Without prejudice first published the Top Student feature in 2002, which makes this 2022 edition of the feature rather special. I believe these top students are rather special too.
The graduates of 2020 and 2021 have spent the final years of their studies in a world plunged into uncertainty, where family, friends and often lecturers were recognised as integral to their lives and their well-being, and where mortality was thrown into sharp focus. And whilst of course, one cannot generalise, they learnt that despite the convenience of our digital age, a disembodied WhatsApp is nothing in comparison with hearing someone's voice or being in someone's presence. It is to be hoped that they carry these thoughtful emotions through their careers – the world will be a better place for them.
It is worth sparing a thought for those students and, of course, all citizens in Ukraine, who also spent two uncertain years during the pandemic only to find themselves in an appalling situation where the humanitarian cost is impossible for us to comprehend. Paul Gilbert, director of LBC Wise Counsel wrote in a blog, 'The unimaginable world of there being a war again in Europe, or of living through a global pandemic, was only three years ago. An unimagined world no more; we now collectively grieve the loss of ordinariness for those who are suffering so much.'
The Guardian reports that two former UK prime ministers, Sir John Major and Gordon Brown, have called for the creation of a special forum modelled on the Nuremberg trials. Putin is being investigated by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. However, it cannot pursue charges of aggression without the approval of the UN security council, and Russia, as a permanent member, could veto it. Gordon Brown wrote in the Daily Mail that this 'loophole in international law' must be closed so that Putin cannot 'dodge' accountability.
Lawyers, globally, are taking a stand. Two more judges of Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal resigned. Beijing's influence on the legal affairs of Hong Kong has increased since the imposition of a national security law in 2020. Lord Robert Reed, president of the UK Supreme Court, said that he and Lord Patrick Hodge had chosen to resign because they could not continue to sit 'without appearing to endorse an administration that has departed from values of political freedom, and freedom of expression'.
Reputational risk for Simmons & Simmons, Northridge Law and EY – the three law firms selected to advise on the sale of Russian oligarch, Roman Abramovich's Chelsea Football Club – was real. But both Simmons and Northridge stated that they will make donations from their fees to charities that deliver humanitarian aid to Ukraine. And global law firms appointed to assist the government of Ukraine to pursue allegations of war crimes and secure reparations, along with academics and institutions, will all work pro bono.
Finally. It with a very heavy heart that I must advise readers of without prejudice that this will be the last issue of the magazine. This is a decision that has not been made easily.
Regular readers of without prejudice will know that for some considerable time I have asked firms to become sponsors to guarantee its survival. Continuing in the hope that ad hoc financial income each quarter will meet financial output no longer makes business sense; the need to upgrade our website brought things to a head and made a decision necessary.
without prejudice is not an academic journal and has provided articles of interest that are sound in law and had the advantage of being a 'good read'. The magazine has enabled practitioners to keep up with not only their own areas of expertise, but also others in which they are interested, and the manner in which articles are written makes it easy for those in the corporate world to digest. Students always comment on the value of reading without prejudice to see theory put into practice. And many have valued the articles as a source of information not easily found elsewhere.
There are many people I would like to thank for their willingness to write – often with little notice – among them David Lancaster; Paul Gilbert, who always write insightful articles that provide practical advice; Patrick Bracher who has provided the 'it could only happen in the US 'Tales from the US of A', Hans Muhlberg, who writes so humourously and informatively about IP matters; and Graeme Palmer, whose gift it is to make complex areas of tax understandable. Lawyers, both senior and junior, who have little spare time, have provided articles of considerable interest, often on lesser-known areas of law and cases. And to all writers over the years whose articles have added value to without prejudice and benefitted so many readers – my very grateful thanks.
My sincere thanks must also go to the without prejudice sponsors. I would first like to thank core sponsors Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr and Webber Wentzel. Sally Hutton, Christo Els and Johann Scholtz at Webber Wentzel and Brent Williams and Johan Latsky at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr have always been generous with their time and thoughtful consideration of without prejudice. Johann Scholtz has been a member of the Editorial Advisory Board since its inception, and Chairman of the Board for several rotations. He has lent an unbiased eye, a sympathetic ear and provided a voice of wisdom whenever asked. I would like to thank our more recent sponsors, Absa, Beech Veltman, KPMG, Lawtons Africa and MacRobert for their support of without prejudice, and for providing interesting and informative articles that have benefitted not only lawyers and prospective lawyers, but also the wider corporate industry.
Last but undoubtedly not least, I would like to thank the without prejudice team and the CE of Gleason Publications and my co-director, Marylou Greig. The without prejudice team comprises sub-editor Gail Schimmel, who does much more than ensure that I do not change laws; copy editor Lee Robinson, whose eagle eye is such an asset; graphic designer Janine Harms, whose layout is so essential to the magazine; Vanessa Aitken, who always finds time and keeps the tech side of things going, and wears many other hats besides; our cartoonist extraordinaire – Dov Fedler and Liz Aitken, our bookkeeper who rules expenditure with an iron rod and ensures we have no bad debts. I must also thank our website host, Mycalture; the team there has been so accommodating with time and with a thoughtfulness and generosity not normally associated with business.
The weekly newsletter, without prejudice Legal Briefcase, will continue for a while.
The eternal optimist, I left this note to the last minute and I continue to hope that several white knights will ride in, and that without prejudice will rise from the ashes before the embers burn out.