Month: September 2020

  • Music man

    first_imgRock star Andy Booth (pictured), who also happens to be head of company commercial and creative industries at Manchester firm Turner Parkinson, has just been appointed director of the company behind Manchester music venue Band on the Wall. Booth, a specialist music lawyer since 1994, acts for the likes of Ian Brown, Johnny Marr, the Zutons, Utah Saints and others. When he’s not slaving away at his desk, Obiter is informed, Booth is also a member of European electro-goth band the Cassandra Complex, which headlined Antwerp’s BodyBeats Festival in Belgium earlier this month. But he maintains his rock stardom is ‘just a Saturday job’ and being a lawyer is ‘equally fun’. We believe you, Andy. Could he be the profession’s most successful rock god? Any solicitors out there who think they can challenge him to the title can send their pics to Obiter.last_img read more

  • US lawyers consult on ABS reforms

    first_imgThe American Bar Association (ABA) has taken a first step towards introducing alternative business structures in response to rule changes on this side of the Atlantic. A New York law firm’s decision to bring English barristers into its partnership via its City office has prompted the ABA to consult on relaxing law firm ownership rules. It launched a consultation last week on non-lawyer ownership of US firms, saying the competitive environment in which US firms operate has changed since it last examined the issue in 2000. The ABA cited the move by New York litigation firm Kobre & Kim to convert its London office to a legal disciplinary practice (LDP) last year. Kobre & Kim’s move allowed its UK lawyers, including two barristers and a solicitor, to practise English law as partners in the firm. The ABA has already said that, while it will consider non-lawyer ownership of law firms, it will not allow passive external investment by non-lawyers, such as private-equity investment. ‘The competitive environment in which US firms of all sizes now operate has changed,’ the ABA said in its consultation paper. ‘The economic challenges of the intervening period invite reconsideration of whether alternative business structures might serve to enhance access to legal services for those otherwise unable to afford them, and to provide new and varied opportunities for lawyers and firms, domestically, to better serve clients. ‘While the regulatory environment elsewhere may not directly map the regulatory structures in place in the United States, US firms and lawyers are already participating in ABSs abroad. The discussion is no longer simply theoretical.’ Under the UK’s Legal Services Act, firms can already convert to LDPs, which allow non-lawyers to comprise 25% of a legal business. In the US, non-lawyer ownership of law firms is only permitted in the District of Columbia, where there is no cap on the percentage of the firm that can be owned by non-lawyers. The firm in question cannot provide non-legal services. North Carolina is currently introducing legislation along similar lines. The ABA is considering three changes to its code of conduct: to allow capped non-lawyer ownership, such as in UK LDPs; to allow a regime as flexible as that in Columbia; or to go further by permitting firms to offer non-legal services as well as purely legal services. ABA rules are usually adopted by state governing bars and judiciaries, without the need for legislative change.last_img read more

  • Withdrawal of medical treatment

    first_imgCases involving the withdrawal of medical treatment or, in some cases, the use of medical treatment against the wishes of a child or an adult without capacity are some of the most emotive cases that come before courts. There is a natural and widespread interest from members of the public about judges deciding whether a child or a vulnerable adult should continue to receive medical treatment. People wonder what they would do if faced with a similar set of circumstances or what they would want their relatives to do if they were in a similar situation. People are most familiar with decisions to have a vulnerable adult sterilised, or for them to undergo treatment that they do not want to receive but which is considered to be in their best interests. People will also recall cases such as those of Tony Bland where an application was made to withdraw life-sustaining treatment to a young victim of the Hillsborough disaster. The latest case decided on 28 September was the first time a judge had been asked to rule on whether life-supporting treatment should be withdrawn from an adult not in a ‘persistent vegetative state’, but who is said to be ‘minimally conscious’. Once again, a family who knew that it would have been the wish of the patient M not to be subjected to the daily routine of being moved from bed to chair and back whilst being minimally conscious. The official solicitor acting on behalf of the patient argued that M was clinically stable and showed awareness of her environment. Painfully for the family, the judge in this case decided against their wishes and refused to allow the withdrawal of medical treatment. All of these cases involve incredible pressure on the relatives of the patient. The relatives, who are already under a great strain because of the condition of their loved one, are pitched into the court arena – often against doctors who are doing their best to make difficult decisions about withdrawing or refusing medical treatment which will then result in the death of the patient. The families in these cases understandably argue that they know the patient better than the treating doctors and are aware of what they would want or are aware of the patient’s responses to things happening around them. Some of the most emotive cases involve those where the treating doctors want to withdraw treatment for a child in circumstances where they argue that it produces no improvement in their condition and causes the child a great deal of pain. In March 2005 a High Court judge ruled a 19-month-old boy, known as Baby MB, could be kept alive despite doctors telling a hearing his quality of life was so poor he should be allowed to die. In that case the baby could not breathe unaided, swallow or chew but did not suffer from brain damage. The judge at the time said Baby MB was not unconscious and was capable of bonding with his family. In February 2006 a judge ruled doctors would not have to resuscitate toddler Charlotte Wyatt, from Portsmouth, who was born prematurely with severe brain and lung damage. I represented the family of a six-year-old girl with an incurable brain disorder who died before the main hearing of her case. Amber Hartland from Cwmbran, Torfaen, suffered from Infantile Tay-Sachs, which left her almost completely paralysed. She was not expected to live beyond her third birthday, but a course of experimental medication stabilised her for more than three years. Her parents were completely devoted to her and were able to give clear accounts of the amount of pleasure that she was able to communicate to them about things that they did for her whether it was watching a DVD of Dumbo or on the trips to Disneyland. Doctors had told her parents she would not be admitted to intensive care again if she took a turn for the worse, that the treatment was painful for her; that she was still deteriorating and a judge would have to decide on her future care. Her parents Lesley and Nick argued that they would never allow Amber to suffer, that she could communicate her pleasure and pain to them. Just days prior to the final hearing of her case as her parents expressed it: ‘Amber decided that it was time to go and passed away peacefully in her sleep.’ True to their word that they would not ever subject her to pain or distress Nick and Lesley did not push for her to be resuscitated. Ruth Winston-Jones went through a similar experience five years ago with her son, Luke, who was born with a genetic disorder called Edward’s syndrome. She too went through a legal battle but Luke died after High Court judges ruled that doctors could withhold mechanical ventilation. The cases have often not as widely reported as they might be due to restrictions on publicity that have been traditionally imposed by the courts. However, there is a growing trend towards more openness and less restrictions on publicity within the court system. Whilst this is to be welcomed, in general, recent events have shown the great public anger that can be generated if vulnerable people are exposed to the very worst practices in journalism. Leslie Keegan is a barrister at 7 Bedford Row and a former neurophysiologistlast_img read more

  • Jailing of internet contempt juror sends ‘important message’ – Grieve

    first_imgA juror who carried out internet research on a defendant has been jailed for six months. The Divisional Court, headed by the lord chief justice Lord Judge, today found university lecturer Theodora Dallas (pictured) guilty of contempt of court, following a case brought by the attorney general Dominic Grieve QC. Dallas was a juror in a case at Luton Crown Court in July 2011. The court heard that in breach of instructions given by the jury officer, a warning contained in a written notice, her jury oath and directions from the judge, she carried out internet research on the defendant and shared the information with other members of the jury while the jury was in deliberation. Her actions caused the trial, which related to charges of grievous bodily harm, to collapse and a retrial to be ordered. The defendant was convicted. The trial related to Barry Medlock, charged with two co-defendants with causing grievous bodily harm with intent, contrary to section 18 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. The allegation was that over an extended period of time he and the co-defendants tortured the victim, beat him with various objects, set him alight and poured caustic soda with boiling water over him, causing him to be scarred for life. The two co-defendants pleaded guilty, and Medlock was tried alone. Details of a previous conviction for actual bodily harm were allowed to be adduced in evidence under bad character provisions. However on the third day of the trial a juror reported that Dallas had read online that the defendant and his accomplice had also been previously charged with rape (Medlock was acquitted), and had told the other jurors. Dallas denied that she had deliberately conducted research and had understood the directions related only to the use of Facebook. Commenting on the case, Grieve said: ‘I take no pleasure in bringing such cases but they send an important message. By her action Ms Dallas halted a trial which was near completion and, aside from the financial implications, her actions resulted in the victim in the case being forced to return to court and give evidence for a second time. ‘There can be little doubt that repeated warnings were given to Ms Dallas and her fellow jurors as to the prohibition on conducting research into the case which they were trying.’ Grieve added that three weeks earlier, juror Joanne Fraill had been prosecuted for discussing a trial on Facebook. Fraill was given an eight-month custodial sentence. The case highlights the increasing concerns over the impact of the internet in the jury system. In a speech last November, the Lord Chief Justice warned that misuse of the internet posed a threat to the integrity of the jury system. ‘If the jury system is to survive…the misuse of the internet by jurors must stop,’ he said. The case also highlights how the courts are clamping down on jurors who do not carry out their duties appropriately. Last month juror Matthew Banks was jailed for two weeks after being labeled ‘frivolous’ for going to see a musical in London after telling a Manchester court that he was ill.last_img read more

  • Practice

    first_img Official Receiver v Negus: ChD (Mr Justice Newey): 16 December 2011 Pre-trial or post-judgment relief – Income payments order – Defendant becoming voluntarily bankrupt in amount of £8,880 In October 2010, the defendant became voluntarily bankrupt in the amount of £8,880. He earned around £1,000 per month. In April 2011, an income payments order was sought by the claimant official receiver. Concern arose as to the fact that any payments made by the defendant would be exhausted by the fees payable to the secretary of state and the receiver’s costs. Consequently, no order was made. The official receiver appealed against that decision. The issue arose as to whether it was appropriate for an interim payments order to be made where payments made by the person against whom the order was made would be exhausted by the fees payable. The appeal would be allowed. Had parliament intended interim orders only to be made where they were of benefit to unsecured creditors, it would have explicitly provided for that to occur. In the circumstances, it had chosen not to. There was no reason for treating fees as less important than the debts of unsecured creditors. It would be peculiar in the circumstances for the secretary of state and the official receiver to end up out of pocket. Further, the bankruptcy regime had an important public function, and was not just a private matter between the bankrupt and his creditors. It was not inconsistent that the bankrupt should have to contribute where his income allowed him to, especially where the bankrupt had presented the bankruptcy petition himself. Moreover, even if the sums payable had been insufficient to assist the unsecured creditors at that moment, it was necessary to consider the possibility of acquiring money from the bankrupt in the future. Nothing would justify treating the official receiver’s fees as of less importance than the bankrupt’s provable debts. An order for interim payments would be made.center_img Andreas Gledhill (instructed by the Treasury Solicitor) for the Official Receiver; Peter Head (instructed by SGH Martineau) for the defendant.last_img read more

  • SRA ‘grey areas’ an issue for troubled firms

    first_img Christina Fitzgerald is a partner, a solicitor licensed insolvency practitioner and head of the professional practices group at Matthew Arnold & Baldwin LLP The implementation of the Legal Services Act in October 2011 has brought a significant wave of changes and challenges to the legal profession, which is only just starting to be felt by law firms. Law firms are facing several challenges and opportunities: new regulatory structures for legal services, a new independent ombudsman service to deal with consumer complaints, and the introduction of new forms of legal practice, such as legal disciplinary practices, multidisciplinary practices and alternative business structures. However, coinciding with this period of change, law firms are still facing turbulent times as the recession continues to bite. The current economic climate has led to a rise in the number of law firms facing financial difficulties and even closing; mergers are very much at the forefront of the minds of law firm leaders. Rising costs, a lack of work, drops in profits have hit many firms; even the historically low interest rates – normally a good thing – have meant that firms are not earning as much interest on their client accounts as they used to. The consequence is that some firms are struggling to support partner drawings out of shrinking profits. How are law firms dealing with these problems? Some have acted as soon as they recognise they have a problem; they have sought professional advice in order to resolve their financial plight. However, there are also many firms who have ‘buried their heads in the sand’; they have delayed acting, or done little or nothing to resolve, or at least alleviate, their financial problems. These zombie firms are sleepwalking to disaster. For those firms who are losing money and struggling to stay operational, insolvency is a real possibility and doing nothing is no longer an option. The issue of monitoring and managing finances is of growing concern for law firms. Particular attention must be paid to Outcome 10.3 of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct, which came into force on 6 October 2011. This clearly states that law firms must promptly notify the SRA of any ‘serious financial difficulty’. However, the SRA does not define or clarify what ‘financial difficulty’ actually means. This has created a grey area. It could be argued that a firm is in this financial difficulty if it cannot pay its staff or suppliers, or perhaps if it enters a “time to pay” agreement with HM Revenue & Customs, or even if its bank account is overdrawn or the firm is given special watch status by the bank. It could be any or all of these things. It is essential that the SRA clarifies this at the earliest opportunity. In order to manage risk, the SRA Authorisation Rules 2011 contain an obligation for all law firms (except in-house legal advisers) to appoint compliance officers: a compliance office for legal practice (COLP) and for finance and administration (COFA). However, this requirement is not without its grey areas too. For example, should the COLP, the COFA, or the partners be responsible for monitoring and reporting the firm’s financial position to the SRA? From my understanding, the COFA is responsible for ensuring adherence to the Solicitors Accounts Rules, and the COLP must ensure that the firm complies with the SRA’s regulatory requirements (and reports any breaches of these requirements). Prior to the introduction of Outcome 10.3, insolvency professionals and the struggling law firm would sit down and explore the restructuring options together. If, after assessing all the available options, bankruptcy cannot be avoided, the insolvency practitioner would then notify the SRA. However, under Outcome 10.3, the SRA would probably have to be notified at the outset of the process. If a firm is in financial difficulty, the SRA can be notified of this through its helpline. However, it is not a dedicated helpline for distressed businesses. It would very helpful if this changed and the SRA created a team who could exclusively deal with these calls. Without doubt, distressed firms should be encouraged to notify the SRA of any problems at the earliest opportunity, so that all options can be explored. However, it is important that certain issues are addressed in any notification made to the SRA, pursuant to Outcome 10.3. This may include the holding of money owed to untraceable clients; contractual arrangements between the distressed firm and any acquiring firm; the storage of client files; the forwarding of post and other communications; updating clients on developments; providing details of any outstanding undertakings; and whether any solicitors within the firm intend to practise in the future. The SRA has confirmed that just because a firm has reported a financial difficulty it does not mean that immediate intervention is inevitable. The SRA will try and assist firms in finding a solution. When intervention is necessary, the SRA has confirmed that the average cost of intervention over the past three years has been £30,000 per partner/member. However, it has also said that it does not automatically take the view that costs are payable by individuals, as opposed to the firm, although there are circumstances when they are. Costs are often joint and several between the firm and individuals. The overall message coming from the SRA is that intervention is a last resort. If a distressed firm is heading for insolvency, there are usually three options: Company/Partnership Voluntary Arrangement, administration or liquidation. It is possible to sell a law firm whilst it is in administration if there is a solicitor licensed insolvency practitioner (SLIP), but this is an unattractive option, as the SLIP will arguably become liable for all former breaches of undertakings of the law firm and insurance companies are reluctant to provide cover to SLIPs in such circumstances. Consequently, more law firms will have to be sold through pre-packaged administrations. These restrictions placed on law firms in administration limit the insolvency options available. The liquidation of an LLP can also be an unattractive option to its members because the liquidator, under the provisions in section 214A of the Insolvency Act 1986, can investigate and, if necessary, reclaim any excessive withdrawals made from the LLP. Further clarification from the SRA on some of these issues raised is required. last_img read more

  • Safety … mañana

    first_imgSubscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Stay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe now for unlimited access To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGINlast_img read more

  • Learning curve

    first_imgStay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our communitylast_img read more

  • Stick this in your pipe …

    first_imgStay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our community Subscribe now for unlimited access Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAYlast_img read more

  • Watch those lawyers

    first_imgStay at the forefront of thought leadership with news and analysis from award-winning journalists. Enjoy company features, CEO interviews, architectural reviews, technical project know-how and the latest innovations.Limited access to building.co.ukBreaking industry news as it happensBreaking, daily and weekly e-newsletters Get your free guest access  SIGN UP TODAY To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe now for unlimited access Subscribe to Building today and you will benefit from:Unlimited access to all stories including expert analysis and comment from industry leadersOur league tables, cost models and economics dataOur online archive of over 10,000 articlesBuilding magazine digital editionsBuilding magazine print editionsPrinted/digital supplementsSubscribe now for unlimited access.View our subscription options and join our communitylast_img read more