Contact Law blog



Divorced father uses "barter" to pay child maintenace

This is an Italian case, but makes interesting reading.

An innovative solution was agreed between parents when it came to child maintenance payments. They agreed the father would pay 70% by way of "credits" which are exchanged for goods and services.

Marco Grazzini, 43, from Tuscany, a broker by profession, had trouble in paying child maintenance to his former wife, so he decided to barter. He is separated from Eleonora, 39, an insurer and, like many fathers in his position, he was obliged to leave the family home, thereby doubling his expenses. “I was struggling each month to pay maintenance for my child so my ex-wife and I ended up arguing.”

But then Marco found an answer.

“I asked her if she wanted to receive part of the maintenance in credits, which I had maturing.” Marco belongs to a group called Affari Senza Soldi (Business Without Money), an association that brings together tradesmen and professionals willing to sell their goods or services in return, not for euros, but for credits which can be exchanged within the group.
Musician James Rhodes wins court battle over right to publish book.

Pianist James Rhodes who had previously been barred from publishing his memoirs, has won a court battle that will now see an injunction lifted, allowing him to publish the book in which he tells of being sexually abused as a child.

The publishers of the book, who had previously been kept anonymous along with Mr Rhodes have been revealed as Canongate.

A ban was placed upon publication of the book after lawyers representing Mr Rhode's ex-wife obtained a temporary injunction stopping it's release.

It had been argued that the book which details the serious sexual abuse that he was subjected to as a young child, would have caused Mr Rhode's son 'catastrophic psychological distress' if he were to ever read it.

Following the high court rejecting his ex-wife's request to have large parts of the book banned, a temporary injunction was imposed by the court of appeal and it was ordered that a trial should take place in which it would have to be decided whose rights took priority, the boy's or his father's.

However, a supreme court ruling has now overturned that decision. Delivering the judgement, Lord Toulson said: “Freedom to report the truth is a basic right to which the court gives a high level of protection, and the author’s right to his story includes the right to tell it as he wishes.

“There is every justification for the publication. A person who has suffered in he way the appellant has suffered, and has struggled to cope with the consequences of his suffering in the way that he has struggled, has the right to tell the world about it. And there is the corresponding public interest in others being able to listen to his life story in all its searing detail.”

“Freedom to report the truth is a basic right to which the court gives a high level of protection, and the author’s right to his story includes the right to tell it as he wishes..."
Chaos expected as France rewrites civil law

An extensive refurbishment of French civil law is expected to lead to chaos throughout the country's legal system.

Leading lawyers have commented that the rewrite - the first since the days of Napoleon I - could threaten the validity of almost every commercial contract signed in the country.

The reform of 'Code civil', initially drafted in 1804, was announced by the country's justice minister Christiane Taubira in February this year. The aim of such upheaval is to simplify the law in France and as a result bring it into line with international standards.

It is no secret that 'Code civil' required drastic modernisation with phrases such as 'bonnes moeurs' (good morals) being cut out of the legislation altogether.

‘The language of the 18th century, admirable as it might be, is not well adapted to 21st century conversations,’ Carole Champalaune, head of civil affairs at the ministry, commented.

City lawyers and academic experts say the reform is being conducted in haste, with inadequate consultation, and that it introduces measures which would open commercial contracts to judicial challenge if a party later changed their mind.

‘It is extremely worrying,’ said Michel Frieh, managing partner of international firm DLA Piper. ‘This is a key reform of all aspects of contract law which introduces completely new concepts which threaten the security of contracts.’

The reforms are being introduced under umbrella legislation which has allowed them to become law without full parliamentary scrutiny. Concerns have been raised that as a result, inappropriate concepts within the reforms could cause a great deal of damage to other areas of existing law.

Frieh commented that the damage inflicted could result in an ‘open season for challenges' and subsequently, a significant amount of unwanted pressure being piled upon the civil courts.

Although formal consultation on the draft legislation has now ended, opposition is rife. DLA Piper, Cercle Montesquieu and a number of other leading French companies have set up a group to propose amendments.

An ally could perhaps be found in French economy minister Emmanuel Macron, who is reported to be 'incensed' about his lack of involvement within the proposed reforms. However, embroiled in other controversies over plans for legal service deregulation, his active support appears unlikely at present.

What is clear at the moment is that it is a situation certainly worth keeping an eye on!

City lawyers and academic experts say the reform is being conducted in haste, with inadequate consultation, and that it introduces measures which would open commercial contracts to judicial challenge if a party later changed their mind.
Men-only divorce law firm for fathers to open in London

Cordell & Cordell, a US based law firm, are opening an office in London this month for male clients only.

Their Chief Executive believes men are unfairly represented in the UK Courts and is looking to bridge the gender gap in family law.

Family law firms in the US with all male clients have grown significantly over the last 20 years; Cordell & Cordell's marketing strap-line being "we're going to help you keep the dollars you earned", but many simply feel it's untrue that family courts are biased against men.

Something Ms Jacklin, QC of the Family Law Bar Association highlights in this article.

Men-only divorce law firms look set to be the latest import from America as Britain’s first practice targeting fathers who feel hard done by in the family courts sets up in London.

Family law companies with all male client lists have been growing in popularity in the US since the Nineties as fathers and husbands worry women are more likely to get a better deal. One of these is Cordell & Cordell, who told American divorcing husbands “we’re going to help you keep the dollars you earned” and is now setting up in London this month.
The husband and wife who give marriage a bad name

This case begs belief as you have a husband who having not yet divorced his fifth wife is it seems planning to marry wife number six having bought her an engagement ring and a wife who aged 42 has advised the court she has no intention of working after the hearing, albeit later she says she will try to get a job. One might ask how hard she will try.

As the article touches upon, both parties to a marriage are expected to do the best they can in terms of their own incomes and it will be interesting to see what the final outcome will be given the substantial monies involved.


Ekaterina Parfenova, 42, who was voted Miss World University in 1990, is fighting for £2.6million from her second husband Richard Fields - who is planning to marry wife number six.

The American lawyer today revealed he has bought an antique diamond engagement ring for his current girlfriend and has leased a Porsche for her, but has not yet asked her to marry him.

His ex-wife wants him to pay her £750,000 a year so she can live in a luxury £5.5million home near Kensington Palace in central London.
Law firms hit as commercial litigation spending nosedives in the UK

The amount UK businesses are spending on litigation has fallen dramatically since 2012.

41% of law firms questioned during recent research reported a spend of less than $500,000 (£317,750) on litigation over the past year, compared with only 21% answering the same in 2012.

The figures published present downbeat news for law firms dependant on instructions of this type, who have no doubt struggled throughout the course of the year.

The research also found that the percentage of law firms spending between $1m-$5m on litigation fell from 36% to 28% over the same period.

The slump in litigation spending could be down to a number of factors. Perhaps a change in focus amongst some of the largest law firms? In-house attention appears to be turning to regulatory investigations as opposed to litigation. Or finally, the effectiveness of ADR is becoming apparent?

Or perhaps maybe, just maybe, global corporations are starting to get on.

UK corporate counsel reported litigation spend below $500,000 (£317,750) in 41% of companies, compared with 21% in 2012.
Legal consumers still prefer recommendation over cut-price service

A large survey conducted by law firm network LawNet has revealed consumers top motives when selecting a particular legal services provider.

Out of the 25,000 people surveyed, a remarkable 50% still felt that an existing client relationship or recommendation was the most likely way they would end up instructing a law firm. This came in contrast with a mere 4% who said that they would be swayed by price.

The results also showed that just 3% of people were likely to be influenced in their selection by advertising and come at a time where the amount law firms are spending on marketing is at an all time high.

Chris Marston, chief executive of LawNet, used the result to further the argument for a greater emphasis to be placed on sales follow up.

‘Having a great service proposition is all very well, but if enquiries aren't captured and followed up, that’s a terrible waste,’ he said.

‘Follow up isn't being pushy, it’s about responding to an identified need. Satisfied clients will bring repeat business and recommend you to others, and our research has proved that services is much more important than price.’

Furthering his view, Marston went on to say that the 'customer experience' now being offered by law firms should mirror that adopted by most in the retail sector.

‘In a world where clients can place an order online, choose a delivery slot and receive an almost instant email dispatch confirmation, those expectations are being brought into the legal sector and firms must do all they can to improve the customer journey.’

Only 4% of respondents to the client satisfaction survey said they were swayed by price. In contrast, existing client relationships and recommendation were still favoured by 50% of the public.
A British Bill of Rights?

A good (if slightly biased) analysis of the conversation surrounding the proposed changes to our human rights legislation, published in the Huffington Post today. It avoids some of the hysterical doomsaying displayed in the left wing media (currently spiraling out of control on social media. . .), whilst pointing out the huge flaws in the government's plans to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with a British Bill of Rights.

It discusses some of the main negatives of the HRA'98; the "mission creep", expanding human rights beyond those enshrined in the ECHR, and the challenge to parliamentary sovereignty from foreign interference. However, it also points out the reasonably obvious ways in which the BBR will fail to address these negatives. Curiously, the discussion has echoes of the recent changes to Judicial Review, designed to put off unsuccessful claimants with spurious claims.

What's fascinating about this is that, as a law student, this discussion had been purely academic up until now. It's an experience, for sure, to see the principles expounded in my public law lectures and tutorials unfold in real life. I'd be really interested to hear opinions about this from practicing lawyers - is this motion supported by those working in the legal professions?


If you've been paying attention to party spin recently, you'll have seen our HRA suddenly rechristened "Labour's" Human Rights Act. So it's worth clearing up at the start that it was passed in 1998 with overwhelming cross-party support and Tory leadership endorsement. It was a long-held ambition of the Society of Conservative Lawyers.

Yet now the new justice secretary is promising a "British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities", to "restore common sense to the application of human rights in the UK". And if he can't get Council of Europe agreement that the Bill is a legitimate way of applying the European Convention on Human Rights (which the HRA enshrines into UK law), they say they'll withdraw from Winston Churchill's post war legacy too.
Bar Standards Board seeks more power over failing chambers

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) are seeking SRA-style powers over barrister's chambers.

A consultation document entitled 'Amendment to Bar Standards Board powers' has argued that 'this would ensure a level playing field between different regulatory regimes.'

The Solicitors Regulation Authority currently enjoys the power of being able to seize client files and intervene in client dealings where regulations are being breached by one of their firms or in the event of administration.

The regulator has cited the increase in public access work being the main cause of this proposal, feeling that this has the potential to alter the risk landscape.

The powers being sought are similar to those the BSB will be granted if it is licensed as a regulator of alternative business structures, for which it applied last week. However if approved, the new powers will apply to 'all persons regulated by the BSB, including individual barristers, entities and their owners and managers'.

Ewan Macleod, director of regulatory policy for the BSB, has moved to quash any initial concern amongst chambers saying: ‘To be clear: these are powers that would be used very rarely, but we think that, in the event something goes awry, all clients should benefit from the same safeguards - regardless of whether they’re the client of an ABS, a BSB-regulated entity, or a barristers’ chambers.’

The BSB does currently have disciplinary control over non-barristers anyway but wishes to solidify it's regulatory powers on a statutory footing.

The BSB is also currently seeking opinion on the set up of a compensation fund, although this is not of pressing importance considering that barrister's chambers do not hold client money as solicitors do.

Members are currently being consulted on the proposals and feedback is being accepted until 31st July.

'This would ensure a level playing field between different regulatory regimes,'
UK's top firms rethink international expansion plans

International expansion by the UK's top 100 law firms is being rethought due to the volatility present in international markets new research has shown.

Economic sanctions, tumbling oil prices and international conflict have all played their own part in shaking the global economy over the recent past.

New research from Thomson Reuters Legal has found that only a quarter of finance directors (FDs) at 26 of the UK's top firms said it was likely they would look to expand to improve profitability, compared to a third who did in 2014.

Interest in expansion to Russia saw one of the sharpest falls with just 12% of FDs considering moves there, this is in stark contrast to the 48% who expressed an interest last year.

Expansion interest in Sub Saharan Africa was also found to have virtually disappeared as a result of damage caused by a downturn in oil and metal prices.

Emerging markets were the biggest casualties of the research which found that many law firms were instead backing moves to more traditional investment grounds such as North America, Western Europe, and Japan, all of which gained in popularity as locations for development in the last year.

Sam Steer, head of large law segment for Thomson Reuters, remarked: 'The fall in commodity prices over the last year has, for the time being, turned many appealing emerging market growth opportunities for law firms into much less attractive prospects. However, UK law firms have grown into such profitable enterprises partly because of their willingness to make long term investments in overseas expansion.

'Whilst law firms are currently going through a "risk off" period in terms of overseas expansions that may change as commodity prices stabilise.'

Meanwhile, the research found that China is still the most attractive destination for international expansion and remains a strategically vital market for many law firms. 80% of FDs say that firms will be expanding there.

New research from Thomson Reuters Legal has found that only a quarter of finance directors (FDs) at 26 of the UK's top firms said it was likely they would look to expand to improve profitability, compared to a third who did in 2014.
view more posts

Google begins implementation of the ‘right to be forgotten’ on its search engine

Google has launched a web-form allowing EU citizens to request that their details be removed from search results. This is pursuant to the ‘right to be forgotten’ ruling by the European Court of Justice on 13th May 2014.

The ECJ has decided that search engines are classified as ‘data controllers’ under EU data protection law. This means that they have to comply with the requirement to remove data that is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”.

Google’s attempts to implement a judgement many considered unenforceable will attract considerable interest.


The ramifications of the Government’s criminal legal aid cuts exposed by Cameron’s brother

A serious fraud trial has today (01 May 2014) been halted due to the judge deciding that there was no prospect of a fair trial.

The reasoning is that the defendants will not be adequately represented because no barristers agreed to take on the case.


Early conciliation for employment disputes is being made a legal requirement on 6 May 2014, but what exactly is it?

There have been a lot of changes made to employment law recently, mainly with the aim of improving efficiency, reducing the number of spurious cases and ultimately saving the government money.

The latest is the introduction of Early Conciliation, a new requirement that must take place before any claim is made to the employment tribunal.


Prince Charles’ letters: a political and legal drama

The recent (March 2014) saga of Prince Charles’ letters to the UK Government is intriguing from a political perspective, and throws up issues going to the heart of UK constitutional law.

Why is it so important to know what Prince Charles has been writing?


Could no-win, no-fee agreements be on their way out?

Concerns are mounting over no-win, no-fee agreements after a Legal Ombudsman’s report in late January 2014 highlighted abusive practices by some solicitors.

In 2013 lawyers were ordered to pay nearly £1 million in compensation to clients after agreements went wrong.


Are whistleblowers protected enough?

Whistleblowing is a situation in which someone reports wrongdoing at their workplace. This could relate to things like law-breaking, environmental damage, health and safety concerns, or dishonesty.

It is widely recognised to be in the public interest for workers to be able to make disclosures of this nature. However, recent reports suggest that not enough is being done to protect and encourage whistleblowers, especially in the teaching profession.


Are Free Schools regulated sufficiently?

A recent development

The Information Tribunal has rejected an attempt by the Department for Education (DfE) to withhold information, concerning the identity of groups who have proposed to open so-called ‘free schools’ in England, as reported by BBC News.

The Information, including the names, location and religious affiliation of such groups, was requested in an attempt to highlight an alleged lack of transparency inherent in the system of proposing and setting up a free school.


What is the status of sharia law in the UK?

A recent news story about the exercise of criminal law in Saudi Arabia has generated widespread consternation in the UK. This reaction may, in part, reflect unease about the influence of Muslim rulings in this country, given the recent debate on the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill in the House of Lords, led by Baroness Cox.

The incident was reported by the Daily Mail and concerns the beheading by sword of a Sri Lankan national, Rizana Nafeek, despite claims that she was only 17 years old in 2005 when the alleged crime was committed. Nafeek was executed this Wednesday for causing the death of a four-month-old baby in her care, while working as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia.


Government to re-visit perennial problem of care costs for the elderly?

Norman Lamb, the Coalition Health Minister, has called for the issue of how to fund care for the elderly to be addressed urgently by the Government. In an interview with the Daily Mail this week, Lamb said that legislation must be brought in to address the principal of capping care costs.

The cap was a key recommendation of the Government-appointed Dilnot Commission, charged with making recommendations on how long-term care for the elderly should be funded in the future. The report, published in July this year, advised that the cap, after which the state would fund care, should be set at between £25,000 and £50,000, with £35,000 as the most reasonable figure.


Editorial Image

In this section you will find opinionated pieces about topical issues. They are usually based around a news item, with opinions aimed at promoting discussion.

The views in these posts are those of the individual author, and not necessarily of Contact Law.

Quick enquiry form
Area of law: