A New Fixed Costs Regime

A new Fixed Costs Regime is coming into force on 1 October 2023 for most claims worth between £25,000 and £100,000, where the trial would last no more than three days. This will be known as the Intermediate Track.

Currently there is no limit on the amount of the costs that a successful party may recover from the losing party for such claims, other than that they must be proportionate and reasonably incurred. This generally means that the costs will not be permitted to exceed the value of the claim.

For claims in this bracket issued after 1 October 2023, the successful party will only be able to recover the fixed costs which have been set by the Ministry of Justice. These fall into four bands, depending on the complexity of the case.

London weighting of 12.5% will be added to the fixed costs where the party lives or has a business in London or within the jurisdiction of the Bromley, Croydon, Dartford, Gravesend, and Uxbridge County Court hearing centres.

So for example, under the new regime, a claim allocated to Complexity Band 3 that reaches a two day trial where judgment is given at the end of the trial, the Claimant is awarded the sum of £60,000. And, where Counsel has drafted the Particulars of Claim, advised in writing, and attended the trial, the fixed costs that are recoverable from the losing party will be £42,800 (or £48,150 with London weighting).

Potential Claimants are therefore encouraged to consider whether they should start to pursue any existing claims now so that they are ready to issue court proceedings before 1 October 2023, after having complied with any pre-action procedure as required by the Civil Procedure Rules. This will avoid having their recoverable costs limited by the new fixed costs regime.

Should you have any questions, please please do not hesitate to contact Michael Shapiro directly on: [email protected] or 0207 822 2246.

© 2023 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved. GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.




Press Release 

City law firm GSC Solicitors LLP is delighted to announce that it advised longstanding client CareTech on a £200m property portfolio sale and leaseback investment by the Civitas Investment Management (CIM), the UK’s largest specialist care investor.

The portfolio comprises special schools, children’s homes and adult specialist care homes and follows the £1.1bn public to private acquisition of CareTech by its co-founders, Farouq and Haroon Sheikh in September 2022.

Founded in 1993, CareTech provides specialist social care services to 5,000 adults and children with a range of complex needs in more than 550 schools, residential services, hospitals and day centres. It employs more than 11,000 staff in the UK and internationally.

CIM is the UK’s largest investor in specialist care with over £3.5bn under management in community healthcare and social infrastructure in the UK and Europe. It manages over 1,200 properties across the UK, providing homes for more than 10,000 people, with support provided by over 120 operators in a combination of supported housing and residential care homes.

Commenting on the deal GSC senior partner Saleem Sheikh said: “This transaction illustrates the long-term demand for high quality specialist care properties in the UK and will form part of CareTech’s strategy to grow in the UK, investing in digital technologies and international markets.’

The GSC team was led by senior partner Saleem Sheikh and included commercial real estate partners, Harvey Posener and Matthew Phillips, corporate partner Clive Halperin and international private wealth partner James Cohen. Civitas was advised by Norton Rose Fulbright.

© 2023 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved.  GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.


Law for a technological world

The first indication of Clive Halperin’s lengthy relationship with technology is the distinctly veteran Apple Macintosh that now occupies a purely ornamental position on his office shelf. “It’s always interested me,” he explains. “Even before I was a pharmacist, I was interested in tech.”

For the latest in our series of GSC Stories celebrating 50 years of GSC Solicitors LLP, Clive looks at the past and future relationship between technology and the law.

Technology was slow to make an impact on the legal sector. In the ‘olden days’, as someone once told me, the day’s post would arrive at your desk. You would open it, dictate your letters to your secretary and then press on with a day which, in the main, would unfold exactly as planned. Nobody emailed you. Telephone calls were always by appointment. The most unexpected event would be the bank sending a messenger round with some papers.

Today, the immediacy of email and the ability to access a legal library at your desk has genuinely transformed legal practice. It not only changed the way we communicate; it changed the entire pace of the profession.

Law and the limits of technology

We are now seeing next generation technology being applied to legal work. Machine learning is helping lawyers analyse documents. The ability to crunch data in an ‘intelligent’, super-efficient way is starting to support document production and due diligence. This capability will be increasingly applied to large transactions, yet there is a limit to how far AI and the law can progress.

That’s because the law requires judgment. It’s about testing theories to see if they stand up. Computers are excellent at identifying the outliers in a vast range of data, which could be of huge benefit in complex transactional matters, but I don’t yet see that AI will be creating laws anytime soon.

Impossible choices

A far more immediate issue is the legal (and philosophical and moral) complexities presented by new technology. How do you instruct a self-driving car to make those difficult choices, such as who to crash into where the crash is inevitable, and the car cannot avoid injuring one party or another? Who does it choose? What is the liability of the programmer or organisation that made that decision? What are the ramifications on the insurance industry of such choices?

Then, as machines become ever more intelligent and learn to develop their own software, who is responsible for the decisions they make and systems they design?

These are more than fascinating hypotheticals. These are very real concerns and they are being explored now.

Adapting to change

In his lifetime, my Dad has seen the invention of television, Concorde, the Space Shuttle, the internet, mobile phones, antibiotics, heart transplants and nuclear power. The pace of change gets ever faster, but we can take some encouragement from the fact that the scale of change is perhaps diminishing a touch. Change is now more iterative and less seismic. It gives the law a chance to adapt and we should feel confident that the law can cope with such developments, just as it has coped with every other development over the last century.

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Law in lockdown

In March 2020, in common with many other UK businesses, every member of the GSC team began a prolonged period of enforced remote working. All, that is, except one. Throughout the pandemic, office manager Sian Bearfield remained in the office, ensuring our people had the equipment and information they needed to keep delivering legal services to our clients.

For the latest in our series celebrating 50 years of GSC Solicitors LLP, Sian shares her story.

A few weeks before lockdown arrived the direction of travel became clear: we needed to begin making preparations for if (and more likely when) the country shut down.

Many of our fee earners already had the facility to work from home, but the office was always the default. The bulk of the IT was here. All of the support staff were entirely office based.

In the two weeks before Boris Johnson made his Monday night address to the nation, I was busy ensuring everyone had the equipment they needed at home. Most fee earners worked from two screens in the office, but at home they tended to use just their laptops. With no idea how long the lockdown might last, I cleared our office of as much equipment as possible, shipping out anything that could be spared (monitors, keyboards etc) so everyone could create a set-up as close as possible to the one they enjoyed in the office.

It wasn’t just their ability to do their jobs that mattered; I needed to be mindful of everyone’s wellbeing, so setting up each member of the team for home working was also a matter of ergonomics, posture, mental well-being and best practice in terms of screentime. I didn’t know it at that point, but we were all about to become familiar with Zoom fatigue.

“You must stay at home”

Every member of the support team was also set up for remote working and, on Monday 23 March 2020, we ran a full trial, with every member of the GSC team working remotely. That evening, the Prime Minister made his “From this evening people must stay at home…” address. GSC’s offices—together with the rest of the City of London—fell silent.

I think many of us suspected lockdown might last couple of months. In the end it was almost double that. For virtually all of that time, I was the only person in the office. Three days a week I made the journey to Ely Place, where I would distribute the post that still arrived daily, send files requested by our solicitors and continue to send out equipment when our people needed it. When the day’s immediate issues were resolved I would write up some of the office policies that needed to be made digital: first on the list, our Covid policy.

Staying connected

It was a tough period. Coming into work every day was eerie. I felt alone. I suspect everyone else felt much the same, which is why I spent so much of my day ringing round team members, ensuring they felt supported. The partners were at pains to ensure that, even though we were not physically together, we remained a team and everyone had a duty to support everyone else.

Our two office-wide Zoom calls each week became really important. One was entirely work-focused. The other was entirely social, an opportunity to just talk, to connect, to see another friendly face. We knew without it, it wasn’t just relationships that would suffer; the work would too.

Stepping up

I’ve always felt the role of the support team is to stay in the background and to quietly go about the business of ensuring everything runs like clockwork. It was strange to find myself occupying a far higher-profile role. Even though I didn’t always feel it, I tried to remain calm. I relied on process and organisation, staying on top of new information to ensure things ran smoothly, because I knew people were relying on me.

We really did make the best of a horrible situation. I’m extremely proud that we all came through it.

One day, months later, I arrived at the office to find I wasn’t the only person there. After being on my own for so long it was quite an emotional feeling. I’d missed it. I’d missed them. Just being able to just walk past someone’s desk and talk to them was such a welcome shock to the system. I’ve tried to remember that feeling.

Even now I still walk the office every day, checking in with my GSC family, making sure they have everything they need.

After all— and as we all discovered—you never know when the opportunity to do such simple things may be taken away from you.

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The pharmacist turned lawyer

Today, Clive Halperin specialises in corporate and commercial, technology, internet and intellectual property law. Prior to qualifying as a solicitor, he qualified and practised as a pharmacist. What was it that persuaded him to change lanes? For the latest in our series of GSC Stories celebrating 50 years of GSC Solicitors LLP, Clive explains his fascination with the legal world.

I was working in a pharmacy but I was keen to build a broader base of knowledge—something that might at some point help me in running my own pharmacy. With my boss’ agreement I took a business course at night school. One of the modules was law. I found it fascinating and absorbed it all.

I considered taking law further but let the idea percolate for a while. This wasn’t a decision to be taken lightly. When I committed to going to law school, I reasoned that, even if I didn’t like it, some legal education would surely come in useful.

Unpicking the lock

When I started studying, I realised that every element of society in a country like the UK revolves around law. It felt as though my learning gave me the key to unpick the lock of how the world works.

Law is so integral to everyone and every aspect of life. Whether you’re a pharmacist, a doctor, an architect; if you’re buying a product, selling your house or borrowing money, your rights and obligations are governed by the law.

Law influences the relatively small and superficial, like what happens when your builder doesn’t turn up or the dry cleaner damages your clothes. It provides the platform and set of rules for the biggest, most profound things in life like buying a company or getting divorced. If you happen to find yourself getting arrested, it’s the law that will come to your rescue.

Before you study law, the mechanism for this seems quite mysterious and daunting, as though it’s hidden in some big, mysterious cloud. Once you study law, you understand how to analyse and get to grips with a legal problem.

That’s not to say you can be an expert in every area, any more than a surgeon can be an expert in every area of medicine, but you understand the processes; you have the tools and the ability to apply them.

In a country governed by the rule of law, having those tools made me feel as though I was privy to some secret understanding of the way things work.

For me, that’s where the fascination with law always lay. It still does.

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How to reach a settlement

Our lawyers know that the measure of their success is often not whether they win a case in court, but whether they can avoid taking the case to court in the first place. For the latest in our series of GSC Stories, celebrating 50 years of GSC Solicitors LLP, Mark Richardson explores how to reach a better settlement.

It’s often not in the best interests of a client to go to court. It costs a lot of money. It can be incredibly stressful and time consuming. And even if you’re extremely confident in your case, litigation is inherently risky. There’s always an unpredictable element, a risk that the judge will find against you.

Much of a lawyer’s effort will, therefore, be spent attempting to reach a settlement that avoids a court hearing. What follows are five approaches I might take to keep clients out of the courts.

  1. Avoid pursuing litigation on a point of principle

I’d always encourage a client to take a dispassionate, commercial view of their case. For example, if your likely legal costs will far exceed the amount you are likely to recover then, even if you’ll obtain a lower amount through an early settlement, that is surely the better option than taking the case to court and running the risk of no recovery at all.

Separating the emotion from a case isn’t always easy for clients. I’ve dealt with numerous cases in which family members or friends in business together suffer a falling out. If they were able to step back and look at things objectively, they would probably take the commercial view and settle. But it’s hard to stay objective when personal relationships are involved. It often becomes a matter of pride. Other issues which should, ideally, remain entirely separate from the case, become wrapped up with it. There’s a reluctance to be the ‘one who backs down’.

In business, however, points of principle can prove costly.

  1. Take advantage of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Mediation or arbitration (just two of several processes which comprise ADR) can lead to a quicker and cheaper settlement with the help of an independent third party. ADR is designed to keep cases out of courts. In fact, failing to engage in ADR may result in you being penalised in costs at any subsequent court hearing.

It is important not to go into the settlement process with an adversarial mindset. That erects barriers and makes it difficult to have any kind of productive communication. Avoid making personal attacks and be open to finding a creative resolution.

  1. Disclose expert reports and/or counsel’s opinion

Sending an expert report to the other side which sets out a strong case can encourage settlement. Similarly, while legal advice is normally considered privileged (and therefore not disclosable to the other side), if the advice you obtain overwhelmingly supports your position while condemning the other side, it can sometimes be an effective tactic to waive the privilege and provide a copy of the advice to the other side.

  1. Take advantage of ‘part 36’ offers

The Civil Procedure Rules provide a way of settling a claim which puts pressure on the other side to accept a reasonable offer by providing financial incentives to do so. If your offer is not accepted and you obtain a judgment that is at least as advantageous as your offer, the court will award interest, costs on the indemnity basis (which is more generous than the standard basis) and award an additional amount of up to £75,000. This is calculated as being 10% of the money awarded up to £500,000 and 5% of any amount awarded in excess of this up to £1 million. If the case is a non-money claim, this additional amount is calculated on the amount of costs ordered instead.

For many, the risk of these significant additional costs can be enough to encourage them to settle.

  1. Don’t delay – take advice

Where litigation appears to be a possibility, you should obtain professional advice at the earliest possible opportunity. The earlier you act, the greater the chance that you’ll reduce costs and save time. Taking early action may help you avoid litigation entirely.

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GSC Solicitors LLP’s higher rankings in the Legal 500 2023

We are proud to announce another year of continuous achievement in the Legal 500 United Kingdom 2023 rankings. We are especially delighted to see that GSC’s Property Finance team has moved one tier up the tables.

In addition, this year more lawyers are mentioned by name in Legal 500 UK commentary for their standout contribution to respective practices. Also, another achievement this year was that Harvey Posener who heads Commercial Property team has been listed in the Elite ‘Leading Lawyers’ Group, a category that essentially is a badge of honour given to a few lawyers in the UK.

Consistent with last year, our work has been praised by a large number of clients, current and new ones, domestic and international.

Our already highly ranked Commercial Property team was mentioned as ‘cutting edge legal thinking combined with commercial savvy experts’ . Practice head Harvey Posener provides an ‘unparalleled service’ with his extensive experience in advising large corporate occupiers on leasing and acquisitions. He is described by clients as an expert who ‘provides an unparalleled service in terms of legal advice, strategic thinking, commercial application and responsiveness.’  Peter Belcher who heads Property Finance team is ‘extremely well-reputed’ for his focus on the hotel, banking, leisure, and healthcare sectors regarding commercial property transactions, and is ‘well respected amongst financial institutions which gives banks the comfort they need’.

We are also proud of our Private Client team that was distinguished as a ‘well established and diverse’ team ‘with various specialists under the one roof’. One of their clients referred to ‘the key strength of GSC’ as ‘its commercial approach to problems when dealing with the full array of private client matters ranging from international ultra-high-net-worth clients through to significant owner of blue-chip companies’. Saleem Sheikh who heads the ‘highly responsive team‘ team is ‘a great strategic adviser’ with an ‘outstanding commercial and professional approach’. James Cohen is endorsed as an ‘one of the most professional ethical and authentic lawyers who listens, understands the needs when providing his service’. He has also been noted as ‘a knowledgeable individual’ who ‘acts with gravitas’. 

Headed by Michael Shapiro, ‘a commercial and contractual and shareholder disputes expert’, the Commercial Litigation department routinely acts for clients in complex litigation matters, including cases in the Commercial Court, as well as in other business and property courts, and the Court of Appeal. Clients recognise Michael’s ability to ‘be successful in all cases’ while leading the team with ‘exceptional star quality who know how to win a case’. Senior Consultant Barry Samuels is continuously referred to as ‘a living legend in the market who does not stop working until he gets results’. He is also is recommended as a ‘brilliant and approachable’ litigator who ‘was born to litigate’. GSC’s Litigation Rising Star Sana Sheikh who is a Senior Associate in the team, is also mentioned in the guide as ‘a real future star in the making, exceptionally bright and will go far’.

Recommended purely on its personalised service, merit and client-focus, our Real Estate Finance team active in refinancing mandates for clients in the retail, hospitality and care home sectors, as well as for high-net-worth individuals with extensive residential portfolios. Peter Belcher sits at the helm of the practice, advising on acquisition and development finance matters while Matthew Phillips is also of note for his ‘work in secured lending for fast food franchise owners and commercial tenants’. Carole Joseph who works alongside Peter Belcher, has also been noted for her ‘great availability’ and who clients love to work with’ and who is ‘commercially oriented and shows incredible productivity and professionalism in day-to-day support.’ In general, the team is acknowledged for its ‘problem solving’ style, ‘personalised service and availability, commercially focused, and long-term relationships built.’

IP, Media & Entertainment is continuously noted for its music industry expertise including their active work with large music industry bodies such as the Phonographic Performance Limited (PPL), Video Performance Limited (VPL) and the Performing Right Society (PRS), whereas ‘other clients come to the firm for its expertise in advertising and branding’. Justin Goldspink ,who leads the team with ‘exceptional skillsets’, ‘leverages his expertise as a barrister to represent clients in music, copyright, and branding litigation’. Both, Justin and Ross Waldram are described by clients as ‘incredible in providing invaluable advice and guidance on copyright infringement cases’. Clive Halperin described by a client as an expert ‘with knowledge second to none’ who ‘stands above the crowd’, ‘takes the time to fully understand business and what they are trying to achieve’.  The team has been singled out for its ability to ‘respond immediately to any queries’ as well as to go ‘above and beyond in supporting with complex referrals and always having time for the client, a great example of creating harmonious client relations’.

Finally, we are pleased that our Corporate Commercial department with its M&A work has been noted in the Guide once again, for its ‘niche expertise in the life sciences, pharmaceutical, healthcare, and technology sectors’. Team head Clive Halperin, a qualified pharmacist, ‘has a particular interest in technology and artificial intelligence’ whilst David Nathan has ‘particular expertise in the hospitality and care home sectors.’

Commenting on the 2023 rankings, Senior Partner Saleem Sheikh said: “The Legal 500 is a leading independent guide into the best law firms in the UK. In its 36th year, it is widely acknowledged as the world’s largest legal referral guide. We are delighted that GSC is consistently recognised for our key specialisms including commercial litigation, real estate, personal tax, trusts and probate, Media & Entertainment and our Corporate practice. It is especially rewarding to see our rankings moving up as well as the genuine and exceptional testimonials given to us by our clients. With the strong client base that comes from the five continents globally, solid and longstanding client relationship remains our most valuable asset.’

© 2022 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved.  GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.


The Growth Plan 2022: Highlights

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, delivered the Growth Plan 2022 on 23 September 2022. The document is setting out the plans to address energy costs and assist businesses and households.

Below is a summary of the key announcements for the private client world.

Income tax
  •  The basic rate of income tax will be reduced from 20% to 19%.
  • The additional rate of income tax (currently 45%) will be abolished, leaving a single higher rate of 40%.
  • From 6 April 2023 the dividend ordinary rate will be reduced to 7.5%. The dividend upper rate will be reduced to 32.5%. The dividend additional rate will be removed.
 Stamp duty land tax
  • The residential nil rate band will be doubled to £250,000.
  • The level first time buyers start paying stamp duty will be increased from £300,000 to £425,000.
  • First time property buyers will have access the relief when they buy a property costing up to £625,000 instead of £500,000.
National Insurance Contributions
  • The 1.25% increase will be reversed from 6 November 2022.
  •  Thehealth and social care levy set out in the Health and Social Care Levy (Repeal) Bill and will be cancelled.
  • The NICs thresholds that were increased earlier in 2022 will be maintained.
  • The government will continue to support the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Venture Capital Trusts (VCT).
Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)
  • The maximum amount a company can raise via SEIS investment will be increased from £150,000 to £250,000
  • The gross asset limit will be increased from £200,000 to £350,000.
  • The age limit for eligible companies will be increased from two to three years.
  • The annual investor limit will be increased from £100,000 to £200,000.
Corporation tax
  •  The rise in the main rate of corporation tax from 19% to 25% scheduled for April 2023 has been abolished.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact James Cohen directly on [email protected] or 0207 822 2257

© 2022 GSC Solicitors LLP. All rights reserved.  GSC grants permission for the browsing of this material and for the printing of one copy per person for personal reference. GSC’s written permission must be obtained for any other use of this material. This publication has been prepared only as a guide to provide readers with general information on recent legal developments. It is not formal legal advice and should not be relied on for any purpose. You should not act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this document without obtaining specific formal advice from suitably qualified advisors.


A law firm that has a heart

When Saleem Sheikh became Managing Partner of GSC Solicitors LLP in 1990, he saw an opportunity to shape a different sort of law firm: a “firm that has a heart”. In the latest in our series of GSC Stories, celebrating 50 years of the firm, Saleem explains why he felt a change of direction was necessary – and how he made it happen.

When I became Managing Partner of the firm, I felt I had more autonomy to make the business more diverse, to expand our portfolio of services and admit a new generation of like-minded partners.

We had, like many (if not most) law firms at the time, been a rather authoritarian organisation. I felt our staff turnover was too high and part of the reason for that was that we were not especially open to fresh ideas. We probably weren’t as welcoming or collaborative as we could have been.

I wanted to make it a friendlier firm, a family firm in the sense that everyone here felt invested in what we were doing and felt able to contribute. A place where everyone really did work as part of a team.

Of course, that can’t happen simply by saying it. You have to follow it through in your actions and in the structures and processes by which we operate.

At the small, personal level we engineered change by demonstrating greater respect for others, by being sensitive to their feelings, and by being honest and upfront with them. We celebrated birthdays. If someone had a significant anniversary with the firm, I’d remember it and acknowledge it. If they were having a tough time or had been ill, we’d send flowers or a basket of fruit. We took time to engage. At a business level we listened more often and more intently to what our people were telling us. We acted on suggestions.

Because I had been a junior member of my legal team in the early days, I had a good understanding of how to gauge the pace and manner of change. I felt I knew what the right moves were – and what the wrong thing would have been.

The change was almost instant. Immediately, you saw more smiles around the office, more people saying how touched they were with the gestures we made. Over a period of time – and not a long period of time – we saw staff turnover reduce. People said they felt much more a part of the GSC family. Loyalty is not something you can demand or expect automatically. It requires respect and openness for loyalty to flourish.

Long term partners. Trusted advisors

From our clients’ perspectives, I believe our shift in emphasis made us less of a transactional law firm. We weren’t simply the people to do a deal for clients who would then move on. We became much more focused on the long term, on building genuine partnerships with clients who saw (and see) us as an integral part of their lives and businesses.

I’ve often said that I believe our legacy at GSC Solicitors LLP is that we have created a firm with a beating heart – a law firm that feels. That is what has enabled our transition from ‘just’ lawyers to trusted advisors. I believe it is a major factor in our longevity.

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The One About the SFO, ATF & FBI

What do you do when the FBI comes knocking? GSC Solicitors’ Harvey Posener saw the funny side…

I’ve been responsible for compliance at GSC Solicitors LLP for many years. It was in this capacity, around twenty years ago, that I got a phone call from the wonderful Annie on reception.

“There’s a policeman here,” she said. “He wants to talk to somebody.”

“Oh really?” I replied. Now wasn’t the best time. “Could you tell him I’m busy right now but if he’d like to make an appointment I’d be happy to see him.”

A moment later and the phone was ringing again. Annie sounded a little more agitated this time. “I think you’d better come down,” she said. “He’s from the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). There’s an American officer with him from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).”

A dramatic pause.

“And there’s an FBI agent with them. I think you might want to come down.”

I thought I might not want that.

A little hesitantly I went downstairs and showed the gentlemen into a conference room. We talked for about an hour and it very quickly became clear that neither the firm nor the client had done anything remotely wrong. It did, however, seem that someone our client was in the process of putting a deal together with had attracted the attention of some heavyweight law enforcement agencies.

The agents asked I could assist their enquiries. “I’d love to,” I said, “but you know that, as a solicitor, I’m subject to a duty of confidentiality. You fully accept that our clients are nothing to do with the fraud so I’m not in a position to help you.”

The agents tried again. “What happens,” they asked, “if we stay here and get a notice served under Section 2 of PACE (the Police and Criminal Evidence Act)?”

That notice would be sufficient to override the duty of confidentiality, so I said that would be fine. They asked for contact details. I gave them and went back to my room to wait for notice.

Around an hour later, Senior Partner Saleem Sheikh was buzzing me. Even the buzzer sounded urgent. “Can you come to my room?” he asked in a rather panicked voice.

Saleem was ashen and shaken. In has hand he clutched a ream of papers on which the SFO, ATF and FBI’s names were clearly visible. He waved them at me. “What on earth is going on?” he spluttered, clearly imagining the sensational headlines.

I’d given the FBI Saleem’s name and fax number.

It took me a while to give him the full explanation. I was too busy rolling on the floor laughing.