In the soup

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Historically, the largest law firms have had a patchy relationship with the profession’s regulators. Can the Solicitors Regulation Authority build bridges?

Martin Baker, head of risk and compliance at Taylor Wessing, is sitting in a boardroom in front of a mountain of documents. He has only just read through the first few pages of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) second consultation paper on its proposed new code of conduct. With a worried look on his face, he mentions that, in order to bring his firm’s current risk and compliance handbook up to date, he may as well start implementing the changes now before they come into force next October. Continue reading “In the soup”

Two’s company

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After getting Beachcroft fit for the modern age, senior partner Simon Hodson and managing partner Paul Murray will run the firm for five more years. Time for a progress report

Beachcroft senior partner Simon Hodson (see left) often has his tongue firmly in his cheek when commenting on the industry, but this time he’s deadly serious. ‘These pissing contests over how many hundreds of thousands people get paid are obscene and, frankly, not good for the profession.’ You might expect this from a buyer of legal services, but not from the senior partner of the 23rd largest firm by revenue in the UK. To his left, managing partner Paul Murray (see right) nods in agreement. Continue reading “Two’s company”

Under review

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Over the past decade panels have defined the relationship between law firms and the major banks. But as the nature of those relationships shifts, panels are becoming even more important

Mark Harding insists there’s been a shift of power. ‘Previously, with a lot of work, the boot was always on the law firm foot,’ Barclays’ general counsel asserts. ‘Now the boot is on the other foot.’ Coming from one of the most senior GCs in the City, head of a 900-strong in-house team with a legal spend of £100m, it’s something to take note of. Continue reading “Under review”

Education, education, education

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Law firms take their training very seriously. LB spent some time in the classroom to see how education has become more than just a break from the billable hour

It’s all far removed from a university lecture. The 20 Norton Rose senior associates turn up on time, apparently without a hangover in sight. The lawyers help themselves to the spread of fresh fruit and coffee and take their seats at a U-shaped desk which leaves nowhere to hide. They have come from as far afield as the Hong Kong and Dubai offices to the firm’s London HQ for a three-day course on marketing and business development. Continue reading “Education, education, education”

Management speak

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In just under two years Simon Davies has restructured Linklaters’ partnership, cut lawyers and offices and ridden the financial crisis. Time for a new strategy

Simon Davies sees his job in simple terms. ‘The most important task is developing the strategy and then implementing it,’ says Linklaters’ managing partner. Since April of this year he’s been putting a new strategy in place. The vision set out by his predecessor Tony Angel – to be the leading global law firm – hasn’t changed. It’s the means of getting there that the new plan is concerned with.

The two-year strategy places particular emphasis on client relationships and the firm’s people. Just as Davies sees his role, it’s hardly rocket science. But since he officially took over from Angel in January 2008 aged just 40 Davies and his management team have been forced to make a series of tough strategic calls.

Continue reading “Management speak”

System failure

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The Advocates General of the European Court of Justice have argued that more work needs to be done before a single European patents court replaces national jurisdiction in the EU. More than 20 years after it was mooted, a unified patent litigation system is still being debated.

If you thought patent lawyers were mild-mannered boffins, think again. You could almost hear the collective wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the EU this summer when a leaked opinion appeared to shatter any hope of a unified patent litigation system being introduced in Europe. Continue reading “System failure”

A breath of fresh air

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Over the course of the past decade renewable energy has become a mainstream part of the energy sector. With investment flooding into projects across Europe, domestic and international firms are connecting with a new revenue stream

In renewable energy the emphasis is on thinking big. From the chain of offshore wind farms forming around Britain’s coast, to the solar plants strung out across southern Spain, to an ambitious proposal to cover parts of the Sahara with solar panels, billions are being poured into myriad projects. As national governments scramble to meet the targets agreed by the EU — to produce 20% less carbon dioxide, improve energy efficiency by 20% and increase renewable energy to 20% of the energy mix — investors and their advisers are getting to grips with a rapidly evolving sector.

Continue reading “A breath of fresh air”

Rest in pieces

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Reckless ambition, inept management and greed: a case study in how not to run a law firm

In February 2009, this magazine published a cover feature charting Halliwells’ dramatic fall from grace. Entitled ‘The Flight of Icarus’ (see LB191), it revealed how, through what proved to be a fatal combination of reckless ambition, ineptitude and greed, the firm’s management had scuppered what formerly ranked as one of the UK’s fastest growing and most promising names.

Thanks to a series of ill-judged strategic decisions – such as a controversial property deal that saw the equity partners share a secret £15m kickback – Halliwells had, in the space of a few short years, gone from being debt-free to teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

Continue reading “Rest in pieces”