Guest post: Quality in law – endlessly invoked yet never defined

Here’s a question that’s been bothering me of late – what, exactly, is a quality legal service? You’ll have noticed that this phrase has become so common that it no longer requires an adjective (unless it’s poor quality). Many seem to think that if you say often enough that you provide one, it must be true.

It has come to the fore with the debate over criminal legal aid. First there is the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA). This elides ‘quality’ with competence. ‘The aim of QASA,’ says the application to the Legal Services Board for approval of the scheme, ‘is to assess and assure the competence of all advocates conducting criminal advocacy in courts in England and Wales.’

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Comment: Things I would have said about the future of law if I hadn’t forgotten my notes

I was recently asked to speak on a panel debate for Georgetown Law at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s City office to discuss the big issues facing the profession. As the panel’s host, Freshfields managing partner Ted Burke, sent the speakers some outline topics and questions beforehand, I sketched out some points to help order my thoughts.

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It’s your profession – accept it, change it but be honest


There are plenty of editors who live on the conference circuit but I’ve never been one of them. Still, I did accept a spot on a recent Georgetown panel discussion hosted at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s London office to talk about the wider issues facing the profession. You know the kind of stuff: recession, diversity, Google Law.

As often happens on these occasions, I was struck by the strong emotions that are triggered if you dispassionately describe how the legal industry works. In this case the trigger was my argument that the law firm model and the tournament of partnership, in pure economic terms, functions perfectly fine while losing large numbers of female associates. Continue reading “It’s your profession – accept it, change it but be honest”

The beta goes on – Legal Business gets a brand new site

Of the long list of changes I had in mind for Legal Business when I agreed to join the title as editor in chief, perhaps the biggest was a root-and-branch overhaul of the magazine’s online presence. In beta form, at least, you are looking at our first major step in achieving that aim with the launch today of a totally new and much improved website. Continue reading “The beta goes on – Legal Business gets a brand new site”

Love the legacy but it’s time for renewal


Tony Angel and the cute teddy bear next to him greeted me as I found my new desk – a Legal Business cover from 2003 and a personal favourite, a brilliant dissection of Linklaters’ painful reinvention as metric-driven world-beater. I soon dug out other classics, including the 2009 Icarus-themed investigation into pre-collapse Halliwells and the crumpled Hammonds cigarette packet illustrating a 2005 piece on the national player’s strained finances.

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All hail the comeback kings


Two features this month focus on firms that have dusted themselves down and have come back fighting. For markedly different reasons, both Clifford Chance and Bristows have returned from positions of perceived weakness to enjoy something of a renaissance post-economic crisis.

In 2012 Clifford Chance was one of the stronger performers in a UK Global Elite that has been pretty beleaguered of late. Its performance in the most recent LB100 outstripped its rivals, posting a 7% growth in turnover and a 9% rise in profit per lawyer. But in particular, its corporate practice enjoyed a very strong 2012, topping mergermarket’s M&A tables for deals by value right up until the end of the year until Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom posted a trio of high-value deals in December. Continue reading “All hail the comeback kings”

Dewey needs to take its head out of the sand


As LB was going to press, news emerged that Dewey & LeBoeuf was set to lose its recently acquired London private equity team, which includes two partners and nine associates, to McDermott Will & Emery. So another two partners have jumped ship, bringing the total number of partner exits close to 70 since the turn of the year. It is entirely possible that by the time you read this, further departures will have occurred.

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