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Blogs

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Blog Name: Matthew @ RoF's blog

Not remotely legal story about large dog disgracing himself in Selfridges
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06 September 2017
This is not even on nodding acquaintanceship with anything to do with the legal world, but it made me chuckle...

At dinner with friends last night, they described how they had taken their dog George to Selfridges earlier in the day. Apparently this is allowed as long as the animal can be carried. I suppose this is possible with George. If you have the arms of a strangler. He's not exactly a small dog.

Anyway, here he is in a dressing room:


   

Awwwww...

This is the aftermath of him pissing all over Roland Mouret:

     

And here is a video of the hapless manager of Tom Ford trying to eject him:


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RollOnFriday inadvertently shops a law firm to the Lord Chamberlain
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31 August 2017
I wrote a story last week on Reece Law, a firm made up of a bunch of paralegals. A salesman had been trying to drum up some referrals. He described a potential client who was suspicious of a firm containing no qualified solicitors as a “fucking retard”. He also came up with the immortal line “"it appears to me she is giving out false legal advice!! she need to leave that to us".

The firm, which was quick to distance itself from this charmer, brands itself as follows:

     

The designer was clearly a childhood fan of Rex and Tex in the Funday Times:

     

Cartoons aside, surely there must be some restriction on ripping off royal armorial images. I emailed my old chum Peter O’Donoghue who is York Herald at the College of Arms. He said that “the use of the lion and unicorn in this way is almost certainly unlawful. This kind of thing is dealt with by my senior colleague Garter King of Arms who works with the Lord Chamberlain's Department.” And he sent it on to him.

Peter emailed me the next day. “Garter advises that this fake coat of Arms is a doctored version of the Royal Arms of Canada. It is certainly unlawful and would seem likely to be contrary to the Trade Marks Act 1994, which forbids the use of Arms suggestive of Royal authorisation; and the Trade Descriptions Act 1968, which forbids giving an indication of Royal approval. He is I believe passing it on to the Lord Chamberlain's Office.”

Oh dear.


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Exclusive - Hill Dickinson insurance team moving to Keoghs
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08 August 2017
Hill Dickinson is in advanced talks with Keogh's to transfer its entire insurance business, with the exception of Marine and Healthcare.

Peter Jackson, Hill Dick's Chief Exec, told me this morning that general insurance had become so commoditised that it was now out of kilter with the firm's more specialist Marine and Healthcare practices. It made sense for the firm's lawyers to go somewhere which was committed exclusively to insurance and could provide greater investment and career progression. The aim is for everyone to move by the end of 2017.

     

Jackson said "I believe that our partners and staff involved in any transition would benefit from moving to a firm whose sole focus is insurance and has invested heavily in IT to service clients efficiently. Furthermore, it would allow us to focus our resource and efforts on areas of future strategic growth, including marine, commercial and health work, while maintaining close relationships with Keoghs to provide an enhanced offering to our retained clients who require insurance related advice.”


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DLA Piper hit by massive malware attack
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27 June 2017
DLA Piper was hit this afternoon by a huge ransomware attack. We've been told that it's similar to the attack which recently targetted the NHS and that all networks are down in Europe and the Americas. A source says that they've been asked to cough up an unspecified amount of bitcoin in order to be given control of their systems.

Phones and email are currently down. But a spokeswoman told us via her mobile that "the firm, like many other reported companies, has experienced issues with some of its systems due to suspected Malware. We are taking steps to remedy the issue as quickly as possible."

     

Businesses across the world are currently being hit, including (according to the BBC) Maersk and Rosneft.

Read more on Friday.

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The crapitude of Manchester Law Society
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13 June 2017
I had lunch today with one of the leading lights in social justice in the UK. It's a perk of the job. I'm very lucky.

We put the world to rights on a number of matters and then turned to the effectiveness or otherwise of local law societies. It's a mixed bag. The City of London Law Society is first rate, as is Bristol. But Manchester? My host expressed his surprise at what he saw as a paucity of service in England's second city.

I don't have enough information to hand to comment on Manchester Law Society's fitness for purpose - for all I know it's a shining beacon to the rest of the country. And I have never met its CEO, Fran Eccles-Bech. But I did write to her a little while ago and I got this response.

     
 
Would any of us survive in our jobs for more than a week if emails to us were greeted with "I am very important and busy, I don't have to abide by the same rules as anyone else in the business world, and if you don't have my direct line you can whistle for it"?

    Fran Eccles-Bech. Listens to her inner ninja.

If Manchester Law Society really is punching below its weight I can't say I'm surprised.

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Outstanding job ad of the week
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08 June 2017
A tip of the hat to the reader who sent in this superb offering:

     

     

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Exclusive: Clifford Chance freezes pay
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06 June 2017
An insider has just told RollOnFriday that Clifford Chance has frozen its salary bands for this year. And it's a very brave (or foolish) insider as apparently the firm has "told everyone that if they leak it to the press they will be subject to formal disciplinary processes".

It seems a little odd. Not necessarily freezing salaries - other firms are moving away from ever increasing basic rates and towards heftier bonuses (read more in Friday's edition). But threatening loose-lipped staff with the possibility of dismissal? CC is one of the best-managed firms in the City, and it's extraordinary that it would strong-arm its employees like this.

    A Clifford Chance associate yesterday

But the code of omerta is sufficiently strict as to extend to the firm's PR team. A spokesman said that a decision had been taken not to discuss pay this year as it was a "private matter". Hmmm. Presumably salaries were similarly private last year, when the firm was perfectly happy to discuss them. And the threat of disciplinary procedures? Apparently that too is a "private matter".


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Where to eat in Venice
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05 April 2017
I’ve just returned from a few days in Venice. Lucky old me. The sun shone, La Serenissima was as much of a film set as ever, every church contained a Titian.

A
rchitecture aside I remember Venice as being a galactic rip off. A grotty airport from which you take a hideously overpriced water taxi to your hotel, fleets of gondoliers singing badly to Japanese tourists, greasy bowls of linguine a la vongole which would shame Carluccios. But all of this has changed. Most notably, it is now possible to eat quite spectacularly well.

You can’t throw a rock in Venice without hitting a City lawyer. All of them have their go-to favourite churches or palazzi for Tintoretto, I’m not going to jump in on that. But I was lucky enough to be given some tips by a number of people with close links to the island and I share some of the better ones here.

Getting there

Marco Polo airport has been refurbished and is now very smart. Once you get your bags you can buy a ticket for a water taxi from a clearly signed kiosk. This costs €110, which is appreciably less pricey than the rates quoted on most hotels’ websites, and gets you a private launch for around half an hour. If you book your return taxi at the same time you get a 10% discount.

Where to stay

The Gritti. It is expensive because it is amazing, and even the most basic rooms are exquisite. Your water taxi deposits you at its own landing stage where you are whisked into what is, entirely literally, a palace:

     

The whole place is marble and Murano glass. This is the mirror in the loos:

     

This was the view from the roof terrace. It can hold about 80 people, has its own pool and must surely the best party venue in Venice. Robbie Williams had his after party there:

     

The staff make you feel as if you’re the only person there. I would like to think that I was somehow singled out for special treatment by the General Manager, Paulo Lorenzoni, but I imagine that he treats every guest like this.

If you can’t spring for a room, at least go for a drink. The barman makes fantastic (and lethally large) gibsons which you can enjoy on the terrace:

     


You will be surrounded by Italian aristocrats with fawn socks and toy dogs, which is delightful, and loud Americans in terrible leisure wear, which is rather less so.

How to get around

Walk. And avoid the crowded bridges by crossing via a traghetto – a two-man gondola that ferries passengers across the grand canal for the princely sum of €2:

     

Locals stand, tourists sit. I, of course, tried to stand and nearly ended up in the drink.

Where to eat

Local

Unpromising name, outstanding restaurant. Book in advance and ask your concierge to request a table by the window. New wave, modern Venetian food that contains ingredients which won’t appeal to all (fish guts, brains), but some beautiful, delicious plates. This is “cuttlefish during spring”:

     

I had a pudding that was almost entirely composed of candied celery. Much better than it sounds.


The wine list is a bible, with most (if not all) biodynamic and organic. I did a valiant job of drinking my way through much of it.

Al Covo

Older style, more traditional, with a few tables outside in the small square:

     

Again, part of the slow food movement with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Soft shell crabs from the lagoon were on offer for four weeks only. It was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. The waiter pointed out that they are generally frozen, whereas these had been alive and running around the kitchen just ten minutes earlier.


Estro

Essentially a wine shop with food, rammed to the rafters and a great buzz. Call the restaurant and ask for directions. You will get lost. The concierge didn’t know where it was, the address given had nothing more than a nodding acquaintanceship with its physical location, and it is impossible to find on a mobile phone. After half an hour of walking in small circles around the Frari a kindly waiter was sent out to find us. “Ah, we’re not on Google yet, sorry”.

Da Raffaele

We fell into this one round the corner from the hotel. No slow food here, basic tourist grub, but perfectly serviceable pasta, tables outside by a pretty canal and very gently marked up Tignanello.

Alle Testiere

You’ll need to book this a couple of weeks ahead as it’s tiny:

     


It operates two sittings in the evening, at 7:30 and at 9:30, and had just a handful of tables and the most delicious shellfish imaginable. Another restaurant with biodynamic wines and seasonal ingredients. Spiny lobster with bitter chicory, artisanal pasta with exquisite little clams, cuttlefish in its own ink. Happy days.

Buon appetito. And thank you to everyone for their recommendations, with a special mention to Anne Groves, Peter and Justine Morris and Guy Beringer.

 

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Herbert Smith Freehills in outstanding mental health initiative
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08 March 2017
Over the years the big law firms have come up with countless attempts to address the same problems – promoting wider diversity in or greater access to the profession; addressing the insufficient representation of women, or those from ethnic minorities, or those who are LGBT; tackling stress and ill health.  All of these projects are, doubtless, launched with the most laudable of intentions. Many of them end up as largely ineffective and, at worst, little more than window dressing. So I tip my hat to Herbies for coming up with something that is genuinely effective.


I recently had lunch with Ian Cox, the firm’s London Managing Partner, and he discussed his firm’s mental health programme with the zeal of a convert. I went in to talk to the firm about it in greater detail and it is a model which should be adopted across the profession.

HSF launched the programme about two years ago, encouraging staff to become mental health mentors. 76 of them from across the firm – partners, those in business services, associates – have signed up and been trained. Their status is advertised internally, and anyone with mental health issues can approach any mentor entirely confidentially. Sometimes it’s just a question of a chat and a sympathetic ear. Sometimes the situation is more serious and may lead to a referral. The chief aims are to destigmatise mental health issues and proactively to spot individuals who are in distress and need help before their situation worsens.

It has been supported by a number of events. Ruby Wax launched the programme and recent speakers have included:

  • Alastair Campbell, who spoke about how he functioned in a highly stressful environment with a mental illness, his trigger points and how he avoided them;
  • Clarke Carlisle, who focussed on the difficulties in encouraging men to accept that they had mental health issues; and
  • Jonny Benjamin, who stood on Waterloo Bridge at rush hour with the intention of jumping off it, and Neil Laybourn, the stranger who was walking past and stopped to talk him out of it.

The firm’s senior management is foursquare behind the programme. Two partners, Chris Parsons and Samantha Brown, have spoken at length both internally and externally about their personal battles with mental illness. Brown (below) was interviewed about her experiences on the BBC earlier this week.

     

HSF does lots of things that other firms do - it actively participates in the City-wide “This Is Me” campaign to reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace. And lots of things that other firms don’t – it recently changed its healthcare provider specifically to offer its staff a better mental health offering.

The programme has so far been run in London and Belfast and there has been interest in expanding it across the firm’s global network. I hope that interest turns into action. I also hope that other firms are encouraged by the success of this programme and adopt something similar. David Shields, HSF’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, told me that Brown and Parsons would be happy to address other partnerships on this issue. Please contact him on david.shields@hsf.com.

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Exclusive: William Boss in conspicuous mea culpa
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03 March 2017
William Boss, the former European Managing Partner of KWM, is clearly trying to atone for his role in the collapse of the firm.

During Boss's tenure the London office pretty much disintegrated. On realising this he decided to do the decent thing, stay in the role and try and shore up the ship. Nah, not really. He resigned after only 10 months, handing over one of the biggest hospital passes in the history of the profession. He still remained in the partnership (a chap's got to eat, after all), until the firm's demise became inevitable and he jumped ship to Addleshaws.

    Boss. How he might have looked.

He is now safely ensconced there on lots of dollar, although presumably rather sweatily waiting to see if the SRA will get off its arse and have a pop at him and his ilk. And in the manner of a mediaeval monarch publicly making the pilgrimage to Santiago on his knees is showing his contrition and purity of soul. An insider says that he "has very recently (and conspicuously) signed himself up to a pro-bono legal advice centre initiative at Addleshaw Goddard  - their "Springfield Advice Centre" run from Springfield Methodist Church in Stockwell on Tuesdays. Presumably ex-KWM lawyers and support staff will be keen to know that they can drop in for some free legal advice on their mortgage arrears from one of the sods who caused their woes in the first place."

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