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03/02/23-The stories behind the legal sector news

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Let’s call the whole thing off

It was announced this week that the merger talks between Womble Bond Dickinson and BDB Pitmans have been called off. The news of a potential merger between the two firms was first announced back in October, but it now seems that naught has come of it – in a joint press release published last Wednesday, both firms confirmed that the talks had concluded without result:

“Womble Bond Dickinson and BDB Pitmans announce today that they have decided not to proceed further with their proposed merger. After extensive discussions on the combined proposition, both firms have decided that the best path forward is to remain independent of each other. Excellent relationships have been established and the firms will continue to work closely together in the future.”

On paper at least, a merger between the two firms would have made sense: BDB Pitmans, a solely UK-based firm, would have gained a foothold in the US market, while WBD could have extended its UK offering. Much the smaller – and therefore potentially more vulnerable – of the two firms, BDB Pitmans will now have to forge its own path in the rapidly changing legal landscape.

The culture at BDB Pitmans certainly seems to be strong enough for it to succeed either independently or as a target for another merger partner. There is a real sense of positivity within the firm just now – that’s certainly the strong impression we got when we caught up with BDB Pitmans’ managing partner Andrew Smith, who had the following to say about the aborted merger talks:

“We’re really happy to have gone through the process and we’ve learned a lot about ourselves in doing so. But ultimately, we’re happy with the decision we’ve made and there’s a real sense of renewed purpose around the business which is encouraging. Best wishes to Womble Bond Dickinson – and now, for us, it’s onwards and upwards.”

Hear, hear! Merger talks don’t always have to be successful in order to be a useful and productive exercise – sometimes, they can yield a degree of self-knowledge and renewed sense of purpose that is otherwise hard to come by.

I’ve led on comms for quite a few law firm mergers; some successful and some failed. How each firm communicates internally and externally right now is going to be key to how successful those firms are over the course of the next 12 months.

The sense of a beginning – charting the history of women working in the law

This week, we are really chuffed to have bagged some time with one of the legal profession’s leading lights, Dana Denis-Smith who has written an amazing guest blog.

Dana, the founder of Obelisk Support, is not only a pioneer in creating flexible working opportunities for mothers who work in the law, but has also been instrumental in getting female trailblazers within the legal profession the recognition they deserve: she is the initiator and driving force behind The First 100 Years project, whose mission is “to ensure a strong and equal future for all women in the legal profession by raising awareness about their history and inspiring future generations of female lawyers”.

Dana has been kind enough to write about what drove her to set up The First 100 Years, the obstacles she faced along the way and the challenges that female lawyers find themselves confronted with today. You can find her blog post here.

Living in a fishbowl

A Forsters litigation team has won a resounding victory this week with a landmark Supreme Court ruling in favour of its clients in a case that has caught the attention of the national press. Representing the owners of four luxury London flats, the Forsters team led by senior partner and residential property litigation expert Natasha Rees successfully argued that the Tate Modern’s viewing gallery – which opened in 2016 and directly overlooks the glass-facade apartments of the Neo Bankside development next door – constitutes an unacceptable infringement of the residents’ right to privacy.

In a majority judgment, the Supreme Court ruled that the flat owners faced a “constant visual intrusion” that hindered them in the “ordinary use and enjoyment” of their homes. With this ruling, the court has extended the law of privacy to include overlooking, though only in extreme cases.

The case against the Tate Modern was first brought in 2017, when the apartment-owners in the Neo Bankside development applied for an injunction to force the gallery to cordon off parts of the viewing platform or set up screens to put a halt to what they described as a “relentless” invasion of their privacy – they said that visitors to the Tate Modern would peer into their apartments with binoculars and post pictures of their living rooms on social media, and that living in their flats was now like living inside a goldfish bowl. The High Court and the Court of Appeal had both ruled against the flat owners before the case was taken up by the Supreme Court. As Lord Leggatt put it in his ruling: “It is not difficult to imagine how oppressive living in such circumstances would feel for any ordinary person – much like being on display in a zoo.”

Winning such a landmark case is certainly a very large feather in Forsters’ cap. We congratulate Natasha Rees and her team on this major victory. We also can’t help but wonder what the wider ramifications of this verdict are – now that “overlooking” has been ruled to be a private nuisance, how many residents in similar situations will feel emboldened to take their looky-loo neighbours to court? The Supreme Court certainly seems to have anticipated this question by making it clear that the new law will only apply in rare circumstances. But I somehow feel that we’ve not heard the last of this. Even if it is just the plethora of law firm insights on the case which has taken Forsters’ name into every company in the country.

Your time to shine

The days are growing longer, the daffodils are beginning to push their way above ground, lambing season will soon begin, and all of this can only mean one thing: – that’s right, it’s time to get working on your entries for the Legal Business Awards!

Every year, the Legal Business Awards celebrates the very best in the legal profession and is the most prestigious event in the legal calendar. The deadline for submissions is Friday 10 March 2023, and you can edit your entries as often as you want right up until then. You can also enter in multiple different categories, as long as the work you submit meets the criteria. So don’t delay and get typing today!

The categories are here:

LinkedIn post of the week

Legal humour can sometimes be a bit too niche to elicit a chuckle from non-lawyers. However, we think this LinkedIn post by Birketts employment lawyer Lara Small has mass appeal – the TBD team (most of whom don’t come from a legal background) certainly enjoyed it! As ever with such posts, the comments section provides as much gold as the original content.

Dates for your diary

  • 7 February – Wrigleys’ Employment Brunch Briefing – Demystifying menopause and normalising women’s life stages. A webinar event hosted by Wrigley’s Solicitors and featuring keynote speaker Lauren Chiren, CEO of Women of a Certain Stage.
  • 7 February – The Law Society: Judicial appointments interview training for solicitors – In view of increasing competition for judicial appointments, this course will equip delegates with the skills to help enhance your application and interview performance. This training course has been developed specifically for solicitor applicants.
  • 9 February – Edinburgh Foundation for Women in Law: Annual Reflections Lecture – Solicitor General Ruth Charteris KC will reflect upon their career to date; explore some of the obstacles, barriers, and challenges that they have faced; and provide some advice to those looking to enter the legal profession and those looking to progress in the legal profession. The lecture will be followed by a networking event with refreshments and canapés in Old College, the home of Edinburgh Law School.

Thanks for reading,

Si Marshall

Legal marketing expert – I love lawyers, their stories and how they help clients | Marketing | PR | Digital Marketing | Business

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