Comment: Hope floats for City listing overhaul but American audacity is vital

Comment: Hope floats for City listing overhaul but American audacity is vital

City business has had cause to take heart in recent days with a clear display of political will behind an overhaul of UK listing rules that could see London shake off its Brexit and pandemic woes and reassert itself as global financial hub.

Proposals set out in the UK Listing Review, led by Lord Hill, will particularly pique the interest of anyone tracking the special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) market. Indeed, the ubiquity of those deals has made them difficult to miss. There has been much talk of London jumping on the bandwagon in a fit of FOMO as other listing destinations, especially the US and Amsterdam, pile into that frothy market with gusto. However, to say that London has been lagging competitors in the US, Europe and Asia for too long is an understatement, and any shake-up to expedite parity with peers hasn’t come a moment too soon. Continue reading “Comment: Hope floats for City listing overhaul but American audacity is vital”

Guest comment: Balancing acts – partnership versus corporation

Guest comment: Balancing acts – partnership versus corporation

Professor Laura Empson and David Morley ask what makes partnerships so distinct from corporations in what they demand of the people who lead them

Immerse yourself in a strong and successful professional partnership, even for a short time, and it becomes clear that these are unique entities requiring a very distinct kind of leadership. Continue reading “Guest comment: Balancing acts – partnership versus corporation”

Guest comment: Calling all the reluctant leaders

Guest comment: Calling all the reluctant leaders

Successful professional people are notoriously reluctant to take on the mantle of leadership. Increasingly, there are excellent reasons why they should, say Professor Laura Empson and David Morley

 ‘If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.’

It’s a phrase that carries a useful message in the context of leadership – particularly in professional services. Because high-achieving professionals would, by and large, prefer to stick with what they’ve always done, very successfully. That is what makes them reluctant leaders. Continue reading “Guest comment: Calling all the reluctant leaders”

Comment: Depressing end to Weinstein gagging order narrative means closure for none

Comment: Depressing end to Weinstein gagging order narrative means closure for none

The whimpering conclusion to the three-year saga that dragged City law into the middle of #MeToo could hardly have been more frustrating for everyone concerned.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) said on Thursday (14 January) it had decided to stay proceedings against Allen & Overy employment veteran Mark Mansell (aka Solicitor Z) relating to a non-disclosure agreement drawn up for disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in 1998. The grounds – Mansell’s ill health meant that continuing with a trial posed a significant risk to his life.  Continue reading “Comment: Depressing end to Weinstein gagging order narrative means closure for none”

Guest comment: A call to arms for the Bionic Lawyer

Guest comment: A call to arms for the Bionic Lawyer

I am you.  I am your colleagues.  I am what your customers have always dreamed of.  I am The Bionic Lawyer…

And so began an open letter to the legal industry from the Bionic Lawyer Project. That letter, published on 24 September, marked the end of the beginning of our project, as a year of energised collaboration paved the way for releasing 16 ‘levers’. Those 16 levers set, we believe, the design principles for the future legal industry. Continue reading “Guest comment: A call to arms for the Bionic Lawyer”

Comment: Failings in Beckwith prosecution undermine #MeToo fight and muzzle regulator

Comment: Failings in Beckwith prosecution undermine #MeToo fight and muzzle regulator

The ink is barely dry on Friday’s High Court ruling that overturned the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal’s finding against ex-Freshfields partner Ryan Beckwith and the shockwaves are starting to be felt around the legal industry.

In the unlikely event that the substance of the ruling has escaped anyone, the Queen’s Bench Division’s judgment reversed the SDT’s October 2019 findings that Beckwith’s drunken sexual activity with an intoxicated associate breached Principles 2 and 6 of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s code of conduct, reversed his £35,000 fine and quashed the £200,000 costs order.  Continue reading “Comment: Failings in Beckwith prosecution undermine #MeToo fight and muzzle regulator”

Comment: Last orders – The final reflections of a veteran legal pundit

Comment: Last orders – The final reflections of a veteran legal pundit

I’ve always suspected that, like politics, careers in journalism largely end in failure. Here is how mine ends. After 20 years covering the legal industry, it’s time to do something else. Given that length of time, I hope my four regular readers will forgive the introspection of my final Legal Business column.

I was an accidental legal journalist, just a business reporter who ended up covering law while looking for the next sector to cover in my restless twenties. Business journalists should want to cover a sector that is large, competitive, has smart people and that Britain excels at. Law certainly ticked all those boxes, not that you’d know it from the lack of attention it gets outside its own media. Continue reading “Comment: Last orders – The final reflections of a veteran legal pundit”

Comment: Litigators prepare as market enters phoney war but battle lines are yet to be drawn 

Comment: Litigators prepare as market enters phoney war but battle lines are yet to be drawn 

The received wisdom is that a downward trajectory in the economy results in an upward trajectory in contentious work as the environment becomes more acrimonious, and by extension more litigious. Of course, this is a simplistic take, but it does describe something that is approximately true.

But no downturn completely resembles the one before it. Though an overused description generally, even a cursory glance at the state of the economy shows the chaos wrought by the Covid-19 lockdown is truly unprecedented – the 20.4% contraction in in the economy during the second quarter of 2020 was the largest since records began.  Continue reading “Comment: Litigators prepare as market enters phoney war but battle lines are yet to be drawn “

The totally scientific secrets of leadership – What I learnt from years of drinking with managing partners

The totally scientific secrets of leadership – What I learnt from years of drinking with managing partners

The upheavals of 2020 have given me more time than normal to reflect on something that I’ve spent a good deal of my career engaging with: leadership in major law firms. But while leadership in law is widely accepted as crucial to the success of major institutions, it is a subject that still attracts much confusion and lazy platitudes. So, for what it’s worth, I’ve put down some reflections drawn from two decades of gossiping, arguing, drinking and debating with the c-suites of large law firms. The following are my personal observations and assertions about the state and nature of leadership in this game we call law.

Leadership at the crossroads As Legal Business has remarked before, 2010 was a curate’s egg for leadership in large City law firms. While operational management continued to improve after the battle testing of the banking crisis, strategic leadership became increasingly uncertain when it came to making the big calls. This happened as the model that delivered effective leadership through the 1990s and 2000s at what were then still London-driven firms failed to adapt to the sprawling global partnerships that they have now become. With partnerships being increasingly unwilling to delegate big strategic decisions to leaders during the 2010s, the obvious question of the Covid-19 aftermath is whether managing partners will use the crisis to retake the helm. They’ll certainly try but it’s far from clear that this more robust approach will survive a return to something like normal. Continue reading “The totally scientific secrets of leadership – What I learnt from years of drinking with managing partners”