Conexus Law launches Conexus GC to unlock innovation in UK small and medium sized businesses

Conexus Law has officially launched Conexus GC, its virtual general counsel (i.e. the main in-house lawyer who gives legal advice to a business) service, to meet growing demand from the UK’s small and medium sized businesses operating in its specialist sectors. Since launching the rapidly growing boutique law firm in 2020 with a mission to unlock innovation in the built environment and digital world, managing partner Ed Cooke and the Conexus Law team have been informally providing a general counsel service for some clients who are not yet of a size or stage to hire their own in-house lawyer.

Ed Cooke, “With so much demand we decided to make this a service in its own right. In effect we’ve been market testing for three years so know exactly what legal services our smaller clients need, and how to deliver them, to accelerate their success.”

Conexus Law is a rapidly growing boutique law firm working exclusively for clients operating at the intersection of the built environment, technology and people.

Ed Cooke, “Applying the law to unlock innovation is our stated mission. We have a growth mindset, for ourselves and our clients, and we recognise that many small and medium sized businesses struggle to deal with the many legal demands that face them, especially when they are not big enough to have their own in-house legal team. This can be a real stumbling block to growth. Plus, it’s challenging for busy CEOs and COOs to find the right people who truly understand their markets and sectors. We totally ‘get’ the built environment and technology sectors, because it’s all we do. We remove the blocks and facilitate growth.”

A key benefit to Conexus GC clients is that they can choose from three, tiered subscription packages – bronze, silver and gold – and this allows them to predict their legal costs for six+ months. Clients with slightly different needs are offered custom arrangements. On signing up to the service, all new clients are given a named point of contact, a complimentary overview of their existing contract management with flagging of key dates, plus an initial horizon scanning service to highlight issues that could impact on their business, with advice on how to offset them.

“Our lawyers are all highly experienced in their specialist areas and many have worked as in-house lawyers too, so they totally understand the demands and pressure of supporting a growing business. The subscription model means Conexus GC clients can have all the multi-disciplined legal advice they need, at an affordable and predictable price.”

Conexus GC’s advice includes key areas such as commercial contracts, employment and intellectual property. Conexus Law’s sustainable business service is also available on the Conexus GC platform. For small to medium sized businesses needing emergency advice, whether a new or existing Conexus GC client, the team also offers an immediate crisis response team.

Although currently available for UK based companies only, the Conexus GC team can still work on international affairs, including global contracts and cross-border legal strategies, through its global network of best-friend firms.

Ed Cooke, “Every business that made a difference started out small. We’re looking forward to working with more businesses and speeding up their journey to success.”

Conexus GC is available from today on www.conexusgc.com.

Jane Pittaway joins Conexus Law

2023 will be the year all businesses (yes, every single one) need to put ESG right at the top of their corporate priorities. And quickly. Which is why Conexus Law has recruited climate conscious contracts lawyer and sustainability specialist Jane Pittaway. With an ever increasing volume of ESG legal requirements coming through, Jane can ensure the firm’s clients are future fit and climate resilient.

“No business or sector is immune” according to Jane who will deliver tailored climate and ESG programmes alongside the Conexus Law team sector experts across the Digital Infrastructure, Construction, BuildTech, Sport and Energy sectors.

Conexus Law Managing Partner Ed Cooke; “With Jane’s expert advice, our clients can minimise risk and maximise opportunities whilst accelerating the climate transition.”

A commercial partner with extensive international experience, Jane is executive vice-chair at Lawyers for Net Zero a non-profit organisation engaging and supporting GCs and their teams to take climate and ESG leadership and deliver climate action to tackle the climate and ecological crises. Jane works directly with GCs or leadership teams.

Please contact Ed Cooke ([email protected]) or Jane Pittaway ([email protected]) to book a Discovery Session directly with Jane.

Partner Appointment for Conexus Law

Mission critical project construction specialist Earle Brady has joined Conexus Law as a partner. Brady, whose career includes senior construction roles at DLA Piper, Addleshaws and Napthens LLP in addition to an in-house role at Kingspan Energy, has built a reputation supporting the delivery of major projects with full service legal advice across the Energy, Mining, Real Estate, Sports and Leisure, IT, Rail and Education sectors. He has worked as a consultant with Ed Cooke, Conexus Law founder and managing partner, since the firm’s inception through his practice esb legal Limited. Brady’s clients have transferred to Conexus Law where he will continue to be their lead partner.

Conexus Law is a rapidly growing boutique firm which works exclusively for organisations working at the intersection of technology, the built environment and people.

Ed Cooke; “Earle is an exceptional construction lawyer with a rare full-service skillset and the ability to work with clients on projects requiring a global overview at scale. He totally gets the bigger commercial, always time critical, picture in which our clients are working. Earle’s loyal client following speaks volumes for how highly regarded he is and we are looking forward to working with the impressive clients who have joined us with him.”

Earle Brady; “I’m thrilled to be joining the Conexus Law partnership at such a pivotal moment in its development and growth and, importantly, making my contribution towards its progress. This is a firm with a clear market focus and a model of working that delivers for clients and our lawyers. The firm already has a strong client base, especially in the Technology Infrastructure space, with exactly the scale of big project work I do. And the team of consultants here are superb.”

Brady is one of several planned partner hires for the next 12 months as the firm sets out on its rapid growth trajectory through recruitment and organic growth.

Ed Cooke; “We’re really keen to hear from real estate, corporate and technology partners who meet our specific criteria including big firm experience, an entrepreneurial mindset and a client following. We’d also like to hear from lawyers, partner level or partner material, with an appetite to head up and grow our sector teams in Clean Energy, Smart Cities, Virtual World and Artificial Intelligence.”

A photograph of Earle Brady accompanies this story.

For more information please contact Liz Whitaker, Marketing Director, on 07792 541443 or [email protected].

About Conexus Law

Conexus Law is a rapidly growing boutique law firm advising clients working at the intersection of technology, people and the built environment. Founder and managing partner Ed Cooke is a recognised legal expert on delivering mission critical, national and international data centre projects. More on www.conexuslaw.com.

Nancy Lamb Joins Conexus Law to Launch Collaborative Contracts Service

Conexus Law continues its growth and recruitment drive with the hire of Nancy Lamb, a leading expert in data centre construction contracts.

Lamb, who is known for her straight-talking, no-nonsense approach, offers to understand, negotiate and implement construction contracts to maintain project momentum and avoid expensive disputes. Conexus Law’s managing partner, Ed Cooke, and Lamb will be launching a new and unique service using the latest techniques for collaborative contracting exclusively for the data centre industry.

Ed Cooke; “As a law firm specialising in data centres we need lawyers totally embedded in the sector. A construction lawyer with big law firm experience who has super-niched in data centres, Nancy is one of the best and we’re thrilled that she’s joining our growing team at a critical stage in our development. Demand is soaring for a lawyer with Nancy’s exceptional skills and background. I’ve seen her in action, she gets things done, she delivers results.”

Nancy Lamb trained at Pinsent Masons later joining the firm’s top-ranked Construction Team before moving to Hill Dickinson LLP, also in construction. Lamb moved on from private practice law firms to work in various executive roles for Tyco Fire Product, Sudlows and MiCiM.

Nancy Lamb; “Conexus Law is the right choice for me for many reasons and here are my top two. Ed can see the value I will bring to clients because of my unique insight having worked in both the legal world and on project delivery. Second, the potential is huge. Collaborative contracts are so important because they acknowledge and value relationships – rather than processes – and the start to moving away from the existing adversarial and confrontational nature of construction projects. We can do better than that! A collaborative approach is particularly important in the data centre sector because the pool of stakeholders is so small. I’m looking forward to working with Conexus Law clients and introducing my own connections.”

Conexus Law is recruiting technology and corporate partners while broadening its team of consultants. Since launching 2019, Conexus Law has built a consultancy team that includes Emma Cordiner, data centre real estate expert, and Gavin Johnson, who heads up the firm’s Buildtech team.

Ed Cooke; “We’ve set the bar high on our recruitment standards and it takes a special kind of lawyer to join our team. Big firm experience and a track record in our markets are important because clients expect leading edge advice and outlook. We also need ambitious people, with entrepreneurial flair, who are keen to play their part in growing our firm. There is an exciting future for the right candidates.”

Conexus Law is a unique, challenger brand, boutique law firm advising clients operating at the intersection of the built environment, technology and people.

For further advice on Collaborative Contracting please contact Nancy Lamb via her contact details below.

Nancy Lamb
Main: +44 (0)20 7390 0280
Mobile: +44 (0)7771 877234
[email protected]

The Queen’s Speech May 2021 – Legal Update

This year’s Queen’s Speech contained several points that are relevant to our clients and the sectors we operate in. We have pulled together a list of the relevant legislative proposals, some of which were already known about, or carried over from the previous parliamentary session. We will continue to monitor the progress of these and provide timely updates.

ADVANCED RESEARCH AND INVENTION AGENCY BILL

This Bill is about developing the Life Sciences sector so it attracts people and business from across the world. This includes increasing public expenditure on research and development to £22 billion and creating an Advanced Research and Invention Agency which will be focused on funding high-risk, high-reward research and development.

PLANNING REFORM

Reforming planning laws and improving building safety were central to the Queen’s Speech. The change in planning laws to increase the number of new houses being built was announced proposals for areas which will be designated for growth, protection or regeneration, with developments in growth areas being harder for local opponents to block. The speech also made reference to the ongoing overhaul of the Building Regulations system in the UK with The Building Safety Bill still going through parliament.

PRODUCT SECURITY AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE BILL

This is designed to ensure that smart consumer products, including smartphones and televisions, are more secure against cyber-attacks, protecting individual privacy and security. It also includes a commitment to the roll out of 5G mobile data coverage and gigabit-capable broadband to support better telecommunications coverage and connectivity.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS (SECURITY) BILL

This will give the Government new powers designed to ensure the long-term security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks and infrastructure and minimising the threat of high-risk vendors. It will also strengthen the security and oversight of technology used in telecoms networks including the electronic equipment and software used across the network which handle internet traffic and telephone calls.

ONLINE SAFETY BILL

The Online Safety Bill has been highly publicised and aims ‘to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online’, improving protections for users, especially children, whilst protecting freedom of expression, making companies responsible for their users’ safety online, and supporting a thriving and fast-growing digital sector. This will likely mean working with the industry to ensure there are clear legal definitions of what constitutes harmful online content, setting out the responsibilities that companies of different sizes have to observe and establishing clear codes of practice.

Adjudication – Be Ready

Organisations in the construction sector are being warned to expect a rise in the number of adjudications around contracts as government support comes to an end and cash becomes scarce for many businesses.

Ian Timlin, a dispute resolution specialist at Conexus Law, is urging companies that might have a claim in a construction contract or might be on the receiving end of one to consider whether adjudication might apply to it. If so, they need to be prepared and either understand how they intend to initiate their own claim or ensure that they are not ambushed by an adjudication claim against them. “Given the tight timescales, a referring party often takes a responding party by surprise,” he concludes.

Ian explains: “Adjudication is the very quick (often 28 day) private and cost-effective procedure of resolving disputes in construction contracts. You cannot contract out of it and it applies to a construction contract which is an agreement with a person for any of the following:

• The carrying out of “construction operations”.
• Arranging for construction operations to be carried out, whether under a sub-contract or otherwise.
• Providing labour (either his own labour or others’ labour) for the carrying out of construction operations.

It also includes contracts with construction professionals.

“Traditionally used by contractors, adjudication is also a quick and cost-effective solution for an employer or building owner to obtain payments to resolve defects with a building that the contractor cannot or does not want to rectify or to resolve payments due to a contractor. We generally see adjudication used to resolve disputes in respect of the final account, interim payments, defects, delays and disruptions, as well as with works and extensions of time for the completion of works. All of these have been made more likely as a result of the impact of Covid-19, as many companies have struggled to deliver.”

Finally, Ian comments that a party to a construction contract can refer a dispute to adjudication at any time before or after construction works or operations have been completed, so used mid contract, it may offer resolution to a dispute with limited disruption to an on-going project or relations.

HOW CAN CONEXUS LAW HELP?

For further advice on adjudication, please contact Ian Timlin via his contact details below. Ian has been a CEDR accredited mediator since 2000.

Ian Timlin
Main: +44 (0)20 7390 0280
Mobile: +44 (0)77 6742 7332
[email protected]

Ed Cooke, Founder of Conexus Law took part in Andy Davis’ Inside Data Centre Podcast

Ed discusses why he established his own specialist legal practise, what the main legal challenges are in the sector, what impact the pandemic has had on the industry, and his views on the future of the industry.

Listen here

Lawyer warns construction companies of the challenges of ‘virtual mediation’ as a result of Covid-19

Organisations that are looking to use mediation as a way to resolve a dispute without the need for costly litigation need to be aware of the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic will have on the process in the coming months, and the potential pitfalls and challenges.

This is according to Ian Timlin, a specialist dispute resolution and commercial litigation lawyer at Conexus Law, who cautions that the new process may not be as effective and is also less secure unless certain measures are put in place.

Ian explains: “From a practical point of view it has been relatively straightforward to bring mediation online with Zoom for example being used as the facility for secure separate breakout rooms for separate parties and for bringing the parties together in a plenary session. The mediator can then speak to each party separately or with the parties together, virtually switching online from room to room.

“However, this does mean that things are not necessarily as secure as in a physical situation. As a result, we are advising that there is an online mediation protocol in the mediation agreement to be signed by the parties which governs the terms of how the virtual mediation progresses and the rules that are to be adhered to. It should cover areas such as not recording the sessions or sharing of the mediation meeting ID other than to participants involved to ensure no one ‘sits in’ unannounced.

“Also each party should agree that if for any technical reason, including error on the mediator’s part in moving parties correctly to the breakout rooms, they can see and/ or hear a private conversation between the mediator and/ or any other party, they must terminate the session at once and call or text the mediator.”

However, Ian goes on to say that the biggest challenge remains the fact that it is much more difficult to establish a genuine rapport across a screen with the mediator and other parties and this is key in mediation to gain a parties’ trust and confidence.

“Before people are willing to settle, they must feel that their interests are truly understood, and only then can a mediator reframe problems and float creative solutions. Eye contact with the other side can be difficult if they are sitting well back from their screens and not in the same room and therefore it is vital that participants show their faces and do not hide behind their name on a black screen or stock photo of themselves. That way each party and the mediator can see how they are reacting to the points being made,” he explains.

Ian also points out that whilst online mediation is new to many organisations, Ebay is a big user and it is estimated that an incredible 50+ million disagreements amongst traders on eBay are resolved every year using online dispute resolution.

“There is no doubt that virtual mediation is here to stay and is certainly appropriate for low value disputes. However, where considerable sums are in dispute or complex issues arise, serious consideration should be given to the traditional form of mediation even in the current circumstances,” concludes Ian.

For more information, Ian has created a guidance sheet, Mediations in the time of Covid, alongside another fact sheet, Renegotiation – An art not a science.

Law firm warns of Post Brexit GDPR impact

Conexus Law, the specialist advisory firm that provides legal and commercial advice to clients who work in sectors where the built environment, technology, engineering and people converge, is urging companies to prepare for the strong possibility that the EU will fail to agree that the UK has an “adequate data protection regime” after the transition period at the end of the year. This will mean that businesses will face barriers transferring personal data to and from the UK to EU countries under GDPR. The warning comes on the back of the ruling by the European Court of Justice at the beginning of July that reversed the prior adequacy decision of the EU for the USA – rendering its Privacy Shield ineffective.

Ed Cooke, Founder at Conexus Law said: “The UK’s use of mass surveillance techniques, our Investigatory Powers Act, and our membership of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing community has raised particular concerns with the EU – especially in relation to the sharing of data with the US, and even more so given the recent Schrems II decision on the Privacy Shield scheme. What is clear is that once a decision has been made then companies will need to move quickly to ensure they are not severely impacted.”

Failure to reach an agreement would mean that companies will need to look at alternatives such as Standard Contractual Clauses and binding corporate rules. Ed reiterates that merely relying on consent is not really an option for most businesses.

“Each of these options has its challenges with consent generally viewed to be unworkable as it can be revoked at any time. Standard Contractual Clauses were upheld in the ECJ in its judgment on Privacy Shield, but the judges did cast some doubt on whether or not these offer suitable protection in all cases without businesses adopting further practical measures such as encryption, to ensure the protection of personal data,” explains Ed.

Conexus Law is advising companies to start preparing now. Companies should already have a full audit of what personal data they collect and where it is stored and transferred to, including back-ups that may be held by cloud-based providers with datacentres all over the world. This audit needs to include all suppliers and partners that data is shared with. The next stage is to look at standard contractual clauses and decide whether further measures are required based on the specific data being transferred. If not, consideration should be given additional methods such as encryption.

“It seems that an adequacy ruling under GDPR is being used as a BREXIT bargaining chip in relation to other unrelated diplomatic negotiations taking place. Unfortunately, businesses may end up bearing the brunt of this and I would highly recommend that they start to prepare now,” concludes Ed.

Fact Sheet: Mediations in the time of Covid-19

In our factsheet Renegotiation – An art not a science, we touched upon resolving disputes using the process of mediation.

Mediation is:

  • Voluntary, private and non-binding negotiation until the parties distil any negotiation/ settlement to a new written settlement agreement.
  • It is most often the appointment of a qualified professional third party mediator (from a professional mediation body such as CEDR or Independent Mediators in the UK) who shuttles between the parties, undertaking confidential discussions with the parties, with a view to brokering a negotiation/ settlement between them.

In the past, mediation has usually been undertaken across, at least, three rooms at a neutral venue with the mediator shuttling between the opposing parties’ rooms having confidential decisions with each party to try to narrow the dispute and gap between them, and ultimately try to get them to reach a settlement.

At the start of such a mediation, there was usually a plenary session where the mediator sits at one end of the table and the parties and their lawyers speak to each other across it.

With Covid-19, mediation has now moved online and they are taking place by various platforms using live screen video. In particular, Zoom is being used as the facility for secure separate breakout rooms for separate parties and for bringing the parties together in a plenary session.

So how is it operating virtually? The mediator places each party and its lawyers into its own virtual room, even if representatives from party are at different locations. The mediator can then speak to each party separately or with the parties together. Instead of actual shuttle diplomacy between actual rooms, the mediator does the same virtually by switching online from room to room.

But what are the matters and potential pitfalls that need to considered for a virtual mediation:

Check that there is an online mediation protocol in the mediation agreement to be signed by the parties which governs the terms of how the virtual mediation progresses and the rules to be adhered to. It should contain at least the following:

  • The parties should agree that no recording of the mediation takes place (it’s a confidential process), no photo images are taken and that there is no sharing of the mediation meeting ID other than to participants at it.
  • If for any technical reason, including error on the mediator’s part in moving parties correctly to the breakout rooms, a participant finds itself able to see and/or hear a private conversation between the mediator and/or any other party, the participant should terminate the online mediation session at once and call or text the mediator on the number provided by it.
  • Steps to be taken if technology fails to operate properly or the mediation session does not start on time or is interrupted.

In the case of the cross border mediations, pre-mediation checks should be undertaken to ensure that no national firewalls prevent parties in one jurisdiction from using Zoom or the technology platform to be used for the mediation.

A pre-mediation call from the mediator to all participants from a party and the testing of the technology platform to be used by all representatives of party for the mediation is paramount. A good and secure internet connection and both the parties and the mediator understanding the technology/platform are very important to a successful mediation.

As to the virtual mediation itself, the following points should be borne in mind:

  • A headset with microphone or earphones with microphone is very helpful.
  • Mute microphones and don’t talk over people.
  • A professional background and decent lighting will assist the process. Representatives of a party should show their faces and not hid behind their name on a black screen or stock photo of themselves so that each party and the mediator can see how they are reacting to points being made.
  • An interruption free day is very important for participants. That is more easily achieved in an in-person mediation rather than representatives from a party being in different locations and often at their homes. The use of phones and checking emails on the computer that a party is using to participate in the virtual mediation should try to be avoided.
  • Across a screen, it is going to be more difficult to establish rapport. To gain a parties’ trust and confidence, rapport must be genuine. Before people are willing to settle, they must feel that their interests are truly understood. Only then can a mediator reframe problems and float creative solutions. Relationship building is more difficult online. Eye contact with the other side can be difficult if they are sitting well back from their screens and not in the same room.

Virtual mediation is still relatively new for all clients, litigators and mediators. In our experience of having undertaken virtual or live screen mediations, it’s the best bet in circumstances where parties genuinely cannot all be present at the same premises (even on a socially distanced basis), but it is simply not as effective as a live mediation with all the parties at the same venue, cooped up in their respect rooms for most of a day and with the mediator being able to shuttle between them in the flesh.

Perhaps one of the most well recognised users of online dispute resolution is Ebay. It is estimated that an incredible +50 million disagreements amongst traders on eBay, are resolved every year using online dispute resolution.

Virtual mediation is here to stay and is no doubt appropriate for low value disputes but where considerable sums are in dispute, serious consideration should be given to the traditional form of mediation even in the current circumstances.

For further advice on mediating, please contact Ian Timlin via his contact details below. Ian has been a CEDR accredited mediator since 2000.

Ian Timlin
Main: +44 (0)20 7390 0280
Mobile: +44 (0)77 6742 7332
[email protected]

This factsheet is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The law is open to, and may have changed since this was written, and it cannot be relied upon as advice in respect of your particular situation. 05/08/2020