Offshore: The unsilent majority

Offshore: The unsilent majority

Among Asia’s competing financial centres, Hong Kong is the essential place to be for leading offshore law firms. Collectively, their local offices have grown significantly over the past few years to around 300 lawyers, making Hong Kong the third most-heavily lawyered jurisdiction by offshore firms after the Cayman Islands and Jersey.

But in early June, the first visible signs emerged of real discontent with Beijing’s increasing threat to Hong Kong’s freedoms: around 3,000 lawyers took part in a silent protest march in opposition to a government bill that would amend the city’s extradition law – the largest-ever protest by lawyers in history. They argued vehemently that the proposed amendment would allow Hong Kong to handle extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements, most notably China, and would strike a blow to the rule of law. Since that peaceful march, Hong Kong has deteriorated to become a city in crisis. Several months of much larger pro-democracy protests by millions of its citizens have provoked widespread violence and a sustained fall in business activity. Continue reading “Offshore: The unsilent majority”

Tip of the iceberg: Beckwith prosecution sparks Freshfields misconduct and financial penalty clampdown

Tip of the iceberg: Beckwith prosecution sparks Freshfields misconduct and financial penalty clampdown

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has ushered in radical reforms to handling misbehaviour, including financial penalties, as the #MeToo fallout intensifies following former partner Ryan Beckwith’s prosecution for sexual misconduct.

The move sees a conduct committee established and new enforcement protocols which mean partners under internal investigation will receive a final warning about their behaviour and face an automatic fine equal to 20% of their profit share for 12 months. Continue reading “Tip of the iceberg: Beckwith prosecution sparks Freshfields misconduct and financial penalty clampdown”

#MeToo: DLA Silicon Valley co-head forced out following sexual assault allegations

#MeToo: DLA Silicon Valley co-head forced out following sexual assault allegations

The co-managing partner of DLA Piper’s Silicon Valley office has been let go by the firm following accusations of sexual assault by a fellow partner.

In an open letter published earlier this month (2 October), DLA partner Vanina Guerrero alleged that fellow partner Louis Lehot sexually assaulted her multiple times after recruiting her to the firm in September 2018. Lehot was the firm’s co-managing partner of its Silicon Valley office and co-chair of its emerging growth and venture capital practice, with Guerrero detailing four alleged assaults in Shanghai, Brazil, Chicago and Palo Alto. Continue reading “#MeToo: DLA Silicon Valley co-head forced out following sexual assault allegations”

Guest comment: Has ‘far more assertive’ Supreme Court over-reached in Miller 2?

Guest comment: Has ‘far more assertive’ Supreme Court over-reached in Miller 2?

For some, Miller 2 is the most significant constitutional case for centuries. For others, just another act in the Shakespearean tragedy or comedy that is Brexit. As an editor of the UK Constitutional Law Blog I have found that lawyers made just as much fuss about the first case brought by Gina Miller in relation to Article 50 as they have over this recent decision. And yet still the constitution carries on; apocalyptic predictions of its demise are surely exaggerated?

It can certainly be argued that it takes more than a high-profile litigator, even one who gets two bites of the cherry (forgive the pun), to overturn our 800-year old constitution. But Miller 2 is, jurisprudentially, very different from Miller 1. It will take time to assimilate the various strands of the decision and we also wait to see whether the courts use it as a launch-pad into further political space. But simply in terms of its reasoning and robust language it already represents a far more assertive judicial attitude to Crown-Parliament relations than we have seen before. Although dressed up as a defence of Parliament, make no mistake, the Court is asserting its own constitutional position under the guise of being Parliament’s trouble-shooter. And if the Supreme Court follows up with further strident interventions in other areas of political decision-making, for example surrounding implementation of the ‘Benn Act’, the consequence could be a self-transformation of our highest appellate court into a constitutional court, comparable to other politically-engaged judicial powerhouses around the world. Continue reading “Guest comment: Has ‘far more assertive’ Supreme Court over-reached in Miller 2?”

The LB100 Comment: UK legal elite shows resilience amid the ominous haze

The LB100 Comment: UK legal elite shows resilience amid the ominous haze

It is a measure of how fast-moving the Brexit-dominated landscape now is that imagery in this year’s Legal Business 100 (LB100) is dominated by Conrad, Castro and Coppola as the summer months have moved to rapidly challenge notions of how Britain works. One of the most stable and predictable major economies in the world has been locked into a mounting political conflict more akin to a banana republic than the Mother of Parliaments. Sooner or later Westminster drama on this scale will spill into a real economy that already contracted in the second quarter.

And yet, the UK’s largest law firms have endured another 12 months of uncertainty and ominous haze with impressive resilience, pushing revenues up 9% to £26.35bn, one of the better years of all-round performance since the banking crisis. And though a handful of mergers flatter that headline figure, 28 firms managed double-digit revenue growth, showing that plenty of UK firms are thriving in these challenging conditions. Continue reading “The LB100 Comment: UK legal elite shows resilience amid the ominous haze”

Victory for Mishcon and Blackstone heavyweight as Supreme Court rules Parliamentary suspension unlawful

Victory for Mishcon and Blackstone heavyweight as Supreme Court rules Parliamentary suspension unlawful

Mischon de Reya and Blackstone Chambers are among the legal reputations seeing a significant boost this morning after securing a historic victory in the Supreme Court challenge to the suspension of Parliament by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Unveiling its verdict this morning (24 September), president of the Supreme Court Lady Hale said that the advice given to the Queen to suspend Parliament was ‘unlawful, void and of no effect’, leaving it to Commons’ speaker John Bercow to decide whether to recall MPs immediately. The much-awaited decision was handed down unanimously by 11 Supreme Court judges. Continue reading “Victory for Mishcon and Blackstone heavyweight as Supreme Court rules Parliamentary suspension unlawful”

Comment: A no-deal outlook and the law – time for pragmatic pessimism

Comment: A no-deal outlook and the law – time for pragmatic pessimism

We go to press with Parliament locked in battle with the Government over threats to take the UK into a ‘no-deal’ exit from the European Union (EU). I’m not going to offer political predictions but we are clearly at the point where a disorderly exit from the EU is a very real prospect for the country and the profession.

The good news is that the largest UK law firms feel confident they can largely mitigate the immediate impact of no-deal, even with the abrupt end of EU rights to practise that have been such a boon. This is because potentially obstructive Bars in key markets in France and Germany have been kept onside and UK lawyers feel that other decent workaround options are available (see pages 12-13). With leading UK firms also having substantial foreign operations, including the Legal Business 100 having 19% of their lawyers in mainland Europe, and rapidly increasing their ranks of Irish-registered solicitors, the large outfits at least are braced. The Law Society recently issued research arguing a no-deal would knock 10% off the value of the UK legal market, equivalent to more than £3bn, and costing 10,000 jobs. Most law firm leaders see such predictions as excessive – a scepticism I share – though the industry does believe such an exit would be damaging. Continue reading “Comment: A no-deal outlook and the law – time for pragmatic pessimism”

A no-deal outlook and the law – time for pragmatic pessimism

A no-deal outlook and the law – time for pragmatic pessimism

We go to press with Parliament locked in battle with the Government over threats to take the UK into a ‘no-deal’ exit from the European Union (EU). I’m not going to offer political predictions but we are clearly at the point where a disorderly exit from the EU is a very real prospect for the country and the profession.

The good news is that the largest UK law firms feel confident they can largely mitigate the immediate impact of no-deal, even with the abrupt end of EU rights to practise that have been such a boon. This is because potentially obstructive Bars in key markets in France and Germany have been kept onside and UK lawyers feel that other decent workaround options are available (see pages 12-13). With leading UK firms also having substantial foreign operations, including the Legal Business 100 having 19% of their lawyers in mainland Europe, and rapidly increasing their ranks of Irish-registered solicitors, the large outfits at least are braced. The Law Society recently issued research arguing a no-deal would knock 10% off the value of the UK legal market, equivalent to more than £3bn, and costing 10,000 jobs. Most law firm leaders see such predictions as excessive – a scepticism I share – though the industry does believe such an exit would be damaging. Continue reading “A no-deal outlook and the law – time for pragmatic pessimism”

LB100: Legal elite shows resilience amid ominous haze

LB100: Legal elite shows resilience amid ominous haze

It is a measure of how fast-moving the Brexit-dominated landscape now is that imagery in this year’s Legal Business 100 (LB100) is dominated by Conrad, Castro and Coppola as the summer months have moved to rapidly challenge notions of how Britain works. One of the most stable and predictable major economies in the world has been locked into a mounting political conflict more akin to a banana republic than the Mother of Parliaments. Sooner or later Westminster drama on this scale will spill into a real economy that already contracted in the second quarter.

And yet, the UK’s largest law firms have endured another 12 months of uncertainty and ominous haze with impressive resilience, pushing revenues up 9% to £26.35bn, one of the better years of all-round performance since the banking crisis. And though a handful of mergers flatter that headline figure, 28 firms managed double-digit revenue growth, showing that plenty of UK firms are thriving in these challenging conditions. Continue reading “LB100: Legal elite shows resilience amid ominous haze”

Controversy surrounds Burford as executive is accused of trading documents for sex tape

Controversy surrounds Burford as executive is accused of trading documents for sex tape

An executive at under-fire Burford Capital has been accused of unlawfully exchanging confidential documents for a sex tape in a lawsuit filed at the High Court in London, adding another battle for the litigation funder.

In the lawsuit, the company’s co-head of its global corporate intelligence, asset tracing and enforcement business, Daniel Hall, is alleged to have provided sensitive documents obtained while working for a shipping client. Hall allegedly swapped the documents for video material of a sexual nature, relating to American billionaire Harry Sargeant III, whose assets he was investigating on behalf of another client. Continue reading “Controversy surrounds Burford as executive is accused of trading documents for sex tape”