COVID-19 pandemic in Greece by Serafim Sotiriadis

Greece, among most of the countries in the world, was hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The Greek Government gradually took necessary measures and, ultimately, forced the country to a general “lockdown” on 23 of March. This led most of the businesses to temporarily suspend their operations and activities, while, at the same time, they were allowed to suspend the employment contracts without being required to pay salaries or damages and cover social insurance obligations. As a general measure, the country undertook the obligation to pay 800 Euros per employee whose contract was suspended.

Despite being absolutely necessary for the confrontation of the pandemic outbreak, the measures had dramatic consequences for the businesses and the Greek economy in general. In regards with the businesses, the most negative impact was the drastic fall of their turnovers and consequently their inability to perform their debt obligations, even for financially healthy companies. For this reason, the Greek Government has proceeded to the announcement of new measures, of financial nature this time, with a purpose to keep Greek businesses, to the extent possible, intact from the impact of the “lockdown” or at least to restrict the negative consequences.

Measures announced to be taken from May 2020

The Greek Government announced on 28th of April the undertaking of financial measures in order to relieve the Greek businesses and employees that were hit by Covid-19 outbreak and support the recommencement of the economy. The most important measures in relation to businesses are:

  • Financial aid to the Greek SMEs through loans granted by the Greek State that will be repaid in the next years with minimum interest rate based on each company’s performance. The total value of the aid will be 1 billion Euros, while each company will not receive more than 500.000 Euros. The main criteria require, first, the companies’ turnover to decrease due to Covid-19 outbreak and, second, the companies not to proceed to lay-offs.
  • Financial aid to the Greek SMEs through grant regarding business loans interest payments for a 3-month period (April, May & June 2020), provided that these companies were still performing on their debt obligations in relation to these loans and they have not proceeded to lay-offs.
  • Starting from May 2020, the Greek companies will be able to receive business loans by the Greek banks up to the amount that correspond to the 25% of their turnover with Greek State guarantees.
  • Suspension of VAT and assessed tax debt payments to the Greek State, however if a company pays the April 2020 instalment, a 25% discount is provided. Again, one of the necessary requirements is for the applying companies to retain the employment positions.

Considering that most of these applications can be made electronically through platforms, our law firm assist our clients in the electronic filling and submission of these applications. It, also, uses its contacts to get additional information, if needed, by making using of the available electronic means, so that the applications are properly filled. In these harsh times, the firm provides its advisory services with the best possible manner to assist the companies – clients, especially those hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Greece’s Economy

These liquidity measures are expected to relieve the Greek businesses which were forced to stop operating for more than one month (11 March 2020 – May 2020) and are now gradually being able to get back to their activities. The measures are considered to be of vital importance if taken into account that the country had just exited an 8-year financial recession implementing harsh economic re-adjustment and austerity measures. Except this, tourism constitutes the backbone of Greece’s economy and the largest contributor to its GDP and it is expected to be severely affected for 2020, as Covid-19 crisis broke out just before the summer.

According to the recently published IMF’s World Economic Outlook report, the projections for 2020 have been substantially altered, as the “lockdown” applied by the most of the Eurozone countries will have immense impact on their economic status. In particular, Greece is expected to lose approximately 10% out of its GDP for 2020, in contrary to the 2.2% GDP increase that was projected for the same year before the coronavirus outbreak. However, the country is forecasted to return to growth in the next year, to 5.1% for 2021. Despite the deeper economic impact for 2020, Greece’s recovery is projected to be more dynamic than other economies, such as Spain’s and Italy’s. This fact is justified by the timely actions of the Greek Government in response to the coronavirus outbreak and the periodic consequences of the tourism’s underperformance for 2020.

In the aftermath of the pandemic

The gradual lifting of the pandemic measures, starting from the 4th of May, earmarks the return to “normality” which will not be the same as known before. The epidemiologists warn that the pandemic is not over yet and the perils of another outbreak cannot be ignored. For this, the Greek Government has set, alongside the economic relief measures, certain rules in order to restrict the possibilities for the pandemic to break out again. These measures purport to minimise the personal contacts that could lead to the spread of the virus.

Among these rules, the most important for the companies are:

  • Flexible schedules must be followed for the next months, so that people attend their working place alternately.
  • Teleworking must be encouraged, where possible, to avoid unnecessary contacts.

Our law firm, trying to be in line with the recent legislation, has applied new methods in the working environment and in the manner, it delivers its legal services to our clients by making use the capabilities that technology offers today. Indicatively, the firm conduct their usual internal meetings only by electronic means through live video calls, while meetings with clients and fellow advisors are made through teleconferences maintaining the level of the services in the same standards as before. Also, the firm in order to protect its personnel applies a repeating working schedule enabling a certain number of associates/partners to attend the office each time, while in person meetings with clients are scheduled, where absolutely necessary, applying the hygiene rules.

Duane Morris Celebrates Black History Month

Last year, Duane Morris had the honor of hosting civil rights icon Fred Gray, who shared inspiring stories of being the attorney who represented Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and others in some of the most consequential cases in the civil rights movement.

Growing up in the segregated South, Gray made a commitment to himself that he would “finish Alabama State, take the bar exam and destroy everything segregated I could find.”

Only months after being admitted to the bar, Gray’s first case was representing Claudette Colvin, who was arrested on March 2, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to forfeit her seat for a white rider while on her way to school. While unsurprisingly losing that case (young Colvin was put on unsupervised probation), Gray kept all of the court documents, knowing that another opportunity would come.

After much discussion and strategising in the community, Gray’s friend Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her bus seat to a white rider on December 1, 1955. Parks, only his second client, was arrested on a Thursday and the case was quickly slated for the following Monday. Gray prepared the case over the weekend, while the activists in the community simultaneously prepared for the Montgomery bus boycott. Realising the boycott needed a spokesperson, they enlisted the help of Dr. King, who until that time had not been active in the civil rights movement. Gray argued the case for the next year, until finally achieving legal victory in federal court, ending the boycott after 382 days.

The attention drawn by Dr. King during the boycott prompted state authorities to charge King, who had left Alabama, for perjury in connection with filing a false tax return, of which he was acquitted. Of the achievement, Gray said, “We had a good team together and were able to get an all-white jury in the middle of the sit-in demonstrations in the spring of 1960 to end up finding that Dr. King was innocent of perjury.” Gray went on to explain, “I think that was one of the most important cases because he was now protesting the Vietnam War. If it had come out that, while he was leading this new civil rights organisation and at the same time he’s cheating and wouldn’t pay his taxes, it would have been devastating.”

In the decades that followed, Gray’s legal work in the 1960s included paving the way for redistricting and reapportioning legislative bodies across the nation with the “one man, one vote” concept; getting court-ordered protection for marchers as they walked from Selma to Montgomery to present grievances as a result of being unable to vote; one of the first civil rights actions brought to remedy systematic exclusion of blacks from jury service; and integrating all state institutions of higher learning in Alabama under the control of the state Board of Education, as well as most elementary and secondary school systems. In the 1970s, Gray served as counsel to preserve and protect the rights of those involved in the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study and has been the moving force in the establishment of the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center.

Legacy in Law

George Boyer Vashon was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1824. His father was an abolitionist who was a well-respected leader in the black community and the abolitionist movement. As a teenager, Vashon co-founded the Pittsburgh Anti-Slavery Society in 1838. He was the first African-American to graduate from Oberlin College in Ohio, where he was class valedictorian. Vashon apprenticed for the law in Pittsburgh under Judge Walter Forward, who was later U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

Despite of his qualifications and academic achievements, Vashon was not allowed to sit for the Pennsylvania bar exam due to his race.

Instead, Vashon moved to New York and became the first licensed African-American attorney in that state. He then taught in Haiti; practiced law in Syracuse, New York; was a professor at New York Central College; and later returned to Pittsburgh, where he became a principal at African-American public schools and served as president of Avery College. He again petitioned to sit for the Pennsylvania bar exam, 20 years after his first attempt, and was again denied. Vashon moved to Washington, D.C., where he was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1867, he became the first black professor at Howard University. Vashon became a professor of ancient and modern languages at Alcorn University in 1873.

More than a century and a half after being denied admission to the bar in Pennsylvania because of the color of his skin, Vashon’s great-grandson Nolan N. Atkinson Jr., his firm Duane Morris and others set out to right this historical wrong, finally winning official recognition from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and getting Vashon admitted to the state bar in an official ceremony in 2010.

When the Minority Corporate Counsel Association awarded Duane Morris with its prestigious Innovator Award in 2012, the MCCA renamed the award after Vashon. Duane Morris has also gone on to keep the pioneer’s legacy going by hosting the annual George B. Vashon lecture series, which has seen academic leaders, federal judges, legislators and others speak on civil rights and social justice issues.

History of Firsts

During Nolan Atkinson’s nearly 25 years at Duane Morris, his focus on his thriving commercial litigation practice never prevented him from making sure he used that position to continue the work of people like Vashon. Atkinson, a participant in the 1963 March on Washington, was instrumental in the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group, Inc., a consortium of law firms and corporations committed to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in Philadelphia’s larger law firms. He was a tireless contributor to the Conference of Minority Partners in Majority Corporate Law Firms, a constituent entity of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession of the ABA and numerous other groups focused on diversity. He was the first Chief Diversity Officer at Duane Morris and served in that role for eight years.

Fittingly, when the City of Philadelphia wanted to establish the role of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Mayor Jim Kenney turned to Atkinson. Since 2016, Atkinson has brought his energy to knocking down the barriers that had historically kept the city’s large workforce racially and economically divided and creating a culture that attracts talented, diverse leaders to Philadelphia government.

Diversity & Inclusion

Helmed by Joseph K. West, who succeeded Atkinson in 2016 as Duane Morris’ Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, the firm’s diversity and inclusion program is managed with the objective of utilising the best talent worldwide in solving legal problems. The firm recruits a diverse pool of lawyers that collectively possess an awareness of cutting-edge 21st century issues—legal, social and economic—for which clients require solutions. West has stated, “We see our robust approach to diversity and inclusion not just as a critical part of the DNA of the firm and essential to our business, but also as central to our every interaction with each of our clients. It allows us to engage with existing and prospective clients, with existing and prospective employees and with every aspect of our public engagement where we consistently emphasise that diversity and inclusion is part of the fabric of our firm and that it informs every aspect of our internal and external relationships.”

West, in addition to being an active litigator representing domestic and global companies, is a nationally recognised subject matter authority in the field of diversity and inclusion, and leader of the firm’s unique Diversity and Inclusion Consulting Group which focuses on crafting sustainable diversity and inclusion programs and solutions for corporate entities. Earlier in his career, West successfully leveraged his role as Head of Global Outside Counsel Management at Walmart to establish and meet diversity and inclusion goals through its outside counsel spend, for which he is recognised as being at the forefront of building the business case for diversity. He also facilitated the company’s role as an initial signatory to the Inclusion Initiative with the National Association of Minority & Women Owned Law Firms. West went on to spend five years as President and CEO of MCCA, tripling membership in the national advocacy group for corporate diversity and inclusion issues. In 2019, West was the recipient of the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award: Diversity & Equality from Chambers and Partners.

Dentons Boekel migrates name and brand to Dentons

The partners of Dentons Boekel have decided to transition the name to Dentons, with effect from January 1, 2020. Dutch law firm Boekel combined with Dentons in 2017.

“Dentons Boekel has had a rich legacy of serving clients for more than 60 years in the Dutch market. We are delighted to have benefited from the brand and goodwill and are excited about Dentons’ next chapter in the Netherlands,” said Elliott Portnoy, Global Chief Executive Officer of Dentons.

“Connecting our new talent to colleagues and clients around the world is a key element of our global strategy,” said Joe Andrew, Global Chair of Dentons. “As the partners of Dentons Boekel have decided to transition from Dentons Boekel to Dentons, we are remarkably pleased with the success of the combination in the Netherlands, which is just one example of the uptick we are experiencing across so many of our markets around the world.”

Since joining Dentons in May 2017, the Amsterdam office has doubled in revenue growth. It has grown from 16 to 29 partners, adding new teams, and/or significantly enhancing capabilities in Banking and Finance, Corporate and M&A, Energy, Private Equity, Intellectual Property and Technology, Tax and Real Estate.

Wendela Raas, Managing Partner in Amsterdam said: “We are delighted by the way this combination has played out, which is one of the reasons we decided to transition the name to Dentons at this time. We are fully committed to Dentons’ vision to always be the law firm of the future and look forward to continuing to work with our colleagues around the world under the Dentons brand.”

“The last two years have been transformative for our Amsterdam office,” said Marien Glerum, Benelux Managing Officer at Dentons. “Not only have we attracted top talent and strengthened our service offering, but we have also gained numerous new client relationships. At the same time, our existing clients have benefitted from the unmatched global coverage of the world’s largest law firm.”

Dentons has more than 100 lawyers in the Netherlands, and employs more than 10,000 lawyers in 181 locations and 73 countries around the world.

DLA PHOTO

DLA Piper boosts trainee salaries to £77k, as pay rises continue

DLA Piper has upped the salaries of its trainees and newly qualified (NQ) solicitors, as City law firms continue to chuck extra cash at their rookie ranks.

The global titan has confirmed that first years will now receive a salary of £45,000, up 2% from £44,000, while those in year two of their TCs will earn £50,000, again a rise of £1,000 or 2%. There’s extra cash for DLA’s NQs, too. The firm’s new associates will now receive £77,000, an extra £2,000 or 3%, putting them on the same remuneration levels as their peers at Baker McKenzie and Norton Rose Fulbright.

The firm, which offers around 70 training contracts each year, has also bumped pay across its offices outside London. First year trainees in the English regions and Scotland now earn £28,000, while those a year ahead will now receive a salary of £31,000 — an extra £1,000 across the board. Regional and Scottish NQ pay now sits at £44,000, up from a previous figure of £42,000.

News of the uplifts come just weeks after it emerged that DLA Piper had ditched a policy which ensured its London and regional trainees were paid the same while completing secondments overseas. Speaking at the time, a spokesperson for the firm said the “adjustment to the secondment policy for our UK regional offices” was part of a “new international graduate programme”.

A host of City firms have confirmed salary rises in recent weeks. A full breakdown of what they pay (and much, much more) can be found on the 2018 edition of our Firms Most List.

Intestacy and DNA testing of children on the death of a father

The decision of the High Court following the death of Colin Wilson Birtles (who died leaving two daughters and without a will) highlights the importance of having a will.

In this case, the first daughter obtained a Grant of Representation so that they could administer the estate of their father. The second daughter applied to the court for an order to have the Grant set aside and sought a declaration that the first daughter was not Mr Birtles’ biological daughter (the first daughter would therefore not be entitled to administer the estate or receive anything from Mr Birtles’ estate under the rules of intestacy).

The first daughter argued that her mother and Mr Birtles were married at the date she was born and that Mr Birtles was named on her birth certificate; therefore “there was a common law presumption that [Mr Birtles] was the [daughter’s] father, rebuttable on the balance of probabilities.”

The court decided in the circumstances of the case that the first daughter should be compelled to give a saliva sample for the purposes of a DNA test. If the first daughter refused, the court said that it would draw adverse inferences against her.

In this case both of the daughters were adults, but what if there was doubt as to paternity (and therefore right to inherit on the death of a father) and one or more of the children had been a minor? As second families become more commonplace there is a likelihood of this happening more often. A minor child cannot consent to a DNA test and it can be imagined that a child’s mother may not wish to consent especially if there is a chance that the paternity of the child is in doubt.

If the person with parental responsibility of a minor child refuses to consent to their child having a DNA test then an order of the court may be sought allowing a sample to be taken “if the court considers that it would be in [the child’s] best interests”.

In the case of Mr Birtles, the court considered submissions on the human rights implications of ordering the test, particularly the right to respect for family and private life. The judge balanced this against the “public interest in the accurate resolution of inheritance disputes” and considered that ordering a DNA test would be proportionate in the circumstances.

The judge also considered the emotional toil that a negative DNA result might have but held that upset had already been caused by the dispute and the DNA testing would not compound this unnecessarily.

It cannot be known what Mr Birtles would have wanted in the case that one of his daughters had turned out not to be his biological child. It is very possible that he would have wanted both daughters to be treated equally; he had never challenged either daughter’s paternity.

All of the upset and costs involved in the sad case of Mr Birtles and his daughters (and many other similar cases which do not end up in the court) can be avoided where a carefully prepared will is in place. Don’t leave it to chance; when emotions are high following a death; cracks can appear in even the most seemingly amicable family relationships.

The content of this article is for general information only. For further advice, please contact Ruth Pyatt or another member of Birketts’ Private Client Advisory Team.