Three new appointments to Supreme Court but still no commercial judges

Three new appointments to Supreme Court but still no commercial judges

While the UK Supreme Court announced today (27 June) that Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice Kitchin and Lord Justice Sales will be appointed later this year, a lack of commercial expertise at the nation’s highest appeal court has drawn criticism.

The trio’s elevation comes after former deputy president Lord Mance retired this month, with Lord Hughes and Lord Sumption set to retire in August and December respectively. Continue reading “Three new appointments to Supreme Court but still no commercial judges”

Veteran Novartis GC Ehrat steps down over ‘error’ in Trump lawyer agreement

Veteran Novartis GC Ehrat steps down over ‘error’ in Trump lawyer agreement

A longstanding and well-respected member of the in-house community, Felix Ehrat has abruptly stepped down from his role as general counsel (GC) of Swiss healthcare giant Novartis after becoming entangled in a controversy involving US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.

Ehrat said in mid-May he would retire from Novartis shortly thereafter. He had been GC and a member of the executive committee at the Basel-based pharmaceuticals company since 2011, but was forced to admit ‘an error’ relating to an agreement between the company and Michael Cohen – Trump’s lawyer. Continue reading “Veteran Novartis GC Ehrat steps down over ‘error’ in Trump lawyer agreement”

Government backs ‘under-funded’ legal AI and data technology with £20m contestable R&D fund

Government backs ‘under-funded’ legal AI and data technology with £20m contestable R&D fund

A £20m government fund for the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analysis in law, accounting and insurance is being welcomed as a positive step for what is ‘under-funded and under-thought’ research and development (R&D) in the legal tech space.

Earlier this month, the government launched the fund as part of a wider drive to address challenges through research funding agency UK Research and Innovation and its Innovate UK arm. It is the latest development in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund which focuses on improving UK science and business innovation. Continue reading “Government backs ‘under-funded’ legal AI and data technology with £20m contestable R&D fund”

Middle East: Mission unaccomplished

Middle East: Mission unaccomplished

‘The Middle East. We will try to make it better, but it is a troubled place’: the words of Donald Trump as he announced the recent military strikes targeting Syrian president Bashar Assad’s chemical weapons facilities. Although there is some truth to his sweeping statement, most of the over 400 million citizens in the 17 countries that comprise the Middle East region beg to differ. While the World Bank estimates that GDP growth in the region slowed from 5% in 2016 to 1.8% in 2017 – fuelled by oil production cuts and geopolitical tensions – this is projected to rebound to 3% in 2018 and 3.2% the following year.

The region’s lawyers point to the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) economies as leading the way, supported by infrastructure investment. ‘It’s a very good time in the region,’ says Doug Peel at White & Case, head of the firm’s Middle East practice, which is spread across five regional offices: Cairo, Riyadh, Doha, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. ‘We are busy all the way around – there’s substantial activity in all the GCC countries and in Egypt.’ Last year White & Case – along with Latham & Watkins – advised JPMorgan, Citi and HSBC on Saudi Arabia’s debut 144A/Reg S Sukuk programme, including the issue of $9bn Sukuk. Continue reading “Middle East: Mission unaccomplished”

Disputes round-up: witness statements in spotlight and UK finally moves on Unified Patent Court

Disputes round-up: witness statements in spotlight and UK finally moves on Unified Patent Court

Disputes reform is picking up pace as a working party to tackle ‘much-needed’ reforms around witness statements is endorsed by the Commercial Court Users’ Group (CCUG) and the UK finally ratifies an international agreement to set up a pan-European Unified Patent Court (UPC).

In March, the CCUG endorsed the creation of a working party after concluding it was ‘unfair on good witnesses that all they can do is put in their statement, and then face cross examination; there is no opportunity for them to tell their story live.’ Continue reading “Disputes round-up: witness statements in spotlight and UK finally moves on Unified Patent Court”

Guest comment: NDAs and the profession’s cultural problem revealed before Parliament

Guest comment: NDAs and the profession’s cultural problem revealed before Parliament

Evidence before the Women and Equalities Committee last week (28 March) paints a worrying picture of ethics in the legal profession. And by ethics I do not mean some whispy, academic notion of doing the right thing. I mean professional ethics: understanding the Code of Conduct, and the law that governs lawyer behaviour. It was a lesson crystallised at the hearing by that well known purveyor of fey, leftist nostrums, Philip Davies MP. He distilled for the lawyers ranged before him a central question: why is it lawyers are very clear about their obligations to act in their clients best interests but so unclear about their other obligations?

Because though Allen & Overy (A&O) partner Mark Mansell did a decent job of balancing the need to engage with the new-fangled idea that all was not well with non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) without breaching that holy of holies, client confidences, he still dug himself a few holes in front of the assembled MPs. The veteran employment lawyer did so by talking in the abstract about an imagined, 20-year-old agreement that was negotiated over 24-hours-plus, with one 12-hour ‘all-nighter’ session, which prohibited one party from having a copy, which contained clauses designed to inhibit and limit disclosures to the police, medical practitioners, and others. Mansell said such an agreement could be described as unusual, or very unusual, or very, very unusual. But he wasn’t able to tell us, he said, about this agreement. Continue reading “Guest comment: NDAs and the profession’s cultural problem revealed before Parliament”

Welcome to the hurricane – Latam GCs struggle with corruption clampdown

Welcome to the hurricane – Latam GCs struggle with corruption clampdown

It has been a turbulent few years for many of those in the upper echelons of Brazilian politics and business. Around the world, headlines have been filled with salacious tales of corruption, perhaps most notably the bribery and kickback scandal emanating from state-backed oil giant Petrobras, embroiling many high-profile individuals and entities across the region.

Anti-corruption legislation and regulation enacted in the past five years – the so-called 2014 Clean Company Act, fully implemented in 2015 amid public unrest by the soon-to-be-impeached President Rousseff – has enabled Brazil to usher in a new era of compliance, the efficacy of which has left many in the business community reeling. The judge-led ‘Lava Jato’ (‘Carwash’) investigation, started in 2014, is perhaps the most recognisable herald of this new era. Continue reading “Welcome to the hurricane – Latam GCs struggle with corruption clampdown”

The offshore elite in review – rolling with the punches

The offshore elite in review – rolling with the punches

Global stock markets rose by 22% in 2017, according to the Morgan Stanley Capital International index of bourses. Meanwhile, the World Bank is forecasting global economic growth to increase to 3.1% this year after a better-than-expected 2017 as investment, trade and M&A continue to rebound while commodity prices recover. Against this favourable economic background, it is no surprise that offshore law firms had another very good year.

But there were some local difficulties. Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria created havoc across the Caribbean, not least in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). ‘It had a devastating impact on the lives of our BVI colleagues,’ says Jonathan Rigby, managing partner of Mourant Ozannes. ‘None of us will ever fully understand what they have been through, but their strength of character and resilience has been truly humbling.’ Continue reading “The offshore elite in review – rolling with the punches”

Rousing the bear – Russian counsel force to hunt in new places

Rousing the bear – Russian counsel force to hunt in new places

Russia’s propensity for volatility is infamous. Since its revolution 100 years ago, it has lived through events that the Soviet Union’s founders would never have imagined. Today, amid heightened geopolitical tensions, it continues to face huge uncertainty. But its law firms are adamant that it will continue to provide solid revenues.

‘Reports of Russia’s decline are much exaggerated and most of the issues with the West are not business-driven,’ argues Dimitry Afanasiev, chair and co-founder of Egorov Puginsky Afanasiev & Partners (EPAP). ‘When oil prices head north of $60 and the cycle in hard assets turns, we will remain strategically-placed to capitalise on the opportunities.’ Continue reading “Rousing the bear – Russian counsel force to hunt in new places”