Diary items, insights and comments from the legal world
Friday 24th September
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
Law is the grease that enables the wheels of business to go round and provides the stabilisers which prevents society from falling over. And when crises erupt – such as the current catastrophe facing some parts of the energy industry – lawyers are there to act quickly as go-betweens with government to come up with solutions. Moreover they are increasingly pouring out legal insights and analyses to help citizens understand better what the law says and means. Hence, last year the top US law firms created more than 70,000 blogs, articles and other insights to widen awareness amongst society at large. You might say that they provide the ‘fifth’ emergency service in keeping society ticking over. So not always the bad guys after all.
NOTE: The LegalDiarist is away and travelling until mid-October meaning that this is a pocket/travel edition of the Legal Diary. We will get back to the normal format when we return to the office.
IN THIS WEEK’S EDITION
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
– Pregnancy Loss Recognised at Royds Withy King
– Farrer’s makes ESG investment as safe as the Bank of England
– Irwin Mitchell’s Autumn of Apprenticeships
– MPR Gets It Together with the Romanians
– Divorce Portal a Success!
CONTRIBUTED ARTICLES OF THE WEEK
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK on NEW RIGHT TO FLEXIBLE WORKING from Stephensons Solicitors and Langley Solicitors
STRINGING ALONG MIKE LYNCH from Fladgate
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
Pregnancy Loss Recognised at Royds Withy King
This week Royds Withy King joined the small but growing number of law firms with a new Pregnancy Loss Policy which offers compassionate leave to expectant mothers who lose their child before 24 weeks. Under the new scheme employees who suffer pregnancy loss (or their partner) will be entitled to up to two weeks’ paid time off. As the firm points out, “This policy announcement joins a suite of family-friendly policies the firm already has in place that go above and beyond industry standards, including enhanced maternity/paternity leave, adoption leave, leave for fertility treatment and paid care for dependant leave.”
Much was made in the media recently when the sometime-royal Meghan (and, one must say, Harry) suffered a pregnancy loss. But it is a common occurrence with about a quarter of pregnancies ending in a miscarriage. “We felt that it was important to recognise that pregnancy loss, no matter when it happens, can have a big impact on both the expecting parents,” said Jessica Parsons, HR Advisor at the firm, “We have therefore created this policy to support our colleagues and their partners, whether male or female.”
Farrer’s makes ESG investment as safe as the Bank of England
Farrer & Co’s skill set over the last four centuries has been the management of the wealth of the nation. So it is a logical development that the firm should now step in as the sponsor of trade body PIMFA’s new Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) Academy for Wealth Managers which was launched last week.
Of course it was not alone. A couple of other rather expensive names – MSCI and Fidelity International – were also sitting at the PIMFA High Table. But then ESG is the place to be right now with up to a half of the record inflow of £6.2bn into UK based-equity funds in the second quarter of this year being targeted at those focused on ESG factors.
However Farrer’s role will not be just as a passive supporter of the Academy’s CPD-accredited programmes. Partners Grania Baird and Jessica Reed will contribute directly to the Academy’s online learning provision to give PIMFA wealth managers ‘deeper insights into the diverse and occasionally complicated nature of ESG investing.’
As Grania Baird commented, “We are delighted to be supporting PIMFA’s ESG Academy this year. Our involvement will help PIMFA members to navigate and understand the evolving legal and regulatory requirements in this area equipping them with the tools to engage with their clients on all aspects of ESG consistent with the regulatory requirements.”
And of course it all makes good business sense. In Europe, sustainable fund assets under management are predicted to account for over 50% of total European fund assets by 2025, driven by rising regulatory focus and increased client demand. So it pays to be ESG-smart.
For more go to https://campaigns.pimfa.uk/sites/learning/esg/esg-academy/
Irwin Mitchell’s Autumn of Apprenticeships
True to form Irwin Mitchell is powering forward with its apprenticeship model which is opening new horizons in the way people can build their careers in the legal industry.
Twenty four young people are starting Paralegal and Business Administration (Level 3) apprenticeships this Autumn on two year programmes which will be run in the firm’s offices throughout the country from Southampton to Sheffield.
The important point is that this is not just a nod towards diversity and equality but is seen as a key part of the firm’s long term growth strategy. It also embodies the fact that while legal expertise is at the core of what law firms do they must now incorporate a wide range of other skills to deliver what clients require – especially with data and the digital world.
“These developments set the wheels in motion for a significant uptick in our apprenticeship work, and gives people from many backgrounds, both internal and external, a chance to learn new skills and develop their future career path,” said Lorcan Seery, the firm’s Early Years Careers Team and apprentice manager.
“The fact that this is our biggest ever intake is a sign of our renewed focus on our colleagues of the future, across all areas of the firm and geographically across the country. The lockdown naturally made taking on new apprentices a challenge, so we are keen now to make up for lost ground, creating new opportunities and laying the groundwork for the long term success of the business.”
The news on apprentices follows the firm’s announcement of a 93% retention rate of newly qualified solicitors and the adoption of a Flexible by Choice policy, allowing all colleagues to work when and where they want, subject to client requirements.
MPR Gets It Together with the Romanians
With the exodus – post Brexit and post-Covid – of Poles from the UK it is now the Romanians who are, maybe, our most important East European community. With over one million now resident of whom more than 100,000 are registered as active business owners they make up a significant addition to the entrepreneurial class. Meanwhile Romania itself has been changing fast with the capital Bucharest recently designated as the home of the EU’s newly established Cybersecurity Competence Centre. So unlike Poland and Hungary, the country is not on the EU’s naughty step.
Consequently there is a big and growing market here for lawyers and it is significant that MPR Partners, an award winning Romanian law firm and founding member of the British-Romanian Chamber of Commerce, is now planning for its first ‘Romanian Professionals and Business Owners’ event. It will be held at The Refinery (12 New Square Street), on Thursday, 8 October and will be the first of many, say the organisers.
Divorce Portal a Success!
Rather than crashing and causing added misery to divorcing couples the new mandatory online divorce portal has been overwhelmingly effective according to Hannah Gumbrill-Ward of Winckworth Sherwood. By comparison with the old paper-based version the rejection rate of initial submissions has dropped from 40% to just 1%. Maybe the wedding vows should be changed to “…until portal do us part.”
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK – NEW RIGHT TO FLEXIBLE WORKING
New flexible working rights are to be welcomed says Phillip Richardson, partner and head of employment at Stephensons Solicitors but Marie Horner, Employment Lawyer at Langleys Solicitors suggests that they are not so generous as they might seem.
“This announcement by the government will be a welcome one and a timely intervention at a period when home working has become the norm for thousands of people. The past 12-months have underlined how productive workers can be, when given the right support, to work remotely and productively away from the traditional office setting.
“Flexible working requests would often be viewed as a daunting conversation, however this change makes for a much more upfront and transparent relationship between employer and employee.”
“[In brief] employers can require staff to return to workplaces even where they have been working productively during the pandemic. This is because the place of work in contracts remains as the workplace and working from home has been a temporary solution during the pandemic.
“Staff cannot assume they have a right to work from home even if they have shown that they can be productive. Parties can agree to change the place of work and many employers may face an increase in applications for flexible working on this basis.
“While there is no automatic right to work from home, employment legislation provides a number of protections. Currently, employees with at least 26 weeks’ service have the right to ask for flexible working which can include working from home for some or all of the time.
“Employers are required to consider requests in a reasonable manner and can only refuse a request for one of the eight business reasons permitted by the legislation:
· The burden of additional costs
· A detrimental effect on the ability to meet customer demand
· An inability to reorganise work among other employees
· An inability to recruit additional employees
· A detrimental effect on quality
· A detrimental effect on performance
· Insufficient work at the times when the employee proposes to work
· Planned structural changes
“Whilst the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has recently announced plans to potentially extend the right to request flexible working, it should be noted that the proposal only removes the 26-week qualifying service period, allowing all employees to make a request from day one.
“It does not confer any greater right on employees to work flexibly, and employers will still have the ability to reject requests in the same way they can presently. This is a step in the right direction but perhaps not the huge stride that it first appears to be.”
STRINGING ALONG MIKE LYNCH
Delaying the extradition of entrepreneur Mike Lynch is not all it appears says Thomas Garner, Partner, Fladgate LLP
“It is highly unlikely that Priti Patel will answer attempts to overrule Mr Lynch’s extradition. The reality is that the Home Secretary’s role in extradition has been greatly constrained since Theresa May blocked Gary McKinnon’s extradition to the US in 2012. Following that case and the Baker Review into our extradition arrangements, the law was amended to remove the Home Secretary’s power to consider human rights grounds which must instead be raised before and decided by the courts. Under the Extradition Act, the Secretary of State can now only consider four specific issues when considering ordering a person’s extradition: whether the individual concerned is at risk of the death penalty, whether there are ‘specialty arrangements’ in place which prevent an individual from facing proceedings for different allegations than those for which extradition was ordered and, finally, very unusual cases where an individual has been previously extradited to the UK from a third country or the International Criminal Court. Without wishing to prejudge matters it seems almost inevitable that Mr Lynch’s case is destined for an appeal in the High Court.”
HOGAN LOVELLS NEW ‘PROOF IN TRIAL’ PODCAST SERIES – AVAILABLE FROM THIS WEEK
A wrongful conviction that led to a death row sentence; a politician fighting to save his reputation; a tech company whose trade secrets were stolen. In this podcast series, some of the best trial lawyers in the business share the inside stories of their most high-profile and dramatic cases. What does it take to win in the courtroom and what’s at stake if you don’t? Hogan Lovells’ Proof in Trial podcast series delves into these questions and more.
Hosted by partner Cate Stetson ‘Proof in Trial’ is available via your usual podcast service including Apple, Google and Spotify
Proof in Trial Trailer
Episode 1: ResMan v. Karya and Expedien
Episode 2: The People of the State of New York v. Lazar Feygin et al.
Episode 3: Gilliam and Tarlton v. Robeson County et al.
Episode 4: Federal Trade Commission et al v. Thomas Jefferson University and Albert Einstein Healthcare Network
We hope that you have found interesting and even useful this edition of the LEGAL DIARY. Please continue to send announcements of Diary events, insights and comment to:
We will return to our normal format in mid-October