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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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Digitalisation and the integration of technology in businesses across all sectors has continued, with the claim that ‘every company is a technology company’ becoming ever more relevant. This has seen significant outsourcing and procurement projects and investment in emerging and disruptive technologies and start-ups. Key technology trends include the development of AI, machine learning, uses for block chain and an uptick in the use of cloud computing services. The move to tech-based solutions is also being reflected within infrastructure projects in the public sector.

Mobile providers have been undergoing significant transformation projects in response to the increased pressures for a reliable and fast service. This is a result of rapidly developing technologies (including a focus on the internet of things and autonomous vehicles), an increased use of cloud services and a substantial growth in data volumes. While the rollout of 5G is not yet imminent, planning for this is already underway, with several firms instructed to advise on preparation. Other trends include a continuation of the consolidation seen across the telecoms market in recent years, and a focus on network sharing.

On the contentious front, the decision in Unwired Planet v Huawei — relating to licensing issues surrounding standard essential patents in this sector and the obligation to license those patents on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) terms — has gained a lot of attention. Further litigation in this area currently ongoing is likely to clarify the extent of the impact and application of this judgement.

Another major development in patent law has been the UK’s decision to remain in the Unified Patent Court Agreement after Brexit.  Although the Brexit vote continues to generate uncertainty within the general IP market, brand-owners seem to be undeterred by these precarious conditions and continue to apply for UK and EU trademarks in greater numbers.

That said, firms also saw a steady stream of international (predominantly US) and EU-based brand owners seeking advice and assistance with the new GDPR compliance regulations as well on broader issues such as the validity and enforceability of EU trademarks within the UK Courts and across the EU.

Relevant partner moves in the sector saw Wiggin LLP merge with Redd Solicitors and former IP practice head Nicola Dagg leave Allen & Overy LLP  for  Kirkland & Ellis International LLP.

Generally considered one of the ‘sexier’ areas of law, fintech has been providing London’s lawyers with an opportunity to be at the vanguard of innovation, much of which is continuing to shape the financial sector. In fact, most major financial institutions have adopted the “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” maxim: rather than competing with disruptive start-ups, they have often been buying them out.

Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) have been making the headlines and though many law firms have been wary of involving themselves in what remains a regulatory grey area, a few have successfully handled ICOs, approaching them as securities transactions. Distributed ledger technology (DLT), which has broader uses than just cryptocurrency, is well known to fintech lawyers; while payments work, insurtech and regtech have also been keeping practices very busy.

The omnipresence of technology can also be seen in the life sciences sector with more and more advancements being made in the area of healthcare technology. 3D printing is set to become a key game-changer, where the bio printing of prosthetics, tissues and implants could potentially revolutionise the entire industry. Digital health is also a major trend, as healthcare providers are increasingly turning towards their ‘Big Data’ to analyse and discover patterns that may lead further developments in this field. And of course, the industry was also faced with the rather unenviable task of making its data fully compliant with GDPR regulations.

In the advertising and marketing space, ad-tech maintains a dominant position, with several practices now seeing a much greater proportion of their work falling within the ‘non-traditional’ new media advertising area.  Digital media advertising and social media content placing remains at the forefront of the industry, and although the Advertising Standard Authority continues to heavily regulate conduct standards in this area, the fast-moving digital market is thus far outpacing the regulatory body on matters such as gender stereotyping and regulation of age appropriate content. Consequently practitioners are employing more commercially reactive and innovative tactics to exploit regulatory gaps within the digital media advertising space and influencer marketing.

In the world of sport, player-agent disputes and “Rule K” arbitration (arbitration proceeding from a particular clause in the Football Association’s rulebook) have been the source of much contentious work in football, while anti-doping – in cycling and athletics in particular – has become a specialism for many lawyers. Governance and data have been increasingly active areas for sports practices; e-sports are another area of growth.

The legal market has seen significant shake-ups at the top end: having seen much of its practice go to new boutique firm Northridge Law LLP, Charles Russell Speechlys LLP merged with sports boutique Couchmans LLP . Level Law is another recent boutique fielding lawyers from several well-regarded practices, including legacy Couchmans LLP .

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