Tag: coronavirus

Coronavirus update: The Legal 500 pushes back research schedule to ease pressure on clients and firms

The Legal 500 is pushing back its research schedule in response to the coronavirus pandemic, suspending all client contact for the next four weeks.

At a time when law firms and their clients are under unprecedented pressure, we have taken the decision not to add to the burden. All client feedback surveys for the UK Solicitors Guide, the UK Bar and Latin America will be suspended for four weeks, until the end of April. For the UK this will affect first-time contact with London clients and client survey re-sends for everywhere outside London.

Our reason is clear: in-house legal teams have more than enough to deal with now with the impact coronavirus is having on their businesses and infrastructure. Neither they, nor the firms they instruct, need us to add to this strain.

For the same reason, we will also be extending the interview period for both London and Latin America research. It will now be possible for firms to speak to our London research team until 26 June, and to our Latin America researchers until 22 May. Interviewing for London will not start until after 30 April.

Our relationships with law firms, and their clients, are fundamental to The Legal 500’s ethos, and critical to our research. For this reason it is vital that we are as flexible as possible during this crisis.

We will continue to assess the on-going impact of the coronavirus outbreak on future research projects such as Asia Pacific, EMEA, Deutschland and the US over the coming weeks and will be equally flexible. Research for everywhere in the UK outside London is unaffected as most interviews have already taken place.

If you have questions or concerns, please do get in touch. Stay safe.


Georgina Stanley is UK editor at The Legal 500, the sister brand to The Lex 100

Click here to see The Legal 500 statement in full

Freshfields and Slaughters drafted as Government reveals details of Covid-19 business support package

The UK Treasury and Bank of England (BoE) have called in their go-to counsel Slaughter and May and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer as they iron out details of the multibillion-pound support scheme to underwrite British business through the coronavirus crisis.

The UK Government announced last week the Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility to help companies with cash flow as the rapid spread of the virus has forced governments to put a third of the world’s population in shutdown.

Under the scheme, the BoE will buy short-term bonds to ensure businesses making a material contribution to the UK economy can continue to pay staff and suppliers, upon the condition that they demonstrate they were financially-healthy before the crisis. The facility will operate for an initial period of 12 months.

Slaughters’ finance partners Matthew Tobin, Oliver Storey and Guy O’Keefe are advising the Treasury alongside corporate partner Nilufer von Bismarck (pictured) and state aid partner Isabel Taylor. Slaughters’ core role to Whitehall echoes its high-profile mandate during the financial crisis when it advised the Treasury on a wide-ranging bank bailout.

A Freshfields team led by financial services chief Michael Raffan is acting for the BoE, the Magic Circle firm’s most celebrated client.

The scheme is one of several unprecedented economic measures disclosed by the Government in response to the unfolding crisis. UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Friday (20 March) a coronavirus job retention scheme to offer all employers access to a grant covering up to 80% of the average wage to prevent widespread layoffs.

Businesses will not be expected to pay VAT for a quarter until the end of June and will not be liable for VAT deferred during that period until the end of the 2020/21 financial year.

Speaking to Legal Business about the measures, Hogan Lovells head of public law and policy Charles Brasted said they were ‘directly feeding into what our clients are thinking about in terms of how they can maximise what they retain over the next few months’.

‘It’s almost inevitably not the end of it, it’s not a one-off package,’ he added, saying that new measures will be likely to address the self-employed: ‘A lot of the measures at the moment work easily if you are on pay as you earn but not so easily if you are self-employed, and the government is looking closely about what it can do [on that front].’


This article first appeared on Legal Business.

Guest post: Coronavirus tears up competition regimes for foreign investments as Europe struggles to shield reeling economies

COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc with the global economy, disrupting all manner of business throughout the world. Stock markets have plummeted and many companies are having to grapple with economic damage that seemed unimaginable at the start of the year.

This unprecedented environment could afford opportunistic buyers the chance to acquire or invest in companies that have been weakened by the crisis. In addition, creditors may unintentionally find themselves in a position where they acquire control over a business.

Before the crisis, the world was already de-globalising with rising national protectionism driving calls for stronger screening of foreign investment across the globe. Now, COVID-19 has prompted some countries to take an even more drastic approach. Some national governments, notably in Europe, are now taking steps to protect companies that have become vulnerable as their economies are struggling from being taken over by foreign investors.

The Spanish government has just introduced a new temporary requirement that ex-ante approval will be required for foreign (non-EU) direct investments in strategic sectors in Spain.

This affects investments in Spanish companies by non-EU/EFTA entities where the foreign investor would (i) hold a stake of 10% or more in the share capital of (ii) acquire the right to participate in the management of or (iii) acquire control of a Spanish company, and applies to a broad range of sectors, namely:

• energy, transport, water, health, communications, media, data processing or storage, aerospace, defence, electoral or financial infrastructure and sensitive facilities;

• critical technologies and dual-use items, including artificial intelligence, robotics, semiconductors, cyber-security, aerospace, defence, energy storage, quantum and nuclear technologies, as well as nanotechnologies and biotechnologies;

• supply of key inputs, in particular energy, raw materials and food security; and,

• sectors with access to sensitive information, in particular personal data, or with the ability to control such information.

The French Minister of Economy has stated that the government is ready to protect important French companies by recapitalising them, buying shares or even taking them over. The government has also stated that nationalisation of strategic companies will not be ruled out.

The Italian government, meanwhile, is considering qualifying all Italian companies listed on the Milan Stock Exchange as ‘strategic’ for the purposes of applying the existing Special Powers rules under the foreign investment review regime. This would mean that the Special Powers, which allow the Prime Minister to veto or impose conditions on certain transactions in the defence/homeland security, telecoms, energy, and transportation sectors, could be extended to foreign investment in all Italian-listed entities.

The Hungarian government is able to prevent acquisitions by non-EEA entities in certain strategic industries (eg, finance, telecommunications, energy, defence) for public reasons, including national safety, energy supply, and financial stability. COVID-19 has prompted the government to take control of 140 strategically-important companies in various sectors.

In summary, some countries are using foreign investment screening to protect wider economic and social concerns triggered by COVID-19. At present, this approach seems to be limited to Europe, which makes sense as this region has been declared, for now, as the ‘epicentre’ of the global pandemic. However, as the virus continues to spread, it is possible other countries could take a similar stance to protect their national interests and economies.

These developments highlight the need for investors to carefully consider foreign investment review risks at this highly-sensitive and volatile time both for deals currently underway and transactions being contemplated. Cross-border transactions in strategic sectors will likely encounter tougher scrutiny and face a prolonged approval process. Taking time to understand the rules and identify a regulatory strategy – including calibrated communication with the relevant governmental authorities and thinking about the impact on deal documentation – early in the bid process will minimize the risk of delays, last-minute changes to the deal structure, or failed transactions.

For potential bidders the basic message is that the environment for corporate transactions has already been transformed in Europe by this crisis, and perhaps soon the world. Never has it been more relevant for companies to keep in mind the age-old advice for acquirers: buyer beware.

Samantha Mobley is a partner in Baker McKenzie’s competition and trade practice in London.

This article first appeared on Legal Business.

Coronavirus latest: Supreme Court goes virtual as junior lawyers plea against postponing exams

For the first time in its history, the Supreme Court conducted a case entirely through video conferencing this morning (24 March), after taking the decision to close its building to the public due to the spread of Covid-19.

The move saw the matter of Fowler (Respondent) v Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (Appellant) conducted virtually, with all cases and judgment hand-downs set to continue via video conferencing until further notice. The measures will see legal teams and counsel, as well as each of the justices, located separately.

The first judgment handed down under the new arrangements will be Elgizouli (Appellant) v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Respondent)  tomorrow morning, with the hand-down set to be streamed by the Supreme Court before becoming available through an on-demand service.

Though the new measures will remain for the foreseeable future, the Supreme Court has stated it will be keeping them under ongoing review. The move towards video conferencing comes after the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, was among those to intervene last week calling for courts to adapt amid the worsening crisis. On Monday, Lord Burnett also revealed that no new trials will start, and ongoing trials will be paused as arrangements are put in place to ensure they can continue safely.

Elsewhere, the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) has written to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) raising concerns about the regulator’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak, in particular the decision to defer Legal Practice Course (LPC) exams until the autumn.

The letter read: ‘We understand the SRA’s need to maintain the integrity of exams. However, we are concerned about the implications of delaying LPC exams until autumn 2020, as was the SRA’s initial response. Importantly, there is no known timescale for this virus and its implications on society. It therefore seems unworkable to suggest a later timeframe to simply postpone exams until. An alternative solution needs to be found now.’

The JLD also raised concerns that further clarification was required for trainee solicitors on issues such as working from home, sick leave, access to supervision and the availability of newly qualified positions.


This article first appeared on Legal Business.