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The Times

Friday, January 13 2017

Frances Gibb and Jonathan Ames bring this morning’s must-read of all things legal, including news, comment and gossip.

Today

  • Highest number of women in a decade made QCs
  • Lack of expertise crippling technology dispute arbitration
  • Lawyer named in alleged 90-minute train abuse rant
  • King & Wood Mallesons’ trainees get final chop
  • Brexit countdown: All right … for now
  • Comment: Businesses must get real about gender pay gap
  • The Churn: Clyde & Co poaches aviation silk
  • Blue Bag diary: Mansfield, QC, and the conspiracy theorists

Tweet us @TimesLaw with your views.

 
Story of the Day

Highest number of women in a decade made QCs

More women were awarded the gold standard advocacy rank this year than in any time over the past decade, it emerged yesterday as the annual Queen’s counsel list was announced.

Thirty-one women barristers were made QCs in an award round that saw 113 lawyers in total promoted to the highest rank.

Six solicitors were also made up, doubling last year’s total from that branch of the profession.

Women had a significantly better success rate, at more than 55 per cent, than their male counterparts. The 31 successful women silks came from 56 applicants,
while the 82 successful men came from an applicant pool of 198, equating to a success rate of slightly more than 41 per cent.

Ethnic minorities also fared better than in past years as 16 were successful, an increase of seven on last year. That figure was the highest number of awards for ethnic minority silks since records began in 1995, and this year’s success rate for ethnic minority lawyers was slightly more than 43 per cent, a significant improvement on last year’s figure of 28 per cent.

Robin Allen, QC, chairman of the Bar Council’s equality and diversity committee, welcomed the increased numbers of silk women and ethnic minorities. However he said it was still “of concern that the total number of female applicants remains relatively low”.

David Kavanagh, head of international litigation and arbitration at the London office of Skadden, the New York law firm, led the way for solicitor-advocates picking up silk.

The five other joining him were Adam Johnson from Herbert Smith Freehills, Benjamin Juratowitch from Freshfields, Robert Savage from King & Spalding, Jonathan Taylor from Bird & Bird and Michael Young from Allen & Overy.

“The increasing number of solicitor-advocates recognised in this way reflects the immense skill solicitors bring to the courtroom and is a trend we hope to see continue,” said Robert Bourns, president of the Law Society, the organisation that represents solicitors.

The overall number of applicants for silk is still well down on the high point of 1999, when 553 lawyers put their names forward.

Commentators speculate that the reduction results from a move away from the historical smoke-filled-room approach to awarding silk to a more transparent process. Application fees have also risen considerably.

The lord chancellor, Liz Truss, said there was “more to be done” in relation to diversity and QC appointments. “When you widen the pool of talent from which lawyers and judges are drawn you make the justice system stronger,” she said.

Academics dominate honorary silk appointments

Five honorary QC awards were also dished out yesterday. They went to:

John Mitchell Finnis, a professor and legal philosopher at Oxford University and Notre Dame University in the US;

Marcia Willis-Stewart, a civil liberties solicitor who has acted for Mark Duggan’s family in the inquest into the gangland gunrunner’s death and was one of the legal team representing 77 families involved in the Hillsborough football stadium disaster;

Surya Subedi, a professor of international law at Leeds University, member of Three Stone Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, and a former UN special rapporteur for human rights;

Cheryl Thomas, a professor of judicial studies at University College London; and

Graham Virgo, a professor of English private law at Cambridge University.

 
 
News Round Up
Lack of expertise crippling technology dispute arbitration

A lack of specialist knowledge is undermining arbitrators in complicated technology disputes, it was alleged yesterday.

Leading City of London lawyers maintain that there is a strong appetite for non-court-based dispute resolution for technology and telecommunications cases, but the detail is too complicated for most arbitrators.

A report from the law firm Pinsent Masons says that despite international arbitration being recognised as well suited for technology, media and telecommunications disputes by more than 90 per cent of specialist lawyers, research shows that over the past five years it was used for just 35 per cent of claims.

“There is particular concern regarding the ability to identify arbitrators with TMT experience,” said David McIlwaine, a partner at Pinsent Masons.

He pointed out that there was no published list of experienced arbitrators in the field. In addition, the fact that arbitration awards were not published limited the amount of due diligence parties could conduct.

According to McIlwaine, that meant that those involved in fresh disputes “are forced to make critical decisions about the appointment of potential arbitrators based on unverifiable, anecdotal and subjective views”.

His view was supported by Loukas Mistelis, a professor and the director of the School of International Arbitration at Queen Mary University of London.

“The number of highly specialised arbitrators is growing,” said Mistelis, “but it is clear that it there is a long way to go before the industry will feel assured.

“While there is now a good number of specialist IP arbitrators there are not as many technology experts available to act as arbitrators, or so is at least the perception of the respondents.”

Lawyer named in alleged train abuse rant

A litigator at one of London’s biggest international law firms has been named as the man police are seeking over an allegation of abusive behaviour on an intercity train last month.

Thomas Longstaff, an associate at Linklaters, one of the City of London’s top five elite legal practices, is understood to have been identified as the man who allegedly hurled a tirade of threatening abuse at a fellow passenger on a London to Leeds train on December 9.

According to British transport police, a man on the 9.35pm service from King’s Cross who was playing games on his mobile phone became aggressive towards another passenger when asked to turn down the volume. The police said the man was “started verbally abusing the victim making him feel uncomfortable and threatened. The torrent of abuse continued for approximately 90 minutes.”

Last week officers released a mobile phone photograph taken of the man, saying they wanted to interview him. That led to a report on the legal profession gossip website RollOnFriday, which said that the man had been identified as Mr Longstaff. It is understood that a lawyer who worked with Mr Longstaff at another firm had recognised him.

Mr Longstaff, who joined Linklaters last October, did not respond to attempts by The Times to contact him. Officials at Linklaters said that the firm had no comment on the story but did not deny that Mr Longstaff was the man pictured in the police notice.

A police spokesman told The Times that investigators were aware that a man had been named and were investigating.

King & Wood Mallesons’ trainees get final chop

King & Wood Mallesons – the law firm that is defining the word beleaguered – will today cancel all trainee solicitor contracts, according to media reports.

It is understood that about 60 trainees were informed of the move by email within the past few days. According to the website Legal Cheek, about two thirds of the firm’s trainees have found positions at other practices.

Elsewhere in the saga, Bircham Dyson Bell revealed yesterday that it had acquired KWM’s real estate team, which is based in Cambridge. The group is led by the partner Simon Burson and has a total of eight fee earners.

It also emerged yesterday that Goodwin, which recently took on KWM’s private equity and private investment funds practices, was also hoovering up bits of the firm abroad. Arnaud David and a team of four lawyers in the Paris office of KWM have joined the French outpost of the US firm.

Brexit countdown – legal update as leave approaches

All right … for now

It is striking but maybe not surprising that, as announced this week, three out of the ten key activities undertaken by the Bar Council in December were related to Brexit, writes Edward Fennell.

These included Chantal-Aimée Doerries, QC, who was then chairwoman, responding to a report from the lobbying group The CityUK; a response to the House of Commons justice committee inquiry into the implications of Brexit for the justice system plus a meeting between the Bar’s Brexit working group and senior representatives of various government departments; and finally the publication of The Brexit Papers, also by the working group, to help ministers to pinpoint legal concerns from the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Highlighting a whole string of concerns, the Papers observed that “a great deal of the attractiveness of the UK in general, and London in particular, as a hub for business (particularly financial services) derives from the attractiveness of the English legal sector. This attractiveness will be considerably diminished if steps are not taken to ensure an adequate legal framework is put in place to ensure that English judgments and jurisdiction clauses are effectively and efficiently enforced.”

Don’t panic yet

But not all senior lawyers are panicking. Mark Howard, QC, the joint head of Brick Court Chambers, is not sounding too worried – or at least not yet – about the prospects ahead. Although Brexit presents a number of uncertainties, he says, it seems unlikely that the High Court will lose its allure as the forum for the resolution of international disputes.

“There are essentially three factors which historically have caused the High Court’s star to shine brightly in the international dispute firmament,” he notes. “First, party choice, second, presence, and third, conduct of business in London.

“Party choice no doubt reflects confidence in the integrity, impartiality and excellence of the English judiciary and legal system. There is no reason to believe that such confidence will be undermined by a change in the UK’s relationship with the EU, whether a hard or soft Brexit is pursued.

“Equally it seems unlikely that there will be a significant downturn in the attractions of living in London and hence the amenability of the foreign super-rich to the English jurisdiction. Nor does it seem likely that London’s pre-eminent role in international finance and trade will be significantly eroded.

“Thus, for the foreseeable future, London seems likely to retain its place in the forefront of international dispute resolution.”

Just how far ahead the foreseeable future extends is another matter. Until the end of March 2017? Or March 2019? Or, with “transition arrangements”, some unknown date in the impossibly distant 2020s? One hopes that when everything becomes “unforeseeable” we’ll have foreseen it.

In Brief

Files on senior Hillsborough police passed to prosecutors – The Times

EU law 'will continue to apply in UK during transition deal' – The Guardian

Trump Backs Simultaneous Repeal and Replacement of Health Law – The Wall Street Journal

 
Byline
Comment

Businesses must get real about gender pay gap Michael Hibbs

Gender pay is on the corporate agenda, but some businesses are failing, or refusing, to acknowledge that their organisations could have a problem. For others, Brexit-related uncertainty has led to a wait-and-see approach.

The government’s decision to proceed with the publication of revised draft regulations at the end of last year has signalled that change is on the way and businesses employing more than 250 staff have no time to delay.

Scheduled to take effect this April, the legislation will require affected businesses to publish detailed information about gender pay imbalances from April 2018. Under the terms of the legislation, those that breach the regulations by failing to report this information accurately could face enforcement action.

The latest research findings from the Resolution Foundation reveal that the gender pay gap among those aged 20 to 29 has reduced to just 5 per cent. While that development is welcome, focusing on that narrowing gap could encourage director-level complacency. The research also reveals that from the age of 30 the gender pay gap rises to 9 per cent, indicating that such complacency could be misplaced.

For businesses with complex corporate structures it can be more difficult to address pay differences across departments and at all levels. To do so, businesses affected by the legislation should analyse pay across their organisations and look for evidence of a pay gap. They should examine their pay practices, career progression and flexible working policies to identify factors that might affect the pay gap. External support can help to ensure that decision-makers objectively analyse their data and options.

When reporting on gender pay for the first time, businesses will be invited to explain what they are doing to address the issue. This could be useful from a reputation perspective, positioning employers as taking positive approach to the issue and setting the context for the statistics.

It could also help with the internal communications, reassuring employees that the issue is being taken seriously and reducing the risk of litigation.

This year affected businesses will need to prepare for the reporting requirements. While some might conclude that greater transparency about existing pay levels is all that is needed, others will need to take action, introducing updated salary bands, reviewing appraisal and pay assessment processes and refining flexible working policies.

Those employers that heed the warnings and adopt a positive approach to addressing the gender pay gap will have an opportunity to strengthen their brand and make it easier to attract and retain talent.

Michael Hibbs is an employment law partner at the law firm Shakespeare Martineau

 
 
Tweet of the Day

NEW: The law firm representing Trump during today's news conference won Russia Law Firm of the Year award in 2016.… https://t.co/Wb8cGwroQt

Peter Alexander @PeterAlexander

 
 
Blue Bag

Mansfield, QC, and the conspiracy theorists

Joining 1 Gray’s Inn Square was not the only newsworthy move by Michael Mansfield, QC, last year. He also managed to cause a stir among observers of conspiracy theory websites, which admittedly must be a fairly minority sport.

One is the blogsite Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion, which the other day highlighted Mansfield’s broadcast last year on The Richie Allen Show. The online chat show is hosted by the website of David Icke, the footballer turned sports broadcaster turned … conspiracy theorist.

The silk – famous for having acted for those wrongly convicted of IRA bombings in Guildford and Birmingham – spoke on the podcast for more than half an hour, primarily discussing his view that the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse has been horribly mismanaged and it’s all the fault of the British establishment.

As the Bartholomew blog pointed out, regardless of the potential merits of Mansfield’s argument that platform for debate might raise eyebrows among his professional colleagues.

Others to have appeared recently on Richie Allen’s broadcasts include Erich von Däniken, the Swiss writer, who argues that extraterrestrials created ancient human culture on Earth, David Shayler, the former spy who went on to tell the Daily Mail that he was the messiah, and Michael Shrimpton, the barrister who was suspended from the profession for a bomb hoax involving the Queen and the London Olympics.

Perhaps Mansfield should stick to Radio 4.

Anderson plugs pro bono

Speaking of Radio 4, the stalwart lawyer-turned-presenter Clive Anderson is scheduled to use the network’s appeal slot to push LawWorks, the charity that supports and organises pro bono work by solicitors and law students.

Anderson’s appeal, which is due to run on January 22 and 26, will feature Trish, 59, who has been caring for her 18-year-old severely disabled grandson, Billy, since he was three.

Unable to pay for a lawyer and not eligible for legal aid, Trish received pro bono legal advice from a solicitor volunteering at a clinic in a children’s hospice. Following correspondence with the NHS, Billy now receives extra night-time respite care and additional respite care at weekends.

According to Anderson, a qualified barrister: “Finding volunteer lawyers giving their services for free requires organisation, and organisation requires money. If someone’s life is in turmoil and they can get over a legal hurdle that might be them set up for life.

“That’s why I am doing the appeal – and I like to improve the image of lawyers as well, because they sometimes get a bad press.”

 
 
The Churn

A run down of the big partner and team moves this week

Clyde & Co poaches top aviation silk

As champagne corks popped across the Inns of Court at publication of the latest silk promotions, one existing QC jumped from the Bar to a leading international law firm.

Robert Lawson, QC, defected from Quadrant Chambers in London to the partnership at the Square Mile practice Clyde & Co. His new practice described the coup as “a rare lateral move from the senior ranks of the independent bar”.

It went on to describe the silk as having “worked with some of the biggest names in the airline industry, acting and advising on many of the most notable aviation-related disputes governed by English law fought over the last two decades”.

Elsewhere in the City, the offices of two US firms promoted lawyers to their partnerships. Five of the 25 lawyers boosted up the ladder at Reed Smith were in the firm’s London office: corporate lawyer Oliver Harker, Simon Hugo and Elizabeth McGovern in the financial industry group, media specialist Sachin Premnath and Ioli Tassopoulou in the transactional shipping team.

Kelly Hagedorn, a white-collar crime specialist, was promoted to the partnership at the London office of Jenner & Block, which is based in Chicago.

And US firms were still poaching from their London “magic circle” rivals. Jennifer Brennan, a corporate restructuring specialist, jumped from Linklaters to the Square Mile office of Sidley Austin.

Further afield, a leading English player moved into the south of France by opening a Marseilles office. Ince & Co has recruited partners Fabien d’Haussy and Laurianne Ribes to run the show. Both had been practising at their own local firms.

 
 
Quote of the Day

“The iron rule about lawyers – whether they are in-house or otherwise – is that they should be ignored. Their advice is just that, advice, their opinion, not editorial discretion."