Top US firms are planning to expand in London in 2010, with trainee, associate and partner positions expected to be up for grabs over the course of the year. White & Case will bring in between 25 and 30 new associates in London this year, London executive partner Oliver Brettle told the Gazette. The firm will also boost its London trainee intake to a maximum of 35, having recruited 25 to 30 in recent years. Brettle said that White & Case will expand in London ‘in a lower key and more conservative way than was the case in the run-up to the credit crunch’. He added that the firm might open one or two more international offices in 2010 to add to its existing network of 36. Anthony Ward, London managing partner at Shearman & Sterling, said his firm will pursue its ‘long-term goal’ to strengthen its London corporate practice and will make ‘limited’ hires in its finance department. ‘London remains an important part of the global platform for us, and is an important jump-off point for investment banks doing business across Europe and into the Middle East,’ he said. Michael Francies, London managing partner at Weil Gotshal & Manges, said the firm is planning ‘steady growth’ in London in disputes, finance and restructuring. He said it was ‘very focused on improving corporate and institutional relationships across jurisdictions’, adding that the firm has ‘a strong transactional base and we hope it will be less quiet this year’. Francies said the firm also plans to expand its Asia capability. Drew Scott, London managing partner at Sidley Austin, said the London office is investing in dispute resolution, insurance and funds, as well as building on its existing regulatory teams to complement its transactional practices. Scott said that Sidley Austin plans to bring in new London partners over the course of 2010 and that the firm ‘keeps new practice areas under active consideration’. White & Case employs 330 lawyers in London. Sidley Austin employs 136, Shearman & Sterling has 130, and Weil Gotshal & Manges has 115. Shearman plans to recruit around 12 trainees in 2010, Weil 10, and Sidley up to 10.
Local government – Certificates of lawful use – Change of use – Deception Sarah-Jane Davies (instructed by Treasury Solicitor) for the first appellant; Alexander Booth (instructed by Perrins) for the second appellant; Wayne Beglan) instructed by in-house solicitor) for the respondent. The appellants appealed against a decision ( EWHC 966 (Admin)) that the construction of a building was lawful and not in breach of planning control, and that there had been no change of use so that the four-year limit for taking enforcement action did not apply. B had been granted planning permission by the respondent local authority for the erection of hay barn. The building was constructed with the external appearance of a barn, but fitted out internally as a dwelling. B had admitted that he deliberately deceived the council when he applied for planning permission and that he always intended to reside in the building as a dwelling. After living in the building for more than four years, B applied under section 191 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 for a certificate of lawfulness of existing use, on the basis that the time for enforcement action against use of the building as a dwelling under section 171B had expired. The local authority refused a certificate on the basis that the building was not a dwelling house since its external appearance was not that of a dwelling. An inspector allowed an appeal by B and granted a certificate on the basis that it was capable of being used as a dwelling house and that its actual use as a single dwelling house had commenced more than four years before the date of the application for the certificate. The judge allowed the local authority’s appeal holding that the building was not built in breach of planning control and there had been no change of use because the building had never been used except as a dwelling. B and the secretary of state argued that: (1) contrary to the judge’s finding, the building was built in breach of planning control: the planning permission was for the erection of a hay barn, whereas what was erected was not a hay barn but a dwelling house; thus the case fell within section 171B(1); (2) there had been a change of use of the building to use as a single dwelling house: the use permitted by the planning permission was use as a hay barn, but B used the building as a dwelling house; thus the case fell within section 171B(2). Held: (1) The court should not adopt a strained construction of section 171B in reaction to the deliberate deceit practised by B or out of concern for the difficulties that such conduct created for local planning authorities in enforcing planning control. The question was whether the situation, viewed objectively, was one for which the statute had provided a four-year time limit or a 10-year time limit, Arun DC v First Secretary of State  EWCA Civ 1172,  1 WLR 523 considered. If it was considered that there should be a different outcome in a case of dishonesty or deliberate concealment, it was for parliament to amend the legislation accordingly. (2) Looked at as a whole, the physical and design features of what was built by B were those of a dwelling house, not a hay barn, Sage v Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions  UKHL 22,  1 WLR 983 applied. The internal fitting out of the building with the rooms and features of a dwelling house meant that it was built in breach of planning control. It followed that the construction of the building fell within section 171B(1) and that the four-year time limit under that subsection applied. Since, on the inspector’s findings, the building had been completed more than four years before B applied for a certificate, it was too late for the council to take enforcement action against the operational development constituted by the construction of the building. (3) The building was permitted to be used only for agricultural storage and its use as a single dwelling house was properly to be regarded, for the purposes of section 171B(2), as constituting a change of use in breach of planning control. The application of the subsection did not depend upon establishing actual use for agricultural storage for a period, however short, before the residential use: use of the building for a purpose other than the permitted use was sufficient. An alternative way of looking at it, but with the same result, was that in the short period between completion of the building and its residential occupation the building had no use; and the change from no use to use as a single dwelling house constituted a change of use to which the subsection applied. The situation fell within section 171B(2) and was subject to the four-year time limit. (4) Since the situation fell within section 171B(2), the local authority could not rely on the 10-year period in section 171B(3). The plain legislative intention was that, once the four-year time limit was found to apply, it displaced the 10-year time limit. (5) There was a breach of planning control consisting in the change of use of the building to use as a single dwelling house, within section 171B(2). On that basis a four-year time limit applied and B was entitled to a certificate of lawfulness of existing use. Appeal allowed. Welwyn Hatfield Council v (1) Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (2) Alan Beesley: CA (Civ Div) (Lords Justice Pill, Mummery, Richards): 29 January 2010
The Law Society has called on the Legal Services Commission to extend existing family contracts until April 2012, following Chancery Lane’s successful High Court challenge to the family tender process. However, some firms that did win family contracts through the tender process are now understood to be considering seeking compensation from the LSC if it fails to overturn the result. A week ago Lord Justice Moses found in favour of the Law Society, ruling that the LSC’s process for awarding new family contracts was unlawful, effectively quashing the outcome). The tender would have reduced the number of family providers from 2,400 to 1,300. Moses said the LSC’s failure to give adequate notice of the selection criteria meant it had ‘arbitrarily and unfairly’ distinguished between providers, and deprived some of those most in need of the opportunity to obtain the services of experienced family lawyers. He said the failure to give notice was ‘irrational’, and defeated the LSC’s own objective of obtaining high-quality services from the best-qualified lawyers. The LSC was ordered to pay the Law Society’s legal costs of around £300,000. LSC chair Sir Bill Callaghan said the LSC was ‘disappointed’ by the result and is considering the judgment and whether to appeal. A statement on the LSC’s website said it was conscious of the uncertainty for providers, and would publish further information in due course. The current contracts are due to expire in November, having been extended for a month. Meanwhile, the government is currently considering cuts to legal aid as part of its spending review, including proposals to restrict legal aid in private law family cases. A Law Society spokesman said: ‘The Law Society has requested that the LSC extend the original contracts until April 2012, and await the outcome of the government’s spending review, to devise a new tender process that fits with where we are today.’ Roy Morgan, director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, said: ‘Extending the family contracts until after the spending review is sensible because it will dictate what happens, regardless of the judicial review’. However, he added that this would mean the old contracts for family work will be running at the same time as new social welfare contracts, creating a problem. Commenting on solicitor reaction to the outcome of the judicial review, Morgan said: ‘Those not given contracts are pleased, but a lot of firms that were awarded contracts and who made preparations based on that have now been left in limbo, and some are considering compensation claims [against the LSC].’ See President’s Podium
Law firms and solicitors could see their regulatory fees slashed by almost a fifth this year. However, there is likely to be an increase in contributions to the compensation fund. Under SRA plans to be put before its board tomorrow, the individual practising certificate fee would fall from £428 to £350. The amount collected through the firm-based fee would also fall by about 18%, although actual amounts paid by firms will vary depending on turnover. Firms are likely to provide 60% of the total cost of regulation, with 40% paid by individual solicitors, in line with last year’s proportion. If approved by the SRA board tomorrow, the new fee level will also need to be passed by the Law Society Council at a meeting on 13 July. The SRA has also introduced an online renewal process this year. An online fees calculator is available on its website. Contributions to the compensation fund are likely to rise from what the SRA described as the ‘exceptionally low’ rates last year. The costs of the fund will be met on a 50/50 basis by firms and individuals, charged a flat-rate fee. The level of fee is still to be decided. Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said: ‘The Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) are continuing to manage the Law Society Group’s finances in the best interests of the profession. ‘We are targeting a reduction in our annual funding requirement and thus the practising certificate fee of 15%. In doing so, savings will be passed on to the profession. ‘The Law Society Council will set the final figure on 13 July. However, the level of contributions to the compensation fund have not yet been finalised. ‘Central to setting these levels is the need to ensure there is financial stability for the Law Society and the SRA to fulfil their respective statutory duties on behalf of the profession.’ SRA chief executive Antony Townsend said: ‘The SRA and Law Society have worked hard to get costs down and set fees in a way that is fair to both individuals and firms. ‘We are also expecting our online renewal system to speed up the process and make it more efficient for firms.’
A London magistrates’ court employee has become the first person to be prosecuted under the new Bribery Act, the Crown Prosecution Service said today. Munir Yakub Patel, an administrative clerk at Redbridge Magistrates’ Court in Ilford, London, faces a charge under Section 2 of the 2010 Act for requesting and receiving a bribe intending to improperly perform his functions. It is alleged that Patel promised an individual summonsed for a motoring offence that he could influence the outcome of the criminal proceedings in exchange for £500, on 1 August 2011. Gaon Hart, reviewing lawyer for the CPS special crime and counter terrorism Division, said: ‘I have reviewed all of the evidence gathered by the police and considered the Director of Public Prosecution’s guidelines on the Bribery Act.’ He said: ‘I am satisfied there is sufficient evidence to charge Munir Patel with requesting and receiving a bribe on 1 August 2011 intending to improperly perform his functions.’ Hart added: ‘Patel has already been charged with misconduct in public office and perverting the course of justice. He still faces these charges, which relate to other alleged misconduct during his employment.’ Patel appeared at the City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 4 August in relation to charges of misconduct in a public office and perverting the course of justice. Those charges, which are indictable only, have been sent to Southwark Crown Court on 14 October, when the Bribery Act charge will also be put to him. He will enter his plea at that stage. Patel was remanded in custody.
Follow John on Twitter Toilet humour is not usually welcome at any time but it got a laugh on this occasion. As the men queued during a break in Wednesday’s Claims Management Conference in Manchester, one moaned about the length of the line. ‘Give it a year and there’ll be no one here to wait behind,’ was one wag’s response. The laughs were bittersweet, for this is a period of great uncertainty in this sector of the profession. The stark reality, voiced many times during this conference, is that hundreds of firms face extinction within the next five years. And if the firms are in jeopardy, the prospects aren’t much better for their solicitors. RBS this week predicted that 5% of fee-earners may have to be culled if firms want to boost profits (though surely fee-earners are the profit-makers? Economics never was my strong point). Of course, it’s a bit rich for RBS to lecture anyone on how to run a business, but many law firms will be customers and the bank will know full well how precarious their balance sheets are. Most analysts speculate between a quarter and a third of personal injury firms will cease to be by the end of the decade. Some will be trampled on by big new entrants coming to a high street near you, casualties of a stampede, devoured like lame wildebeest labouring at the back of the herd. Others will succumb to the lure of whatever text-speaking franchise happens 2b de rigueur. The only question is pinpointing which firms will fail. We know why they will fail: ignoring phone calls, clocking off at lunchtime on Fridays and playing Chris de Burgh for their hold music (you know who you are). In other words, treating customers as an afterthought. Ray Gordon, founder of one franchise, the spellcheck-bothering face2face solicitors, told the conference that client service among firms with up to five partners is ‘appalling’ (though we mark his words with a ‘he would say that wouldn’t he’ disclaimer). Are solicitors really that bad? Are there really firms out there that treat customers so badly? I’ve yet to find one, yet constantly we’re told by various sources that they exist. (Perhaps it’s like the Jimmy Carr joke about there also being one idiot in any group of friends. If you can’t think of someone, it’s you.) Law firm owner and conference chairman Kerry Underwood was adamant that levels of service are ‘vastly better’ than 30 years ago. Many others spoke up to support him. These may be precarious times, but I don’t sense law firms are ignoring that pressure and not preparing for the future. Of course, any head-in-the-sanders out there are surely only kidding themselves. The sands of time are ebbing away, with the Legal Services Act giving their hourglass a hefty shake. But if firms genuinely are getting the basics right, then they can swim clear of the vast fishing net threatening to swoop on so many minnows. There is still hope – this is not a doomed profession, it just might look very different in 2013. And on the plus side, at least the queue for the toilets might be shorter next year.
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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 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 Get your free guest access SIGN UP TODAY
Get your free guest access SIGN UP TODAY 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 To continue enjoying Building.co.uk, sign up for free guest accessExisting subscriber? LOGIN