Comment: #MeToo is law’s Libor-rigging moment – Unheralded comes regulation of City law

Comment: #MeToo is law’s Libor-rigging moment – Unheralded comes regulation of City law

Ask senior figures in the profession what has materially changed in the legal industry over the last decade and answers will likely include musings on technology, innovation and, for more pragmatic souls, the growth of American law firms in Europe.

Such woolly answers speak to the reality that the law looks much like it did ten years ago. What will not be mentioned, however, is what is rapidly emerging as a force with the potential to profoundly reshape the industry: the dawn of proactive regulation of major law firms. Continue reading “Comment: #MeToo is law’s Libor-rigging moment – Unheralded comes regulation of City law”

2020 forecast: City giants forced to offer flexible partnership

2020 forecast: City giants forced to offer flexible partnership

I’m going to resist the urge to bang on about the year in review, Brexit or even offer a 2010s retrospective. Not much changed in the profession during the decade – apart from the much-documented onslaught of US law firms – and one way or another we will still be facing another Brexit cliff edge next year.

So we turn instead to something that touches the industry where it lives and breathes: partnership. It defines those who hold it, elevating some while corrupting others, shapes a huge global industry and remains the dominant motivational tool for the profession. The second most-read commentary I ever wrote at Legal Business was a piece earlier this year noting that major law firms have broken their social contract by pushing partnership promotions ridiculously late (the most read was a 2016 piece saying Ashurst needed to pull itself together). Continue reading “2020 forecast: City giants forced to offer flexible partnership”

Unheralded comes regulation of City law

Unheralded comes regulation of City law

Ask senior figures in the profession what has materially changed in the legal industry over the last decade and answers will likely include musings on technology, innovation and, for more pragmatic souls, the growth of American law firms in Europe.

Such woolly answers speak to the reality that the law looks much like it did ten years ago. What will not be mentioned, however, is what is rapidly emerging as a force with the potential to profoundly reshape the industry: the dawn of proactive regulation of major law firms. Continue reading “Unheralded comes regulation of City law”

If A&O’s new team can’t get a mandate, who can?

If A&O’s new team can’t get a mandate, who can?

Writing at the end of November, with this issue hitting desks only a day or two before the candidates for Allen & Overy (A&O)’s leadership elections are announced – this column is truly hostage to fortune. Who will emerge to lead what has for many been the Magic Circle’s most effectively-led player will have significance spreading well beyond A&O’s City HQ. Still, a good track record cannot be counted on swinging re-election for senior partner Wim Dejonghe, thanks to the firm’s marathon but unsuccessful merger attempt with O’Melveny & Myers. That deal had many supporters but also some entrenched opposition, not least a vocal group of City corporate partners. And even many who were sympathetic grew understandably uneasy at the length of time the deal dragged on. Consequently, this looks to be no rubber-stamping exercise for a second term, even if many believe Dejonghe will run again and stands a good chance of re-election. The open nature of the race was further underlined by the late-minute announcement from managing partner Andrew Ballheimer that he would not seek a second term.

Potential candidates are currently keeping their powder dry, but for months there has been talk that the popular and effective banking co-head Philip Bowden will stand as senior partner, representing a serious candidate with a huge constituency. Even a two-horse race is hard to call, but there has also been suggestion that infrastructure head David Lee could throw his hat in. And the managing partner role is expected to attract a wider field: projects head Gareth Price has been cited, another rock solid candidate, while litigation chief Karen Seward must be weighing her chances. Continue reading “If A&O’s new team can’t get a mandate, who can?”

The Last Word: The client view

The Last Word: The client view

Interviewed for our annual in-house lawyer survey, leading GCs give their take on risk management, becoming business advisers and collaboration

Agile minds

‘Digital technology is something that is upon us. A lot of law firms and in-house departments will start thinking about how we harness the power of AI or technology to help us and not feel threatened by it. How do we make life simpler and not do the mundane? It’s about a mindset of being agile – the world is always changing, last year everyone has seen how rapidly change has come upon us, political and economic. So how do you equip yourself to embrace the good things about change?’ Continue reading “The Last Word: The client view”

Comment: Miguel who? New Hogan Lovells chief is going to be a hard sell in Europe

Comment: Miguel who? New Hogan Lovells chief is going to be a hard sell in Europe

Canvassing ex-partners a few days after Hogan Lovells’ board recommended Miguel Zaldivar (pictured) as the firm’s next chief executive, Legal Business was in the awkward position of having to spell his surname. Even several current City partners admitted to having never met him.

Yet the Hong Kong-based, Venezuelan energy and infrastructure specialist who spent most of his career in the firm’s Miami arm is all but certain to succeed Steve Immelt at the helm of the firm next July, following a rubber-stamping vote by the partnership later this month. Continue reading “Comment: Miguel who? New Hogan Lovells chief is going to be a hard sell in Europe”

Comment: Whatever happened to the PR as managing partner consigliere?

Comment: Whatever happened to the PR as managing partner consigliere?

For a pundit often claimed to be dismissive of the PR community, the subject of this leader may surprise. The reputation was never that accurate – I’ve always said skilled comms professionals are an asset to major law firms – but let’s put that to one side for now. The topic is something I’ve been noticing for some time: the slow decline of the PR professional as consigliere to law firm leaders. While the breed was never plentiful, it wasn’t that long ago that there was a sizeable group of battle-hardened comms hands that had judgement, integrity, long contact lists and who were effective as support and sources of information to managing partners. Plenty had worked outside the legal industry – indeed, they were usually more adept if they had in their junior years – but they had built strong knowledge of the dynamics of the profession and the realities of working for partnerships. They could make things happen and tell partners what they didn’t want to hear.

At their best they were a useful bridge to the outside world and there to help the firm push the message outwards, ever outwards, be that to clients, potential clients, or the wider industry. The best were also facilitators, focused on hooking up management and a Praetorian guard of headline-friendly partners with the better, relevant journalists and helping relationships flourish. Continue reading “Comment: Whatever happened to the PR as managing partner consigliere?”

Whatever happened to the PR as managing partner consigliere?

Whatever happened to the PR as managing partner consigliere?

For a pundit often claimed to be dismissive of the PR community, the subject of this leader may surprise. The reputation was never that accurate – I’ve always said skilled comms professionals are an asset to major law firms – but let’s put that to one side for now. The topic is something I’ve been noticing for some time: the slow decline of the PR professional as consigliere to law firm leaders. While the breed was never plentiful, it wasn’t that long ago that there was a sizeable group of battle-hardened comms hands that had judgement, integrity, long contact lists and who were effective as support and sources of information to managing partners. Plenty had worked outside the legal industry – indeed, they were usually more adept if they had in their junior years – but they had built strong knowledge of the dynamics of the profession and the realities of working for partnerships. They could make things happen and tell partners what they didn’t want to hear.

At their best they were a useful bridge to the outside world and there to help the firm push the message outwards, ever outwards, be that to clients, potential clients, or the wider industry. The best were also facilitators, focused on hooking up management and a Praetorian guard of headline-friendly partners with the better, relevant journalists and helping relationships flourish. Continue reading “Whatever happened to the PR as managing partner consigliere?”

New Law needs a new dictionary to get that promised break through

New Law needs a new dictionary to get that promised break through

For more than a decade now technology and innovation jargon has been pushing its way inelegantly into the legal sphere. But with what result? Certainly, it has led to industrial levels of hype as cloying Silicon Valley-speak took hold in even the most inhospitable arenas. But more to the point for the development of the industry is the endemic confusion it has sown. Without re-treading this month’s cover feature on the substance of law firms’ New Law divisions, it is clear that the industry struggles enormously to articulate these services, both at conventional law firms and pure-play providers.

This explains the widespread confusion in the minds of general counsel about what is on offer and how it differs from Old Law. ‘Platforms’, ‘solutions’, ‘suites’ and an avalanche of weird brand names are present, but as to explaining the products on offer, it is just not cutting through. Continue reading “New Law needs a new dictionary to get that promised break through”

Dynamic forces – The Legal 500 UK launch unveils new approach

Dynamic forces – The Legal 500 UK launch unveils new approach

Late last month we published the first Legal 500 UK guide since I took over as editor. While changing something the size of the UK guide is going to take time (for context we include some 1,300 UK and US firms across more than 10,000 individual rankings) readers will have already noticed some improvements.

The legal industry has never had a reputation for being the fastest-moving sector, and the same criticism has at times been levelled against the analysts that assess the profession. As a research business we always start with the quantitative data and tangible evidence as the basis of our research – this means there will inevitably be some time lag between what we are ranking firms on and what is happening within their practice right now. Continue reading “Dynamic forces – The Legal 500 UK launch unveils new approach”