Friday 18 March 2022
Diary news, commentary, insights, appointments and arts from the legal world
SHORT THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK – KNOW WHO YOUR (BEST) FRIENDS ARE?
The wily Slaughter and May, ever able to go its own way, has not had to pull out of Moscow. Unlike almost every other top US/UK law firm it never had an office there. Instead it is maintaining its well-established ‘Best Friends’ relationship with leading local firm Alrud – although the firm points out that it has ‘no active Russian clients’ and has no plans to take on any new ones.
This enigmatically neat position raises the question of just how far should Western lawyers now go in cutting off the Russians whether that be as clients, individuals or other law firms?
This is now attracting, quite rightly, a high level of debate given the huge variety of shading within the Russian business community.
Is a ‘no exceptions’ approach the only effective way to bring home to Russia its pariah status and thereby hasten the collapse of the Putin regime? Or does someone have to continue to hold the door open if only in anticipation of an end, ultimately, to the nightmare? As Mr Paul Channon commented in The Times this morning, “The Russian people have to know that we are on their side.”
IN THIS WEEK’S EDITION
+ LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
– Foiling Fraud More Effectively
– The RAK Hack
– Take Another Shot TW
– Bignon De Keyser expands into UK
– More Mentoring from Browne Jacobson
+ CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
NOT SO ‘SUPER’ SUPERMARKETS WHEN IT COMES TO FAIR PAY says Nathaniel Barber
+ LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK on the P&O Sackings, Online Safety Bill and Criminal Legal Aid
+APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK at Stephenson Harwood and DMH Stallard
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
Foiling Fraud More Effectively
LEGAL DIARY OF THE WEEK
Foiling Fraud More Effectively
In a sign that the law business is now taking fraud seriously the Law Society has, this week, appointed consultancy Thirdfort as an ‘Affiliate Partner’ to help lawyers better meet their Know Your Client (KYC), Anti Money Laundering (AML) and Source-of-Funds (SoF) compliance requirements. The agreement means that Thirdfort and the Law Society will ‘co-create’ advice and guidance to help lawyers navigate growing fraud and money laundering risks.
Thirdfort’s risk engine offers a fast way of alerting professionals of risks with onboarding and allows them to begin transacting with new clients, whether individuals or corporates.
The company has already attracted business from a number of mid- to large-sized law firms and conveyancers who do not have the capability to integrate multiple pieces of software and automate SoF checks (names mentioned include Penningtons Manches Cooper, Humphries Kirk and DAC Beachcroft). But this development with the Law Society means an extension of the offer to lawyers across the board.
“With spiralling payment scams, and money laundering now costing the UK economy £100bn annually, regulated professionals face an ever-growing risk and compliance burden,” comments Olly Thornton-Berry, co-founder and Managing Director at Thirdfort. “Manually tackling this burden is not only costly but the client experience suffers from transactions bogged down by paper, endless repetition and increased fraud risk. Our partnership with the Law Society enables us to work closely with the Society to enable its members and their clients to move fearlessly.”
As part of the partnership, Thirdfort is offering 50 free ID and Source-of-Funds checks to any Law Society member firms that sign up with Thirdfort.
Member firms can sign up here.
The firm will also host a risk and compliance webinar on 27th April with the Law Society.
The RAK Hack
It’s ‘Back to RAK’ in the High Court again this week in the ongoing battle between American businessman Farhad Azima and the Ras Al Khamai Investment Authority (RAKIA) – also featuring as star defendants Dechert and its former partner Neil Gerrard, the well-known policeman-turned-lawyer.
It’s a complicated drama hinging on accusations of fraud stretching back many years in this small Emirate within the UAE. In the previous episode Farhad Azima had alleged in court that his computers had been hacked and sensitive data published on line. He lost that case but further evidence has now surfaced meaning that the hacking issue is now up for re-examination with both RAKIA and the additional defendants facing claims of being ‘jointly and severally liable for the hacking and related wrongs’.
There’s plenty of cloak and dagger stuff alleged including a planned meeting with an FBI agent in Dechert’s New York office and hiring a hacking agency ‘at a cost which indicates that the services were risky or very substantial.’ But maybe the stand-out, well-authenticated ‘You’re kidding me!’ allegation concerns a highly confidential mock-trial held at a secret Swiss location designed to prep various witnesses on what they should say in an English court – including, astonishingly, giving false testimony.
It seems that Neil Gerrard observed during this rehearsal that, “If they ever believe or prove that we are behind the hacking, then this thing is going to drag on for years.” In that, he was certainly correct. Meanwhile, what will interest the keen brief-spotter is that acting for RAKIA is Matrix Chambers’ Hugh Tomlinson QC, distinguished by his chairing of HACKED OFF but also note-worthy for his performance against journalist Catherine Belton (Author of Putin’s People: How the KGB Took Back Russia and Then Took On the West) on behalf of a certain Roman Abramovich. Whatever happened to him?
Not a Great Portrait
Speaking yesterday to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, the investigative writer Tom Burgis, author of Kleptopia: How Dirty Money is Conquering the World (an ECONOMIST Book of the Year in 2020 in which, as it happens, Neil Gerrard also appears), was frank about the threats he had received from Taylor Wessing, on behalf of the owners of Kazakhstani mining company ENRC.
Moreover, following the publication of the book, the ‘lawfare’ from Taylor Wessing apparently continued. Fans of the Taylor Wessing annual Photographic Portrait Prize held in conjunction with the National Portrait Gallery might start to view the firm through a different, more investigative lens. As Tim Eyles, former Managing Partner of the firm, commented in his introduction to the 2009 exhibition, “In today’s world it has never been more important for people to take stock of what matters most and to appreciate all that we have.” Well said.
Bignon De Keyser expands into UK
The ramifications of the Ukraine war for the European economy and for legal services are impossible to discern right now. Nonetheless Richard King, former Chief Legal Operations Officer at Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), observes, “The pandemic and present market conditions are creating massive opportunities and substantial challenges for law firms and legal teams.”
Consequently many law firms are going to be looking for strategic advice on how to see their way through. That is why King has joined up as a partnerwith Bignon De Keyser, the Paris and Brussels-based legal services management consultancy. The aim is to draw on King’s former experience at Andersen Legal and EY Law as well as at HSF to extend Bignon De Keyser’s offer of management services and advice to the UK market.
Bignon De Keyser has drummed an impressive list of clients over the past seventeen years primarily made up of leading French and other continental European legal businesses. King’s major area of experience is in the management of international law firm networks and legal operations so there could be some interesting scope here for innovation as the larger firms are compelled to retrench.
More Mentoring from Browne Jacobson
Browne Jacobson is rapidly proving itself to be the front runner in opening up opportunities in the law business to people from a wider range of backgrounds. Its latest move is the piloting of a new mentoring programme aimed at ‘kick-starting the careers of aspiring Black lawyers across the country’. The firm already has an established network of six educational and community organisations engaging with a predominantly Black student population via its REACH (Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage) Black Mentoring Scheme. But now, under its new programme, thirteen mentees drawn from the REACH group will be given six months of one-to-one mentoring with the option to extend for a further three months. There will also be the chance of a fortnight’s work experience in one of the firm’s five offices and access to a series of bespoke master-classes.
“The REACH Mentoring Scheme is just one of the programmes we are co-creating with our REACH community, to increase representation of Black talent at all levels across the firm,” said Bridget Tatham, partner at Browne Jacobson. “Ultimately we are not only looking to positively impact early careers, but also the aim is to improve the retention and promotion of Black lawyers across all areas of our business and the wider legal market.
CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE OF THE WEEK
NOT SO ‘SUPER’ SUPERMARKETS WHEN IT COMES TO FAIR PAY says Nathaniel Barber
‘Clap for Key Workers’ – remember that? Every Thursday people would come out onto their doorstep to pay tribute to those on the front line keeping the nation going.
Amongst those on the front line were supermarket workers on the shop floor. Beyond keeping the nation fed, these men and women had to deal with unprecedented panic buying, supply chain problems leading to bare shelves, and interacting with the general public while everyone else was avoiding contact with others.
However, their self-sacrifice has been ignored by their employers.
Shop floor workers have been underpaid for years. These – mostly female – workers are paid significantly less than their – mostly male – colleagues in distribution centres. Yet, the two roles are largely the same; there is no sensible reason why they shouldn’t be paid the same.
This analysis has been rejected by the supermarkets. The supermarkets have argued that store workers could not compare themselves to the distribution centre workers. These arguments have been roundly rejected: Tesco appealed to the European Court of Justice, and ASDA brought a similar appeal to the UK Supreme Court. Both were rejected.
Recently, it was announced that the Co-Operative would concede on the issue of comparability between its store and distribution centre workers, clearly recognising the uphill struggle faced by supermarkets. So, where next?
We are facing the worst squeeze on household expenses in a generation and yet supermarkets have announced record breaking profits for its shareholders. Considering that they have been rebuffed by the Courts, the supermarkets must now start paying these workers equal pay for equal work.
Nathaniel Barber is an Associate at Keller Lenkner UK
LEGAL COMMENT OF THE WEEK
TOPIC: The P&O Sackings
COMMENT BY: Barry Ross, Partner, Crossland Employment Solicitors
“The primary issue is how the dismissed P&O Ferries’ employees were employed. If they fall under the definition of seafarers, and are therefore governed by the Maritime Labour Convention, then they may fall outside of the scope of normal UK employment law and P&O Ferries has used a loophole to avoid having to comply with their normal obligations.
“If the normal UK employment law regime covers the staff of P&O Ferries, then there are significant ramifications for the actions taken in firing 800 staff with immediate effect over a zoom call.
“Irrespective of whether the actions of P&O Ferries were legal or not, they certainly fall under the category of just because you can, does not mean you should.”
“The backlash has been significant already and is only likely to escalate with people voting with their feet and refusing to use P&O Ferries’ services.”
TOPIC: The Publication of the Online Safety Bill and its requirements that social media sites and tech firms should prevent users from being exposed to harmful content.
COMMENT BY: Emma Woolcott, Partner, Mishcon de Reya
“The Government’s ambitious plans to tackle online harms have taken a significant step forward with the publication of the Online Safety Bill due imminently. It is clear that careful attention has been paid to feedback from Parliament and wider society on a range of important issues such as anonymity, cyber flashing and revenge porn, hate crime and scam adverts.
“The Bill will need to be carefully scrutinised by Parliament to ensure that it protects victims of online harms, whilst also safeguarding freedom of expression.
“Many commentators have focused on how the Bill will hold the ‘tech giants’ to account, but the established social media platforms and internet search engines have been preparing for this legislation for years. The challenge will come for the some 24,000 (or likely more) businesses caught by the new law, which will need to carry out risk assessments to avoid significant fines and potential criminal penalties.
“It appears a range of new criminal offenses have been added to the Bill, which could find senior managers at such companies criminally liable for destroying evidence, failing to attend or providing false information to Ofcom and/or obstructing the regulator when it enters the company’s offices.”
TOPIC: The Government’s response to the criminal legal aid review
COMMENT BY: Professor Chris Bones, Chair of CILEX
“CILEX welcomes the Government’s response to the criminal legal aid review: it rightly accepts the need to increase funding to ensure the immediate viability of legal aid and recognises that further reform should provide long term sustainability.
“CILEX professionals are essential to our justice system and the removal of the false barriers that prevent them from playing a full role in criminal legal aid is a huge step forward. Doing so will not only help to address current backlogs, but will also make an enormous difference to improving both the diversity and the sustainability of the sector.
“We also welcome the proposals in relation to the means test which will increase access to legal aid for millions more people and look forward to engaging in that separate consultation.’’
APPOINTMENTS OF THE WEEK
Jonathan Conder is joining Stephenson Harwood in its global private wealth practice. Formerly head of Macfarlanes’ private wealth practice for more than ten years until 2017, Conder has enjoyed a highly respected career in the firm’s private client group advising private clients, trustees, foundations, family offices and private banks on a wide range of matters.
“As part of the firm’s five year-strategy we have ambitious plans for growth in a number of key areas, including private wealth,” said Eifion Morris, chief executive officer of Stephenson Harwood. “Having been a partner since 1995 and head of private wealth at Macfarlanes for more than a decade, Jonathan’s extensive experience and standing will play a critical role in achieving those ambitions.”
Nicola Billen is joining DMH Stallard as partner in their dispute resolution team based in the firm’s Guildford office. She joins from Knights where she had a specialism in IT disputes. Her recent work had included acting for a software company over a dispute regarding ownership of its IT platform and source code, a telecommunications company in relation to a dispute over a call-off contract and representing a large corporate in relation to a dispute over financial mechanisms in a share sale agreement.
“With our dispute resolution practice in Guildford thriving,” said Simon Elcock, Head of the firm’s Dispute Resolution practice. “Nichola is the perfect match to help us build on the dynamic growth we’re experiencing.”
DMH Stallard recently announced a merger with Griffin Smith, its fifth merger in recent years.
Why Law Firms Should be Empowering Teams
On Tuesday 5th April at 12:30pm Change Management Consultancy, Nine Feet Tall, will host a virtual panel event with top law firm leaders to answer these questions. The session will be discussion based, and the panel will feature Helen Hodgkinson, Chief People Officer at TLT, Emma Dowden, Chief Operating Officer at Burges Salmon, Izabel Grindal, Head of Governance & Change at DLA Piper & Tiggy Atkinson, Partner & Legal Sector Lead at Nine Feet Tall. The event will be called “Empowering Teams in Law Firms” and will address:
• The importance of purpose
• Shared values within teams – identifying the “say do” gap
• Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity
• What does real engagement feel like?
• Accountability & autonomy – devolving decision making
• The power of connection and great communication
Speaking ahead of the event, Tiggy Atkinson said “It is more important than ever for teams to be empowered to share in the responsibility of helping to shape the direction their firms are taking. People want their places of work to help tackle bigger issues and to play a greater role in creating a more sustainable future for themselves and future generations. I am really looking forward to our discussions with our highly experienced panellists.”
The event will be free of charge and is taking place via Zoom, to book your place click here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/empowering-teams-in-law-firms-tickets-293061604147?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ninefeettall.com%2F or contact RebeccaB@NineFeetTall.com or visit NineFeetTall.com.
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