PLUS: Brexit ruling challenge thrown out
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The Times
Wednesday January 16 2019
The Brief
Frances Gibb Jonathan Ames
By Frances Gibb and Jonathan Ames
Good morning.

Is Brexit over yet …?

Long before Theresa May had ever uttered the word Brexit, Tony Blair’s premiership threw his QC wife into the spotlight. Now Cherie Booth (or Blair, depending on her mood) is back to tell us that diversity in the legal profession is “going backwards” and that those with state school educations stand little chance of making it as lawyers.

Just hours before MPs faced the division bell last night, the High Court threw out Vote Leave’s bid to challenge a decision by the electoral watchdog. While a former Scottish nationalist MP and solicitor was found guilty of misconduct by a disciplinary tribunal.

British bookmakers are studying the business odds in the US after a ruling that online gambling breaches federal law. And those betting on a white Christmas later this year will be cheered by a site in the Rolls Building of the High Court in London – see our Blue Bag diary for visual evidence.

We also have details of the latest big legal appointment in the capital as the US firm Crowell & Moring has a new boss in town – see our Churn column. All that and more in this morning’s must-read of all things legal, including news, comment and gossip.
McDonald’s loses EU trademark battle over Big Mac
MoJ assesses employment of economist after attack on paramedic
Revenue soars at quoted legal services company Knights
Comment: Gender pay reports paint grim picture of banking life
Tweet us @timeslaw with your views.
Story of the Day
Diversity ‘going backwards’ in legal profession, says Cherie Blair
The legal profession is "going backwards" because there are fewer state-educated pupils going into law now than in the past, Cherie Booth, QC (pictured), has said. Social mobility and economic diversity were greater problems in the law than those of gender, said Ms Booth, the wife of former prime minister Tony Blair and who was state educated and raised in a single-parent household after her father left home.

See Blue Bag diary below: Cherie Blair on rhinos and snakes in court
Read the full story >
Gender pay reports paint grim picture of banking life
Large disparities reflect badly on recruitment and retention practices and the best talent will vote with their feet, Michelle Last writes

Gender pay gap reporting – introduced in April 2017 – has helped expose questionable employment practices at large UK companies. And recently it has exposed issues at HSBC, a business that is usually seen as a shining beacon in the banking industry and heralded as a success. But as far as gender pay is concerned, the message is: HSBC – we have a problem.
Read the full story >
News round-up
McDonald’s loses EU trademark battle over Big Mac
An Irish restaurant chain has won a potentially groundbreaking trademark battle against McDonald’s, the international fast-food company. Supermac’s, a business based in County Galway, challenged the worldwide burger chain to cancel the use of the Big Mac and Mc trademarks.
It submitted a request to the EU Intellectual Property Office in April 2017 to cancel the use of the Big Mac and Mc trademarks that McDonald's has registered in certain classes. Lawyers said the decision was significant as it sent a warning to multinational companies that they can no longer simply file trademark applications without a genuine intention to use it.
Read the full story >
Court throws out bid to challenge electoral watchdog’s Brexit ruling
The Vote Leave campaign group lost a bid to bring a High Court challenge against the Electoral Commission just hours before MPs prepared for last night’s landmark vote. The group wanted to challenge the commission's decision to publish a report in July last year following an investigation into spending by leave-supporting groups during the EU referendum campaign.
Read the full story >
MoJ assesses employment of economist after attack on paramedic
Officials at the Ministry of Justice confirmed that they have launched an inquiry after one of the department’s economists blamed overwork for a drunken attack on a paramedic. Andrew Meads is set to be sentenced tomorrow after admitting an assault on an emergency worker, being drunk and disorderly in a public place and using insulting words to cause alarm.
Read the full story >
Revenue soars at quoted legal services company Knights
Revenue at the legal business that once boasted a Dragon’s Den angel as an investor has rocketed by more than 36 per cent in its first six months since going public. Senior executives at Knights announced yesterday that turnover at the legal and professional services business had risen to £23.9 million from £17.5 million in the first half of 2018. Profit soared even higher since the firm floated on the alternative investment market at the London exchange last June.
Officials reported that profit before tax at Knights rose by more than 103 per cent to £4.4 million compared with £2.2 million in the six months before the public offering.
Read the full story >
Ex-Scottish MP and solicitor found guilty of misconduct over trust
A former Scottish National Party MP was found guilty yesterday of professional misconduct over her handling of a trust at a law firm where she was a partner. Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh (pictured) appeared before a disciplinary tribunal with fellow solicitor Alan Mickel, with whom she ran the now defunct law firm Hamilton Burns. The Law Society said Mr Mickel and Ms Ahmed-Sheikh showed "disregard for the rules" when they failed to keep proper accounts of the trust and sums were borrowed from the fund when it was not in the practice of lending money.
Read the full story >
Bookmakers study odds of a US legal battle
Britain’s biggest gambling firms fell in morning trading yesterday after the US justice department issued a legal opinion stating that all online gambling was illegal under federal law. The opinion stated that a previous interpretation of the Wire Act, which only banned sports gambling, was a misinterpretation. It is unclear how the justice department will apply this ruling and it is expected to be tested in court.
Read the full story >
In Brief
  • New law will bring "zero tolerance" approach to drug driving – BBC News
  • Noel Conway makes one final plea on assisted dying law – Shropshire Star
  • Former Sullivan & Cromwell chairman and wife killed in apartment fire – Legal Week
Scalp of the week
González brings star quality to transatlantic firm
The lawyer’s new role will involve hopping between three time zones and will fuel speculation that she’s planning a move into politics, writes Linda Tsang

Miriam González is increasingly being described as the embodiment of the “Americanisation” of London law firms. American practices are keen on celebrity recruits, according to a leading white collar crime specialist in London — and González has a large dollop of star quality.
Last week it was announced that the lawyer, who is qualified in Spain and England and is the wife of Sir Nick Clegg, the former deputy prime minister, had joined Cohen & Gresser and would shuttle between the American firm’s London and Washington offices.
Read the full story >
Quote mark
Quote of the day
“Entertaining as it was to watch the theatricality of my learned and right honourable the attorney-general [Geoffrey Cox, QC] ... it filled me with a slight sense of gloom to see that the government had got to such a pass that it had to rely on the advocacy skills of a criminal defence advocate to get it out of its difficulties.”
Dominic Grieve, QC, MP, the former attorney-general during the debate on the Brexit deal yesterday in the House of Commons.
Trump’s Iran sanctions could be a big payday for lawyers
Everyone from Iranian property investors to businesses and charities are being hit, but law firms can insulate clients from the aftershock, writes Natasha Phillips

Last September the Law Society, the body that represents solicitors in England and Wales, released guidance on navigating the sanctions. But it has done little to help law firms whose clients are finding their accounts shut down without explanation, often at short notice.
Read the full story >
Blue Bag
Christmas 2019 countdown at Rolls Building
Thanks to our regular contributor Legal Hackette for this gem that she stumbled across at the Rolls Building of the High Court in London yesterday. Clearly, court staff have fallen victim to the creeping trend of starting the run-up to Christmas in September and have taken that affliction several levels further.
Cherie Blair on rhinos and snakes in court
All the great advocates have their own style, but we are not sure that Baron Irvine of Lairg, the former lord chancellor, will appreciate the analysis of his technique by one of his former pupils.

Cherie Blair, QC, says that Derry – as he is known – “was a big man, big presence, his cross examination technique was a bit like a rhinoceros. He was out there”.

Blair, who met her future husband, the former prime minister Tony Blair, while they were both tenants at Derry Irvine’s chambers, goes on to describe the advocacy technique of the late Baron Bingham of Cornhill, the former lord chief justice.

“I then watched Tom Bingham cross examine the same witnesses,” Blair says in a YouTube video for the group promoting the centenary year of women qualifying as lawyers in the UK.

“He was a bit like a snake. Subtle, sinuous. And I thought I was probably better trying to be a snake rather than a rhinoceros."

Blair also has fond memories of Lord Denning, arguably the most revered judge of recent UK legal history. As a top student, she was invited to sit with the benchers at a inns of court dinner and Lord Denning said: "The Bar is not really the place for women.” It was a quip that the founder of Matrix Chambers in Gray’s Inn now recalls was “not exactly the most encouraging way to start”.
The Churn
Weekes takes over as London chief at Crowell & Moring
Crowell & Moring has swooped on a fellow US law firm to poach a chief for its London office, the Washington-based practice revealed yesterday.

Robert Weekes (pictured), a financial litigation specialist, is to jump to the firm from the London outpost of rivals Squire Patton Boggs. He takes over as managing partner of Crowell & Moring in the UK. The firm said that Mr Weekes will also join Crowell & Moring’s global litigation and financial services team in the capital.

Philip Inglima, the firm’s chairman, said Mr Weekes wold “play a pivotal role in our strategic plans to expand our London office with additional lawyers and practices,” adding: “He deepens our global litigation and investigations bench and expands our ability to serve clients across a wide range of sectors.”
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