Target on your back – the rise and fall of the ESG lawyer?

Target on your back – the rise and fall of the ESG lawyer?

A lot can happen in a year, and never more so it appears than in the constantly evolving world of the ESG lawyer. Pretty much a year ago to the day, we launched our inaugural ESG report, firms and lawyers having had the bandwidth afforded by the pandemic to get their heads around what they wanted their ESG image to be. In many ways, 2021 felt like a less cynical time. The industry at large was emerging from a health crisis, and we were conditioned to be kind, good corporate citizens because, let’s face it, who knew what personal and professional hell Covid might have wrought on the people we were dealing with?

Last year – the tricky task of getting firms to name mandates they’d rejected on ESG grounds notwithstanding – most firms we canvassed with our ESG questionnaire were tripping over themselves to show off their credentials. In 2021, 77% of firms questioned responded to our survey. With such an encouraging response, this year we went out to more firms, again approaching the top 25 Legal Business 100 firms, but also the top 25 Global London firms, not just the top ten. Only 52% responded. Continue reading “Target on your back – the rise and fall of the ESG lawyer?”

The profession must not let yesterday’s ESG news turn into today’s chip paper

The profession must not let yesterday’s ESG news turn into today’s chip paper

As we publish Legal Businesssecond ESG report, the words years ago of a male partner at a Magic Circle firm suddenly returned in a flash. To paraphrase: ‘The problem with City law firms is that they do a big push to keep women, they have a couple of female partners rising through the ranks, they think they have the gender diversity issue fixed. They tick it off the list and move onto the next thing.’

While acknowledging the manifold nuances and difficulties in diversity and inclusion of all kinds, it is disappointing to see how predictable this faddy approach to social progress continues to be. Continue reading “The profession must not let yesterday’s ESG news turn into today’s chip paper”

The Last Word: Best foot forward

The Last Word: Best foot forward

‘As custodians of the rule of law, we have to question whether we are undermining it in anyway? It’s in the mix for sure. I would expect that it plays on everyone’s minds.’ Sophia Adams Bhatti, Simmons & Simmons

On the back of our second annual ESG report, key decision makers share their views on how well law firms are stepping up to the mark

Continue reading “The Last Word: Best foot forward”

Guest comment: How are law firms retaining the top talent?

Guest comment: How are law firms retaining the top talent?

Nathan Peart, managing director of the Associate Practice Group at Major, Lindsey & Africa, analyses associate retention

The race to recruit and fill multiple vacancies in 2021 was a surprise to all after the first year of the pandemic. Law firms were busy across several practice areas and keen to attract the brightest and best lawyers into firms. However, after the rush of hiring, increase in salaries and sign-on bonuses paid out with guarantee periods long expired, how are firms keeping their new and existing lawyers, while balancing the tightrope between transparency and remaining competitive in the market? Continue reading “Guest comment: How are law firms retaining the top talent?”

ESG – What is it good for?

ESG – What is it good for?

When Legal Business rounded off our inaugural ESG report last summer, we concluded that the coronavirus pandemic had given law firm leaders the opportunity to crystallise their stance on environmental, social and governance (ESG) imperatives.

For one thing, partners were not jetting around the world, flying in the face (quite literally) of their carbon footprint reduction targets, yet they still managed to be exceptionally successful. Looking back, it was a time when it was easy to be virtuous. Continue reading “ESG – What is it good for?”

Time for a reality check on salaries

Time for a reality check on salaries

That one of the chief concerns among law firm leaders in Legal Business’ annual Global London report is the retention of talent and the salaries required to do that in an ultra-competitive recruitment market is of course not ground-breaking news. Pundits have for years bandied around the term ‘the war for talent’, and with ever-more frequency in connection with demand for deal lawyers as the seemingly unstoppable private equity boom continues apace.

But when these phrases take hold they tend to stick and get churned out at every available opportunity when senior lawyers talk about the manifold challenges facing their businesses. Critical as the pipeline of talent unquestionably is, now that there is a real war on, the term seems hyperbolic. Continue reading “Time for a reality check on salaries”

The Last Word: Broad stripes and bright stars

The Last Word: Broad stripes and bright stars

‘When it comes to English law, I don’t think clients are as focused on where a firm is headquartered, and they are willing to use a US law firm. The same is not true in reverse.’ Pranav Trivedi, Skadden

With the launch of our 2022 Global London report, we ask the leaders at US law firms in the City to weigh up the challenges ahead

Continue reading “The Last Word: Broad stripes and bright stars”

Lessons in management: Spoiler alert – it doesn’t get easier

Lessons in management: Spoiler alert – it doesn’t get easier

‘You can’t appeal to people’s better natures because they don’t have one. Everyone is fundamentally selfish.’ Nihilistic as this remark from a senior corporate partner may sound, on darker days, most law firm leaders would find it hard to argue the point.

While that partner can always be relied upon for a no-holds-barred, often strongly-worded take on the worries that are really keeping law firm leaders awake at night, that is not to say the more diplomatic concerns that people express on the record are any less valid. Continue reading “Lessons in management: Spoiler alert – it doesn’t get easier”

Stronger together? Not really

Stronger together? Not really

When we first launched our Euro Elite report in 2016, much of the narrative was that the future of the elite European independent firms as a breed looked assured but individually they faced challenging headwinds and delicate balancing acts to modernise their businesses for a more globalised and networked world. But we were perhaps being charitable to the Anglo-Saxon firms that have striven so hard for decades to dominate Europe and have largely failed. Nobody is drinking that Kool-Aid anymore. The headwinds have come and gone, or at least remain with little of the effects that many anticipated. The 100 firms in 40 jurisdictions that make up this year’s report have taken Brexit, Covid and political turmoil in their stride and are largely going from strength to strength.

It was supposed to be so different; the mostly UK-based firms that threw their weight about in Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Paris and Rome in the late 1990s and early 2000s, acting like bullies, predicted that legal services in those markets would be homogenised and those resisting would suffer. There were casualties – Loyens & Loeff was largely born of the ruins of Loeff Claeys Verbeke after Allen & Overy had picked it over. There were success stories too – Bruckhaus Westrick Heller Löber’s merger of equals with Freshfields was viewed as market defining, although there is an argument that it allowed Hengeler Mueller, Noerr and Gleiss Lutz to bolster their positions in Germany. There are many examples of Euro Elite firms rejecting formal advances from UK firms: Gleiss Lutz and Stibbe told Herbert Smith where to go, as did De Brauw (and others) to Linklaters. Few will have regretted that decision. Continue reading “Stronger together? Not really”