International reach We're a leading UK law firm with a truly global reach.
Our clients conduct their businesses on a global basis and expect us to be able to look after and coordinate their legal interests wherever they may arise. We appreciate that understanding different cultures can be just as important as providing legal knowledge and expertise.
We've developed an extensive informal network of law firms we've worked with over many years in most foreign jurisdictions. In addition, we're active in the management and coordination of two international legal alliances that provide access to international law firms that are right for any particular assignment and that we know, trust and are happy to recommend to our clients.
Read on below for examples of recent international work we have carried out.
Legalink is an invitation-only non-exclusive network of top-tier independent law firms which practice in the world's finance and commercial centres. Member firms regularly work together on international matters and meet twice a year to create and reinforce strong relationships. This ensures that we're able to assist our clients in making an effective judgment about which firm will best meet their interests internationally, whilst not being tied to refer to any overseas firm if not appropriate to do so.
Member firms are selected based on an outstanding reputation, depth and breadth of commitment to international legal services, and a proven ability to assist other law firms undertaking international legal work. We're one of only two UK member firms and the only firm with offices outside London. We have been actively involved in management of the network, with partner Gary Jones sitting on the management committee since 2013 and chairing the network for two years from 2017.
For further information about Legalink, contact Gary Jones.
Insurance Law Global
Weightmans is a founding member of Insurance Law Global (ILG), a multi-jurisdictional legal network providing a global service to insurance clients.
The network is made up of eight law firms from the UK, Spain, The Netherlands, Canada, the USA, Mexico, Australia and Hong Kong. Weightmans works alongside fellow members Blaney McMurtry of Canada, Spanish firm Lopez-Ibor Abogados, Ekelmans Advocaten of The Netherlands, the USA’s Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, Adame Gonzalez de Castilla & Besil in Mexico City, Australian firm Carter Newell and Howse Williams in Hong Kong.
Insurance Law Global is a network of like-minded independent law firms. We've worked hard to ensure we're culturally and organisationally compatible, and we're committed to continuing this development, expanding the global reach of the network even further and offering our clients the best possible service.
Member firms have a strong commitment to the insurance industry and share a common philosophy — we're results-oriented and offer practical solutions of a high standard, with client care at the heart of our approach. The group will collaborate to help clients respond to the challenges presented by globalisation and the increasingly dynamic political and environmental landscape.
Collectively, ILG has bases in 37 cities across 10 countries, and the network is seeking to expand its reach across Europe, the Middle East and the Far East.
For further information about ILG, contact Kieran Jones.
International Bar Association Insurance Committee
We are pleased to announce our collaboration with the International Bar Association Insurance Committee in its recent global project on the impact of COVID 19 insurance claims in 20 jurisdictions.
Lead by Ling Ong, Partner in our London office, our team was responsible for the UK chapter.
We are delighted to have had the opportunity of participating in this important international project.
International work examples
A claim arose from a motorcycle accident that occurred in England. The claimant was a pillion passenger on his brother’s motorcycle and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury which left him in a minimal consciousness state. The motorcycle was insured by a Polish insurance company as both parties were Polish. The claimant was originally treated in England but was then repatriated to Poland for ongoing treatment and in particular speech therapy using his native language. The claim was issued in the English court and was subject to English law. The English Court of Protection had also been involved due to the extent of the injury. Following repatriation to Poland on a permanent basis, the Polish Court of Protection became involved. A dispute arose about which Court of Protection should be involved on an ongoing basis. We were instructed for the Polish defendant insurer.
There was an additional issue around a Part 36 offer made by the claimant. The offer was based on a lump sum and periodical payment for future losses. The offer was accepted by the defendant, but the claimant then sought to withdraw the offer as there was no certainty that the defendant Polish insurer was “secure” under the Damages Act. The High Court determined that the periodical payment was secure and that the Part 36 offer could not be withdrawn after it had been accepted.
We have advised a wealthy client and her various affiliated companies on an international corporate re-organisation and entity reduction project involving around 60 companies, 19 properties with a £1b post-development asset value, 6 jurisdictions and 50+ related corporate, property and real estate finance transactions.
The re-organisation focused on conceiving and implementing a strategy to remove unnecessary corporate entities in asset holding structures in a tax-efficient manner and with a view to saving up to £400m in inheritance tax, reduce risk and finance and administration cost, improve bankability of the various corporate entities, and improve various practical considerations to assist in communication, travel and asset management.
Alongside this, the client’s personal estate planning was addressed via lifetime gifting and a complex trust that will achieve their aims and provide for a multi-generational solution.
The work began with a coordinated multi-disciplinary and multi-office effort to produce an initial Tax & Restructure Report and has continued on the same basis with the actual implementation of the strategy. The strategy was continuously monitored and managed through “agile” methodologies and had the benefit of considerable consultation and cooperation with offshore advisers in various jurisdictions around the world.
The project was one of the largest and most complex of its kind for the firm.
We acted for a prominent, non-UK-based, energy contractor and subsidiary in relation to matters consequent to the construction of a gas platform and pipeline in the Caribbean. Our advice included considering the contractual implications of an earthquake. We were able to assist our client in achieving an outcome to the satisfaction of all parties without recourse to formal dispute resolution.
Corporate and commercial
Weightmans were instructed to act for GDS Holdings Limited in connection with credit facilities provided by Silicon Valley Bank (“SVB”) to GDS Holdings US, Inc., a company incorporated in Delaware, US.
The credit facilities included a $11,500,000 facility (“Facility”) which was utilised towards the refinancing of facilities provided to the GDS group by, among others, Saratoga Investment Funding LLC. It was a condition of the Facility that companies within the group, including GDS Holdings Limited, were required to provide security over their assets in favour of SVB to support the obligations of GDS Holdings US, Inc.
Weightmans advised GDS Holdings Limited on the English law aspects of the security arrangements and worked alongside US counsel to complete the transaction. Weightmans were subsequently instructed to act for GDS Holdings Limited on the release of the SVB security pursuant to a corporate restructure.
Working with our Omaha Legalink partner firm, Dvorak Law Group LLC, we also acted for US aesthetics corporation ZO Skin Health, Inc. in connection with its acquisition of UK and Eire distributor Wigmore Aesthetics Limited. This included the establishment of the European group structure for Zo Skin Health, a corporate acquisition, and putting in place new exclusive distribution and services agreements for the UK and Eire.
We assisted a retail client with multiple sites across Europe and Asia on the implementation of a consistent HR footprint across the whole of their business. This involved developing a benchmark set of HR policies and then liaising with a local law firm in each jurisdiction to adapt those benchmark policies to the local environment and to local labour laws.
We acted for another client, an Italian national, who provided consultancy services to a UK headquartered supermarket chain. Those services were delivered in both the UK and Italy, resulting in rights that arose under both Italian and English law. Upon the termination of the relationship, we worked with Italian lawyers to seek appropriate compensation across the two jurisdictions.
In another case, our client, a US-headquartered multinational IT services business, won a contract on retender to deliver a range of IT support services for a client in a number of jurisdictions worldwide. We led on the advice relating to the labour law implications under TUPE/Acquired Rights Directive in those European jurisdictions where services were to be delivered. Advice was sought from lawyers in each jurisdiction as necessary.
Share structures and company reorganisations
We acted for the UK interim holding company of a US-listed packaging manufacturer operating in the oil and gas sector advising specifically on the restructure of the UK based companies within the group. This transaction involved the redistribution of intra-group debt from a company in Cyprus, via Luxembourg to companies in the UK. The transfer of non-cash assets from Cyprus to Luxembourg was dealt with by the clients in house team based in the Netherlands, with whom we worked closely throughout the transactions.
Pre and Post nuptial agreements
The Weightmans family team regularly advises clients in relation to pre and post nuptial agreements (sometimes called marital agreements). They can be particularly helpful when clients seek to preserve assets in the event of a future relationship breakdown.
Where clients have different nationalities or hold overseas assets, nuptial agreements can be complex. They often require input from overseas lawyers to ensure that a nuptial agreement will have legal effect or weight in the other legal jurisdiction(s) in the event of divorce or dissolution proceedings being brought there. Our being part of the Legalink network of international lawyers is of great assistance.
Our Partner, Fiona Turner, represented a high net worth individual in relation to a divorce a number of years ago. The client remarried and chose to enter into a prenuptial agreement prior to their second marriage. Subsequent post nuptial agreements were negotiated during the course of the marriage (including advice taken in possible alternative jurisdictions) to ensure that changes to the client’s personal and financial circumstances were reflected in those documents.
Should that relationship break down, a financial settlement in accordance with the latest post nuptial agreement would save the client and their family millions of pounds on a divorce settlement. A settlement would be significantly higher if no nuptial agreements had been negotiated. It also means that the client would avoid, and so save, the considerable cost, time and stress of contested legal proceedings.
International divorce can be closer to home. There are significant differences in law between Scotland and England, and with teams on both sides of the border, Weightmans is well placed to advise on cases that span both jurisdictions. With a general increase in mobility for the population, and property ownership each side of the border, intra country issues arising from relationship breakdown are commonplace. Noel Ferry, Partner in Weightmans’ Glasgow office, dealt with a complex divorce for the Chairman of a well-known football team in Scotland. The parties owned properties in England, Scotland and elsewhere. The case involved valuations of the football club and grounds as well as various other shareholdings and assets. This action required cross-disciplinary practices including company, property and tax law with advice sought across the border in England and overseas due to the complex nature of the assets.
The movement of children across the world with their families is increasing due to globalisation, resulting in many complex issues arising for families if a relationship breaks down. In some extreme situations, children may be abducted/taken by one parent, or not returned to the other parent following a holiday abroad. Our International Children Team advise and represent clients who face these difficult and upsetting scenarios, and we are members of the charities Reunite and Global Arrk.
In other situations, a parent may wish to relocate abroad with their children following a relationship breakdown. However, the move is opposed by the other parent. Recent cases include a successful application to move abroad by a parent to another EU country for work purposes. Another case, opposing a move, required urgent steps to be taken to prevent the other parent from fleeing from the country with the child before we could deal with the relocation application.
These are very difficult cases, and the vast experience of, and sensitive handling by, our family team is critical.