THE OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE WESTMINSTER & HOLBORN LAW SOCIETY
London is opening up
■ Finding a new balance ■ Celebrating our members ■ Positivity and looking forward
Focus on the matters that matter most Run your law firm from anywhere
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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: email@example.com Web: www.benhampublishing.com
Contents 05 President’s Foreword
ACCOUNTS DIRECTOR Joanne Casey
07 Officer Profiles
SALES DIRECTOR Karen Hall STUDIO MANAGER Lee Finney
09 Celebration of our
MEDIA No. 1786
PUBLISHED May 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.
11 Honorary Members 12 International
Women’s Day 2021 – An Evening with Lesley Wan
14 Warsaw Bar
COVER INFORMATION Photo by Sabrina Mazzeo on Unsplash.com.
16 Time travelling
in law: the best of both worlds
28th July 2021
19 Starting a new job
For the August 2021 edition
Editorial Members wishing to submit editorial please send to: firstname.lastname@example.org Editor in Chief: Ivan Ho. Guest Editor: Suzanna Eames. Editorial Board: Coral Hill, Suzanna Eames, Sarah Bradd, Lotus Kimona & Kene Onyeka Allison.
10 Another network? Don’t we have so many already!?
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21 Positivity and
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The President’s Foreword MAY 2021
ello and welcome to the May edition of Central London Lawyer. How are you faring? Have you managed to get a haircut and a drink with friends? Suddenly we can start to tackle our personal ‘to-do’ lists as restrictions ease and our reasons not to meet up are dwindling. Like players in the FA Cup Final, we have to spring into action and get match-fit again, and be ready for spectators. It’s been a disastrous long year sat on the bench eating pork pies and now we are being called onto the pitch, shorts bursting at the waistband and mild confusion about which goal we’re aiming for. What are the rules of the game again? As much as we’ve all longed to be back to normal life, any adjustment is difficult and often during lockdown we have lost spirit. Amanda Lathia’s excellent article on “Positivity and looking forward” (page 17) demonstrates how keeping a positive attitude can bring real results. After being made redundant in the pandemic, Amanda’s mantra became “Don’t be hard on yourself and focus on what you can offer” and she shares excellent advice for junior lawyers in particular. Continuing with a positive vision of the future, Felicia Munde’s “Time travelling in law: the best of both worlds” (page 14) explores how remote working has changed our industry forever. Felicia talks about finding a new balance, taking into account all the benefits of technology that we have discovered, and she is keen to hear from you if you are interested in “the creation of our future way of working”. These features really make us think about what we want from our working lives, and encourage us to make changes. We have entered Wild West territory – everyone is in some way starting again and there are if not fortunes, certainly careers, to be made for those who seize the opportunity. So let’s
get out there when we can, boldly rocking up to networking events to see faces that aren’t pixelated and backgrounds that are actually…well, in the background, and help each other out. On that note, the Officers of WHLS are eagerly organising two fantastic events for you. The first, a summer soiree…at last a chance to mingle! And in September, the annual dinner – delayed longer than the next Bond film – is back! So get ready to leap into that eveningwear like 007 and party. Details of both events will be confirmed shortly, hooray! Life and work are opening up and we are certainly going to be busy. Free of all restrictions soon, London will be buzzing again, more colourful than Boris’s wallpaper and wilder than his hair. It feels almost unthinkable now to march into a meeting, shake hands and happily accept an unwrapped biscuit, but it’s coming. New challenges approach, like going into a supermarket without a mask and remembering not to gurn at the chilled chickens, because people will see it. Or not flinching when someone hugs you, unless they are a stranger on the Tube. We can go back to our normal levels of sensible hostility, where we can choose who to get two metres close to – and that feels like freedom! Enjoy the next few months, a return but also a new start to normal life. ■
President Westminster & Holborn Law Society
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Going back to the office? It’s time to check your I.T. I
f you decide that you DO want to return to the office, there are some things that you need to check regarding your I.T. systems. Matt Dunn from Labyrinth Technology, IT support specialists based in The City, outlines 5 key points that will ensure your I.T. is “good to go”.
CLEAN IT Some of your devices may not have been used for several months, and by devices we mean desktops, firewalls and the like. So the first thing to do is definitely make sure that fans, air intakes, cabling, sockets etc are working. TEST IT The last thing you need to find on the morning your staff return is that 50% of the IT doesn’t work. So schedule a test day when someone is going to go in and make sure that your people aren’t going to be sitting around due to a broken screen, keyboard etc.
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PATCH IT A “patch” is something software vendors release in response to a bug, an error, or security threat. Install all recommended patches to your operating system, software programs and firewalls as soon as you can to make sure your systems are protected. BACK IT UP Some businesses closed the door in March 2020 and haven’t been back since. So who knows what could happen! Our advice is to make a back up at the start and do it regularly afterwards until you are happy that you are “ready for business”. SECURE IT If people are carrying laptops in and out of the office, make sure they are secure and encrypted. If desk sharing is to be a feature, procedures for password security and users logging on/off from devices must be made clear. ■
Business Support Director Labyrinth Technology Ltd
Paul Sharma President
Paul is the founder and managing partner of Sharma Solicitors. Sharma Solicitors is a boutique employment law practice acting for both claimants and respondents, small and multinational firms. Paul worked as a trade union official before qualifying in a firm that acts exclusively for the large trade unions for their members. Paul went on to head the employment law departments of an outer London commercial firm before doing the same for a large city practice.
Anthony Seymour Treasurer
Anthony is a Solicitor in the Property Department of Pothecary Witham Weld. He acts for Charities, Company and Private Clients and deals with Commercial Property, Landlord and Tenant and Residential Conveyancing. He also specialises in Leasehold Enfranchisement. He has worked at established City Firms and was for many years a Partner in the Property Department of a Central London Law Firm. He is a member of the University of Bristol Alumni Association London Branch Committee and holds a 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. He is now a property lawyer at Habito.
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
WHERE THE LEGAL COMMUNITY MEETS
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Celebration of our Presidents David Greene
ongratulations to David Greene on his term as President of The Law Society of England and Wales and to Stephanie Boyce on her inauguration as the new President. Westminster and Holborn Law Society is proud to have a close association with both these officers. David Greene has been an extremely long-standing member of our International Sub-Committee and speaker for our society
on all things Brexit. Stephanie was once our Honorary Secretary, in the years 2010 to 2012, so many of our members still know her well. Stephanie kindly gave the after-dinner speech at our annual dinner in March 2020, shortly before lockdown. That was the last time we were all able to meet in person at such a large event. We very much look forward to resuming events and meeting with our members in the near future and hope that both David and Stephanie will be able to join us. ■
We are excited to announce the following vacancies in WHLS: Social Media & Publicity Sub-Committee
We are looking for volunteers to help with tasks including creating content and posting on our website and our Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter pages; connecting and working with other organisations on our social media pages; maintaining our Google Drive; and setting up our events on Eventbrite.
We are looking for a volunteer to join our main committee to oversee sponsorship. Tasks will include researching and networking with potential sponsors; liaising with sponsors and managing their relationship with the Society; keeping a register of past, current, future and potential sponsors; and working with other main committee members and with sub-committee members to ensure smooth running of events.
You’ll get the opportunity to meet other people working in or interested in the legal sector, and a chance to share your original ideas, take on responsibility and develop your organisational, teamwork and communication skills. If you’d be interested in joining, please get in touch with the Chair of our committee, Beth Balkham, on LinkedIn. Education & Training Sub-Committee We are looking for volunteers to help with tasks including producing ideas for events on a variety of topics including on areas of law, career and wellbeing; organising, co-ordinating and hosting events, often in collaboration with other professional organisations or committees in the Society; and liaising with event partners, sponsors and speakers. You’ll get the opportunity to meet other people working in or interested in the legal sector, and a chance to share your original ideas, take on responsibility and develop your organisational, event organising, hosting and communication skills. You’ll also be invited to write articles on our events and the topics covered. If you are interested in joining this committee, please get in touch with the Chair of the committee, Nicola Rubbert, on LinkedIn.
You’ll get the opportunity to meet other people working in or interested in the legal sector. This role will allow you to take on responsibility and develop your organisational, teamwork, networking and communication skills. If you are interested in this role, please get in touch with Nicola Rubbert on LinkedIn. Central London Lawyer We are looking for volunteers to assist the editorial board with the Central London Lawyer. The role will include assisting with uploading articles; liaising with contacts for content for the magazine; corresponding with the publishers; and proofreading the magazine. This is a great opportunity to meet people across the society. If you are interested in editing, we are always looking for creative new ideas! If you are interested in this role, please get in touch with Suzanna Eames on LinkedIn.
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Another network? Don’t we have so many already!? T
he legal profession is full of networking groups and events. Is there a need to launch yet another network? Don’t we have so many already? The answer to that question is no, not for Paralegals! I remember starting my first paralegal job not knowing what to expect. I have been in the legal industry since 2012 alongside studying, but this was my first paralegal role, and I was thrown straight in. I really enjoyed working at the firm and learnt a lot about resilience, perseverance and attentiveness. This helped me build my confidence, and even more importantly, gave me direction for my career. I worked as a paralegal both pre-lockdown and post-lockdown, so I knew how to adjust and the difference it made to perform in my role effectively. As paralegals, there is so much pressure and competition within the workplace or even the classroom at law school, whether it is who is going to get that next spot as a trainee or who has a training contract already, but no one rarely talks about the mental, physical, and emotional side of this stage within a legal career. That’s when the idea of T.P.N – The Paralegal Network came to mind. I for one, did not have many people who I could speak to about my journey as a Paralegal and moving forward to attain that training contract. That’s when I sought out people within my network and started to build from there. Social media is a highlight reel, that you rarely see people talk or open up about the struggles they’ve faced. Whether it’s a job they were let go of or that one exam they failed. Therefore, I wanted to create a safe space for paralegals to come together, talk, be accountable, challenge and encourage each other. You never know, you might just meet someone who has been through similar challenges to you or is struggling with the same thing!
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So, to all the paralegals out there, whether it’s just making that move and applying for that training contract or being honest about your workload, do it. An old colleague and I discussed the pressures and demand that come with being a paralegal, so we wanted to create a network where people can network, connect and support each other on their journey to becoming a qualified solicitor in the UK. Each law firm is different so, we wanted to build a community of paralegals to have a space to be honest, know how to deal with difficult colleagues, ask questions or even ask help to navigate their way through the role. Nothing bad comes from being honest and true to yourself. As the saying goes, ‘you don’t ask, you don’t get’ and the worst someone can say is a no. One persons no, is someone else’s opportunity to say yes. Join us on LinkedIn where we will be providing monthly virtual sessions for paralegals - we hope this is of benefit to all the paralegals out there! Search for ‘T.P.N – The Paralegal Network’ on LinkedIn. Instagram @TPNparalegalsUK ■
Family Law Paralegal Co-op Legal Services
Honorary Members We are delighted to announce two honorary members: David Morgan and Arthur Weir. Both of them have made very substantial contributions to our law society and one of the predecessor societies, Holborn Law Society.
avid Morgan has had a long and distinguished career in the law and in service to Westminster & Holborn Law Society.
David joined Slaughter & May for his articles, in the long form of twelve years, as he did not have a law degree. He became the lawyer to the Vestey Family of Vestey Foods and became interested in employment law. Under Prime Minister, Ted Heath, the Industrial Tribunal was set up, and a new tort of unfair dismissal promulgated. David has the distinction of taking the first case to the House of Lords (W.Devis and Sons v Atkins) with the issue being – can the employer use information acquired after an employee has been dismissed. David then joined Wright Son & Pepper (WSP), where he became a litigator and represented at Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunals and Employment Tribunals. He also did Employment Appeal Tribunals, having been encouraged to do so by the President of the EAT, at that time, Lord Phillips. David retired from WSP at the age of sixty-five, and set up as a sole practitioner located physically in the offices of Radcliffes Le Braseur. David became involved with the Holborn Law Society through one of the founder members, the father of Anthony and Nicholas Wright (of WSP). David eventually became President of Holborn Law Society before the merger with City of Westminster Law Society. The society was always active in the Federation of European Bar Associations (FBE), and in 2002 David became President of the FBE, one of only four English solicitors to serve as President in its twenty-nine-year history. In 2005 David became a Council Member of the Law Society of England & Wales. He was a member of the Legal Affairs and Policy Board, and the EU Committee. He was a member of the UK delegation to the Council of European Bars (CCBE). He has been an extremely active member of WHLS International Committee and was Chair of the committee for a number of years. ■
Professor Sara Chandler QC (Hon)
rthur Weir only put down his pen as Chair of the Law Reform Committee at the end of 2019, some 57 years after he first began his efforts in founding Holborn Law Society (in 1962). Aside from being a Founding Member, Arthur is a past president of the Society, retired Deputy Chancery Master and charity trustee, whose reputation as one of the Society’s most outstanding members precedes him. He has overseen that the metamorphosis of the Society, including the re-merger of Holborn Law Society and The City of Westminster Law Society. Always looking forward, Arthur has been an advocate for junior lawyers and served as a trustee of the Gamlen Award for decades, the Society’s prize for outstanding trainee solicitors. Some of the Society’s best work can be viewed through the eyes of the Law Reform Committee, which Arthur chaired for many years. Indeed, it is one of the most revered groups of its kind; renowned for providing detailed consultation responses on a variety of matters. A personal favourite of Arthur’s is the Capital and Income in Trusts report, where the Society’s arguments against a rule-based approach to the classification of corporate receipts by trustees received two pages of consideration in the final 2009 Law Commission response. His wise counsel has been valued by Presidents for decades and his stewardship whilst sitting on the Main Committee of the Society for the majority of existence has provided members with an effective representative body and community since its inception. There is no doubt that the success of the Society depends upon us all being a little more like Arthur. ■
Past President of WHLS
Past President of WHLS and The Federation of European Bars
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International Women’s Day T
he EDI committee intends to promote issues throughout the year using the ‘Inclusivity Calendar’ from Inclusive Employers: The Diversity and Inclusion Calendar | Inclusive Employers. We are currently a small committee, so can’t hope to cover everything but welcome anyone who would like to initiate any campaign either as a ‘one-off’ contribution or by joining the committee. We also welcome working with partner firms or organisations. The committee is focused on using social media and the magazine to promote and report on issues. We have covered in recent editions LGBTQ+ issues, black lives matter, disability and in this edition International Women’s Day. We partnered with Legal Women magazine for the #choosetochallenge campaign. Many thanks to all those who helped which culminated in this montage of photos. Individually, we’re all responsible for our own thoughts and actions - all day, every day. We can all choose to challenge and call out gender bias and inequality. We can all choose to seek out and celebrate women’s achievements. Collectively, we can all help create an inclusive world. The EDI Committee also held a successful event marking IWD by an evening with City Lawyer, Lesley Wan, and Charity Mafuba has reported this on page 13.
International Women’s Day: what is it for? Everyday sexism wears people down – you can choose to change that by challenging stereotypes and misogyny and celebrating achievements of the women you know. This can be in every part of your life: quietly asking someone not to talk over a woman speaking, not making assumptions about the life ambitions of the women you meet, being respectful to female leaders. All of society together can act now. International Women’s Day IWD 2021 used a theme of #choosetochallenge. So, make a difference, think globally and act locally! Make every day International Women’s Day. 12 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
IWD has been marked annually since 1911 on March 8th and is a day of the year to: ■ celebrate women’s achievements ■ raise awareness about women’s equality ■ lobby for accelerated gender parity ■ fundraise for female-focused charities So far there is no country in the world with gender equality and yet it is often thought that the battles have been fought. Women’s rights have come a long way over the last 100 years, bringing the right to vote, enter the professions, own property and financial rights but there is still more to do. In the UK many of the relevant laws are in place but discrimination persists often due to cultural norms. The United Nations has marked IWD since 1975. IWD is an official holiday in many countries including Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia. Trivia question: When is International Men’s Day? 19 November. International Men’s Day – Men Leading by Example ■
Editor Legal Women, Chair of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committee, WHLS www.LegalWomen.org.uk
International Women’s Day 2021 – An Evening with Lesley Wan T
he Equality, Diversity & Inclusion committee of WHLS combined forces with the University of Law alumni group and featured city lawyer, Lesley Wan to celebrate IWD on 8th March. It was the most insightful way to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day. Lesley Wan embodies the modern-day trail blazer female lawyer, owing to her relatability. She grew up in New Zealand, the child of recently emigrated parents. (Lesley did not speak English until she went to school); worked hard studying and helping their parents in their business. She knew no lawyers at all nor had much experience of what the law involved as a career. Lesley is proof that determination is key to achieving long lasting success. Particularly where the notion of nepotism appears to deter those who do not have connections to help them “get through the door”. In an era where gender inequality is still rife, Lesley gives all of us consolation that all hope is not lost and that the tide is clearly turning. The many glass ceilings she has shattered thus far, continue to pave the way for many more women as they foray into the seemingly unconquerable legal field. Many dejected, aspiring female lawyers and even those already in the profession looking to reach higher heights, will benefit from the pearls of wisdom that Lesley Wan effortlessly espouses. What is also refreshing is that Lesley is willing to share the “tricks of the trade” that help one to stand out in such a competitive arena. Some key “tricks” or tips she references are: ■ Being Proactive, ■ Demonstrating what you can bring to the table, ■ Creating opportunities for yourself and ■ The importance of building connections with your peer group. There is no doubt that Lesley walks the talk. Her diverse accomplishments speak for themselves. Listening to her through the evening, one cannot help but be in awe of what she has been able to accomplish in her career thus far. From her start in New Zealand, where she practised as both a Barrister and Solicitor at Russell McVeagh. Subsequently, moving to London where she worked as a Solicitor at Norton Rose Fulbright. Progressing to Senior Solicitor roles at Allen & Overy, Bayerische Landesbank in Real Estate and LDC. Lesley would go on to serve as Corporate Counsel for 11 years at Lloyds Banking Group.
Her contributions to society span across the various generations. For instance, through her charity, Through the Looking Glass (www.lookingglassuk.com). Lesley created a handbook to set out some of the interesting roles available in the City. This included guidelines for students to have a basic understanding of what roles exist. These roles were replicated on the website and organised for students to visit corporations which featured these roles. Something, Lesley would have loved to have had available when she was their age. Of significance, is the premise on which the charity was founded. Lesley wanted to effect real change by focusing on young people from socially and economically deprived areas of London. “I wanted to open up our fantastic City to the incredible untapped talent of young people who couldn’t see a future for themselves from their council estate.” For the senior women leaders, Lesley created the Eagle Club, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/eagle-club-eventshowcases-female-leaders-passion-mcgregor to help build a strong and supportive female network. “We want to provide a platform for female leaders to build authentic relationships and friendships with other senior women at the executive level. This is with a view to creating a support network where we can freely call on each other for help”. Lesley shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. Her long-term plans are “to continue to help as many people as she can, to realise their potential” and “to expand the Eagle Club to become a substantial network globally”. As the evening concluded, I left with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and determination, to chase my dreams and expand my vision, beyond my wildest dreams. With the hope that in the near future, I will stand on the shoulders of women like Lesley Wan who have gone before me and dared to explore the unchartered territories of the legal field on the premise of achieving their goals, whilst giving back and pouring into the next generation of women. ■
Charity Mafuba Member of WHLS
At present Lesley serves as General Counsel, Whistleblowing Officer and Chief Conflicts of Interest Officer and Company Secretariat for FBN Bank (UK) Limited. In addition, she has previously served on the Advisory Boards for the Legal press, including The Lawyer, Legal Week and WIPL. Lesley is a NED for Headlong Theatre and London Business School Out In Business. CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 13
Warsaw Bar speeches T
he Warsaw Bar held its annual Modern Bar Association Conference virtually this year. Professor Sara Chandler QC (Hon) and Matthew Allan both spoke at the meeting. They had the benefit of a report compiled by the Law Society of England & Wales which addresses the issue of access to justice during the pandemic and the provision of legal services. Matthew Allan, vice president of the Westminster and Holborn Law Society, opened the roundtable meeting and spoke about how the pandemic has affected the Society’s members and how our bar association has adapted since March 2020. He expanded upon the experiences of lawyers working in London during lockdown and briefly touched on the report produced by the national Law Society of England and Wales in September 2020, following the first UK lockdown. In the second presentation, Professor Chandler expand on the detail or the report. Law under lockdown: the impact of COVID-19 measures on access to justice and vulnerable people | The Law Society. Matthew Allan explained that in many respects the pandemic has forced the courts, and those that use them in the UK, to accelerate their engagement with technology. Hearings were moved online, and lawyers, clients and judges all grappled with new forms of video conferencing, which in early March 2020 would have been the exception, rather than the rule. Although there were issues surrounding access to justice, particularly for vulnerable people as Professor Chandler discusses, where matters were conducted primarily between lawyers there had not been an obvious impediment to online court hearings. In fact, the benefits were being felt by his colleagues in the form of reduced travel time (and costs) and paperless hearings. “The technology has made it possible to conduct complex, multi-party hearings and trials remotely, allowing justice to be done in a timely manner.” This was particularly apparent in his own practice which focussed on international litigation and arbitration, where tribunals such as the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce have remained equally as open as the UK to shift its workload online. Matthew highlighted that despite the shift to online hearings, many courts remained operational during the lockdown, offering in-person trials, with the unfortunate increase in risks associated with that for those in attendance. Conversely, the
negative impact of working from home for prolonged periods on all staff should not be underestimated. The knock-on effects, for example on supervision and feelings of isolation, have been widely reported: “This is without mentioning the negative implications working from home can have on other relationships, be that with housemates, partners, or children” particularly where space at home for an office is limited. He acknowledged that an ‘opt-in’ £6 per week tax rebate for all those working from home was welcomed but did little to compensate the feeling of living and working in the same space. The Society’s offering for its members was also a talking point, particularly its focus on events relating to metal wellbeing in addition to the usual seminars offering legal awareness. This was echoed by all the speakers who recognised the importance for their members of having a community to engage with and to support each other. The similarity of experiences was striking from such a diverse panel, ranging from Moldova to Mexico and taking in European legal hubs such as Frankfurt, Warsaw and Milan. Professor Chandler stated that in The Law Society report (link above), it analyses the impact of measures on the ability of vulnerable1 people to access legal advice during the pandemic and makes recommendations for the government’s six-month review of the emergency measures. People living in institutionalised settings, such as prisons, immigration detention centres, mental health units or care settings have been subjected to more restrictive conditions, including increased use of restraint and solitary confinement in some settings. They have had very limited contact with their family or their solicitor for prolonged periods, removing an essential element of external scrutiny of conditions in institutions’. Professor Chandler’s full speech is available on the website. She concluded her speech summarising some findings and recommendations of The Law Society of England and Wales: Access to justice in housing ■ The UK Government should consider bringing forward temporary measures allowing for judicial discretion in mandatory evictions, limited to the consideration of criteria related to the pandemic and resulting economic position of the tenant, and in the long term legislation to provide a preaction protocol so that a landlord cannot receive possession until the protocol has been applied. Prisons and the secure estate for children ■ The Prison Service should expand its video and telephone facilities and provide adequate staff to enable all prisoners to access legal advice in a timely and confidential manner.
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Mental health settings ■ The UK Government should encourage the National Health Service to ensure hospitals understand their obligation to allow visits to patients. Legal Aid Agency should extend non-means tested funding to those cases where the Court of Protection authorises the deprivation of liberty so that a patient has legal representation. Immigration detention ■ Access of detainees to legal representatives during the lockdown should be reviewed, including collecting and publishing data where possible so that evaluation can be conducted, and also review policies on detaining and removing people during pandemics, considering the ability of those concerned to access legal advice at the time. For those denied access to public funds, such as sickness benefit and social security the Government should permit legal aid for such applications. Those at risk of domestic abuse ■ The UK Government should reinstate non-means tested legal aid for victims of domestic abuse and allow solicitors to certify that an individual is a victim of domestic abuse for the purposes of obtaining legal aid. ■ The UK Government should seek to ensure adequate funding for services to support victims and survivors of abuse as the COVID-19 crisis continues and into the future and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner should be consulted as part of future lockdown planning to ensure that protecting victims remains a key priority.
Access to services and safeguards ■ The UK Government should conduct an evaluation on the preparedness of children’s social care services for future emergency situations, with a focus on the least restrictive means through which to respond. ■ When reducing individual rights and safeguards in relation to the provision of public services it must be ensured that appropriate routes to redress remain open and accessible, including access to solicitors and independent complaints or inspection processes. These are the 8 recommendations which affect the most vulnerable people in accessing justice and protecting their life and liberty. The International Committee were delighted to be asked to contribute to his event and very much hope that in 2022 we will be able to attend in person. ■ 1. Throughout the report the term ‘vulnerable’ is used to refer, variously, to an individual or group that possesses a characteristic that may increase their vulnerability (such as age or mental capacity), or could be considered vulnerable due to their circumstances (for example, living in an institutionalised setting, at risk of domestic abuse or having insecure legal status). The precise meaning of this term depends on the context.
Milestone reached for London Legal Support Trust
he sun is shining and there is a renewed sense of optimism in the air! The small team at London Legal Support Trust (LLST) are working hard on an exciting calendar of events for 2021 to bring together the legal community, raise awareness, and, most importantly raise vital funds for frontline free legal advice agencies. London Legal Walk LLST is delighted that a milestone number of teams has already been reached! The autumn event on the 18 October will see over 160 teams (and counting) come together to walk a 10km route around central London and finish with a street party with entertainment and a well-earned drink.
pace while discovering some of London’s most beautiful landmarks. Walk the Thames is back on the 22 May and kicks off LLST’s outdoor events for the year. If you have a four-legged friend who would like to join in the fun, the very popular London Legal Walkies is back on the 10 July! Promising to be a ‘pawsome’ event, there’s a choice of two London parks. If you or your colleagues are based regionally, there are walks across the South-East (21 June - 14 July). Smaller but with a big impact, these regional walks raise funds for agencies within the local area.
Feeling creative? Due to its popularity in 2020, the virtual Why we walk London Legal 10xChallenge is back between 5-14 June. Take part on one day or The mission of the walk, which is now in its 17th year, is to raise funds for frontline free all 10! Register, choose your challenge and legal advice agencies who serve people with put some fun into fundraising! a range of problems, many of which could be eliminated with the right legal advice. What can you do to help? Sadly, advice is not easily available to those Sign up to LLST’s events www. on low, or no income and the agencies they londonlegalsupporttrust.org.uk/ our-events/ and you will be supporting turn to heavily rely on additional funding from charities such as LLST. access to justice, raising vital funds and sharing your experience with a wonderful Feeling active? community of supporters. ■ Take on a full or half marathon at your own CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 15
JUNIOR LAWYERS DIVISION
Time travelling in law: the best of both worlds T
he outbreak of COVID-19 fundamentally altered our ways of working. It accelerated the adoption of new technologies in an attempt to enable us to work closely together, despite having to stay apart. For every legal practitioner who was daunted by this seismic shift, many more embraced it. Over a year later, there is much to be said in respect of where we are, what we have learned and what we will incorporate going forward.
Adopting technology In a year where entertaining guests has not been possible, the one visitor we have had to welcome into our homes is work. By forcing the adoption of remote working, the pandemic has disproved the naysayers and has even increased productivity in many cases. However, remote working has brought its own challenges in terms of mentally disconnecting from work. With no obvious end to the working day, we have had to quickly learn how to establish non-physical boundaries. Without doing so, we are at risk of feeling as if we are living at work as opposed to working from home. From March to June 2020, LawCare found that 42% of their helpline calls were directly related to COVID-19.1 This is somewhat unsurprising given the unique and radical circumstances that we quickly had to adapt to. As practitioners, we have had to collate and navigate digital court applications, documents and eBundles and we have therefore seen developments towards paperless working. According to HMCTS, the number of family, civil and criminal cases involving remote technology has increased by 90% since March 2020.2 In family law, we have moved away from lodging divorce petitions and applications at the court and have instead seen the expansion of the ‘MyHMCTS’ online platform. Through this digital channel, financial remedy consent orders now take one week digitally to turn around, compared to 20 weeks (or more) on paper. Admittedly, we have experienced glitches here and there however, we have seen many rectifications to the system already. Building relationships As our homes have become our new place of work, relationships that were traditionally developed in or around offices are now built virtually through remote platforms. We have had to change our approach to communicating with colleagues, networking with peers and establishing client relationships. For many clients, remote working has helped to circumvent the potential impracticalities of geographical location. It has offered clients an ability to make appointments with their legal advisors quickly by communicating via telephone or video call. This new approach has many benefits such as increased accessibility and flexibility for clients and practitioners, potential costs savings and a reduction in carbon footprint. However, virtual meetings do not suit all clients and the lack of face-toface contact carries the risk of reduced communication and information shared. We have also seen networking and social events transfer from an office or the local pub to in front of our computer screens in our living rooms. Within the world of family law, there have 16 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
been an array of virtual conferences, webinars, seminars and activities to keep us entertained. The remoteness and on-demand nature of such events has been beneficial in the sense of improved accessibility; nevertheless, it is undeniably more challenging to build meaningful relationships on virtual platforms. Attending court Since March 2020, we have also witnessed significant and radical changes to the court system. The advent of remote hearings provided an opportunity for the courts to devise a new way of delivering justice that is quicker, more cost-effective and allows greater access to justice. This is an exciting prospect, but does it do what it says on the tin? According to a study in October 2020, 86% of legal professionals within the family justice system considered remote hearings to be working efficiently. 78% felt that fairness and justice had been achieved in the cases they were involved in most or all of the time.3 The practical barriers of attending court are reduced and the geographical location of hearings is no longer a consideration, creating the potential for swifter access to justice. Indeed, Sir Andrew McFarlane (the president of the Family Division) has even confirmed that some family courts had adapted so well that they no longer had a backlog of cases.4 That said, remote hearings are not suitable for all cases. In family law, hearings such as initial appointments, directions hearings and case management hearings are well suited for digital platforms. Others, such as those involving crossexamination or where substantive issues are being heard, do benefit from being heard in person. There is also a concern that some clients may not feel supported during remote hearings. Indeed, the same report found that 40% of clients said that they did not understand what had happened during their remote hearing.5 Other disadvantages may arise from barristers not having an opportunity to speak to their opponent in person with a view to narrowing the issues beforehand and there being no human engagement between the participants in a virtual courtroom. The psychological effect of going to court is inevitably diminished. It will be essential to overcome these issues if remote hearings are to become a permanent feature of our justice system. Finding a new balance As we establish a new equilibrium between the old world and the new world, we must adopt an adaptive approach when building relationships with clients, colleagues and peers. Discretion must be used to decide whether it is more appropriate for some meetings or events to take place virtually or whether they may benefit from face-to-face interaction. We will undoubtedly see the emergence of flexible working policies across the legal sector, which carries the exciting opportunity for a reduced cost base and improved profitability for law firms, enhanced productivity and a better work life balance for legal practitioners (once we have mastered
JUNIOR LAWYERS DIVISION
establishing the non-physical boundaries). I predict that the competing attractiveness of such policies will become a key decision making factor in the job market as employees seek to find their new sustainable work life balance. As remote working becomes more prevalent, it will be important to develop a tool set for establishing such non-physical boundaries so that we are mentally better equipped to handle this way of working. Of course, the shift of reliance from paper to digital highlights the ever-growing importance of data and digital security and going forward, firms and individuals will also have to remain ever more vigilant of this. It is also likely that we will see remote hearings remain a permanent component of our justice system. Depending upon the type of hearing to be listed, I hope that a range of suitable options may become available to clients and legal practitioners and this could include a ‘hybrid solution’ whereby clients and their legal practitioners are co-located whilst attending a remote hearing. Certainly, in family law where life-changing decisions are being made, we must do what we can to take on board on the client’s preferences and minimise the barriers to achieving a supportive and empathetic environment. Given the shadow of the pandemic, it is easy to overlook the achievements of the past year. However, we must remind ourselves of the lessons learned and focus on the positive benefits, of which there are many. It is difficult to know exactly what the future may look like, however I believe that drawing from the experiences of the past and the lessons of last year will allow us to incorporate the best of both worlds, and create an even better future. ■
Trainee Solicitor at Dawson Cornwell I am interested in connecting with other legal professionals who are interested in supporting the creation of our future way of working. If anyone has any interesting thoughts on this, please do reach out. 1. https://www.ft.com/content/24428ce4-a99c-11ea-abfc5d8dc4dd86f9 2. w ww.gov.uk/government/news/new-video-tech-toincrease-remote-hearings-in-civil-and-family-courts 3. w ww.nuffieldfjo.org.uk/news/remote-hearings-challengefairness-empathy 4. w ww.legalfutures.co.uk/features/family-courts-meet-thecovid-challenge 5. w ww.nuffieldfjo.org.uk/news/remote-hearings-challengefairness-empathy
Reach new clients with Clio + Google My Business
hen looking for legal services, 57% of consumers search on their own, relying heavily on online search. This happens even more during recurring national lockdowns. Since Google owns more than 90% of the global search market share, having a Google My Business profile ensures you show up where today’s potential clients are looking – online. Meeting clients where they are searching is essential for lawyers to efficiently and effectively grow their business. Google My Business brings a professional presence to channels that your clients are already familiar with. Although having a Google My Business profile doesn’t mean you’re going to get a tsunami of leads overnight, it will help establish your reputation as a trusted business in your local community when you may not be able to meet clients face-to-face. As a leading provider of cloud-based legal case management software, Clio knows that having a reliable stream of clients coming through the door (even if it’s virtual) is essential for any firm to succeed. With Clio’s Google My Business integration, you can create and manage a free Google Business Profile for your firm from directly in Clio. This allows you to reach an untapped client pool. Having a Google My Business profile also gives search engines another “vote of confidence,” indicating that you are who you say you are. This makes search engines more likely to reward your website with better results in their search queries, making it easier for potential new clients to find you.
Finally, since reviews still reign supreme when hiring a lawyer, with over half of prospective clients saying they use internet searches and review sites to help make a decision, you need to make it easy for prospective clients by having reviews appear next to your Google Business profile. You can also increase those Google ratings by sending clients a review request link that’s specific to your firm. Be proactive by asking for a review from every happy client, so that if a negative review comes along, it’s far outweighed by the good ones. To learn more about how Clio can help you grow your law firm, visit www.clio.com/uk. ■ CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 17
There’s no escaping the Hard Market. “Hard market”- What does this mean? The insurance market has recurring periods of ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ conditions. A hard market materialises when insurers are paying claims with a reduced amount of premium coming in. Insurers cannot make a profit, forcing less profitable insurers out from the market. With competition decreasing the remaining insurers can raise their premiums. Hard markets have many driving factors which include natural disasters around the globe and outflow of capital from the insurance industry. In the UK, the tragic Grenfell Tower fire dramatically affected the Professional Indemnity market, seeing rates increase with harder to place construction risks.
not commercially viable to trade. Preparation is key, start the process early, align yourself with the right broker and build the best market presentation possible.
The solicitor’s Professional Indemnity market is the toughest it has been for many years. Insurers have pulled out with restrictions tightening. There are a limited number of insurers in the market for sole practitioners doing a high level of conveyancing and other higher risk disciplines. As a result, firms of all sizes have been hit with increased premiums and less choice.
Placing solicitor’s Professional Indemnity insurance is a job for experts. At Brunel we have over 450 law firm clients of all sizes trusting us to support and guide them through their PI renewal. We have a fully dedicated, legally qualified in-house claims and technical team. We also have strong relationships with partner firms specialising in training and advising solicitor practices on strategic and operational risk management. An example of one of these would be Thirdfort who specialise in mitigating identity fraud using their innovative app. Brunel Professions have been able to negotiate reduced PI premiums providing the law firm can demonstrate they are utilising the app. Being a fully independent PI specialist allows us wide access to the solicitor’s market which is essential to secure good terms for your renewal.
The key to achieving better terms is to present your firm in a positive light. First impressions are so important in these hard market conditions. If a poor presentation is handed to an underwriter it can mean the risk is either instantly declined or a rate is applied which is
Call our expert Ben Lewis for more information on 0117 911 5796 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Brunel offer invaluable risk management advice; controlling your Professional Indemnity costs and protecting your reputation. Why choose Brunel for your Professional Indemnity insurance renewal? Independent Brunel have access to the whole of the open market, rather than a limited panel of insurers or insurance schemes. This means we can identify and secure cover for all types of legal practice, from sole traders, specialist conveyancing and personal injury practices to large multi-disciplinary firms.
Don't put your reputation on the line
Risk Management Brunel are experienced in presenting claim records to the market and advising firms on how to improve their practice risk management – both of which are essential to secure good terms. Competitive pricing Brunel work hard to get you the cover you need at a competitive price. Brunel provide expert guidance and peace of mind.
www.brunelpi.co.uk email@example.com 18 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER 0117 911 5796
Your cover is our business
JUNIOR LAWYERS DIVISION
Starting a new job whilst working remotely
he first day of a new job is often a very exciting experience. You learn about how the firm works, take a tour around the office and meet your new colleagues in the hope of finding a new lunch buddy. But when you start a new job remotely in the midst of a pandemic these familiar first-day traditions fall by the wayside. The thought of starting a new job remotely may put people off taking up a new opportunity. However having just joined a new firm and made it through my first remote week, I’m so glad I made the jump. This is how it went and my top-tips for anyone looking to start a new job during the lockdown... Rather than the usual in-person tour and office induction, my day started with an introduction to my key point of contact and online training via screen sharing. I was reassured that no question was silly and that my new colleagues were there to assist and support me. Many colleagues took the time to welcome me to the firm by email and offered their assistance if required. This warm welcome made me feel instantly part of the team and was something I really appreciated.
and I would encourage anyone feeling reluctant to take their next career step during the lockdown to seize the opportunity. The advice I can provide to anyone starting a new role are: ■ Do not be scared to ask for help if you are unsure. No question is silly. ■ Everyone will be more supportive as they are aware that you are starting a new job in strange times. ■ E xpect to face IT problems. ■ Do not be too hard on yourself. ■ Set up phone conversations with colleagues instead of emails to get to know them. While I’m definitely looking forward to returning to the office to finally put faces to names, for now, I’m embracing learning about life at my new firm from the comfort of my home. ■
Keshia Bushay-Ellis Solicitor
Of course, the first-day tradition which remained the same remotely as in the office was the dreaded IT issues. A typical glitch in the matrix for any first day, but thankfully all quickly resolved. Working remotely definitely has a different set of challenges to life in the office, but so far the experience has been really positive
Are you missing out on VWV’s In-House Lawyers Club? VWV’s In-House Lawyers Club is aimed at all lawyers in an in-house role, across various sectors, industries and specialisms. Club benefits include: ■ Free webinars aimed specifically at In-House Lawyers ■ Opportunities to network with peers and industry experts ■ Access to best practice, trends and legal developments
■ Sector specialisms including charities, higher education, public sector ■ Dedicated Coronavirus Resource Library with latest legal guidance, answering your most frequently asked questions If you would like to know more about VWV’s In-House Lawyers Club, please contact Partner Nick Martindale or sign up to VWV’s content. ■ CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 19
Have your meeting rooms been compromised during lockdown, or is it something you want to prevent? International Procurement Services (IPS) recognizes the importance of keeping your discussions and intellectual property as secure as possible. In today’s world, wherever there are large sums of money, and proprietary information, there will always be someone interested in gaining access to it, by fair meansor foul! It takes just one well placed electronic listening device (or bug) hidden in a meeting room to jeopardise your client’s confidential information. Gerry Hall, of IPS says, “10 years ago, eavesdropping was a specialist and expensive business, however with the advent of GSM technology and miniaturization of electronics, listening devices have become small and inexpensive but still requiring specialised equipment and highly skilled search teams to detect” Based in Central London and established in 1989, IPS’s core business is the provision of Technical Surveillance Counter Measures (TSCM) equipment all over the world.
Call +44 20 7258 3771 (24/7) For further information on our services both UK and International, please contact: Gerry Hall, Managing Director
IPS THE HALLMARK OF SECURITY
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20 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
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JUNIOR LAWYERS DIVISION
Positivity and looking forward I
t would be a true understatement for me to say that the last year has been tough for junior lawyers, particularly for those (like me) who were made redundant during the pandemic. For any junior lawyer reading this, of whatever age, and still looking for a role, please do not give up. I am an unorthodox junior solicitor. After a 7-year career in IT I took a break to have a family then in 2012 I decided to study law because I wanted to have a purpose and make a difference to society (didn’t we all think that at some stage?). Having laboured my way through tough GDL exams, the LPC, securing a training contract and landing my first role on qualification in Business Law in October 2018, all of that effort was swept aside when I was furloughed with no warning in June 2020 and then made redundant at the end of July 2020. The challenge for me during my 8-month search for a new role was the up and down battle against the sinking feeling that perhaps the legal profession does not want or need people like me. In the end, it was a chance conversation over LinkedIn with a contact, to whom I had in the past referred conflict clients, that led me to my new role beginning in May 2021. I consider myself a positive person, but in fact it took some time for me to learn how to be genuinely positive and to stop listening to my inner critical voice (a topic of discussion in its own right). What I have learnt to do is to not look backwards – events that have happened are now in the past and nothing can be done about them – keep moving forward and live in the present as much as possible. In my view, this is the essence of positivity. So how do we learn to be positive and maintain positivity? I mentioned purpose. Four months into my fruitless job search which included interviews, even a second-stage interview, but without a job offer in sight, I approached the CEO of a small charity I used to work for and asked if I could help out in any way, desperately wanting to feel useful again. I had heard that the charity was managing a food hub for low-income families but luckily for me, the CEO urgently needed somebody to work part time to process grant awards. From the first day I began working for this charity – the week before Christmas 2020 – my stress levels plummeted. I was having a deserved break from webinars and interview-prepping. I was in an office, surrounded by great people (socially-distanced of course) and doing critical work helping vulnerable people access funds urgently to enable them to pay for food, rent and bills. A real purpose.
The second significant step I took was to talk to a career coach. I chose a person I had met at a proper face-to-face networking event in late 2019 (can’t wait to attend those again) and had met up with again to chat about my role at that time. I realised that what I lacked in my previous role was a mentor to help with my career direction and I had got stuck in a rut – in my coach’s words I seemed to be “on an island”, i.e. I had no real career development support around me. During the pandemic, talking honestly about what I really wanted from my career in law was an important step. Even during lockdown, there is no reason not to consider your career options moving forward, what sort of solicitor do you want to become, whether you want to move inhouse or sideways into a different area of law? Think about what type of firm/company you really want to work for, e.g. traditional, modern, diverse, progressive? Thirdly, I have learnt that positivity goes hand in hand with accepting that you are only human. One of the most important conversations I had during lockdown was with a recruitment consultant who runs her own business in the north of England. She couldn’t help me find a job in London of course but she quite simply said “as a junior solicitor, you will find it much harder to find a new role during lockdown but don’t be hard on yourself and focus on what you can offer”. That was all I needed to hear “don’t be hard on yourself and focus on what you can offer”. From that point on, I have stopped beating myself up for minor failures like not getting that second stage interview. I would encourage you all to reread Suzanna Eames’ 5 top tips on Self-Care from February 2021’s issue, particularly if you are feeling demotivated or exhausted. Finally, what I have learnt is to be present in the moment and take time over conversations you are having with people – starting from today! Connecting with societies that have meaning to you or with forgotten contacts, friends or family now that lockdown restrictions have eased will revive you. Listen to others’ perspectives on life to continually see the bigger picture and remember that you never know when one of those conversations might come back to help you or someone else when life is turned upside down. ■
Business Law Solicitor TWM Solicitors (Fulham, London) CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 21
Premium Residential <0.25Ha Environmental | Flood | Ground Stability | Energy & Infrastructure
Grid Reference: E: 123456 | N: 123456
Professional Opinion 1.ENVIRONMENTAL
No further recommendations
No further recommendations
Consideration(s): 3.05 Consult Surveyor
4.ENERGY & INFRASTRUCTURE Consideration(s): 4.18 Power Stations
Air Quality Index: Some Polluted Areas (See 1.25) This page should always be read in conjunction with the full report. The Professional Opinion indicates the potential risks and any other potential issues associated with the property. The results should be disclosed to client and/or lender and/or insurer as appropriate. A ‘Pass’ is given if no potential property specific risk has been identified. A ‘Pass with Considerations’ is given where there are potential hazards in the locality to bear in mind, or if there are features nearby which some clients might consider could affect them. A ‘Further Action’ is given if there is a potential property specific risk and a further action is advised. In the event of a request to review the Professional Opinion based on additional information, or if there are any technical queries, the professional advisor who ordered the report should contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 01732 755 180.
Regulated by RICS If you require assistance, please contact your Search Provider or alternatively contact FCI directly with your Report ID. Tel: 01732 755 180 | Email: email@example.com | Web: www.futureclimateinfo.com
22 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
Air quality, Covid-19 and property transactions
oor air quality is arguably the most significant environmental risk to the health of our nation, with some 40,000 deaths per annum attributable to pollution from motor vehicles and industry. This has been brought into sharp focus at a time of pandemic where respiratory vulnerability has been a key driver of fatalities. As Tim Champney, Managing Director of Future Climate Info explains, given that we are now spending much more time at home, air quality is quickly becoming one of the more critical factors in deciding where to live, especially in the capital. In recent years, air pollution levels have exceeded safe EU limits on many occasions and affected those who are especially sensitive like those who suffer from asthma or COPD. There are a large number of notorious high-risk areas across many areas of London that with a combination of high traffic levels and still weather conditions can lead to dangerous exposure to pollutants that can have lifelong impacts. There is also improved scientific research on how fine particulate matter (PM) gets into the bloodstream and can accelerate dementia. The Clean Air of Lockdown The first lockdown of March-June 2020 showed how quickly things can change. With vehicles off the road and aircraft removed from clear blue skies, air pollution levels plummeted, and it felt like a different world – cleaner, quieter, calmer. And it proved clearly the benefits of cutting back on road transport movements. Air quality monitoring identified a 40% reduction in pollution levels occurred within a week of lockdown starting. Forward projections had this kind of reduction by 2030-2035 at the earliest. Post-Covid Health Risk While clearly an upside, the pandemic also showed the double impact of greater vulnerability in urban areas typically affected by poor air quality. Recent research has found that a small rise in people’s long-term exposure to air pollution was associated with an 11% increase in deaths from Covid-19. Breathing dirty air over years is already known to cause heart and lung disease, and these illnesses are known to make coronavirus infections worse. Now that traffic is back to 75% of pre-pandemic levels and with an estimated 1 million “Long Covid” sufferers, there is a growing cohort of people where poor air quality has suddenly become a more pressing issue where perhaps they didn’t think of it much before. After lockdown, there may be a large spike in traffic from pent-up demand as everyone enthusiastically travels and consumes or a small reduction as employers look to a more hybrid approach to office and working from home practices, reducing the frequency of commutes and vehicle movements. But it won’t stop heavy goods, trade and school run traffic and it may be that in certain congested locations there is very little change or improvement in air quality. There remains a reluctance to use public transport, especially at peak times, which could put more vehicles back on the road if employers insist on a return to the place of work more regularly. Finding Clean Air? For homebuyers, in the last year we have seen a clear trend to look out of city centres for more green space and room to work from home. In June and July last year, the number of buyer inquiries made to Rightmove from people living in 10 cities increased by 78% compared with the same period last year. But for those who do not have the choice or are key workers that need to be close to their place of work, what information
can be easily obtained by legal and property professionals to safeguard them? Increasingly, understanding local air quality is becoming recognised as equal to other environmental issues such as flood risk and land contamination, when buying a home. Many conveyancers and legal professionals are choosing to highlight air quality as a factor which could impact upon their client’s quiet enjoyment of the home. For these important reasons, Future Climate Info (FCI) took the pioneering decision to add Earthsense’s MappAir® air quality data to its environmental search reports in early 2018. This provides homebuyers with an indication of annual mean air pollution, based on levels of PM2.5 particulate matter and Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) to a resolution of 100 metres. This provides far greater insight than reliance solely on whether a property lies within a Local Authority Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), which tends to be isolated areas in the centre of cities and towns, and do not provide the full picture. Having sight of this data and insight enables homebuyers to consider their options and, whether in an urban or countryside setting, to enter into a transaction with their eyes wide open. Young Families at High Risk How we as consumers choose to buy homes will be increasingly influenced by air quality data, traffic impacts and how they are being managed in any one area. But choosing schools can often be the biggest determinant for young families. The first thought is squeezing into the catchment which can attract a premium, but it may have a sting in its tail if that also suffers from poor air quality as it sits close to a main road in a city, as many do. Children can breathe in up to three times more air relative to their weight. This means they take in a greater volume of air pollution, which can stunt lung growth and increase their risk of respiratory disease. Ella Kissi-Debrah, who suffered from asthma and walked to school every day along the South Circular Road, was the first child declared to have air pollution listed as a contributory cause to her death after an historic high court judgement. Who will Guide the Client? As part of their research, home hunters should not just look at price, features and space for a home office. If the house is on a busy main road, will they have to invest more in insulation, better windows and air filtration? Or could they save by moving one or two streets back where the air pollution is a fraction of the High Street? Right now, with the SDLT payment holiday window still wide open and supply of the right properties tight, there is a very real risk that this vital information can get overlooked in the pursuit of securing a property to move to, only to discover issues later. Aside from the potential physical and mental impacts of poor air quality in residential areas, the future may also see the financial impacts on homeowners should the value of their home falter if air quality deteriorates further. This could affect the desirability and value of a home in the eyes of lenders, valuers and prospective buyers alike. We introduced air quality data into our searches to help homebuyers make informed decisions about their future. We remain the only environmental search provider to include this as standard. Our searches offer solicitors and conveyancers a robust mechanism through which they can quickly and easily provide insight to their clients right now through their existing search report bundles, without having to obtain additional searches or increase their workload. For more information about FCI’s range of environmental search reports including air quality data as standard, visit www.futureclimateinfo.com, call on 01732 755180 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. ■ CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER | 23
24 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
Simple Contract Law: Stripping English Law of Complexity I
n his new book, Watson-Gandy has bravely done a complete about-turn on traditional dusty textbooks, writing an illustrated guide to English contract law that is fun to read, entertaining and succinct. Synopsis of ‘Simple Contract Law: A brief introduction to English Contract Law’: This book provides an essential introduction to English contract law. Written by practising barrister and law professor, Mark WatsonGandy, whose infectious enthusiasm for the subject permeates the text, the book simply explains all the core concepts and leading cases and what the most common terms and conditions actually do. Whether you are a law student, businessman or an international lawyer, you will find “Simple Contract Law” to be an easy-to-read, concise, and informative first guide into the subject. Enlivened by the colourful back stories to the case law and with witty illustrations by Gordon Collett, this book is a welcome antidote to stale traditional contract law textbooks. “People don’t realise quite how important English contract law is for us all. English contract law has long been the preferred
choice of law for international contracts – often even where the parties or transaction has no connection to the UK. The UK legal services industry is worth £60 billion to the UK economy; the UK legal services market is the largest in Europe and second only globally to the USA. Three quarters of those using London’s commercial courts during litigation come from outside of the UK” explains the author. “I wanted to write something which would cut through the complexity, to give an accessible overview of the law. A quick and easy-to-read guide like this is long overdue.” ‘Simple Contract Law: A brief introduction to English Contract Law’ is available now for £9.95 on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3kbb6Q4. ■ Professor Mark Watson-Gandy K.S.G is a practising barrister at Three Stone Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn and has appeared in high-profile cases in the UK and abroad. He is a Visiting Professor at the University of Westminster and at the University of Lorraine in France. He was made a Knight of the Order of St Gregory the Great in recognition of his work as a barrister and law professor in 2007. In 2020, he was appointed as one of the UK Ministry of Justice’s “Legal Services are Great Champions” to promote English legal services internationally.
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. Join us for our exclusive member only week of free online learning content. Obtain all you CPD in one place with live lunchtime webinars, play on demand podcasts and pre-recorded seminars. To register your interest please get in touch.
For further details on how to join Legal Network London, please contact us on: email@example.com or 033 3016 4444 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.
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When is a good time to do an Internal Procedure Review? I
nternal reviews on procedures surrounding the accounts department are never deemed a particularly exciting part of running a law firm, however they could make a real difference to efficiency and compliance. There are three main focuses for a legal accounts department; record keeping, compliance & profitability. Generally, a law firm will only result in profitability if the procedures surrounding record-keeping and compliance are up-to-standard and current, making the most of new technologies and innovations. Determining when to do internal reviews is always a tricky question, however if the review is incorporated into the procedure itself, it does not have to be. Every month the accounts department should be producing a suite of accounts reports for the partnership/directorship of the firm as a matter of course. The reports should be read, understood, and discussed by management each month preferably with the accounts department being included in the conversation to provide context. Quite often at this stage it should be clear whether the firm is on-track with its projections or whether something has slipped. During the discussion about the reports, management can determine whether improvements should be made to the practice’s internal procedures. It is always worth using the management accounts, work in progress (WIP) and billing reports to see how certain departments are performing. Look at some basic profitability markers, such as turnover vs number of staff & staff cost and see from a very elementary level whether the staff volume (including support staff) is producing the turnover required by the firm. At this stage it should be clear whether improvements could/should be made. The changes should start with a review of procedures and processes, rather than a review of staff numbers. You should discuss their working practices with the staff. Here is a selection of basic things that could be looked-into: ■ Is the firm still using paper files, where digital ones would be more efficient? ■ Is the accounts department still working from a paper-based system, handling things manually where an automated digital system would be faster? ■ How old is the case management system and could it be upgraded to one which is more efficient to use and easier to access? ■ Is there a lot of duplication when it comes to standard letter writing and document drafting? ■ Could standard document templates be utilised? ■ Would it be more efficient to outsource? ■ Is there technology that can help with dictation? ■ Is the firm maximising the technology that its bank provides? ■ Is the firm still relying on cheque and cash receipts where electronic transfers would be faster?
Another area to look at is the SRA Accounts Rules compliance area. Every month, the accounts department should be producing COFA reports, and these should comprise of (at least) the following: ■ Bank statements, bank reconciliation, list of adjustments (additions/suspense items). ■ Register of accounts rules breaches for the month. ■ Client matter balance listing including details of client debit balances and office credit balances. ■ Trial balance showing the cashbook figure of the client banks. ■ Client reconciliation cover sheet which combines the threepoint check of the bank statement to the cashbook figure on the trial balance to the combined total of the matter balance listing. This ensures that nothing is missing from the client funds and that all transactions have been accounted for. It should be clear from the COFA reports whether there are any issues or improvements can be made. The SRA are looking for breaches that happen regularly and are deemed “systemic” where there is a breakdown in a process. They are looking for the process to be altered to ensure that further breaches are not forthcoming. The key is not looking at the fact that a breach occurred, more questioning why it occurred. It is at this stage that the processes surrounding the accounts department should be reviewed. Some examples of what to look out for: ■ Client debit balances: Is money regularly being moved out of client account before funds are available? ■ Office credit balances: Is the firm receiving money into office account before bills are entered on the system? Are disbursements not being paid out promptly after receiving monies? ■ Last movement dates: Are there balances in client account that have not moved for a long time? Are there transfers that should have been done to office account for costs that were missed? ■ Unreconciled items: Are there mis-postings on the bank reconciliations, or are there old cheques that have not been cashed? A review into accounts department procedure should take place if the above occurs as the firm needs to be pro-active in prevention of breaches. Internal procedure reviews give confidence that everything is running efficiently and compliantly on an ongoing basis. ■
New Business Manager The Law Factory LLP www.thelawfactory.net
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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. 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.
In addition, 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-to-use folder. 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. gcs-title.co.uk. To obtain a ‘Bespoke/Direct’ quote or for any further enquiries, please contact us using the details below. ■
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Surely a positive professional referral beats a Google search or comparison site review
rom December 2018 when the regulator launched Transparency, it was only ever going in one direction and rightly so. Being transparent should be a business ethic and seen as such, but many sadly have seen the rules, introduced for their benefit, as a compliance chore, rather than the opportunity that is actually presented. At the risk of repeating myself, transparency should be about how your firm presents itself to potential clients in need of legal advice or a legal service. The key word here is ‘potential’ because it is these future clients who do not have a solicitor that you must be appealing to at this research stage. If I do not have a relationship with a solicitor and find myself in need of legal advice, I have two potential avenues: My first and the preferred option, is to ‘ask a friend’ and in this instance that friend will be someone I trust to suggest a solicitor. It could be a friend, a family member or a trusted adviser, whose opinion I value. My second choice, if the preferred option fails, is research. These days, that research will of course be on the internet and my starting point is likely to be a ‘Google’ search. I might type in something like ‘Good solicitor near me’ or similar. If the second option is taken, how good your website looks is vital, as you are, at this early stage, competing with the other law firms that came up in the search. Therefore, the guidelines and best practice around transparency apply – Clear plain language and a detailed description of the services, helps build the value into the likely price and this must be combined with biographies, qualifications, accreditations etc. This is about differentiation and personalisation to aid the client with their research. The next stage for the SRA with Transparency has been revealed in 2021 and it is a pilot with 7 Comparison and Review sites. In essence, at their best, such sites might be seen to be a logical combination of the two current options described above. The regulator is asking the legitimate question, that such sites work when comparing car insurance, washing machines or holidays (remember them,) then why not for legal services or solicitors. If I do not have the personal recommendation, then perhaps my research, instead of via a Google search, might be on a price comparison and service review site. With the reviews left by previous satisfied, or not, customers narrowing down my options.
Now at this stage, I must lay my own cards on the table and declare initial scepticism, but the SRA is backing the initiative and importantly promoting awareness of the review sites, as a route to finding a good solicitor, to the public. That said I am a great believer in testimonials, so if you have received positive feedback and currently display this on your own site or in your marketing and promotional material, there can be no harm in encouraging clients to leave similar endorsements on independent review sites. Your ‘Trusted Trader’ would have no hesitation or shyness in asking you to do so, now would they? The final and the critical point for me in all of this, is that if a person has a glowing recommendation from that friend, family member or trusted adviser then all else is irrelevant. Therefore, and I say the same to the financial advisory firms I work with, their referrals to solicitors and your referrals to your chosen financial advisory partners are vital. If the two professions work closely making positive cross referrals, then the mutual client is better off and neither legal or financial ‘trusted adviser’ need rely on Google searches or reviews on comparison sites. ■
Managing Director SIFA Professional 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 | 29
ADVERTISEMENT FEATURE – QUILL
In conversation with Jay Bhayani I
n 2021, it’s anticipated that two new law firms will open every working day. To help these budding startups to get their businesses off to a flying start, Quill caught up with its long-time client, Jay Bhayani at Bhayani HR & Employment Law, to share her wisdom on the practicalities of setting up a law firm. Tell us a little about yourself and your practice Bhayani HR & Employment Law is a niche practice offering straightforward employment law advice along with outsourced HR services. I launched the business six years ago and have grown to such an extent that I now have offices in Sheffield, Leeds, London and, most recently, Leicester. Was it a smooth transition from partnership to sole proprietorship? In a word, no. My original business plan was based on an agreement with the managing partner of the firm I was leaving whereby I’d arranged to take my team, clients and precedents with me. Unfortunately, this plan didn’t materialise. The agreement fell apart because the partnership took umbrage with my leaving. I left with absolutely nothing and ended up with a 4-year trademark dispute over my name. Resultingly, I started completely from scratch on my own with not a single piece of paper, renting a small windowless unit off a dual carriageway somewhere. I did lots of crying and lots of planning. Although it felt far from it at the time, my previous firm actually did me a favour as I built a business fit for its time rather than relying on what I’d always done. I was also more determined than ever to prove to myself and others that I could succeed. How did you go about building a business from the ground up? I took measured risks, some of which were personal risks such as the trademark dispute which was costly, and thought carefully about whether I was taking the right steps at every stage of the journey. Plus, I worked hard. Even though it was exhausting, the hard work was more fulfilling and rewarding because I was doing it for myself. My only regret is wishing I’d set out on my own ten years earlier when I was in my early 40s with more time and energy. How important is technology to running your business? I’ve always had a physical office and I’ve always had a remote working infrastructure. There are some big draws to having an office, for example giving credibility to potential clients and distancing life at work from life at home. Likewise, I’m a fan of remote working and I’ve made this option available for employees from the outset. I have to confess, I didn’t have a clue about technology but quickly discovered the benefits of cloud software. As long as I have access to a phone or laptop, I can see time recordings, outbound expenditure, inbound fees due and cash flow generally. The same concept applies to my staff who are currently spending only one day per week in the office with the rest of their time working from home. This single day in the office gives my employees the chance to collaborate, supervise, file and organise anything that can’t be done at home. It gives me the chance to check in with them and ensure their wellbeing isn’t being unduly impacted during these Covid times. It’s Quill’s cloud practice management and legal accounting software that allows us to operate in this truly flexible way. 30 | CENTRAL LONDON LAWYER
As an outsourced service provider, do you advocate the outsourcing model? From day one, I’ve been both a supplier and consumer of outsourcing services. Being a complete novice regarding financial management and compliance, I instructed Quill to handle my legal cashiering and payroll with the compliance responsibilities that accompany these jobs, for instance, client account management and bank reconciliations. I simply wouldn’t have known how to deal with any of this. As a new business, it’s vital to concentrate on servicing clients and instruct help elsewhere. It would be impossible to replicate Quill’s services inhouse because of its vast collective experience and knowledge in these heavily regulated functions. Outsourcing is a no brainer. Why would any business owner waste their management time on tasks outside your specialist areas when they could be charging a good rate delivering legal services instead? Outsourcing costs far less than paying for someone in-house and outsourced suppliers have far more expertise than one person doing the role. Outsource to a company that understands how law firms operate and you’re at a real advantage. Do you have any parting tips for entrepreneurs? Before going it alone, work out your relationship with the firm you’re leaving so you know your starting point. Plan based on what the reality of your situation is whilst being adaptable and prepared to change as your business progresses. Get the right technology in place for remote working capabilities but don’t completely rule out having a bricks-and-mortar office as well. Serviced offices are readily available and you don’t need a huge space unless you have lots of staff. Speak to cloud software providers – Quill included – about technology. At the same time, play to your strengths and outsource to cover the skills you lack. Again, using Quill as an example, this could be legal cashiering and payroll support. In Bhayani Law’s case, this would be outsourced HR support. With solid foundations in place, there’s nothing you can’t achieve with resilience, dedication and hard work. Success is yours for the taking. ■ About Jay Bhayani – Solicitor & Managing Director Jay is a specialist employment law solicitor and leads the HR & Employment Law Team. She has over 25 years’ experience in dealing with all aspects of HR and employment matters and specialises in complex and sensitive issues. The Firm’s innovative Watertight fixed-fee HR support package is a costeffective solution that provides complete peace of mind for clients. This, together with her energy and enthusiasm is a winning approach. In addition to her legal work, Jay is an ‘Entrepreneur in Residence’ at Sheffield Hallam University and a member of their management school advisory board, a past member of the Law Society’s Women Lawyers Division Committee as well as a mum of two teenagers! About Quill Quill helps law firms streamline and run their practice better by providing simple and easy-to-use legal accounting and case management software, as well as outsourced legal cashiering services. Get in touch for more information about Quill’s practice management software and outsourced legal services by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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