Lawyers round on license-stripped Uber’s ‘dishonourable history’ as stricken company calls on Hogan Lovells to fight appeal

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By Katie King on

One says defending Uber is as out of fashion as defending Brexit, others think TfL’s decision is ‘Stalinist’

Transport for London (TfL) had Uber users reeling this weekend after stripping the app of its license because of a “lack of corporate responsibility” — and the legal Twitterati has had an awful lot to say about it.

Though the revolutionary cab company will continue to operate while its legal team at Hogan Lovells puts together an appeal, some lawyers think it should be game over for Uber. Paul Bernal, a senior law lecturer at the University of East Anglia, is particularly Uber averse, telling Legal Cheek readers the company is no “saintly victim of antediluvian black cab drivers”. He continued:

I think a lot of people forget that Uber has a dishonourable history in a number of ways, from allegations of privacy invasions and rumours (and more) of misogyny (for which a board member resigned). Just because the app is cool and the prices are low isn’t enough for Uber to be seen as the future-looking victims — and that’s not even starting on the safety issue!

Twitter was awash this weekend with further lawyer-led anti-Uber sentiments. In-house solicitor Andrew Sharpe said backing the company is “completely out of fashion”:

Media law partner Mark Stephens noted he just doesn’t understand those who defend the company:

But, despite Sharpe and Stephens’ sentiments, there certainly are people speaking out in favour of the app — not least the 750,000 petitioners that have called to ‘Save Your Uber in London’.

And lawyers too. Littleton Chambers’ Liz Dux tweeted that Uber has “revolutionised” her life and that she’s “devastated” about the prospect of losing it. Fellow barrister Joe Rich appears equally disconcerted by TfL’s ruling, telling Legal Cheek:

It’s arguably safer to be in an Uber than in any other type of taxi. TfL runs the rule over each Uber driver individually and all their journeys are individually tracked. Uber is now good enough for 732 cities in 84 countries, but strangely now not for cutting-edge London.

He also tweeted:

And Goldsmith Chambers Jerry Hayes, like Dux and Rich, worries about the impact TfL’s decision will have on Uber’s 40,000 drivers:

Though it may be a massive generalisation Uber seems the preserve of tech-savvy millennials, and it follows they’ll be the hardest hit by the decision. It’s interesting, then, to see early votes on the Legal Cheek poll embedded below show law students are pretty split on the whole thing.

This voting pattern may be explained by a combination of students’ desire for on-demand, cheaper transport services and their reluctance to endorse a company that’s had such a controversial legal history. Uber has been scalded for its tax practices, its treatment of staff and its method of calculating fares, among other things.

Hogan Lovells has long acted for the embattled cab company. TfL has a panel of external law firms, namely: Ashurst, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Eversheds Sutherland, Freshfields, Gowling WLG, Herbert Smith Freehills, K&L Gates, Lewis Silkin, Dentons, Trowers & Hamlins and Simmons & Simmons.

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