The GC outlook: more for more and more to come

The GC outlook: more for more and more to come

As a long-term observer of the legal profession, I view the development of GCs with an oxymoronic mix of admiration and cynicism. Admiration because common claims about the dramatic improvements in the calibre and size of the talent pool in the in-house profession are that rarest of beasts: a received wisdom that turns out on inspection to be largely true. Cynicism because those strides are often mixed with unwillingness to tackle the ethical and practical implications that come with increased clout.

Neither does much commentary account for the complex, love-hate relationship between GCs and law firms or the powerful impact of the career incentives that in-house counsel face on the development of the legal industry. Continue reading “The GC outlook: more for more and more to come”

PRIME and the rise of the tick-box ‘solution’

PRIME and the rise of the tick-box ‘solution’

The sheepish evasion now emanating from the once-lauded social mobility project PRIME is an abject lesson in what ethically ails the modern profession. Flashy initiatives, heavily promoted and then… nothing. Because the truth is that large commercial law firms confronted with all manner of social dilemmas have developed an increasingly unhealthy reflex response of reaching for gestures to give the facsimile of action with at best minimal focus on tangible results.

As you can see in Thomas Alan’s piece this month, the lack of rigour and quantifiable results emerging from PRIME, the most celebrated response to a social affairs issue to ever emerge from the commercial UK profession, is an ominous sign for an industry that purports to be getting more progressive. Continue reading “PRIME and the rise of the tick-box ‘solution’”

City horizons: The Legal Business view on the profession for you to cut out and keep

City horizons: The Legal Business view on the profession for you to cut out and keep

On occasion, we are asked to give our house view at partner conferences and the like. Undertaking one such gig last month for a top-50 UK law firm while the government unhelpfully melted down in the background, I put down some notes on the outline questions the law firm asked me to address before the conference. Obviously, I was not reading my notes in front of the audience in a two-way Q&A and did not stick to the script, but with a little scrubbing up and the identifying information removed, the notes seemed a decent compilation on the kind of topics that Team LB is frequently asked to opine on.

***

Continue reading “City horizons: The Legal Business view on the profession for you to cut out and keep”

The Last Word: The clients’ view

The Last Word: The clients’ view

Interviewed for our in-house lawyer survey, some leading general counsel give their views on ethics, law firm engagement and technology

Great expectations

‘There’s no question that stakeholders and the population at large have higher expectations of ethical conduct by companies and that this is only going to increase. Some of that will manifest itself as greater regulation. In-house functions play a greater role in ethical matters. It’s not just advising on legal issues – in-house functions can play a leading role in ensuring companies continue to follow the ethical path.’
Richard Price, group general counsel, Anglo American Continue reading “The Last Word: The clients’ view”

We come not to bury the Magic Circle but to save it

We come not to bury the Magic Circle but to save it

A number of contacts have been telling me of late that Legal Business is gaining a reputation for being ultra-bearish on the Magic Circle. So entrenched is this view becoming that one Freshfields partner has apparently taken to claiming to colleagues that LB is talking down the Magic Circle in favour of US players because recruiters tell us to.

Continue reading “We come not to bury the Magic Circle but to save it”

Age of just-about-OK ethics has passed

Age of just-about-OK ethics has passed

Once, not long ago, considerations of ethics were simple for law firms, if they bothered thinking about them at all. If what they were advising on was legal, however morally questionable, it was all good. Professional ethics? You didn’t need to worry – they were lawyers.

Those halcyon days are passing. Consider the convulsions in the profession regarding non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and their rampant use covering up harassment, a debate that has simmered for a year now. This topic skewers the profession on two fronts – NDAs have not only been used by law firms as a means of concealing poor behaviour by partners towards staff but they drew up the gagging agreements used by business at large. Continue reading “Age of just-about-OK ethics has passed”

The great distraction – The innovation bandwagon has hobbled market forces

The great distraction – The innovation bandwagon has hobbled market forces

I used to believe the UK legal profession was more imaginative than it got credit for – now I find with an increasingly jaded eye what fresh thinking there is has become stretched ludicrously thin. The vast majority of technology and new models are deployed to make the existing law firm a little more efficient to defensively preserve partner profits.

Continue reading “The great distraction – The innovation bandwagon has hobbled market forces”

Disputes Eye: ‘Draconian’ measures as SFO tackles privilege via the back door

Disputes Eye: ‘Draconian’ measures as SFO tackles privilege via the back door

Despite the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) opting in October not to pursue its much-publicised privilege appeal against ENRC any further, it is taking an increasingly hard-line approach in other ways.

Notably, the agency has come under scrutiny for its heavy-handed use of section 2 notices, an order compelling any individual or business to submit evidence or information. Failing to provide what the SFO wants can be punishable by up to six months’ imprisonment, a fine, or both. Continue reading “Disputes Eye: ‘Draconian’ measures as SFO tackles privilege via the back door”

Deal View: Herbert Smith Freehills’ corporate team – credibility and polish only get you so far up the table

Deal View: Herbert Smith Freehills’ corporate team – credibility and polish only get you so far up the table

‘It’s like the rivalry between Fulham and Chelsea,’ notes one former Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) partner of his old club’s oft-cited tension between corporate and disputes. ‘Fulham fans think of Chelsea as one of its biggest rivals. Chelsea fans think of Fulham as that nice team down the road.’

No prizes for guessing that it is corporate that represents the plucky underdog in this reading. At a glance, such a comparison seems uncharitable. HSF’s corporate team is ranked in The Legal 500’s second tier for premium M&A deals, alongside Allen & Overy and Clifford Chance; most peers still regard its City corporate team as the best outside the Magic Circle. The legacy Herbert Smith also has a history stretching back to the 19th century as one of London’s prominent corporate solicitors, long before its embryonic disputes team invented the modern City model of running litigation as a substantive business line in the 1970s. Continue reading “Deal View: Herbert Smith Freehills’ corporate team – credibility and polish only get you so far up the table”

Letter from… Shanghai: Despite high hopes, it turns out there is no such thing as a free trade lunch

Letter from… Shanghai: Despite high hopes, it turns out there is no such thing as a free trade lunch

‘The thing about China is there have always been those who think the bubble is going to burst and the die-hard optimists on the other side,’ says Holman Fenwick Willan (HFW) Shanghai head Nick Poynder. Indeed, though the second group (to which Poynder belongs) has lately been the noisiest. Not that optimists lack evidence for their confidence. With over 100 Chinese companies in the Fortune Global 500 hungry for overseas expansion, the assets of Asian banks surging since the banking crisis and an economy still growing more than twice as fast as the US, the market is impossible to ignore. Says Osborne Clarke (OC)’s Steve Yu: ‘[International firms] have to be there because their clients are there.’

Continue reading “Letter from… Shanghai: Despite high hopes, it turns out there is no such thing as a free trade lunch”