A round up of news from the region’s legal sector in the past week
Birmingham Law Society and BDO jointly hosted a mock “hot tubbing” session for more than 80 litigation lawyers from the Birmingham legal market.
‘Hot tubbing’ is a term used to describe a method whereby experts give evidence simultaneously at trial.
It is a relatively new process which is supported by Lord Justice Jackson. The idea is that by a court utilising this process the judge will be able to save time in getting to the core issues that divide the experts.
The process involves the judge having a more direct involvement in the questioning of the experts who are both present in court at the same time.
While some specialist courts have similar processes, the vast majority of courts in England and Wales will have never undertaken anything like this before.
To introduce this new process to legal professionals, the Dispute Resolution Committee at Birmingham Law Society and BDO’s Birmingham forensic team hosted a hot tubbing session.
The event attracted more than 80 guests from the legal community who attended a drinks reception, which was followed by a mock trial to demonstrate the new process.
During the mock trial, guests firstly saw the expert witnesses under cross examination from their opposing barrister in the conventional format of giving evidence.
Following this, using the same case study, the experts gave evidence at the same time to demonstrate the method of hot tubbing or concurrent evidence giving.
Dean Parnell, chair of the dispute resolution committee at BLS, and Sat Plaha, head of BDO forensic services in the Midlands, introduced the event.
The “actors” included Mohammed Zaman QC from St Philips Chambers and Talbir Singh from No5 Chambers and BDO’s forensic accounting experts Adam Smith and Brent Wilkinson.
The pilot scheme is currently being run in the Manchester Mercantile Court and the results will be fed back to the Ministry of Justice in due course.
Gateley advises £10m deal
The Birmingham office of national law firm Gateley has advised on the £10 million sale of land for residential development at the former Orgreave Colliery and coking works, in Rotherham, to be transformed into a new community known as Waverley.
Harworth Estates, the property division of UK Coal Group, has entered into an agreement with three national house builder Taylor Wimpey, Barratt Homes and Harron Homes. The land comprises the first phase of 250 units in a wider regeneration scheme, which will see the development of nearly 4,000 homes on the site.
The Waverley project when completed will contribute £1 billion of investment into the local economy and will transform the disused and reclaimed industrial brownfield site into a thriving new community.
Its completion over the next 20 years will create a bustling town of 9,000 people.
Shops, restaurants, schools, leisure facilities, health and community centres and parks will be added and the adjoining commercial developments will open up the job market for around 7,000 people.
Callum Nuttall, a real estate partner in the Birmingham office of Gateley, led the deal supported by real estate associates, Tracy Ellison and Ryan Ferguson.
Mr Nuttall said: “Increasing the supply of new housing is critical to the country’s recovery plans and we are assisting housebuilders and strategic landowners in the public and private sector to achieve this nationwide.”
Banking specialists claim success
Corporate and banking specialists at Shoosmiths’ Birmingham office have said the first half the financial year has been a success, despite tough economic conditions.
As well as acting for key clients in deals worth several millions of pounds, the team recruited two new banking lawyers, won a number of new clients and enjoyed legal directory promotion for a second year running.
Highlights among the deals were advising chocolate group Thorntons on its £57.5 million refinance involving a number of banks and MML Capital Partners and its portfolio company Hallmark Industries on the £23.5 million sale of multi-jurisdictional ZEAG Group to Italian company FAAC SpA.
Also advised were the management team on the MBO of search engine optimisation and web design company Creare Communications to Sovereign Capital and HSBC on the provision of a number of property investment facilities ranging from £3 million to £15 million.
The team continues to regularly advise venture capitalists, including Octopus Investments, and has completed a number of first and second round investments into various technology companies since April.
It also continues to advise Informa on its UK transactions.
New banking recruits – partner Shaun McCabe and solicitor Richard Gilliland – bolster the teams banking experience. Among the firm’s promotions was corporate specialist Robert Laugharne, who was made up to associate; and fellow associate Emma Dolphin returned following maternity leave.
After a rigorous tender process, the team retained its place on the Lloyds Banking Group panel.
Partner Martin Letza, who leads the Birmingham team, said: “We appear to have bucked the trend in the past six months.
“While the wider economic picture has remained gloomy, we’ve been able to grow our reputation and the volume and quality of our work over the last six months.”
Wright Hassall retains panel spot
Midland law firm Wright Hassall has been re-appointed to the regional legal panel of the National Australia Bank Group.
The Leamington solicitors will continue to provide legal expertise on banking, finance and secured lending for Yorkshire Bank, Clydesdale Bank and National Australia Group Europe until September 2014.
The firm had been responsible for these services in the Midlands and North West since May 2008 before successfully re-tendering and seeing its area of authority expanded.
Robert Lee, head of Wright Hassall’s corporate team, believes the fact they have been re-appointed is testament to the quality of service they provide.
He said: “We have acted for the banking group on a host of complex financial transactions on a range of scales since 2008.
“In the process of putting ourselves forward to be re-appointed to this role we were asked to provide relevant experience in banking transactions.
“This included taking security over residential and commercial property, as well as the ability to provide commercial advice in a commercially sensible and appropriate way.
“We have acted on transactions across the country and will carry on supporting the lending put forward by Yorkshire Bank.
“In these difficult times it is particularly important to maintain our relationship with our existing clients and the re-appointment to the panel will help our team to grow and continue to be successful.
“One of our banking and finance experts Steven Janes is particularly active when it comes to access to finance due to his role with the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and I believe this was key to our re-appointment.”
Record number at Law Society event
A record number of solicitors and their guests attended the annual dinner of the Wolverhampton Law Society.
A total of 178 lawyers and other professionals gathered at Molineux Stadium to hear solicitor and noted after dinner speaker Stephen D Smith speak about life in the modern legal profession.
President Alex Thompson of Underhill, Langley & Wright was joined by the presidents of the Walsall, Staffordshire and Birmingham law societies at the dinner of the Wolverhampton Law Society which is now in its 164th year.
Mr Thompson said: “By opening up our annual dinner to other professions and inviting sponsorship from Wesleyan for Lawyers, as well as from No 5 Chambers and St Philips Chambers, we have re-invigorated this event and seen it attract record numbers.
“At a time when the legal profession is facing unprecedented challenges and change, it is heartening to see that local solicitors are working together and communicating well with other professionals.”
Firm wins conveyancing scheme spot
Buller Jeffries’ application for membership to the Law Society’s Conveyancing Quality Scheme has been approved.
The firm had to undergo vigorous assessment in order to secure its CQS status demonstrating that it always meets the highest of standards in the process of conveyancing.
Senior partner Roger Coates said: “A lot of hard work was undertaken in order to enable the firm to obtain this prestigious form of recognition.
“It demonstrates our commitment in providing conveyancing clients with a top quality level of service and the benefits which Buller Jeffries can provide to clients.
“This is particularly important at a time when there are new entrants into the legal services sector who may not be able to, or may not choose to, provide the personal and dedicated service which we pride ourselves on giving to our clients.”