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News in brief: week beginning 2 June 2014

Learning and development, mergers and acquisitions, and restorative justice

6 June 2014

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EDUCATION AND TRAINING

Competent workforce: The Solicitors Regulation Authority will be reviewing initial findings of research commissioned into learning and development approaches used by firms. The study of 750 SRA-regulated entities has researched the approaches currently used by ABSs and larger firms alike in order to ensure their workforce is maintaining a level of competence.

MERGERS AND ACQUISITIONS

West Midlands: K&M Family Law Solutions has merged with Harrison Clark Rickerbys Ltd. The business says the merger creates one of the largest family and divorce law teams in the West Midlands, with a total of 22 partners and solicitors.

CRIME

Restorative justice: Les Dennis says he would like to have met the person who burgled his house in a restorative justice conference. "Telling them about the effects of the break-in and maybe for them to take responsibility would have helped me to move on. It may also have reduced the likelihood of them re-offending," he said.

FAMILY

Irreconcilable differences: A man has said the reason his wife sought a divorce from him was because he did not like the Disney film Frozen. The man reportedly posted on a marriage forum that his wife became obsessed with the film and went to see it at the cinema multiple times. Eventually he went to see it with her, but only found it "OK" and "didn't really care for it personally." The man said there were no other problems in their marriage.

BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT

Top 20 migration: A fifth of the UK's top twenty law firms have opened an office in Brazil since it won the bid to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup, research has found. Laurence Simons found that since 2007 the number of top 20 UK law firms with an office in Brazil had doubled and includes six of the ten largest UK firms.

TAX

Overpayments seizure: Private debt collectors are directly recovering tax credit overpayments from low-income workers on instruction of HMRC. It has been reported that in at least 80 cases debt collectors have seized overpayments in this manner.

DIVERSITY

Record-breaking judges: Figures have revealed a record number of female judges. Almost half of 263 candidates recommended for appointment to judicial posts were women, and 2 per cent were either homosexual or bisexual.

FAMILY

Negative impact: A survey of 461 magistrates sitting in courts across the UK found that almost half of those seen by magistrates in private family courts are litigants in person, and that nearly two thirds of magistrates think it has a negative impact on the court's work.

PERSONAL INJURY

Heroes bill: The vice president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers has said the new 'heroes bill' called for by Chris Grayling (see page 9) protects the negligent, not the injured. Jonathan Wheeler said, "How could someone who has negligently or recklessly caused injury to another be a hero in anyone's eyes? And in any event isn't this going over the same ground as covered by the Compensation Act 2006?"

EDUCATION AND TRAINING

Culture clash: Research has revealed that US law firms are significantly less popular graduate destinations than 'international' or City firms, with only 27 per cent of aspiring lawyers planning to apply to an American firm. It is thought that although US law firms typically offer higher trainee salaries than other firms competing for the same candidates, they typically have a smaller trainee intake and are generally regarded as having a slightly different culture as a result of this.

PRIVATE CLIENT

Criminal associates: A new offence of 'participation in an organised crime group' will ensure law enforcement agencies can take firm action against professionals who turn a "blind eye" to organised crime. Offences can include helping criminals write contracts.

WEALTH MANAGEMENT

Legitimate probate: A new watchdog aims to stamp out financial scams and improve the quality of practice within the probate and asset research industry. The Federation of Probate & Asset Researchers (FPAR) has been set up to represent hundreds of UK 'heir hunters' who not only track down the beneficiaries of relatives who've died intestate but also trace the owners of unclaimed financial assets. Maurice Clarke, director of FPAR, said scams suggesting that people are owed vast inheritance sums means that legitimate probate and asset researchers are treated with suspicion.

LEGAL AID LAWYERS OF THE YEAR 2014 WINNERS

The SJ team sends their congratulations to the 2014 LALY winners:

  • Social and Welfare: Douglas Johnson, case worker at Sheffield Law Centre
  • Family Legal Aid: Maud Davis, member partner at TV Edwards
  • Family Legal Aid Mediator: Caroline Bowden, consultant mediator at Anthony Gold
  • Housing: John Gallagher, principal solicitor at Shelter
  • Immigration/Asylum: Mark Scott, partner at Bhatt Murphy
  • Legal Aid Barrister: S Chelvan, No5 Chambers
  • Inquests/Actions Against State: Charlotte Haworth Hird, solicitor at Bindmans
  • Criminal Defence: Mike Schwarz, partner at Bindmans
  • Legal Aid Firm: Ben Hoare Bell
  • Legal Aid Newcomer: Camilla Graham-Wood, solicitor at Birnberg Peirce & Partners
  • Legal Aid Champion: Matt Foot, solicitor at Binberg Peirce & Partners
  • Outstanding Achievement: Elkan Abrahamson, partner at QualitySolicitors Jackson & Canter. He was honoured for a career spanning 30 years, culminating in winning a decision to hold a second inquest into the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

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