Leading ESG lawyer joins Ben McQuhae & Co in London

Hong Kong boutique law firm Ben McQuhae & Co has strengthened its environmental, social and governance (ESG) advisory practice with the appointment of Paul Watchman.

Watchman, who is also an honorary professor of the School of Law of the University of Glasgow, will be the global head of climate change and ESG transition, based in London.

“Climate change and ESG transition will continue to profoundly impact every business in every economy, and we want to support and accelerate change,” said founding partner Ben McQuhae.

“I have no doubt this will be a deeply rewarding journey for all of us and I look forward to seeing what we can build together.”

Watchman is a recognised leading figure in all areas of ESG and, through a long association with the UN, he closely scrutinises law firms and their developing ESG practices.

He has advised a wide array of clients internationally and has been influential in the development of policy, business and financial practice, legal norms and voluntary codes and standards.

He led the Freshfields team and was the principal author and project head of the UN report on fiduciary duties, known as The Freshfields Report, which was published in 2005 to provide legal foundation for ESG investment.

Watchman’s appointment represents Ben McQuhae & Co’s first expansion to build a multidisciplinary strategic advisory firm to support more clients in more key markets.

Established in 2021, Ben McQuhae & Co focuses on supporting clients to build sustainable finance and pledges to be a net-zero carbon law firm.

More US Law Firms Delaying Large-Scale Office Returns Amid Omicron Fears

Amid the emergence of the Omicron variant of coronavirus, an increasing number of law firms in the United States are delaying large-scale office returns and introducing other Covid-19 measures to protect employees. One large US firm has told employees to work from home, while another is now explicitly requiring Covid-19 booster shots for staff.

On Monday, several large US firms confirmed that they were delaying their return-to-office dates, including Willkie Farr & Gallagher, Cooley, and Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo.

According to an email seen by Reuters, Debevoise & Plimpton told its employees on Friday to work remotely until January 7. The firm had planned for its lawyers to begin a gradual return plan by January 10. However, in the email seen by Reuters, presiding partner Michael Blair said that the firm will wait until early next month to review whether or not the plan should still go ahead.

Like many businesses, recent months have seen law firms struggling with the question of when and how to bring staff back into offices, even on a part-time basis. Some firms had planned to make the return last summer, but the spread of the Delta variant saw such plans upended for many.

Protection of Market Image of Space


Today, search engines can string us 500 million results in half a second and offer and offer us specifically, according to our search habits, profiled results and online ads. The market is increasingly saturated with mass products and services. In an age of increasing digitalization and increasingly present artificial intelligence, we feel that we are constantly short of time.
Uniqueness and originality, as well as a quality user experience in as real a time as possible, are becoming increasingly important. We attract and propose potential new customers and consumers with a unique purchasing and / or user experience of our services and / or products in a very special environment. They return to us again or, with a new purchase, remain loyal to our services / products and thus indirectly to our company.


We invest financial and intellectual capital, our knowledge and experience, our time and the creativity of ourselves and our employees in the development of our own services and products. We transfer the effect of uniqueness and originality to our distribution channels and to the sales service itself and to our sales premises. Our uniqueness and originality is transferred to the shopping experience of our customers and new customers and consumers of our services / products through distribution channels or sales outlets. Therefore, it makes sense to adequately and optimally protect all the intellectual property we create in this way, in accordance with the existing legislation in the countries in which we want to market.

Where the result of our investments and efforts is a special market image of our services / products, our exhibition and sales premises, which differs from competitors and other providers, it makes sense to protect it with the right of registered design to protect the appearance of the product. ).
In the last 15 years, the concept of market image has become more and more popular in Europe, in addition to the concept of corporate image.
With the Slovenian model, the Community model (protected product appearance in all 28 EU countries) and also with the International model, the protection of which is covered by as many as 118 countries, so n. pr. protect different types of market images. Among them are n. pr. market image or corporate image of space, market image or corporate image of interior spaces, market image or corporate image of sales windows, market image or corporate image of the interiors of various other premises, market image or corporate image of the interior of restaurants, market image or corporate image of the interior of ships and other watercraft, market image or corporate identity of the interiors of various land vehicles, etc.

In the next message, we will introduce you to the possibilities of protecting your marketing images in connection with a sound brand.

With our knowledge and many years of experience in our company KETNER d.o.o. we help you compile a patent application for your invention and protect it in the Republic of Slovenia and in many markets abroad, whether in European countries, the United States, Russia, China, India, Brazil, South Africa or any other market. At the same time, we advise you on how to alternatively protect your inventions and innovations and how to properly document their development. All this in order to help optimally protect your inventions and innovations, and thus to create and increase the value of your company and your business.
Be strategic! Protect your intellectual property! With trust in you and in your company or organization, we always strive for you, for your future and the future of Slovenia.
We are happy to represent you in the procedures for the protection of your intellectual property, which we will also evaluate at your request!

HFW boosts transactional expertise in Shanghai

Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) has hired senior partner Brinton Scott and of counsel Danielle Peng in Shanghai to grow its Greater China transactional practice.

Scott joined from Winston & Strawn, where he was Shanghai managing partner for nine years. He has worked in China for almost 25 years, and is the current chair of the legal committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. Scott advises large multinationals and investment funds on corporate matters.

Peng was legal senior director for Asia-Pacific at the US automotive systems and components company Cooper Standard, where she managed legal affairs in China, South Korea, India, Japan and Singapore for four years. She advises multinationals on cross-border M&A and foreign direct investment.

“We’ve been fortunate to bring in some fantastic corporate lawyers in China over the past few years and feel that we’re building something really special here,” said head of HFW’s Shanghai office, partner Nick Poynder.

HFW was one of the first international law firms to open an office in China, in 1978. It launched a transactional practice in Shanghai in 2019.

Baker McKenzie Leverages Reinvent Platform for Transition Away From LIBOR

Leading global law firm Baker McKenzie has developed and launched Reinvent LIBOR – an innovative solution designed to manage the transition away from the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) for a distinct set of clients operating in the securitization market. Available to all clients, but of particular interest to service providers within the structured finance market (such as corporate service providers and corporate trustees), Reinvent LIBOR combines legal expertise, process experts and the latest technology to help manage the time and cost intensive transition process associated with certain transaction types.

The LIBOR benchmark will start being phased out at the end of 2021 after banks in Britain and elsewhere were fined billions of dollars for trying to manipulate what was once dubbed the world’s most important number. The transition away from LIBOR is seen by many as significantly challenging, particularly in the context of so-called “tough legacy” transactions, which currently reference LIBOR and have no realistic ability to be renegotiated, converted or amended before the end of 2021.

Reinvent LIBOR was developed by Sarah Porter, a partner in the Firm’s Structured Finance Group in London, and aims to make this transition as efficient as possible. This was developed as part of Baker McKenzie’s Reinvent Fellows program, an innovation initiative whereby lawyers are given time away from their fee-earning work to focus on tangible service delivery improvements by either changing how the Firm works or addressing a material client problem.

Identifying and remedying a transition of this type requires large-scale due diligence and repapering across multiple finance documents. A tailored Baker McKenzie Online site is used to connect Firm lawyers, clients and legal project managers to enable better collaboration throughout the transition project. Reinvent LIBOR draws on Machine Learning Contract Analytics platform eBrevia, which is used to assist with the due diligence phase, and then inter-faces with Contract Express, the Firm’s document automation platform, to automate the creation of relevant documentation. The Firm’s legal project management team coordinate the entire process to ensure efficient implementation of this technology as well as a standardized approach to each project.

Baker McKenzie’s structured finance lawyers are then able to focus on addressing the complex and challenging issues that arise from LIBOR transition and deliver a dedicated and high quality solution.

“In short, each stage of the process is carried out by those with the best skillset to do so”, explains Sarah Porter. “The project draws on the talents of a number of our professionals – the Service Design team, Lawyers, Legal Project Managers and Alternative Legal Services. We are really pushing the boundary of legal service delivery in order to deliver the best possible service to our clients”.

Reinvent is Baker McKenzie’s innovation program. It is the Firm’s ongoing commitment to apply clever solutions to meet client challenges and strategic goals by accelerating change, and delivering speed, accuracy, flexibility and efficiency gains. Reinvent brings together Baker McKenzie’s change initiatives in support of better client outcomes, connecting service design, alternative legal services and legal project management teams, the Global e-Discovery and Data Advisory team, the innovation fellowship, legal tech start up program, and more.

Credit Scenarios to Improve Your Collection Rate

For the sake of your company’s bottom line and continued good relationships with good customers who fall behind on their bills, it’s important to know what condition their finances are in when things go wrong.

That way, when circumstances change and some of your customers become hard pressed to make payments, you can tailor your approach to their individual needs. If you can modify your accounts collection process to match the financial scenario, you will be able to keep your best customers happy and preserve your business relationship. Read more

Zimbabwe Court rules national pledge is unconstitutional

The Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe on Monday ruled that the country’s national pledge was an unconstitutional violation of school children’s right to freedom of conscience and parental rights.

The court’s decision comes four years after Mathew Sogolani applied to the court on the basis of the national pledge’s unconstitutionality. The father of three argued that the national pledge amounted to “fascist propaganda.” Sogolani was represented by David Hofisi of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights who filed Sogolani’s application in April 2016. The application called for the court to suspend the mandatory recitation of the pledge in schools. The national pledge went into effect in May 2016.

Sogolani took issue with the pledge’s inclusion of the term “Almighty God” in an otherwise secular pledge:

Almighty God, in whose hands our future lies, I salute the national flag. United in our diversity by our common desire from freedom, justice and equality. Respecting the brave fathers and mothers who lost lives in the Chimurenga/Umvukela and national liberation struggles. We are proud inheritors of the richness of our natural resources. We are proud inheritors of the richness of our natural resources. We are creators and participants in our vibrant traditions and cultures. We commit to honesty and the dignity of hard work.

As a member of the Apostolic Faith Mission church, Sogolani found the inclusion of religious language in government “offensive to his faith.” Hofisi argued that the pledge violated Sogolani’s constitutional rights todignity, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and equal protection of the law. He also told the court that the pledge was written “in the manner of an oath, a prayer and seems, in the very least, a religious observance.” Sogolani argued that the pledge misused the language of shared by his faith by including God in an oath otherwise addressed to the nation of Zimbabwe.

At the time of its introduction, then Minister of Primary and Secondary Education Professor Paul Mavhima defended the national pledge by pointing to similar customs in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Both countries include a pledge/oath of allegiance before commencing official government matters. But the court rejected this argument and found for Hofisi and Sogolani.

Federal appeals court blocks Cuomo’s limits on religious gatherings in New York

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Monday that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions on the number of attendees at religious gatherings were likely to be a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment. The Court enjoined the state from enforcing these limits, put in place to address the spread of COVID-19 in areas with the highest prevalence.

Governor Cuomo issued an executive order in October that categorized areas into “zones,” which were assigned colors corresponding to their COVID-19 rates. In all zones, a capacity limit was imposed on houses of worship, but not on essential businesses.

These measures were reviewed by the Supreme Court in late November, and it held similarly that the executive order be blocked because the plaintiffs, including Agudath Israel of America and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, New York, were likely to succeed in challenging these measures once the case was fully litigated.

The Second Circuit took particular issue with the separate identification of houses of worship for certain restrictions. It found the classification of essential businesses versus non-essential businesses, which also have different restrictions, to be “questionable” in some cases. It pointed to the fact that Cuomo “has not asserted that his categorization of businesses as ‘essential’ or ‘non-essential’ was based on any assessment of COVID-19 transmission risk.” Particularly, Cuomo failed to cite data supporting his belief that places of worship have greater transmission rates.

Allen & Overy and Khoshaim & Associates end cooperation agreement

Firms will continue to work together but say a looser arrangement suits their strategic needs

Allen & Overy (A&O) and its Saudi Arabian partner Khoshaim & Associates (K&A) have ended their co-operation agreement with both sides stating the benefits of working with a wider range of law firms.

The exclusive agreement was struck in 2012 with Allen & Overy marketing the relationship on its website and through joint announcements. It was quietly shelved on 9 October, although both sides have stressed they will continue to work closely going forward.

“We have seen an increase in the volume and range of matters for which clients are seeking support in Saudi Arabia,” A&O said in a statement. “In order to increase our capacity to meet this demand we have taken the decision to work with a broader range of law firms in the Kingdom.”

K&A managing partner Zeyad Khoshaim added: “This joint decision serves each firm’s strategic interests. For K&A, it allows us to be independent and work with other firms, including US-based firms. This opens up opportunities to work on a wider set of matters and service clients from the US, amongst other jurisdictions with strong ties to Saudi Arabia.”

K&A, which is based in Riyadh, has four partners, three counsel and around 35 lawyers. It is highly rated in the Chambers and Partners directory with Khoshaim ranked as a Band 1 individual.

Khoshaim – who originally joined A&O as a partner in 2010 – said the practice had grown into a full-service firm, expanding its partnership and opening an office in Jeddah.

He added that the multi-billion-dollar Vision 2030 strategy to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from oil had generated a lot of interest from US companies . This, he said, “put the firm in a good position to advise US-based companies like AMC and Johns Hopkins University on their investments, and collaborate with other firms with specialised expertise on mega deals like Saudi Aramco’s acquisition of SABIC, Saudi Aramco’s IPO, and the SAMBA/NCB merger”.

For its part, A&O, which has regional offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, underlined its Middle East credentials.

“As one of the law firms with the longest established presences in the Middle East,” it said, “we remain committed to the region and we believe this decision will best serve our clients in Saudi Arabia and around the world in the longer term.”

In August, the two firms cooperated on two major deals for Saudi Electricity Company; a $2.4bn syndicated murabaha facility agreement provided by a syndicate of Saudi banks and and a %1.3bn dual-tranche green sukuk. A&O’s Dubai team advised on the first deal with a London team spearheading work on the latter.

In March A&O ended its longstanding alliance with its Romanian ally in a move that saw six-partner Radu Taracila Padurari Retevoescu (RTPR) relaunch as a standalone practice.

However, in January the magic circle UK firm become the latest international practice to forge a formal alliance with a local practice in Shanghai.

What’s A Lawyer Now? Law’s Shift From Practice To Skill

During a recent visit to the National University of Singapore Law School (NUS), I asked a first-year student what being a lawyer meant to him. His response was thoughtful and prescient: “I regard law as a skill. I plan to leverage my legal training and meld it with my passion for business, technology, and policy. For me, law is not about practice.” Out of the mouths of babes!

Why The Practice/Skill Distinction Matters

The distinction between practicing law and engaging in the delivery of legal services—the business of law–is critically important to a wide range of existing and prospective legal industry stakeholders. That list includes: those contemplating a legal career (not necessarily licensure); law students; the legal Academy; allied professional programs (e.g. business, engineering, computer science); practicing lawyers; legal providers; legal consumers; and the broader society.

Why does this distinction matter? Because law—like so many industries—is undergoing a tectonic shift. It is morphing from a lawyer dominated, practice-centric, labor-intensive guild to a tech-enabled, process and data-driven, multi-disciplinary global industry. The career paths, skills, and expectations of lawyers are changing. So too are how, when, and on what financial terms they are engaged; with whom and from what delivery models they work; their performance metrics, and the resources—human and machine—they collaborate with.  Legal practice is shrinking and the business of delivering legal services is expanding rapidly.

Law is no longer the exclusive province of lawyers. Legal knowledge is not the sole element of legal delivery—business and technological competencies are equally important. It’s a new ballgame—one that most lawyers are unprepared for. Law schools continue to focus on doctrinal law even as traditional practice positions are harder to come by—especially for newly-minted grads.

Law firms have yet to materially change  hiring criteria or to accord equal status and compensation to allied legal professionals. Several large firms have recently announced the launch of ancillary business of law offerings. That requires different workforces, processes, technology platforms, reward systems, organizational structures, capital and capabilities from traditional law firms. It also requires client-centricity and an alignment with business that is generally lacking among law firms.  Translation: it’s easier announced than delivered, especially when the law companies are led by law firm partners whose careers have been forged in different structural and economic models.

Lawyers in the early and middle-stages of their careers are caught in the shifting currents of law’s transformation. Legal knowledge is becoming a skill to be leveraged with new competencies. It is no longer, by itself, sufficient to forge a successful legal career. Most mid-career lawyers  tend to be resistant to change even as the necessity to do so becomes more acute by the day. Older lawyers are riding out the change storm and banking they will make it until retirement.

How did we get here and are legal careers  for most a dead end? Spoiler alert: there’s tremendous opportunity in the legal industry. The caveat: all lawyers must have basic business and technological competency whether they pursue practice careers or leverage their legal knowledge as a skill in legal delivery and/or allied professional careers.

Legal Practice: Back To Basics

What is legal practice? It is rendering service to clients competently,  zealously and within legal and ethical boundaries. Lawyers make this compact not only with clients that retain them but also with society for whom they serve as the ultimate defenders of the rule of law. There are three main elements of practice; legal expertise, judgment, and persuasion. Practicing attorneys are in the persuasion business whether they engage in trials or transactions. Persuasion has several elements: emotional intelligence, credibility, command of the legal craft, and earning trust—of  the client, opposing counsel, and the trier of fact in contested matters.

Legal practice was the presumptive career path of most lawyers for generations.  As law firms grew—especially from the 1970’s-the global financial crisis of 2007–fewer lawyers had direct client interaction. Client skills eroded, and the legal zeitgeist turned inward. The attorney’s supervisor(s) became the client proxy. Most lawyers were unaware of the clients’ objectives, risk tolerance, and business challenges. Legal practice, especially for younger lawyers, often involved tedious, repetitious, high-volume/low-value work. Many lawyers became bored, disillusioned, and unaware of what legal practice means from the client perspective.

Generations of lawyers—especially those in large law firms—were high-priced, well-paid cogs in the law firm wheel. Their principal mission was to satisfy billing and realization goals in pursuit of the partnership gold ring. It was not for them to question the materiality of their work or to assess its value relative to cost or outcome. High salaries created a false positive measure of their client value. They were far removed from the client and worked on discrete slivers of matters. This was their “practice.” The firm—not the client—was the entity to serve and to satisfy. Firms focused on profit-per-partner (PPP), not net-promoter score (NPS).

Legal practice for many lawyers has been diluted. That’s not an indictment of attorneys or a slight to their intelligence, diligence, and ability to make better use of their licenses. Susan Hackett and Karl Chapman describe this underutilization as working “at the bottom of the license.” Too many lawyers are doing just that, and that’s one reason why legal buyers are migrating work once performed by law firms to new provider sources. Optimization of value—deploying the right resource to the appropriate task—is a foundational element of business in the digital age. The legal industry is lagging.

Clients continue to pay a premium for those lawyers—and a handful of firms– with differentiated practice skills. This is a narrow band of practitioners that work “at the top of their license” on the highest-value client matters. Legal buyers are increasingly balking at paying such a premium to others. The universe of high-value, “bet the company” work is a small fraction of legal work. This diverges from law’s go-go decades when lawyers and firms perpetuated the myth that all work they performed was “bespoke.”

Regulators in the UK and a handful of other jurisdictions have opened the door to other professionals (“non-lawyers” in legal parlance) handling many tasks once performed exclusively by lawyers. The Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) has  winnowed down the list of “regulated activities” –those requiring licensed attorneys– from a far broader range of lawyer/law firm activities. In the U.S., corporate clients are narrowing that list on their own. The myth of legal exceptionalism has been debunked.

The Business of Law Is a Response to Practice Inflation and The Need For New Skills

Corporate clients, not lawyers, now determine what’s “legal” and when licensed attorneys are required (it’s a different but changing story in the retail legal segment). That’s why legal practice is compressing and the business of delivering legal services—the business of law—is expanding. It’s also why so much capital is being pumped into “alternative legal service providers” and why their market share is increasingly briskly. The 2019 Georgetown/Thomson Reuters Report on the State of the Legal Market (The Georgetown Report) chronicles the migration of work from firms and highlights several of its causes. The Report calls for “rebuilding the law firm model.”  Law firms continue to be practice-centric and inward-focused (to maximize PPP) in a marketplace that is becoming customer-centric, digital, data-based, tech-enabled, diverse, agile, multidisciplinary, and cost-effective.

Where does this leave lawyers? We are, paradoxically, returning to what it meant to be a lawyer before the ranks of the profession swelled and law firms became highly profitable, undifferentiated big box stores. Practice is once again becoming the province of those lawyers best equipped to engage in it. For the larger universe of the profession, their careers will take a different turn. Most practice careers will morph into delivering legal services—the business of law– and/or to allied professions and businesses. For most lawyers, legal expertise will become a skill, not a practice.

The new legal career paths—and there are many– require new skillsets, mindsets, and a focus on serving clients/customers. Upskilling the legal profession is already a key issue, a requisite for career success. Lawyers must learn new skills like project management, data analytics, deployment of technology, and process design to leverage their legal knowledge. Simply knowing the law will not cut it anymore. The good news is that many lawyers will be liberated from the drudgery of faux practice careers. Armed with new skills, they will be have a plethora of career paths.

Practice in the Age of End-to-End Solutions

The distinction clients draw between high-value legal expertise and everything else in their portfolios explains the marked divide between approximately twenty elite firms and the pack. This small cadre of firms handle a disproportionate percentage of premium “bet-the-company” work and are paid commensurately. It also explains the ascendency of the alternative legal service providers that now handle more and increasingly complex work once sourced solely to law firms. These providers are not yet vying for premium legal work, but they are in the hunt for everything else. They hold a distinct edge over law firms because of their customer-centricity, alignment with business, DNA,  structural organization, economic model, technology platforms, capital, multidisciplinary, agile, diverse workforces, delivery capability, scalability, and cost-predictability and efficiency.

Companies like the Big Four, UnitedLex, Axiom, and Burford Capital  are already home to thousands of attorneys– as well as engineers, data analysts, consultants, technologists, and other allied legal professionals. Their attorney headcount will increase  in the coming years due to client demand and heightening pressure on the non-elite partnership model law firms. For most attorneys that work in these companies, law will be a is skill, not practice. That’s why legal knowledge must be augmented by other competencies to enable lawyers to make the transition from firms. There is also a cultural component to the transformation: success is measured by results and client satisfaction, not by hours billed.


The new legal career is about melding legal knowledge with other competencies to better serve clients and to solve problems. Whether that’s termed practice or delivery, the client is once again the focus. Law is returning to its service roots and that’s a good thing.

What does this mean  to those contemplating becoming a lawyer?  The decision to attend three years of law school, incur six-figure debt (it’s different outside the U.S.), and secure licensure is a personal one that involves many variables. Other paths to a meaningful legal career exist and more will be available in the near future.