THE OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE WESTMINSTER & HOLBORN LAW SOCIETY | NOVEMBER 2020
What does Black History Month mean to me? – Stephanie Boyce Vice President of The Law Society of England & Wales
Plus ■ On being a novelist and a lawyer ■ Redundancies in the legal profession – A message of hope ■ UK’s first recession in 11 Years – Impact on Workforce Planning
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PUBLISHER Benham Publishing Aintree Building, Aintree Way, Aintree Business Park, Liverpool L9 5AQ Tel: 0151 236 4141 Fax: 0151 236 0440 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: www.benhampublishing.com ACCOUNTS DIRECTOR Joanne Casey
Contents 05 President’s Foreword 07 WHLS Officer Profiles 09 WHLS AGM 2020 13 What does Black
SALES DIRECTOR Karen Hall STUDIO MANAGER Lee Finney MEDIA No. 1708
History Month mean to me?
PUBLISHED November 2020 © Benham Publishing Ltd. LEGAL NOTICE © Benham Publishing. None of the editorial or photographs may be reproduced without prior written permission from the publishers. Benham Publishing would like to point out that all editorial comment and articles are the responsibility of the originators and may or may not reflect the opinions of Benham Media. No responsibility can be accepted for any inaccuracies that may occur, correct at time of going to press. Benham Publishing cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies in web or email links supplied to us. DISCLAIMER 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.
14 Implicit Bias 16 On being a novelist and a lawyer
17 International matters 16 18 Obituary: AnneMarie Hutchinson 22 20 Cyber risk and the legal practice
Members of the public should not seek to rely on anything published in this magazine in court but seek qualified Legal Advice.
22 Redundancies in the
COVER INFORMATION Image of Stephanie Boyce used with permission.
legal profession – A message of hope
23 UK’s first recession in Copy Deadline 21st January 2021 For the February 2021 edition Advertising Anyone wishing to advertise in Central London Lawyer please contact Karen Hall before the copy deadline. email@example.com 0151 236 4141 Editorial Members wishing to submit editorial please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org Editor in Chief: Ivan Ho. Guest Editor: Sarah Bradd. Editorial Board: Coral Hill, Suzanna Eames & Sarah Bradd.
11 Years – Impact on Workforce Planning
24 Become visible at
work while working from home
25 Lost in Translation? Interpreters and Family Courts
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The President’s Foreword NOVEMBER 2020
elcome to Central London Lawyer. I was elected President of Westminster and Holborn Law Society at our AGM in mid-October. A number of new officers were elected along-side me, who will help in the continuing growth of the society. We all owe a great debt to Carolina Marín Pedreño, my predecessor, and now the immediate past president. She guided the society through unimaginable circumstances. From the highs of our very successful annual dinner in March through the complete lockdown a week later, where it became a crime to even leave your home except for a prescribed reason. Yet the society has kept going and indeed kept holding events – by Zoom. Thanks also to Anisha Birk our secretary who also stepped down. She did a great job. This edition of CLL is themed around Black History month. Our society member Stephanie Boyce, who became Vice President of the The Law Society earlier this month has contributed an interesting article on diversity in the profession. Whilst as a profession the upper reaches could benefit from change, it appears solicitors are way ahead on diversity in comparison to other professions.
With Covid, it’s here-we-go-again with a lockdown of one sort or other. This edition contains a number of helpful articles from working from home to your legal rights regarding redundancy. As for what I would like to achieve during my year as President, it’s simple - grow the Society, and represent solicitors where The Law Society has failed to do so. Whether it’s our colleagues who rely on legal aid, those threatened with an attack on their incomes because they bring judicial reviews, or colleagues who practice employment law, our voice must be heard. We also need equality of arms for junior solicitors who are hauled before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. They make mistakes because of stress but are disproportionately hounded by the SRA. They must be adequately represented and I will speak out on their behalf and campaign on this issue. ■
President Westminster & Holborn Law Society
Last year’s runner up of the Gamlin prize, Andrew Marks has written a thought- provoking article on LGBT rights. There are a number of other articles on diversity which certainly are well worth reading.
CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 5
hen law firms up and down the country emptied out in response to the lock down regulations, I was very proud of our national spirit as we made “the new normal” work.
But I’m a pragmatist, and I worry that in the rush to get things done, coupled with the novelty of working from home, IT security is one of those important considerations that gets swept away. The majority of London law professionals are still working from home, and this has expanded the “Threat Surface” (the sum total of all vulnerabilities in your business IT systems) exponentially. Organisations of all sizes are targeted by cyber criminals, so this is not just a problem for the big corporates. A successful ransomware attack can cause catastrophic damage at the best of times, so with all sectors of the economy already under huge pressure it is something that every competent business leader should take very, very seriously, particularly when charged with the protection of extremely sensitive data, as in the legal profession. Thankfully there are things that can be done to mitigate the threat. For example, Labyrinth Technology is currently engaged on a project for one of our clients whereby we independently verify all of their employee home router and Wi-Fi settings to ensure they measure up to robust standards. And there are other security products, deployed quickly and remotely to devices, that can add further layers of protection and mimic some of the infosec usually found only in the office.
6 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
My top tips for securing your remote workers from cyber threats are; 1. Secure the home routers, because with so many workers logging in to business systems, hackers will be desperate to gain access to a vulnerable home network. 2. Set up firewalls. The average domestic router has a built-in firewall which is just that; average. Consider installing a betterquality 3rd party firewall to offer added protection. 3. Make sure a good antivirus product is installed because while there is unfortunately no available solution for Coronavirus there are products that can stop home workers equipment being infected with malware. 4. Raise awareness in your staff regarding phishing, spearphishing and whaling. Cyber criminals do this for a living, and they are getting better at it all the time. Remote workers can easily be duped into clicking the wrong link from an ordinary looking email in their inbox. 5. Insist that all home workers review their passwords and provide advice for them on what a strong password should contain. Cybercrime has cost UK businesses £87 billion since 2015, and whilst it is never going to be economically feasible to fully replicate the level of IT security found at the office across every individual employee’s home environment, with good advice and planning Labyrinth Technology can help London’s legal firms to mitigate the risks. ■
David Henderson-Begg Managing Director Labyrinth Technology Ltd
Paul Sharma President
Paul is the founder and managing partner of Sharma Solicitors. Sharma Solicitors is a boutique employment law practice acting for both claimants and respondents, small and multinational firms. Paul worked as a trade union official before qualifying in a firm that acts exclusively for the large trade unions for their members. Paul went on to head the employment law departments of an outer London commercial firm before doing the same for a large city practice.
Anthony Seymour Treasurer
Anthony is a Solicitor in the Property Department of Pothecary Witham Weld. He acts for Charities, Company and Private Clients and deals with Commercial Property, Landlord and Tenant and Residential Conveyancing. He also specialises in Leasehold Enfranchisement. He has worked at established City Firms and was for many years a Partner in the Property Department of a Central London Law Firm. He is a member of the University of Bristol Alumni Association London Branch Committee and holds a Masters Degree in Law from Kings College, University of London.
Matthew Allan Senior Vice President
Matthew is a litigator at boutique practice Astraea Group and focuses on commercial dispute resolution. He also puts his Canadian roots to work as a member of WHLS’s International Committee. Matt is a former Council Member of the Law Society of England & Wales and sat on its Regulatory Affairs Board, alongside positions with the Junior Lawyers Division national executive committee. He enjoys writing and often adds his two cents to legal debates.
Suzanna Eames Junior Vice President
Suzanna is an Associate in Farrer & Co’s Family team who works across all areas of private family law, including complex financial remedy cases, pre-nuptial agreements and private law children proceedings. Before joining Farrer & Co, Suzanna trained as a barrister at a specialist family chambers. Suzanna is passionate about access to justice and supporting the junior members of the profession. She has been appointed as the ViceChair of the Law Society Junior Lawyers’ Division, having previously been the Chair of the WHLS Junior Lawyers’ Division. She also organises Farrer & Co’s Corporate Social Responsibility.
Nicola Rubbert Junior Vice President
Nicola is a commercial and employment solicitor. Nicola is the Chair of our Education & Training Committee and is Council Member of The Law Society of England & Wales, representing the constituency of City of Westminster. Nicola is Immediate Past Chair of the London Young Lawyers Group, an organisation which ignited her passion for the legal community.
Helen Broadbridge Honorary Secretary
Helen Broadbridge is a member of the Westminster and Holborn Law Society EDI Committee and a tax solicitor. Helen read Russian and French and studied Management at Judge Business School before completing the GDL and LPC. Helen takes a particular interest in organisational behaviour and policy.
Ivan Ho Editor in Chief
Ivan has been a member of the main committee of WHLS since November 2008. He began his training with Hunters in 2004. On qualification, he joined the Property Department of Hunters and specialises in residential and commercial work. He became an Associate at Hunters in April 2010.
Carolina Marín Pedreño Immediate Past President
Carolina is a Spanish Abogado, who cross-qualified as a Solicitor in 2006. She specialises in international cases particularly child abduction, registration and enforcement of foreign contact orders, leave to remove, residence, contact and public law cases. Carolina is a Fellow and elected Governor of the European Chapter of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, Counsellor of the Union International des Avocats Human Rights Commission, member of the International Committee of Resolution, elected Executive member for international affairs of the Bar Association of Murcia, Founder and Secretary of the Spanish Association of Collaborative Lawyers and co-chair of the European Family Justice Observatory. Carolina is a Resolution Accredited Specialist in Child Abduction and Children Law – disputes between parents or relatives. CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 7
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WESTMINSTER & HOLBORN EVENTS
Annual General Meeting 2020 O
n 13 October 2020, the Westminster and Holborn Law Society held its Annual General Meeting. What a year for the society! Carolina Pedreño, the outgoing President, has been the head of the Society in a year like no other. Her original plans for the society, like so many other plans for 2020, were swept away by the lockdown restrictions. However, the Westminster and Holborn Law Society has adapted and grown admirably, moving our many events online and endeavouring to connect members in a time of real turmoil for the profession. Throughout the year, the society has hosted many seminars on issues relevant to the profession, from Brexit to redundancies. There have been online social events with our European colleagues, to ensure that these connections remained strong. The Central London Lawyer continues to flourish, publishing a range of articles from our members including updates on the law and changes within the profession. In addition, over the last year, the society has markedly improved its social media presence. We are now very active and visible on social media, which is largely due to the efforts of our junior lawyers. At the end of the meeting, Carolina played a video montage of all of the events the society had held during the year. This covered our earlier in person events, such as the Annual Dinner, to the online seminars and international social events held later in the year. It was impressive (and quite moving!) to see just how much the society has managed to do, and how it has continued to provide a network to our members and to retain our international links when travel is no longer possible. While Carolina was unable to complete her original agenda, she has instead successfully steered the society into an online world and ensured that the boat remains afloat. We are all very grateful for everything she has done in such difficult times. I am excited to welcome Paul Sharma as the new President of Westminster and Holborn Law Society and look forward to seeing how the society grows under his leadership.
Socially distanced AGM with members on Zoom.
Aysel Akhundova Newly Qualified Rising Star Award 2020 This year celebrates the second year of the Newly Qualified Rising Star Award, an award which celebrates the inspirational achievements and hard work of trainee solicitors due to qualify in 2020. This year, the winner of the award was Aysel Akhundova, a newly qualified solicitor at Dawson Cornwell who has demonstrated excellence throughout her training contract, but also a real commitment to junior lawyers – often through her efforts within the Westminster and Holborn Junior Lawyers Division! In previous years, one of the highlights of the Westminster and Holborn social calendar has been the NQ Celebration – an event aimed at celebrating junior lawyers and their hard work over the previous two years. Last year, we awarded the NQ Rising Star Award at the Houses of Parliament and welcomed many of our friends and colleagues from various European Bar Associations. While we were not able to host the event in October this year, we are planning a belated NQ Celebration in Spring 2021. We are passionate about celebrating the strengths and achievements of junior lawyers and will host a full celebration as soon as we are able to do so. Watch this space! ■
CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 9
WESTMINSTER & HOLBORN LAW SOCIETY
Statement in support of a 12 year maximum term of Council Members 1. There is currently no time limit on the term for which individuals can sit on Council. This means that it does not embody good governance principles and is no longer fit to best represent the diverse profession of solicitors. 2. Under the Bye-Laws, Council Members sit for a term of four years1, following which an election is held. As there is no time limit on a Council member’s term, it is possible for the same person to be on Council indefinitely. 3. We consider it desirable that no person continues to serve on Council once they have served an aggregate total of 12 years (subject to certain exceptions), on the basis that limited terms of office: a. improve diversity of representation and delivery of innovation; b. create vacancies that level the playing field for challengers against incumbents, who have a greater opportunity to dominate; c. encourage optimum performance by Council Members and greater scrutiny of existing members; d. are recommended by the Council Membership Committee (CMC); and e was supported by a majority vote of members of the Law Society at this year’s AGM. Good Governance 4. As a membership organisation representative of the legal profession, the Law Society and its internal structures should embody good governance practices. The UK Corporate Governance Code suggests a term in excess of six years for a non-executive director is highly unusual: “Any term beyond six years for a non-executive director should be subject to particularly rigorous review, and should take into account the need for progressive refreshing.”2 5. The Institute of Directors’ 2017 Good Governance Report measures organisations on factors including the percentage of directors who have served in their role for more than nine years, on the basis that the higher the percentage of longer serving members, the greater the assumed negative impact is on corporate governance, indicating lack of board independence and/or entrenchment of long-standing members.3 6. Ensuring Council members have a limited term conforms with common practices amongst other representative membership organisations. The following bodies have implemented limited terms of office: a. Chartered Institute of Legal Executives: six years; b. Chartered Institute of Arbitrators: eight years; c. General Medical Council: maximum eight years in any period of 20 years; d. Chartered Society of Physiotherapists; maximum eight years before a four year break is required; e. Engineering Council: maximum six years before a two year break is required; f. Institution of Chemical Engineers: maximum six years before a two year break is required; and g. Association of Corporate Treasurers: maximum six years before a three year break is required. Improve diversity of representation 7. As a representative body, Council should mirror the profession it represents. We believe limited terms of office will increase diversity within Council and provide for a larger variety of characteristics, geographies and practice areas being 10 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
represented. It will encourage larger numbers of candidates to stand in elections, and improve the democratic process, as there will be fewer reservations about standing in an election against an incumbent and long-serving Council Member. 8. The Charity Governance Code suggests a maximum time limit of nine years should apply to trustees in the majority of circumstances.4 Council members are akin to trustees of the legal profession. Avoid dominance of historical groupings 9. As is inevitable, serving on any body for a long period of time can lead to entrenched groupings, and risk such groupings dominating discussions. We believe limited terms of office reduce this risk. The Principles of Good Governance for Sports and Recreation state that boards must maintain fixed term limits of either two four year terms or three year terms for all directors to allow the board to be refreshed regularly.5 Encourage optimum performance 10. A limited term encourages expedited performance in roles as Council Members will see their office as a temporary opportunity, rather than an indefinite appointment. In turn, this provides a better framework by which to scrutinise the performance of Council Members against what would be expected in the maximum 12 year term. 11. It will drive the development of new leaders more quickly on the basis that anyone aspiring to Chair a Committee of the Law Society or sit as an Office Holder will have a limited time period to attain such a role, and will feel less intimidated than standing against vastly more established Council Members. CMC Recommendations 12. The terms of reference for CMC include keeping under review the representative nature of Council. After years of analysis and consultation with the membership, they have recommended a 12 year term limit apply to Council Members. Exceptions to the 12 year term limit 13. There are two instances where a 12 year time limit would not best serve the interests of the profession and therefore we propose the following exceptions should apply: a. a person elected to be an Office Holder may remain on Council ex-officio for one year after their presidential term ends (they shall not have a vote): to ensure a smooth transition between Office Holders and allow any experience from such roles to be disseminated amongst Council before their retirement; and b. a person last elected before 31 July 2020 who has already served an aggregate total of 12 years or more as a Council Member may remain until their current term expires: to ensure a smooth transition to the Council Members remaining, rather than an immediate exodus. Recommendation and Decision 14. We look for your support to vote that a term limit of 12 years be applied to Council Members (subject to the exceptions) and to seek the amendment to the bye-law as set out in the Appendix attached. ■
Laura Uberoi – Council Member
WESTMINSTER & HOLBORN LAW SOCIETY
1. With the exception of the LPC/Trainee Solicitor Council Member, who sits for two years. 2. Financial Reporting Council, The UK Corporate Governance Code, September 2016, p11-2.
3. Institute of Directors, The 2017 Good Governance Report, p16. 4. Charity Governance Code for larger charities, principle 7.2.4. 5. www.sportandrecreation.org.uk/pages/principles-of-goodgovernance
Constituency Boundaries W
e are about to have a profession wide ballot on reforms to the representational structure of our governing Council. On 10th November, our Committee will be asked to recommend to all our members that they support the reform proposals. Fraser Whitehead a member of Council and a campaigner for reform sets out the case for reform. The Law Society Council consists of 97 members who are the voice of the profession on all representation matters, on law reform, on public interest issues such as the rule of law, who decide all major policy and oversee all other governance activities. The reforms will ■ Make Council more representative of today’s profession ■ Ensure the voices of important parts of the profession are sufficiently heard ■ Provide that all Council members are subject to open and transparent election ■ Encourage greater collaborative engagement between Council, members, and solicitor organisations The reforms were recently supported by substantial majorities of Council and the members Annual General Meeting. Why change the representational structure? 1. Council was last reformed 20 years ago. Much of the current structure pre-dates that. The profession has changed significantly since then and the rate of change continues. 2. For the last three years a Council committee has undertaken a major review, consulting extensively within the profession, and has undertaken an in-depth review of all available data on our makeup and showing the key indicators of future direction. It found that important and growing segments of today’s profession were not fairly represented, and the current structure of Council could not be said to represent the full voice of the profession: – – Women solicitors represent 52% of the profession but are only 39 % of Council. – In-House solicitors are 23% with 14% working in commerce but are 9% of Council with 3% from commerce. – Under 20 years PQE solicitors totalling 104,109 are 70% of the profession but are 24% of Council. – Solicitors under10 years PQE number 57,316 (39%) but are 10% of Council. – Solicitors under 6 years PQE (29,650 and 15%) are represented by 6% of Council. – Solicitors working in major corporate firms and in business law exceed 50% of the profession but are approximately 15% of Council. Representation for the underrepresented 1. Council comprises geographical, work-practice, and characteristic seats. The data showed the level of disproportionate representation is mainly in the geographical
seats. Many solicitors now first identify with their areas of practice. 2. To ensure Council remains effective it cannot be enlarged, so the proposals reduce geographical seats from 61 to 46 by condensing London constituencies and making other adjustments to make the spread of representatives fairer. 3. This creates seats for the underrepresented without impacting geographical coverage. Local and regional law societies are not impeded in their current functions by the proposals. 4. The reduction is balanced with additional seats for women, for solicitors in the earlier stages of their careers, and for solicitors from ethnic minorities. There will be more seats for in-house solicitors, and solicitors practising business law and for those working in major corporates. There are now seats for family law practitioners and those working in small firms. 5. The proposals end the practice of allowing self-supporting external bodies, some with non-solicitor members, to nominate to Council seats, replacing them with solicitor only elected constituencies and largely exclude multi representation in work- practice areas where a single voice will be as effective An open transparent secure election process for all Council members 1. The proposals introduce important changes ensuring that all Council members are democratically elected and accountable. At present some 16% of Council seats are filled by closed selection and appointment, in some cases by external bodies. 2. In a substantial improvement to the current system most members will be able to vote in one geographical and in one work-practice seat, with characteristic members having additional votes in those seats. A proper electoral registration system will deliver fair results, and voting will be electronic. Better engagement between solicitors, The Law Society, and solicitor organisations By enhancing the representation of work-practice sector seats and those reserved for characteristics, we will achieve an important re-balancing. The proposals for geographical seats ensure there is at least one active local law society in each constituency. All other proposed seats are identified with at least one Society recognised section, division, committee, or group. Limiting Council members to 12 year terms of office Currently terms of office are unlimited, and a significant number serve longer than this, some have been on Council over 20 years. Good governance recommends 12 years as sufficient period encouraging regular fresh thinking and avoiding entrenched groupings Please support the proposals approved by Council and the AGM for a Council representative of today’s profession. ■
Fraser Whitehead – Council Member CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 11
We’ve come a long way, but there is more to do Andrew Marks
n the last edition of Central London Lawyer, I discussed the progress that has been made in respect of LGBT+ representation and visibility in the legal sector. Whilst we have indeed moved a long way the pace of change appears to be slowing. An EU wide survey of the experiences of 140,000 LGBT+ individuals found that 60% of LGBT+ people avoided holding hands with their partners in public and further noted that fear, violence and discrimination have remained high since the first EU wide survey in 2012. Perhaps of greatest concern is the increase in discrimination against trans and intersex people. In the 2019 survey 60% of trans people reported experiencing discrimination, up from 43% in 2012. Closer to home the Government have again failed to take all possible steps to strengthen the rights of trans people by diluting the proposed amendments to the Gender Recognition Act. Whilst it is promising to see that just last month over 100 major companies joined together to release a statement saying that trans rights are human rights, the scarcity of trans role models in the legal profession must be a concern. This is not something that can be rectified overnight. I reiterate my statement from the last edition – it is vital to build a culture of inclusion from the ground up. C-suite and partnership representation is key. Todd Sears, the founder of Out Leadership, noted that: “LGBT equality can be expedited through business and increasing the number of out leaders […] amplifies that”. High level representation not only changes corporate culture but also inspires. When Tim Cook came out in a 2014 essay in Bloomberg, he stated that: “If hearing that the CEO of Apple is gay can help someone struggling to come to terms with who he or she is, or bring comfort to anyone who feels alone, or inspire people to insist on their equality, then it's worth the trade-off with my own privacy”. Only when firm foundations are in place can we expect to see
mar Kankiya is a Mental Health and Mental Capacity solicitor with over 10 years’ experience in these fields and has been a qualified solicitor for the last eight years. As part of The Solicitors' Charity's ongoing listening project and research in the legal profession, Umar shares his own view on how the last six months have gone. In this special guest feature, he talks about the impact of COVID-19 on the profession, Black Lives Matter and representation within the legal sector. “Representation matters and COVID-19 has served to shine a spotlight, on so many levels, the fact that the old way of doing things in over”. Read more via the link: https://bit.ly/Umar-Kankiya ■
12 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
out LGBT+ people leading our law firms. The firmness of these foundations is key. I consider myself a member of the LGBT+ community but am also able to acknowledge that my understanding in respect of the experience of the trans and bisexual members of our community is not as strong as it could be. Personally, I must do better, and arguably we must do more as a community. Full equality cannot be achieved until everyone is equal. Gay, white, cis men must acknowledge that they retain a level of privilege that the rest of the community lacks. We must use that privilege to the advantage of the rest of our community. It is not enough to rest on our laurels. If we fail to acknowledge the struggles we still face, and especially that the rest of the community faces, we risk a reversal of the progress we have thus far enjoyed. I previously noted our duty to continue to fight considering the sacrifices made by those that have come before us. That fight is as important now, if not more so, than ever before. Attitudes to the LGBT+ community have indeed moved forwards, but the progression to true equality is stalling. We cannot become complacent and we can not acquiesce. The legal profession is reportedly full of so-called 'legal activists' and those working to ensure legal rights are protected and where necessary expanded. We are therefore perfectly positioned to continue the strive towards real equality and it is incumbent on us that we do so. It necessarily starts with the leaders of today taking firm steps to ensure that the best talent continues to enter the profession and that the profession continues to represent the people it serves. ■
Trainee Solicitor Taylor Wessing LLP Member of EDI Committee
The impact of COVID-19 on the legal profession, Black Lives Matter and representation within the legal sector
What does Black History Month mean to me? Stephanie Boyce
o me, Black History Month offers an important reminder for us all to reflect on the stories of those overlooked by the history books – not just in October but all year round.
For many, racism in the workplace often manifests as unconscious bias. Unconscious bias comes in many different forms such as being passed over for promotion or a pay rise despite having the same level of experience and performance.
It’s an opportunity for us all to look back and remind ourselves of the struggle for equality, liberty and human dignity. In the legal profession, there were many firsts of those overcame racial inequality to succeed in the profession.
It is also an issue at recruitment level. For example, if a white candidate is given the job over a Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic candidate who speaks English as a second language and is equally qualified.
For example, Thomas Morris Chester, the son of an escaped slave born in the US in 1834, who is believed to have been the first African American to qualify as a barrister in England.
These biases become even more apparent when they intersect with other protected characteristics. Those with more than one protected characteristic – such as those from the LGBT+ community or with disabilities – experience double or triple barriers to progression, making it even more difficult to break the glass ceiling.
More recently, Sandi Okoro, one of the first Black women inhouse counsel in financial services. Black History Month raises awareness of how these oftenoverlooked figures have contributed to our profession. But perhaps even more importantly, it also offers us an opportunity to look at how we can further equality and positive change in our profession and wider society. And this year, the message is timelier than ever. In 2020, George Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter movement protests have thrown a light on the systemic racism and inequalities which exist in all aspects of our society – and the legal profession is no exception. It is impossible to take action if as a society and a profession, we are in denial that racism exists. We need to acknowledge and investigate racism in the legal sector, listen and identify the actions we need to take to build a more inclusive profession. As of 31 July 2019, 17.5% of all PC holders – for whom ethnicity is known – are Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic solicitors represent 18.7% of PC holders working in-house, 19.1% of central and local government solicitors and 15.7% of private practitioners. While these statistics are higher than the national average of 14% Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic employees in the working population, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic solicitors are simply not reaching senior levels in equal numbers to their white counterparts. In private practice, 25% of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and 35% of white European practitioners are partner equivalents but Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic partners often work in smaller 2- 4 partner firms. 19% of partners with 2- 4 partners are Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, compared to 8% of 81+ partner firms
Within the legal sector, 0.8% of solicitors identify as African Caribbean, 1.8% as African, 0.1% as Black (other), 10.1% as Asian, 1.5% as Chinese and 3.1% as other ethnic origins. Clearly, we need to understand individual experiences better. That is why the Law Society is conducting research into the experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic solicitors to understand better the barriers to career progression. We hope this will provide important insights into the barriers Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic solicitors face in the workplace and how legal businesses can drive racial diversity to the most senior levels. To build a more inclusive profession, firms and legal businesses must have open discussions about what needs to change in their organisations and the right policies in place. For example, having blind recruitment and contextual recruitment, diversity on any decision-making panels and clear and fair promotion and pay rise structures. Good workforce data will be key to challenging or confirming perceptions around progress. Individual businesses should capture this data and use it to assess whether current diversity and inclusion initiatives are working and if not what needs to change. Black History Month serves as an important and timely reminder that we need to act now to ensure that the next generation of solicitors enter a more diverse, inclusive profession. ■
Vice President The Law Society of England & Wales
When speaking about diversity in the profession, it is important to recognise that using the term BAME can lead to unhelpful generalisations which are not inclusive. Different ethnic minorities have different experiences and challenges in the workplace. CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 13
Graduate recruitment campaign, ‘You + Us’. Client: BNP Paribas Americas.
Implicit Bias T
he EDI Committee has been involved in two projects in recent months. First, the Committee contributed comments to the Judicial College on the Equal Treatment Bench Book used by judges and many practitioners. Second, its members are contributing to the work of the International Women in Law group of the national Law Society. The aim is to build profiles of the position of women in jurisdictions around the world for the purpose of meaningful comparisons. The profiles will be available to any law firm working in the relevant jurisdiction. The committee is also committed to sharing regular EDI initiatives through this magazine and social media. This article deals with implicit bias, sometimes called unconscious bias. Many of us will have completed some training through work or may have tried the Harvard test, if not, it is accessible to anyone online https://dib.harvard.edu/implicit-association-test-iat. The test and any training is aimed at making people aware that they hold beliefs which they do not explicitly refer to or even know that they hold. These beliefs can have strong influence on our day to day actions and affect important decisions such as recruitment. This is the reason for blind recruitment although this can only go so far when recruiting for a legal job, perhaps initial shortlisting. However, it is clear from the centenary roundtables held by the then President Christina Blacklaws, that gender can be regarded negatively when considering senior positions, particularly partnership. There is similar evidence relating to characteristics relating to race, religion, sexuality and other protected characteristics.
CMS Cameron McKenna, which celebrates women leaders in the legal profession, business and politics. She also worked with the Law Society over three years to create the Social Mobility Ambassador Campaign and is a champion of the First 100 Years project, working towards a strong and equal future for all women in the legal profession. Kathryn Nawrockyi, former Director of Gender Equality at Business in the Community, led research into women’s experiences in the workplace with Project 28-40, including a deep dive legal sector project. Since 2017 she has worked with Hogan Lovells to design and deliver Project Respect, a ground-breaking anti-bullying and harassment project. Understanding the challenges posed by bias and structural inequality, Improper bring creativity, visuals and powerful aesthetics to facilitate conversations and make progress. The examples of their work show the way they challenge the legal world and its traditional approach. ■ The EDI committee welcomes new members. Please contact me for a discussion email@example.com.
Chair EDI Committee Images from International Women’s Week, Pride Week and Multicultural Week campaigns created under the umbrella brand ‘Challenge Your Bias’ that was rolled out over the course of the year to encompass the three main Diversity Festivals. Client: BNP Paribas Americas.
Some law firms are turning for help to companies such as, Improper Agency, which has been working with law organisations to provide powerful images which challenge our biases, conscious or not which can help create cultural change. Leonora Saunders and Kathryn Nawrockyi have worked independently across the sector on the representation of women and other groups less represented in the law.
Top right: Dorian Fuller, Vice President, Head of Diversity Recruitment at BNP Paribas. Bottom right: Portrait of Emma and Kate Whalley Hands from the Same But Different exhibition commissioned by Business in the Community. The series focused on intersectionality and the differing experiences of working women and was launched by Sadiq Khan at City Hall.
Leonora Saunders created The Athena Project, sponsored by
Photographs reproduced courtesy of Improper Agency.
14 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 15
On being a novelist and a lawyer I
had my big break a few years ago when I was signed up by a major agency and publishing house for world-wide publication of my first novel, Set Me Free and my second novel To Lahore with Love, which has just been released this year. The novels have led not only to features in The Telegraph, The Guardian, Hello Magazine, but also a visit to my home by Hollywood royalty, Morgan Freeman, to interview me for the National Geographic’s series The Story of Us. At the time and still to this date, I am a full-time practising equal rights and employment lawyer at Partners Employment Lawyer, part of Excello Law. The most common question I get asked is how I manage to combine the two careers. It isn’t an easy balance. It’s as if you wear different heads to work effectively in each area, but the bottom line, as with success in most things in life, is that it takes hard graft and endless hours. It is harder work than I could have imagined before setting out on this path. The odd thing is that hard work in law is often visible in the work produced, but in writing a novel, it is invisible. The more effortless the read, the more evident it is to me just how much hard work went into polishing a novel. That’s where good editors are a Godsend. My excellent editor at Headline books, provides brilliant editorial guidance.
A lot of lawyers get frustrated with the daily routine of clients and chargeable hours and see the notion of becoming a novelist as an escape. The fantasy of a charming life in a dusty attic imagining characters and worlds does seem appealing. This was not my story. I always wanted to write, and I am passionate about the art of story, but I have also always loved my life as an equal rights and employment lawyer. It is such an interesting area of law combining an element of right and wrong as well as being well and truly part of the business world. And many of my company clients feel more like friends. I also enjoy being an expert, the TV interviews and training staff. So, for me the solution was moving my own City law firm, which I had run for over a decade, to a flexible new model practice which took away much of the administrative burden and gave me greater flexibility. I chose Excello Law because it stood out head and shoulders against the competition. One of the things I love about writing novels is that it provides such a sense of escape. The world of law is controlled and precise whereas the creative writing lets you take flight with those wordsmith skills you have learned in law. I also love the juxtaposition of different themes and ideas as in my latest novel 16 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
Hina Belitz To Lahore with Love, which tells of the adventures of a mixed-race girl in travelling to Lahore to rediscover her roots. Each chapter is started with an actual recipe from my childhood. I will shortly be sharing some tips on getting started with your novel and how to get the job done. Thinking about the book you honestly most enjoyed is a great start. If you’re interested in writing a novel, follow me on social media for further details. Hina Belitz is a novelist and Equal Rights Lawyer described by the Telegraph as being practised in the art of writing deeply moving prose. ■
Equal Rights & Employment Lawyer Partners Employment Lawyer TO LAHORE, WITH LOVE by @hinabelitz has the most brilliant prologue. It’s so clever and funny and sad and smart, all beautifully compressed in a few short pages. It’s rare I find myself so quickly gripped, but it GOT me. And the rest of the book is just as beautiful. It’s the story of Addy Mayford, an incredibly talented chef, whose life is turned upside down by an awful secret. Desperate to escape, she goes to Lahore with her Pakistani Nana, where she finds a family she’s never known – and even more life-changing secrets… (I’m sorry, I’m being SO vague about all these secrets but it’s really hard not to spoil the story!). The book is dotted with Addy’s recipes – she’s convinced that food has the power to change how you feel, and she tells us how to make Love Me Forever Lamb, Come Together Spice Mix and (my favourite) UnpleasantnessCancelling Lentils. – Beth O’Leary, Bestselling Author.
International matters W
estminster & Holborn Law Society has an active International Sub-Committee and during the last couple of months we have been active on the international front. During Covid this has naturally been by zoom and other platforms, and saves the cost of travel to our European neighbours. It has meant that more members can participate in activities.
FBE, Lawyers for Lawyers, the Paris Bar, the Berlin Bar, the Rotterdam Bar and many others have been calling for the release of the Turkish lawyers who are in prison accused of terrorism because they defend people charged with terrorism, after the failed coup. However the history of repression against lawyers goes back further to the imprisonment of lawyers who defend Kurdish prisoners.
Twinning programmes mean that our members get to meet lawyers in other jurisdictions and learn about each other’s work as well as building up contacts for international practice. When Covid is over it will mean that members can visit some of the most beautiful cities of Europe. WHLS is twinned with Milan, and every January we are invited to the Opening of the Legal Year Ceremony, held in the Milan supreme court. In September this year the Milan Bar organised a conference bringing together women from jurisdictions all over the world. It was called: Generation Global Summit. I was a speaker on a panel about women in the law, and we discussed how to make the legal profession more diverse, and what tips we would have for young members of the profession.
The conference was well attended with lawyers from all over Europe, and was addressed by a member of the Ankara Bar, which is experiencing problems with the Turkish state. Sadly, marked the death of one of the hunger striking lawyers, Ebru Timtik, who died on 28 August after months on hunger strike in prison. The FBE stated “She died to defend the Right to defend the prisoners in front of a Court, and to defend them following the guarantees provided by the ECHR. She died without being able to be assisted and without the comfort of loved ones. Her battle today is the battle of all the lawyers in Europe, especially for the safety of fellow hunger striker Aytac Unsal.” Shortly after the death of Ms Timtik, Aytac Unsai was released from prison to home arrest, where they are recovering.
Every February the Barcelona Bar hold a week of Festivities, culminating in a ceremony to honour those lawyers who have given decades of service, and to welcome the newly qualified. WHLS is twinned with the Barcelona Bar and this year our President Carolina Marin Pedreno, and Chair of the Equality & Diversity Sub-Committee, Coral Hill, attended the lawyers’ roundtable and the twinned bars’ meeting where they met up with many other bar members, because the Barcelona Bar is twinned with over 40 Bars in so many jurisdictions. Then all the travel and meetings had to stop and we turned to the internet to host our international activities. WHLS is also a member of the Federation of European Bar Associations (FBE) and we were to have attended the Spring Congress in Paris in May, but that was cancelled, and will now the place next March if possible. The FBE has several working commissions and members of WHLS are members of the Human Rights commission, Access to Justice Commission, Education & Training Commission and the Equalities Commission. The Commissions have meetings by zoom. For example, the Human Rights Commission has had meetings specifically about lawyers at risk, and the independence of judges and lawyers in the last six months. One of the European countries where there are particular problems for lawyers is Turkey, with many in prison because they were associated with their clients. Instead of its Autumn conference the FBE held a webinar on 1 October attended by members of WHLS. Silvia Gimenez-Salinas, FBE President, and known to WHLS members as past Dean of the Barcelona Bar, and frequent visitor to London, opened the session, and this was followed by a session on “Supporting our Turkish Colleagues in Prison” with keynote speaker Irma Van Den Berg, President of Dutch NGO Lawyers for Lawyers. Two particularly lawyers had been on hunger strike in their demands for a fair trial. International observers who monitor the trials of lawyers, including the Law Society of England & Wales, the
WHLS members will remember that in March two members of the Krakow Bar visited, Vice Dean Alexander Gut and Kinga Konopka to sign a twinning agreement with WHLS. They attended the annual dinner of the Society, our last face to face physical event. They are hoping that we will be able to return to visit Krakow in 2021, and we will keep members informed. In the first week of October, Alexander Gut became Dean of the Krakow Bar. For the first time ever there were two female candidates, for Dean and Vice Dean. Though they were not successful they have reached a milestone in the history of women in leadership in the law in Krakow and Poland. WHLS members will watch this space with interest. ■
Professor Sara Chandler QC (Hon) Co-Chair International Sub-Committee
CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 17
Anne-Marie Hutchinson OBE, QC (Hon) 1st August 1957 – 2nd October 2020
nne-Marie’s partners and colleagues at Dawson Cornwell are coming to terms with her sad passing on Friday at the tender age of 63. Yes, we have known for some time she was seriously ill (she asked us to keep it to ourselves). Yes, we knew she was fighting insurmountable odds. Yes, we knew this day would come. But even so it still was a blow because defying insurmountable odds was Anne-Marie’s raison d’etre. Up until very recently, she would contribute with emails and texts on the day to day life of the practice and maintain a sharp eye on what we were all up to.
version of going the extra mile, which could involve temporarily putting up displaced clients at her Twickenham home.
Anne-Marie was one of six children and a proud member of England’s Irish Catholic diaspora, born in Donegal but brought up ironically in Oliver Cromwell’s parliamentary constituency of Huntingdon. She regaled us with stories of how her mother (a nurse) never let her father (a barber with a clientele consisting mainly of US airmen from the nearby airbase) off the hook for bringing them to live there next to the prominent town centre statute of that b***ard. Anne-Marie had the last laugh, on those of us pitiful Saxons, flaunting her Irish passport and retained freedom of movement, taking a read-this-and-weep attitude to those of her colleagues obliged to become former citizens of the European Union.
However next came her full on assault on Forced Marriage. To Anne-Marie this was not a question of a clash of cultures. It was plain and simple, a respect for human rights; we either all have them or none of us do. She didn’t just tackle this here with a cunning dusting off of wardship proceedings and resurrecting nullity, but also she went on missions with Foreign Office officials and judges to the heart of the matter; countries where this might take place. Persuasive and impressive the result was that there were no longer any safe havens for this practice. Anne-Marie worked with organisations and police looking after these young people when they returned, often alienated from nuclear and extended family alike and then employing the hitherto little used procedure of nullity as a method for erasing these illegitimate unions from history, so that the “marriage” never existed. Her colleagues looked on in awe, putting our mundane gripes about the imminent meltdown of the court service into perspective.
She left school early by today’s standards and took what for then was a respectful position for a girl, but working in a bank wasn’t enough. She did A levels at college, smashed them and secured a place at Leeds University to read modern history and politics graduating (of course she did) with a First. Even a golden child like Anne-Marie needed a mentor and she found one in Jack Bleiman, a family law practitioner and litigator at the north London practice of Beckman & Beckman where she took articles. Jack was a member of his own diaspora, that wave of progressive South African lawyers, who escaped the corrupted jurisprudence of apartheid, a group who so enhanced the English legal profession, where achieving justice was still possible irrespective of creed, colour, religion and as it was starting to evolve gender/sexual orientation. Being a woman in the law in the 1980’s was no cakewalk but Anne-Marie was unfazed, working hard and playing hard. She was socially a bit of a wild child (and great fun with it) but professionally she had a drive and determination that was off the Richter Scale. She was admitted as a solicitor in 1985. It was at Beckman’s she started to forge a reputation for taking on cases and championing causes that had her more faint hearted contemporaries (then mostly male) taking refuge behind the sofa. This was the genesis of the child abduction treaty, the Hague Convention, and she seized it by the throat getting to grips with its technicalities and honing the running of these cases to a fine art. This was the stuff of dragging the Emergency Judge out of his bath in the early hours, securing a return order and going air side at Heathrow to lift a snatched child off a plane so they could be sent back to their country of origin. This was the stuff of going to Gaddafi’s Libya and rescuing a snatched babe in arms from a flat above a Café/Restaurant and bringing the child back to England armed only with an English High Court order, and its Arabic translation bearing many stamps and seals which fortunately for Anne-Marie impressed the Libyan cops. There is going the extra mile for clients and there is Anne-Marie’s 18 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
She was rightly dubbed by the 2001/2002 Chambers the “queen of child abduction” but that wasn’t the end, it wasn’t even the beginning of the end but merely the end of a beginning. By this time, because she always saw the big picture, she had thrown herself into the charity Reunite with a view to supporting those parents where other family members had abducted their child abroad. That of itself would be enough to constitute an impressive professional legacy.
Next, stranded spouses; again not a culture clash but an affront to human rights; mothers separated from young children and cut adrift in their country of origin. This time, the battle was often with rather than on the side of government employing judicial nudges in securing these spouses’ leave to come back to the UK to be reunited with their child. This generated much technical jurisprudence where immigration, human rights and family law all overlapped. Rather than be overwhelmed (blimey what have I started) Anne-Marie’s approach was “bring it on“. Then came surrogacy, an emerging area particularly as (although not exclusively by any means) it ran in parallel with the recognition not just of same sex marriage but same sex families. Again she saw it as a human right that potential parents, not able biologically together to have children were entitled to family life and should not be reduced to having to acquire it through shady back street transactions. A section of society saw this as controversial, a threat to the traditional concept of family life but a decade and more on not only did the sky not fall in but these alternative families are now part of our day to day life. Of Anne-Marie’s many impressive qualities, she was above all a “teacher”. As précised above this barely scratches the surface of how she raised our jurisprudential consciousness. She literally travelled the world, at conferences and seminars to deliver master classes of her experience and knowledge; something with which she was endlessly generous. On a personal and colleague level, simply by a process of osmosis it was difficult not to be inspired by just sharing the same space with such a phenomenon. However what she also gave was the gift of time. She mentored and cultivated young lawyers to do what she could do. There was no property in knowledge for her, it was
communal and she went about constructing what grew into a highly respected team of practitioners, literally from all corners. Anne-Marie was a mover and shaker in taking young lawyers with languages, qualifications, educational and professional experience from abroad. At one point, we calculated that Dawson Cornwell could sing near on 50 different national anthems. She tutored but did not micromanage. She worked on the “there’s five ways to run a case” principle. “Three of them will be right, two of them wrong” she would say. “It may be not one I’d choose, but as long it’s one of the three that’s right, fine by me”. She encouraged her charges to think for themselves, although perish the poor pilgrim who occasionally opted for one of the two that was wrong. It is that group of talented and highly motivated lawyers who she has left behind which is her true legacy. She had a long list of professional accolades, including: ■ Queen’s Counsel honoris causa (2016) for her efforts to get countries to sign up to the Hague Convention and her work in forced marriage; ■ Honorary Doctorate of Laws (2016), University of Leeds; ■ The prestigious Presidential Medal of the International Academy of Family Lawyers (2014); ■ Top 50 Women Super Lawyers (2013); ■ Top 100 UK Super Lawyers (2013); ■ The inaugural International Family Lawyer of the Year, Jordan’s Family Law Awards (2012); ■ “Albert” from the Albert Kennedy Trust in recognition of her work on the international level for defending the human rights of young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (2011); ■ True Honour Award, IKWRO (Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation) (2011); ■ Outstanding International Woman Lawyer Award, International Bar Association (2010); ■ Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (2004) for her work with victims of forced marriage; ■ OBE for services to international child abduction and international adoption (2002 New Years’ Honours List); ■ The inaugural UNICEF Child Rights Lawyer Awards (1999); ■ She was Times Lawyer of the Week (unusually twice) in 2006 and 2016. Despite her many deserving accolades, what meant more to her were the messages and cards she received from clients she’d helped over the decades. She’d quite often get a text from an old client saying that she was together with her children and
they will never forget her, or from one woman whom Anne-Marie had rescued from a forced marriage and who went on to work for the UN. We have seen, in the many wonderful condolences we have received about her, references that Anne-Marie could be a bit scary and frightening. This of course was just another of her brilliant presentational stratagems to disguise the fact that in reality she could be seriously terrifying. You don’t achieve as she did without a touch of steel however it was inevitably and quickly followed by a joke, a characterful, and often indiscreet, anecdote and when required an arm around the shoulder. It is often said about family law that there are no winners or losers. The end result of a financial divorce settlement is usually measured in by degrees; parties can feel hurt and distress at outcomes but rarely is it a matter of life and death. The family law practised by Anne-Marie, however, played out for the highest stakes. For her clients who were victims of forced marriage, so-called “honour” based violence, at risk of FGM or stranded spouses, losing was not an option and it mattered to her above anything else that they rarely if ever did. Get asset back at first instance, then appeal, don’t achieve a better outcome on appeal take it to the next level if necessary pro bono. Dawson Cornwell habitually had more reported cases a year than any other firm in the country. That is why adrenaline, even to the very end, was an important constituent part of what might loosely be described as her diet; caffeine, nicotine and the occasional after work bottle of vino with colleagues and friends seemed to make up the rest, which no doubt accounted for her waif-like figure. Her larger than life personality will live on at Dawson Cornwell. It is seeped into the fabric of the place and the ethos of its practitioners; how could it not be. To coin the old Rodgers and Hammerstein lyric, she was – “A hundred-and-one pounds of fun, every inch packed with dynamite”. Anne- Marie leaves behind three surviving siblings Geraldine, Paul and Catherine as well as her two beloved children, daughter Catherine and son Sam. She bravely fought off her terrible illness, just long enough, proudly to see Sam take up a place at Kings College and Catherine both to present her with a lovely granddaughter Emmeline Marie (Marie being her middle name and Anne-Marie’s name sake) and to marry Emmeline’s father and her long term partner Murray. ■
WHLS Events 2020/21 18 November 2020
March 2021 – TBC
Legally Disabled Report Roundtable WHLS, with the Lawyers with Disabilities Division of the Law Society are meeting to discuss the Legally Disabled Report research findings and recommendations. The meeting will start at 5.30pm and the room will open at 5.20pm. We will close the meeting at 7.00pm.
WHLS Annual Dinner Continuing the tradition of our Annual Dinner, the Society looks forward to welcoming members and guests to what we hope will be an excellent opportunity to reconnect with friends and colleagues after a long (and possibly socially distant!) winter. Details will follow in due course.
January 2021 – TBC
The Gamlin Prize Award & President’s New Year’s Drinks The Society’s Gamlin Prize is awarded each year and is coupled with our in-coming President’s New Year’s celebration. Details of this event will follow in due course.
Additional events are under discussion. If you have suggestions or would like to host an event, please contact the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org. The website calendar also shows our events www.cwhls.org.uk. CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 19
Cyber risk and the legal practice – what creates risk and how to begin managing it
“All firms are now tech firms.” This has become a commonly repeated mantra within business circles over the last few years. The real implication of this phrase is not to imply that all businesses provide technology services to their clients, rather that digital technology is now integral to the working of almost all business. Mainstream news regularly covers cyber incidents, such as data breaches and denial of service attack. It is thought that 46%1 of UK businesses have fallen victim to a cyber breach in the last year. With cyber risks ever increasing, where does the legal profession sit? The key is to understand why a cyber criminal might specifically target a legal firm, how they might go about doing it, and the critical actions firms can take to manage the threat. Why target a legal firm? By their very nature, many legal firms hold significant amounts of sensitive client data. Information around mergers and acquisitions, pending legal action, and shifts in the market could be directly monetised by cyber criminals. These are the obvious targets, though this model is still reliant on finding a buyer for the stolen data. Ransomware attacks circumvent this necessity by cryptographically locking digital files, before demanding a ransom for their return. Ransomware is fast becoming one of the most prevalent type of attacks, because it can be extremely financially rewarding for cyber criminals. This involves using malicious software to encrypt information or lock computer hardware, restricting access unless 20 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
a decryption key is provided. Typically, this password can only be retrieved through a ransom payment. In 2020, the average ransomware demand has risen to $84,0002 (£64,500), but demands in the millions are commonplace. In the event of such an attack, legal firms must be confident that they can continue providing the important services that clients rely on. In the worst-case scenario, a lack of preparation for such an incident can create an extinction event, whereby all operations cease. Regardless of the ransom demanded, the loss of clients, reputational damage, and remedial costs could prove much higher. At the same time, the regulatory backdrop has changed with the advent of GDPR, the consequences of which could see significant fines of up to 4% of global turnover. As for paying the ransom itself, this could mark you as an organisation that will pay and might encourage other attackers. Similarly, there is also a chance that the attackers will not actually decrypt data, either because they do not want to, or because their malware is faulty and they can’t. The Solicitors Regulation Authority encourages solicitors to ‘consider their duties to the public interest and the rule of law when deciding on ethical questions such as this”. As more businesses have mitigated ransomware attacks by restoring from offline backups, the “ransom or dump” approach has emerged. In these instances, criminals steal victim data and threaten to dump it onto the open Internet if the ransom is not paid, exponentially increasing the pressure on the victim to pay. Aside from the obvious ways to monetise data, legal entities are particularly appealing to cyber criminals not only for their
privileged information, which is likely be of great interest to many parties, but also because of their interconnected nature with other high-profile targets. Termed “lateral movement”, the basic tactic is to compromise one legal firm in order to compromise one or more of that firm’s clients. What can legal firms do to manage their cyber risk? One of the established axioms of security is that if a system is 100% secure, then its 100% unusable. Making any usable system has to carry some risk of cyber compromise, and modern cyber security is about balancing risk against usability. For a law firm, it is about two things: 1. Taking appropriate measures to prevent an incident 2. Putting in place contingency to appropriately manage an incident Prevent … Clearly the best cyber incident is one that never happens. Investing in preventative measures is the one way to ensure that cyber risk is appropriately managed. Effectively implementing this sentiment is driven by a strategic approach to cyber security combined with operational budget allocation. An important first step is to understand what information you hold and what is the most valuable information to you is. This could be privileged client information or key information about your business. There is a not an objective standard to what is valuable, every organisation needs to understand what information it holds. The next step is to then apply the relevant controls to protect valuable data and systems. These controls range across multiple sub-disciplines such as cyber threat intelligence, networks security, patching strategy and security operations centres to name but a few. Respond … However, even with the best preventive measures in place, it is a case of when – not if – a modern business will be hit by a cyber incident, and it is important to be prepared when this happens. Of the 46% of businesses that experienced a breach in the last 12 months, only 68% of them had a response plan in place. For some of these organisations, plans were purely technical in nature with less consideration given to other crucial components of a response, such as media and employee communication. Clearly, there is a necessity for a cyber incident response plan that is realistic, wide-ranging, and well-rehearsed. This is the difference between a swift response to keep critical business processes running or facing significant downtime, losing customers, reputational damage. Developing such a plan is no small task. Many first-time planners instinctively feel that cyber response planning is purely an information technology problem. This is not the case, and while the problem is part technical, if an attack occurs, it will not be the IT department that has to answer your clients’ questions. A good cyber incident response plan should not only consider technical remediation but also capture how to mitigate the immediate threat to business operations. Who will speak to regulators? What is the communications plan to manage clients’ questions. It should also be clear about who is responsible for what during an incident. What decision making authority they have delegated to them to take action to mitigate the incident? The plan should
also be specific about the skill sets needed to action the plan. For some organisations employing people with all the technical specialties to respond might not be cost effective, so these skill sets will need to be brought in for the incident. Most importantly, the plan needs to be lived. It must be regularly rehearsed via exercises to ensure everyone knows their part and that assumptions are correct. Such exercises can be as simple as a round table where key stakeholders talk through a scenario, or very complex events with multimedia and technical injects to drive the exercise. Other than dealing with an actual incident and exercise is the only way to validate the effectiveness of the plan. In conclusion … Now is the time to act to protect your firm’s systems and data and put a solid incident response plan in place. As cyber criminals adopt increasingly sophisticated tactics, these measures could be the difference between a quick and effective response and a damaged reputation, lost customers, a hefty GDPR fine, or worse – such significant disruption that your firm is unable to recover. ■
Manager, Cyber Incident Response Deloitte Craig Hickmott is a manager with Deloitte’s Cyber Incident Response team, which advises clients on how to respond to cyber incidents and offers live response services to afflicted organisations. Prior to joining Deloitte, Craig was an Officer in the Royal Signals, managing communications systems at various government classifications. 1. NCSC Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2020 – www.gov.uk/government/statistics/cyber-securitybreaches-survey-2020 2. www.forbes.com/sites/leemathews/2020/01/26/averagecost-to-recover-from-ransomware-skyrockets-to-over84000/#1d4b585913a2
ybercare has focused on victims of cyber abuse and intends to extend its support through its charitable structure. Interest from lawyers to prepare documentation to register with the Charity Commission, on a pro bono basis, are welcome. There are also roles available as trustee. For more information please contact Maureen@cybercare.org.uk www.cybercare.org.uk ■ CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 21
Redundancies in the legal profession – A message of hope P
hilip Henson, Head of Employment at EBL Miller Rosenfalck1, offers practical tips, and a message of hope, for those members of the legal profession whose roles may be at risk of redundancy. During the recession of 2008 specific practice areas of the legal profession felt the brunt of the downturn – notably property lawyers and some corporate lawyers. Back then, law firms and in house teams of all sizes reviewed their capabilities to see where they could save costs and they reorganised their teams accordingly. Those reorganisations impacted solicitors and support staff, but they also impacted the talented graduates who are the next generation of solicitors – many of whom were incentivised to start their training contracts at a later date. The legal profession is seeing similar trends amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, apart from property lawyers who are currently in high demand due to the reduction in the rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) which have applied for residential properties purchased from 8 July 2020. Those reduced rates are in force until 31 March 2021 – although there will no doubt be pressure to extend the current scheme, especially as some lenders have been inundated with mortgage applications. If your role is placed at risk of redundancy then I hope that the pointers in this note are of practical help, and also offer you some comfort.
■ This is not your fault – Remember that if your role is made redundant then it is not a reflection on you as a solicitor. Sometimes work dries up in certain areas as clients seek to reduce legal spend. Remember that property lawyers were in very high demand after the UK came out of 2008 recession. I consider it likely that after the impact of COVID and the uncertainty of Brexit have been absorbed then there will be a surge in demand for legal services – in particular for corporate/commercial lawyers. ■ Seek professional support – Law Care2 – It will be a stressful time, and there are kind and trained professionals who can help you. The excellent charity, Law Care is a charity which is set up to help lawyers. Lawcare operates a helpline (0800 279 6888), which is open Monday – Friday 9am– 5.30pm, and they have a live chat Monday & Wednesday 1.15–5.30pm, Thursday 9am–1.15pm. ■ Review if any financial support might be available – LawCare have put together a helpful resource which lists sources of potential help3 (see link below). ■ Update your CV and your LinkedIn profile – Ensure that your CV and your LinkedIn profile reflects your practical experience. ■ Ask for recommendations4 – Consider asking peers for recommendations on your LinkedIn profile (see link below), and giving recommendations to others. ■ Network with your peers – This can be difficult in the current climate, but there are online events happening all the time. Sign up and engage. ■ Reach out to contacts – Don’t be shy in reaching out to contacts to explore if there are any active opportunities that might be relevant to your experience and consider your USP’s and where you can add value. 22 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
■ Ask colleagues and mentors for help – Often asking “who do you know who needs…” can be powerful. Seeking another role by yourself can be challenging, if you have support from others who are keeping a look out, or ear to the ground, then it can be very helpful. ■ Consider changing disciplines – You will have spent years developing your skills in your chosen area of practice, and I don’t want to put you off pursing that, and it is not my intention to patronise readers by saying that this is something that you should definitely do. However, I recall that after 2008 there was an increase in personal injury lawyers retraining (or some simply rebranding themselves) as employment lawyers. Some of those have gone on to have stellar careers, especially those who applied their established litigation knowledge and experience to High Court litigation in the employment context (such as breach of restrictive covenants); or where they have pivoted to Health and Safety law. Changing discipline at any time is daunting and challenging, but for some it might be worth looking into. Consider researching which are the growth areas of practice and whether it is possible to segue to that discipline. ■ Consider learning non-legal skills – There are lots of course providers out there. Coursera5 offers a variety of free courses from leading institutions. ■ Consider setting up your own legal business – The SRA has published a helpful guidance note on preparing to become a sole practitioner or SRA regulated freelance solicitor6. You could also make the transition to setting up your own firm with current or former colleagues (please check your contracts, and seek advice before doing so), as happened after 2008, when some solicitors whose roles were made redundant made the seamless transition to business owners. Practical Tips ■ Check your contract – to see what your entitlements are in respect of notice pay, accrued holiday, bonuses, what happens to your benefits etc. ■ Calculate your statutory redundancy pay – If you have worked for your firm, or in house employer, for 2 years or more then will be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment. The government has developed a redundancy calculator7 (see link below), which is easy to use to help work out your statutory entitlement. ■ Negotiate the terms – You can do this yourself, or you can engage an employment lawyer to negotiate the terms for you. The amount of legal costs will be a concern, and whilst it is usual for an employer to offer a contribution towards an employee’s legal costs if they are asked to enter into a settlement agreement, that is often not enough to cover all the costs. Explore all of your options8. ■
Head of Employment EBL Miller Rosenfalck
1. http://www.millerrosenfalck.com/2017/11/henson-philip/ 2. https://www.lawcare.org.uk/helpline 3. https://www.lawcare.org.uk/other-sources-of-help 4. https://www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/90/ recommendations-overview?lang=en#:~:text=A%20 recommendation%20is%20a%20commendation,from%20 the%20sender%20on%20LinkedIn
5. https://www.coursera.org/ 6. https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/guidance/preparing-solepractitioner-regulated-independent-solicitor/ 7. https://www.gov.uk/calculate-your-redundancy-pay 8. http://www.millerrosenfalck.com/wp-content/ uploads/2019/05/Employment-Tribunal-Fees-May-2019.pdf
UK’s first recession in 11 Years – Impact on Workforce Planning W
aking up to the sobering news this morning that the UK has officially entered recession due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, employers’ minds may naturally focus on what workforce planning action might be necessary in order to achieve commercial stability in the coming months. Inevitably, thoughts may turn to restructures and the unattractive prospect of making compulsory redundancies. It is also important to be aware of other temporary or permanent changes employers can make in order to preserve headcount, whilst also achieving greater business efficiency and cost savings.
Alternatives to Compulsory Redundancies Examples of alternatives to making compulsory redundancies include: ■ offering voluntary redundancies and/or early retirement ■ reducing staff working hours and/or pay ■ agreeing to flexible working or unpaid leave ■ limiting or stopping overtime ■ implementing a recruitment freeze, and ■ terminating temporary or contract worker contracts Whilst the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) remains in operation until the end of October 2020, there is also the possibility of furloughing staff, subject to the CJRS eligibility requirements being met. What Do Employers Need to Consider? What action is right for your organisation will depend on its specific circumstances. Due to the nature of the pandemic, some sectors of the UK economy have been affected to a greater or lesser extent, and this may continue to be the case for some time. Whatever your organisation’s position, it is essential to engage with staff, focusing on what changes might be necessary, the business reasons for these, and to gage staff response to any workforce planning proposal that is put forward. Importance of Staff Consultation Where changes are proposed to terms and conditions of employment, or indeed where redundancies are proposed, formal consultation will be necessary before any workforce planning action is confirmed. Depending on the size of your workforce, a consultation process could take up to 45 days where there are 100 or more affected staff, or 30 days where there are between 20-99 affected staff. There is no minimum consultation period where there are fewer than 20 affected staff, but it is always important to engage in meaningful consultation which should not be rushed. Whatever the size of your organisation therefore, early strategic workforce planning is essential. For more information on how we can support you in strategic workforce planning, please contact Gareth Edwards in our Employment Law team on 07899 915 692. ■
Gareth Edwards CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 23
JUNIOR LAWYERS DIVISION
Become visible at work while working from home W
hile lockdown rules and working from home continues, we may want to become visible or improve our visibility to our boss or colleagues. Here are 5 steps to improve your visibility whilst working from home. Your brand What is your boss or colleagues perception of you and what are your soft skills? These tend to make up your brand in the workplace. While at home, your brand should still shine through to your boss and colleagues through your achievements, meetings and workload. Be present – speak up and share your ideas Preparation is key; don’t be afraid to speak up during meetings. If you are anything like me, having any attention on you scares you. Thankfully, whilst working from the comfort of your home, meetings are held over the internet and there is no need to stand in front of everyone. Prepare any information you would want to present and rehearse before the meeting, have a cup of tea to calm your nerves and look your best as you would if you were in the office. By contributing to the conversation, you will show your boss and colleagues that you are a confident employee and you are willing to contribute to the meeting and/or project. Performance reviews and checking up on your boss Where your firm or organisation provides the opportunity to have a quarterly or annual performance review, use that opportunity to discuss with your boss your successes, development, objectives met and excelled as well as your career growth.
Kene Onyeka Allison he/she is personally feeling. Your boss is a person too and would like to be checked up on. Attend online Trainings and Seminars With most things being done online, now is the best time to take professional trainings and seminars on the latest industry changes applicable to your field. Speak to your boss about any training or seminar you may like to attend, give feedback about the training or seminar to your boss and colleagues, and visibly apply the skills or lessons learnt in your workplace. These efforts improve your visibility and your colleagues benefit from the time you spent and the knowledge you gained at these events. Keep track of your achievements It is easy to forget all your small wins and achievements whilst working from home. Keep track of all your achievements as this will be useful for your performance review, reviewing goals you have set for the quarter or year and will be a boost of confidence in seeing all you have achieved. Finally, organising informal calls or game nights with your colleagues to catch up on personal lives and work is a good way to stay visible to them. Participating in your firm or organisation internal networks can also help you build a good network within the organisation. ■
Kene Onyeka Allison Assistant Vice President Mizuho International plc
Also use this opportunity to catch up with your boss about how
Central London Lawyer needs help If you are interested in joining the editorial board please contact Sarah Bradd on LinkedIn who will be able to assist. We need people willing to assist with planning, uploading and proofing articles. There will also be the opportunity to act as guest editor. ■
24 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
JUNIOR LAWYERS DIVISION
Lost in Translation? Interpreters and Family Courts Aysel Akhundova
n 2011, 8% of the population did not consider English their main language. At the time, that constituted approximately 4.2 million people.1 Since then, migration has been on the rise. The year 2019 saw 642,000 people move to the UK2. Non-EU migration has been gradually increasing since 2013 and is now at its highest level since 2004. In 2015, there were 19,548 completed requests for interpreter services in the civil and family courts in the UK.3 This of course, did not include privately booked interpreters. Pair all of that with the fact that the number of family law cases has been on the rise since 2016, with 266,059 cases started in 20194 alone and you can safely assume that many people require the help of an interpreter at court. Back in 2015, a non-party costs order was made against Capita for its failure to provide interpreters on seven occasions in one case.5 The case brought some much needed attention to the issues of interpreters in our justice system. The recurrent issues of interpreters not showing up for hearings resulted in one of two catastrophes; either an unjust hearing where a party did not comprehend what was happening or an adjournment causing further delay in the interests of justice. Undeniably, the role of an interpreter at Court, especially in translating oral evidence is critical. Yet while interpreters must pass the relevant examinations, have the relevant qualifications and training, the quality of the interpretations could be the luck the draw. Some may misinterpret a key word thereby changing the whole meaning of a sentence, others may summarise thereby omitting something key. Most errors, undoubtedly, slip through the net as often there is no one else (bar the party and interpreter) present who speaks the language. There are a myriad of difficulties and potential issues that may arise. These include, but are not limited to: nuances in language, sayings in native tongue which do not translate well, no equivalent word or phrase in each language. The intended meaning may differ greatly from a literal translation and a balance must be struck between the two; a task much easier said than done. Translate too literally and risk a complete misunderstanding, translate the believed intended meaning and risk translating erroneously. In one case, an allegation was raised that the father had tied the mother to a chair. A simple question was raised during crossexamination: ‘did you tie the mother to a chair?’ The father, answering through his interpreter, responded ‘no, we do not have chairs at home, only arm chairs’. The word for arm chair was completely different to chair in the native tongue. The father
believed he was being factually accurate in responding to the question. The Judge, was not too pleased with the response… There is, of course, also the issue of tone. It is safe to say that tone and emotion are not directly translatable. While sometimes that may be beneficial, other times, concerns are raised that an interpreter adds a level of distance to the Courts ability to consider the evidence. Safeguarding against such issues is difficult but awareness of potential issues is the first step. Some suggestions to protect yourself from the common issues are: ■ If possible, try and arrange for the interpreter to attend Court in good time so that them and the client can find a ‘common language’ and ensure they understand each other well; ■ If possible, briefly explain the case to the interpreter so that they are aware of the facts, position and key issues in dispute; ■ If the client speaks a good level of English and feels comfortable listening and answering questions, allow them to do so but ensure the interpreter is engaged and on standby to translate where and when necessary; and ■ Try and make sure that all parties and representatives speak slowly and take pauses to allow for adequate interpreting time.
Aysel Akhundova Solicitor Dawson Cornwell
1. 2011 Census 2. ONS Migration Statistics Quarterly Report: February 2020, Mike James 3. MOJ ‘Statistics on the use of language interpreter and translations services in courts and tribunals’ Statistical Bulletin, 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2015. Published 21.04.2016 4. Family Court Tables: October to December 2019 – GOV 5. In the matter of Capita Translation and Interpreting Limited  EWFC 5
CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 25
MOVERS & SHAKERS
Demand for homebuilding continues to rise as our development sales team expands
ast week it was reported that “Demand for new build homes increased 66% during the six weeks following the reopening of the property market”, together with the Prime ministers “radical” planning reforms” announced last week, there can be no doubt that the homebuilder industry is in demand. The latest announcements are part of the prime minister’s commitment to “build, build, build”, in order to boost Britain’s infrastructure and skills, and to aid growth in the post-COVID world. The homebuilding industry will without doubt be a part of that, as the Housing secretary Robert Jenrick put it “the prospects of Britain’s housing market are inextricably linked to the macro economy. Your success is our success”. There are, however, challenges that will face the industry, especially as the long-term impacts of COVID-19 are still largely unknown. The homebuilding industry is also on a mission to improve quality in all aspects of the new build customer experience. Following Natalie Elphicke and Mark Beard’s exciting appointments as chair of the interim New Homes Quality Board and CIOB president, both putting quality at the core of their work ahead, we are really pleased to announce Katie Carter and David
McClenaghan are joining our fantastic development sales team led by Sharon Higgs. David and Katie join us from Laytons where they acted for, amongst others, London Square, Barratt Homes and Cala Homes. With almost 40 years of experience in new build development sales together, and an unrivalled commitment to client service, we are delighted to have them on board. More now than ever we are able to support homebuilders in the challenge thrown down by consumers and the industry itself to improve its consumer experience. David and Katie believe wholeheartedly in delivering a quality and stress-free legal process for both client and consumer. We’re proud to support the industry’s quality drive. Buying a new build can indeed be a positive experience! Demand for new build homes increased 66% during the six weeks following the reopening of the property market www.house-builder.co.uk/news/demand-new-ho. ■
Partner Charles Russell Speechlys LLP
Test your knowledge – and support access to justice Test your knowledge – and support access to justice Calling all pub quizzers! London Legal Support Trust invites you to host your own pub quiz, in support of free legal advice agencies. You can have your quiz online, in your office, or in your local pub. All you need to do is gather your colleagues, friends, and family to compete for victory. Quizzes will take place all over the country on Wednesday, 25th November, 2020. The Great Legal Quiz is a fantastic chance to have fun and compete whilst doing your part to help support those most in need of specialist free legal advice and help. The quiz is a chance to test your general knowledge against family, friends, and colleagues. Questions will be like a pub quiz – no legal knowledge required! The Cause While the quiz will no doubt be a chance to bring people together (virtually or otherwise) for a fun evening, it will more importantly raise much-needed funds for frontline free legal advice agencies. All money raised will go towards supporting these vital organisations. In 2020, the charitable sector as a whole is predicted to face a £10 billion funding shortfall, and legal advice agencies are among the hardest hit. Frontline free legal advice charities
26 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
have been working incredibly hard to help those affected by the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, with issues like benefits, employment, housing, and more. Thus, it is crucial that we support them as they serve the most vulnerable people in society. To join in It’s easy to take part. All you need to do is sign up to host a quiz, and London Legal Support will provide the questions and answer sheets. You can host your quiz virtually, at your favourite pub, or in your office – depending on government restrictions in place at the time. London Legal Support Trust will also be hosting a virtual quiz, so sign up to join in with your team. For more information and to sign up, visit: https://londonlegalsupporttrust.org.uk/our-events/ great-legal-quiz-2020/ ■
The Link App F
or me, the most obvious win for legal is embracing customer service; making it the highest priority. I have been promoting this idea since before I started my legal tech business, The Link App. That was six years ago and it is very encouraging to see so many firms now getting onboard with this message. Early on in my career as a solicitor, I noticed my colleagues were stressed and overwhelmed on a daily basis. The cause – chasing their solicitor for an update on their case. This led to high levels of dissatisfaction and frustration for both the solicitor and client. Emotions were high on both sides, and neither the client or solicitor were responsible for this problem. This was a much bigger issue. This was a case of law firms accepting that poor customer service was normal. During the pandemic all of these issues are of course heightened. We are dealing with unprecedented and difficult times generally. I knew my idea was very ambitious to change such a traditional and potentially resistant sector but that it would enable law firms to evolve and help legal professionals and clients work together like never before. From my experience working in law firms and as a trusted supplier to them, I have a deep understanding of the day-to-day problems professional firms and clients face and I have used this to develop The Link App to redefine the client-lawyer relationship. I am passionate about solving common communication and collaboration pain points through the innovative use of technology. The Link App team is out to fix customer service in the legal profession, and lead the new era of client experience. Law firms use of technology to seamlessly digitally onboard clients and deliver transparent and secure communication throughout their matter. Our existing platform helps achieve this aim and we are adding exciting new features thick and fast. Technology has changed your client’s expectations. They demand convenience, speed, and constant communication. If you don’t adapt to these needs you risk being left behind.
they select client communication software with this in mind. Think about it: email and telephone do not offer any degree of control to lawyers or their clients. One rings or emails the other, and has no idea when that the other party receives or will respond to that email or call. This only breeds frustration and an inability to effectively plan for the response. For example, if a party is waiting for another to return a call which may take up to 30 minutes, this may take an unexpected 30 minutes out of one’s day which was planned to be used otherwise. Not to mention the concept of ‘switch tasking’ jumping between drafting documents and answering calls, losing productive hours in the day every time you switch. If parties had an instant means of communication when relevant or a better way of managing them in general, this could be solved. The ability to see when messages have been read by your clients, for example, is one benefit transparent communication can add. The Link App has traditionally been used in UK law firms but recently, due to the pandemic in part and the need to very quickly work remotely maintaining service levels, global firms have adopted our technology. We are seeing this trend too with other technology that can help with remote working. The speed to adoption, particularly in smaller firms, has increased too. This is one example of how disruptions to traditional ways of working means law firms are seriously considering improving the way they deliver services to clients and investing in technology to help their teams. ■
Founder and CEO of The Link App
There is a huge opportunity for law firms across the world to improve their client experience through smart technology. Small improvements could mark a huge shift in the perception of firms in the eyes of their clients. I know that not all firms will prioritise the client experience purely for the benefit of happier clients. I am on a mission to highlight in the minds of Managing Partners and decision makers in law firms that happier clients mean greater profits. One example of this is the link between profit and control. People like to have control over situations, it gives us peace of mind. Now more than ever, that is important. How this relates to law firms and client communication is not immediately obvious. However at The Link App we realise that if it is important to people in general, it is important to your clients, and firms therefore need to ensure that
CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 27
Labyrinth Technology helps deliver Cyber Essentials Accreditation using “Joined Up Thinking”! A
long-standing client from the legal sector approached us earlier this year with what is becoming an all too familiar request: “We need to achieve Cyber Essentials accreditation for a tender.” “When?”, we asked. “Yesterday!” they answered, none to calmly. Fortunately for them, Labyrinth Technology has helped countless firms in the same situation over the years. Cyber Essentials is a National Cyber Security Centre standard, and it is increasingly common for large organisations (particularly public sector) to insist that third party data processors are accredited before awarding them a contract and handing over their data. Our client had already benefited from our advice during previous annual security audits and implemented most of the required controls but there were some important tweaks that we needed to make which would normally have involved us disrupting their team and logging into each computer one by one. Not ideal given the tight timescales! Fortunately, because the firm had rapidly expanded over the previous few years we had already been recommending the
introduction of central management of users and workstations during regular IT strategy review meetings. They were on board with the benefits, and now there was an urgent need, so the race was on! Requirements ■ Central management of user accounts utilising cutting-edge authentication methods ■ Integration with Microsoft 365® so users could sign into email and their computer with the same credentials ■ The ability to deploy device configuration and security changes rapidly, wherever devices were connected ■ Support for a mobile workforce as employees would regularly travel around the UK and abroad ■ Agile delivery of the solution to ensure Cyber Essentials accreditation was available as part of the tender submission The Solution ■ We joined all computers to Azure Active Directory®, the Microsoft® cloud identity management service. This allowed users to sign into their computers using their existing Microsoft 365® credentials. ■ Microsoft Intune® deployed to all devices (including mobile devices) to manage core configuration and security policies such as encryption, password protection and screen inactivity locking Most importantly, the outcome Our client could now state that all devices were properly and configured and more secure against possible data loss. Any future changes could rapidly be deployed wherever their employees were working without disrupting anyone or requiring mobile devices to be delivered to the office. They passed Cyber Essentials with flying colours. ■
Business Support Director Labyrinth Technology Ltd
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Profit costs, disbursements, or expenses? Where do I start on my bill? L
egal billing can be a minefield and when drawing a bill to your clients, you need to be very careful about what is being billed, how much it is being billed for and whether or not to apply VAT to it. The crucial aspect is to understand what each billing element is. There are three main areas: ■ Profit Costs ■ Disbursements ■ Expenses “Profit costs” are straight-forward, as they are simply the costs of the solicitor’s time billed to the client with VAT applied to it. It is however important to ensure that the bill and supporting documentation is clear as to what the costs are covering. The SRA are very much of the mindset of transparency with no hidden costs anywhere to ensure that the client understands exactly what they are being charged for. Luckily, new case management systems can assist with this by including the time recording elements in the bill if required. Disbursements on the other hand can be difficult to determine. Ever since the case between HMRC and Brabners, they have been scrutinised and it is very important to get the VAT applied correctly. A “disbursement” in the true sense of the word is a service which has been charged for by a third party and is then passed on directly to the client without further input from the solicitor/ solicitor’s practice. Anything else quite simply forms part of the service provided by the firm and should be shown as such. An example of a disbursement is a payment to a barrister for counsel fees. The barrister provides the service, which is highly likely to be VAT applicable. This is then added to the solicitor’s invoice after receiving the final fee-note from the barrister and is charged to the client accordingly as a disbursement. The key here is that the service itself is provided by the barrister not the solicitor. The amount passed onto the client must be exactly the same as what was charged by the third party and the third party must be aware that the service they are providing is to the client, not the law firm. An example of what was previously thought a disbursement is a land registry search like local land charge searches and searches undertaken by a digital search company. Whilst the searches are undertaken by the search company and the reports are passed to the solicitor, it is the solicitor who interprets the
results of the search and advises the client. This therefore forms part of the solicitor’s service and should therefore show in the profit costs section of the invoice and have VAT applied regardless of whether VAT was charged by the search provider to the solicitor. These elements should be clearly defined on the bill as to what they are so that it is clear to the client as to what they are paying for. Expenses have also been misrepresented in the past and shown as disbursements. They do not fall in the same category as disbursements. Items such as postage, travel expenditure and bank charges are all deemed by HMRC as part of the service to the client and therefore should be treated as such. All items deemed as expenses cannot be shown as disbursements without VAT and must show on the bill as expenses which are part of the service and have VAT applied. When raising an invoice to your clients I would recommend putting procedures in place to catch the disbursements and expenses ensuring that they are handled correctly. If you use a case management system to generate your bills, set the parameters so that when the bill is rendered the correct items fall into the correct section and ensure that the accounts are posted correctly so that the correct VAT rate and amount is applied. To summarise, here are the elements to think about when determining if a rechargeable item is a disbursement: ■ Did the third party/supplier act on behalf of the client? ■ Did the client receive the benefit of the service from the third party? ■ Were you given permission by the client to pay the supplier? ■ Did the client know that the services were from another supplier? ■ Are you passing on the exact cost to your client? ■ Are these costs in addition to your own costs of service? I recommend reviewing all items currently treated as disbursements and ask the above questions. The firm may require a slight restructure in procedures to accommodate a change in the billing to comply with SRA and HMRC regulations. ■
New Business Manager The Law Factory LLP www.thelawfactory.net
CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 29
The knowledge you need, the service you value.
For over 20 years, Geodesys has been perfecting its comprehensive suite of conveyancing search solutions to clients throughout the UK. Today our bespoke service â&#x20AC;&#x201C; including impartial advice, EU-compliant due diligence, secure file management and dedicated support â&#x20AC;&#x201C; provides total peace of mind and total compliance every time.
Geodesys. All you need to know. Call 0800 085 8050 Email email@example.com 30 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
Making the most of a buoyant property market
s the property market resumes following the gradual lifting of lockdown measures, figures from HM Revenue and Customs have shown that property sales rose by an incredible 15.6% in August accompanied by a significant increase in house prices1. Although experts are predicting that the boom is not sustainable, current sales are also being boosted by the Stamp Duty holiday introduced by the Chancellor in July. This sees the stamp duty threshold increased to £500,000 until the end of March 2021. First time buyers were already exempt from SDLT on property purchases up to £300,000, so this additional reduction, has definitely been designed to stimulate the overall market. And there’s certainly evidence that it’s playing a role in supporting house sales. Recent data has revealed that 13% of residential properties sold for above the initial asking price2. Speeding up your SDLT and AP1 returns As a conveyancing search provider, Geodesys offers an Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) solution, that is fully-integrated with the HMRC and HMLR. As part of our search ordering platform, the service allows you to quickly and securely submit SDLT returns from within the case file created when placing the original order for property searches. But, perhaps more importantly, our SDLT service provides complete peace of mind, as the online returns process is fullycompliant with the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) and Core Practice Management Standards, providing automatic validation, review and full audit trail. Benefits of using an integrated SDLT service: ■ SDLT and SP1 forms are pre-populated based on the information already stored in the Geodesys case file, alleviating the need for duplication when completing the AP1 form ■ Information is validated before submission to HMRC and HMLR. This allows you to correct any human errors which would result in rejection
■ The solution meets the Law Society CQS CPMS 1.2 requirement for an audit trail and third-party review process ■ Instant SDLT5 certification – no long turnaround times ■ Has a comprehensive GDPR toolkit allowing you to search, edit, export and mark to delete your client’s personal data. ■ Drafts can be saved at any time – no need to complete in one go ■ No training is required, and the submission can be made directly and securely from the Geodesys platform. To help support our conveyancing customers, we are currently offering our simple and efficient SDLT service FREE OF CHARGE until 31 March 20213. Johnny Davey, our Conveyancing Product Manager comments: “We are delighted that the property market is seeing considerable growth at the moment, following the substantial pause during lockdown. Thanks to our technology-based service, we as an organisation have been able to continue with business as usual throughout and we have a full customer services team in place to support clients. Now that the market bouncing back so rapidly, we are delighted to offer a little something back to our dedicated customers by offering our efficient SDLT service free of charge. Our ordering process is very straightforward, so why not sign up and give it a go.” The SDLT service is just one of a number of tools Geodesys offers to provide a seamless and compliant ordering process for property searches. To find out more about our SDLT and our full range of conveyancing services, please visit www.geodesys.com or email Kay Toon, our Key Account Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org. ■ 1. The Times, 23 September 2020 2. NAEA Property 28 September 2020 3. Free of charge SDLT offer ends 31/03/2021
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Valuable lessons for Solicitor Firms to learn from the latest Consumer Research David Seager
have been banging the transparency drum, for nearly two years now and I will continue to do so. Initially, it was about understanding the rationale behind the SRA’s new rules, to ensure I explained this to our financial advisory clients, so they could work effectively with their solicitor partners. However, over time the lessons from the Competitions and Markets Authority research that inspired the changes have become central to the advice I would give any business, providing professional advice and services to clients, whether they be solicitors and financial advisory firms. It all comes down to my belief in what I call ‘The Google Society’ and the starting point for any consumer in need of legal or financial advice, that does not have an existing professional adviser, being internet research. If you buy into this contention, then how you present and differentiate your business, your services and the individuals that offer them becomes the most important single thing your firm needs to address. If you don’t buy into it then your viability and success going forward is under threat, because your competitors will. Embracing the SRA’s ‘Transparency Rules’ and going beyond them, then becomes a fabulous opportunity, rather than a regulatory chore. Whilst the SRA deliberate on their spring web sweep research, and I expect a new update and probably news of a thematic review this autumn, they kindly pointed me to a fabulous survey recently published by the Legal Services Consumer Panel, undertaken in February and March with over 3600 consumers of legal services. The results were highly revealing and only served to reinforce my firmly held views. On average 30% of consumers shop around online before selecting a provider for the legal services they require. However this figure is 44% in the 18-34 age group (as high as 49% for conveyancing) and I see this as unsurprising yet significant because if you can win the client at a young age, for the first legal service, perhaps for a first house purchase is that not an opportunity to make that a long-term client? Worryingly, only 35% of those asked recall seeing information on the lawyers/staff who were likely to be providing the services they required, the detail on the services and timing of the delivery. These aspects are fundamental to personalising the research and beginning to earn trust at an early stage and are included in Transparency. There are huge learnings to be taken from the research, which I strongly recommend you read here but here are the top 5 reasons for the selection of a provider, with some thoughts and tips: 1. Reputation 81% – So how do you convey this? Glowing and recent testimonials on each areas of your site are a must and personal referral will be crucial. Firm and individual accolades and awards might play a part here. This is where your financial planning partners can be crucial recommending your firm for wills, LPAs and more. 2. Price 72% – This does not have to mean ‘cheap’ but fixed fees are popular with modern consumers. It is important to show likely prices but take the opportunity to detail how much is involved in the service and the stages because this enables 32 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
the researching consumer to ascertain value which is what they truly want to know. 3. Specialisms 71% – Consumers want to know they are going to be dealing with specialists, experts in the field, so ensure you highlight where you have enhanced your knowledge. Is it Resolution, STEP or even Solicitors for the Elderly perhaps and what do these accreditations mean? 4. Speed of Delivery 68% – If you have customer charters then make them clear and, in each services description, ensure to set out likely timescales and importantly clarify where this will be outside of your control. 5. Local Offices/convenience 66% – Research will commonly start within a short radius of home/work, but you must capitalise on that, when the potential client finds you. This ties in with reputation, but how long have you been where you are, have you got involved with local initiatives, sports clubs or charities and do you write for a local paper or parish magazine? There is so much more of value in the 12 page report, (legalservicesconsumerpanel.org.uk) so do have a read but remember that when it comes to the NUMBER ONE reason to select you being REPUTATION, then personal referrals to you by trusted financial planning partners is vital, as of course will yours be to them. ■
Your search for the right financial planning partner starts here.
Visit sifa-directory.info for more information.
Legal Indemnity Insurance – Whenever, Wherever! T
o say that the last 6 months has been unprecedented and challenging for everyone in the country (and the world) may be somewhat of an understatement! Covid-19 has forced many of us to approach life, both in and out of work, differently. Those who are fortunate to remain employed and have been given the choice of working from home or the office may be considering renovating, expanding, or even moving home. The opportunity to work from home, alongside the government’s Stamp Duty holiday ending in March 2021, has certainly stimulated the housing market not only in terms of numbers of properties but also asking prices. How long this trend will continue is hard to predict, but at present, it is welcomed by many industries directly or indirectly linked to the property market. When it comes to legal indemnity insurance, whether it’s for residential or commercial properties or developments, GCS has always prided itself in allowing conveyancing professionals the flexibility to obtain instant title cover for their clients – when they want and how they want. Our quick and easy GCS ‘Online’ system allows conveyancers to access their account from anywhere and at anytime. This
is the perfect solution for individuals who want to have total flexibility. GCS Online generates quotes in seconds that can be saved for later or issued straight away – electronic policy documentation is sent immediately, and their property clients are covered INSTANTLY. We understand that some people prefer hard copies over digital. If so, our GCS insurance ‘Pack’ is ideal. It’s just as easy as GCS Online and provides the same INSTANT cover, but instead of electronic documentation, our policies are presented logically in paper format in a smart, easy-to-use folder. Conveyancers can have a Pack in addition to having an Online account – there are no limitations. Alternatively, our ‘Bespoke/Direct’ service means you can contact us directly for a quote or to obtain cover – our highly experienced and friendly underwriters are more than happy to help. To register for GCS ‘Online’, to request a GCS insurance ‘Pack’ or to view an example list of our policies, please visit www.gcstitle.co.uk. To obtain a ‘Bespoke/Direct’ quote or for any further enquiries, please contact us using the details below. ■
Legal Indemnity Insurance so easy it will blow you away! Obtaining title insurance for your ‘Residential’ and ‘Commercial’ property clients has never been easier! GCS offers simple issuing methods that are guaranteed to take your breath away. GCS Online - quotes in seconds, cover in minutes GCS insurance ‘Pack’ - hard copy policies in paper format Bespoke/Direct - we can issue policies direcctly from our ofce Issuing policies with GCS - it’s a breeze. www.gcs-title.co.uk/LDN gcs-title.co.uk
Pack Bespoke/ Direct
Guaranteed Conveyancing Solutions Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales no. 3623950. Registered ofce: GCS House, High Street, Heatheld, East Sussex, TN21 8JD
CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 33
t 16 years old, Angus the Jack Russell Terrier was the oldest resident at Dogs Trust Ilfracombe when he arrived after his owner sadly passed away. Thankfully his owner had signed up to Dog’s Trust’s Canine Care Card, a free service that aims to give owners peace of mind, knowing that Dogs Trust will look after their dog if the worst should happen. He has now been rehomed to the perfect family where he will spend his golden years! Elise Watson, Rehoming Centre Manager at Dogs Trust Ilfracombe, said: “Many dog owners worry what might happen to their dog if they were to pass away first, leaving their beloved four-legged friend without an owner. However, the Canine Care Card scheme offers reassurance to dog owners, and also helps to ease the minds of friends and family during what is already a distressing time. But it means you can rest in the knowledge that your dog will be cared for after you die and just like Angus, will go on to find loving homes that are right for them.”
Canine Care Card holders receive a wallet-sized card which acts in a similar way to an organ donor card and notifies people of their wishes for their dogs, should anything happen to them. Dogs Trust works hard to match every dog with a responsible, loving home. If for any reason a dog takes a while to be rehomed, owners can rest assured that Dogs Trust never puts a healthy dog to sleep and will care for them for the rest of their lives. If you would like to request Canine Care Card forms that you can give out to your clients please call 020 7837 0006 or email email@example.com and quote code 334582. ■
Who’ll keep him happy when your client’s gone? We will – as long as your client has a Canine Care Card. It’s a FREE service from Dogs Trust that guarantees a bereaved dog a home for life. At Dogs Trust, we never put down a healthy dog. We’ll care for them at one of our 20 rehoming centres, located around the UK. One in every four of your clients has a canine companion. Naturally they’ll want to make provision for their faithful friend. And now you can help them at absolutely no cost. So contact us today for your FREE pack of Canine Care Card leaflets - and make a dog-lover happy.
020 7837 0006
Or write to: Freepost RTJA-SRXG-AZUL, Dogs Trust, Clarissa Baldwin House, 17 Wakley Street, London EC1V 7RQ (no stamp required) Please quote “334362”. All information will be treated as strictly confidential. This service is currently only available for residents of the UK, Ireland, Channel Islands & the Isle of Man
www.dogstrust.org.uk Registered Charity Numbers: 227523 & SC037843
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This year we might not be able to send you Down Under, but that doesn’t mean we can’t give you a ’bonza’ prize. All you need to do is complete your daily legal tasks through InfoTrack. For every eCOS, SignIT, Indemnity, SDLT, AP1 or Lender Handbook Search ordered, you’ll get an entry into the prize draw. You don’t need to do anything else as we’ll automatically enter you into the draw each time. Simply put, the more you use InfoTrack, the higher chance you have of winning! Full terms & conditions apply. Contact us today to find out more. Visit www.infotrack.co.uk/techmetoaustralia or call 0207 186 8090 CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 35
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