Diary news plus insights, commentary and appointments from the legal world
June 16 2023
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SHORT THOUGHT OF THE WEEK: Qualified for what – or for when?
Warm? Empathetic? Supportive? Some Apprenticeships are better than others. Image courtesy of BBC
Writing In The Times this morning columnist Emma Duncan argues, maybe controversially, that ‘We should cheer the decline in Humanities degrees’ – the argument being that too many graduates are emerging from college with large debts and little likelihood of developing successful, remunerative careers based on qualifications which have slender economic value.
Whatever your view of the Duncan argument it is (almost) indisputable that we need to develop better ways for young people to make the transition into work. That is why the new legal apprenticeship scheme announced this week by the City of London Law Society is so much to be welcomed (for more see below).
It should be added, however, that demand for skills ebbs and flows – and increasingly so because of the turbulent impact of AI. Those lucky London apprentices will get a good start to their working lives. Where the legal sector’s demand for skills will lie two decades hence, however, is anyone’s guess.
In this week’s edition
+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
– Making A Debut Appearance at Lord’s
– More than an Honourable Mention
– Call for More Women Expert Witnesses
– Large-scale Legal Apprenticeship Scheme Launched in the City
CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
NO PLACE TO HIDE? HOW INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION IS HELPING BRING CRIMINALS TO JUSTICE by David Williams
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK
on CMA’s decision on Amazon/IRobot, SLAPPS and the EU’s AI proposals
LEGAL APPPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
at Boodle Hatfield and Excello Law
LAW DIARY OF THE WEEK
Making A Debut Appearance at Lord’s
Would he ever have played for England?
“I tend to think that cricket is the greatest thing that God ever created on earth,” said Harold Pinter, the late, great playwright and poet, adding that “Cricket has been part of my life since the day I was born.”
As an Englishman of Jewish heritage Pinter was not alone in his adherence to the sport which itself has succeeded in thriving across many different cultures. And, of course, Pinter would have been in his element today at the opening of the latest Ashes series. But so too are the members of Serle Court’s Equality and Diversity Team which will host next Thursday an opening celebration at the MCC Museum at Lord’s Cricket Ground of an exhibition dedicated to the Jewish community’s contribution to the game.
Curated by Daniel Lightman KC, barrister at Serle Court chambers, and Zaki Cooper – co-authors of ‘Cricket Grounds from the Air’ – the exhibition is also the first ever externally co-curated exhibition in the MCC Museum’s history.
Former Australian international Julien Wiener, the only Jewish male cricketer to play in the Ashes, and former South African international Mandy Yachad will be speaking at the event. Together they will discuss their cricketing careers and backgrounds and give their thoughts on the Ashes in the build-up to the Lord’s Test against Australia.
“As two cricket fans from a young age, we have always been fascinated by our community’s links to the great game,” commented Lightman and Cooper. “Short of opening the batting for England at Lord’s, this is surely the next best thing!”
More than an Honourable Mention
Ramesh Vala receiving his CBE from Princess Anne this week
It will be for historians to decide the impact of Boris Johnson on the status of the country’s Honours system but it would a sad day if the former PM’s tarnished list compromised the many worthy citizens whose awards reflect genuine service to the community.
Such a one is Ramesh Vala, freelance legal consultant and brand ambassador for Lawrence Stephens, who was at the Palace earlier this week to be invested with a CBE.
Vala’s life started in hardship on the streets of Nairobi but through great grit he overcame great disadvantages to go on to study Law at the London School of Economics. From there his career took off brilliantly taking him to the rank of an equity partner in a top 100 law firm at breakneck pace – one of only ten from a minority ethnic background at that time.
But alongside his legal work Vala also dedicated himself to charitable causes becoming involved in supporting cancer relief, girls’ education, anti-slavery, natural disaster relief, hospital facilities, sports for disabled children, food for poor children and eyesight surgeries for the poor across the UK, Africa and India. Quite a list!
In total he raised over £2 million for charity in this time and he continues to work hard to support causes close to his heart including championing recognition of the history, contributions and assimilation of the British Indian community in the UK.“I take this opportunity to reaffirm my continued commitment to working tirelessly to serve the public and the communities in which I live balancing this with my professional life,” he said after receiving the award. A stark contrast, one might suggest, to those others who have been in the news for their honours this week
Call for More Women Expert Witnesses
Whatever progress might have been made elsewhere by women in the legal world (in its widest sense) it has not been matched by their status as expert witnesses. In fact,according to a new survey from Equal Representation for Expert Witnesses (ERE) undertaken jointly with global consulting firm AlixPartners, women were observed as appointed or testifying as sole expert witnesses in just 10% of cases requiring an expert during 2022.
The reason for this, maybe not too surprisingly, is that there is a vicious circle – because there are relatively few active women expert witnesses so there is little knowledge of them – and hence more are not appointed. As ERE put it, lawyers’ preference to “use experts they know or have used previously” was believed to be the biggest reason for fewer female than male expert witnesses being appointed. Meanwhile “a lack of women reaching sufficiently senior levels in their own professions” and “a lack of experience in an expert witness role” also featured highly.
On the other hand, and more positively, of the females in the survey who had been appointed as expert witnesses, 31% have been appointed more than 20 times, evidence that, given the initial opportunity to break into an expert witness role, repeated appointments for these women are following.
And the future is looking somewhat better given what is described as a ‘burgeoning pipeline of aspiring expert witnesses’ under the age of 40 – male and female in equal proportions – coming through with 80% of respondents who have yet to provide oral expert evidence aspiring to do so in the future.
“The data from the survey shows that it is past time for the legal and consulting community to take proactive steps to right the gender imbalance in female expert witness appointments,” said Isabel Kunsman, ERE Co-Founder and Partner & Managing Director at AlixPartners. “Taking the ERE Pledge [ SEE BELOW] is just one step on that journey, but one that we would encourage everyone to do.”
In summary, the goals of the ERE Pledge are to:
+ increase, on an equal opportunity basis, the number of women appearing as experts, in order to achieve proportional representation and eventually full parity;
+support hiring, mentoring, and promotion of female experts;
+ create a coalition of supporters and advocates in the world of dispute resolution;
+ encourage women to aspire to be expert witnesses in their chosen professions;
+ widen the pool of expert witnesses available and help to enhance the reputation of expert witnesses.
Large-scale Legal Apprenticeship Scheme Launched in the City
The City of London Law Society (CLLS) announced yesterday – ‘Social Mobility Day’ – a major new, cross-firm initiative under the title ‘CityCentury’ focused on increasing substantially the number of solicitor apprentices entering the City of London.
In what might be an unprecedented level of collaboration, 50 City law firms are scheduled to become involved led by top names such as Linklaters, Allen & Overy, Eversheds Sutherland, Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright, and Osborne Clarke. The majority of partnering firms are likely to enrol their first cohort of solicitor apprentices by Autumn 2024.
Under the programme committed solicitor apprentices will be ‘identified, attracted, recruited, educated, qualified, and developed’ and thereby give City firms access to diverse emerging talent for the long-term.
“Apprenticeships are an essential component of the Government’s skills agenda, extending the ladder of opportunity and helping to grow the economy by boosting the skills pipeline,” said Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education Robert Halfon. “It is fantastic news that these 50 City law firms have committed to increasing the number of London-based solicitor apprentices. Giving more people from all backgrounds the chance to enter this prestigious career without a student debt is a significant step forward in building a skills and apprenticeships nation and I commend their commitment to social mobility.”
It is expected that the numbers starting on the Apprenticeship qualification path will double and increase significantly over the next few years. By 2040, City Century envisages that at least 100 new Partners will have been created by the solicitor apprentice route.
Visit citycentury.co.uk for more information and regular updates.
CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
NO PLACE TO HIDE? HOW INTERNATIONAL CO-OPERATION IS HELPING BRING CRIMINALS TO JUSTICE by David Williams (below)
In January 2018 Richard Wakeling fled the UK immediately before a scheduled 12-week trial where he would face allegations of arranging an importation of £8million of amphetamines. It was alleged he had contrived a scheme to transport the drugs, suspended in liquid and hidden amongst a consignment of furniture from Italy.
Officers from the National Crime Agency had begun investigations after Border Force intercepted a consignment of the drugs at the Channel Tunnel in 2016; those investigations revealed Wakeling had orchestrated a previous six similar importations.
He was convicted in his absence and sentenced to a custodial term of some 11 years.
In 2018, the NCA promoted him to their most wanted lists and sought information from the public through Crimestoppers, as well as investigating his movements away from Essex via Heathrow, Glasgow Stranraer and Belfast.
He was arrested in February this year in a Bangkok garage after trying to pick up his car after repairs, and 5 years on the run. He was successfully extradited, has been in the UK since 1st June and has begun to serve his sentence.
The case is a good example of the NCA demonstrating their long arms and deep pockets, as well as their priorities in seeking to disrupt serious organised crime with high financial value.
International co-operation between jurisdictions is increasingly effective for those many countries with positive diplomatic relations, particularly given the cross-border movement of money or drugs involved in increasingly sophisticated international criminality.
The extradition arrangements which facilitate that co-operation are not always particularly sophisticated. The Thai UK treaty was settled in March 1911 and still contemplates surrender by ship. As to the documentation, all it requires is a request passed through diplomatic channels containing a basic statement of the facts surrounding the case, the legal basis for the criminal proceedings or a certified conviction and sufficient evidence proving the identity of the offender (as well as not being for a political or military offence).
The treaty has not been frequently used and for what we call export extradition, a Thai Interpol Police Colonel claimed the extradition of Lee Aldhouse in 2012 to face an allegation of murder was the first use of the treaty to return someone to Thailand in 101 years.
In an area of law which is sometimes overlapped with and blurred by diplomacy, maybe this co-operation is the quid pro quo? In any event, in an age of digital and mobile communication, digital financial trials, combined with ancient treaties, there are not that many places to hide.
David Williams is a barrister in the extradition team at 5 St Andrew’s Hill
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK
TOPIC: The UK Competition and Markets Authority’s announcement today that it has cleared the $1.7bn Amazon/iRobot (maker of the Roomba) acquisition
COMMENT BY: Alex Haffner, competition partner, Fladgate
“The clearance decision is a useful riposte to allegations, which have taken on particular prominence recently in the light of Microsoft/Activision acquisition, that the CMA is anti-tech or unduly stifling economic growth in the sector. In reality though, the “fundamentals” of this deal means that the CMA’s assessment was far less controversial than in other tech based cases given in particular iRobot’s low market share.
As always, the CMA will have co-operated with the other international regulators reviewing the deal. The merging parties will no doubt take comfort from the CMA clearance although they will also know that the different regulatory agencies do not always operate in complete lock-step with one another.”
TOPIC: The new proposals on SLAPPS announced this week.
COMMENT BY: John Binns, Partner at BCL Solicitors
“Not everyone accused of economic crime is guilty of economic crime, and the law of defamation law exists to protect reputations from the often hugely damaging impacts of false claims. Because publishers bear the burden of justifying the allegations they publish, there is undoubtedly a chilling effect on reporting. This increases with the imbalance of economic power between the publisher and the claimant. What seems to be suggested is a special power for courts to strike out claims early where the report is about economic crime, with the burden being on the claimant to show their case is a good one.
“It’s as yet unclear whether this means in effect that the claimant would have to prove their innocence for their claim to go further. That would turn existing legal protections upside down, and should not be done lightly. There is surely a risk here that the climate of increased reporting of economic crime by wealthy and powerful people skews the debate, and prompts a change that will also impact genuinely innocent people who are unfairly smeared.”
TOPIC: The passage of the EU’s landmark AI Act which paves the way for regulation in the bloc.
COMMENT BY: Tim Wright, specialist tech and AI regulation lawyer and partner, Fladgate.
“The EU just cleared a significant hurdle towards its plans to enact a comprehensive rulebook governing the development and use of AI, with a solid majority of MEPs voting to adopt the European Parliament’s negotiating position on the AI Act.
The legislative process now moves to talks with EU member states on the final shape of the law. Seeing off last minute amendments proposed by the European People’s Party, highlights from the adopted draft text include:
• a complete ban on the use of AI for biometric surveillance, emotion recognition and predictive policing
• a requirement for generative AI systems like ChatGPT to disclose AI-generated content
• a default, high-risk, setting for AI systems used to influence voters in elections
Companies which develop and use EU systems, including those situated outside the EU but which offer AI systems and services to EU citizens will need to take note of the progression of the AI Act which is slated to become a regulation in 2024 and enter into effect from 2027 (if not earlier).
Once the AI Act is finalised, the EU will start work on harmonised standards under the Act which will apply across the EU. Companies should not leave their planning, preparation and implementation too late. When GDPR came in, some businesses struggled to cope with the complexity of the new rules, with Wetherspoons reported to have deleted its entire CRM database when it realised that it would be unable to meet the compliance timetable.
Just as with GDPR, non-compliance with the AI Act will come at significant cost: failures to meet data governance and high-risk AI transparency obligations will attract penalties of up to the higher of EUR 20 million or 4% of global turnover, whilst most other obligations will risk penalties of up to the higher of EUR 10 million or 2% of global turnover.”
LEGAL APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
Andrew Loan (left) has joined the private wealth law firm Boodle Hatfield as a specialist Corporate Tax Partner in the Private Client & Tax department.
Previously with Fieldfisher, where he was a Tax Partner, Loan has over 20 years’ experience and is qualified both as a solicitor and a chartered tax adviser. He had previously been a Tax Partner at Macfarlanes, and had also served as an officer of the taxes committee of the International Bar Association for several years.
Loan’s experience is varied across corporate tax and VAT matters, particularly taxation issues in the context of acquisitions and disposals of public and private companies. He has also worked on the taxation of corporate groups, finance, real estate and investment funds, and tax investigations and disputes.
“Andrew has a strong track record and is known across the profession for his specialist corporate tax and real estate structuring advice,” said Hayden Bailey, Head of Private Client and Tax at Boodle Hatfield. “Our clients often have complex international corporate structures, so Andrew’s strength in corporate taxation will be a great complement to our leading Private Client and Tax practice.”
Rory Nelson has joined Excello Law as part of its team in Liverpool specialising in transactional commercial property matters and property finance. Previously with the Liverpool firm Quinn Melville Barrow LLP where he was a partner and led their real estate finance and banking department, Nelson is expected to bring with him his substantial client base which ranges from well-established private bridging finance companies to public high-street banks.
Nelson’s reputation is for providing commercially minded advice tailored to each client’s unique requirements and risk profile. His experience includes representing purchasers, sellers, landlords, tenants, lending institutions, and borrowers in various transactional commercial property matters.
“We are delighted to welcome Rory Nelson to the firm,” said Regional Director at Excello Law, Julie Mogan. “He is a valuable contribution to the Liverpool team and brings with him a wealth of experience.Excello Law’s regional expansion marks a significant milestone for the firm as it continues to establish its presence across the UK.”
Mr. Nelson commented, “I’ve always been attracted to the Excello model. It allows individual lawyers to directly benefit from their own daily efforts whilst encouraging collaboration between those fee earners to maintain a team environment.”
We hope that you have found this edition of the Legal Diary interesting (an even useful). If so, please circulate to colleagues.