5 May

The government has banned professional services exports to Russia – but UK lawyers will still be able to work for Russian clients following a ‘carve-out’ by foreign secretary Liz Truss.

4 May

Low legal aid rates and onerous contract requirements have contributed to the ‘catastrophic decline’ in community care work over the past decade, according to a report seen by the Gazette. Community care remained in scope of legal aid when the controversial Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act came into force in 2013. Official figures contained in the report, from legal network Access Social Care, show that 427 legal help matters were started between January and March 2021 – a 77% drop on 2011 figures. Legal help is the first stage of civil legal aid funding which covers pre-litigation advice.

Big Four firm KPMG plans to double its UK legal practice over the next three years as part of a ‘fundamental transformation’ of its wider business. KPMG Law, established in 2014, is looking to take on a further 220 lawyers – including 45 partners and directors – by the end of 2024.

A solicitor unfairly dismissed after taking leave following cancer treatment has been awarded £17,000 by a tribunal. Employment judge Bedeau ordered that Luton firm Rodman Pearce Solicitors Ltd compensate Elona Onibere following a remedy hearing at the Watford tribunal last month. The sum includes £11,000 for injury to feelings. The judge had ruled in March that Onibere suffered discrimination by being dismissed without consultation or an exploration of possible alternatives.

3 May

Slaughter and May has appointed Uzma Hamid-Dizier as its first director of responsible business. The magic circle firm said the move ‘recognises the importance of the responsible business agenda both in terms of the actions the firm takes and the work it does for its clients’.

Three newly announced law firm mergers are all financed by private equity. North-west firm Fletchers Solicitors has acquired specialist brand Cycle SOS and the personal injury book of Burnley firm Smith Jones. The Cycle SOS team will move across to Fletchers, which was bought by US private equity firm Sun Capital last October. Essex-based Fisher Jones Greenwood, majority-owned by the London-headquartered Blixt Group, has completed the purchase of Steed and Steed, a firm with offices in Braintree and Sudbury. Stowe Family Law, bought in a £10m deal by equity investor Livingbridge back in 2017, has acquired London rival Chapman Pieri.

Controversial new powers enabling magistrates to sentence people to up to a year in prison came into force. Justice secretary Dominic Raab said: ‘We are doing everything in our power to bring down the court backlog, and doubling the sentencing powers of magistrates will create more capacity in the Crown court to hear the most serious cases.’ But Jon Black, a former president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, commented: ‘Removing from society for six months (of a 12-month sentence) is too serious, has an incredibly wide knock-on effect and should be the [preserve] of professional judges with years of legal experience and training, not volunteers with spare time to give.’

International firm Stephenson Harwood’s announcement last week that it will cut salaries by 20% if staff choose to work from home full-time made national news headlines.

29 April

Health officials have agreed the cost of clinical negligence claims is ‘unsustainable’ as they digest recommendations by the Commons health committee for an overhaul of the system. The Gazette understands the Department of Health and Social Care is considering last week’s health committee report ‘carefully’, although there is no indication that its recommendations will become part of government policy. The committee, chaired by former health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP, called for a change in the law to bring compensation into line with the cost of NHS rather than private care and for an independent administrative body to investigate cases and determine compensation.

Clifford Chance announced the imminent closure of its Russian office and the launch of a new independent practice made up mostly of the magic circle firm’s Moscow team. The firm, present in the country since 1991, joined the exodus of legal practices from Russia last month, saying it had decided to ‘progress our steps for an orderly wind down of our operations in Moscow’ following the invasion of Ukraine. The new firm, established by Vika Bortkevicha, currently managing partner of CC’s Moscow office, is called Bortkevicha & Partners.


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