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”

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”

Take a good long look in the mirror before espousing change seriously

Take a good long look in the mirror before espousing change seriously

The words of BT Legal’s Leeanne Whaley, in ‘Held to account’, particularly stand out in this issue: ‘We spend a lot of money with external law firms. It historically suited law firms to not be transparent, but outside of big-ticket M&A and litigation, the job of a commercial lawyer is more replicable than ever.’

That this type of comment, made recently but equally has been repeated in many guises since the global financial crisis, needs to be repeated today is alarming. Put simply, in this day and age clients should not need to remind law firms that their existence is on a knife-edge: they should just vote with their feet. Traditional reputations should carry no weight with clients and firms should be judged on what they are doing now, rather than what they used to do. In the feature, Tony Williams of Jomati says firms can no longer rely on getting the lion’s share of the work based on their market reputation alone, adding that traditional law firms need to ‘get sensible’ and innovate on billing or risk being left behind. Continue reading “Take a good long look in the mirror before espousing change seriously”

We’ve listened: important new changes to The Legal 500 UK 2022

We’ve listened: important new changes to The Legal 500 UK 2022

This month’s issue of Legal Business may be dedicated to the largest firms in the UK by revenue but sibling title The Legal 500 is a much more inclusive church. The latest UK solicitors guide includes no fewer than 1,154 distinct firms operating in the UK across nearly 10,000 distinct rankings, of which nearly 4,500 are in the all-important London market. And with client feedback levels up 50% to more than 50,000 responses across the UK, they should reflect general counsel opinion better than ever.

We’re going to be taking a closer look at the rankings themselves and the performance of the LB100 in the next issue of Legal Business but there are a few important points about the most recent research that I want to highlight now. This year, on top of my general drive towards pushing for quality at the top of our core City rankings, improving diversity and ensuring our rankings are as reflective of the current market as possible, we have made two new tangible changes. Continue reading “We’ve listened: important new changes to The Legal 500 UK 2022”

Letting go: anathema to a control-freak partner

Letting go: anathema to a control-freak partner

Two observations from the GC of BT Technology, Chris Fowler, stand out in our innovation feature, ‘Arrested development’. One: ‘If the work is repeatable and needs delivering to certain set outcomes at a certain price point, you become agnostic as to who is actually doing the work’ – suggesting the sacred cult of the individual may be diminishing in the eyes of clients. Two: ‘It always appears to us that the partner wins the work, the partner prices the work, and the partner delivers the work. I struggle with that in today’s world.’

While partnership and megalomania can go hand-in-hand, we have come a long way from the days when power-play behaviour from individual partners could actually hurt firms. Control has been ceded in many areas, recognising that allowing business professionals to play their part and junior lawyers to develop on the job enhances the offering that clients receive. Continue reading “Letting go: anathema to a control-freak partner”

The work from home dilemma – get creative

The work from home dilemma – get creative

If 2020 was about surviving coronavirus and lockdown, 2021 is most certainly about rebuilding and making up for lost time. With the Covid-19 vaccine rollout progressing well, and pubs and shops reopening ahead of a supposed return to normality by late June, going back to the office is becoming a reality.

As The Legal 500 UK editor Georgina Stanley points out in ‘Living at work’, the past year has seen the stigma that working from home is less productive than long office hours eradicated, but we have also lost the benefits of spontaneous social interaction with clients and colleagues and the ease of separation between work and home life. As for the younger generation of lawyers, they are suffering from a lack of face time with clients and partners, losing out on crucial training and development. Continue reading “The work from home dilemma – get creative”

Depressing end to Weinstein gagging order narrative means closure for none

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) announced in January that 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 for the decision were that Mansell’s ill health meant that continuing with a trial posed a significant risk to his life. Continue reading “Depressing end to Weinstein gagging order narrative means closure for none”

Failings in Beckwith prosecution undermine #MeToo fight and muzzle regulator

Failings in Beckwith prosecution undermine #MeToo fight and muzzle regulator

The High Court ruling in November that overturned the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT)’s finding against ex-Freshfields partner Ryan Beckwith has sent shockwaves reverberating around the profession.

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 (SRA)’s code of conduct, reversed his £35,000 fine and quashed the £200,000 costs order. Continue reading “Failings in Beckwith prosecution undermine #MeToo fight and muzzle regulator”

Falling angels: Freshfields faces cum-ex repercussions

Falling angels: Freshfields faces cum-ex repercussions

It has been a difficult year for Freshfields. In PR terms it has been an annus horribilis, and the enormity of the challenge faced by the firm’s first female senior partner, Georgia Dawson, cannot be understated.

Seemingly unable to move on from damaging #MeToo allegations; suggestions of an inappropriate drinking culture; an incomplete UK move to Bishopsgate; and a succession of high-profile departures culminating in Skadden’s poaching of Bruce Embley on the eve of Dawson’s appointment; all have contributed to keeping Freshfields in the press for the wrong reasons. Continue reading “Falling angels: Freshfields faces cum-ex repercussions”