Friday 07 January 2022
Diary news, commentary, insights, and appointments from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
Office Affairs: They’re a Right Hassle
The enterprising employment lawyers at Wright Hassall have just published an intriguing report on love affairs in the office. The overt context of this is to offer clients some sagacious advice on how to manage such scenarios and their possible outcomes. Nonetheless, the results have also turned up some salacious insights into‘romantic encounters at work’.
So, if you have an hour or two to spare, do probe the findings at https://www.wrighthassall.co.uk/knowledge-base/work-affairs-just-how-common-are-office-romances
Key take-aways are that one in four (24.4%) people admitted to having a romantic encounter at work with 27.6% of the total figure being male and 21.5% being female. Age-wise it is the 45-54 year olds who are most likely to be getting up to hanky-panky. And in terms of region it was the West Midlands which was by far the most active on the romance front. Londoners, by contrast, barely dabbled at all coming 10th out of the 12 regions surveyed.
“You need to ensure that any romances that do occur (and according to our survey, they are happening!) are doing so responsibly and that all sides are properly protected,” advised Weight Hassall. “To do this, you could implement a relationships policy that sets out rules for any employees who are entering into a relationship.”
What the survey seems to have overlooked, however, is the impact of WFH. Do fresh protocols need to be introduced for zoom-lovers? Or does this mean that the office romance will become a fling of the past?
In this week’s edition
+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
– Walking the Talk at Kennedys
– Irwin Mitchell Gives the Green Light to Blue Light
– Family Law lift at Simkins
– Ample room for growth at Ampa
– Legal Comeuppance for Italian Food Writer
– Cartel Business Booms
– ‘Out of the m
ouths (of children)’
+ CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
FIS HITS BINGO! A CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION?
+ LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK
TOPIC: The award of £1 to Meghan Markle in damages following her win in the copyright case against The Mail on Sunday
+ APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
ROYTHORNES EXPANDS ITS REAL ESTATE TEAM APEX LITIGATION FINANCE RECRUITS INSOLVENCY VETERAN
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
Walking the Talk at Kennedys
Continuing from where we left off last year the theme of new ways to work dominates thinking amongst law firm management. So the news that Kennedys’ decision to relocate into the Walkie-Talkie was influenced by the shift to hybrid working is really no surprise. “We had already started to introduce increased flexibility, but the pandemic obviously accelerated that,” said Nick Thomas, senior partner, “We have also seen a significant shift in what people are looking for from a workplace and we want to reflect that in the design of our global offices… to provide the very best working environment for our people.”
Getting the balance right in that hybrid arrangement, however, remains a challenge. As reported earlier this week in Law.com Internationalemployee ‘brand loyalty’ – especially by associates – to their firms will be diluted in the absence of regular face-to-face contacts with colleagues and bosses.“The challenge of the year ahead is maintaining a strong culture whilst hybrid working, working on what glues people together, and continuing that sense of inclusion and belonging,” said Herbert Smith Freehills West executive partner Alison Brown. “Cultivating a sense of belonging will require a really conscious effort on the part of firms and their teams.”
Whether being based in an iconic building such as the Walkie-Talkie will provide that glue remains to be seen for Kennedys.
Irwin Mitchell Gives the Green Light to Blue Light
If the covid crisis has taught us one thing it has been about the importance of the emergency services. It has also exposed the stresses that individuals are often under whether that be in the NHS, the fire service, police, coastguard, RNLI, prison service or the armed forces – all of whom have been in the front line over the past two years.
Irwin Mitchell has now announced that it will be doing its bit to support these vital workers by partnering with the Bluelight Cycling Club to raise awareness of its work. This relatively new organisation was established initially to raise funds for the charity Care of Police Survivors (COPS) following the death of PC Andrew Harper who was dragged to his death by thieves in Berkshire in 2019. Ironically that initiative fell victim to covid but it gave time for a more substantial operation to be formed through a website and setting up a virtual ‘club house’ to enable people to come together and plan further rides for emergency service charities.
“We’re delighted to be teaming up with the Bluelight Cycling Club, which is still a relatively new organisation but has made a big impact since its launch last year,” said Jayne Campbell, specialist serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell. “Through our work, we come across many people suffering with mental health issues, and the club carries out vital work supporting those affected in the emergency services and armed forces.
“It’s important that people look after their wellbeing and we look forward to working alongside the members to ensure help is provided to those that need it. As the club’s sole legal sponsor, we will also be on hand to offer legal advice to members.”
Bluelight Cycling Club supports five charities – NHS Charities Together, Help For Heroes, COPS, Firefighters Charity, and Coast Guard Association. Find out more at www.bluelightcc.co.uk
Family Law lift at Simkins
Family law continues on an upward curve with Bloomsbury based Simkins LLP being the latest London firm to add it to its roster of services. Moreover, it is going in at the top with the recruitment of Deborah Jeff to head its new Family team.
Jeff is recognised as a ‘Top Recommended Family Lawyer’ by Spear’s 500 and has earned a substantial track record following fifteen years at West-end law firm Seddons where she set up the family practice which acted for a number of public figures, singer/songwriters and other performers. Jeff is particularly appreciated for her understanding of the psychological impact of relationship breakdown and has a deep interest in LGBTQ+ families and the medical care and treatment of children. There could hardly be a better place to be right now in the family law scene.
Ample room for growth at Ampa
While the largest international firms continue their drive for world coverage – as evidenced this week by the further expansion of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson – it is encouraging to see that on the domestic front too there is no shortage of an entrepreneurial spirit.
One of the best examples comes from Ampa, which continues its growth as a ‘regional legal anchor brand’ for the South East. “Clients and people across our sector are crying out for change and transformation,” says Sarah Walker-Smith, Ampa’s Group CEO. Already within the Ampa group are Shakespeare Martineau, the consumer champion law firm Lime Solicitors, planning consultancy Marrons Planning, uninsured loss recovery experts Corclaim, and cyber security consultancy CSS Assure. But in the last couple of weeks it has added Sussex law firm Mayo Wynne Baxter which will take Ampa to a turnover above £100m for 2022/23 and a group of more than 1,100 people immediately.
Following the deal Mayo Wynne Baxter will continue to operate as a separate LLP retaining its brand and growing its market position although its personal injury and clinical negligence teams will join Ampa’s existing national consumer-focussed law brand Lime Solicitors.
“A key benefit of our group is shared access to greater support for the benefit of our clients, whether that be from other legal professionals across different brands, or our combined business operations capabilities alongside greater career development opportunities for our people,” said Sarah Walker-Smith. “Each brand in our group is empowered to deliver on its growth ambitions and retaining autonomy whilst collaborating with each other when it makes sense to do so for the greater good. It’s time to consider the agile needs of clients more broadly and step away from the traditional consolidation model; Ampa does just that.”
Legal Comeuppance for Italian Food Writer
Many thanks to the daily briefing from Irish Legal News on the story of Italian chef Carlo Cracco who has sued Achille Ottaviani, editor of La Cronaca di Verona, over his review of the food served at an international wine festival in 2016. It was not, it must be admitted, a kind or generous review. The meat was tough declared Ottaviani and the accompanying veg did not pair well. “Most guests had left disappointed and hungry, looking for kebab shops,” he added.
One suspects that while Ottaviani did not enjoy the meal he enjoyed writing his critique maybe rather too much. And he’s now got a high price to pay for his post-prandial fun. He’s been given a fine of €11,000 and ordered to pay €20,000 in damages – with the further threat of another civil claim for €50,000 in damages to come. (The LegalDiarist will bear this in mind on the next trip to Italy – largely to eat – later this year).
Cartel Business Booms
Morgan Lewis’s Global Cartel Enforcement Report is just out with some fascinating figures on what been happening over the past twelve mpnths.
- Overall, global fines in 2021 were up by 229% (at $4.6 billion) compared with 2020 ($1.4 billion).
- The highest total fines were levelled in the European Union, South Korea, and Brazil.
- The United States, experienced a significant 77% drop in total fines of just $150.1 million in 2021 compared with $639 million in 2020.
- Worldwide, the automobile, financial services, and steel industries were fined the harshest penalties in 2021.
- For some jurisdictions, however, the fine totals were lower than before the pandemic in 2020 (see infographic below)
Out of the Mouths of Children
Christmas celebrations took a Legal Diary correspondent to a party for 7 year-olds at Kew Gardens.
“What does your Mummy do?” one child asked another whose parent works for a very well-known West End firm of solicitors.
“She’s a lawyer,” the child explained.
“But was does she DO?” pressed his friend.
“She writes emails and sends her clients very big bills.”
CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
FIS HITS BINGO! A CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION?
HMRC recently celebrated the achievement of its Fraud and Investigation Service (FIS) in recovering £218m in 2020-2021, taking its total haul during its five years of operation to over £1bn1. But is this really something to be proud of? ask John Binns and Harry Travers
Any amount recovered may be good news for taxpayers, but it is also a product of three contributing factors.
The first is the amount of fraud committed – hard to know, but undoubtedly large and increasing. To help gauge the value of that figure, HMRC estimates 9% of the £61bn it paid out under the furlough scheme in 2020-2021 was the result of ‘fraud or error’.
Methods of recovery
The second factor is the methods available to recover the proceeds of fraud. There are several, with some significant ones added recently.
If convicted, a fraudster can be ordered to pay back the amount of benefit they obtained from crime, under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA). Since 2017, HMRC can also seek freezing and forfeiture orders under POCA against funds in bank accounts (and some other assets) that come from tax fraud.
Finally, HMRC has, and is using, ever more aggressively, powers to recover sums civilly, including by use of its Contractual Disclosure Facility (CDF). These civil routes are much easier for HMRC, which should increase its chances of recovering more sums, but come with risks of injustice for those who are wrongly suspected.
The third contributing factor is the amount of effort and resource put in to recovering these sums.
Clearly, we would all want to see FIS deploying specialists to pursue the right cases in the right ways, including under POCA and the CDF, to recover monies from fraudsters.
Too often, though, we see instead that it pursues those it perceives as ‘easy’ targets, but where the merits are not made out. Before applauding the headline of £1bn recovered, we should ask query not only the real value of that figure, but whether HMRC’s efforts are targeted at the right people.
Harry Travers and John Binns are partners at BCL Solicitors LLP in London, specialising in tax fraud and POCA
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK
TOPIC: The award of £1 to Meghan Markle in damages following her win in the copyright case against The Mail on Sunday
“Although £1 is a very low figure for damages, cases like these are usually fought for the principle not the money. Further substantial damages may be due to Meghan from the Mail for the copyright infringement element, but however large this sum is, it will be outweighed by the legal costs in this case.”
Gideon Benaim, Partner, Simkins, specialising in reputation protection for high profile individuals and companies.
“There will always be those who think that the Duchess of Sussex should never have brought this claim, but the result is clear – she resoundingly won. It will be interesting to see if there is now more caution about reporting on aspects of her private life.”
Jon Oakley, Partner, Simkins, specialising in reputation protection and crisis management for companies and high profile individuals.
“The settlement marks the belated acknowledgement of what was always a very strong claim, and an attempt at last minute damage limitation.
“Associated has incurred enormous legal costs on both sides, having lost badly. The compensation will reflect the strength of the breach of copyright claim and may include a sum to reflect money made by Associated as a result of the breach. One can only speculate on the sums involved but it is likely to be very substant
“The confidential settlement will avoid further humiliation by Associated in having the damages and costs assessed in court and aired in public.
“The Court of Appeal upheld the judge’s decision that the Duchess had a reasonable expectation of privacy in the contents of the letter so the nominal damages figure of £1 merely reflects that win. It is unclear whether further compensation for that aspect is covered in the confidential settlement but the likely level of the copyright settlement would make that less relevant.”
Steven Heffer, Partner and Head of Media and Privacy at Collyer Bristow
APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
ROYTHORNES EXPANDS ITS REAL ESTATE TEAM
Daniel Skinner is joining Roythornes Solicitors as a partner in its social housing team to advise on housing management matters including anti-social behaviour and regulatory issues.
Skinner is a well-established name in the social housing field having qualified 25 years ago and built up a strong reputation for acting for social landlords across the country. His experience has seen him work on litigation, policy, and governance for a wide range of social housing clients, as well as sitting on the board of Bexley Community Housing Association to gain insight into issues affecting clients.
“With the effects of Grenfell rightfully bringing about new rules in building safety, and provoking questions surrounding responsibility, it’s more important than ever that landlords, housing associations, and councils have watertight regulations,” said Skinner. “We’re here to make that process simple and efficient.”
Vember Mortlock, managing director at Roythornes commented “Known for his ability to summarise issues in clear and direct terms, as well as his down-to-earth and entertaining training style, Daniel will also be a great role model for our trainees and junior solicitors as they work their way up the firm.”
LITIGATION FINANCE RECRUITS INSOLVENCY VETERAN
Mark Sands is joining Litigation funding specialists Apex Litigation Finance as Head of Insolvency. He will be taking overall responsibility for the company’s presence in the insolvency sector.
Sands has more than 35 years of experience in the insolvency profession, most recently in a senior role at Quantuma. Previously he had roles at KPMG and Tenon and has also served as the President of the Insolvency Practitioners Association.
Apex say that Sands’ experience working on the insolvencies of individuals and SMEs makes him a strong fit for their business, as the firm specialises in supporting small/mid-sized claims rather than the multi-million-pound claim focus of other litigation funders.
Sands also brings a history of success with contentious insolvency. He believes that his ability to delve deep into cases will be an asset for Apex and its clients: “It’s an exciting time for the company, which has established itself as a force in the litigation funding market in a relatively short period. I am also thrilled to be joining a company breaking new ground with its use of innovative technology.”
With the wheels of business now starting to roll again following the holidays (and despite Covid) we aim to be back next week with lots more Diary-type stories from law firms and the legal industry.
So please continue sending your comments, insights and news to