative and empowering if understood. By simplifying our internal communications and reports which contain numbers we can make them even more effective.
“We also see this as an invaluable opportunity to enhance our communication with current and prospective clients in important areas such as billing and fee structures in bids, tenders and legal matters.”
The Plain Numbers approach has been developed from more than ten years of work supporting improved communication of numbers. “By making seemingly small changes to the way that numbers and data are presented, organisations can generate a substantial increase in comprehension,” they say. Research trials across a variety of industries revealed that when the Plain Numbers Approach was adopted the number of people who understood the information doubled. The result was better-informed decisions and positive outcomes. Rishi Sunak, the country’s maths champion, will be thrilled.
UK and India: Developing A Special Relationship?
As relations between lawyers in the UK and India warm up Law Training Centre (a leader in online legal education)is partnering with GD Goenka University (described as the top ranking private university in Delhi) to run programmes to enable law graduates and advocates in India to qualify as Solicitors in England and Wales through the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). The offer will be available to all law graduates in India as well as to practising advocates. As LTC points out “This will enable people to qualify remotely from India and at a far lower cost than by studying on a campus in the UK.”
Suellen Glazer, Law Training Centre’s International Partnerships Manager, commented, “We are excited to be working with the team at GD Goenka University, an esteemed education provider in India. This new international partnership further strengthens Law Training Centre’s international presence.”
Dr Kaushal at GD Goenka commented, “School of Law, GD Goenka University, is glad to enter into a partnership with Law Training Centre. Our partnership will play a key role in translating the careers of our students into solicitors in England. Students in our school are enthusiastic to know more about and study with Law Training Centre.”
The offer provides a full wrap-around service for the remote-learning Indian student with a promise of a Personal Academic Coach, one-to-one tutor support, regular live online workshops and targeted recorded video lectures plusa other facilities.
AI Moves to the Main Chance
Artificial Intelligence is turning into the story of the year in the law as in so many other industries and professions. Now, with the launch of Lexis+® AI by LexisNexis Legal & Professional, AI has stepped up a notch for everyday use.
“The new Lexis+ AI technology features conversational search, insightful summarization, and intelligent legal drafting capabilities, all supported by state-of-the-art encryption and privacy technology to keep sensitive data secure,” says the company. “Conversational search simplifies the complex and time-consuming legal research journey, providing a search experience for diverse legal questions with citations, facilitating lawyers’ ability to complete research effectively and efficiently.”
To test out the new facility as part of its early Commercial Preview Program LexisNexis has been working with some of the world’s top lawyers in firms such as such Baker McKenzie, Reed Smith and Foley & Lardner to get the benefit of their expertise for advice and feedback.
“We are supporting the research and development of generative AI across the industry,” said David Cunningham, Chief Innovation Officer, Reed Smith. “LexisNexis is a key content provider, so their roadmap will be closely watched and will define many firms’ on-ramp to GPT-based research.”
According to Jeff Reihl, Chief Technology Officer, LexisNexis Legal & Professional, “LexisNexis has been leveraging artificial intelligence technology, including natural language processing and large language models, in its legal solutions for years, and we’ve been using generative AI in our research and development labs for more than a year. As a leader in legal AI and analytics, we are best positioned to serve as firms’ trusted partner in launching professional-grade, legal generative AI tools.”
Coming to your office next week?
Gen-Z Spaces Out its Ambitions
Following hot on the heels of its recent report on attitudes among millennials Major, Lindsey & Africa has just produced its Gen-Z Survey about the priorities of new entrants to the profession. In summary, this is what the results are:
· Partnership track diversions: more Gen-Z lawyers see themselves moving into an in-house role (29%) rather than making partner at a firm (23)
· Work-life balance: the majority (62%) of Gen-Z lawyers would trade salary for more time off – currently 74% expect to work the occasional night or weekend
· Impact of the pandemic: 69% agreed that Covid influenced what they value in an employer, as well as 65% reporting the pandemic has impacted their work style. A combined 86% expect to work flexibly either occasionally (57%) or as desired (29%)
· Giving back: 60% of Gen-Z lawyers place high importance on pro bono work and CSR initiatives when considering an employer.
For those who have been following patterns in the industry for some time these findings highlight the way that Covid has impacted on expectations and ambitions. Events in one’s formative years are always disproportionately significant and what happened between 2020 and 2022 is no exception.
“Over the past three years, amid both the pandemic and the racial justice movement that was sparked in 2020, Gen-Z has witnessed a lot of upheaval and social change that has indelibly shaped what they want out of their careers and their lives,” said Nathan Peart, Managing Director and Practice Lead, Associate Practice Group at Major, Lindsey & Africa. “Perhaps more so than any other generation currently practicing law, this generation highly values social justice and altruism, and we see this priority merging with their strong desire for work-life balance as they increasingly look toward previously less-traditional paths like government or non-profit work.”
It will be fascinating to come back a decade hence to see how it has panned out in reality.
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK
TOPIC: The suggestion by the Chartered Management Institute that limits should be placed on the amount of alcohol served at work events, following a poll that found that nearly a third of managers have seen inappropriate behaviour or harassment at work parties involving alcohol.
COMMENT BY: David Greenhalgh, Partner and specialist employment lawyer at Excello Law.
“In most of the work party misconduct cases I have advised on – including harassment, assault and rape – alcohol has fuelled the misconduct.
“A shift in workplace social practices is well overdue, as the unhealthy reliance on the provision of alcohol to ‘reward’ staff is consistently leading to instances of misconduct.
“Staff must be reminded about the behaviour expected of them, and of the company’s zero tolerance approach to discrimination. They must be referred to the company’s embedded training programme, and it must be made clear that any ‘after party’ will not be approved or supported by the business.
“HR understandably sometimes leaves events early, to allow staff to feel that they can ‘let their hair down’. Managers must therefore step up and be on high alert to take responsibility for the welfare of their teams until the last team member safely leaves the event – in a taxi if necessary.”
TOPIC: The shelving by the Government of the ‘Rights Removal Bill’
COMMENT BY:Andrew Copson. Humanists UK Chief Executive
“The Rights Removal Bill is terrible legislation and we, along with many politicians and civil society organisations, have called for it to be abandoned in its entirety. We welcome reports that it has been scrapped but will continue to campaign against the continued erosion of human rights provision in the UK.”
TOPIC: Figures from Office of National Statistics figures on the number of marriages in 2020, which showed the lowest number in the UK since 1838
COMMENT BY: Hannah Field, Family Law Partner, Russell Cooke
“An unexpected side effect of Covid will be a large increase in couples cohabiting rather than living together as married couples. On the face of it, this might seem like an insignificant development. However, should the relationship breakdown cohabitees have fewer protections afforded to them than married couples. The reality of this is that many are left with no rights to remain in a property or indeed have a financial claim against a property which they have lived in. The length of the relationship and indeed the roles played within the relationship have no bearing which means many people could be left in a vulnerable position.
“Unless an unmarried couple has a cohabitation agreement, or indeed a declaration of trust in place specifying the division of assets on separation, one party could find themselves in a perilous position.
“There have been calls for some time to reform the law in relation to cohabiting couples, which have been slow to progress. This decline in marriages, largely caused by the pandemic and associated lockdown, could be the impetus needed to give unmarried couples better protection.”
COMMENT BY: Matthew Booth, Family Law Partner, Payne Hicks Beach
“Even taking into account the Covid-19 lockdowns, the record-breaking drop in marriages demonstrates that many couples in the UK are now simply electing to cohabit.
“There remains at large a long-standing misapprehension that living together means you are in a common law marriage which grants cohabitees the same rights as married couples. This is a myth and the reality is that cohabiting couples can be at high risk if their relationship comes to an end.
“With no sign of Parliament legislating to give cohabiting couples similar rights to married couples, and a continuing absence of public information about this lacuna many cohabitees continue to be vulnerable. One remedy is for such couples to enter into a cohabitation agreement so that there is a formal document recording their financial arrangements both during the relationship and in the event that they separate.”
TOPIC: The decision by the Ministry of Justice to permit Chartered Institute of Legal Executive-qualified lawyers to become Recorders and Judges of the Upper Tribunal
COMMENT BY: Nick Vineall KC, Chair of the Bar Council
“We welcome this announcement which is likely to contribute to a more diverse judiciary. Judges should be, and are, appointed on merit. If candidates for judicial appointment can demonstrate the skills and experience required for the role, it should not matter in which branch of the legal profession those skills and experience were acquired.”
TOPIC: The apology by the Metropolitan Police for arresting anti-monarchy protestors under the new anti-protest laws
COMMENT BY: Professor Tom Lewis, Nottingham Law School
“The freedom to peacefully protest about important matters is, arguably, just as much part of Britishness as is the constitutional monarchy. But the arrests of protestors from the campaign group Republic on the day of the coronation of King Charles III show how this right has been seriously degraded by the Public Order Act 2023 which received Royal Assent on 2nd May, just days before the coronation.
The protestors were apparently arrested, and detained for many hours, for the new offence of ‘being equipped for locking on’. ‘Locking on’, also a new offence, is committed where a person attaches themselves to land or another person with the intention of causing ‘serious disruption’.
The locking on offences were designed to prevent major disruption to major travel networks and the like, by the well-publicised actions of groups such as Just Stop Oil. But the new offence is extremely broad. It could certainly cover, e.g., a cyclist with a bike lock. And in the case of the Republic protestors, the possession of suitcase straps being used to hold together placards appears to have been enough to trigger their arrests.
The police have offered an apology for the arrests and detentions. This will be cold comfort to those who were denied their democratic rights to protest about an issue they felt to be of great importance; still less will it be enough to prevent legal challenge under the UK’s Human Rights Act for what, on the face of it, appear to be clear violations of the right to freedom of expression, the right of peaceful assembly, and the right not to be subjected to arbitrary detention.
It is perhaps ironic in this case that the heavy-handed treatment by the police has actually increased the profile of the protestors, affording them far more media coverage than they would otherwise have received. But by the same token it is only because of the high profile of the coronation that the arrests have been so remarked upon. The truly chilling thought is that these breathtakingly wide powers will continue to be used in situations of peaceful protest to curb the democratic rights of British citizens in circumstances where far less public scrutiny is present. This is surely a worrying development for our democracy.”
TOPIC: The impact on charities of delays atHM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) in processing probate applications.
COMMENT BY: Debra Burton, charities partner at Shakespeare Martineau
“Charities, particularly smaller ones, can be very dependent on gifts in wills, which can often be a real lifeline to their day-to-day funding.
“In recent months, we have seen cases where charities are almost ready to close their doors while waiting for grants to be issued and for legacies to be paid. Similarly, charities can often be keen to factor funding from legacies into their working capital prematurely, which can lead to hefty cash flow problems when the monies don’t materialise as quickly as expected and creditors are chasing for payment.
“This is particularly apparent post-Covid and during the cost-of-living crisis when traditional forms of fundraising have declined in many cases.
“While we welcome the recruitment of the 100 new legacy probate professionals, we would encourage the Ministry of Justice to be mindful to ensure it provides the right training and prioritises the existing experienced workforce according to the complexity of cases – by effectively triaging probate applications.
“We would also invite the government department to consider helping people with enquiries at a much earlier stage. Having someone experienced at the end of the phone would, in our view, help reduce errors made by those who simply do not understand the process or complete their probate applications incorrectly, which simply adds to the backlog when they get stopped.
“In short, more needs to be done to ease the probate pipeline in order to keep many struggling charities afloat, particularly at a time when the economy needs their services the most.”
TOPIC: The Department for Business & Trade’s proposal to limit non-compete clauses in its recent Smarter Regulation to Grow Economyannouncement
COMMENT BY: Mike Tremeer, Employment Partner, Fladgate
“The most interesting development for me was the proposal to limit non-compete clauses to a maximum of three months. Currently the contracts of employment for many employees, particularly senior executives, will have clauses which prevent them from joining a competitor business or setting up in competition for a period after the termination of their employment. Most common is a six month restriction. The justification for this is often that this provides the original employer with a reasonable period to protect its confidential information, trade connections and workforce from any planned attack by the employee. After six months, much confidential information will lose its usefulness and a six month period will have allowed the employer to replace relationships with clients, suppliers and employees.
Limiting the duration of these non-compete periods to three months has the potential to cause real damage to employers as key and senior employee will potentially be able to commence employment with competitors much sooner. In fast moving industries such as tech this could be particularly problematic.
In practice, I expect the natural reaction to this will be that many employers will introduce longer notice periods for senior and valuable employees that will enable them to “keep them out of the market” for longer than the three months. If a senior executive resigns to join a competitor, but has to give 12 months’ notice of termination, the employer can place them on garden leave for the full 12 month period. Previously that was a cost that the employer would not want to bear – and it could avoid doing so by having a longer non-compete clause. But if there non-compete clause is limited in the future, a longer notice period will probably become more appealing, even given the greater cost.
There are thousands of six month non-compete clauses currently in place across the UK and so it will also be interesting to see how this reform is implemented. Will those restrictions no longer be enforceable meaning that employers must update current contracts of employment in place? Or will the reform only apply to contracts entered after the date that the legislation is introduced? The justification behind many of the changes announced yesterday was that it will cut red tape for businesses – imposing the burden of updating a large number of contracts seems to do quite the opposite.”
COMMENT BY: Charlie Barnes, legal services director, RSM UK
“This change could be significant to businesses that rely on non-compete clauses in senior employee contracts to protect confidential information and customer connections, particularly in niche innovative industries where the pool of competition is limited. It could therefore have the reverse effect on innovation if companies feel unable to protect themselves from a key employee leaving to join a competitor, taking confidential information with them, in just three months. If these changes are made, such businesses will need to revisit contracts of employment to require longer paid notice periods or garden leave clauses to keep senior leavers away from competitors for more than three months. This will impose a larger financial burden on businesses.“
LEGAL APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
CLYDE & Co.
Rachael Morris (left) is to join Clyde & Co as a medical negligence partner in its Birmingham office. Previously with Browne Jacobson’s healthcare team Morris brings health, advisory and litigation expertise to Clyde’s growing medical malpractice pracxtice.
With more than 20 years’ experience Morris has lead on complex child neurological injuries and maternity claims for NHS Resolution. She has also worked with Medical Defence Union, Medical Protection Society, and various NHS Trusts. Shehas a reputation for her empathy towards trusts, witnesses, and families impacted by claims, in addition to having a practical and well-grounded approach.
“Our healthcare team has been hugely successful recently, particularly in our reappointment to various NHS and insurer panels,” comments Claire Petts, Head of Healthcare at Clyde. “Rachael is a key appointment to the team in response to that demand. She will look to build a team in Birmingham to serve our existing clients, as well as expand our capabilities across the West Midlands and nationally.”
Currently there is a growing number of healthcare claims and increased scrutiny of healthcare services, in particular maternity services and issues arising from the Ockenden & Kirkup reports and how complaints and investigations are handled.
Tom Biddick (left) is joining Stephens Scown’s specialist Agricultural and Rural Affairs team as a Partner. Based in Exeter for many years, Biddick has deep roots in Cornwall and strong links to the farming community across the South West. He acts for a number of farmers in the region and advises clients on all aspects of private client work including Wills, Powers of Attorney and Estate Administration.
Biddick’s particular specialism lies in Succession and Inheritance Tax and he has experience of acting for a number of wealthy families and individuals. He also regularly deals with Agricultural Property Relief and Business Property Relief queries.
“Having legal advice from a law firm that genuinely understands the rural sector and the region – and who will proactively highlight new commercial opportunities – has arguably never been more important,” says Phil Reed, head of Stephens Scown’s Rural team. “We are delighted that Tom will be adding his expertise to our growing team in Exeter, as he brings with him a wealth of experience for our rural and landowner clients.”
A member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), Biddick has been recognised as a notable figure in the private client and agricultural practice areas by both the Legal 500 and the Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession.
Developing a credible and genuine personal brand and living it
Following on from the success of our webinar collaboration with Joanna Gaudoin in 2022, we are delighted to offer a new series of four webinars on the theme of ‘Self-marketing’.
Session 1: 5 June 2023
Time: 10am – 11am (BST)
It can feel challenging to ‘market’ yourself, especially due to time constraints and the challenge of putting yourself forward. However, to navigate your role successfully and progress your career – it is necessary.
In this series, Joanna will provide a lot of practical guidance on how to do this, with the theme broken into four distinct topic sessions.
This session will focus on the importance of standing out positively to get your work recognised and to maximise your career opportunities.
Having a strong and credible personal brand helps you to be advantageously memorable to others, as well as helping you to be clear on who you are and what you want to be known for.
Please click the Accept button to register for this webinar. Once you have registered you will be sent a confirmation email with full details.
If you have any questions, queries or comments, please contact us at email@example.com
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