September 25, 2023
In the ever-evolving arena of law, staying informed is your key to success. In this article, we explore five compelling stories from the world of commercial affairs, offering you a glimpse into the dynamic and fast-paced legal landscape currently shaping the UK. From Google’s multi-billion-pound lawsuit, reshaping the legal profession with AI, to the intriguing saga of Wilko’s rescue attempts and impending job cuts at Deloitte and Citi, we bring you insights into the issues that matter.

1. Google Faces Multi-billion Pound Lawsuit

Topic areas:

For a long time, Google has dominated its market, and after Apple ensured Google was the default search engine for the browser, Safari, Google is “the default search engine for practically all mobile phones”.

Google has been accused of using its market dominance to raise prices paid by advertisers for their spot on the Google search page. By crowding its search pages with paid advertising, companies claim to feel more pressured to pay more for ‘clicks’.

The lawsuit filed with the Competition Appeal Tribunal claims that Google has broken competition law and raised the cost of living for every UK consumer. The claim seeks approximately £7bn on behalf of UK consumers.

So how does the consumer fit into this?

It is reported that the increased prices companies now have to pay to stay competitive through marketing, is “systemically passed on to consumers”, who are charged higher prices for goods and services. If the lawsuit (made on the behalf of 65 million UK consumers – aged 16 and over) is successful, each consumer could be eligible for around £100 compensation.

2. How Is AI Reshaping The Legal Profession?

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We are currently seeing technology take over the legal world. With the consequences of Covid-19, like remote working, this industry has had no choice but to heavily integrate with technology to survive and accommodate a new world. There is a new transformation currently taking place: artificial intelligence (AI).

So, what is AI? In simple words, AI is the science of making machines that can think like humans. How is AI being used in the legal world? AI is being used by law firms to automate processes and remain competitive.

For example, law firms use AI for:

  • Chatbots that provide preliminary counsel/legal assistance
  • Document review and automation (like drafting contracts, legal research memos, summaries, etc)
  • Mail filing systems
  • Immersive client engagement

What are some of its benefits?

  • Quicker and more accurate analysis of vast amounts of data
  • Law firms can save time and subsequently: money
  • Allows lawyers to focus on more higher valued tasks
  • Increased client satisfaction

So, what challenges does the legal world face with AI?

  1. Getting ahead of the curve: According to Thomas Reuters, 68% of legal professionals believe that the legal industry is behind other sectors in adopting AI
  2. Balancing tech adoption and human interaction: On one hand, for law firms and lawyers that are resisting the integration of AI into their services, it means that they are limiting their potential to use technology to their advantage and optimise client satisfaction. On the other hand, law firms and lawyers also need to learn how to balance human interaction and technology so that they are not replacing crucial qualities that belong to one group for the other.
  3. Competition: For global and bigger law firms, adapting to technology changes is done faster and is typically more advanced. This will ultimately widen gaps between competitors, especially when it comes to bigger versus smaller firms.

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3. Failed Rescue Attempts For Wilko

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High-street retail chain, Wilko, fell into administration in August after struggling with losses and not being able to remain competitive. Zelf Hussain, joint administrator at PwC, says that following failed last-ditch rescue attempts for Wilko’s operations, PwC are now working with potential buyers for different parts of the Wilko business.

Who are these potential buyers?

Pepco Group, owner of Poundland, are planning to convert up to 71 Wilko stores to the Poundland brand. Similarly, high-street rival, B&M have also agreed to buy 51 of Wilko’s buildings in a £13 million deal. In both instances, the stores will not be run under the Wilko brand.

What does this mean for Wilko staff?

Barry Williams, Poundland boss, says he recognises difficulty Wilko workers are facing and has assured in a statement that Wilko staff will have priority when applying for new jobs at Poundland shops.

HMV owner, Doug Putman, also tried to strike a rescue deal for Wilko – but this ultimately failed. This has increased uncertainty over the future of thousands of Wilko jobs, reportedly putting them at risk.

4. 100s Of Jobs Threatened At Deloitte And Citi

Topic Areas:

  • Commercial Business
  • Employment Law

As part of major restructuring/reorganising, it is forecasted that both Deloitte and Citi will be making 100s of jobs redundant.

Deloitte is set to cut hundreds of jobs in the UK following slowing demand from clients and falling attrition levels. When attrition levels are low that means employees are leaving/turning over at a much slower rate.

Naturally, this is desirable in a company but with reducing client work it means that there are more employees than work available. Consequently, approximately 800 employees are at risk of redundancy, as the accounting firm restructures the business.

The CEO of US banking giant, Citigroup, Jane Fraser has announced a “bold decision” to meet commitments to their shareholders, which involves job cuts  (at an unconfirmed scale) as the business reorganises.

With the reorganisation, Fraser has made it so that the heads of the bank’s five businesses (markets, services, investment and corporate banking and US consumer banking and wealth) report directly to her. Ultimately removing what she refers to as “unnecessary complexities” and layers.

5. Equal Pay 360 By The UK Government

Topic areas:

  • Public Law
  • Constitutional Law
  • Human Rights
  • Employment Law
  • EU Law

Under the Directive 2006/54/EC equal pay rights are consolidated and must be enforced by EU State members. In a bid to purge the EU laws, the UK government had reportedly scrapped this directive.

However, it has been recently announced that despite this protection being scrapped, women will still receive equal pay for doing a similar job as their male counterparts.

What does this mean for women in the UK?

Currently, there are still many women who get paid less than their male counterparts. For example, in 2021, a legal action was launched against the likes of Tesco and Asda for paying thousands of their female shop floor workers less than male warehouse staff.

Whilst the UK government claims that they will implement equal pay rights in new secondary legislation, by the end of the year, evidence has not created much assurance for the likes of the Labour party and wider society.

For more information, check out our article on an investigation into law firm gender pay gaps.


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