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CENTRAL

LondonLawyer

THE OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE WESTMINSTER & HOLBORN LAW SOCIETY | FEBRUARY 2021

Spring forward Plus ■ The UK-EU Trade agreement ■ Things to remember post-Brexit ■ Top Tips for Self-Care


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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: admin@benhampublishing.com Web: www.benhampublishing.com ACCOUNTS DIRECTOR Joanne Casey

Contents 08

SALES DIRECTOR Karen Hall STUDIO MANAGER Lee Finney

Hearings were held underwater?

MEDIA No. 1785 PUBLISHED February 2021 © 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.

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For the May 2021 edition Advertising Anyone wishing to advertise in Central London Lawyer please contact Catherine McCarthy before the copy deadline. 0151 236 4141 catherine@benhampublishing.com Editorial Members wishing to submit editorial please send to: cwhlawsoc@gmail.com Editor in Chief: Ivan Ho. Guest Editor: Gillian Fielden. Editorial Board: Coral Hill, Suzanna Eames, Sarah Bradd, Lotus Kimona & Kene Onyeka Allison.

agreement is just the starting block for legal services

in the context of divorce and finance proceedings: a welcome change?

17

14 Things to remember

post-Brexit in Family Law proceedings in the UK

15 Introducing the SQE 16 Do you have a

COVER INFORMATION Photo by Ming Jun Tan on Unsplash.

21st April 2021

12 The UK-EU Trade

13 Forum Conveniens

Members of the public should not seek to rely on anything published in this magazine in court but seek qualified Legal Advice.

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05 President’s Foreword 08 Message in a bottle? 11 What if Court

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profitable law firm that can run without you?

17 Property: moving

through lockdown

18 Movers & Shakers 20 Junior Lawyers Division

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INTRODUCTION

The President’s Foreword FEBRUARY 2021

Paul Sharma

W

elcome to the February edition of Central London Lawyer. This is an important year for us all and I hope it finds you, your families and your colleagues well. We have many challenges ahead of us, that is certain, but the pandemic has already given us a whole year of training in adapting to change and forging resilience. We are the daffodils poking through the snow. A huge shout out must go to the Westminster & Holborn Law Society team for their incredible work in 2020 despite unbelievably difficult times. Well done to all of you! I look forward to brighter days when we can all meet up again in person … and assess the damage that working at home next to the fridge has brought. This edition focuses naturally on Brexit and also invites us to think about our wellbeing. The issues we face as solicitors around Brexit are brilliantly encapsulated by David Greene on page 12 – a must read! Though daunting changes lie ahead, David suggests viewing them as the beginning of a new process and embracing possibilities. Sara Chandler’s article on page 8 ‘Message in a Bottle’ is a heartening piece with positive messages from colleagues in European Bar Associations. It’s reassuring to know that we are fully supported by our friends in Europe; Brexit will change our relationship but we are still firmly together! And a great reminder that the International Sub Committee of WHLS is always keen to welcome new members.

And we will need plenty of support as we navigate our way through this (surely final) lockdown. Suzanna’s excellent “Top Tips” on page 20 will help us come out of it feeling ready for normal life again. She points out that we are guilty of being notoriously bad at self care and stresses the importance of getting away from the screen and out into nature when possible. Even in the cold city rain – remember, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes”. We have all been under immense pressure for a long time now, and we finally have a real prospect of returning to the real world within months. The pandemic has at least served to put Brexit into perspective. We have made it this far, so we can make it further. Keep connecting with colleagues and supporting each other through. Thank you to all the contributors this month who have taken time to share their views and ideas in these brilliant and useful features – I am certainly grateful to be part of such a strong network. Good luck with the next few months. Brace yourselves to face people again in 3D, get a haircut, try on clothes in shops, grab a coffee without preparing an excuse. Who needed Glastonbury when we’ve got all this rock and roll coming up? It’s going to be wild!”. ■

Paul Sharma

President Westminster & Holborn Law Society

SPONSORS

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INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

2021; when firms need to get serious about remote working

A

s the various vaccines give us hope that there is light at the end of the Covid tunnel, it may seem to many that in 2021 things could return to “normal”.

But, at least to some degree, the remote working practices ushered in by lockdown will remain, driven by employees seeking a better work-life balance and employers always looking for reasonable cost savings. One City firm I’m aware of is considering whether the annual £40,000 cost before salaries to slide a chair under a desk is money well spent! Although IT professionals (development, support and security) have made strong advances in delivering these modern work environments, 2021 will be driven by organisations demanding a more joined up, secure and future-proof workplace. So how will they do this? Virtual collaboration tools are the next big thing Were employers more tolerant in 2020? Probably. As the pandemic (hopefully) recedes, the demand for the return of previous productivity levels will increase, and many companies are looking to provide the tools required to deliver this. Video conferencing platforms, file sharing/collaboration tools and communications technologies are now for much more than

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idle chit-chat. Both employers and employees are taking these seriously as a way of working, so to maximise productivity firms need to offer the right mix of these collaboration tools. Having identified the “what”, delivering the “how” will require serious reconsideration of networking and cloud strategies. Businesses will increasingly realise that the internet doesn’t necessarily deliver the performance, reliability and security needed for complex cloud applications and distributed, remote working practices. The average home router has minimal security built in, with ineffective firewalls present in name only. With entire households of children, teenagers and adults browsing and downloading all sorts via the same network a firm’s confidential documents are shared on, this creates a serious risk. More organisations will adopt direct, more secure, private connections for employees to utilise their cloud services from home, delivering a more agile network model. If your employees are going to continue working from home, consider including guidance for them in to the standard training, policy and procedures documentation. Make sure it includes advice on increasing the robustness of their network and make sure that secure firmware updates are a required part of their routine. And talk to an IT service and support provider that can deliver the security you need. ■

David Henderson-Begg Managing Director Labyrinth Technology Ltd


OFFICER PROFILES

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 Master’s 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.

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


INTERNATIONAL

Message in a bottle? WHLS

members are fortunate in that the society has a long history of relationships with lawyers in European jurisdictions. For over 20 years we have been twinned with the Berlin Bar, and with the Barcelona Bar for 15 years. In the last 2 years we have twinned with the Milan, Bilbao and Krakow Bars giving us relationships which benefit our members in many ways including commercial contacts, education and training, and joint advocacy in respect of concerns affecting our members and clients. Will the severing of our membership of the European Union affect our relationships with lawyers in European jurisdictions? Clearly as far as our practice in Europe goes, it is now subject to restrictions in respect of establishment of practice and practice rights, as well as uncertainty about the enforcement of court judgements. Economic cooperation between nations was the starting point in the early years before the European Union was established. Naturally, legal services followed the building of economic cooperation. There are many ways in which Europeans cooperate in the 21st Century. Peter Hanenberg, the Dean of the Rotterdam Bar stated in his new year message to WHLS members: “I think it is a great loss for the UK and the European Union that the UK has decided to leave the EU. As inhabitants of this planet, we are facing urgent and difficult problems that affect us all. By working together, as democracies bound by international treaties, we can try to achieve solutions for these global problems and maintain peace. The European Union is, in spite of its’ imperfections, still one of the few efforts to achieve common goals for the benefit of all – albeit somewhere in the future. It would have been better if the UK had stayed on board to give all these efforts a push in the right direction instead of finding a course on its own.” As the UK states its island sovereignty, messages from a number of European lawyers have reached our shores, not exactly as a message in a bottle, but certainly full of the concern and conviviality of the international legal community. Wout Albers, board member of human rights non governmental

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organisation, Lawyers for Lawyers, in the Netherlands sent this message: “My message to UK lawyers is that I am afraid that Brexit is a product of politics of populism and is tainted by lies, which might lead to a worse situation for access to justice. Even human rights in the UK are threatened by not following the European Court of Human Rights. I fear that the politics of populism that kickstarted Brexit is not only happening in the UK, but everywhere and on different topics. The UK is one of Holland’s closest neighbours and it is important to work together on a high level on many topics. I have good hope that that will continue, however, it is clear that Brexit impacts this cooperation as well as on human rights and on security.” Our colleagues in Europe have established strong commercial ties over the years, using the city and the courts in London for the benefit of their clients, Michele Calentropo member of the Palermo Bar, who thinks of London as his second home said: “In the 1930s the Times headlined “Fog in the Channel, Continent cut off”. Now Brexit risks being the fog for all citizens all around Europe. Even when there is fog in the Channel, Britain will never be cut off by Europeans. The lawyers of the whole of Europe will not give up working together to overcome this moment”. Though the UK has left the EU, we are still members of the Federation of European Bars (FBE), this was addressed by Michele Lucerini lawyer from Lucca and Past President of the FBE: “FBE is under the Council of Europe, an institution that includes the greater Europe of 47 states, so the FBE ignores the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU, and UK lawyers continue as members of the FBE. This non-partisan role has allowed us to carry out an important work of conviction about the error of the Brexit. England is Europe and Europe is England, for history, culture, economy, political affinity, religious proximity, protection of rights and freedoms. The peculiarities of each nation are an asset and not a reason for separation”. In July 2020 the Government launched a review of administrative law and in particularly the judicial review system. It is important as UK lawyers that we are vigilant to any changes to the right of citizens to query decisions made by public bodies, including the government. The Law Society has published its response


INTERNATIONAL

is not about punishing the UK for leaving the EU, it is about finding a new basis for cooperation. Somehow it is like a couple breaking up and searching ways to carry on with shared responsibilities”. We are thought of with great affection by colleagues in Europe, and particularly with those lawyers who are active in the bar associations with whom we are twinned. Francesca Zanasi, President of the Foreign Affairs Committee (CRINT) of the Milan Bar wrote with warmth: “Dear Colleagues, in these times of changes and of uncertainty, it is essential to reinforce the relationship with the International friends and to stay together. Therefore, on behalf of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Milan Bar Association, and myself personally, I pledge to always be there for the members of the Westminster & Holborn Law Society of London. Warmest regards from Italy, Francesca Zanasi”. Izaskun Azpitarte, of the Bilbao Bar “From the Bizkaina Bar of Bilbao, with all great affection and conviction, we consider that the outcome of Brexit must serve to ensure that relations between our institution and English lawyers, will become stronger in support of each other and our clients”.

to the call for evidence for the review has a vital place in the UK constitution, giving the rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty practical effect. The Law Society expressed its view of judicial review as follows: “It encourages good governance, improves the quality of decision-making and promotes a culture of accountability that protects individual rights and is attractive to international business investment” The Law Society does not believe that there is a need for fundamental reform of judicial review. The evidence shows that it is working well and achieving its purpose. Statistics show that the number of judicial reviews is declining. The Law Society identified four areas for improving the efficiency of judicial review as follows: increasing the availability of legal aid; encouraging effective engagement with the preaction protocol; strengthening the duty of candour and reinstating immigration appeal rights. The strength of a jurisdiction’s capacity to hold the state to account goes a long way to demonstrate the health of a democracy. The separation of power between the legislature, the judiciary and the executive is vital and the independence of lawyers and judges is fundamental to the rule of law. Monique Stengel, lawyer from Paris and Treasurer of the FBE wrote: “As a member of the Presidency of FBE and immediate past-president of AEA-EAL (Association of European Lawyers) I cannot imagine Europe without the United Kingdom. We will continue to work together to defend the interests of the legal profession as well as the Rule of Law”. Artur Wierzbicki, President of the FBE Human Rights Commission, wrote: “The FBE Human Rights Commission works to defend the rule of law, protect human rights and extend access to justice for all. We wish our colleagues in Westminster & Holborn Law Society a happy new year as you face a new and uncertain future. Should there be any threat to the rule of law, the independence of lawyers and judges, and human rights in the UK, we will stand beside you in defence of these core values.” Malte Dedden, lawyer in Kehl, Germany, was thoughtful about the reaction of some to the UK leaving the EU: “This is not an excuse to be bitter, but a reason to continue working on new solutions. It

Kinga Konopacka of the Krakow Bar writes: “2021 brings opportunities, especially to convey best wishes to my friends in the Westminster and Holborn Law Society for health, prosperity in the struggle to come to the truth, and to provide justice to those in need of help. This help is especially important in the present situation, when there is a need to adapt to new requirements, significantly different before. Remember that you are not alone and your friends will remain so forever. We will cope with each difficult situation together, and the values related to the defence of justice will remain a priority for us”. Massimiliano Buriassi of the Parma Bar signed off with the following message: “Hoping that despite Brexit: the UK and the European lawyers will work together profitably for the defence of human rights.” The last word goes to Silvia Gimenez Salinas, President of the FBE, and family lawyer in Barcelona. Silvia writes on law beyond borders: “Regardless of membership in a particular country, law is a profession that works to resolve the conflict of others. The rights of defence affect third parties and the Silvia Gimenez Salinas lawyer chooses, from all the possibilities of the Law, the most appropriate path for the defence of the person entrusted to them. The FBE, aware of these challenges, unites lawyers in different places to seek common solutions. Beyond Brexit, we look forward to continuing to count on UK colleagues to form and share common knowledge in defence of our clients, our profession, justice and the rule of law”. The International Sub-Committee of WHLS welcomes new members and if you are interested please contact sarachandler.lawsociety@gmail.com. ■

Professor Sara Chandler

QC (Hon) Past President of CHWLS

CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 9


WHLS EVENTS

WHLS Events 2021 Monday 8 March 2021, 18.00 WHLS joint event with The University of Law To celebrate International Women’s Day Lesley Wan will be speaking about women and leadership. Lesley Wan is General Counsel for FBN Bank. She is also the Founder & President of The Eagle Club (a global network of 180 women in senior leadership positions). She is also Founder and CEO of Through the Looking Glass, a charity which provides

underprivileged children with an insight into City professions and encourages them to pursue higher education. Members can reserve a place by emailing Alumni@Law.ac.uk indicating they are a member of WHLS. Additional Events Please see social media for future events. The website calendar also shows our events www.cwhls.org.uk. ■

How your firm, chambers or company can support access to justice in 2021 T

he legal community has always provided steadfast support to the principle of access to justice. This underpins the work of London Legal Support Trust (LLST), a charity providing funding and support to legal advice agencies in London and the South East. Sadly, 2020 saw the need for free legal advice dramatically increase. Thousands of people found themselves facing debt, unemployment, homelessness, domestic abuse and further hardship. As we look towards 2021, LLST is committed to continue helping fund legal advice services. Alongside virtual and physical events planned for the year, there are a number of ways you can help to ensure we reach as many in our community as possible who need legal advice. Why not come together with your colleagues to make a difference to those in need? How you can help The pandemic has contributed to a growing number of people in need of legal advice for the first time. As well as signing up for one of the many LLST events, as a corporate supporter, you can help these people and more in a number of ways: 1. Promote payroll giving in your firm Payroll giving is one of the easiest, most tax-efficient ways to give. Donors can choose multiple charities to give to every month, and the rest is taken care of. Donations are made from pre-tax income, so a gift goes further, at no cost to the donor. 2. Charity of the Year Making London Legal Support Trust your charity of the year would help raise awareness and funding, as well as show your organisation’s commitment to supporting access to

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justice. As your chosen charity of the year, you would be fully supported by the friendly and knowledgeable team at LLST. 3. Join the London Legal Walk and provide match funding The eagerly awaited London Legal Walk is now open for registrations and is taking place in its traditional format on the 18 October, starting at Carey Street. Consider matching the funds raised by members of your team taking on the 10km sponsored walk as a way to show organisational support for their efforts! Full information can be found on the website https://londonlegalsupporttrust.org.uk/our-events/ 4. Donate unclaimed client account funds If a firm has unclaimed client accounts which have remained dormant and where the client can no longer be traced, these can be donated to London Legal Support Trust via the Access to Justice Foundation, who provide indemnity insurance. This funding assists frontline free legal advice agencies in accordance with SRA accounts rules, and is a straightforward way to make a big difference. These are just a few ways for law firms, chambers and companies can get involved and support access to justice for all. In these difficult times, we hope that we’ve inspired you to give. For more information, contact Nicole Lilauwala, Philanthropy and Partnerships Manager, at nicole@llst.org.uk. ■


EDI SUB-COMMITTEE

What if Court Hearings were held underwater? Catherine Michel

T

he social model of disability says that people are disabled by barriers in society, not by reason of a physical or other impairment or difference. A useful analogy that helps to put this concept into perspective is to imagine being told that Court Hearings had to take place underwater from now on and that this was accepted as the norm. How would you react? Even the most accomplished lawyer would struggle to deliver a persuasive opening argument whilst encumbered with breathing apparatus and a pair of flippers. Imagine if in that same scenario, you were treated detrimentally or discriminated against by others simply because you could not carry out the hearing underwater or if you voiced a complaint about what was being asked of you. This is just one analogy regarding the types of challenges disabled lawyers face daily when law firms, and society in general, fail to provide reasonable adjustments to their working and daily environment. Disability is not a minority issue. It is estimated that 3.7 million people or 19% of working adults are disabled in the UK. Not all disability is visible but can still have a substantial effect on a person’s normal day to day activities and life choices. Some examples include hearing or visual impairments, brain injuries, bowel disease and even diabetes. Despite these numbers, we live and work in a society which is inherently ‘ableist’ and where negative assumptions and stereotypes continue to exclude and disadvantage those not able to do things in a particular manner. A virtual Legally Disabled Roundtable Meeting was held on 18 November 2020 with members of the Disabilities Division of the Law Society (LDD) following the Legally Disabled Report prepared by Cardiff University. The report which can be found here http://legallydisabled.com/research-reports/ was coproduced with disabled people in the legal sector in England and Wales. The data comprising the Legally Disabled Report included focus groups throughout England and Wales, interviews and surveys with legal professionals including: trainees, paralegals, solicitors, barristers and judges. The key findings demonstrate that 60% of those surveyed had experienced illtreatment in the workplace, of which, 80% believed that treatment was related to their disability and that ill-treatment or fear of discrimination associated with disability did not always decline with seniority.

legal profession. The meeting was an opportunity to discuss the issues affecting those with disabilities working in law at any level. Members of the LDD shared their experiences and also provided recommendations in conjunction with the Legally Disabled Report as to what can and should be done to make positive changes and improve disability inclusion in the legal sector. Three key issues discussed at the Roundtable meeting were the: (i) lack of role models with visible disabilities within the legal profession at any level, but particularly in senior roles; (ii) lack of reasonable adjustments being made by employers and (iii) discrimination. Lawyers need to take responsibility for identifying these issues in their workplaces and make the necessary changes. One solution to the lack of role models and to also reduce the stigma associated with impairments is to encourage those in positions of seniority to speak openly about any impairments they may have themselves or to become advocates for those with disabilities which will encourage a general acceptance and openness at all levels. This in turn will encourage people to request reasonable adjustments and for those requests to be actioned. Most firms can easily implement inexpensive adjustments which will make a huge difference such as flexible hours to avoid rush hour commutes. Ill treatment and discrimination of disabled lawyers is predominantly due to poor attitudes and a lack of understanding towards an impairment or health condition so more education is required in firms to combat this. It is clear from the report that serious modifications are required within the profession with regards to career progression, working practices, adjustments and discrimination for those with both visible and invisible disabilities. Now is the time to make those changes. ■

Catherine Michel Senior Solicitor Capsticks

The results showed that exclusion of disabled people was not always intentional but was routinely accepted in relation to behavioural codes, rituals and stereotypical expectations. For example, 85% of those surveyed reported pain and fatigue associated with being disabled which will undoubtedly have an impact on day to day activities and performance. It is not surprising therefore that only 50 to 60 % of those with non-visible impairments had disclosed their disability to their employer. It is clear that urgent action is required to address these issues. At the Roundtable on 18 November, there were 20 attendees including members of the Disabilities Division of the Law Society (LDD), members of Westminster & Holborn Law Society as well as others interested in furthering disability inclusion within the CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 11


BREXIT

The UK-EU Trade agreement is just the starting block for legal services David Greene

I

t was the night before Christmas, and all through the house… commentators were waiting on tenterhooks for a Brexit deal to be announced. Santa Claus came in the form of Boris Johnson placing the gift of a Trade & Co-operation Agreement (TCA) under the tree. The news was met with sighs of relief, congratulations for the negotiating teams, and anticipation for the soon-to-be-published legal text. At the Law Society, we were quick to set out a narrative for the legal services sector – that it is vital to see the deal as the beginning of a process, rather than a monolith, as we find new ways of working in and with the EU.

working hard to analyse these domestic reservations (contained in the deal’s Annex SERVIN-1) and communicate the results to members as soon as we are able.

If we examine it through that prism, the deal is positive for the legal services sector. First, the scorched earth of a no deal is avoided – an unmitigated benefit. Second, there is a dedicated legal services chapter, indicating the UK and EU place a (deservedly) high value on the profession and its services and exports. This sets a useful precedent for other free trade agreements, and provides a springboard to launch into discussions on other areas of legal cooperation; including civil justice. Third, the principles within the chapter are good: advice on home country and public international law; arbitration, conciliation and mediation; registration processes that cannot be more burdensome than requalification; and the right to establish. As a foundation, it is strong basis for a close future relationship on legal services as new arrangements are made.

So we – as solicitors, as the Society, and as a sector – have our work cut out for us. We will continue to urge the EU to support the UK’s accession to the Lugano Convention, allowing civil and commercial judgments to be recognised cross-border meaning ordinary citizens and small and medium size businesses can enforce their rights without taking up prohibitively expensive actions in multiple courts. The EU decision on that has to be delivered by March. We will work with national bars to clarify, and liberalise, requirements on UK lawyers wishing to practise in EU states. And, as we have done since the referendum, we will support solicitors of England and Wales as they adapt to the new normal, and champion the importance of our profession – worth £5bn in exports – to Government, Parliament and the public. ■

But – and it is a fairly substantial but – through a different prism, the prism of actual market access for the profession, the deal is somewhat less of a feel-good story. This is a deal that gives with one hand and takes with the other. In particular the provision of cross-border legal services is subject to reservations, nonconforming measures, and national requirements, which will vary hugely from state to state. These measures can cancel or limit the general principle of home title practice for a given member state and may include restrictions on joint practice with local lawyers, so the true picture on market access is very much obscured by domestic regulation. The Law Society is

David Greene

Civil and commercial jurisdiction after the Transition Period

With the end of the Transition Period has come the end of the Brussels jurisdictional regime – at least for now, and at least to an extent. Certainly, the United Kingdom will no longer apply the most recent and detailed version of the Brussels regime, which was to be found in Regulation (EU) 1215/2012 (commonly known as the Brussels I (recast) Regulation). But on 8 April the United Kingdom did apply to accede to the Lugano Convention, which closely mirrors the Brussels Convention on which the Regulation was ultimately based.

Stephen Donnelly

Essex Court Chambers

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There are other concerns. Civil judicial co-operation isn’t covered in the agreement (although criminal judicial co-operation is – to positive effect). We secured a short transition for data under GDPR but there is not yet a decision on data adequacy. The fact that these crucial elements are missing leaves lawyers, businesses and consumers lacking the confidence and stability needed for trade to flourish.

President The Law Society of England & Wales

That application has not yet borne fruit, however: though Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland have supported the United Kingdom’s accession, the European Union and Denmark have not yet indicated that they will agree; and accession requires unanimity


BREXIT

Forum Conveniens in the context of divorce and finance proceedings: a welcome change? Olivia Longrigg

O

ne of the first changes family lawyers in England and Wales will be thinking about following the post-Brexit transition period is that we are no longer signed up to Brussells II (Council Regulation (EC) No 2201/2003 of 27 November 2003, concerning the jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in matrimonial matters and the matters of parental responsibility). Before 31 December 2020, these rules applied whether a case was domestic or an EU or non-EU country was involved. The grounds of jurisdiction for all divorce cases commenced in England and Wales are now set out in the Domicile and Matrimonial Proceedings Act 1973. In relation to choice of forum for divorce (and almost always consequential financial remedy proceedings), the rule prior to 1st January 2021 was that the country ‘second in time’ to issue their divorce petition was required to stay the proceedings if the other proceedings were ‘first in time’, provided there was jurisdiction. As financial outcomes on divorce can differ to such an extent from country to country, parties would therefore often engage in what was referred to as a ‘jurisdiction race’ to court. This race would be to issue proceedings in the court most advantageous to them. This often involved arranging for clients to have quick consultations with family lawyers in other jurisdictions, in order to find out which court would be likely to provide a more favourable outcome (often referred to as forum shopping). First in time was a definitive test for the seizing of jurisdiction. Following the end of the transition period, the concept of ‘Forum conveniens’ in the context of finances on divorce is now back in the arena when determining whether to stay the proceedings issued in one country where they are also issued in another. The ‘closest connection forum test’ will apply from 1 January 2021 and ‘first in time’ will no longer be the definitive test for establishing jurisdiction.

among the Contracting Parties (by art 72(3) of the Convention). Even if they do, there is then a three-month grace period during which the Contracting Par-ties may object, and only after the expiry of that period would the United Kingdom accede to the Convention (by art 72(3)). In the meantime, the rules of jurisdiction in civil and commercial matters will largely be the common-law rules found in Practice Direction 6B, supplemented notably by the 2005 Hague Choiceof-court Convention, which has ‘the force of law’ which by ss 1 and 4 of the Private International Law (Implementation of Agreements) Act 2020 throughout the United Kingdom. But that Convention is of limited scope and it may be wondered how much difference it will make to the position at common law: it

Some may say that there was some comfort under Brussels II in terms of knowing what the ‘rules’ were and that this provided clarity. Another line of argument is that this process following Brexit will be fairer, as the court will have the ability to hear arguments and decide on the appropriate jurisdiction. This may serve to protect the financially weaker party, who may not be able to obtain legal advice immediately and is then trapped in a disadvantageous position, being forced to enter into financial proceedings in a jurisdiction which they would have been advised against choosing. Or, indeed, a party who had received no indication from their spouse that they had been planning to issue divorce proceedings and have no power to challenge the jurisdiction. A ‘forum conveniens’ approach would decide which jurisdiction would be the most suitable and appropriate in the context of all the relevant factors. This contrast between a hard and fast, decisive rule and an element of discretion is indicative of the differences between Common Law and Civil Law jurisdictions. Brussels II was a European instrument which introduced rules-based Civil Law elements into our legal framework. In respect of children matters, the changes will be more subtle because we are signed up to the Hague Convention 1996, which will become the most important instrument on cross borders issues concerning children with our EU friends. Many family lawyers in England and Wales were grateful for the clarity on forum for divorce brought by Brussels II, whereas others resented that the discretionary element had been removed. Whatever side you are on, the change has come and it is likely to be here to stay. ■

Olivia Longrigg Solicitor Dawson Cornwell

applies only to exclusive jurisdiction agreements entered into after it came into force for the United Kingdom. In substance, the position for now is that the common-law rules will continue to apply for non-Lugano States indefinitely and, for Lugano States, only till the unknown date when – if ever – the United Kingdom accedes to the Lugano Convention. Depending on the contours of their case, litigators weighing whether to serve proceedings against a defendant in a Lugano State may therefore wish to strike early or hold off in hope of the greater certainty that may be afforded if and when the United Kingdom does accede to that Convention. ■

CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 13


BREXIT

Things to remember post-Brexit in Family Law proceedings in the UK F

ollowing Brexit many family lawyers will be advising their clients, especially international clients, on the effect of Brexit on family proceedings within the justice system in the UK and what laws apply and do not apply but more importantly what laws have changed. As of 31 January 2021, the UK ceased to be an EU Member State and is no longer involved in the governmental structures and decision making within the EU. There are pros and cons to this, despite what side you are on! However, this has a colossal impact on UK law. Since the UK’s admission into the European Economic Community (as it was then) in 1973, many of our legal decisions have been influenced by EU law and it has been incorporated into our work, lifestyle and free movement. The Law The EU Maintenance Regulation and Brussels IIA, which governs jurisdiction, enforcement and recognition in maintenance, divorce and Children Act cases has ceased to apply. The transition period ended on 31 December 2020. Reciprocal recognition of divorce - Divorce, legal separation and marriage annulment under Article 3(1) Brussels IIA, were automatically recognised in EU states and vice versa. Now, the EU states have more scope to decline and not recognise a divorce in the EU in line with the UK.

but this will require the EU’s signatory, Demark, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland would also need to give their consent. The EU has so far not provided its consent to the UK membership of the Convention. Even if consent is given, there will be some time before the UK can become a member of the Lugano Convention, as UK legislation needs to be readjusted before joining. A divorce judgement which took effect before the end of the transition period will not lose its validity. There have already been severe delays in the family courts, along with increased applications being lodged and the effect of COVID-19 has added more interruptions. The President of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, published ‘The Road Ahead’ for the Family Court in England and Wales. Sir Andrew commented, “The reality to be faced is that the Family Court must now seek to achieve the fair, just and timely determination of a high volume of cases...” According to Resolution, a community of family justice professionals, this is the biggest change to international family law for 20 years. ■

Lotus Kimona

LPC MSc Graduate The University of Law, London

Recognition and enforcement of maintenance orders – The 2007 Hague Convention on International Recovery of Child Support and Family Maintenance governs enforcement of English maintenance orders in EU states. The Convention pays attention to many practical matters affecting the efficiency with the pursual of international claims e.g., language, standard forms and exchange of information on national laws. Child abduction proceedings – Brussels II gives a continuing jurisdiction for the state from which the child was taken to deal with the matter. Going forward, the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction now applies. This Convention has contributed to settling thousands of abduction cases, whilst serving as a deterrent to many others through the clarity of its message; abduction is harmful to children who have the right to have contact with both parents and through its simplicity of its central remedy – the return order. The 1980 Hague Convention can be viewed as one of the most successful family law instruments to be completed under the backing of the Hague Conference on Private International Law. Where legal aid is available under Brussels IIA, this is not the case under the 1996 Hague Convention, for recognition and enforcement orders. Unfortunately, this has been left unresolved. What now? According to the official document presented to the UK Prime Minister about the future relationship with the EU, the UK proposed continuing to work together with the EU through multilateral precedents set by the Hague Convention on Private International Law. The UK applied in April 2020 to be an independent contracting party of the Lugano Convention 2007, 14 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER

Lotus Kimona


ARTICLE

Ben Taylor-Campbell

Introducing the SQE

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ollowing the approval of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) by the Legal Services Board, the implementation date of 1st September 2021, represents the biggest shake-up of legal education in 30 years. Some have described the new ‘super-exam’ as legal education’s Brexit and it has certainly produced rancorous divisions, heated discussions and a ten-year transition period. A reminder to those not closely following the debate, there are four elements to the new assessment: 1. SQE 1, testing legal knowledge through a series of multiplechoice questions; 2. SQE 2, testing application of legal knowledge and skills through a series of written and oral exercises; 3. two years’ full-time (or equivalent) qualifying work experience; and 4. the character and suitability test. For students, the choice of how to prepare for the assessments and build their portfolio of work experience is completely in their hands. The SRA have made clear that the qualifying law degree or GDL and the Legal Practice Course are no longer considered a necessary requirement to becoming a solicitor in England and Wales. The transition period allows students who started their journey in law (Law degree, GDL, LPC, or QLTS Part 1) before 1st September 2021 the ability to continue on the existing regime until 2031. However, most major providers will have phased out the delivery of these programmes by the middle of the decade, with a few continuing to offer them in the larger city-campuses beyond 2025. The introduction of the SQE is a monumental moment for legal education. The new era presents dizzying choice for prospective solicitors on the best route to qualification and will see the entrance of several new providers promising students SQE success. As the major provider of legal education with a focus on quality and student experience, The University of Law (‘ULaw’ – formerly the College of Law) is seeking to lead the way and provide students with a new generation of SQE programmes. Students wishing to sit the new SQE 1 and 2 assessments will be able to select from a suite of Master’s programmes, which will incorporate SQE preparation and will be eligible for postgraduate funding. Alternatively, students may choose to study standalone SQE preparation courses. The Master’s portfolio comprises programmes for both law and non-law graduates and will enable students to develop their legal knowledge and skills beyond the minimum requirements of the SQE for life in legal practice. The standalone SQE 1 and SQE 2 preparation courses are entirely focussed on preparation for the SRA assessment and are supported by the SQE Law Essentials Course for non-law graduates. For those non-law graduates looking to go deeper into the foundation legal subjects, ULaw will be offering a 9-month Postgraduate Diploma in Law as a successor to the GDL.

Going beyond the regulatory minimum of the SQE, ULaw’s SQE Plus content will empower students to be practice-ready and lay excellent foundations for their legal careers in specialist areas such as Private Acquisitions, Family, Employment, Insurance, and Corporate Crime. Supporting the portfolio, ULaw is launching a smartphone app, ‘ULaw SQE’, which will be integrated into the programme design and provide students with practice tests and feedback. Students will be able to personalise their learning in response to the predictive analytics received and monitor their progress to a success on the SQE. A key tool when encountering the multiple choice question format of SQE 1. A range of new study manuals will be available, written specifically for the SQE by ULaw expert faculty, which will support students throughout their studies. The SRA hopes universities offering law degrees will start to incorporate SQE preparation modules within their curricula. However, most traditional universities are reluctant to do so, valuing their research and academic focus, leaving vocational training up to other providers. The College of Law attained university status and degree awarding powers in 2012 and has seen its LLB grow in popularity to become one of the largest in the country. ULaw’s LLB already incorporates preparation for the SQE 1 assessment into the degree through study of appropriate option modules in years 2 and 3, providing students who know they want to qualify as a solicitor the opportunity to get ahead and lay the foundations for SQE during their undergraduate studies. Another area seeing significant growth since its introduction in 2015 is the solicitor apprenticeship route to qualification. Taking A level graduates and allowing them to work and study over a 5.5 year period whilst acquiring a law degree and sitting SQE 1 & 2 this route allows students to garner the skills and knowledge whilst working and incurring no student debt. Funded by the apprenticeship levy, it allows employers to grow their own talent with minimal cost to the business. Excitingly this route will also be available to law-graduates and those with a GDL from February 2021 as a 2.5 year graduate-entry apprenticeship. Whilst many in the profession have expressed grave concerns and are reserving judgment until the SQE is rolled out, some have said it is time to accept the SQE writing on the wall and move on. Whatever your views on the SQE, it is coming. The University of Law is leading the way with its new generation of SQE programmes focused on developing and supporting students to get the careers they want by ensuring they have the skills, knowledge and behaviours employers are looking for. ■

Ben Taylor-Campbell

Account Manager The University of Law Ben.Taylor-Campbell@law.ac.uk CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 15


ARTICLE

Do you have a profitable law firm that can run without you? Falguni Desai

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t was a pleasure to deliver a webinar to WHLS members on 15th December 2020 entitled “Six Steps To A More Profitable Law Firm.” I started in private practice and then worked in-house for most of my 20 year legal career. In my last role, I worked as In-House lawyer and Company Secretary for 14 years, for a commercial property company, with a premium listing on the London Stock Exchange. I have been coaching small and medium sized companies on how to scale their business since 2017. I work with a wide range of sectors, including professional services. I use a growth model (explained in the webinar), that puts a corporate structure into a business which enables the business to grow sustainably and efficiently. I work with established businesses, with 5 or more employees, that are doing well but the business owners know that there is potential to do much better. The main issues I have found that face lawyers (equity partners, managing partners) and members of the professional services specifically are: They really have (well-paid?) jobs as they trade their time for money. This means that the idea of a commercial, profitable enterprise that can work without them is really challenging to envisage. The leaders of a law firm are often on the highest hourly rate so when cash is tight they look to do work “in” the business rather than “on” it so fall into a cycle of working “in” not “on” when times are challenging – it makes short-term sense, but not for long-term growth. There is often very little structured marketing and limited sales processes as solicitors “don’t do sales”.

16 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER

Solicitors in the UK have been working on the income vs cost model of a model of 1/3 of income to solicitor, 1/3 of income to costs and 1/3 of income to profit. I believe this model is now invalid and is more like 1/3 of income to solicitor, NOW, 1/2 of income to costs as a result of increasing costs of running, marketing, insuring etc., leaving only 1/6 left in profit. As a result, solicitors have seen profits radically decline because of this – they need to rethink this model fundamentally and that is where I can help. One of the most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for law firms is utilisation of the fee-earners as they are often on significant basic salaries which are paid irrespective of how many hours they bill so anything below 100% utilisation of their fee-earning time is a loss of potential profit and so an opportunity to make more profit. As consistent sales and marketing are usually a weakness for small and medium sized firms, the 5-Ways Formula (as explained in the webinar) is a really valuable opportunity to increase sales and thus the utilisation rate and thus the profit. The concept of coaching is not new and the aim of coaching is about continuous improvement and tracking progress. As a coach, my role is to be the catalyst for that change. A personal trainer in a gym helps with reaching goals, motivation, accountability and development. The same applies in business – why shouldn’t it? It can be looked at as “business fitness”. ■

Falguni Desai

Business Growth Coach Action Coach falgunidesai@actioncoach.com


ARTICLE

Property: moving through lockdown

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s with November’s lockdown the forthcoming lockdown which became law from midnight on 5 January 2021 will not lockdown the housing market as it did in the first lockdown back in Spring 2020. The 22 page Government Guidance contains a section on “Moving Home” and clearly states that you can still do so. Estate and letting agents and removal firms can continue to work. Due to the nature of their jobs many employed in this sector cannot work full time from home. Surveyors and valuers would also fall into this category. If you are looking to move then you can go to property viewings – this covers renting as well as buying. The Government paper specifically states that people outside your household or support bubble should not help with “facilitating a house move” unless absolutely necessary. There is national guidance on moving home safely which was last updated on 21st December 2020: www.gov.uk/guidance/government-advice-on-home-movingduring-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak Tradespeople who need to work in a home may continue to do so which means that landlords are not absolved from their repairing and statutory health and safety obligations such as gas safe inspections. Construction workers are specifically mentioned as those who cannot work from home and construction sites can continue to operate so the supply of new housing will not be interrupted. All of this is subject to firms and individuals observing the Covidrelated safety guidance set down by their professional bodies and carrying out social distancing.

The housing market has seen a surge in activity since it was unlocked in May. The number of movers who would have been affected by a new market lockdown would be very considerably more than those affected back in Spring 2020 if the market experienced a significant slowdown. What is more likely to be the cause of a slowdown is the end of the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) holiday at the end of March as new buyers will become increasingly doubtful that they will be able to complete their purchase before 1st April 2021 and therefore will not benefit from the reduced rates. The major impact of that slowdown will be experienced in the lower end of the market where prices are below £500,000. The maximum saving available during the holiday period is £30,000 (£15,000 for purchases of second properties). The benefit of the saving dwindles in percentage terms the larger the purchase price and therefore the end of the SDLT holiday will become increasingly insignificant the higher up the price bracket that you go. Prices at all levels of the market will eventually adjust to take into account the loss of the saving. For overseas buyers the strengthening of GBP following the Brexit deal will make investment here that bit more expensive than in the last couple of months. Added to that will be the 2% SDLT surcharge for purchases by overseas buyers that comes into effect on 1st April 2021. It has been rumoured that HMRC might extend the current SDLT holiday beyond 31st March 2021. On the face of it the new lockdown would not be a reason to do so given the absence of restrictions on house moves. However the cumulative economic aftermath of these lockdowns might be. We will continue to monitor the situation but in the meantime, if you have any concerns, please contact Rosie McCormick Paice or any member of the Residential Property team. www.edwincoe.com/blogs/main/moving-through-lockdown/ ■ CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 17


MOVERS & SHAKERS

James Ramsden QC & Nina Stewart FCA announce the launch of Astraea Group Ltd

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ames Ramsden QC and Nina Stewart FCA today announce the launch of Astraea Group Limited, an ABS law firm specialising in Commercial Dispute Resolution, Civil Fraud, Fintech & Cyber Fraud, Regulatory, Compliance and Public Law. Located in Down St, Mayfair, Astraea Group, which has been approved as an ABS by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), was co-founded by James and Nina. The firm aims to provide a unique approach to the handling of complex legal and business disputes by using this multi-disciplinary professional leadership. James and Nina believe that there is a gathering demandled transformation in the delivery of expert legal services and business support. Astraea has ambitions to provide a wide range of legal and non-legal services in the future, including financial and tax consultancy. Astraea Group is supported by a core team, who draw on other experienced professionals on a case by case basis to deliver a specialist, responsive, flexible and costeffective resource. James has been consistently ranked as a leading Queen’s Counsel in Commercial Dispute Resolution and Civil Fraud by Chambers UK and Chambers Global. He is a committed and versatile advocate, known for leading cohesive and effective teams. Nina is a chartered accountant and chartered tax adviser, with a successful background in professional services. The early years of her career were spent at a professional services firm where she provided international corporate tax advice to large businesses. She has since worked in finance and tax leadership roles across a range of sectors including oil & gas, financial services and the legal sector. Nina has served on a number of Boards and Audit Committees in both the private and charitable sectors. Astraea Group act for national and international clients across all its principal disciplines. It has developed strong collaborations

James Ramsden 18 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER

with other international consultancies specialising in asset recovery and intelligence. James Ramsden QC comments: “Being an ABS provides us with the flexibility and responsiveness to meet the needs of our clients, whilst continuing to provide excellence in the delivery of our legal services. This is an attractive proposition providing a modern approach to supporting clients with their legal and wider business needs. This was, after all, what the introduction of the ABS was intended to achieve. We believe that the legal consumer now demands this new kind of delivery. Just as important to us is the departure this marks from traditional legal service providers which still impede social mobility and career flexibility. The legal profession, and the Bar in particular, still largely appoints in its own image. We will judge our success as much by how we manage to break that cycle, as by any other measure.” Astraea Group is committed to mentoring and supporting those who would not ordinarily consider a career in law. The firm has hired a number of solicitors with strong backgrounds in commercial dispute resolution, who will all be on board in January 2021. Astraea Group Limited are also pleased to announce that Robert Bedford has joined the firm as Legal Director, together with solicitors Matthew Allan and Morgan Wolfe. Robert Bedford joins Astraea Group having previously worked for a leading global law firm in their litigation team. Robert brings extensive experience of complex and high-value international disputes and his clients include multi-nationals, global brands, state-owned entities, major banks, business founders and ultrahigh net worth individuals. Robert’s current and recent instructions include working for: a Ukrainian investment bank pursuing a €230m claim for fraud

Nina Stewart


MOVERS & SHAKERS

representative for the Law Society of England and Wales Council, also sitting on the body’s Regulatory Affairs Board (now the Policy and Regulatory Affairs Committee). Matthew is also a member of the Young International Arbitration Group (YIAG) of the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA). Robert Bedford

Matthew Allan

Morgan Wolfe

and conspiracy against a network of related companies and individuals across Europe; a Cypriot company in a €900m investor treaty arbitration under the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce Rules; the Venezuelan state oil company arguing that obligations to repay US$80m under credit facilities were suspended as a result of US sanctions; a FTSE 100 company in a claim for breach of warranty following the acquisition of a business for US$160m; an European engineering group in a US$ multi-billion ad-hoc arbitration concerning delays to a major infrastructure project in the Middle East; and a US tech business in a US$250m arbitration under the DIFC-LCIA Rules concerning the break-up of a joint venture in the Middle East. Matthew Allan joins the firm as a commercial litigation solicitor, with a particular interest in cross-border actions and international arbitration. He has experience of a broad range of commercial disputes. These include contractual and shareholder disputes, insolvency, debt recovery and property, focusing on complex high value matters. He has provided advice for corporates, multinational companies and states, including on public and private international law issues. Matthew regularly contributes to legal publications and media. He is Vice President of Westminster & Holborn Law Society and sits on its International Committee. Before qualifying as a solicitor, he was elected as the only non-admitted solicitor

Morgan Wolfe joins the firm as a commercial litigation solicitor. Prior to qualification, Morgan worked for the UN Refugee Agency in Russia where she interviewed asylum seekers and referred the most vulnerable for humanitarian resettlement to third countries. Morgan has also worked for several international NGOs on relief and development initiatives, including micro-lending and food security projects in Senegal, Mali and the Gambia. Morgan has lived and worked in Senegal, Kenya, Morocco and France. A dual-national (British-American) and fluent French speaker, Morgan’s wealth of global experience lends value to her work at Astraea Group on cross-border disputes and other matters with an international angle. Morgan is regularly invited to speak about diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace and was recently profiled in Career Management for Lawyers: Practical Strategies to Plan your Next Chapter. A passionate advocate for pro bono, Morgan has provided legal support to Citizens Advice and LawWorks (a member of the National Pro Bono Centre) and in 2017 was shortlisted for the prestigious Junior Lawyers Division Pro Bono Award. Nina Stewart comments: “We are delighted to welcome Rob, Matt & Morgan to Astraea Group. Their diverse backgrounds bring a strong level of competence and experience to our existing team and we are confident they will be a huge asset to the firm.” For further information on the firm’s offering and unique model, please go to www.astraea-group.com. ■

Cloud technologies enable better client service

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ast year was incredibly challenging for law firms to meet the needs of their clients. While circumstances remain largely uncertain for 2021, there is no better time to think about designing the future of their legal services. What’s most important to recognise is that over the past year clients have grown more accustomed to technology and are using it more. With this change, clients are also shifting their expectations when working with professional service providers. How has technology become more vital to clients? ■ 50% say they are more comfortable with technology ■ 52% say they are using technology more ■ 58% say technology is more important to them now than before the pandemic ■ 53% say cloud technology is a necessity to them As clients adopt these technologies, they also grow more accustomed to the ease and convenience of solutions like video conferencing software, and the time-saving benefits they provide. The fact that they can connect face to face without leaving their home or office vastly reduces commute times and allows more flexibility within the context of other personal and professional commitments. The same advantages apply to paperless workflows, which are fast and easy, and help keep a clear record of communications.

Most law firms have already adjusted how they operate in some form or another, and much of this shift has seen firms adopt more online cloud technologies to support remote work – both among staff and with clients. What many firms are also realising is that these shifts will likely be in many ways both permanent and irreversible. These are just some of the findings from Clio’s recent Legal Trends Report, which is based on aggregated and anonymised data from tens of thousands of legal professionals. Based on the research, lawyers should be looking at how to use cloudbased technologies to expand virtual and remote systems to better serve the needs of clients. To learn more about how Clio can support innovation at your law firm, visit www.clio.com/uk. ■

CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 19


JUNIOR LAWYERS DIVISION

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awyers are notoriously bad at self-care, despite working in a competitive, demanding and high-pressure profession. It is more important than ever to remember that whilst we’re staying in to protect the physical health of ourselves and others, we have to be protecting our mental health too. Here are our top tips on fighting those winter lockdown blues: 1. Get outside and get some fresh air… Believe it or not, there’s still a world out there! Working from home can lead to us sitting around more. We aren’t getting outside as much either, now that commuting and walking to work seems like a thing of the distant past. Studies have shown that getting outside for a walk and some fresh air has a positive impact on concentration and mental wellbeing. It’s also a great chance to get some well-needed Vitamin D too. 2. Treat yourself! Many of us started trying to develop some positive habits during the first lockdown and some of us are still working on it nine months on. But it’s important to remember to reward yourself for all that hard work and exercise from time to time. A little indulgence isn’t just restricted to the festive season, so why not get yourself something nice this weekend? Go on, you’re worth it! 3. Look away from that screen Screens are an essential part of modern work and social life, and that’s exactly why we need to give ourselves time away from them when we can. It’s good for your eyes and your mind alike to have a break from the notifications and the stress of endless updates in your inbox. And no, that doesn’t mean walking away from your work desk and going to scroll on your phone. That’s a screen too! 4. Reach out to someone Lawyers are communicators, and what we do always involves people somewhere along the line. That’s why it’s been especially hard for many of us to be stuck working from home, particularly for those who live alone or those who haven’t seen friends and family for months. Next time you’re thinking of that person, drop them a line and let them know you’re there. Schedule in a virtual coffee with that old friend or colleague, or give that person from the office a ring who you’ve not heard from for a while. For bonus points (see top tip #3) give someone a call and put them on speaker phone. That way you can leave the phone on the side and look away from a screen whilst you’re connecting with another human. Two birds, one stone. 5. Block out an hour for lunch Believe it or not, you don’t always have to work through lunch. That email can (usually) wait. Be your own boss and try giving yourself a strict slot for lunch if you can. As well as giving yourself time to reflect and relax, it will probably help you break up the day. Sitting around in one spot and working for hours tends to lead to more procrastination than if you impose some structure to your time. And finally… bonus #6 – try something new! New hobbies and experiments in the kitchen aren’t just the domain of lockdown 1.0. Find yourself a rogue new recipe to bake or get into a weird sport. Even if it goes badly, at least you’ll have new anecdotes to share. ■

Suzanna Eames Family Associate Farrer & Co.

20 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER

5 Top Tips for Self-Care in 2021 For many lawyers, it is starting to feel like we are stuck in a never-ending lockdown, never again to see the inside of a pub or a friend’s living room. The weather is grey and miserable and many of us are stuck working at home, rather than in the more social environment of the office (a place I am sure we once thought we wouldn’t miss).


JUNIOR LAWYERS DIVISION

“My Lord, you’re on mute” – the rise of virtual hearings in civil proceedings “You’re on mute”, “I can’t hear you”, “I think there’s a slight delay”.

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or most of us, these phrases became the soundtrack of 2020, with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and other video conferencing platforms becoming central to both our working and personal lives. And in spite of their traditional preference for hard copies, the Courts too have had to jump on the metaphorical virtual bandwagon. Shortly after the UK lockdown began in March 2020, a new CPR practice direction – Practice Direction 51Y – Video or Audio Hearings during Coronavirus Pandemic – quickly came into force and many pre-listed civil hearings were swiftly moved online. As a commercial litigator, I have had experience with several virtual hearings over the last 10 months. Whilst the format of the hearing itself varies between the different Courts, I’ve come to believe that there a number of advantages with remote hearings in general. For a start (and it might be an obvious one), conducting a hearing remotely makes it much easier to find a mutually convenient hearing date for the parties and their legal representatives. Clients, counsel, experts and other witnesses can in theory join the hearing from wherever they are (even abroad), which minimises the need for endless lists of ‘dates to avoid’, and probably makes the Court listing office’s job much easier. There is also the obvious potential for cost savings, as ‘attending’ a hearing from home avoids travel expenses and, in the case of our in-house lawyer clients, extensive time away from the business. The ‘virtual’ format may also be seen to support the long established principle of ‘open justice’; streaming the proceedings online means any member of the public can easily ‘attend’ hearings of significant public interest – for example hearings for the recent Financial Conduct Authority Business Interruption insurance test case – from the comfort of their own homes. Virtual hearings may also provide a less intimidating environment for those giving witness evidence, particularly if it is their first-time attending court proceedings. Finally, the absence of printing and travel to and from the hearing arguably makes virtual hearings much more environmentally friendly than the traditional ‘in person’ format. However, not everyone is in favour of the move to ‘virtual’ and there are a few disadvantages to remote hearings. The most obvious one is the inevitable ‘technical issues’; hearings can be disrupted and considerable time and costs wasted when, for example, one of the parties’ counsel has an unreliable internet connection. On top of this some worry that, for more confidential matters, an online format may make it easier for documents to be leaked or for someone to illegally record the proceedings. Some simply miss the ‘in person’ experience, and the opportunities it provides to gauge reactions and read witnesses’ or opposing counsel’s body language. Many have had to adapt to a new style of advocacy.

If your client does find themselves faced with the prospect of a virtual hearing, here are a few practical tips that I have gleaned over the last few months: 1. If you have a choice (often it will be up to the Court to decide), choose the appropriate video conferencing platform wisely. Consider what the parties will need – for example, will separate breakout rooms be helpful? Whatever platform is being used, check that the whole team (particularly Counsel) have the appropriate technology in place to access the hearing and most importantly, that they have a reliable internet connection! 2. Think ahead of time about how you will communicate with Counsel and your client. Setting up a WhatsApp group is often helpful as it makes it easier for your client to respond to developments during the hearing in real time and give instructions quickly. 3. Decide whether you will need an electronic or ‘e-bundle’. Whilst many lawyers might breathe a sigh of relief when they learn that a hard copy bundle is not required, e-bundles can still be very fiddly You must make sure the e-bundle fits the specific requirements for that particular judge or court – for example, is there a preferred convention for file names, and should the bundle be sent by email or secure data room. For larger disputes, there are companies that can assist in putting Court-compliant e-bundles together for you. You might even consider that a PDF bundle is sufficient, rather than a properly indexed ‘e-bundle’. After the few initial teething problems, it appears that the Courts, lawyers and clients alike have quickly adapted to litigating ‘remotely’. But have hearings gone virtual for good? Ultimately, the choice of whether a civil hearing will take place virtually or ‘in person’ will be a matter for the Court, perhaps taking into account the preferences of the litigating parties. In the case of arbitration, where there is far more flexibility, it is possible that we may see requirements for a virtual hearing (or otherwise) built in at the contract stage, where arbitration clauses may be drafted to state the parties’ preferences, should matters fall into dispute. Everyone will have their own opinion, and for some, the ‘in person’ experience will always be preferable. However, given the numerous advantages of virtual hearings, it seems likely that, in some form or another, they are here to stay. ■

Henrietta Richards

Associate, Commercial Litigation Farrer & Co.

CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 21


ACCOUNTS

A New Year, a new start? T

here is no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year and as a sector we have learned a lot. Legal practices usually adapt slowly but being forced to change quickly can sometimes be a positive thing. The key is to target certain sections of your business, some of which are covered below: Remote Working This is the biggest challenge and there are several areas to consider. – Software & Accessibility  Does the firm currently use the software that best suits remote working? Is it tailored to your area of law, and a true cloud package accessible from anywhere rather than by dialling into a server? View a variety of different packages to see which best suits your firm, taking account of extra features like apps and functionality for mobile devices. Extensive training of staff and the accounts department is key to ensuring you make the most of your package. – Communication  How does the firm communicate when working remotely? Apart from phone calls and emails, you should consider using MS Teams, Zoom or Slack to communicate. A quick message to a staff member on an instant messaging service could be quicker that picking up the phone or writing out an email. Having regular meetings online is beneficial to the firm’s management and staff alike giving everyone a voice to air any concerns they have. – Information delivery  Review how documentation is passed between departments in the firm. If it has always been paper based, consider switching to digital filing through the case management system. This would reduce time spent printing and delivering documents as they can be accessed instantly through the digital files. This combined with the communication processes, will increase efficiency significantly. Files will be updated in real time and be instantly accessible. Documents can be emailed to the client or accessed through a secure link/portal. Supplier review and monthly budget This is one of the most important tasks when looking at a fresh start. Check for cheaper, same service suppliers. Review subscriptions and monthly costs to see if you are making the most of them. Review equipment agreements to ensure still current and matching your needs. Then prepare a budget with

22 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER

Alex Simons your cashier. Add a monthly forecast, reviewed quarterly and check for significant budget variances. Use cashflows to keep on-top-of expenses to aid in future business decisions. Review matter account balances Check the client balances and list any which have not moved to avoid residual client balances. Reporting accountants will breach practices on residual client balances after a time so it is important to reduce as many of these as possible. Determine whether the firm needs a policy for handling them if they arise or how to avoid them arising in the first instance. Review debtor balances and determine if the balance on the office side is recoverable. Keep an accurate live list as opposed to a list of old balances that are never going to be paid. Chase fee-earners to recover the unpaid ones that are realistic and write off those which are effectively bad debts and close the files down. This means that the firm has an accurate live list and an accurate list of debtors that it can chase and recover. Having a policy surrounding how debtors are handled is also a good idea. Make sure to get your cashier involved as the processes will directly affect them. These are just some of the ways where a business can make a fresh start. Make 2021 a year of positive changes! ■

Alex Simons

New Business Manager The Law Factory LLP www.thelawfactory.net


CONVEYANCING

Legal Indemnity Insurance Where YOU Have Control – Beat the Deadlines! A

fter 3 national lockdowns and almost a year of varying government restrictions due to COVID-19, working from home and flexible working is fast becoming the new norm. This has led to more people moving and relocating to areas and properties better suited to their needs.

Electronic policy documents are sent the moment you issue, and users have the choice of an ‘Individual’ or ‘Group’ account option. GCS Online is accessible from anywhere 24/7, making it the ideal solution for those working from the office or from home, meaning you will never miss a deadline!

The government took steps to further boost the housing market; first in May 2020, where rules were relaxed allowing property moves to go ahead, viewings to take place and estate agents to reopen. Then, in July 2020, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Stamp Duty holiday (ending 31st March 2021), which has since caused an even bigger surge in property transactions.

If you prefer hard copy policies, our legal indemnity insurance ‘Pack’ offers the same instant cover and is just as easy to use as GCS Online. Policies are presented logically in a smart, easy-touse folder.

As the March 2021 deadline for the Stamp Duty holiday is fast approaching, now, more than ever, time is of the essence – and Guaranteed Conveyancing Solutions (GCS) is here to help, offering conveyancing solicitors quick and easy ways of obtaining legal indemnity insurance for their clients, whether it is dealing with residential or commercial properties or developments. For example, GCS ‘Online’ generates quotes in seconds which can be issued instantly or saved to your account where they will be waiting for you, ready to be issued whenever and wherever.

Alternatively, if you are unable to find the cover you are looking for ‘Online’ or in our ‘Pack’, or if you simply want GCS to issue policies for you, directly from our office, our ‘Bespoke/ Direct’ services is for you. Our highly experienced and friendly underwriters are always happy to help – simply phone or email and leave the rest to us. 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 for ‘Residential’ & ‘Commercial’ Properties and ‘Developments’

You’re in FULL Control! GCS puts YOU in charge of how you issue legal indemnity insurance for your property clients.

INSTANT cover via: GCS ‘Online’ - quotes in seconds, instant electronic policies GCS insurance ‘Pack’ - instant policies contained in a convenient folder GCS ‘Bespoke/Direct’ - let our friendly and knowledgeable underwriters issue instant cover for you, directly from our office  gcs-title.co.uk/LDN

 01435 868050

 underwriters@gcs-title.co.uk

Guaranteed Conveyancing Solutions Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England and Wales no. 3623950. Registered office: GCS House, High Street, Heathfield, East Sussex, TN21 8JD

CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 23


Open Space or In Your Face? XXXXXXXXXXXX

The NEW FCI Planning reports with Intelligent FCICapture Technology You’ve advised a client who’s completed on their family home with a view of open fields – only to be faced with the prospect of a new estate development application that was just outside of traditional searches. It’s going to be painful, for you and them. FCI has innovated again to deliver the key planning information your client needs, and with FCICapture Technology also identifies the schemes outside the search area that could have a direct impact. •

Clear applications and constraints maps

Dynamic buffers for larger developments

• •

Current and historical records for the last 10 years (subject to availability) Lawful planning and development certificates

Telecoms developments

Planning restrictions

Premium Plus Planning Environmental Flooding Ground Stability Energy+Infrastructure Planning

Premium Plus Planning Environmental | Flood | Ground Stability | Energy & Infrastructure | Planning

 Report Details

 Subject Site

Address:

Requested by:

Sample, Sample

Sample

Grid Reference: E: 123456 | N: 123456

Date: 01/10/2019

Report Reference:

Report ID:

Sample

115125

 Professional Opinion 1.ENVIRONMENTAL

PASS

No further recommendations

2.FLOOD

PASS

Consideration(s): 2.03 Specialist Advice 2.06 Check Flood History

3.GROUND STABILITY

PASS

Consideration(s): 3.15 Consult Surveyor

Your complete environmental and planning search. One Report, Many uses.

4.ENERGY & INFRASTRUCTURE

5.PLANNING

Comprehensive planning data to make an informed decision on possible planning and development constraints.

NOTE

Next Step(s): Applications Identified Telecom Application(s)

 A ‘Pass’ is given if no potential property specific risk has been identified.  A ‘Pass with Considerations’ is given where there are potential hazards in the locality to bear in mind, or if there are features nearby which some clients might consider could affect them.  A ‘Further Action’ is given if there is a potential property specific risk and a further action is advised. In the event of a request to review the Professional Opinion based on additional information, or if there are any technical queries, the professional advisor who ordered the report should contact us at info@futureclimateinfo.com, or call us on 01732 755 180.

Regulated by RICS If you require assistance, please contact your Search Provider or alternatively contact FCI directly with your Report ID. Tel: 01732 755 180 | Email: info@futureclimateinfo.com | Web: www.futureclimateinfo.com

FCI Planning Planning

PASS

No further recommendations

Air Quality Index: Some Polluted Areas (See 1.25) This page should always be read in conjunction with the full report. The Professional Opinion indicates the potential risks and any other potential issues associated with the property. The results should be disclosed to client and/or lender and/or insurer as appropriate.

Planning  Report Details

 Subject Site

Address:

Requested by:

Sample, Sample

Sample

Grid Reference: E: 123456 | N: 123456

Date:

Report Reference:

Report ID:

Sample

115138

01/10/2019

 Planning Summary

Air Quality Index: Now available in FCI Premium searches 7

see section 1.03

11

see section 1.04

Extensions and New Builds

within 100 metres

Developments

within 750 metres

Change of Use

within 100 metres

Lawful Development Certificates

within 100 metres

Telecoms

within 250 metres

Uncategorised

within 100 metres

Planning Restrictions

within 250 metres

0 0 1 2

Identified

Regulated by RICS If you require assistance, please contact your Search Provider or alternatively contact FCI directly with your Report ID. Tel: 01732 755 180 | Email: info@futureclimateinfo.com | Web: www.futureclimateinfo.com

www.futureclimateinfo.com | +44 (0)1732 755 180 | info@futureclimateinfo.com 24 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER

-

see section 1.07

see section 1.08

see section 1.09

1.09


CONVEYANCING

Housing Plan U-turn: Back to Urban Brownfield?

U

nder pressure from “Nimby” backbenchers, the Government has been forced into making early changes to its much lauded Housing Plan and a shift away from rural to redundant urban land. Tim Champney, Managing Director, Future Climate Info considers whether this will encourage a wider adoption of brownfield land, whether it is enough to meet demand and the impact of more complex sites on developers and neighbours. The Housing Plan was built on an algorithm that calculated numbers based on population growth and housing need. It looked to balance demand across the country, helping to “level up” the north and generate construction jobs. All very logical on the surface, but it has fallen at the first hurdle through resistance from its own backbench MPs, including former PM Theresa May, who called the plans “mechanistic”. Secretary of State Robert Jenrick has been forced to re-prioritise plans away from the rural shires, especially in the south that would have seen the greatest gains, and focus again on building new homes in England’s cities. Reinvigorating our Urban Spaces MPs criticised the plans for accelerating the flight from declining town and city centres into the countryside, creating doughnut spaces of deprivation. COVID-19 had already led to a surge of wealthier buyers fleeing urban areas in search of space and fresh air, so the planning system didn’t need to encourage this any further. Another “mutant algorithm” has been ditched with the announcement that the government would aim to build 300,000 dwellings a year, with cities being encouraged to plan for more family homes in the nation’s 20 largest cities to help revitalise high streets ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. High streets were already declining through the switch to online by shoppers, and now plenty of commercial to residential conversions are underway across the country, helped in part by the planning use class changes in the summer. But COVID-19 has created what Jenrick calls a “generational opportunity for the repurposing of offices and retail as housing and for urban renewal”. COVID-19 stalled new starts, but optimistic future It feels like we have been here before with announcements heralding brownfield land as the saviour and perhaps this will be the case this time as, with many things this year. COVID-19 has perhaps now created a fundamental shift in thinking on town centres. But this comes at a time when the pandemic has also put the brakes on new build housing supply as construction inevitably ground to a halt in the first lockdown, to re-open again and seek to catch up over the summer. Homes England housing programmes only saw 11,313 new houses started on site and 11,358 homes between 1 April and 30 September 2020. This is down 38% compared with the first half of 2019, with completions down 25%. Affordable housing starts made up 79%, a fall of 32% year on year on last year. However, the construction sector continues to recover and grow strongly, with house building performing particularly well. The prospect of vaccine delivery through 2021 should improve economic sentiment later in the year to sustain the housing

market, which may enter a temporary (and artificial) shadow after the SDLT holiday ends on the 31st of March. Delays built up in 2020 could see a slew of major builds in urban areas, together with remaining ones on lower quality green field sites given fresh momentum in 2021. While longer-term, the impact on rural villages and small market towns may diminish, this won’t necessarily cancel those schemes that are in the pipeline or earmarked through local authority calls for land through Strategic Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessments (SHEELAs) such as that we recently reported at Hursley, Hampshire. Will Brownfield Land Finally Deliver? Brownfield land may not be capable of single-handedly solving the housing shortage, but its contribution to regenerating previously developed, avoiding ecological damage and minimising urban sprawl, cannot be underestimated. Brownfield sites are often complex: not only in terms of complicated ownership and usage restrictions, but from a design or cost perspective in relation to contamination issues and ground preparation. For these reasons (and many more), brownfield sites are sometimes unfavoured and left forgotten, despite the stipulations within the National Planning Policy Framework to support such reuse. The government’s intention to champion regeneration development initiatives in England’s cities with the release of funding is encouraging on many levels. But there are always two sides to every coin. Renewed enthusiasm for brownfield development in some areas will have both positive and negative effects on those already living in close proximity. Be Alert to Local Planning changes for your Client Homebuyers looking at property adjacent to vacant brownfield or commercial/retail units will need to stay vigilant for changes to land use designations or scheme approvals for regeneration. On the one hand, it improves derelict sites and could raise market values through gentrification and renewal, but it could equally increase housing density, loss of views and privacy, increased traffic movement and air pollution. Conveyancers and their clients need to be wary of these situations and review any guidance in local plans. They should therefore closely examine planning data as part of their due diligence searches. FCI’s Premium Plus Planning Report pulls “live” planning data from the supplier at the request of each report, ensuring that the very latest available information is used to compile the product. Using FCI’s unique intelligent FCICapture technology, we identify planning issues which, although lying outside of the search boundary, if completed may, in reality, extend within the area of interest around the subject property. This unique approach combines essential information on contaminated land, flood, energy and ground stability checks to complete full environmental due diligence for your client. For more information, contact us on 01732 755 180 or email info@futureclimateinfo.com. ■ CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 25


SOFTWARE

Top 10 compliance mistakes and how to avoid them – By Julian Bryan, Managing Director, Quill

C

ompliance should be neither an afterthought nor a burden – it should be a natural consequence of running your law firm and managing your accounts well. The SRA will tell you that anti-money laundering and mishandling client money are the two most common mistakes law firms make. So how do you avoid the SRA’s intervention? Here are 10 compliance mistakes law firms most often fall foul of: 1. Not paying attention to the latest SRA Accounts Rules The SRA regularly updates its rules, and it’s up to you to be aware of these changes and understand how it impacts your accounts function. The best thing to do is follow the SRA news and adopt a compliance-centric approach to your business in order to avoid serious SRA Accounts Rules breaches. 2. Incorrectly operating a client account Ensure your client account includes the required level of information and that you don’t provide banking facilities to clients or third parties. It’s essential that your staff are aware of the relevant money laundering regulations and what constitutes provision of banking facilities. On the same point, don’t suffer lack of understanding about how to operate without a separate client account, should you choose this route. SRA’s Rule 2.2 is all-or-nothing. It gives you the choice of exemption from having a client account (across the whole practice, not on a client-by-client basis). Whilst this may sound like an easier option (and cheaper as you don’t need accountants’ reports), it could create more work by asking clients to pay third parties directly and subsequently making sure these payments have been made. Alternatively, another option permitted by the SRA is Third Party Managed Accounts which can provide client onboarding checks, card processing and outsourced client account services within one solution. You must decide what makes the most sense for your business. 3. Not maintaining a clear breach register You and your employees must be suitably trained to spot suspected breaches, and you must document how discovered breaches will be rectified and keep a register of this information. 4. Not having a payment of interest policy Your policy of interest should clearly state how money held in your client account will be handled, including when it becomes due and the rates you’ll use. 5. Not thoroughly checking your residual and suspense balances Analyse which of these monies you currently hold, determine if you should be holding them, return to the proper recipients where possible, and log what you’ve done if these people can’t be located. 26 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER

6. Not defining ‘promptly’ This word is dotted throughout the revised SRA Accounts Rules. What ‘promptly’ means to one person is different to another. Choose suitable timeframes for your firm and clarify in your office policies. 7. Not setting realistic service level agreements (SLAs) There’s no point in setting impossible-to-meet timescales. For example, if you’re a rural practice with no easy access to a local bank or building society, don’t set tight timings regarding paying in cheques. Instead, be honest and upfront about what’s feasible for your unique circumstances and incorporate that into your contracts and policies. 8. Not supporting your COFA Your accounting system should allow you to produce a tribalance comparison of your client bank, cashbook and client ledger balances. By checking and signing a report of this nature, your COFA can meet his / her SRA obligations and you’ll have the visibility you need to make sure compliance measures are being met. 9. Purchasing the wrong legal accounts software Ask for recommendations from trusted peers of what works best for them. Be sure to probe any potential software provider about how they handle system enhancements to address ever-changing rules. Your supplier should be rolling out new and enhanced functionalities which allow you to streamline compliance procedures and ensure you’re constantly protected. 10. Not collaborating and communicating effectively Compliance is not a one-person task. It’s the duty of everyone in your organisation from your cashiers and compliance officers to senior leaders and solicitors. Seek input from all stakeholders when reviewing compliance-related policy documents and roll out updated documentation with appropriate training companywide. Keep your accountant informed always so audits can be done quickly and efficiently. Summary Hopefully our tips will help you fulfil your regulatory compliance responsibilities with ease. This excerpt is taken from our ’15Step Guide to Starting Your Own Law Firm’. To download our guide in its entirety, and learn how to keep client money safe and avoid money laundering scams, please visit www.quill.co.uk/ Legalpracticemanagementforstartups. ■ Julian Bryan is the Managing Director of Quill, which helps law firms streamline, and run their practice better and compliantly by providing simple and easy-to-use legal accounting and case management software, as well as outsourced legal cashiering services. Julian is an advocate for quality software standards and served as the Chair of the Legal Software Suppliers Association from 2016 to 2019. He can be reached at j.bryan@quill.co.uk.


FINANCE

Will the pandemic change our working patterns forever? – By Dave Seager, Managing Director, SIFA Professional “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change” – Charles Darwin.

F

irms and individuals had to adapt swiftly to the lockdown in 2020, so hopefully as we need to adhere again, we are in a stronger more positive position now to adopt those learnings and practices. Law firms, indeed, all businesses providing valuable professional services, will no doubt be enhancing how they work with their existing and new clients remotely. Even with vaccines in full roll-out, the question to be asked must be, is remote working still seen as a transitory alternative or, in some cases, as a new normal? We have all become very accustomed to client and team meetings in the virtual world and certainly this medium has demonstrated it can support a highly personal and effective interaction, for those elements of the process not requiring a wet signature. From a business management perspective, whether it be that of a financial advisory firm in my world or their law firm partners’, remote meetings are cost and time efficient. It would not be unreasonable for firms to consider the impact that travel and office costs have on their balance sheets, considering the proven viable alternative. In addition, we cannot ignore the view of individual employees and last June, a survey of over 2500 solicitor staff, by RollonFriday.com revealed that over 42% wanted to either work only one or two days in the office and a further 10% had no desire to return to an office environment at all. I have read and witnessed younger staff value the team camaraderie of the office environment, whilst perhaps more senior team members are content to continue working from home. Before the pandemic only 2% wanted to work permanently at home, so the impact of the pandemic on our thinking has been marked. For firms and individuals therefore, there are many choices to be made, and none of them are easy. The SRA has helpfully issued guidance and continues to do so, for lawyers working remotely and has made it clear that it would expect to see all processes established for staff interacting with clients that way, to be documented. This means more work for the COLP, who already must implement firm-wide practices and processes expected under the new Firm Code of Conduct. A law firm will need to agree on remote working processes,

such as the remote execution of wills. Thankfully, the SRA in its guidance and the Law Society has issued support for your thinking on this. On this subject, I would strongly urge you to speak to the financial planning partners you have selected for your third-party referrals, because they are receiving and encouraging enquiries on their clients’ wills and will be looking to refer to a trusted and robust process. Therefore, 10 months on from the start of the first lockdown, the question of remote is here to stay. Having had to adapt and adopt more flexible policies, firms have reported in many areas that it has not impacted efficiencies. I hope that management and COLPs will embed the secure, compliant systems expected for sharing documents and communicating with colleagues, professional partners such as financial planners and accountants and, of course, their clients. If this is the case, we can – for now – be confident in our staff working remotely and, in the future, perhaps become comfortable with the notion that working in the office or at home will become an individual choice. This should be based on the situation and the individual needs of the client. I have little doubt that all law firms, as indeed financial planning firms, will want to include at least one face to face meeting during the advice process. Whether this is in the office at the beginning of the process, essential perhaps for a new client, or at the end will vary and the use of technology will allow this. Because of this, working from home, will, in my opinion, become part of the new normal for many but not all and how this is managed will be the key to its success. ■ SIFA Professional support quality financial planning firms build compliant and client beneficial partnerships with the solicitor community, because the modern client needs joined up professional advice.

Your search for the right financial planning partner starts here. Visit sifa-directory.info/jan21 for more information. CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 27


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28 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER


LEGACY

Making surgery their legacy T

he lives of tens of thousands of people throughout the UK are saved and transformed daily by surgery. Almost 5 million surgical patients are admitted to hospital every year in England alone so choosing to leave the Royal College of Surgeons of England a legacy in your will can have a direct impact on the future of surgery and the patients it saves. A recent legacy has allowed us to fund multiple one-year research fellowships all costing in the region of £65,000. One of the recent fellowships awarded with this generous bequest was to a trauma & orthopaedic surgeon whose project is looking at using augmented-reality gaming to optimise surgical performance. Delivering expert levels of surgery is a team skill, combining knowledge, technical and non-technical ability. Yet better understanding is needed about how, together, the surgeon, their assistant and the scrub nurse acquire and integrate these skills. The developed Augmented Reality (AR) headsets allow multiple wearers to overlap 3D digital information onto the real world, tracking hands and surgical instruments. Using AR gamification, the project investigates how surgical teams learn, and if enhancing their abilities during simulated and real surgery can accelerate learning, deliver expert-level skill, and thus improve patient care.

Registered charity no 212808

T

he lives of tens of thousands of people throughout the UK are saved and transformed daily by surgery. Almost 5 million surgical patients are admitted to hospital every year in England alone for procedures ranging from straightforward gall bladder removal and joint replacements to complex transplants and emergency trauma repair. The Royal College of Surgeons of England safeguards the experience, treatment and outcomes of the UK’s surgical patients through our ongoing state-of-the-art training of surgeons and pioneering research. Making a will is a significant personal responsibility and, just as a will brings security to those closest to you, a legacy to the RCS plays a crucial role in supporting the improvement of surgical care for patients. Please contact us to find out how leaving a gift to the RCS in your will could play a crucial role in our work. t 020 7869 6086 e fundraising@rcseng.ac.uk w www.rcseng.ac.uk/fundraising #surgerysaveslives

Another legacy gift supported a one-year research fellowship of a urology surgeon whose project is looking at determining the genetic drivers of bladder cancer. Bladder cancer affects approximately 10,000 people each year in the UK. It is more common in older adults and men with one of the most common symptoms being blood in the urine. This research aims to help sufferers of bladder cancer by looking into the genes, which play an important role in driving the cancers and their responses to treatments. In the short term, the project hopes to discover new ways to diagnose bladder cancer and predict patients’ responses to treatments and in the longer term, will aim to identify treatments that are more effective. The excellent fellowship applications we receive has doubled since the scheme was introduced in 1993 and we are unable to support 80% of applicants. We are always in need of more funding to enable projects that address the health challenges of modern society, supporting the development of pioneering ideas across the NHS. With each small success we take another step towards the next big breakthrough. ■

MAKE SURGERY YOUR LEGACY

CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 29


Who’ll keep her 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 their dog a second chance a 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. E-mail ccc@dogstrust.org.uk Or call 020 7837 0006

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L ET ’ S WORK TOGETHER Exclusively for law firms, Legal Network London is a free to join referral and support service which assists members by offering expert legal advice to their clients in areas they do not practice in. Over the last 10 years, our network has helped hundreds of law firms to retain their clients and increase their revenue due to our non-poaching commitment and fee sharing arrangements. We’re operated by Hugh James, a full-service, top 100 UK law firm. With more than 50 years’ experience in providing specialist legal advice, we have the expertise to deliver a service you and your clients can trust.

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Legal Network London is operated by Hugh James, a top 100 UK law firm which is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.

30 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER

dogstrust.org.uk

© Dogs Trust 2021


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However far from home, eCOS creates an interstellar client onboarding experience

Technology that connects you, wherever that happens to be Do you feel like it takes light years to onboard your clients? Don’t get caught in a black hole of delays and missing information. Onboarding your clients shouldn’t be a mission. eCOS, our electronic client onboarding solution, brings together everything you need to achieve remote onboarding. Access to client care packs, verification of identity and source of funds solutions, onboarding questionnaires and Law Society TA forms, all integrated into your CMS. eCOS gives you visibility over your onboarding process within a single platform. One small step for law firms, one giant leap for conveyancing. Start onboarding digitally with eCOS from InfoTrack.

Visit www.infotrack.co.uk/ecos or call us on 0207 186 8090 to access the future of client onboarding. CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 31


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53% of law firm clients say cloud technology is a necessity to them.

Learn more about Clio—the UK’s case management leader. Visit clio.com/uk or call +44-800-433-2546.

32 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER

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Central London Lawyer February 2021