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The Legal 500 Hall of Fame Icon The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence. The Hall of Fame highlights, to clients, the law firm partners who are at the pinnacle of the profession. In the United Kingdon, the criteria for entry is to have been recognised by The Legal 500 as one of the elite leading lawyers for eight years. These partners are highlighted below and throughout the editorial.
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This chapter is intended to reflect the capabilities of law firms which best demonstrate an ability to assist clients with anticipating and managing emerging business issues.

A major area of activity for law firms has involved advising clients on minimising the risks, and maximising potential commercial opportunities, arising from the UK’s upcoming exit from the European Union in March 2019. Notwithstanding internal political uncertainties in the UK, firms have been kept busy advising clients on their contingency planning arrangements. In addition to providing non-contentious legal advice to clients, other relevant examples of work in this space include engaging with industry associations and government departments.

Also notable is that corporate governance is an area of concern for listed companies, which need to have in place an established set of policies and procedures in order to balance the interests of all stakeholders. Following a government review of corporate governance reform, the Financial Reporting Council has published a new Corporate Governance Code (which is applicable to all companies with a premium listing) to take effect from January 2019. In addition, high-profile examples of poor corporate governance at companies such as BHS have put into perspective the need for large private companies to be more accountable in how they do business. The Financial Reporting Council has also developed a voluntary set of principles to improve governance at private companies.

Projects involving preparing clients for the General Data Protection Regulation – which was implemented into UK law by the Data Protection Act 2018 on the 25th May – have continued to be at the forefront of work for firms over the past 12 months. For companies with international offices, the transfer of personal data overseas has been a significant focus and has led to an increase of advice surrounding Binding Corporate Rules. While compliance work will continue beyond May 2018, an increase in contentious matters (both in terms of ICO enforcement and civil actions) is anticipated following the legislation taking effect. The emphasis on personal data rights has also taken prominence in the media, with high-profile matters such as the allegations against Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. The combination of media attention, changes in the regulatory environment and the growth in the monetisation of data has resulted in the emphasis of data protection matters through all stages of business management and transactions.

In the area of corporate crime, the main talking point from law firms has been the recent appointment of the new head of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Lisa Osofsky, a former US prosecutor and FBI counsel. It remains to be seen what Osofky’s appointment will mean for the SFO; she has previously stated that she was in favour of merging the SFO with the NCA, but has backtracked on this statement since being appointed.

In 2017, the Criminal Finances Act came into effect, setting out new corporate offences relating to the failure to prevent the facilitation of UK and overseas tax evasion. It also creates new measures relating to money-laundering, corruption and other financial crimes.

Elsewhere, the Court of Appeal recently heard the case of SFO v ENRC (judgment is still pending on this matter) which could have major implications for legal professional privilege, and could also have a major impact on firms’ self-reporting of misbehaviour.

Reputation management is another source of work for firms, with matters involving issues such as privacy, data protection and phone hacking, among others.

Interview with...

Law firm partners and practice heads explain how their firms are adapting to clients' changing needs

Interview with...

Law firm partners and practice heads explain how their firms are adapting to clients' changing needs

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