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Laurence Simons Newsletter February 2016

Posted by: Laurence Simons 05/02/16

Lawyers Against Brexit builds momentum
The Middle East and North African compliance burden
Cybersecurity lawyers have no job insecurity
India gets to the heart of the matter
Lawyer under fire: An Olympic effort brings home comedy gold
Singapore grows its legal sector
South Korean battles of wills

Lawyers Against Brexit builds momentum

A campaign headed by more than 300 London lawyers is launching to support the UK remaining in the EU ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron’s upcoming referendum.

Lawyers Against Brexit, formed by John David, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer competition partner, aims to ‘provide clear information’ on the repercussions of the move to the legal sector. In fact, a publication is currently being drafted which will take an in-depth look at the possible outcomes of either remaining within or leaving the EU.

Many are predicting that there would be an initial spike in activity if the UK were to withdraw, particularly as new corporate contracts would need to be drawn up and cross-border insolvencies and mergers and acquisitions would be heavily affected. However, many are arguing that it is likely there would soon be a drought, with London quickly becoming an unattractive place for lawyers and businesses to be rooted.

As Mr Williams, a mergers and acquisitions partner at Herbert Smith Freehills, has commented: “Once you start scratching the surface you realise how intertwined the UK has become with Europe in a relatively short period of time. What happens if you unplug our legal system from the EU? You create a gap, a gap of rules and legislation. It’s an enormous regulatory burden, a massive rulemaking job for government, for parliament, for lawyers.”

What's your opinion on the Brexit?


The Middle East and North African compliance burden

The recent Mena (Middle East and North Africa) Financial Crime Report from Deloitte has revealed that there is a ‘major gap’ between current financial crime compliance and where the discipline needs to be. The report suggests investment into technology, training and skills to battle increasing problems within the sector.

Shockingly, only 7% of respondents boast complete confidence in their compliance policies at the moment. Mandy Green, principal director for financial advisory at Deloitte Middle East has commented on this: “The UAE particularly is somewhere that’s a gateway between high-risk countries and the western counterpart, so it’s important for businesses operating here to adequately manage their financial risk to allow them to be able to run an efficient business. One of the things we talk about is financial crime risk being considered at the same time as financial and credit risk.”

Arguing that compliance has already taken its place amongst other big players at the global regulatory stage, Green states that many companies are now embedding policies into their front line. The underlying message of the report is that there is a large financial crime problem in the MENA region, but that companies are increasingly recognising the role compliance officers have to play in stamping it out. Good news for professionals then!


Cybersecurity lawyers have no job insecurity

A lawsuit about to hit the US is predicted to cause waves among both the legal and cybersecurity sectors.

Affinity Gaming, a Las Vegas-based casino operator, is suing Chicago cybersecurity firm, Trustwave, for a data breach it failed to detect. This exposed the credit information of roughly 300,000 customers, and was initially dealt with by Trustwave. However, despite claiming that the issue had been resolved, experts had failed to detect a second breach.

Although the bill for these kinds of situations always lands firmly at the feet of the organisation in question, Affinity is suing on the grounds of a misrepresentation of ability to protect data. This landmark case looks to shift the responsibility for customer data away from the business and could lead to other entities seeking compensation from their cybersecurity provider if data defences fail.

So what does this mean for lawyers in particular? Well with the case likely to cost Trustwave and a ripple effect causing other organisations to seek similar compensation, it is likely that these cybersecurity firms will seek to protect themselves. This could mean that in-house positions at these firms will grow, especially for companies handling big clients or sensitive data.

However, this could be bad news for all other sectors wishing to bring these people on board – it looks as though the war for talent could get a whole lot dirtier.


India gets to the heart of the matter

There was big news for the legal sector this month as India announced it was finally opening its doors to foreign lawyers looking to practice in the country. Firms will be granted access for the first time, although it is likely that they will be permitted only to practice ‘non-Indian law’.

It is thought that this liberalisation of the market will play a part in attracting investment to Indian businesses and encouraging future partnerships. Citing the UK’s experience of this, Britain’s Minister for Justice, Shailesh Vara, commented that it played a key role in making London the global legal services hub it is today.

However, in not-so-great news for Indian lawyers, there has been a decline in public esteem for the profession which has had severe consequences for singletons. Because of an over-saturation in the market (legal, not eligible), Chief Justice of India, T.S. Thakur, has explained that the marriage prospects for a single lawyer are ‘bleak’ as it is no longer seen as an exclusive profession.

Perhaps this is why India kept its doors shut for so long – let’s just hope this trend reverses when the legal sector pulls in large investment. We’re rooting for you!


Lawyer under fire: An Olympic effort brings home comedy gold

What do you get if you mix a disgraced barrister, a stolen Russian bomb, Nazi spies and the London 2012 Olympics?

No, not a Tom Clancy novel. It’s our ‘Lawyer under fire’, of course!

As Michael Shrimpton, a jailed barrister and immigration judge, nears his release date his spectacular case has once again been on many people’s lips.

But what was his crime? Well, he reported to the office of former defence secretary, Philip Hammond, that an underground unit of WW2 era Nazi spies was cooking up a plot to plant a stolen Russian nuclear bomb at the Olympics opening ceremony in 2012.

It remains unclear why Shrimpton volunteered this information, perhaps he didn’t manage to get tickets. However, his case was taken much more seriously as news surfaced that he had previously been warned not to interfere with the search for missing toddler, Madeline McCann, after claiming she was being held on a boat in Morocco.

Despite extensive psychological tests to determine if Shrimpton suffered from Asperger’s syndrome or a narcissistic personality disorder – both of which would have helped to explain his behaviour – results indicated that he was just plain bizarre.

But, with his departure from prison expected in the coming weeks, we can’t help but wonder what he has up his sleeve now – hopefully it’s not the stolen Russian bomb.


Singapore grows its legal sector

In a bid to increase its legal talent pool, Singapore’s Ministry of Law is currently looking into “substantive reform” in civil law to encourage the sector to embrace innovation. A rapidly-changing economic, social and technical landscape means that firms must get to grips with more efficient processes and adopt new technologies – and legal authorities want to stay ahead of the curve.

As well as this, actions are being taken to broaden the intake of talent into the sector, with various programmes being introduced into domestic universities to increase their legal schools’ capacities and support older students looking for mid-career changes. On top of this, the Singapore Institute of Legal Education is developing structures to allow for the continued development of professionals within the sector. K Shanmugam, Singapore’s Law Minister, has commented: “In this way, we can ensure a continued pipeline of high quality legal talent to meet the needs of our economy and society.”

There are also measures underway which aim to further promote the country as a hub for international legal services and dispute resolution. So this looks like an exciting time for Singapore, and could spark huge interest in foreign firms looking to root in the Asia-Pacific region.


South Korean battles of wills

A controversial bill aiming to open up South Korea’s legal market has been protested against by envoys representing the US, UK, EU and Australia. However, Korean lawyers have branded this an ‘intervention in domestic affairs’.

Korea’s regulation of foreign law firms has been hotly debated in recent weeks, with organisations dissatisfied that they are only permitted access to own less than 49% stakes in joint ventures with Korean firms. Because of this, the Justice Ministry proposed a revised draft of the country’s Foreign Legal Consultant Act last year which would permit firms from overseas to set up joint ventures with Korean counterparts, hire Korean lawyers and partially practice domestic law. However, the bill will still not allow lawyers to represent clients in Korean courtrooms, own more than a Korean firm in a joint venture or handle domestic cases related to labour, inheritance and government affairs.

However, this was not received well by the Korean Bar Association which judged this as a ‘clear violation to South Korea’s sovereignty’, whilst the Seoul Bar Association called it ‘an intervention in domestic affairs’, promising to file formal complaints to each foreign embassy.

Currently, the Parliamentary Legislation and Judiciary Committee are reviewing the matter and lawyers around the world are waiting with bated breath.