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The Times
Thursday December 17 2020
The Brief
Jonathan Ames
By Jonathan Ames
Good morning.

This is it for The Brief and 2020 and good riddance, some may say -- to the year of course, not your favourite weekly legal affairs email.

We won’t -- you’ll be relieved to read -- reach for the top of the cliché drawer to go on about what an unprecedented year this has been (you just have - Ed). Instead, it's straight on to what happened in the law over the last week and what treats we’ve got for you today in Times Law.

In the former category, Akhmedova v Akhmedov -- that everyday story of a simple Russian family, that involves rowing over yachts, abstract art and £453 million -- carried on providing soap opera quality entertainment in its second and final week in the family division of the High Court in London.

First there was an eye-watering email from the ex-husband to his ex-wife, which was followed by a heartwarming story of new love between the ex-husband and a beauty queen.

Several notches up the judicial ladder to the Supreme Court, where judges gave the go-ahead to a landmark class action claim against Mastercard that could give UK consumers a share of a £14 billion payout, which is almost as much cash as Farkhad Akhemdov has down the back of his diamond-encrusted sofa.

Law-land provided one more bit of entertainment for us to sign off with this year. Only Fools and Horses, the perennial favourite of television channels recycling comedy gold, and which churned out 16 Christmas specials, is the subject of a copyright dispute. You’d think Del Boy Trotter would be proud of an upstart underdog waving two fingers at the establishment in a bid to make a couple of bob, but the estate of the show’s creator takes a different view.

The Brief will return on January 7. Until then, stay safe and have a happy new year.
 
In this week's Times Law
Blair, the Bar and a broken justice system: read all about it
Frances Gibb and Catherine Baksi round up the best legal books to keep you busy over Christmas.

As temperatures plummet there’s no better place to be than tucked up in front of the fire with a good book.
Read the full story >
Features round-up
More from Times Law
In conversation | Bill Waddington
‘It’s very depressing dealing with so much sadness’
The departing head of the criminal solicitors’ association tells Catherine Baksi about growing up in Hull and why he fights so hard for legal aid.

Bill Waddington has been a stalwart of the criminal legal scene for more than 40 years and is a consultant at Williams solicitors in Hull. He has just stood down, for the second time, as head of the Criminal Law Solicitors’ Association.
Read the full story >
League table
The lawyers' lawyers
For the third year running lawyers in England, Wales and Scotland have responded to our survey to vote for which law firm they would instruct in various specialisms. The results are in our Best Law Firms 2021 supplement online.
Read the full story >
Comment
Zoom cannot replace the lifeblood of our courts
Virtual hearings make trials harder and justice less likely to be served. The sooner we’re back in courtrooms, the better, Rupert Reed argues.

The courts and legal profession can congratulate themselves on having kept many civil cases proceeding to trial and judgment during the coronavirus crisis — but we must return to courtrooms as soon as possible because there are real problems with virtual hearings.
Read the full story >
Comment
Vaccine nudge campaigns will avoid a legal minefield
Public information blitzes to encourage inoculation are a much less fraught route than any attempts at coercion, Sean Nesbitt writes.

The NHS is planning a hearts-and-minds campaign using trusted celebrities to encourage UK vaccination. The nudge theory and volunteerism is in contrast to the approach of the Danish government, which in November passed an act enabling companies to test — albeit not vaccinate — employees compulsorily for coronavirus.
Read the full story >
Comment
Family courts must speak to children
For too long, those most affected by family proceedings have been treated as subjects rather than participants. That has to change, Emma Nash says.

The words we use are important — and especially so in family law. Those using the family justice system need to feel confident that they understand what is going on. Only then can they be meaningfully involved in the process.
Read the full story >
Comment
Human rights are a vital component of democracy
The government’s review of the Human Rights Act would make a mistake if it undermined the power of the courts, Mark Guthrie argues.

Three days before the annual UN commemorations of the adoption of the universal declaration of human rights on December 10, the government announced an independent review of the Human Rights Act 1998.
Read the full story >
Blue Bag
Organic legal briefs
A recently launched range of underwear designed in homage to powerful women fighting against climate change includes a bra and pant combination called “the lawyer”. The design is a tribute to the barrister and environmental campaigner, Polly Higgins, who died of cancer last year.

Made of organic cotton and other recyclable or biodegradable materials, the set is among a range from London lingerie designer Alice Holloway. “I was thinking about the professions that are going to drive forward the climate change narrative,” she tells The Brief. “It’s a tribute to the wonderful Polly Higgins, but I didn't think I could put her name on a pair of pants.”

Holloway, a graduate of Central Saint Martins, set up her Brixton business, the Little Black Pants Club, in 2015. She has previously designed a range of fancier pants in honour of the Doughty Street barrister Amal Clooney. Other designs include sets named Obama, Minogue and Merkel. All the underwear is made to measure.

Help for criminal law barristers
Sets of commercial barristers are to fund criminal law pupillages that would otherwise have been postponed or cancelled as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Derek Sweeting, QC, the incoming head of the Bar Council, announced the initiative, spearheaded by Lucy Garrett, QC, of Keating Chambers, in his inaugural speech this week.

Chambers predominantly specialising in criminal legal work, which were already feeling the pinch because of low fee rates, were hard hit when the pandemic temporarily halted all jury trials. Many criminal barristers saw their incomes evaporate overnight, yet their chambers still had to pay overheads including rent on buildings that were not being used. This left the pot empty to pay even the minimum rate of £18,436 a year for pupils in London and £15,728 a year for those outside London.

“We know that whilst many criminal sets have prioritised the funding of pupillage, there have been and will be gaps,” Sweeting said. “We must not accept the exclusion of bright talent from the Bar as an inadvertent consequence.” Chambers taking part in the scheme, which the council will administer, so far include 20 Essex St, Atkin Chambers, 3 Verulam Buildings, Matrix, Brick Court, 4 Pump Court, and Blackstone -- but Sweeting hoped others will join. In addition Quadrant Chambers and Keating Chambers have put in place their own arrangements directly with criminal sets.

Elsewhere in his speech, delivered virtually this week, Sweeting announced that he will be advised by a young black barrister as part of a reverse mentoring scheme set up by the Bar’s regulator to improve race equality in the profession.
 
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