THE OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE SURREY LAW SOCIETY | SUMMER 2021
The Solicitors Indemnity Fund – All you need to know SLS Legal Awards 2021 ■ The nominations are in ■ Special Guest Speaker announced
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Contents 05 President’s Jottings
07 CEO Report
SALES DIRECTOR Karen Hall STUDIO MANAGER Lee Finney
MEDIA No. 1800
10 SLS Legal Awards
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Indemnity Fund – All you need to know
All views expressed in this publication are the views of the individual writers and not the society unless specifically stated to be otherwise. All statements as to the law are for discussion between members and should not be relied upon as an accurate statement of the law, are of a general nature and do not constitute advice in any particular case or circumstance.
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retain and incentivise employees in the new normal
30 ESG disclosures:
The new EU regime
33 What effect will the hybrid workplace have on digital transformation?
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President’s Jottings SUMMER 2021
s I write this, we are currently in the middle of a pandemic and coming towards the end of an extended period of disruption, involving lockdown and home working for many of the members of Surrey Law Society. It would be remiss of me to not mention some of the many other impactful global shifts that have also taken place in the recent few months, not least because they are tied in closely with the objectives I set when I took up the presidential seat at Surrey Law Society in March 2021. Before I go into more detail, I must thank my predecessor and the immediate past President Nick Ball who was an excellent lead during a challenging presidency, which extended 4 months beyond the usual 12-month term. His calm and measured leadership was a true blessing during that period. I would also like to thank our CEO Helen Opie, our secretary Kieran Bowe and last but by no means least, our outgoing Treasurer Victoria Clarke. It was an absolute pleasure to work alongside this group of consummate professionals during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. During that period, the society was able to offer a comprehensive series of online content which supported our members in a wide range of practice areas, as well as listening and communication skills. This thorough range of webinars and seminars will continue during my term in office, and we hope to begin face to face courses as soon as is practicable as well. There is also a plan developing to broaden the content, and this leads me to my own objectives and intentions. ■ I would like to reflect the diversity of our membership by including content that supports and nurtures Surrey’s commitment to diversity in all its forms, to include gender, race and ethnicity, social background and sexual orientation. These are fundamental aspects of ourselves and need to be given due recognition in all aspects of our day to day lives. Therefore, we are looking into bringing you courses that reflect that, and to that end we would welcome all and any suggestions of the type of content you would like to see on our events programme. ■ Secondly, I want to be able to say that Surrey Law Society is doing all that is possible to help our members to not only recover from a long period of lockdowns and partial lockdowns, furloughs and homeworking, but also to thrive in what is undoubtedly going to be a new way of working and living. Our aim is to do this via offering courses that support
not only business growth but also that support the mental health and wellbeing of our members. We also share content from the Law Society which will be of benefit to our members. ■ Finally (and this is not an exhaustive list, but I will endeavour to cover as much as I can in my 1 year!) I would like to be able to address the issues faced by our members and their clients around access to justice. The availability of funding which allows access to legal advice and support is being severely curtailed in the criminal sector, the public sector and in civil litigation. This erosion is impactful across all of society, and it is an issue that cannot be swept under the carpet. It impacts the livelihoods of our members and in turn the lives of their clients. We will work with you all to voice our members’ concerns to The Law Society, and I ask that you all read the regular bulletins and updates you are sent so that you are kept updated with the content we are sharing. In the last 3 months since I became President, I have been able to voice the interests of our members to I. Stephanie Boyce, the President of The Law Society at a meeting attended by over 90 local law societies, where concerns ranged from access to justice; diversity, PII; closure of the Solicitors’ Indemnity Fund (SIF) and the training gaps encountered by junior lawyers while working from home during the pandemic. We are assured that The Law Society will address all these issues and make the relevant representations. Indeed, at the time of writing, we have today learned that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has agreed to an extension of SIF for a further 12 months from June 2021. While this has stopped imminent closure, there is still work to be done. I have also had the opportunity to strengthen ties with other local law societies, notably Kent Law Society, with whom we held a joint event on mental health awareness in May. Thank you to the organisers and to everyone who attended. We hope to bring more collaborative content in the future. We will continue to represent the best interests of our members and strive to effect positive change to benefit Surrey’s legal community, in all matters impacting our members. ■ With all my very best regards,
Mumtaz Hussain President
SURREYLAWYER | 5
KEY OFFICERS President MUMTAZ HUSSAIN M: 07983 488 351 firstname.lastname@example.org Vice President MADELEINE BERESFORD TWM Solicitors LLP 65 Woodbridge Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4RD Tel: 01483 752742 Email: madeleine.gooding@TWMSolicitors.com Hon. Secretary KIERAN BOWE Russell-Cooke Solicitors Bishops Palace House, Kingston Bridge, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT1 1QN DX 31546 Kingston upon Thames Tel: 020 8541 2041 Fax: 020 8541 2009 Email: email@example.com Hon. Treasurer VICTORIA CLARKE Watson Thomas Solicitors 16 Haydon Place, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 4LL Tel: 01483 320114 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org COMMITTEE MEMBERS NICK BALL (Immediate Past President) TWM Solicitors LLP 65 Woodbridge Road, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4RD Tel: 01483 752700 Email: Nick.Ball@twmsolicitors.com VICTORIA CLARKE Watson Thomas Solicitors 16 Haydon Place, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 4LL Tel: 01483 320114 Email: email@example.com
KAREN GRIMM Morrisons Solicitors Prospero, 73 London Road, Redhill RH1 1LQ Tel: 01276 401 689 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org CLAUDENE HOWELL Pearson Hards Solicitors Fountain House, 2 Kingston Road, New Malden, Surrey KT3 3LR Tel: 020 8949 9500 Email: Chowell@pearsonhards.co.uk MARALYN HUTCHINSON Kagan Moss & Co 22 The Causeway, Teddington TW11 0HF Tel: 020 8977 6633 Fax: 020 8977 0183 Email: email@example.com GERARD SANDERS Hart Brown Resolution House, Riverview, Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, GU1 4UX DX 2403 Guildford 1 Tel: 01483 887704 Fax: 01483 887758 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org JAMES SCOZZI Elite Law Solicitors 1 Fetter Lane, London EC4A 1BR DX: 14 London Chancery Lane Tel: 020 3440 5506 Fax: 01923 219416 Email: email@example.com LAW SOCIETY COUNCIL MEMBERS SUSHILA ABRAHAM S Abraham Solicitors 290A Ewell Road, Surbiton KT6 7AQ Tel: 020 8390 0044 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ALASTAIR LOGAN Pound House, Skiff Lane, Wisborough Green, West Sussex RH14 DAG Email: email@example.com
Membership details Annual Subscriptions: £98 per person, per year Corporate Subscriptions: £1,850 per year (20+ fee earners) Solicitor: £60 (not in private practice) Solicitor: £35 (not practising) Honorary Membership: Free Associate Membership: Free – no voting rights 6 | SURREYLAWYER
Chief Executive & Magazine Editor HELEN OPIE Surrey Law Society c/o Russell-Cooke Solicitors, Bishop’s Palace House, Kingston Bridge, Kingston-upon-Thames, KT1 1QN Web: www.surreylawsociety.org.uk Tel: 0333 577 3830 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org SUB-COMMITTEES CONVEYANCING & LAND LAW Maralyn Hutchinson STRATEGIC PLANNING & FINANCE Kieran Bowe Nick Ball Victoria Clarke Madeleine Beresford James Scozzi SOCIAL James Scozzi Gerard Sanders Victoria Clarke Nick Ball SURREY JUNIOR LAWYERS DIVISION Yasmin Curry (Chair) Kate Lewis Adele Edwards Martin Whitehorn Alexandra Milson Sonay Erten Asta Asaka Tilly Greenstreet-Carter Daniel Crate Sapphira Gold Tabitha Lee Victoria Batstone Chantelle de Filippis Beth Duffy Joshua Day Email: email@example.com LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/ young-surrey-lawyers Instagram: jld_surrey Twitter: @YSL_Live / @SurreyJLD
To apply for membership please contact: Helen Opie, Chief Executive Surrey Law Society c/o Russell-Cook Solicitors Bishop’s Palace House, Kingston Bridge, Kingston-upon-Thames, KT1 1QN Web: www.surreylawsociety.org.uk Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 0333 577 3830
CEO Report SUMMER 2021 Helen Opie
y the time you read this, the school summer holidays will almost be upon us; I very much hope that the weather has improved since the time of writing, which, as I look out of my window, does not resemble summer at all! Despite the rain, we have a lot of good news to report from Surrey Law Society, which is most welcome after the challenging year we’ve all had. Firstly, I am absolutely delighted to report that the Society has held its first social event since the start of pandemic, our Past President’s Championship Cup at Daytona Sandown Park. You can read more about the event in the coming pages, but needless to say it was an absolute pleasure to see so many members and sponsors in person again after all this time. Many congratulations to our winning team from Gordons Partnership LLP and our runners up from Guildford Chambers and Elite Law Solicitors. This was our second Past President’s Championship Cup, and it really was a fantastic occasion, providing great opportunities for ‘friendly’ rivalries as well as a delicious BBQ and much needed networking. We will certainly be scheduling our 3rd competition in 2022 and I would highly recommend you come along. Second on our list of great news, is that the shortlist for the SLS Legal Awards 2021 has now been announced and you can view the list of finalists for each category overleaf. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all the members who submitted nominations this year, we were unsure how the pandemic would impact the appetite for this programme and have been overwhelmed by the positive response from the membership. We have received a record number of nominations and are delighted to have received entries from firms and individuals who have previously not made submissions. Our shortlisters were also taken aback by the calibre of the nominations reviewed, with one commenting that the enormous and unprecedented challenges presented by the global pandemic had given candidates the opportunity to shine, as they rethink and reshape their outputs to the benefit of their clients, their firms, themselves and their profession. Many thanks to all who nominated and congratulations to those who have been shortlisted. We look forward to seeing you all in September. We are also thrilled to confirm that our gala dinner and awards ceremony will be going ahead on Thursday 16th September at the Mandolay Hotel, Guildford. Booking is now open, and we would love to see as many members there as possible, for what promises to be a fantastic evening. Not only we will be awarding the winners in our 10 categories, but also enjoying an evening of entertainment from Rob Rinder MBE, who will give our after-dinner speech and compere the Awards ceremony. Our dedicated Awards website, which contains all the information you need to know about the Awards programme, is now live and you can view this at http://awards.surreylawsociety.org.uk.
webinars, and most exciting of all, 5 in-person courses, featuring some of our most popular speakers, including John Bunker, Richard Snape and Professor Lesley King. The courses will all be held at the Mandolay Hotel, Guildford and will of course adhere to any COVID guidance that might be in place at the time. So, we have a jam-packed programme of courses and events coming up, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of you at these in the Autumn. I know from speaking to many of you that life has been inconceivably busy over recent months, with the ongoing effects of the pandemic, and the conclusion of the stamp duty holiday, so very much hope that you manage to enjoy a little respite over the summer. As always, I would like to thank our patrons for their continued support of the Surrey Law Society, without whom our training and events would not be possible. They are: ■ HFS Milbourne ■ Access Legal ■ Landmark Information ■ Moneypenny ■ Chadwick Nott ■ Conscious ■ LawSure Insurance ■ Pro-Drive IT ■ Finders International And finally, this afternoon, I will close the computer a little early to watch England face Germany in the last 16 of the Euros, who knows, by the time you read this, they might have won the tournament … but then again … ■ Very best wishes,
Chief Executive & Magazine Editor T. 0333 5773830 E. email@example.com @SurreyLawSoc @surreylawsociety Helen Opie (Chief Executive at Surrey Law Society) LinkedIn SLS Group https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8731473
Moving to our training programme, we have an excellent range of courses and webinars available to members in the Autumn, full details of which can be found over the coming pages. The programme includes 2 online forums, online courses and SURREYLAWYER | 7
Make great client experiences your differentiator – introducing Clio Grow
hat is your firm doing to find – and retain – clients? Client expectations have evolved, and now more than ever before, clients expect a high level of service from their lawyer. If you’re not meeting those expectations, you could be missing out on vital opportunities for your firm.
and over 20% more cases every month from February onward in 2020. Firms also saw a large revenue increase, too. In 2019, firms who used client relationship software saw 9% more revenue, per lawyer, with revenue continuing to increase in 2020, reaching a high of 26% more revenue in August. The right client intake and client relationship management solution could transform the way your firm does business. Take Clio Grow, Clio’s legal client intake and relationship management software, as an example. It’s designed to make it easier for lawyers to connect with clients. With it, you can:
Client experience counts for a lot when it comes to choosing a law firm. With more than 180,000 practising lawyers in the UK today, your competition is stiff, which means that every contact with a potential client counts. How clients interact with lawyers has changed too. In the modern legal landscape, clients are no longer willing to play phone tag with a solicitor or to spend time chasing a firm that’s hard to reach.
■ Use quick intake forms, scheduling, and e-signature tools to engage and retain new clients in moments, not days. ■ Nurture relationships by keeping clients updated with automated follow-up emails and reminders. ■ Get a bird’s eye view of your client pipeline using analytics and reporting tools so you never miss a single opportunity to connect.
In an industry so dependent on referrals and reputation management, building better client relationships is the differentiator that will earn you lifelong clients and continue to help your business grow. Adopting the right legal client intake and relationship management software is key to this aim.
Available as part of Clio Suite, the legal industry’s only end-toend legal software solution, with Clio Grow, you can watch your client base, billable hours, and reputation thrive.
The data* backs this up: In 2019, firms using legal client intake and relationship management solutions saw 16% more casework
See for yourself how Clio can revolutionise the way you connect with your clients at clio.com/uk/surrey-lawyer. ■ *All figures taken from Clio’s 2020 Legal Trends Report
InfoTrack and Osprey announce integration to optimise conveyancing workflows
sprey clients can now access InfoTrack’s awardwinning digital conveyancing platform via their case management system. Connected via seamless two-way integration, solicitors can optimise their conveyancing workflow end-to-end to digitalise internal processes; future-proofing their firm and exceeding client expectations.
Jamie Connolly, Director at Thomas Flavell & Sons Solicitors says, “We have recently undertaken integration with Osprey and InfoTrack and the whole process was very quick and easy to implement. Since doing so the time savings on our firm are unreal. No more keying in duplicate information which is eliminating errors.”
Creating a centralised solution for information, firms can manage a matter from initial enquiry to case completion through one system using InfoTrack and Osprey. Access to electronic client onboarding (eCOS), conveyancing searches, AML, indemnities, Property Report, and post-completion solutions means firms can enjoy the flexibility to scale without limitation. The digitalisation of conveyancing workflows ends reliance on traditional, slow, and costly paper files and posting.
Craig Matthews, CEO at Osprey comments, “The integration with InfoTrack helps us provide an enhanced software solution that will assist law firms to run a more efficient and streamlined operation that benefits the client service they provide. Helping them stay competitive, it reduces inefficient processes so firms can scale easily to take on more new clients to increase revenue and importantly profits.”
Using a secure web portal, clients can be onboarded digitally via eCOS increasing law firms’ route to market and helping them meet client demand. Time-saving automation reduces solicitors’ workloads, avoiding re-keying information, and minimising errors by using data drawn from the matter, with all searches and services ordered through InfoTrack automatically returned to Osprey. 8 | SURREYLAWYER
Scott Bozinis, Chief Executive Officer at InfoTrack adds, “Partnering with Osprey provides solicitors with an effective way to manage their conveyancing workflow using automation to increase productivity. Our shared emphasis on using great technology to centralise information for accuracy and compliance, resulting in delivery of an excellent user experience for firms and their clients, made the integration an obvious choice.” ■
Surrey Law Society Autumn Training Programme H
ave you had time to fulfil your continuing competence requirements over this incredibly busy period? If not, the Surrey Law Society has a full and varied programme of training available to members over the Autumn to assist with your commitment to regular learning and development before the end of the continuing competence year on 31 October 2021. Our hybrid programme is designed to give you a variety of learning options, so that you can meet your training needs in the way that suits you best. We have 1-hour webinars, 2-hour online
SEPTEMBER 2021 08/09 | 4-5pm | Forum | PC ONLINE FORUM FOR PRIVATE CLIENT PRACTITIONERS 23/09 | 2-5pm | Course (Mandolay) | Compliance THE ROLE OF THE COMPLIANCE OFFICER FOR FINANCE AND ADMINISTRATION (COFA) Peter Warner, Warner Consulting Sponsored by Moneypenny 29/09 | 2-5pm | Course (Mandolay) | PC ASSESSING CAPACITY AND UNDUE INFLUENCE IN A DIGITAL WORLD Holly Chantler, Morrisons Solicitors Sponsored by HFS Milbourne 30/09 | 3-5pm | Online Course | Property LAND REGISTRATION ISSUES FOR RESIDENTIAL CONVEYANCERS Ian Quayle, iq training ltd OCTOBER 2021 06/10 | 2-5pm | Course (Mandolay) | PC PROPERTY AND VALUATION ISSUES FOR PRIVATE CLIENT PRACTITIONERS Professor Lesley King Sponsored by Chadwick Nott
SLS PRICING Webinars (1 hour): Member Fee: Free of Charge; Non-Member Fee: £15+VAT (including notes and a copy of the recording) Online Courses (2 hours): Member Fee: £50+VAT; Non-Member Fee: £100+VAT (including notes and a copy of the recording) Courses (3 hours): Member Fee: £105+VAT; Non-Member Fee: £210+VAT (including notes and refreshments)
courses and finally a return of our 3-hour in-person sessions. Additionally, we have our online forums, where members can meet virtually with other practitioners to share experiences and discuss relevant issues. The pricing structure for all our training options is listed below, and we are delighted that we will again be offering members our Buy One Get One Half Price Offer for in-person courses. So, you can book one SLS course and receive a second one at half the price, that’s 6 hours of training for just £157.50 plus VAT.
13/10 | 2-5pm | Course (Mandolay) | Property LEASEHOLD DWELLINGS UPDATE 2021 Richard Snape, Davitt Jones Bould Sponsored by LawSure Insurance 20/10 | 11am-12pm | Webinar | Management FOCUS ON PRACTICE MANAGEMENT: AML UPDATE ESSENTIAL GUIDANCE FOR FEE EARNERS David Gilmore, DG Legal Sponsored by Chadwick Nott NOVEMBER 2021 02/11 | 12.30-1.30pm | Webinar | People & Comm Skills SUPPORTING SURREY: PEOPLE & COMMUNICATION SKILLS: SUCCESSFUL LEADERSHIP AND DELEGATION SKILLS FOR LAWYERS Speaker TBC 04/11 | 4-5pm | Forum | Property ONLINE FORUM FOR CONVEYANCERS 10/11 | 2-5pm | Course (Mandolay) | PC TAX PLANNING AFTER THE 2021 BUDGET – ANTICIPATING CGT & IHT CHANGES; CONSIDERING THE IMPACT ON WILLS, VARIATIONS OF ESTATES/ TRUSTS, AND LIFETIME GIVING John Bunker, Irwin Mitchell Sponsored by HFS Milbourne
All courses will be held at the Mandolay Hotel, Guildford and will be subject to stringent COVID-19 safety procedures. Online Forums are for members only and free to attend. BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE If COVID-19 determines that a course can’t take place, we will transfer your booking to the revised date or an online alternative. Refunds will be provided if the course is cancelled. ■
SURREYLAWYER | 9
Thursday 16th September 2021 The Mandolay Hotel, Guildford
SLS LEGAL AWARDS 2021
We are delighted to share with you the shortlisted nominations for the SLS Legal Awards 2021. The Surrey Law Society Committee would like to extend their sincere thanks to all members who made submissions this year, we were overwhelmed by the response and had a record number of entries.
1. LAW FIRM OF THE YEAR
2. LAWYER OF THE YEAR
Holly Chantler, Morrisons Solicitors
Nichols Marcy Dawson LLP
Kate Doody, GBH Law
Dev Jummoodoo, Rosewood Solicitors
3. COMMERCIAL / CORPORATE LAWYER OF THE YEAR
4. FAMILY LAWYER OF THE YEAR
Karen Barham, Moore Barlow
Nick Atkins, Stevens & Bolton
Samantha Jago, DMH Stallard
Kate Doody, GBH Law
Katy Osborne, Howell Jones Solicitors
Helen Mead, DMH Stallard
Emma Patel, Rosewood Solicitors
5. LITIGATION LAWYER OF THE YEAR
6. PARALEGAL OF THE YEAR
Ben Pearson, Peacock & Co Solicitors
Charlotte Alexander, TWM Solicitors
Caroline Kempster, Taylor Rose MW
Hannah Davies, Watson Thomas Solicitors
Ian Latimer, Taylor Rose MW
Harriet Shore, Russell-Cooke
Fiona McNelis, Taylor Rose MW
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7. PRIVATE CLIENT LAWYER OF THE YEAR
8. PROPERTY LAWYER OF THE YEAR
Ema Bryn Jones, Peacock & Co Solicitors
Holly Chantler, Morrisons Solicitors
Amira Hughes, Howell Jones Solicitors
Julie Man, Russell-Cooke
Piers Meadows, Meadows Ryan
Emma Sayers, Howell Jones Solicitors
Rachel Philip, S. Abraham Solicitors
9. RISING STAR OF THE YEAR
10. SUPPORT TEAM MEMBER OF THE YEAR
Chrissie Cuming Walters, Keystone Law
Chloe Bradshaw, Russell-Cooke
Michael Daniels, DMH Stallard
Ashley Burrow, Meadows Ryan
Sophie Kimber, Howell Jones Solicitors
Amanda Holden Guest, Quality Solicitors Palmers
Martin Whitehorn, Julie West Solicitors
Vicky Mason, GBH Law
BOOKING IS OPEN!
ABOUT ROB RINDER MBE
Booking is now open for the SLS Legal Awards 2021, which will take place at the Mandolay Hotel Guildford on the evening of Thursday 16th September 2021.
Rob Rinder MBE is a barrister turned writer and broadcaster. In 2014, while still a practising Barrister, he began starring in his reality court show Judge Rinder, now in its 8th series; and uses his legal knowledge working in the media to make the law more accessible and understandable to the public regularly appearing on shows such as This Morning and Good Morning Britain.
The evening will see winners announced in the 10 award categories and all our shortlisted nominees recognised for their outstanding work in the past year. As usual, attendees will enjoy a drinks reception, exceptional 3-course dinner, and fantastic entertainment, including our special guest speaker Rob Rinder MBE. Don't miss this opportunity to celebrate the exceptional work of the legal profession in Surrey and enjoy some much-needed time together after so long apart. Details on how to purchase tickets can be found at http://awards.surreylawsociety.org.uk or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to capacity limits at the venue, we don't expect them to be available for long, so please don't delay in reserving your space!
Alongside Judge Rinder, Rob has also presented shows including Judge Rinder’s Crime Stories and The Rob Rinder Verdict as well as hosting his own BBC Radio 5Live series Raising the Bar aiming to demystify the legal system. His participation in series 15 of Who Do You Think You Are? retraced the story of his Holocaust survivor Grandfather and received critical acclaim. Following this Rob embarked on an emotional journey exploring further his own family’s Holocaust stories resulting in a 2-part documentary My Family, the Holocaust and Me. Along with his screen work Rob has published Rinder’s Rules which provides a thorough guide to everyday legal issues including sections on jargonbusting, consumer rights and common mistakes. He is also a columnist for The Sun and the London Evening Standard newspapers. SURREYLAWYER | 11
Moore Barlow’s corporate team completes deals worth £830m in record-breaking run Team completes one deal a week in the run up to the 2020/21 tax year end
oore Barlow’s corporate team has completed a record period of activity, having advised on deals with a combined value of more than £830m during the 16-week period to 5 April – an average of one deal per week. Led by corporate partner Jeremy Over, the team supported businesses across multiple industries – from technology, hospitality, media and healthcare, to security, transport and logistics – as they looked to crystallise their growth ambitions.
During the three-month period preceding the 2021 Budget, the team saw transactions and deal-making volume increase significantly as investors looked to reduce the impact of capital gains tax increases that had been rumoured to be introduced. Deals in March included the team acting for the buyer of Hampshire-based care provider, Auckland Care, on a management buyout backed by finance provider ThinCats; and in February the team supported Southampton-headquartered New Path Fire and Security on its complementary acquisition of Advance Security. Technology, media and telecommunications remained an active sector for the firm with the team advising ThirdSpace, the UK’s leading professional services provider of Microsoft identity and cyber security solutions, as it joined forces with TiG, one of the leading cloud, data analytics and managed services providers to the financial services sector. This followed the flotation of Bytes Technology Group on the London Stock Exchange in December, a deal that valued the business at £780m. This was the largest single deal the team supported during the period and marked the high point of Moore
Charles Russell Speechlys ‘Highly Commended’ as South of England Probate Law Firm
harles Russell Speechlys in Guildford was ‘Highly Commended’ at the UK Probate Awards 2021 in the category of Best Probate Law Firm, South England. The UK Probate Research Awards, known as the Probies, recognise excellence in law firm service delivery and the support given by law firms to probate researchers. They celebrate the achievements and skills of forensic genealogists, recognising the best of the best. Charles Russell Speechlys’ estate administration hub in Guildford is ranked in the top tiers for both Legal 500 and Chambers Legal Directories and has a reputation for being caring, approachable and highly skilled. Led by highly experienced and specialised lawyers, Charles Russell Speechlys’ dedicated probate offering enables clients to benefit from access to lawyers from other 12 | SURREYLAWYER
Barlow’s 20-year relationship with Bytes, during which Peter Jeffery’s team has advised on myriad legal matters including disposals, acquisitions, disputes and contracts. Commenting on the unprecedented period, Jeremy said: “Despite firms spending the last three months in their third national lockdown, the sheer scale and value of deals we have supported showcase the drive and determination of many businesses to push ahead regardless. The increase in deals in the run up to the March Budget is also a clear indication of the impact potential policy announcements have on deal-making decisions. “It’s encouraging to see deals across a variety of sectors, and our support of businesses in the technology, media and telecommunications sector is indicative of the demand we’re seeing for resilient firms with sustainable business models. Increased competition is pushing valuations upwards, and it is definitely a sellers’ market as we head into the second quarter of the year. “Looking ahead, we have a strong pipeline of activity and are expecting to see more interest from business owners seeking to buy or sell a company, in addition to those wanting to raise finance to drive growth. For many of our clients, the support of a legal partner that not only understands the sector they operate in, but also their local market, is imperative to achieving a successful completion and we’re looking forward to continuing our support of ambitious businesses across the South of England.” The 22-strong corporate team at Moore Barlow is one of the largest in the South of England. With offices in Guildford, Southampton, Lymington, Working, Richmond and London, the team is well placed to support clients in London and along the M3 corridor, as well as around the South Coast. ■
specialisms within the firm, such as private property, real estate disputes, private wealth disputes and insolvency, to assist with complex estates. Sally Ashford, Partner, Charles Russell Speechlys comments, “Huge congratulations to the whole team on receiving the ‘Highly Commended’ Award at the Probies. This is a strong reflection of the expertise provided by our team and also recognises our hard work and achievements over the last year. “This has been our first year on the panel of preferred lawyers for Finders International Genealogists who are famed heir hunters, locating missing beneficiaries across the world. Our relationship with Finders has blossomed and we are thrilled that they nominated us as Best Probate Law Firm in the South.” Charles Russell Speechlys employs over 160 staff in its Guildford office at One London Square and provides a full range of services to businesses and private clients in the region, backed by the resources of an international law firm. ■
Stevens & Bolton Partners with The School of Law at University of Surrey to Support Start-up Initiatives
uildford-based law firm Stevens & Bolton has announced that it is working alongside The School of Law at the University of Surrey, as part of their new Business StartUp Clinic to inspire students and recent graduates in their entrepreneurial endeavours.
Larissa Bourgi and Joseph Beams, Audley Chaucer Solicitors
Will Aid needs you!
ill Aid is a national will-writing campaign that takes place every November.
Founded by solicitors in 1988 in response to Live Aid, and to reinforce the importance of having a professionally written will, Will Aid has been raising vital donations for nine of the UK’s best loved charities for over 30 years. Each year local solicitors volunteer their time to write wills for people and instead of charging a fee, ask clients to make a voluntary donation to Will Aid. The money raised supports the vital work of the Will Aid partner charities: Age UK, ActionAid, British Red Cross, Christian Aid, NSPCC, Save the Children, SCIAF, Sightsavers and Trocaire. In the 2020 campaign, Will Aid raised over £650K, helping the nine partner charities continue their life-saving work after what has been an extremely challenging year. The scheme is currently recruiting solicitors in Surrey where there has been huge demand for wills in recent years. Previous participating solicitors say Will Aid has not only helped them with generating positive local publicity, but it has also introduced them to valuable new clients, many of which have used other services they offer. Local firm Audley Chaucer Solicitors was pleased to take part in Will Aid for the first time in 2020 and became the highest donating new firm raising over £13,000. After being presented with their certificate for their successful first year they spoke of the benefits of being involved in the campaign and highly recommends it to other local firms. Kay Stewart, Partner of Audley Chaucer, stated: “We were thrilled to be involved in the 2020 campaign and are very proud of the total our team has raised. Will Aid has brought a great sense of achievement to the team and allowed us to give back to our local community. We are very much looking forward to taking part in the 2021 campaign and we can’t wait to continue supporting these amazing charities who have been so significantly affected by the pandemic.”
The clinic provides free legal guidance to those who are interested in starting up their own business via a 20-minute virtual session on Zoom. As the clinic’s sole partner, Stevens & Bolton’s team of specialist lawyers are available to signpost legal topics that are relevant to an early-stage business and provide insight on a range of legal matters – everything from shareholder arrangements and corporate structure, funding and finance and human resources and intellectual property issues through to acquisition and disposal of a business. The first clinic took place on 5 May 2021, with an initial cohort of six student and graduate entrepreneurs, and the next session is scheduled take place in the latter half of October. However, after very positive feedback from the first session, a clinic during the summer holiday is under also consideration. Anyone interested in getting involved should email email@example.com or visit The School of Law at the University of Surrey website. Elizabeth Williams, principal teaching fellow in law and director of clinical legal education programmes at the University of Surrey, commented, “The business start-up clinic provides a unique learning experience for our law undergraduates and gives University of Surrey students who are interested in starting their own business valuable expert guidance. We are delighted to be working with Stevens & Bolton and thank their lawyers for this wonderful collaborative opportunity. The Stevens and Bolton team engaged with our students in a unique way. Their approach was inspiring and fundamental as our students were able to develop key business entrepreneurial skills. It made our students realise their enormous potential and capabilities in this fascinating area”. Nick Atkins, corporate partner at Stevens & Bolton commented, “We are delighted to be a part of this new initiative with the University of Surrey and show our commitment to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem. We would like to wish everyone that we have met so far with the greatest success. We are grateful to the university for involving us in this initiative, and we’ve been super impressed by the calibre Nick Atkins of the business plans and the enterprising approach of the university’s students and graduates.” ■
To raise the profile of your business, meet new clients and help charities bounce back from the impact of the pandemic, sign up to the 2021 campaign today! www.willaid.org.uk/solicitors ■ SURREYLAWYER | 13
Wheelers Solicitors, part of the Morrisons Group, expands into new Farnborough office
eading regional law firm, Wheelers Solicitors, which became part of the Morrisons Group in January 2020, is delighted to announce the opening of their new Farnborough office location. Over the last year or so, the Farnborough team has been growing and expanding the services that they offer to commercial clients in the region. As such, they have outgrown their previous offices and are now moving to new, larger offices in The Hub at Farnborough Business Park. The new office will serve as the Group’s regional base from which they will support commercial clients across west Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire, as well as providing a convenient location for continuing to support private clients in the region. With Morrisons Solicitors’ acquisition of Wheelers in January 2020, the firm has strengthened its presence in the region, building upon Wheelers’ excellent reputation. The Morrisons Group now has offices in Farnborough, Camberley, Fleet, and Ash Vale, as well as offices in Teddington, Wimbledon, Redhill and Oxted. This has consolidated the Morrisons Group as one of the leading firms across the South East and has given clients access to a greater depth of resources and legal expertise. Wheelers Partner Mel McCrum, said: “Since joining the Morrisons Group we have been able to offer an even broader range of legal services, which has allowed us to continue providing outstanding service and expertise to all our clients. This move to our new Farnborough location is the next exciting step in strengthening our position in the region, particularly for our corporate and commercial teams.” Whilst the new office location will serve as a central hub for both business clients and private individuals, the Farnborough team will focus on the firm’s corporate and commercial service offering as the Morrisons Group continues to strengthen their comprehensive legal services for businesses, which includes corporate and commercial services, commercial property, employment and dispute resolution. Paul Harvey, Managing Partner of the Morrisons Group, commented: “We knew at the time of merging with Wheelers Solicitors that there was great opportunity for development in the region with the combined ambitions and expertise of both firms. Despite the uncertain circumstances faced by most businesses over the last year and half, we have been delighted to see continued growth, which has led us to expanding our team and the space from which they operate. I am excited about the great things the team will achieve from our new base in the region.” The teams have been busy behind the scenes in preparation for the move and the office opening date of Monday 21st June, and they look forward to welcoming their clients and contacts to the new offices as soon as the easing of restrictions allows. ■
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(Left to right): Gemma Taylor, Jenna Hopkins and Laura Marchington
Downs Solicitors announces Partner promotions in two Surrey offices
urrey-based law firm, Downs Solicitors, has promoted two senior associates to the role of partner, strengthening the firm’s activity as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. Jenna Hopkins, Senior Associate in the Private Client department in Godalming and Gemma Taylor, Senior Associate in the Residential Property team in Dorking will be promoted to partner from 1st July 2021. As an experienced Private Client solicitor, Jenna Hopkins has developed her career over the past decade helping clients to draft wills and Powers of Attorney, as well as advising on the administration of estates and tax planning. She started her role at Downs Solicitors in 2018 and also holds a STEP Diploma in Trusts and Estates and is a member of the Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE). Gemma Taylor has more than 12 years’ experience in the property sector, specialising in residential property work such as freehold and leasehold sales and purchases. She also advises on re-mortgages and transfers of equity as well as shared ownership and Help To Buy transactions. Alongside the two promotions, Downs Solicitors is pleased to announce that Laura Marchington has become a qualified Notary Public – a specialist solicitor who can prepare, attest, authenticate and certify deeds and other documents intended for use anywhere in the world. Laura’s qualification is a significant milestone for the firm as there are few Notary Publics around, but Downs Solicitors now has four. This news comes as fellow Notary Public, Sarah Thomas, announces her forthcoming retirement in October. Senior Partner, Chris Millar, said: “As we reach the other side and look towards a post-pandemic world, both Jenna and Gemma’s impressive track record within their respective teams will dovetail into their new roles as partner. They both have a very strong ethos when it comes to client care and making clients’ journeys as pain free as possible. I would like to offer my congratulations to Jenna, Gemma and Laura, as well as extend my very best wishes to Sarah as she enters retirement this October.” ■
Stevens & Bolton posts strong financial results with 11th consecutive year of growth Richard King
uildford-based law firm Stevens & Bolton LLP has unveiled strong financial results for 2020/2021 with growth in turnover, profit, and profit per equity partner (PEP). In spite of the pandemic, the firm has seen an impressive financial year with revenue closing at £29.1 million, which represents a 2% increase on last year and the firm’s 11th consecutive year of growth. PEP for the year increased by 10% on 2020. The results were driven by strong growth in a number of core practice areas. In particular, intellectual property reported a 17% growth on 2020, which brings the total practice growth since 2018 to 111%. The corporate team posted a 10% growth on the previous year and the private wealth practice also grew by 7%. These impressive figures were underpinned by a number of significant instructions over the course of the year, including advising Pizza Hut Restaurants on its CVA, Beretta Holdings on its UK expansion and Seal Software on its sale to Docusign. In tandem with this sustained growth, Stevens & Bolton has announced a pay rise for all its solicitors, resulting in a median
increase of 13% per lawyer, and also full reimbursement to all those who received temporary pay reductions last year as part of a package of financial measures the firm took in response to the immediate financial effect of COVID-19. Commenting on the year’s results, Richard King, Managing Partner at Stevens & Bolton LLP, said: “I am really proud of how the entire firm has pulled together during the past 14 months, and how, as a result of our collective efforts, we haven’t simply managed during a pandemic, but thrived. I am also delighted that our financial results have afforded us the opportunity to reward our stellar team. This builds on our move to an all-equity model in September 2019 – at the time, a regional first. We have long attracted talent from the City and we remain committed to recruiting the industry’s brightest and best minds.” “These solid financial results provide an excellent platform for us to build on as we begin work on our ambitious 2024 strategic plan. With significant projects in the pipeline, an ever-growing roster of impressive clients and a highly talented team, it’s exciting to see where our ambitions take us next.” ■
Surrey Law Society Past President’s Championship Cup
SLS social events are back! 24
th June saw the return of Surrey Law Society’s social events programme and we were thrilled that so many of you could join us for this very special occasion. The competition, which was held for the second time at Daytona Sandown Park, saw members and sponsors compete as teams of 3 in a 1.5 hour endurance race. This was a toughly fought contest between the 12 teams, with many different tactics deployed by our drivers to try and win the hotly contested trophy. In the end it was Gordons Partnership LLP who triumphed, followed by our sponsors from Guildford Chambers and then Elite Law Solicitors. Those who came to spectate, enjoyed a delicious BBQ, drinks and networking, whilst also listening to the brilliantly funny commentary from the team at Daytona and enjoying a beautiful sunset over the track. The evening concluded with our podium presentation to the winners and a speech delivered by Past President and Chair of the Social SubCommittee, James Scozzi, which recognised the work of our two most recent past Presidents, Nick Ball and Victoria Clarke. Social events have always been integral part of the Society’s offering to members, but this was a particularly special occasion, where everyone in attendance recognised how refreshing it was to be meeting face to face. The pandemic has taught us a lot about communicating virtually and working remotely, but sometimes, there really is nothing like a get-together in the flesh! Here’s hoping we see you at the next one! ■ SURREYLAWYER | 15
In Loving Memory of MATTHEW VINCENT – Criminal Solicitor –
have been blessed in my life to know some truly lovely people, who have helped me on my way. The childhood friendships my sister and I secured at an early age with the children along our road, Matthew Vincent, Fritha and James have endured and are the happy memories I often return to in my adulthood. What seemed like endless summers spent playing 40/40, Quizzard and making camps are amongst my best ever memories. On Thursday, 27th May 2021, we lost a member of our Guildford childhood gang, aged just 43, and what a member he was. Reading us the ‘naughty bits’ from Judy Blumes’, ‘Forever’, throwing crab apples at us and helping Fritha and I set up my sister with an alleged love letter from another local boy – what fun! Watching our friend grow into a lovely man, husband and father was a joy. Matthew originally trained as a barrister but then converted to become a criminal solicitor – and what a brilliant solicitor he was. He continued to live and practice in the Surrey area for his entire career. He rose to the position of Partner within Cowans Solicitors, based in Dorking. I would ring Matthew frequently with questions regarding various scrapes my clients had got themselves into and he always knew the answer. I was quite staggered, and remain so, that he had so much knowledge at his fingertips without having to continuously look up the law. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of criminal law and this was something to marvel at. He was a true talent in his field. I do not want to linger on Matthew’s demise because his life was so vibrant. When he was diagnosed with bowel cancer three years ago, he remained upbeat and positive, continuing to work extremely long hours very close to his death. He remained motivated by his career and no doubt it provided him with a much-needed distraction from the constant worry of his health. Whenever I saw him, he was energetic and great fun, and it was easy to forget the mammoth battle he was privately fighting.
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Matthew leaves behind his loving wife Charley and two little children; Ella aged 8 and Jack, aged 6. My thoughts and prayers are with them. I feel very blessed to have known Matthew and to have been able to call him a friend. He touched so many people’s lives in such a positive way. He was perfectly suited to criminal law as he was non-judgmental and fundamentally kind, understanding that life is complicated, and people will sometimes find themselves in situations they never meant to find themselves in. With Matthew’s help they were able to move onto a new, and in many cases, positive chapter in their lives. If you knew Matthew or have simply been touched by this piece then his family is requesting, in lieu of tributes, that you consider donating to Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice Care. It was Matthew’s wish to spend his last days at home and this would not have been possible without the care provided by Phyllis Tuckwell. ■
Family Law Partner and Mediator DMH Stallard LLP A tribute to Matthew from his colleagues at Cowans Solicitors LLP Mimi Baines and I had the joy and privilege of working with Matthew for over 15 years. He was totally loyal and selfless – putting others and the team before himself. He was a trusted friend, brilliant trial advocate and excellent lawyer. He loved people, caring deeply about the clients and justice. We are still reeling with the loss of this lovely man who persevered whilst battling cancer with dignity and courage. He was still joyful, and upbeat, even in the face of his medical diagnosis. We miss him dearly. – David Campbell.
The importance of respecting grief in the workplace O
n Friday 9th April 2021, a wife lost her husband, a family lost their grandfather and great-grandfather respectively and, extending that even further, the country lost someone who was described as being “almost the grandfather of the nation”. The passing of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh came at a time when the country was already suffering from a period of medical and financial uncertainty. However, throughout it all, the sentiment that rang out was that his was a life spent in service. It therefore seems appropriate to reflect that, as an employer, your workers and employees are highly likely to encounter grief during their lives and that grief, whilst not necessarily impacting upon their work, requires proper and sensitive handling. Types of leave The first thought that comes to mind in relation to encountering grief in the workplace is that some form of leave is likely to be required. Compassionate leave is the obvious example, but it is not actually a statutory right. Nevertheless, it is generally accepted as being good practice to offer it. The option as to whether you pay workers or employees for compassionate leave is entirely yours, but you must apply that decision consistently. At the same time, grief is an entirely personal experience that is experienced differently from one person to another. One nuance of this is that the period of compassionate leave might be extended or could cease to become compassionate and may become sickness absence instead. Your compassionate leave policy must be quite clear on these sorts of factors. Quite separately, the statutory right to parental bereavement leave was introduced on 6th April 2021. This applies where the parents of a child under the age of 18 (including a child that is stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy) lose that child. It can be taken as one week, in one continuous block of two weeks or in two separate blocks of one week each, provided that it is taken within 56 weeks of the child passing away or the stillbirth. It also comes with the right to statutory parental bereavement pay, which is paid at the same rate as statutory paternity pay (currently £151.97 or 90% of the parent’s average earnings, whichever is lower). Nevertheless, as a business, you might take the stance of enhancing statutory parental bereavement pay, perhaps to full pay.
Each of these forms of leave, which clearly interplay with absence caused by or related to grief, should be reflected in your staff handbook. What other assistance am I required to provide? Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers have a general duty to ensure that workplace risks are at their minimum practical level. This might sound peculiar when considering grief, but grief does not necessarily end when the worker or employee has taken the relevant time away from work. They might, for example, feel ready to return to work, but then discover that they really are not, but feel guilty about broaching the topic of taking further time away from the workplace. This is why, just as with an employee returning from a period of sickness absence, it is a good idea to have a return-to-work meeting with the returning employee. There are also other forms of support that you could consider implementing that could have a beneficial impact, such as engaging a specific helpline staffed by professionals trained in discussing such matters (known as an employee assistance programme); training members of staff to become mental health first aiders, or even having a medically qualified specialist on-site. However, you might not have the resources available to you to afford such facilities, in which case, you might need to direct your workers and employees towards other specialist services and charities such as Mind. How should I handle the situation if I feel that someone needs help as a result of a bereavement, but they don’t want to get that help? In a phrase: very carefully. Ultimately, whilst an employer has duties towards a worker’s or an employee’s wellbeing, you as the employer can only be guided by the worker or employee. As each individual is different, each approach towards handling their grief in the workplace will also be different to some extent. It is therefore important that you seek out specific advice should this happen. ■ Richard Hiron is an Associate Solicitor at TP Legal Ltd specialising in all aspects of employment law. The firm was established in Woking over 9 years ago.
It is important to note that parental bereavement leave could also become compassionate leave and, from there, as indicated above, it could possibly become sickness absence. Additionally, or alternatively, a bereavement could result in a worker or employee requiring time off for dependants. It could, for instance, involve an aunt, uncle or other family member taking guardianship of an orphaned child. This form of leave is typically unpaid, although it does not have to be. It is also usually very brief, limited to one or two days to make emergency arrangements. SURREYLAWYER | 17
The Solicitors Indemnity Fund – All you need to know
A Report by Law Society Council Member for Surrey, Alastair Logan
HISTORY The Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF) was formed in 1987 and provided professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) for solicitors through a mutual fund. In the late 1990s, many firms believed the SIF premiums were far too high and larger firms were subsidising smaller firms. It was believed that an open market solution would be far cheaper for the profession. A ballot of the profession took place and the profession voted to bring it to a close and obtain PII on the open market. As a result of this decision by the profession, SIF was put into runoff and closed to new entrants in September 2000. Those firms that had closed prior to September 2000 were told that they would continue to be covered by SIF indefinitely and that remains the position and that will continue even if the SRA proceeds with its intention to close it in September 2021.
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One of the misconceptions that has been going around is that all firms have been assured by the Law Society or others that they will be covered by SIF indefinitely. That assurance has never been given apart from for those firms that closed prior to September 2000. By 2004 SIF had built up considerable reserves. It was recognised that SIF had far more reserves than were needed to deal with the claims of those firms which closed pre-September 2000. So, in 2004, the Society decided that some of those funds would be used to provide post 6-year cover for the firms which closed post 2000 without a successor practice. At that time, it was decided that this additional cover would continue for claims notified prior to September 2017. When the Law Society set up this post six-year run off cover by SIF, it was envisaged at that time it would close in September 2017. By the Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA) the regulatory functions were separated from the representative functions, the SRA came into being and the internal governance rules (IGRs) were born. From 2007 the SRA have had the exclusive jurisdiction to deal with the regulation of solicitors to the exclusion of the Law Society. The Legal Services Act defines regulatory functions as including indemnification arrangements and SIF falls within the definition of indemnification arrangements. The Act defines indemnification arrangements in S 21 (2) (b) as: “in relation to a body, means arrangements for the purpose of ensuring the indemnification of those who are or were regulated persons against losses arising from claims in relation to any description of civil liability incurred by them, or by employees or former employees of theirs, in connection with their activities as such regulated persons”. The IGRs required the Law Society to delegate regulatory functions, which includes indemnification arrangements, to the SRA. Therefore, by virtue of the Solicitors Act 1964, the LSA and the IGRs, the SRA have exclusive jurisdiction to decide on the continuation of or the closure of SIF. The Law Society cannot make that decision. The SRA have made a decision that run off cover post the sixyear mandatory period is not a regulatory requirement and not required for client protection and decided that SIF should close in 2017. Following a request by the Law Society in 2013, the SRA agreed to extend the closure of SIF until September 2020. In 2016, the Law Society again invited the SRA to extend the closure of SIF until September 2023. The SRA declined to do so. However, as a result of pressure by The Law Society last year, it agreed to extend the closure date to September 2021. Because of the constraints upon the Law Society by the LSA and the IGRs, the Law Society as the representative body are not allowed to fill the gap caused by the closure of SIF because to do so would constitute a regulatory function. This is the reality that The Law Society must work under and unfortunately a lot of people have not fully understood the legal position and the constraints that the Law Society is under. WHO WILL BE AFFECTED BY THE CLOSURE OF SIF? ■ Solicitors whose practice closed post September 2020 without a successor practice. ■ Solicitors whose practice closed with a successor practice and that successor practice closed without a successor practice taking on all prior liabilities. This could therefore extend beyond the first successor practice. And following a couple of court decisions: ■ Solicitor partners/directors who were members of an LLP or a limited company that has closed without a successor practice and no ongoing indemnity insurance.
■ An individual employee or member of an LLP or a limited company that has allegedly been negligent and the LLP or a limited company has closed without a successor practice and no ongoing indemnity insurance. From the above it can be seen that the ambit of those who could potentially affected include consumers who only become aware of the negligence after the expiry of 6 years from the closing of the practice, as well as solicitors and their staff. The SRA appear to think the closure of SIF is not a consumer issue and deals solely with the liability of solicitors and their staff. WHAT HAS THE LAW SOCIETY BEEN DOING? The closure of SIF has been at the top of the PII Committee’s Agenda since 2016. For the last two years the Chair, Nicholas Gurney-Champion, and TLS staff members from policy and the commercial teams have been in discussion with brokers, underwriters and insurers to see if there was any appetite for a market solution to fill the gap caused by the closure of SIF. There have been more than 30 meetings over the last 18 months alone and these meetings are ongoing. The Committee made their concerns on this known to the Office Holders, the Chief Executive and the Chair of the Board. In early 2020 the SIF Working Group was set up to address this issue. It consists of the CEO, Paul Tennant, Robert Bourns, the Chair of the Board, Michael Garson, Lubna Shuja (who was at the time Chair of MCC and is now Vice President), Pieter de Waal, the Counsel to the Law Society and Nicholas Gurney-Champion. In early 2020, the Working Group concluded that from the evidence they had obtained a SIF replacement in the market was not going to happen, and with COVID in full force, the ability of our retired members to obtain alternative cover caused by the closure of SIF was going to be impossible. Therefore, a further request was made to the SRA to extend the closure of SIF for a further three years. The SRA board considered this request and, reluctantly, agreed to extend it for a further year until September 2021. The reasoning behind their only granting a one-year extension was that they believed a further extension beyond one year was unaffordable, a view that the Law Society disputed. Those discussions with insurers are ongoing. Some interesting and possibly helpful suggestions have been made. It is too early to say whether those discussions will provide any workable solution. The PII market at the moment and the COVID situation have very much hindered progress, but there is still hope that a solution can be found. In tandem with this, the SIF Working Group decided to take advice from leading counsel as to the Law Society’s position under the Legal Services Act and the IGRs. They wanted clarity on what TLS could do within the rules and what TLS could or could not force the SRA to do, not only with regard to keeping SIF open but also with regard to the SIF surplus. Leading counsel confirmed: 1. That the Law Society itself carrying out indemnification arrangements for its members is unlawful. 2. That the decisions as to SIF Closure are the sole domain of the SRA; and 3. That in exercising its regulatory functions, the SRA must act within the statutory duties of the Legal Services Act. They must act in a way which is compatible with the regulatory objectives, and they must act reasonably and rationally. Continued on next page SURREYLAWYER | 19
Continued from previous page Accordingly, in March 2021, the Law Society wrote to the SRA asking them to fully explain, in accordance with the requirements of the LSA, why they have made the decision to close SIF. The SRA responded in early May and failed to deal with the request. The TLS wrote again in forceful terms, asking them to properly and fully answer questions posed and to give detailed reasons for their decision. The SRA will consider its response at its meeting on 08 June 2021. In the meantime, TLS repeated the request that they delay the closure of SIF. In addition to this, TLS had a meeting with the LSB consumer panel to appraise them of the imminent closure of the SIF. They were horrified, as would be expected, and indicated they would raise this with the LSB and with the SRA. A few weeks ago, I. Stephanie Boyce, our President, had a follow up meeting with the LSB Consumer Panel, and as a result a joint letter was prepared and sent to the SRA setting out the joint concerns for consumers and for members and requesting the closure of SIF be put on hold. In recent weeks high level conversations took place with the LSB who are now taking an active interest in our concerns and a three-way meeting between the LSB, the SRA and the TLS took place on 26th May 2021. TLS emphasised the impact of closing SIF on members and consumers. They made it clear that there must be an extension in the short term to allow a solution to be identified and created. Both the SRA and the LSB have confirmed that they have been receiving direct contact from many concerned members. The LSB set out how they believe affordability should be defined and that the SRA should take this on board and discuss with their Board. The SRA considered its response at its meeting on 08 June 2021 and announced on 15 June that it would extend the period for another 12 months. SRA board chair Anna Bradley said: ‘The board welcomes the keen interest that is now being shown by the profession and others in SIF. But it is disappointing that this came so late in the day1 and as a result is set against the backdrop of significant concerns about the future viability of SIF. ‘There is now limited time available to look at what are complex matters around whether there is, in principle, a regulatory place for post six-year run-off cover. We will need to give careful consideration to finding the right regulatory balance between consumer protection and issues of proportionality, affordability and the wider public interest.’ The SRA says the latest extension will allow for work to agree a long-term position on whether there is a place for post six-year cover in its regulatory arrangements and its attention will now turn to reviewing comparable run-off cover arrangements, claims patterns, impact assessments and ultimately winding up the SIF. The SRA have also said it will consult on its next steps, including alternative indemnity and discretionary uses for any residual surplus in the SIF, for example a hardship fund. The SIF had net assets of £22.48m at 31 October 2020, with around 200 cases ongoing.
Perhaps we should commission our own research to look at the potential impact on the retired, those to be retired in the future, and their clients to put a more human face on the issues rather than treating the issue as an actuarial consideration? Some would say there is nothing that TLS or the market can ever offer that is better than a scheme underwritten by the whole profession. Others would say, as they did when the profession voted to have a market led approach to PII, that they are carrying the burden for SME’s and sole practitioners. Some solicitors may not see direct benefit to themselves from an extension - an issue already raised in Council that will no doubt be supported by a section of the profession. The SRA has the power to levy for any shortfall in SIF at any time. COMMUNICATIONS AND CHALLENGES Meetings have taken place with interested groups to appraise them of what is going on. There has been publicity through the Gazette and direct communications with local law societies going on over the last 12-18 months and this has considerably ramped up over the last few months. One of the challenges is making direct contact with retired members. Sadly, neither TLS nor the SRA have data for membership going back more than about six or seven years. Trying to make contact with firms and members who closed down since 2000 has been extremely challenging. WHAT CAN YOU DO TO ASSIST? Firstly, assist with getting the message out, especially to retired members, possibly through your contacts. Think about those of your colleagues who have retired and/or closed a practice since 2000. If there is still a way to contact them, please do so. Secondly, if you come across any, please clarify the many misconceptions that are flying around. Thirdly, encourage colleagues whether retired or not to write to the SRA and the LSB expressing their concerns at the closure of SIF, emphasising particularly that it is a client protection issue although the protection of solicitors is important as well. Meanwhile TLS are: ■ putting substantial efforts into finding a solution; ■ continuing substantial efforts to try to find a market solution to fill the gap if SIF does eventually close; ■ ramping up the communications to members and any retired members known to them. Although there is no solution at the present time, TLS and the Council remain hopeful that one will be found. I am hopeful that there will be one or more solution that we will be able to offer to our members, but, at this time, those are not certain or detailed enough to be made public. We owe a great debt to the many who have been and continue to be engaged trying to find a solution to this problem. Let each of us join them with our own personal contribution. ■
Law Society Council Member for Surrey
So, all in all their decision is not a victory but a reprieve. We do not know the scope of the research that the SRA is carrying out on affordability, and we need to assess whether there is anything TLS can offer to supplement this research.
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1. In fact, this issue has been ongoing for the last 9 years with constant contact and communication by The Law Society with the SRA and this statement is therefore inaccurate.
Council Members Report
s we approach the summer and the lifting of the very long lockdown, I hope that all of you have been keeping safe and well. It has been very difficult for many, including staff members. I would like to say that it has been good to hear how all firms have managed to protect their staff and been very amenable to their working arrangements. I am also pleased from my own experience how clients have been so understanding and co-operative with us. I am sure all of you would have had the same experience. Just to give an update as to what had transpired in relation to the Solicitors Indemnity Fund (SIF). A joint letter from the Law Society and the LSB Consumer Panel was sent to the SRA requesting that the proposed closure of the Solicitors Indemnity Fund should not take place and SIF should continue. A meeting took place on 26th May between the CEOs and General Counsel of the LSB, SRA and TLS. The LSB had received a number of letters and communications from members and retired members and made it clear that they were now taking a keen interest in SIF. The LSB made suggestions as to how TLS and the SRA should work together to resolve the position over post 6 year run off (P6YRO) cover. TLS wrote another letter to the SRA requesting that SIF continues. Their Board meeting on 8th June was asked to again consider: a) the adverse consequences to consumers, our members and the good standing of the profession, of a decision to close the fund at this time b) the current adverse insurance market conditions and the non-availability of any P6YRO replacement insurance in the market. TLS made it clear that if the SRA were maintaining their position to close the fund in September 2021, then there should be a detailed reasoning for their decision. The SRA Board met on the 8th June and decided to extend the life of SIF for another year to September 2022. This is not a victory, but a reprieve and TLS are working hard to find a lasting solution to the issue.
Regarding the criminal legal aid contracts 2022, the government has unveiled its plans for criminal legal aid contracts prompted the Law Society to issue a caution that law firms need more longterm certainty so they can plan for the future. The 2017 Standard Crime Contract – which is the contract between the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) and providers of face-to-face criminal legal aid in England and Wales – will come to an end on 30 September 2022. The contract will span the period of time between the end of the current contract and the point at which it is possible to tender a contract based on the outcome of Independent Review of Criminal Legal Aid (ICLAR). TLS has submitted its response to the government’s consultation on reform of judicial review. The President of the Law Society will continue to challenge the assertion that there is need for the changes that the government is advocating. Reforms to the Mental Health Act (MHA) must not hamper people’s liberty, must respect patient autonomy, and must ensure detention has a therapeutic benefit The Society has warned ministers. The President welcomed efforts made by the government to tackle such a complicated area of the law and Society will continue to press for amendments that ensure that liberty and patient autonomy are respected. As always, if you have any matters that you wish to raise with the Law Society then please do not hesitate to contact me or Alastair. In the meantime, and as we approach the summer vacation, I would like to take the opportunity of wishing all of you a safe summer and please stay safe and well. ■
Sushila Abraham Council Member
SURREYLAWYER | 21
Surrey Junior Lawyers Division W
ith a packed programme of events, it’s a busy summer for Surrey JLD. With July almost over it’s prudent to think to the end of the current committee’s term on 31 October 2021 and give clarity on what we look for in prospective committee members. We were delighted at the positive feedback received on our Murder Mystery event on 20 May organised by Events Representatives Kate Lewis and Adele Edwards and kindly sponsored by Chadwick Nott Legal Recruitment. It was such a joy to see everyone get stuck into their roles. In June and July, Martin Whitehorn’s Cocoa with the Committee took on a careers focus with guest speakers. The last of these is on 21 July at 18:30-19:30, and will be a Developing Yourself talk on junior lawyer careers and well-being with Eloise Skinner, run in partnership with the Junior Lawyers Division for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. You can sign up for this and other events via the Surrey Junior Lawyers Division Eventbrite page, and catch up with the Career Cocoa recordings on our website. On 10 June we had the first webinar of the People and Communication Skills series within the #Supporting Surrey initiative, which is run collaboratively by Surrey Law Society & Surrey Junior Lawyers Division. Look out for Jayne Constantinis’ helpful talk on Public Speaking and Presenting along with other useful webinars on the Surrey Law Society’s Vimeo page. Common misconceptions about becoming a Surrey JLD committee member As we’re more than halfway through the current committee’s term, we address common misconceptions about joining our committee to assist those interested in helping us support aspiring and junior lawyers. They won’t want someone with no experience of being on such a committee As a committee made up of junior and aspiring lawyers, we readily appreciate that everyone has to start somewhere, so previous experience on a similar committee, for example at university, is by no means required. Asking for previous experience on a committee of junior lawyers is rather like asking for previous law firm experience for an entry-level job: contradictory.
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There are plenty of others applying; they won’t want me Perhaps the most important thing we look for in prospective committee members is heartfelt appreciation of our events and a consequent desire to contribute to Surrey JLD’s success. You’d be surprised how many try to join our committee without having attended a single event. In short, if you’re passionate about helping, we would love to have you. I won’t have the time At their peak, no role apart from perhaps Chair of our committee takes up any more than 1 or 2 hours a week. You can always ask another committee member for help. There isn’t a role suitable for me Our committee expanded from 7 to 15 in November last year precisely because new committee members had not restricted themselves to applying for existing roles. As a result, we now have Wellness, In-House, Career Changer, CILEx and Sponsorship Representatives on the committee, so if you can think of a role that would be a great fit, for example a SQE or Bar Representative, then do apply. For more information about what we look for in committee members or just to sign up to our mailing list, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. ■
Independent Criminal Legal Aid Review (ICLAR): Law Society responds to call for evidence Bhavni Fowler
e have responded to the independent criminal legal aid review (ICLAR) call for evidence – a major review of criminal legal aid led by Sir Christopher Bellamy. We warn that the criminal defence profession could collapse if the government does not increase funding, and that large areas of the country face a future with few or no duty solicitors available to represent defendants, with adverse consequences for victims, witnesses, and the effectiveness and efficiency of the criminal justice system. Our submission highlights the following areas of concern: Underfunding and firms exiting the market Not only has there been no cost of living increase in criminal legal aid rates since the 1990s, but there was an 8.75% cut to fees in 2014. This lack of any fee increase for over 20 years has manifested itself in an increasing number of crime firms leaving the market. In 2010 there were 1,861 criminal legal aid firms; in June 2020 there were 1,147 and the latest figures published in April 2021 show 1,090 firms.
of solicitor to advise the client; increasing basic fees; annual uprating of fees; an independent fee review board to review and set fees annually and a government funded training grant for those wishing to pursue a career in criminal legal aid. Read our full submission here: www.lawsociety.org.uk/ campaigns/consultation-responses/criminal-legal-aid-reviewpackage-summary-of-law-society-response. If you would like further information in relation to our work on Legal Aid or Access to Justice, please do not hesitate in contacting me. ■
Key Account Manager The Law Society Email: email@example.com Tel: 07773 254 543
This indicates that 5% of firms have dropped out of the market since June 2020, on top of the near 40% drop in the preceding 10 years. The ongoing drop in the number of firms shows no sign of abating and indicates an accelerating trend where we are losing 5-10% of the firms in the market each year. Without a significant injection of funds, more firms will exit the market, leaving serious gaps in the provision of access to justice. Shortage of trainees and young solicitors There is a dearth of young solicitors willing to go into criminal law mainly because of the low fees. Our submission cites research which shows that despite it being vocationally of interest, students saddled with debt are opting for more lucrative areas of the law. Even where young solicitors do opt for a traineeship in criminal law, they frequently leave to pursue a career in another area of law. Reduced numbers of duty solicitors Our duty solicitor heat map from 2018 showed that in five to 10 years’ time there could be insufficient criminal duty solicitors in many regions, leaving individuals in need of legal advice unable to access justice. Competition for staff Other government-funded organisations such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) can offer considerably higher salaries and benefits to both newly qualified and experienced solicitors than private criminal defence firms. Many of our members report losing experienced staff to the CPS in particular. Possible solutions… We offer some ideas that could help to improve the situation, such as restructuring fee schemes to incentivise the right level SURREYLAWYER | 23
Premium Residential <0.25Ha Environmental | Flood | Ground Stability | Energy & Infrastructure
Grid Reference: E: 123456 | N: 123456
Professional Opinion 1.ENVIRONMENTAL
No further recommendations
No further recommendations
No further recommendations
4.ENERGY & INFRASTRUCTURE
Consideration(s): 4.20 Power Stations
Air Quality Index: Some Polluted Areas (See 1.25) This page should always be read in conjunction with the full report. The Professional Opinion indicates the potential risks and any other potential issues associated with the property. The results should be disclosed to client and/or lender and/or insurer as appropriate. A ‘Pass’ is given if no potential property specific risk has been identified. A ‘Pass with Considerations’ is given where there are potential hazards in the locality to bear in mind, or if there are features nearby which some clients might consider could affect them. A ‘Further Action’ is given if there is a potential property specific risk and a further action is advised. In the event of a request to review the Professional Opinion based on additional information, or if there are any technical queries, the professional advisor who ordered the report should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 01732 755 180.
Regulated by RICS If you require assistance, please contact your Search Provider or alternatively contact FCI directly with your Report ID. Tel: 01732 755 180 | Email: email@example.com | Web: www.futureclimateinfo.com
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New Builds: Is your Client fully protected from Contamination Risk?
t is a common assumption that new or recent housing developments will have been constructed to an appropriate standard, with the correct measures in place to ensure that homes are free of future contaminated land liability. But is this a safe assumption to make?
Just under 110,000 new homes were completed in England last year, reduced from prior years due to COVID-19, when delivery peaked at around 220,000.1 Driven by policies focussed on the redevelopment of brownfield land, an increasing number of these homes (c.50-80%) are constructed on former industrial sites. Balancing Site Availability with Economics Councils are under pressure to meet house building targets and will look to offer plots that are superficially attractive in terms of value, but are typically brownfield, as these are the priority sites for development within Local Plans to discourage sprawl and re-use existing industrial land for regeneration. Developers will look at these sites through the lens of economic viability. The Council will impose pre-application conditions on assessing the risk of contaminated land and seek assurance from the developer that this has been properly implemented and an effective remediation strategy proposed. In order to be viable, a developer will look to the most cost efficient solution for remediation, which may not always be the most effective longer term. Much will depend on the nature and severity of any contaminants, but there have been many examples of a simple removal and replacement of top soils and fitting of a membrane cap. Approaches by developers vary widely and they will apply economic decisions on a bespoke basis to the site and the number of units they are able to achieve with Council approval, so you cannot assume a standard level of environmental due diligence is being followed all of the time. Case Study: Worthless Homes through Developer and Planning Negligence In 2014, residents of a Bradford housing estate were told that their homes were worthless due to failures in the development process. The 13-property development adjoins a former landfill site, which records suggest received industrial, commercial and household waste. Authorities identified a risk of methane and carbon dioxide migrating from the landfill into the properties. Consequently, a key condition imposed by the Local Planning Authority was the effective remediation of the site before building certificates could be issued. Sherwood Homes, the developer, was required to fit a membrane to prevent gas ingress. Evidence of correct installation was lacking, and final building compliance certificates weren’t issued. Residents later seeking to re-mortgage were met with a zero-valuation due to the absence of a final lawful building certificate. Whilst steps might first be taken to hold the developer accountable, should the authorities be unable to reach that party the notice could fall at the feet of the property owner. In this case, Sherwood Homes has gone into administration and has reportedly not responded to approaches by residents or authorities. Can the Owner of a New Build Property Be Liable to Pay for its Remediation? It is often assumed that under contaminated land legislation the developer of a property will be the sole target of enforcement action. Unfortunately for the prospective purchaser, this isn’t the case. There is potential for both parties to be considered members of the top liability group, known as ‘Class A’ persons, being those deemed to have ‘Caused’ or ‘Knowingly Permitted’ contamination to exist. The construction of a house on top of contamination can establish a link between the contamination and future residents which previously didn’t exist. The developer may be considered a Class A person because they
‘caused’ that link to exist. However, the new homeowner is not immune. Should they alter the property or the grounds in some way, exposing contamination, they could similarly be considered a ‘Causer’ and assume the same top liability. Potentially of greatest risk to the new homeowner is the not uncommon practice for developers to establish special purpose vehicles (SPVs) which act as the legal entity responsible for the construction, to limit their liability and protect any holding company. The SPV can be liquidated or dissolved once the development is complete, or if significant problems are encountered during the development. Hence, this is a real issue for new homeowners concerned about their Part 2A exposure. In addition to voluntary winding down, insolvency results in the same outcome for the new buyer. Of all industrial groups, the construction industry tends to have the highest level of collapses, with over 2,000 firms entering formal insolvency procedures in the final quarter of 2020. Where this occurs, as in the case of Bradford, should the regulators enforce their powers under Part 2A, with the developer absent they may look at the second tier of liability, ‘Class B Persons’ which in this case is the owner/occupier of the land. Whilst the regulators can only require “reasonable”2 remediation, the regime does not impose a financial cap on liability. In a case involving the remediation of coal tar beneath the gardens of 11 new homes in Doncaster in the early 2000’s, the cost came to £66,000 per residence.3 How Can a Conveyancer Protect Their Client? The first step is to obtain an environmental search which employs a robust methodology, should identify if any significant risks are present and highlight these as a ‘further action’ on the front page of the search. Where ‘Further Action’ is advised in the case of a recently-developed property, a conveyancer may wish to first determine whether a National House Building Council (NHBC) Certificate (or similar) is available and ensure it covers contaminated land. Otherwise, planning documents demonstrating that contamination has been addressed during development may assist, so long as these evidence the complete discharge of all relevant conditions. Having this usually means the search provider can provide a report revision free of charge, and the conveyancer can be more confident that their duty of care has been fulfilled on this matter. Solutions and Peace of Mind Future Climate Info offers a free information review service and bespoke advice but has also developed off-the-shelf solutions for exactly these instances, sourcing information, liaising with regulators and reporting back in the form of an affordable FCI Appraisal† report, or even an FCI Walkover‡ if a physical inspection is requested. The Law Society’s Practice Note on Contaminated Land advises solicitors to consider the appropriateness of an environmental insurance policy to cover the costs of remediation of both undetected and disclosed contamination and related liabilities4. FCI searches include a free remediation warranty with all passed residential environmental reports, for 6 years, up to £100,000 providing peace of mind for conveyancers and their clients. ■ Notes 1. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/number-of-new-homes-built-soars-to-an-11-yearhigh#:~:text=Over%20170%2C000%20new%20homes%20were%20built%20for%20 the%20year%20ending%20June%202019.&text=New%20data%20has%20found%20 the,in%20the%20last%2011%20years 2. Section 78E(4), EPA 1990 – taking into account the financial cost of the works and the seriousness of the harm or of the water pollution 3. R (on the application of National Grid Gas plc (formerly Transco plc)) v. Environment Agency:  UKHL 30 4. Solicitors must ensure they comply with the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s requirements on advising on insurance. See: https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/guidance/law-firmscarrying-insurance-distribution-activities/ † Prices starting from £200+VAT for residential properties ‡ 2 Prices starting from £995+VAT for residential properties
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Calling smart law firms:
the tech you DO need, and the one thing you DON’T W
hen we talk about the top technologies for smart law firms in 2021, what exactly do we mean? Legal practice management software? Online file storage? Cloudbased word processors? Scanners? VoIP phones? Time recording? Online payments? E-signatures? Zoom? In the modern world, law firms are expected to provide their services in the same way as every other business – at the push of a button. To meet the demands of their clients, law firms are investing huge amounts of time and resources in the smart technologies listed above, integrating every piece of software or device within their organisation from the ground up. But with hundreds of options out there, each as valuable as the last, identifying what technology your law firm actually needs can be difficult. Which begs the question: what tech DO law practices need? Remote working capabilities Let’s start with the obvious. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all the value in being able to work remotely with zero obstructions. It’s no surprise that those law firms which had already invested in smart technology prior to the introduction of national lockdowns were the same firms which adapted quickest when employees were told to work from home. And when 97% of employees don’t want to return to the office full time, it’s important that you have the infrastructure available to support their new work habits in the future, whatever their working preferences – home, office or combination. This goes beyond simply supplying stationery, decent laptops or additional hardware. One of the unfortunate side-effects of 26 | SURREYLAWYER
people working from home was that the UK saw a 400% increase in reported cyber crimes during the first wave of the pandemic, so it’s crucial that you have a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy in place to protect your employees and your data. Encrypt your remote devices, install anti-virus software and, most importantly, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to secure your network from people who shouldn’t be in there. Online payment processes Chasing fees from clients can be one of the most timeconsuming tasks at any law firm, but it doesn’t have to be. Using an online payment platform will make it as simple and as smooth as possible for clients to pay their bills first time, every time. Remember, what’s better for your client is also better for you, as more on time payments will improve your cash flow and help you budget more accurately. There are plenty of options out there, such as Legl, GoCardless or Invoiced. For the best results, choose one which integrates with whatever legal practice management software you’re using, just like we’ve integrated GoCardless (and soon Legl) with Quill. Speaking of Quill… Legal software Using cloud-based legal accounts, document, practice and case management software like Quill is absolutely essential for performing all your law firm’s daily tasks whilst keeping you fully compliant. The very best legal software gives you all the tools you need to see a case through to completion, from signing initial contacts to locating crucial documents later down the line to submitting invoices. With accurate time recording and straightforward document management solutions, you can be
more efficient with your time, and clients can see where their money is going, right down to the last penny. The sign of an effective legal software is that, once you start using it, you barely notice that it’s there. Legal software is the silent hero that works away in the background, removing the headache that comes with endless back-office tasks so that you can focus on doing what your law firm does best. Email and phone systems From a client’s perspective, this is the most important area you can invest in. It’s essential that your clients feel like you are there for them, which means having the communication infrastructure in place to make that possible. Older landline phones and copper internet connections have a tendency to break at the most inconvenient times, but that is no excuse in today’s day and age – especially when there’s fibre internet out there! When choosing your email system, it’s best to go with something that complements whatever word processing software or creative suite your firm uses (ie. Outlook with Office 365, Gmail with Google Workspace). But when it comes to your phone systems, you can be a bit more flexible. There are multiline phones, cloud phones and PBX phones, but VoIP phones are probably the most popular as they allow you to run multiple lines and calls simultaneously over the internet. Each system comes with its own benefits, but again what you choose will generally depend on the demands of your business.
Quill’s guide to the essential smart law firm technology in 2021 Discover what smart technologies to invest in, why to go paperless and how you can make the tools you already have at your disposal work harder.
And what’s the one thing you DON’T need? Paper Okay, we’ve cheated here a bit, as paper isn’t really a technology. But the point still stands – in a modern law firm, paper should be the last thing on your list! Going paperless is actually a lot easier than you’d first think. It’s basically just a case of storing all your important paperwork according to the same organising system as before, only instead of locking it all away in a labyrinth of filing cabinets, you can store, locate and edit it all from within one screen. When clients send in paper copies, scan them immediately, organise them accordingly and then shred and recycle the paper copies once they’re no longer needed. Be consistent – by using naming protocols and documenting defined procedures – and diligent with sticking to this process, and you will reap the rewards. In the short term, this makes it quicker and easier to manage crucial documents. In the long term, it takes up less storage space, reduces operational costs, helps comply with data regulations and is a more sustainable solution in general. Next steps All of these technologies are useful in their own right, but the question you need to ask yourself is whether it is right for you. Depending on the size of your firm, the strength of your infrastructure, the type of work you do, and how many employees are working from home, some tech will be more valuable than others. Start with the essentials: quality legal software. Once your practice is running smoothly, that’s when you can start adding in all the bells and whistles which will take you from a law firm to a smart law firm. This article has been repurposed from the ‘Quill Uncovers: Secrets from real partners on the tech you really need’ webinar. View for free at www.quill.co.uk/ resources/guide-to-the-best-legal-tech-tools-for-uk-law-firms-and-lawyersin-2021. ■
Learn more: www.quill.co.uk/resources/ guide-to-the-best-legal-tech-toolsfor-uk-law-firms-and-lawyers-in-2021
About Quill Quill helps law firms streamline and run their practice better by providing simple and easy-to-use legal accounting and case management software, as well as outsourced legal cashiering services. Get in touch for more information about Quill's practice management software and outsourced legal services by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. SURREYLAWYER | 27
How to recruit, retain and incentivise employees in the new normal A
snapshot of the legal landscape in June 2021 as against June 2020 reveals seismic changes brought about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these changes are positive and, for key decision makers in law firms, it is worth recognising and reacting to these developments, particularly where firms are busy but finding it difficult to recruit into business-critical areas. New ways of working One positive of the pandemic has certainly been to demonstrate to many law firms, whatever their size, that remote working and flexibility can bring obvious benefits to staff, with little effect on the bottom line. We have seen many law firms post very impressive results in a year when the economy shrank by 10%. Across the country we have seen job vacancy levels return to almost pre-pandemic levels, creating a healthy demand for strong associates, partners, teams and in-house lawyers. However, there is an even shorter supply of quality candidates, than was the case pre-pandemic. While 2020 saw an exodus from the City, which could have benefited our regional firms, the historic shortage of candidates in the South East and Surrey has now been exacerbated by the greater geographical reach of the larger regional, national and international firms, who are happy to recruit candidates from literally anywhere, as they seek to fill 100% remote working roles. In addition, for those who want to work in London but live outside the City, they are now able to “have their cake and eat it”, as there is much talk of the “The New Normal” being at least a hybrid of office and home working.
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Amid this change, a relatively new model of law firm has also developed from being a mere alternative to traditional law firms, to being a serious competitor. Fee-sharing law firms now rival the long-established LLP model. Founded in 2006 in Guildford, Setfords was one of the first, and since then others including Gunnercooke, Keystone, and Bexley Beaumont have emerged, securing impressive clients and making eye-catching partner hires from some of the UK’s top LLPs. Gunnercooke welcomed 44 new partners in 2020, many from Top 50 “City” law firms. This trend is projected to continue, with the investment bank Arden predicting that by 2026 a third of all lawyers will be operating under this model. Professional support, knowledge management and contract vacancies have also increased steadily since the second half of 2020, offering alternatives to those fed up with the traditional billing/hourly target private practice model. Therefore, with more choice and a smaller pool of candidates the key must be to ensure that you do everything you can to keep the good staff you do have and to offer yourself as an attractive alternative to your competitors. Market reputation In 2020 many firms did implement cost saving measures, reduce salaries temporarily, utilise the JRS scheme where possible and made redundancies. However most firms tried to hold on to as much of their legal fee earning talent as possible and many have been quick to pay back salaries and any
furlough funding received, given how profitable they ultimately were despite the pandemic. When considering a role, we are finding lawyers asking us specifically how firms treated their staff during the early days of the pandemic and there are certainly some very good examples of firms who really stepped up to the mark during these unprecedented times and continue to do so. Examples of wellbeing initiatives include: ■ The appointment of a specific Health & Wellbeing Representative – a fully trained individual with 100% focus on this role in a firm (not a partner with this role!) who disseminates regular health and wellbeing advice to all staff. ■ Staff trained as Mental Health First Aiders and active publicity that mental health of staff is of paramount importance; that asking for help is OK along with confidential counselling services made available. ■ Regular firm wide updates from the partners/managers to ensure home workers feel included and well informed, combined with regular internal video catch up meetings. ■ Promotions and salary reviews continued. ■ Bonus payments specifically for spending on improving home working environment. Covid bonus payments to thank staff for their hard work in difficult times. ■ Online activities for children of those home schooling; magicians, cookery classes etc. ■ Regular online exercise or yoga classes. ■ Photo collages or regular profile raising of team members (bearing in mind new starters will not know or meet anyone very often). ■ Sending staff “thoughtful” gifts – a hot water bottle in November, mugs, tea, coffee and biscuits for online team coffee breaks, chocolate brownie deliveries, hampers at Christmas – again showing appreciation through ongoing tough times. ■ On-boarding and training moved online. ■ Employee ownership models on the rise. Holding a stake in the place you work can change the mindset among staff creating a common purpose. Those with “good news” stories to tell will certainly benefit in terms of staff retention and attraction. Candidates at every level, even newly qualified solicitors, are more than ever undertaking detailed due diligence on firms, and that no longer only includes enquiring about a firm’s financial stability, but checking “RollOnFriday”, “Glassdoor”, LinkedIn and social media for any information from current or former staff – good or bad. This time last year 90% of our candidates in the South East, if offered a position, only had one offer to consider. The same time this year 75% of our candidates now have multiple offers to choose from. Salary of course is one factor in the mix when reaching a decision, but we are also finding the opportunities for agile working and flexibility are now as important for many.
Be open about your policies Particularly those around flexible working, paternity/maternity leave and pay, diversity and inclusion. These are now forefront of many of our candidates’ minds when considering their next move. Be as flexible as possible for the right candidates If you have bought into the idea of working from home, then look at offering what the candidate wants rather than sticking rigidly to your firm’s policy of say a maximum of 2 days a week WFH. If you can’t move on salary, then consider a signing on/moving bonus. Be creative in your benefits Comprehensive sick and holiday benefits are very important as well as benefits which increase employee engagement, including regular team activities. Many previous benefit schemes have been rendered obsolete or unsuitable e.g. subsidised gyms near the office and free lunches on-site. Communication is key, ask your employees what they want and where possible personalise offerings. The importance of this (and “work life” balance) has recently been reported with some City firms now offering payments for fertility treatment by way of “personalised fertility care and family-forming support”. Consider your Corporate Social Responsibility offering Despite the individual separation and isolation we have experienced, communities appear to have grown more tightly knit and there is a renewed willingness to help others less fortunate. This trend is partially attributable to people working from home because they are spending more time in their immediate area. Many lawyers are also attracted to the profession by altruistic motives and therefore CSR can enhance job satisfaction, in addition to strengthening relationships with clients, support recruitment and retention. Finally, consider your traditional working practices/demands It is all very well talking about well-being but if you are still expecting your staff to embrace an increasing chargeable hour target, is that realistic? A downside of working from home is that staff can be called upon to work at all hours and weekends and this needs to be carefully monitored. Lawyers have certainly played and are playing a key role in the response to the pandemic. In a rapidly changing landscape, the best responses have come from those who have been able to adapt quickly and creatively. It is hoped that arising from this terrible period there will at least be long term, beneficial changes for our profession. ■
Penny Heighway Senior Associate Chadwick Nott
Speed is key If looking to recruit go early and move quickly. In 2019 the average time it took from sending a CV to a firm, going through the interview process, offer and acceptance was 2.5 months. Aided by online interviewing this is currently 4 weeks, often less. Whilst appreciating that firms have to be financially prudent in these uncertain times, so there may be very good reasons for not moving on salary, there may however be an opportunity to look at other aspects which may appeal to a candidate.
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ESG disclosures: The new EU regime Background
March 2021 saw the phasing in of the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) as part of a number of EU initiatives to promote investment towards the green economy and sustainable business development more generally. This particular measure seeks to combat ‘greenwash’ and help verify that financial markets are taking seriously the need for longer term and sustainable investment.
The SFDR applies to Financial Market Participants, a group of investors under ten categories in Article 2(1) of the regulation including, certain insurers, pension providers, portfolio and fund managers. Such entities need to disclose:
The measure is part of an EU Action Plan on Sustainable Finance, the aim of which is to: ■ shift capital flows away from activities that have negative social and environmental consequences; and instead ■ channel finance towards economic activities that have genuine long-term sustainability benefits. In particular the SFDR demands transparency on how market participants handle the risks of possible adverse sustainability impacts both for the product itself and for the entity handling the investment. The SFDR should be reviewed alongside two other measures: ■ the Climate Benchmarks Regulation which seeks to create new benchmarks to help investors compare the carbon footprint of their investments; and ■ the Taxonomy Regulation which provides a unified EU classification system of environmentally sustainable economic activities.
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■ policies on integration of sustainability risks in investment decision-making; ■ information on the extent of consideration of ‘principal adverse impacts’ of its investment decisions on sustainability (subject to size of entity); ■ remuneration policies and consistency with the integration of sustainability risks. There are also disclosures in relation to products which could include: ■ pre-contract disclosures to investors on the integration of sustainability risks into investment decisions; ■ likely impacts of sustainability risks on the financial product in question and its returns on the investment; ■ information on the mechanisms by which the financial product addresses ‘principal adverse impacts’ on sustainability factors It is permissible to state that sustainability risk is not relevant to a particular financial product but if this is done some statement of why this is so should be included. Where a financial product promotes, alone or in combination with other attributes, environmental or social characteristics, the following information should be disclosed:
■ information on how those characteristics are met; ■ if an index has been designated as a reference benchmark, information on whether and how this index is consistent with those characteristics. Certain products may seek to promote ‘sustainable investment’, namely investment in an economic activity that contributes to an environmental objective (such as decarbonisation of energy or conservation of natural resources) or social objectives (such as addressing inequality or promoting social cohesion). For products with such an objective it should be clear: ■ how the index used is aligned with that objective; ■ how the designated aligned index differs from a broad market index; OR if no indexation ■ how objective is measured For now… At this stage we await more detail on the measures which will set out the content of the necessary disclosures and their presentation. These have been subject to consultation but were delayed when the market expressed concerns about their onerous nature. From 10 March 2021, however, the broad (‘level one’) duties apply to financial market participants. As a result, it makes sense at this stage for companies within the relevant sectors to begin to harmonise financial disclosures in line with the requirements of the Regulation. This might include: ■ written statements demonstrating the integration of sustainability risks into investment decisions; ■ online information about methodologies for assessing and monitoring investments made; ■ initial data gathering on principal adverse impacts (see below); ■ preparation for periodic reporting relating to sustainable investments by reference to appropriate indicators; ■ pre-contractual measures meet transparency requirements including disclosure of sustainability risk weighting ■ re-vamped websites ensuring that information meets SFDR requirements and is up-to-date. The Future There are some future dates to note as SFDR proceeds: ■ June 30, 2021: is the very latest date by which Financial Market Participants with more than 500 employees at group level should begin collecting data to account for any principal adverse impacts. ■ December 31, 2021: First reference period ends - such reference periods are used for the purpose of historical comparison ■ January 1, 2022: Second reference period starts; ■ June 30, 2022: By this date, the Financial Market Participants which began the process at least a year ago, must make their initial report in an adverse sustainability impacts statement, demonstrating entity performance against ESG indicators together with explanatory commentary. ■ December 31, 2022: Second reference period ends; ■ June 30, 2023: The final date for the second report but now comparative data across reference periods must now be introduced. Eventually reports may track across five reference periods.
The UK and the SFDR The SFDR applies to investments and entities based in the European Single Market and not to third country firms, including (now) the UK. Where firms market financial products within the EU, however, they will need to meet SFDR obligations. Similarly, UK fund managers acting under a delegation agreement with an EU equivalent manager may need to assist that EU fund manager with SFDR compliance. For a time, it appeared either that SFDR might apply before the Brexit date or that the UK would choose to apply both SFDR and the Taxonomy. Neither happened but in November 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduced financial sector proposals in support of the green economy. At least two developments seem likely: ■ Mandatory climate-related financial disclosures for certain financial sector firms; and ■ A UK version of the EU Taxonomy. All of which strongly suggests that ESG reporting will take hold in the UK as it is doing in the EU. Methodology to track sustainability risks and adverse sustainability impacts has become a matter of some significance. If you would like to hear more about Landmark’s Risk Horizon tool and its functionality, please contact Tom Venables or Sally Redman at email@example.com. ■
By Professor Robert Lee, recently retired Director of the Centre for Legal Education and Research at the University of Birmingham. Professor Lee is a Special Advisor on ESG to Landmark Information Group
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Finance for the legal profession W
hether you require funds for your professional indemnity insurance premium, annual tax bill, practicing certificate or working capital the pressure on cashflow can be high. Having access to a cost-efficient and an approachable source of business finance can help ease this pressure.
Hera Business Finance provide funding to hundreds of law firms around the country and can help arrange business loans and working capital finance for most financial needs.
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■ Fast Track Professional Indemnity Insurance funding ■ Disbursement funding (law firm lend and CCA funding available) ■ RTA/Medical/Professional Negligence/Financial Mis-selling ■ Fast Track Tax and VAT funding ■ Annual Tax and VAT funding ■ Historical VAT funding ■ Practice Certificates funding ■ Equipment Leasing and Hire-Purchase Agreements ■ Refurbishment Loans ■ Vehicle Finance/Partner Buy-In or Buy-Out/Aged Debt Finance ■ Finance for the consequences of Cyber-crime ■ E-sign documents available
Insurance premium finance is more needed than ever, with firms choosing to fund this over the course of the year rather than pay in one lump sum, freeing-up valuable cash resources. The right source of funds could prove invaluable in spreading costs more evenly throughout the year, whilst boosting cashflow levels to ensure the business has enough resources for any unforeseen disruptions. By applying via our fast-track application process, Hera Business Finance obtains hassle free finance to pay directly to Insurers and brokers, HMRC, or the office business account. Fast track funding enables our clients to obtain finance without the need to provide accounting information to a set amount per practice.
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What effect will the hybrid workplace have on digital transformation? I
t is now well documented how the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the uptake of new digital technologies and as someone working in the legal sector you will no doubt have been part of this. We can now expect further change as major economies get to grips with the management of COVID and life begins to return to normality. It is inevitable that permanent shifts in working patterns will result – particularly for people commuting to large cities, and those with families who, having experienced flexible working benefits, will not want to lose them. Legal firms need to embrace hybrid working to maintain access to talent and attract the best trainees. This will mean not just offering flexible working patterns and the technology to enable it – but also a culture built around it. Other good reasons for firms to invest in enabling a hybrid workplace include: potential costs savings from reducing office floor space, removing travel costs, a potential to reduce salaries – and the chance to spread geographical reach without adding significantly to operating costs. Many firms’ partners will already consider themselves to have invested in remote working – the purchase of laptops and home office equipment and an increase in the use of video conferencing being two of the primary areas of spend. Whilst this may have enabled a temporary period of home working during the darkest days of the pandemic, the real challenge of permanently integrating remote and office-based work is now coming. The need to build a consistent, integrated working environment and culture As a leader of a technology business it may come as a surprise that I believe that the biggest element of this challenge is not going to be an investment in the technology itself. In my view the biggest challenge firms will face is building a working environment and culture that integrates the technology and the way of working and is consistent for both office and remote staff. To illustrate the point, consider a team meeting where six members of staff are in the office in a meeting room and four people are remote. You have some good quality big screens and a camera for your video conferencing software which everyone uses now. If the meeting is free flowing how involved would the remote staff be? It’s human nature to engage better with the people face-to-face rather than on the screen, so fundamental changes to the way meetings are structured and the technology is used need to be made. Technology must align the experience of remote workers with that of office-based staff The gap can be closed by using technology to bring the digital remote experience closer to that of the office – and video will
play a big part in this. But inevitably changes to the workplace environment will also be necessary. And the elephant in the room is of course ensuring this new approach is delivered securely. Keeping the wheels of the business turning has been the greatest challenge recently and where the focus and investment has been made. However, there are serious risks around operating computers processing confidential client records in insecure and unregulated home IT networks. With the average time it takes to uncover a cyber breach being over two hundred days, we are yet to see the real impact of this. Successful transformation to a hybrid, digitally-enabled workplace The first step should be identifying the technologies you wish to use to enable your business. Undoubtably this will include messaging and video systems, and supplying the office with the equipment to use them. This software has become commonplace during the pandemic but is often poorly implemented and integrated – so ‘pressing the reset button’ and starting afresh (with more time to plan) is recommended. You should also be reviewing business systems to see how they integrate teams in multiple locations. Take your case management system as an example. Does it have easy-to-read dashboards so you can keep track of what your colleagues are working on? Does it contain or integrate with messaging systems so colleagues can easily comment on cases? The critical next step is ensuring everyone uses systems consistently. During the pandemic many people have found themselves ‘siloed’ whilst working from home and have developed their own way of managing workload and using communications tools. You should have company etiquette for using the likes of Teams, Zoom and Slack. This can help you deal with the ‘hybrid meeting’ conundrum I referred to earlier. Re-engineer your business processes around this and – the most difficult part of all – ingrain it into your culture. Whilst this may seem like a significant challenge the investment is worthwhile. Firms that successfully achieve this transformation will have high-performing, motivated teams and ultimately have an edge on their competition. ■
Managing Director Pro Drive IT
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Guildford Legal Walk – back with success for 2021!
n Wednesday 30 June, London Legal Support Trust (LLST) welcomed nearly 200 walkers from 26 teams that took part in the Guildford Legal Walk, part of a series of nine ‘regional’ Legal Walks in the South-East of England organised by the charity. The event was a huge success with the rain staying away and everyone in great spirits, excited to be walking together with colleagues, peers and friends from the local legal community and legal advice sector. The walk has already raised over £14,000 so far for local frontline free legal advice agencies including South West London Law Centres, and local Citizens Advice. Patrick Marples, CEO of South West London Law Centres, commented “We were delighted to be back together at the Guildford Legal Walk. The past 18 months have been challenging for everyone and as we start to rebuild our daily lives, it’s important to remember there are many in our local area who are in desperate need of legal advice. Many people have faced new issues with debt – particularly rent/mortgage arrears,
putting them at risk of losing their homes – mental health problems and domestic abuse since the pandemic, and we expect to see this to increase as the furlough scheme comes to an end, evictions resume and the uplift in universal credit stops. By raising funds and awareness, we continue to help as many as possible get the advice they need. We are very grateful to London Legal Support Trust and everyone taking part in the walk for their support with this.” How can you help? The funds raised by the Legal Walks are needed more than ever – sign up for news on future events HERE! Along with a number of events throughout 2021, LLST is now on countdown for their pinnacle event of the year, the London Legal Walk on Monday 18 October. If you haven’t already signed up, please do! You will be joining a community of dedicated and enthusiastic fundraisers walking 10km through Central London, all in support of access to justice. For information, see HERE or email the Events Team firstname.lastname@example.org. ■
Simple Contract Law: Stripping English Law of Complexity
n his new book, Watson-Gandy has bravely done a complete about-turn on traditional dusty textbooks, writing an illustrated guide to English contract law that is fun to read, entertaining and succinct. Synopsis of ‘Simple Contract Law: A brief introduction to English Contract Law’: This book provides an essential introduction to English contract law. Written by practising barrister and law professor, Mark WatsonGandy, whose infectious enthusiasm for the subject permeates the text, the book simply explains all the core concepts and leading cases and what the most common terms and conditions actually do. Whether you are a law student, businessman or an international lawyer, you will find “Simple Contract Law” to be an easy-to-read, concise, and informative first guide into the subject. Enlivened by the colourful back stories to the case law and with witty illustrations by Gordon Collett, this book is a welcome antidote to stale traditional contract law textbooks. “People don’t realise quite how important English contract law is for us all. English contract law has long been the preferred 34 | SURREYLAWYER
choice of law for international contracts – often even where the parties or transaction has no connection to the UK. The UK legal services industry is worth £60 billion to the UK economy; the UK legal services market is the largest in Europe and second only globally to the USA. Three quarters of those using London’s commercial courts during litigation come from outside of the UK” explains the author. “I wanted to write something which would cut through the complexity, to give an accessible overview of the law. A quick and easy-to-read guide like this is long overdue.” ‘Simple Contract Law: A brief introduction to English Contract Law’ is available now for £9.95 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3kbb6Q4. ■ Professor Mark Watson-Gandy K.S.G is a practising barrister at Three Stone Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn and has appeared in high-profile cases in the UK and abroad. He is a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster and at the University of Lorraine in France. He was made a Knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great in recognition of his work as a barrister and law professor in 2007. In 2020, he was appointed as one of the UK Ministry of Justice’s “Legal Services are Great Champions” to promote English legal services internationally.
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Clio Grow, Clio’s legal client intake and client relationship management solution, could transform your law firm. Discover Clio Grow today at clio.com/uk/grow or call +44-800-433-2546. *Statistics taken from Clio’s Legal Trends Report 2020. 26% revenue increase observed in August 2020
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