Data page 20 April 2009 (PDF, 102kb) Downloads Download the data page for April 2009 below: The data page is the financial rates and data compiled for the Law Society Gazette by MoneyFacts Group, the UK’s largest supplier of savings and mortgage data.
City firms are hitting back at increasingly aggressive cost-cutting by their corporate clients by rejecting offers of panel pitches or putting in pitches that they know are destined to fail, the Gazette has learned. Senior lawyers from the magic circle down to mid-tier commercial firms told the Gazette they have been forced to reject offers to pitch because the billing terms offered by in-house counsel or by the company’s procurement department would have secured them little or no profit. Offers to pitch from procurement departments came in for particular criticism, with lawyers concerned that a lack of knowledge of legal business was leading to overly simplistic demands to cut costs. One senior lawyer in the London office of a major US firm said that he had been sent a list of his firm’s and other firms’ hourly billing rates by one procurement department, and told that he would need to beat his competitors’ pricing if his pitch was to succeed. ‘It was appropriate if you were selling sheets of metal, but not legal services,’ he said. ‘We’ve put in pitches knowing that we have no chance of getting on that panel, because we hadn’t followed the terms requested by the company.’ Moira Gilmour, managing partner at City firm Field Fisher Waterhouse, said: ‘Some firms will pitch just to maintain turnover, in the hope of later renegotiating fees. We analyse our pitching very carefully. We know what’s profitable and what’s not. There has to be a very good strategic reason to take on unprofitable work.’ Tony Williams, principal at management consultants Jomati, estimated that each panel pitch could cost a five-figure sum. ‘To do a proposal is an expensive investment,’ he said. ‘Firms big and small are beginning to analyse not just the fee income, but also the profitability of the work and the suitability of the relationships with their clients.’
By Paul RogersonA wide-ranging review of solicitors’ regulation commissioned last year by the Law Society and conducted by Lord Hunt of Wirral was published on Monday. Among the Tory peer’s 88 ?recommendations is a proposal for what he describes as ‘authorised internal regulation’, a new system of self-governance available to law firms of all sizes which could demonstrate ?sufficiently robust compliance ?standards. This was the regime recommended in the subsidiary report conducted by former senior civil servant Nick Smedley into the regulation of the big corporate practices. Hunt expects that the big corporate firms would be in the ‘first wave’ of ‘authorised internal regulation’. Hunt’s other recommendations include: extending regulation to will-writing and all types of probate work, a proposal that Hunt has conceded is likely to be opposed by the Office of Fair Trading; better compliance assistance by the SRA, shifting the emphasis to prevention of regulatory breaches rather than cure; bringing the claims management regulator under the aegis of the Legal Services Board; a ‘fit and proper person’ test for senior non-lawyers in alternative business structures; and a new fellowship scheme for solicitors who meet agreed professional standards. Hunt, a senior consultant at national firm Beachcroft, also wants solicitors to take their own version of medicine’s ‘Hippocratic oath’. Law Society president Bob Heslett said: ‘We commissioned Lord Hunt to undertake this work because we were conscious that although there had been exhaustive consideration of the structure for regulation of legal services, much less attention has been paid to the vital question how effective modern regulation of the solicitors profession should actually operate – in the interests of both the public and the profession. Lord Hunt has set out an imaginative and thought-provoking blueprint which I am confident will be invaluable to the SRA as it charts its way forward for the future. We look forward to working closely with the SRA as it develops its approach.’ Hunt said: ‘The legal profession and the SRA now have an unrivalled opportunity to work in partnership, setting the pace for other professions with cutting-edge, principles-based regulation. I hope the ideas I set out in this report will help to form the basis for a new gold standard in professional regulation, based upon robust internal governance, comprehensive regulatory compliance and the highest professional standards.’ Read the full report
Motor insurers should publish on their websites the names of law firms with which they have referral fee arrangements, and indicate the level of fees paid, a House of Commons inquiry recommended last week. Policyholders should be sent this information with their insurance documents, and when claims are made, insurers should make it clear to claimants that they can choose their own solicitor, the transport committee concluded in its inquiry into the rising costs of motor insurance. The committee has asked the insurance industry to implement a more transparent regime on referral fees by the end of 2012, and called on the government to step in with legislation if it fails to do so. The committee recommended that the Department for Transport should sponsor a research project on reducing the number of personal injury claims relating to motor insurance, drawing on experiences in other jurisdictions, with the aim of publishing a discussion paper in 2012. Transport committee chair Louise Ellman said: ‘Consumers are largely unaware of how much money moves around the insurance industry in this way when they make a claim. They deserve to see where their money is going. ‘Wider access to justice is to be welcomed, but it has come at a significant cost, with far more personal injury claims being made than in the past.’ Premiums are rising rapidly because there are an increasing number of personal injury claims, despite the trend of fewer casualties from road accidents, the committee said. It called on the insurance industry to fund a dedicated police unit on insurance fraud, and to do more to tackle fraud generally.
Technology is inherently subversive, in that it can undermine established authority. It did so during the Industrial Revolution, by creating the bourgeoisie and heralding the decline of the landed aristocracy. And it is hardly fanciful to suggest that it is doing so again through the internet and social media, which have been credited for playing a central role in the so-called ‘Arab spring’. The challenges technology presents are not merely political, of course. Only a month ago we reflected on the threat to the integrity of the jury system posed by misuse of new media. And indeed, the lord chief justice is alive to this threat. Yet even Lord Judge could not have envisaged the degree to which the internet would threaten to bring the law into disrepute during his tenure. ‘This weekend Twitter mocked the English courts,’ was one media commentator’s take on the events that we might describe as ‘Giggsgate’. The rule of law itself is threatened when, as the attorney general put it, enforceability of court orders and injunctions is jeopardised by the internet. It is welcome (if somewhat tardy) therefore that a cross-party committee of senior MPs and peers is to examine the law surrounding privacy and rules for reporting parliament. But they have their work cut out – it’s going to be devilishly hard to stuff the genie back into the bottle.
Two London solicitors have been fined and suspended for three months by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for sending intimidating letters accusing people of illegal filesharing. David Gore, a current partner at Davenport Lyons, and Brian Miller, a former partner at the same firm, were found guilty of six breaches of the Code of Conduct by the SDT in June. At a hearing yesterday, both were fined £20,000, suspended from practicing for three months, and ordered to pay interim costs to the SRA of £150,000 in total, pending a detailed assessment. The order has been suspended for 21 days to allow time for an appeal. The breaches included allowing their independence to be compromised, not acting in the best interests of their clients, and acting in a away that was likely to diminish the trust the public placed in them or in the legal profession. They related to conduct between 2006 and 2009 when, acting on behalf of various clients, they sent more than 6,000 letters to individuals accusing them of involvement in unlawful file sharing in breach of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1998. The letters demanded compensation and costs to prevent the possibility of court action. The SRA’s investigation followed a complaint from consumer group Which? that the pair had engaged in ‘bullying’ and ‘excessive’ conduct while acting on behalf of the copyright holders. The SDT found that Miller and Gore became too concerned about making the scheme profitable for themselves and their firm, and their judgment became distorted, so that they pursued the scheme regardless of the impact on the people receiving the letters, and their own clients. It said they had ‘used their position as solicitors to take or attempt to take unfair advantage of other persons, being recipients of letters of claim, either for their own or for the benefit of their clients’. An SRA spokesman welcomed the SDT’s decision, which he said had followed a lengthy and complex investigation by members of SRA staff. He said: ‘Some of those affected were vulnerable members of the public. There was significant distress. We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a conclusion and hope that it serves as a warning to others.’ ‘Solicitors have a duty to act with integrity, independence and in the best interests of their clients. Solicitors who breach those duties can expect to face action by the SRA,’ he said. A spokeswoman for Davenport Lyons said: ‘We consider the decision of the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal and sanctions imposed against David Gore and former partner, Brian Miller, are totally unjustified. ‘Davenport Lyons is a leading law firm with highly specialist intellectual property lawyers. We were instructed by the owners of intellectual property rights in music, film and games to help them curtail the significant losses they were suffering as a result of the unlawful file-sharing of their products. The steps we took on behalf of our clients were for the protection of their legitimate legal rights. We consider that we acted in our clients’ best interests at all times. ‘We wholeheartedly support David and Brian’s intention to appeal both the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal’s original decision and the resulting suspension and fine.’
The claimant and the defendant companies occupied adjacent units at an industrial estate. The units were separated by a porous breezeblock party wall which had insufficient sealed gaps in it. The claimant, who manufactured parts for mobile phones, complained of strong and pervasive smells variously emanating from the defendant’s block causing harm to the health of some of the claimant’s employees and a nuisance to its premises. The claimant brought a claim in nuisance for an injunction and damages based on the escape of noxious odours from commercial premises occupied by the defendant. The judge dismissed the claim. Drawing on an analogy from a ‘noisy neighbour’ nuisance case (Southwark v Mills  4 All ER 449), in which it was held that the ordinary, normal and reasonable use of residential premises by its occupier, without more, was not in itself a nuisance to the neighbours, he found that the character of the neighbourhood was that of a light industrial estate. The odours reaching the claimant’s premises did not amount to a nuisance on a light industrial estate, as the degree of interference with the claimant’s business and with the comfort of its employees was insufficient. An occupier of a unit on a light industrial estate had to expect the possibility of disagreeable smells. There was nothing unreasonable in the defendant’s use of its premises. It carried out normal operations which where not out of place on a light industrial estate. Reasonable user by an occupier of industrial premises on an industrial estate could not become a nuisance because of inadequacies in the party wall dividing its premises from its neighbour for which it was not responsible. In the circumstances, those inadequacies could have been cured from either side. The claimant appealed. The grounds of appeal were, inter alia, that the judge: (i) was wrong to hold that the defendant’s use of the unit was reasonable given the porous state of the party wall between the two units; (ii) had wrongly drawn and analogy from ‘noisy neighbour’ nuisance case; (iii) had relied too heavily on his characterisation of the area as a light industrial estate, without looking into the nature and construction of the various individual units. The appeal would be dismissed: In the instant case, the findings of fact which the judge had made had been open to him. He had made no misdirection of law, the legal principles being common ground at the trial. The judge had been correct in his understanding of the Southwark case and had not made any false analogy from that case. The judge had been entitled to attach significance to the location of the premises and the character of the industrial estate. The light industrial character of that estate covered the defendant’s food additive manufacturing, which was permitted on both planning grounds and by the user covenant in its lease. Further, there were no grounds on which the appeal court would be entitled to second guess the judge’s findings about the strength and effects of the smell (see , ,  of the judgment). Southwark London Borough Council v Mills, Baxter v Camden London Borough Council (No 2)  4 All ER 449 approved. Decision of Nicholas Strauss QC  All ER (D) 198 (Oct) affirmed. Smell – Injury to health – Smell emanating from defendant’s industrial unit Hirose Electrical UK Ltd v Peak Ingredients Ltd: Court of Appeal, Civil Division (Lords Justice Mummery, Munby, Mr Justice Hedley): 11 August 2011 David Holland QC (instructed by Rochman Landau LLP) for the claimant. Richard Harwood (instructed by Kennedys LLP) for the defendant.
Institutional memory in the Crown Prosecution Service is notoriously short. Many years ago, when I ran a CPS branch, some genius at CPS HQ had the same idea of a paperless office. Two bright young things visited me uttering the dreadful words ‘pilot scheme’. I asked: ‘What happens when one court finishes early and offers to help out the court next door? How is the transfer effected?’ They looked baffled and asked ‘does this happen?’. I responded that it probably happened in every courthouse in the country every day of the week, and that the system would not work without it. Nobody actually appreciated CPS cooperating in this way, but that was irrelevant! They looked horrified and said, sadly, ‘well, nobody has told us!’. They left, crestfallen, and nothing more was heard of the idea.With all the problems of government computer procurement, combined with defence intransigence and CPS management involvement, this idea is doomed to fail. I would put a small wager on no one having thought about cases being swapped between courts. John Edwards,solicitor, Neston, Cheshire
Chancery Lane commercial partner Hiscox is inviting you to enter its Law Society exclusive prize draw to win a private dinner party. The winning Society member and five guests will be treated to a four-course meal prepared by an expert chef in the winner’s home. To enter you need to get a home insurance quote from Hiscox by 30 June. For more information and full terms and conditions call 0845 330 1704 or visit the website.
To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN Subscribe now for unlimited access 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 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 Get your free guest access SIGN UP TODAY