Sunday, 20 November 2011

Paul Howcroft

Sometimes it’s the people you’ve known the longest who hold the most surprises.  I first knew Fladgate litigation partner Paul Howcroft in the early 1990s when I was Marketing Director at Nicholson Graham & Jones (now K&L Gates). He was famous in the firm as one of its most highly regarded banking litigation and insolvency lawyers, managing a 10-strong team looking after litigation matters for one of the top clearing banks.  A City man through-and-through was how I always saw him.

After I left Nicholsons, we kept in touch vaguely over the years.  Then three years ago I had the pleasure of crafting a press release to announce Paul’s appointment at one of Kysen’s longest- standing and best-loved clients: Fladgate.   So nice to be working with him again!

Was I surprised to see him at a mid-town firm?  Certainly the City / West-End divide is not as it was in the 1980s and before, and legal careers move more freely between the two.  What has surprised me though is how Paul has developed a burgeoning art law practice alongside his banking, litigation and insolvency work.  And to look at the calibre of cases he is handling, this man is not dabbling; acting for the sellers of a Leonardo da Vinci drawing against art dealers for the recovery of secret profits; acting for US owners of a painting by Edvard Munch in a Nazi looted art dispute, to give you just two examples.

And I’m really enjoying his Art Law London blog. One of his recent posts discusses the Henry Moore sculpture that stands outside the Houses of Parliament, Knife Edge Two Piecein the context of 'res nullius', the legal term referring to things that belong to no-one, which can’t become owned just by the taking.  In the context of valuable works of art, res nullius is highly problematical.  Paul explains: 'The artist and the Contemporary Art Society, which paid for the casting, gave the work to the grateful nation in 1967, and what was then the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works accepted delivery.  However, when the British Council recently wanted to send the sculpture for display in the garden of the Kremlin (as it would), it could find no national or local government department or agency that had any record of ownership.'

Apparently there have been a number of reports of Henry Moore sculptures disappearing. 'In light of that,' asks Paul, 'and also a case called Sullivan where a defendant was acquitted of theft because the money he took did not seem to belong to anyone, should one not be organising a hoist and a heist?'  Love it Paul!  'Sadly, there are two reasons why not' he advises.  'The first is that the Sullivan case has not been followed and is regarded as bad law, and the second is that Knife Edge Two Piece is in one of the highest security areas in England.'

According to his self-styled twitter ID, he says he would be a renaissance man 'if only he had the time, talent and energy.'  Don’t believe the anti hype.  A renaissance man he most certainly is.


What a contrast between New York / London approaches to the Occupy movement this week!  Whilst UK protesters were saddened to see Occupy London served with eviction notices, at least the UK approach is focused (so far) on reasoned and legal argument.

In contrast, news of the Occupy Wall Street evictions was dominated by scenes of police brutality. There was even a report of an incredulous retired US Supreme Court Judge, Karen Smith, shoved up against a wall and threatened by a NYPD officer when she questioned him after she had allegedly witnessed him beating up a woman at the Zuccotti Park raids.

Policy chairman for the the Corporation of London Stuart Fraser told Channel 4 News this week he was prepared to use "all legal measures," including riot police, to remove protesters.  Let's hope we stop short of the excesses of the New York authorities.


The Lawyer's PR drinks was a memorable event last Tuesday, by all accounts.  I couldn't go, but the Kysen team was well represented by Sophie and Elliott.  They told me the event was very useful for networking among the legal PR and journalist community.  They caught up with various Kysen alumni, such as Cara Rowell who is now at Farrers and Sonia Malhotra at Taylor Wessing, also chatting to Christian Metcalfe who is just finishing his role at Estates Gazette before moving across to Lawyer 2B.  

From other sources though, I heard that the event was also good for partying.  Mags tweeted that the event 'went on till the wee hours with dirty words of Karaoke and kebabs being tossed about'.  Karaoke?  Kebabs?  Sophie, Elliott, you said nothing about this!  I have to say they were both bright-eyed, bushey-tailed and working hard first thing Wednesday morning.  Well they have youth on their side... 

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