Deal View: Warlords in Paris – Kirkland’s long march to the French capital

Deal View: Warlords in Paris – Kirkland’s long march to the French capital

For a 109-year-old giant that fielded just 12 offices at the beginning of 2017, Kirkland & Ellis has had an expansive 18 months. Of course, there is never a better time to invest than the year in which your firm became the highest-grossing legal outfit in the world as Kirkland did in 2018 after posting $3.165bn. But it is still notable that of the five branches launched since Jeffrey Hammes took over as chair in 2010, three were announced since May 2017.

While earlier Boston and Dallas launches reflect a well-established ambition in its home market, news of Kirkland’s plans for a new arm in Paris signal a more symbolic extension of empire. Only Kirkland’s third branch in Europe, it comes more than two decades after London and almost 14 years after its Munich debut. Continue reading “Deal View: Warlords in Paris – Kirkland’s long march to the French capital”

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.

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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”

For good or ill, Kirkland is now redefining high-end law

For good or ill, Kirkland is now redefining high-end law

Though I’ve always known that soul-of-a-law-firm cover features are the biggest draw for our readers, the response to our Kirkland & Ellis epic in July has been striking. Not since ‘Branded’ two years ago exposed the state of King & Wood Mallesons’ European business has a piece in these pages provoked such an intense reaction. Our team did a good job but that also reflects the hold the K&E phenomenon has taken over the industry’s imagination. Having covered the law for a good number of years, I cannot think of a firm that has attracted such strong emotions split between appalled detractors and the growing band battered into submissive admiration.

The critics loathe the outfit in part for upending some accepted notions of how global law firms are supposed to excel. But most of the distaste springs from the potency of a challenge emerging from outside the profession’s established London and New York elites. Kirkland’s success, however, isn’t just about defying norms. In some areas, Kirkland took platitudes of focus, meritocracy and leadership and turned them into realities. Sometimes brutal realities but that’s reality for you. Continue reading “For good or ill, Kirkland is now redefining high-end law”

LB100: Smoke, turmoil and a tonne of cash

LB100: Smoke, turmoil and a tonne of cash

The latest financial year has not been a vintage period for those wishing the legal industry would fall into concise patterns. Glancing at the LB100, separating the winners and losers by breed is more difficult than at any time over the last 20 years.

But murky as the picture is, some broad outlines can still be discerned. The 2017/18 season was one of the best 12 months of trading since the banking crisis a decade ago reset the legal market. Continue reading “LB100: Smoke, turmoil and a tonne of cash”