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Ashurst advises on the establishment of Oak National Academy

International law firm Ashurst advised on the launch of Oak National Academy, a virtual school established groups of schools and The Reach Foundation to deliver education remotely to the UK during the COVID-19 crisis.

The new initiative is supported by a range of organisations including Teach First, Google and the Department for Education.

Launched on Monday 20 April, this brand-new enterprise has been created by over 40 teachers from some of the leading schools across England, with government grant funding to support its start up. It will provide 180 video lessons each week, across a broad range of subjects from maths to art to languages, for every year group from Reception through to Year 10.

Ashurst advised Teach First and The Reach Foundation, both charitable entities to support teaching and education across the UK, on a pro bono basis on the IP and branding associated with the launch. This included advising on the availability and use of logos, trademarks, domain names and associated assets and the registration of various IP rights to ensure the protection of the brand and its associated goodwill. The team was led by IP partner David Wilkinson, associate Anouska Fabes and legal analyst manager Jessica Whitfield.

Anouska Fabes commented: “Oak National Academy is an inspiring project that demonstrates the power of collaboration during difficult times, and will provide access to valuable resources for those teachers, students and families in the UK in need of support and a helping hand. The Ashurst IP team are delighted to have worked with Teach First to contribute towards its launch.”

Tech investment and open information can unlock justice for all

Technology has the potential to unlock justice for all, according to a new report launched by the Law Society of England and Wales. However, it is by no means a ‘silver bullet’.

Based on an assessment of 50 initiatives and qualitative interviews with more than 45 stakeholders – the report explores whether technology is the key to unlock the potential of law, justice and rights.

It concludes that, with the right support from government, technology can be the key to unlocking access to justice innovation.

“Technological solutions can help to unlock justice for those with legal needs but not the means,” Law Society of England and Wales president Simon Davis said.

“New user-focused innovations have overcome some of the traditional obstacles to access. Firms, advice clinics and in-house teams are utilising technology to serve more effectively the needs of often vulnerable clients.

“However much more support is needed for meaningful impact. This includes better coordination, information sharing and resources.

“There are still too few solutions designed specifically for this purpose – instead, the sector is over-reliant on a trickle down from the commercial legal market.”

Key findings include:

  • Significant work is being done by firms, advice clinics and in-house teams to meet legal need which is supported by technology. The government has taken positive steps through the Legal Support Advisory Group and its ministerial commitments to support new forms of technology to make justice more accessible. There is, however, much more to be done – in most cases, better data management, information sharing and co-ordination is needed.
  • The consumer-facing market is less mature than the business-to-business market on legal technology adoption. Recently, resource allocation and the need for greater efficiencies have driven demand for technological solutions.
  • Online resources are the primary means of providing information to the public. However, face-to-face remains the most popular way for delivering advice, followed by mobile apps which are often used at the start of the process.
  • Barriers to technological adoption include; widespread variation, lack of access to data, inequality of resources, duplication of products, funding and regulatory concerns.
  • Innovation is being led and used by third sector, including law centres and pro bono clinics, often working with firms and universities to provide services. This is more commonly found for disputes in housing, family, employment, debt and social welfare.

“Government must recognise that technology alone cannot provide a silver bullet: use of technology needs to be part of a wider innovation strategy, centred on the individual that needs legal help and framed by the organisation’s purpose and resources,” Simon Davis said.

“Technology-based initiatives can facilitate access to a qualified lawyer, but they cannot replace it. Since 2012 half of law centres or agencies offering free legal advice have closed, and there have been significant cuts to legal aid.

“Government should work with stakeholders to agree a joint set of principles for long-term investment. This will encourage a growth in justice innovations and their adoption within the sector – enhancing access opportunities for those who need it most.”

The report recommends government bodies, private sector and third sector organisations that offer funds for legal technology and access to justice initiatives should agree on a set of principles to encourage long-term investment in the sector. It also suggests the creation of an Open Source Platform for access to justice and technology and a comprehensive list of agreed solutions to overcome barriers and meet legal need.

Irwin Mitchell announce partnership with England Rugby

We are proud to be England Rugby’s official legal partner and play our part in helping to grow the game across the country.

England Rugby’s good work doesn’t stop with the men’s and women’s senior teams we see competing around the world. The Rugby Football Union (RFU) is the national governing body for grassroots and elite rugby in England with over a thousand community clubs nationwide.

We also support UK sports with our Don’t Quit, Do It campaign, and we’re ranked number one for sports law in the independent Legal 500 rankings.

Our solicitors even helped the Rugby Players Association develop concussion guidelines to help protect players from serious injury.

That’s why we think Irwin Mitchell and England Rugby is a great fit.

A successful rugby team is full of highly skilled specialists, united by a single purpose. It’s the same for us – a wide range of legal experts working together to help you through all life’s ups and downs.

In our role as official legal partner, we’re thrilled to be helping the RFU and its community clubs with their own legal issues. It’s also great to see our partnership help young players involved in rugby.

Supporting Youth Rugby

We know that the shift to adult rugby can be tricky for young players, particularly with coping with the increased demands of modern life. Finding the balance between studying and training isn’t easy. Neither is dealing with the unique and growing pressures on young people in the modern world.

So we’re working with England Rugby to help young players stay involved with the sport for longer and to help more people benefit from the great values that this unique sport teaches. We hope that by helping these players make the next step, the sport can continue to grow in years to come.

Our programme:

  • Will support over 35,000 14-18 year old players, with mentors across 750 clubs
  • Aims to keep more youngsters interested in rugby, enhancing the retention of youth players
  • Aids the transition for youth players through to adult rugby

“We are delighted to partner with Irwin Mitchell and deliver this exciting, new mentoring programme,” said Steve Grainger, Rugby Development Director at the RFU. “Any opportunity we have to keep young people engaged in the game for longer is crucial. Having this community of mentors across the country will be invaluable for the players and will only help to grow the game further.”

Our Other Sports Initiatives

Wooden Spoon

We’re the official headline sponsor for Wooden Spoon, a children’s rugby charity based in Hampshire.

The charity works to change the lives of disadvantaged children and young people with disabilities, through organising various rugby projects throughout the year. We work closely with the charity to support their growth and sponsor their events.

Don’t Quit, Do It

Don’t Quit, Do It is our ongoing campaign to help disabled people enjoy sport. We’ve seen first-hand how powerful sport can be during recovery from a serious injury.

Our partnership with Paralympic gold medallist Hannah Cockroft MBE and wheelchair tennis superstar Alfie Hewitt has helped us raise the profile of disability sport in the UK.

The campaign includes a variety of sports, including wheelchair rugby – another reason we’re excited to work with England Rugby.

Fixed recoverable costs consultation

Fixed Recoverable Costs (FRC) prescribe the amount of damages that can be claimed back from a losing party in civil litigation; they are a way of controlling the legal costs by giving certainty in advance (by reference to grids of costs).

The civil justice system in England and Wales has a ‘loser pays’ model, whereby the unsuccessful party covers the costs of the successful party. This can lead to high costs for the unsuccessful party. FRC give both parties certainty as to the maximum amount they may have to pay if unsuccessful and can ensure that the costs of cases are proportionate to the sum in issue.

FRC currently operate in most low value personal injury cases. The government and senior judiciary announced their support for extending FRC in November 2016, and Sir Rupert Jackson, then a judge of the Court of Appeal, was commissioned by the senior judiciary to develop proposals. Sir Rupert’s report, which was published in July 2017, follows on from his major report of 2010 looking at civil costs more widely, which led to significant reforms to controlling costs, including ‘no win, no fee’ reforms in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO). Sir Rupert’s July 2017 supplementary report which focuses on the extension of FRC, completes his recommendations. We believe that it is now right to consider the extension of FRC.

We are seeking views from all those with an interest in civil costs in England and Wales. Our proposals, which are set out in the consultation paper, take forward Sir Rupert’s recommendations.

Arc Legal expands Corporate team with new hire

Arc Legal Assistance (Arc Legal), a leading provider of legal expenses insurance (LEI) and assistance services provider in the UK and Republic of Ireland, has welcomed Kerry Knief as its new Senior Corporate Relations Manager.

Kerry joins Arc Legal with over twenty years’ experience in the insurance industry having previously worked for AXA Partners as a Senior Account Manager, managing key strategic clients, specialising in ancillary products.

Kerry’s new role will involve managing existing corporate relationships, with a focus on identifying growth opportunities with partners across Arc Legal’s ancillary product range.

Chief Commercial Officer, Peter Harvey commented;

“Further growth has prompted us to bolster our Corporate Relations team, and Kerry’s knowledge and experience in the ancillary products market makes her a great fit for us.”

“Kerry has a wealth of experience in the industry, and her appointment will help to ensure we continue to meet our growth ambitions for 2019 and beyond. She has a fantastic reputation in the industry and we are delighted to have her on board.”

Kerry Knief, Commented;

“I am very excited to be able to join the team here at Arc Legal, especially during this exciting period of continued growth and expansion. I am looking forward to hitting the ground running and contributing towards the continued success of the business.”

For more information about Arc Legal Assistance, please visit https://www.arclegal.co.uk/

UK lawtech not yet disruptive, new research shows

Lawtech in the UK has a long way to go if it is to reach its potential, the Law Society of England and Wales said as it launched new research into the development and adoption of sector-specific technology.

In its Lawtech Adoption Report, the Law Society explores the UK’s burgeoning lawtech sector and highlights key developments in this area and what this means for the legal profession and the business of law.

Law Society president Christina Blacklaws said: “A range of drivers is accelerating development and adoption of lawtech, from an escalating need for efficiency, increasing workloads and complexity of work to client pressure on costs and shorter turnaround times.

“Some of the most notable growth areas are legal analytics, legal project management, governance and compliance and contract management.

“Lawtech in the UK is largely focused on efficiencies and automation rather than on delivering ‘new types of law’. As such it is less mature than other fields of digital disruption – such as fintech, where there is more funding and regulatory alignment.”

The business-to-business legal services market is the most mature, particularly within large law firms, where AI and machine learning-driven applications are ubiquitous. Some of the more established areas include collaboration tools, document management, IP management and e-billing.

The business-to-consumer legal market seems to be lagging behind. There is most traction in those law firms that are delivering large-scale commoditised services, where automation is principally all about driving efficiencies. For instance, chatbots, DIY law, robo-lawyers and triage tools are all becoming more common with a greater focus on the consumer experience.

“Our research found that law firms face barriers to adoption of many lawtech solutions that are fundamental to the industry, such as risks around compliance, the partnership and billable hours models,” Christina Blacklaws said.

“After several years of start-up activity, the sector is now ripe for a wave of consolidation and later stage funding. Adopting and pioneering new technologies will give firms a strong competitive advantage in a rapidly evolving legal services market.”