Grapevine

Co-op puts RAC legal team back on the road


Co-op puts RAC legal team back on the road

So it’s not Tesco law after all. It’s ‘Co-op law’. The Co-operative Group has announced that it is taking on former RAC Legal Services managing director Eddie Ryan to kickstart its own in-house law firm. Sort of.

The Co-op is to take advantage of the imminent reforms promised by the Government to set up a division offering legal services such as conveyancing and insurance claims handling to its members, as first revealed on www.thelawyer.com (21 April). For the moment it will have to use panel firms of solicitors, but when legislation allows, the Co-op wants to use in-house lawyers.

The venture sees Ryan and ex-RAC Legal Services head Jonathan Gulliford pick up where they left off before Aviva’s acquisition of the RAC a year ago in campaigning for a more liberal and radical legal market. Under Aviva, the RAC has turned away from that route, but the Co-op is now firmly on it.

No such thing as paranoia for lawyers in Russia

Seeing the former deputy head of legal for embattled Russian oil giant Yukos sent to the Gulag for seven years by the Russian courts must give all lawyers operating in Russia a moment’s pause.

Svetlana Bakhmina was convicted of embezzlement and tax evasion, and the Kremlin last month arrested her boss, Yukos head of legal Vasily Aleksanyan, further signaling an intention to put lawyers on trial.

Lawyers working for Western firms have raised concerns to The Lawyer before about the rule of law in Russia. For domestic lawyers, the situation is even more dire. What would be routine client meetings in the West often become episodes of cloak and dagger espionage. And while the Yukos case is exceptional given the politicking, the fine line that lawyers tread is clear.

Human rights lawyer Bob Amsterdam, now in a loose affiliation with Olswang, was evicted from Russia for being too vocal about the imprisonment of former Yukos chief executive officer Mikhail Khodorkovsky. US firms Chadbourne & Parke and Covington & Burling have also taken lead roles in associated Yukos shareholder actions. Lawyers everywhere will be looking over their shoulders.

Conyers says hi to Dubai

Hardly a month goes by without an offshore law firm announcing a new office. This month it is the turn of Bermuda-headquartered Conyers Dill & Pearman, which is poised to launch a Dubai operation. In the past six months Bedell Cristin, Mourant, Ozannes and Walkers are just a handful of the firms expanding their operations.

There is recognition among lawyers at offshore firms that the bigger players need to expand to survive. As clients’ business interests grow, they increasingly need advice on more than one offshore jurisdiction. All the recent talk is of mergers rather than organic growth. Rumours include Bermuda’s Appleby Spurling Hunter merging with Jersey’s Bailhache Labesse, or even Cayman-headquartered Walkers hooking up with Jersey-based Crills.

Whatever the short-term outcome, in the long term the offshore market is set to see fewer, but bigger, players.