Diary news, commentary, insights and appointments from the legal world
June 23 2023
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SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
The Titanic memorial In Southampton – Add five more names?
“ I must go down to the sea again. To the lonely sea and the sky,” wrote poet John Masefield in ‘Sea Fever’.
Sea fever has certainly grabbed our attention in the past fortnight. At three levels – the refugee ship in the Mediterranean, the Titan in the North Atlantic, and the disappearance of the solo Channel swimmer Iain Hughes – the dangers of the sea have been made real once more.
Yet, legally, the open sea is still an unregulated waste. As Charles Lipcon wrote in the Attorney at Law magazine last year, “In international waters, there is no single governing body that has exclusive jurisdiction over the area…Suffering an injury can quickly become confusing as you try to make sense of how you can file a claim against the at-fault party.” Whether the calamities of the past fortnight will bring a wave of change to that enigmatic ocean remains to be seen.
The Legal Diarist
In this week’s edition
THE LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
- Who’s afraid of the Legal Geeks?
- Pro Bono Scheme Gets the benefit of Hodge Jones & Allen expertise
- The BIICL Gets A Safe Pair of Hands as New Chair of Trustees
- Leading Leeds in Immigration Law
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK on
Mediation in family law, infected blood victims’ compensation, Horse Hill (Surrey) oil exploration
LEGAL APPOINTMENT OF THE WEEK at Brown Rudnick
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
‘DO AI LAWYERS DREAM IN ELECTRIC BRIEFS?’ is the title of the presentation by David Wang, Chief Inn ovation Officer at Wilson Sonsini, at next Thursday’s Legal Geek’s Conference for North America in Chicago. All credit to Legal Geek for providing a focus for the growing army of IT experts in the legal sector. It’s clearly going to be of ever-increasing importance – but for the pioneers it has often been a lonely experience. As Nikki Shaver , co-founder of Legal Tech Hub commented, “Driving change in legal organizations is a gradual effort, and can sometimes feel difficult and depressing. But to be an effective change manager, you need to be an optimist.”
Well maybe we all have to be optimists about the impact of AI on the law – the alternative is a negative Luddism. So perhaps one of the most interesting sessions at the Conference will be led by Duc Vinh Trang, Managing Director , Major, Lindsey & Africa. Under the title RETHINKING TALENT DEVELOPMENT IN THE AGE OF AI he will be proposing a new framework as a basis for rethinking how we train legal professionals. So let’s not write off humans entirely – or at least not yet.
Pro Bono Scheme Gets the benefit of Hodge Jones & Allen expertise
Lawyers from Hodge Jones & Allen will start working from the end of this month with law students at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) who are volunteering at the University’s Law Clinic.
Set up in 2018 the ARU Law Clinic team offers help to people in East Anglia and beyond to gain access to free legal advice on family and employment law matters which otherwise might not be available. In the last twelve months, the team have helped over 750 clients and they also provide support at court sessions at the Cambridge County Court. The service has been recognised on a number of occasions by LawWorks and the Cambridgeshire Law Society for excellence in the pro bono services provided.
The clinics are run by Sarah Calder, Law Clinic Director who is passionate about pro bono legal work as she has seen the benefits it can bring to local communities over many years. “We are delighted to be partnering with Hodge Jones & Allen who have a long history of successfully helping those who have suffered a personal injury, as a result of someone else’s negligence,” she said.
Daniel Denton, one of the Partners at Hodge Jones & Allen who will be involved, is a specialist in personal injury law and will work with the law student volunteers to deal with personal injury enquiries via a zoom call to provide a fast response. “ Our law students will gain so much from working alongside Daniel as they experience real life situations and help individuals through what can be a challenging and sometimes life changing time in their life,” said Helen Proctor, a student at the Law Clinic.
The British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) – the organisation which promotes the rule of law in national and international affairs –will gain a new Chair of its Board of Trustees when Eve Salomon CBE (left) takes over at the end of this month. An expert in using the law to secure human rights Salomon is already well-known for her work as a Commissioner for the Press Complaints Commission, the Gambling Commission and as a member of the Better Regulation Commission.
So she brings a wealth of experience to her new role. As a qualified solicitor it is expected that her expertise and knowledge will help the BIICL expands its comparative legal work on a wide range of cutting-edge topics such as Artificial Intelligence & Data Worlds, Business & Human Rights and Cultural Heritage.
‘I am very proud to have been appointed chair of the board of trustees and to work with BIICL to build the legal resources needed to apply legal principles to help solve the difficult, big issues of our day,’ she said.
Significantly she has been in the news not so long ago in connection with a particularly tricky, high profile issue – the return of works of art looted in colonial times. As chair of trustees at the Horniman Museum and Gardens she devised and led the museum’s process of returning their collection of Benin bronzes to Africa. Salomon was awarded a CBE earlier this year for services to arts and heritage when she left the organisation.
LEADING LEEDS IN IMMIGRATION LAW
Setting up a new law firm in these troubled times is always going to be a bit of a risk – unless, that is, you are entering a niche market. And that has probably been the secret of the success of Holmes & Partners Ltd, a Leeds-based Immigration and Visa specialist, which has just won the West Yorkshire ‘Start Up of the Year’ Award 2023.
Significantly the founding partner Michelle Holmes (above) is herself an immigrant to the UK from South African so she knows something of the landscape from her own experience. In fact, it took Holmes eight years from arrival in this country to become a British citizen.
“Taking the risk to invest everything I had at a time of economic uncertainty was an easy decision, as I was certain that a company that operated in this way is what the industry needed, and I knew I was the person who could achieve it.”
By ‘focusing on the individual client and taking the time to offer in-depth advice’ – “Which many other immigration companies do not,” she points out – has enabled her team to stand out. “My aim is to continue to provide personalised immigration services for all and make the visa process easy and accessible for anyone who’s looking to move to the UK.”
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK
TOPIC: The reservations expressed by the organisation ‘Resolution’ to the Ministry of Justice’s plan for the earlier resolution of private family law arrangements
COMMENT BY: Gemma Davison, partner at Stowe Family Law and an accredited Mediator
“Resolution’s response to the government proposals is welcome. Mediation being voluntary is a fundamental principle of the process. It is important that people have an understanding of the options for resolving issues and the ability to make an informed decision about what is best for them and their family in their circumstances. Mediation has huge benefits, not least avoiding the cost both financially and emotionally of attending Court but it is not an easy option, nor one that is appropriate for everyone and should not be mandatory to achieve a political agenda. People need information, support and choice tailored to their circumstances and needs.”
TOPIC: Yesterday’s House of Commons debate over the compensation for the ‘infected blood’ victims when 16 backbench MPs called on the Government to expedite payments to victims
COMMENT BY: Des Collins, Senior Partner at Collins Solicitors and adviser to over 1500 victims of the infected blood scandal
“Whilst it is heartwarming that MPs from different constituencies paid tribute to infected blood victims and their families today, it is clear the Government isn’t listening or prepared to deviate from its course.
“We agree with those members of the house who said the Government’s intransigence and lack of transparency on its plan to compensate victims of this scandal is shameful. We concur with those who said there is no time to waste, time is of the essence and the time for sympathy is over, the time for action is now.
“However, we are sadly not surprised that the Government is sticking to its line that compensation is a complex matter requiring time. The Rt Hon Jeremy Quin pretty much confirmed they are working to a timetable of responding to Sir Brian Langstaff’s final Inquiry report, despite Sir Brian recommending in April that a compensation scheme is put in place before this. Another blow to the victims whose hopes have been raised of late.
“A compassionate Government would indeed accelerate payments to those who have suffered as one MP said. Frustratingly today’s administration seems no different to previous regimes on the issue of infected blood. They are not prepared to show the political leadership required to bring an end to the infected blood scandal sooner rather than later.
“The upshot of today’s debate, as ever, is that the infected blood community must continue to wait and our fight for justice goes on.”
TOPIC: The appeal against the decision of Surrey County Council to grant planning permission for oil extraction in Horse Hill
COMMENT BY: David Greene, Committee Member of the London Solicitors Litigation Association (LSLA)
“If the appeal is successful the impact could be significant – not just for fossil fuel projects, but also a wide range of projects which may contribute to global warming.
This appeal is centred around the nature of Environmental Impact Assessments and the requirements of planning authorities to recognise the emissions consequence of granting planning permission for fossil fuel and other projects – not just from the construction project itself, but also, in the longer term, use of the land for the purposes of the project and its contribution to emissions contributing to global warming.
There are a growing number of such cases here and in other jurisdictions, which are brought by a wide range of litigants, shareholders, community groups, campaigners and NGOs. Their challenges will only increase as the law is tested. They often turn on obligations arising from the Paris Agreement, which has been litigated here, unsuccessfully thus far, or from human rights and the right to life. These are testing, as in the instant case, new principles and new law. A question for the future will be the willingness of the judiciary to develop the law positively on climate change issues. In the Netherlands, for instance, campaigners have sought to litigate the rights of future generations as yet unborn in relation to climate change, partially successfully.
Businesses are becoming more and more aware of their obligations and the potential to find themselves at the wrong end of an action. Fossil fuel and the extractive industries face a barrage of litigation that is likely to increase. In addition, directors themselves have faced litigation in relation to the decisions they make on behalf of companies. Further finance houses and pension funds may also face litigation in relation to their investments in such industries. Many companies are accused of ‘green washing’ i.e. making assertions as to the environmental impact of their operations that are inaccurate. It’s important for companies to assess the environmental impact of their operations in a thorough and truthful way and to ensure their assertions in that respect are accurate.”
APPOINTMENT OF THE WEEK
Charlotte Harris (left) has joined Brown Rudnick as a partner in the firm’s Brand and Reputation Management Group in London, where she will serve as Lead European partner for the practice. Previously a partner at Kingsley Napley Harris has also practiced at Mishcon de Reya. She has been ranked by Chambers in its Defamation and Reputation Management guide for 13 years and in its High Net Worth guide for four years. Harris is also a top recommended reputation and management lawyer by Spears 500 and was listed in The Lawyer’s Hot 100 in 2011.
“We are thrilled to welcome Charlotte to Brown Rudnick,” said Vince Guglielmotti, CEO and chairman of Brown Rudnick. “Brand and Reputation Management is one of our core practices and Charlotte’s unparalleled experience will ensure that Brown Rudnick continues to be the go-to firm in this area.Her addition to the team in London aligns with our strategic expansion plans and focus on excellence, as we continue to grow our London office as a European hub.”
Harris commented, “Media law has become a different animal and as social media continues to tip the balance of power, clients are becoming much more proactive about managing their reputation, instead of just reacting in a crisis. Brown Rudnick’s strategic focus on this practice area and well-documented successes set it apart.”
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And enjoy the cricket this weekend.