Guest comment: Corporate values mean nothing without cost – City law’s moment has come to champion diversity

Guest comment: Corporate values mean nothing without cost – City law’s moment has come to champion diversity

An institution’s values and commitment to inclusion are only real when tested. It is in challenging times that we decide whether we embrace those values and these are the defining moments that ultimately prove their worth. Amid a global pandemic, political upheavals, the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent movement that has flowed from his death, the profession’s actions will show if our values are either luxury items to be paraded when convenient or the rock on which we build our business.

It is precisely now beset by challenges that we need to put inclusion at the heart of our decisions. Leading law firms have often waxed lyrical about commitments to diversity; now is the moment to step up if we truly believe inclusion is a core value and an economic imperative. Continue reading “Guest comment: Corporate values mean nothing without cost – City law’s moment has come to champion diversity”

‘Making Freshfields an American brand’ – Inside the Silicon Valley launch handing the City giant a rare opportunity

‘Making Freshfields an American brand’ – Inside the Silicon Valley launch handing the City giant a rare opportunity

Roughly 30 seconds into conversation with Boris Feldman it becomes apparent why the charismatic litigator is regarded as a local legend in California’s legal community. Spitting out colourful quotes with the confidence that comes from having acted for pretty much every Bay Area brand name going, the bow-tied Feldman has nonetheless chosen an odd time in his lengthy career to change firm, let alone quit a local bellwether like Wilson Sonsini for the uncertain embrace of London’s oldest elite law firm.

But then Feldman’s move alongside four other senior lawyers to set up a Silicon Valley arm for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer speaks to two key issues of huge strategic importance for the storied London firm. The first point is that for the first time in its 43-year history in the US, Freshfields is attracting the kind of star power widely accepted as a prerequisite of success stateside. The second point is directly related: the acquisition of said talent has dramatically changed perceptions of the London firm in the US in just eight months after years of mixed opportunities and bad PR. Continue reading “‘Making Freshfields an American brand’ – Inside the Silicon Valley launch handing the City giant a rare opportunity”

‘Let’s tear up the rule book’ – Boies chief sets out her stall for a radical rethink of the elite law firm model

‘Let’s tear up the rule book’ – Boies chief sets out her stall for a radical rethink of the elite law firm model

If law firms are to survive and thrive, they must dramatically modernise the way they work and serve their clients; they must become more adaptable, flexible and collaborative if they are to prosper. While clients have accelerated and evolved in their respective sectors, the legal industry itself has failed – at best to keep pace – at worst to change in any meaningful way. Either way, law firms remain significantly and meaningfully behind the curve.

Covid-19 may be the disruptor the legal industry has long needed, sparking change and generating the long-awaited revolution. If so, how will these changes manifest? And how do we create the blueprint for the modern law firm? Continue reading “‘Let’s tear up the rule book’ – Boies chief sets out her stall for a radical rethink of the elite law firm model”

Comment: Are stressed junior lawyers being struck off too easily? It’s time for watchdogs to consider a more flexible approach

Comment: Are stressed junior lawyers being struck off too easily? It’s time for watchdogs to consider a more flexible approach

In my line of work you’re supposed to pretend ideas come out of nowhere but this column was triggered by a well-argued piece by my former parish noting the contrast between senior lawyers let off with fines for regulatory breaches while juniors are routinely struck off. The question in a nutshell is why juniors are banned while senior hands like Gary Senior at Baker McKenzie and Ryan Beckwith at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were been fined for failings linked to sexual advances to staff. Senior was in June handed a £55,000 fine, reopening the debate but the Junior Lawyers Division of the Law Society had the previous month already publicly proclaimed its loss of confidence in the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) following its prosecution of rookie lawyers with apparent mental health issues.

This debate has been much rehearsed in the last two years given cases such as Capsticks’ recently-qualified solicitor Claire Matthews, who was struck off after lying to conceal the accidental loss of client documents. Other notable cases have seen junior solicitors Emily Scott and Sovani James banned despite arguing for mitigation of toxic work cultures and high pressure. Continue reading “Comment: Are stressed junior lawyers being struck off too easily? It’s time for watchdogs to consider a more flexible approach”

Comment: Letter from New York – Assessing the world’s top law hub now and after the crisis

Comment: Letter from New York – Assessing the world’s top law hub now and after the crisis

Regular readers are familiar with our custom of penning ‘Letters from…’ when we’ve spent time in a major city and want to offer some observations and commentary on that legal market. We’re not travelling. That can mean only one thing: Time for us to compose a ‘Letter from New York.’

Let’s start with some data, shall we? Continue reading “Comment: Letter from New York – Assessing the world’s top law hub now and after the crisis”

Comment: A triumph of hope over experience – Lateral hiring needs an upgrade for the post-Covid era

Comment: A triumph of hope over experience – Lateral hiring needs an upgrade for the post-Covid era

Law firm leaders are getting restless. They are beginning to look past Covid-19 to what comes next. Even if finances remain a concern, there are fewer ‘unknown unknowns’. The process for getting people back to the office is mapped out. Huge uncertainties and challenges remain, but a way forward is emerging. The question now is: how to regain momentum and rally the troops?

A key part of any proactive strategy will likely include lateral hiring. It’s striking that a steady trickle of strategic hires has continued during the coronavirus crisis. Expect that trickle to become a gush by early 2021. And whether your firm is calling potential partners, other firms are calling yours. Continue reading “Comment: A triumph of hope over experience – Lateral hiring needs an upgrade for the post-Covid era”

Comment: Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?

Comment: Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?

Towards the end of 2019, Legal Business remarked that the issue at the heart of Allen & Overy (A&O)’s looming leadership election was if the process would resolve whether the winners could achieve the right to genuinely lead the City giant. Now that the election has concluded, with the re-election of Wim Dejonghe (pictured) as senior partner and the elevation of projects and energy head Gareth Price as managing partner in place of Andrew Ballheimer, it is far from clear that the point has been settled.

That is not a criticism of the calibre of the candidates and winners. Generally regarded as the best managed of the Magic Circle’s four internationalists, A&O certainly attracted a line-up of heavyweight candidates, by no means a given in law firm leadership run-offs. This was most obvious in the contest between Dejonghe and banking co-head Philip Bowden for senior partner and Price and litigation head Karen Seward for the managing partner brief. Continue reading “Comment: Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?”

Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?

Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?

Towards the end of 2019, Legal Business remarked that the issue at the heart of Allen & Overy (A&O)’s looming leadership election was if the process would resolve whether the winners could achieve the right to genuinely lead the City giant. Now that the election has concluded, with the re-election of Wim Dejonghe (pictured) as senior partner and the elevation of projects and energy head Gareth Price as managing partner in place of Andrew Ballheimer, it is far from clear that the point has been settled.

That is not a criticism of the calibre of the candidates and winners. Generally regarded as the best managed of the Magic Circle’s four internationalists, A&O certainly attracted a line-up of heavyweight candidates, by no means a given in law firm leadership run-offs. This was most obvious in the contest between Dejonghe and banking co-head Philip Bowden for senior partner and Price and litigation head Karen Seward for the managing partner brief. Continue reading “Allen & Overy’s election delivered an all-star line-up but have the big issues been resolved?”