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Could French Contract Law Become the Preferred Governing Law for International Business Contracts?

Posted on: 27 April 2017
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BRYAN  CAVE  LLP  FRANCO-BRITISH INITIATIVE

Could French Contract Law Become the Preferred Governing Law for International Business Contracts?

On January 26 2017, Bryan Cave’s London office hosted a debate on the recently implemented reform of French contract law – the French Civil Code – which is designed to make it the law of choice for international companies. Two teams of lawyers discussed whether French law was now a challenge to the dominance of English law in cross-border contracts.

The English law argument was presented by:

•         Rémy Blain, Bryan Cave M&A Partner and Managing Partner of the Paris office

•         Jeremy Aron, Group Legal Director, Packaging at DS Smith

And the French law argument by:

•         Mathew Rea, Co-head of the Global International Arbitration Team and a Partner in Bryan Cave’s London office

•         Catherine Pédamon, Deputy Head of the LLM Course in International Commercial Law in the Department of Advanced Legal Studies at Westminster Law School and a Senior lecturer in Law

The event was moderated by Peter Rees QC of 39 Essex Chambers. Peter is a leading expert in international arbitration and commercial litigation and the former Legal Director of Royal Dutch Shell plc.

Catherine Pédamon, (centre) with fellow debaters.

Catherine Pédamon (centre) with fellow debaters.

Read the full pdf. here: franco-british-initiative-bryan-cave-flyer_c01v03

LLM Students on two-day visit to the Hague

peace-palace

Posted on: 3 March 2017
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A bonus for LLM students taking the this year was the opportunity to visit some of the main international institutions in The Hague, during two tightly packed days there in January 2017.  The group of sixteen participating in the trip included students from Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, China, Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Uganda and the UK.

The surprise of the trip for me was our first stop, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.  We had touched on its work in International Humanitarian Law but it was probably the institution with which, as a group, we were least familiar.  The talk from its Senior Legal Officer, Grant Dawson, was excellent and what was striking is the OPCW’s success in backing up a treaty with a verification mechanism which has achieved real results in substantially reducing chemical weapons.

We spent the first afternoon at the Peace Palace, stunning inside and out.  It houses the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, to which states can bring their disputes.  We visited at an exciting time, Costa Rica and Ukraine had just instituted proceedings against Nicaragua and the Russian Federation respectively.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration, also based at the Peace Palace, was established in 1899 as the first global mechanism to facilitate the settlement of inter-state disputes.  We had a talk from one of the Assistant Legal Counsel and it was interesting to hear something of the PCA’s evolution over the years to its position now, offering a flexible framework for arbitration.

Our second day moved focus from state level to individual criminal proceedings and began with the morning at the International Criminal Court. As well as a talk and mini-tour we were able to sit in the Public Gallery and see the early stages of the Prosecution’s presentation of its case in the trial of Dominic Ongwen, alleged Brigade Commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army.  Seeing the process in action added an extra dimension to our studies.  We saw the care the Court takes to protect witnesses and the interventions of the Presiding Judge, Judge Bertram Schmitt, to ensure the Prosecution’s examination did not pre-empt future testimonies.

We crossed town for our final visit, to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.  Matthew Gillett, a Trial Attorney at the Office of the Prosecutor, gave us a fascinating insight both into the history of the Tribunal and the practical challenges he and his colleagues have faced.

All of the institutions we visit offer internships and for anyone who was considering applying it was very useful to see what these might involve.

As a whole, the trip added substantial value to our studies and we appreciated the institutions facilitating our visits and the time given by their staff.  The trip was also a chance to get to know better our fellow students and to have what we all agreed was an amazing time. We are grateful to the Law School and other Westminster staff for supporting the trip.

Monique Law

LL.M International Law student

Find out more about our LLM in International Law here

 

A Talk with Craig Sharpe from Darlington’s Solicitors

Posted on: 28 February 2017
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Having been to an array of events held by law firms over the 3 years of my undergraduate study, none have quite compared to the personal and down to earth approach taken by Craig Sharpe when providing us with insight into Darlingtons LLP. From my personal experience, I feel as if many undergraduates are likely to be attracted to international firms due to their generous salaries, secondments abroad and fancy glass buildings. Tunnel vision here ultimately leads to many undergraduates overlooking small/mid-sized firm. The events held by regional firms are quite robotic in that they often begin with a short presentation on the overview of the firm, a question and answer panel and some networking. Oh, and let’s not forget the free drinks. The problem with these events is that even though you get to meet and talk to a variety of individuals in the firm, you’re just a face in a crowd of many students and so it can be hard for you to stand out.

What made the event at Darlingtons special was that Craig took a more personal and informal approach. He didn’t give the usual speech on how the legal profession has become very competitive, instead he took us through a journey of his 30 years working in law and gave us a comparison of what he found good and bad about working at big firms and as a lawyer in general.  He then moved on to give us an insight into how he sees the legal profession will evolve to be like in the future and gave us a visual representation of on the number of lawyers who have received there right to practice. The presentation given didn’t just focus on Darlingtons as a firm. It allowed enough information for a general overview of the profession in addition to advice for doing well in an application to a law firm.  Not only did this give some context towards the profession, it also allowed to appreciate the benefit and disadvantages of being a solicitor whether it be in a big or small firm.

The legal profession has stereotypically been labelled as quite mundane and boring but the event held by Darlingtons broke that stereotype. It was a very social and enjoyable presentation with plenty of time for asking questions and enough information to help students to make an informative decision about their steps after university. One thing that would make the talk even better would be to have another member or even a trainee of the firm share their experience as a lawyer so students get a more broader view of the legal profession as well as the firm.

-Aadil Shara, University of Westminster

Samantha Watson and her training contract at Eversheds

Posted on: 25 April 2016
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Samantha Watson.fw

I chose to study at the University of Westminster because it offers the unique opportunity to study a law degree and the Legal Practice Course in a seamless, four-year course.

I am grateful for the friends that I have made at the University. I feel that studying in the city has given me the opportunity to meet a more diverse range of people from all different walks of life and from different parts of the world. We have shared our experiences – both the high’s and the low’s – and watched as each and every one of us have progressed and discovered which area of law or which career path we wish to go into. There is a real sense of community at the University and the tutors are always there to offer their support and guidance, especially now that we are approaching the final stages.

The thing that I have found the most challenging throughout my degree was drafting coursework to the standard required at undergraduate level. At the start, I struggled to focus my research on the essay title and instead, found myself including irrelevant and unnecessary points. In order to improve on this, I found it helpful to speak to my tutors to discuss my work. I also decided to make use of the legal skills textbooks available in the library, as well as signing up to any tutorial classes for Westlaw or LexisNexis. By seeking help, I was able to identify my weaknesses. I believe that University is about being self-motivated throughout the entirety of the degree and to make the mistakes at this stage so that you can learn from them in the future.

Over the past four years, I have spent a lot of time applying for various positions. Initially, I was not overly picky with where I wanted to be placed; I simply wanted to build on my C.V and gain practical experience. Although I think it is important to show consistency throughout your C.V, I feel that by keeping an open mind about the law firm in which I wanted to be placed, and the sector that I wanted to work in, I was able me to make a well-informed and reasoned decision about my chosen career path. I have gained a wealth of experience in different legal sectors; from local law firms specialising in both private and commercial law, to completing a mini-pupillage in Chambers. For me, it all culminated in my work experience at Eversheds LLP. From the moment I walked through the door, I knew that this was the law firm for me. I decided to apply for a training contract with the firm, and after an emotional and stressful 6-month process, I was delighted to hear that I had been successful in securing a place. What is even better is that, because I am currently studying my LPC, I have been asked to start my training in September 2016, rather than in 2017.

Looking back, I feel that what set me apart from other candidates was my enthusiasm towards working for the firm. I showed a real interest in the work that the firm does and an understanding of the key principles that the firm as a business, and the lawyers as individuals try to uphold. One principle in particular is that Eversheds is renowned for applying its’ innovative flare when it comes to delivering its’ products and services to clients around the world. Knowing this, I made sure to give examples throughout the process of when and how I have demonstrated this characteristic.

Sophie Smith – work experience with Spicer Zeb

Posted on: 14 April 2016
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photo

Each year JD Spicer Zeb, a prominent London Criminal Law Firm,  offers a work placement to the student who received the highest mark in the Crime module. This year this was won by Sophie Smith a 2nd year LLB student.  

During my time at JD Spicer Zeb, I attended Court on numerous occasions which was the most exciting part of the placement.  I attended three different courts:

Highbury and Islington Magistrates Court

At Highbury Court, I spent time shadowing a solicitor, who was acting as an advocate for numerous clients. I spent time reading the case background, and sitting in on client meetings. I was also able to sit in the court room as the case was decided. This experience gave me a real insight into the work of a solicitor at court. I learnt about dealing with clients, courtroom etiquette and fitting each client into a busy schedule.

Woolwich Crown Court

I spent the day in the Public Gallery at Woolwich. I listened to two cases, one of which was a trial.  This was was a fantastic experience, watching the barristers present their cases and listening to how the defendants were questioned. It was an excellent opportunity to see how knowledge I have learnt during my time at University was actually applied in a practical sense in the courtroom.

Harrow Crown Court

At Harrow Crown Court I worked with a Barrister on an important case. The trial was due to start the day I arrived, but due to a number of hold ups the trial was re-scheduled for the following day. However the experienced I gained here was still invaluable. I was able to meet the client and sit in meetings, to discuss how he would manage himself in the Courtroom. I also learnt about scheduling of cases, and how in reality cases do not always pan out as expected due to delays and other various mishaps.

In the Office

I spent a week of my internship in the Kilburn Offices, with various members of the firm. I worked with paralegals and trainees and also undertook important work for partners.

Some of the tasks I was involved in were:

Letter Writing:  I spent time learning from paralegals how letters should be constructed and amended, which some may consider less exciting than the court visits. However this still provided invaluable experience of the basic skills required in practice.

Filing:  I spent the first two days, photocopying and organising case files for various solicitors. This had to be done in a specific way to ensure the barrister/solicitor could use the documents effectively. Again this provided me an insight into the necessary organisational skills required in practice.

Case Reports:  During my time I was also asked to construct a case report for a solicitor on an important case he was working on. I was given a two-day deadline as the Solicitor needed to meet with the client. This proved challenging as there was a significant amount of information to get through and summarise. However it was exceptionally interesting and I was able to read all elements of the defendant’s case from police interviews to witness statements.

Client Meetings: I also spent time with a trainee sitting in on a client meeting where the trainee discussed work I had created for the client. The work I had created for this meeting took a few hours, and involved cross referencing two different lists.

Out of the Office

During my first week, I was entrusted to deliver case files I had put together to a chamber in Chancery Lane. I was simply given an address and no time limit was imposed. This highlighted to me the trust given by the solicitors, and the high expectations of each person working for JD Spicer.

Whilst undertaking the internship with JD Spicer I was also able to get involved and feel part of the team. Each person I met was welcoming and willing to help with any queries I had no matter how busy they were. I also went for lunch on Friday, with the paralegals and other work experience students, which helped me, settle in and feel part of the team.

Overall this experience was fantastic and provided me with first-hand experience which I could use in my future career. I was afforded a significant amount of responsibility early on and was exposed to numerous cases and allowed access to all case details.

I would recommend this experience to anyone who is looking to understand Criminal Law in practice, and would like to know what a solicitors working week really consists of.

Westminster Law Review

Posted on: 12 April 2016
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Westminster Law School’s interdisciplinary Law Review written by students and graduates from University of Westminster and other universities.

Greece calls in the lawyers again: New PSI claim filed at ICSID

Posted on: 2 October 2015
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All opinions are those of the blog post author and do not represent Westminster Law School or the University of Westminster.

It seems one cannot live without lawyers. As anxiety over the legality of the Greek Private Sector Involvement (PSI) deal was abating, Cyprus Popular Bank (Laiki) filed an investment arbitration claim at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) against Greece, claiming billions of euros in compensation for losses suffered in the 2012 Greek bond haircut. Laiki is a known enthusiast for Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and is involved in another action against Greece, this time for the provision (or lack thereof) of Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) to its Greek subsidiaries during the events of 2012 that led to the resolution of Cyprus’ two biggest banks.

The PSI deal, forming the core of this action, has been a key component of the Greek Bailouts and is equally blamed and celebrated for moving the burden of any potential sovereign default from private hands onto public coffers. The PSI deal worked by offering to swap in early 2012 Greek bonds with new ones of a lesser value, a reduction of 53.5%. Why would anyone, however, voluntarily agree to accept such a significant haircut? Bondholders were offered this choice after Greece enacted retrospective legislation inserting what are known as Collective Action Clauses (CACs) in the bond contracts. Such clauses provide that if the majority of bondholders in any given bond issue vote in favour of accepting the offer, then all bondholders are obligated to participate. CACs in other words make bonds similar to shares in corporations: if the majority of shareholders vote for a resolution, an objecting minority cannot block it. A significant number of bondholders roped into this deal through the operation of CACs sought legal redress arguing that their investments had been forcefully expropriated.

One group protesting the PSI haircut consisted of 7000 small-holders, who joined a class suit against Greece arguing expropriation under the Greek Constitution and violations of Human Rights provisions under the European Convention of Human Rights. These arguments were tested in the Greek Council of State in March 2013. The court found for the Greek government arguing that losses were due to the activation of CACs, not by the state act that retrospectively inserted the CACs and found no violations of Article 1 of the Protocol to the ECHR.

A second challenge to the PSI came at ICSID from a Slovakian bank. Poštová Banka and it Cypriot subsidiary Istrokapital argued that, under the Greece-Slovak Republic and the Cyprus-Greece bilateral investment treaties, they were entitled to compensation for losses they suffered due to the PSI, amounting roughly to half the invested amount of €504m. The Poštová claim was the first challenge under Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) and is similar to the new case brought on behalf of Laiki. The objective of an investment treaty, Poštová argued, was for the signatories to create favourable conditions for investments. As the Treaty offered standards of protection and a mechanism for dispute resolution when those standards were violated, ICSID was the appropriate forum to discuss any claims arising out of PSI. BITs are aimed at encouraging foreign investment and for that reason make a series of binding promises to investors. They may, as a result, offer a more varied menu of options to someone wishing to sue, than mere reliance on domestic constitutional and human rights provisions. ISDS clauses in BITs have faced criticism for offering a parallel legal system that exists beyond the reach of domestic courts. Concerns has been especially pronounced in the context of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations. Greece prevailed at ICSID as the Tribunal found that for a variety of technical reasons it did not have jurisdiction to hear the Poštová claim. This finding ended the process without an examination of the substantive claims.

Is the Greek PSI deal in danger after this latest challenge? The short answer is yes. It is unlikely that the advisors of Laiki would have brought a claim if they thought that their client will have the same difficulty on jurisdictional grounds that led to failure in Poštová. While Greece won two challenges on the PSI, one in domestic courts and one in ICSID, the Argentine precedent is not a good omen. The Abaclat case, where a number of Italian bondholders sued Argentina, is illustrative of the sort of action that is becoming more common in the Greek context. While the case is still pending, we have a decision on jurisdiction accepting that the claim comes within BIT provisions and can proceed for consideration on the substantive grounds. Is this the sort of answer one should expect in the new case against Greece? Poštová lost on jurisdiction because of the exact wording of the BIT it was relying on. Investors from one of the other states Greece holds BITs with may have better luck. Bondholder BIT arbitrations remain a danger for Greece.

Dr. Ioannis Glinavos: i.glinavos@westminster.ac.uk

[See here for original post]

The artist contract in the digital world

Posted on: 29 September 2015
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A conversation between Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Chris Ancliff (Warner Music Group) and Paul Pacifico (Featured Artists Coalition) on the evolution of the artist/record company contract.

Following on from previous successful music business related events at Westminster law School, including the Once in a Lifetime negotiation, we are delighted to be able to announce this very special event to take place in October. Chris Ancliff is the General Counsel (International) at the Warner Music Group and was previously General Counsel at EMI Group plc. Paul is the first full time CEO of the Featured Artists Coalition. Nick Mason is a renowned composer, musician and producer, who in some ways will be ‘coming home’ for the event – along with fellow architecture student Roger Waters, he held rehearsals for their band Sigma 6 in the student common room in what is now the Law School building. As part of Pink Floyd he later returned to play in the building’s grand art deco Portland Hall, where this event takes place.
It is now almost 50 years since Pink Floyd signed their first contract with EMI, and the evolution of this relationship will be discussed, along with consideration of various current issues.
Attendance is free, please register online.

Westminster Law School hosts Law Commission symposium on Firearms Law.

Posted on: 23 September 2015
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Westminster Law School was very pleased to host a Law Commission symposium as part of the review of Firearms Law.

The Law Commission published a scoping consultation paper on Firearms Law on 21 July 2015 and the symposium was organised to give stakeholders the opportunity to discuss the issues examined in the paper.

More details about the Law Commission symposium on firearms law.

Professor John Flood on The Rule of Law: are lawyers necessary or even the most capable of maintaining it?

Posted on: 21 September 2015
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Distinguished faculty lecture followed by reception, 29 September 2015, 5pm.

The central argument is that the legal system and the rule of law are now the domain of the legal profession. Professional ethos, which was once based on a compact with the community, has effectively been broken asunder by the entrenchment of neoliberalism. This has entailed justice being subject to economic tests such as cost-benefit analysis and gradually being divorced from any moral force within society. The spirit of Beveridge has been lost. Can we recover this? If so, how? To begin a debate on this I turn to anthropological studies of acephalous societies to show how the law jobs in society could be done with partial help from lawyers and a re-engagement with community.

All welcome, admission free, please register online.