Birss named deputy head of civil justice as Mulheron becomes honorary QC

Birss: Joining Court of Appeal early next year

Sir Colin Birss is to become deputy head of civil justice upon his elevation to the Court of Appeal in early 2021, in succession to Sir Peter Coulson.

Sir Colin will act as deputy head of civil justice designate from 11 January 2021. The appointment is for a three-year term.

He will work with the incoming Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos. Both will be an ex-officio members of the Civil Justice Council and the Civil Procedure Rule Committee. Sir Colin has been a member of the latter since 2014, leading of much of its costs work.

Sir Colin, who was called in 1990 and took silk in 2008, was appointed a specialist circuit judge of the Patents County Court in 2010 and a High Court judge in the Chancery Division in 2013.

From 2017 to 2019, he was the supervising Judge jor the Business and Property Courts of the Midlands, Wales and Western Circuits, before becoming judge in charge of the Patents Court last year. His appointment to the Court of Appeal was announced in the summer.

Meanwhile, leading civil justice researcher Professor Rachael Mulheron was today named as one of six new honorary QCs.

A former member of the Civil Justice Council, Professor Mulheron is currently monitoring the disclosure pilot in the Business and Property Courts on a voluntary and pro bono basis, and previously helped to draft the code of conduct for litigation funders as well as put forward reforms to the damages-based agreements regime.

She has also researched the way forward for ‘before the event’ legal expenses insurance, the giving of expert evidence concurrently, and implementation of class actions reform.

Also among the honorary QCs is Professor Conor Anthony Gearty FBA, who has been an influential voice in the development of the law in the field of civil liberties, human rights and terrorism.

In other appointment news, Clyde & Co partner Jennette Newman has taken over from Anthony Baker as the new president of the Forum of Insurance Lawyers (FOIL). Stuart Hardy, a partner at BLM, has been elected as vice-president

Ms Newman, who is also chair of the Chartered Insurance Institute’s professional standards committee, said: “Over the next year, customer focus is going to be key. The industry needs to embrace better communication and more efficient distribution by making smarter use of technology.

“Advanced tech will play an important role in helping build better relationships and alignments with customers’ needs. For this reason, improved protection of customer data needs to be a key industry priority.

“As lawyers, this means we need to stand ready to support closer and more transparent interaction in the form of clearer wordings, better product descriptions and improved efficiency in claims processing.”

She added that other priorities were climate change, “social inflation, in which the shifting landscape of new societal and stakeholder expectations are driving balance sheet and market stresses, particularly on the casualty side”, and Covid-19’s impact on the insurance sector.

One-time lawyer Martin Thomas has been appointed as chair of NHS Resolution for three years from 1 January 2021. He will commit two to three days per week and be paid £63,000 a year.

As a result, he is stepping down from his role as vice-chairman of the Medical Protection Society, of which he has been a non-executive director for three years.

Mr Thomas is chairman of BACIT (UK) Limited, and manager of the Syncona Limited portfolio of assets. He was chairman of Lancashire Holdings Limited, the FTSE 250 specialty insurance company, for 10 years, and a partner and board member at Altima Partners.

Earlier in his career, Mr Thomas was senior legal counsel at the European Central Bank and before being hired by the Bank of England to set up its financial markets law committee; he is currently a member of the committee’s Brexit high-level advisory group, as well as of the 30% Club, a campaign to increase gender diversity at board and senior management levels

Finally, Lucy Woods, chief executive of AX Group (previously Accident Exchange), has been appointed chair of the board of the Credit Hire Association, following solicitor Kirsty McKno, who stepped down in November. Peter Gomes, currently head of business at the trade body, has been appointed interim chief executive.

Ms Woods said: “The credit hire sector provides an invaluable service to consumers needing mobility after a road traffic accident and, as we prepare for the future of the industry and the challenges it faces over coming years, I want the board to play an active and constructive role in identifying strategies that strengthen the industry and its professionalism.”

She added that she wanted to improve public understanding of the credit hire industry, noting that the Competition and Markets Authority found in 2014 that credit hire added just £3.50 to the overall cost of a motor policy.

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