Comment: We need to talk about George – It’s time the profession found its voice on race

Comment: We need to talk about George – It’s time the profession found its voice on race

If there is one topic on which the legal profession manages to be both verbose and yet perennially avoid substantive debate it is race. That is unsurprising given the woeful progress that large commercial law firms have made in recruiting black lawyers and staff in any numbers over the last 20 years.

There is progress of a kind in that such topics would once have been ignored, while now law firms feel compelled to load their comms with diversity initiatives and host events around black history month. Yet tackling head-on why many major UK law firms have fewer than 1% of their staff from the black community goes strangely unremarked. Continue reading “Comment: We need to talk about George – It’s time the profession found its voice on race”

‘Stay home, save jobs’ – How the legal elite are charting a course through half-lockdown summer

‘Stay home, save jobs’ – How the legal elite are charting a course through half-lockdown summer

Try driving across London or walking its crowded parks in sunny May and it becomes hard to remember that the nation, and much of the Western world, exists in a state of at least semi-lockdown.

While food queues and the inability to do much beyond kick around the house testifies that things are far from normal, since the government in early May started obtusely unwinding the lockdown, the business and legal worlds have entered an ambiguous chapter of the coronavirus saga. Continue reading “‘Stay home, save jobs’ – How the legal elite are charting a course through half-lockdown summer”

Comment: Welcome back to the office? Re-thinking law’s real estate for the post-corona age

Comment: Welcome back to the office? Re-thinking law’s real estate for the post-corona age

If we can already make a few forecasts about some aspects of the post-coronavirus world, currently pole position among things the legal industry abruptly realised will look radically different as of ten weeks ago are large-scale, grand, frightfully-expensive offices. It turns out that we were all used to the modern, shiny, flagship office and now realise we had only the most tenuous grasp of why we believed it so fundamental to the business of professional services all along.

Yet the office will never be the same. Continue reading “Comment: Welcome back to the office? Re-thinking law’s real estate for the post-corona age”

Comment: Law firm leaders already know a lot about the post-Corona world but dare they take advantage?

Comment: Law firm leaders already know a lot about the post-Corona world but dare they take advantage?

What we do not know about the surreal period we’re in thanks to the coronavirus pandemic would fill the proverbial book for law firm leaders, or actually several. I won’t presume to speak to medical/scientific issues, desperate as we are to have some clarity; I’m sticking with the economic/business/strategic issues.

What we don’t know, or don’t know with any degree of confidence, are: Continue reading “Comment: Law firm leaders already know a lot about the post-Corona world but dare they take advantage?”

The slaughter of innocence – A&O’s former chief on the stark staffing choices facing crisis-hit law firms

The slaughter of innocence – A&O’s former chief on the stark staffing choices facing crisis-hit law firms

Law firms around the world are being forced to contemplate something a good many have never had to face before, even during the 2008/09 financial crisis – letting partners and staff go at scale.

Fat profit margins and a paternalistic partnership ethos have traditionally insulated law firms from concerns that are relatively commonplace for their clients. Managing partners often recoil at such barbarous conduct. Yet the global coronavirus crisis is rapidly shredding that rulebook. Continue reading “The slaughter of innocence – A&O’s former chief on the stark staffing choices facing crisis-hit law firms”

Covid crystal ball – A&O’s former chief sets out the post-lockdown dynamic awaiting the legal elite

Covid crystal ball – A&O’s former chief sets out the post-lockdown dynamic awaiting the legal elite

No-one knows the robustness or timing of the economic restart, but many now predict a deep second quarter contraction followed by a spluttering restart over the subsequent three. That may underestimate the impact of the shock and the reactions of both client businesses and households.

A dramatic surge in unemployment will encourage households to slash spending. Many clients are focused on conserving cash and rebuilding balance sheets. Aftershocks of reinfections, further lay-offs, tight working capital and insolvencies as businesses struggle to get in shape when activity starts to pick up seem probable. Continue reading “Covid crystal ball – A&O’s former chief sets out the post-lockdown dynamic awaiting the legal elite”

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?”

‘Brutal clarity on priorities’ – A&O’s former chief looks back to the banking crisis for lessons to aid law firm leaders now

‘Brutal clarity on priorities’ – A&O’s former chief looks back to the banking crisis for lessons to aid law firm leaders now

What lessons can we learn from the 2008/09 financial crisis to help law firm leaders manage the escalating disruption of the coronavirus outbreak ravaging populations and crippling economies? Every crisis is different and this one is very different and it’s no use merely fighting the last war. Nonetheless, in terms of dramatic economic upheaval and rolling uncertainty, the impact of the banking crisis shares some common ground and there are some principles that hold good for any financial crisis.

The first principle is that if you’re the leader when a crisis strikes, you need to act like one. My experience as senior partner of Allen & Overy during 2008/09 was that a crisis will probably define you in that role, for better or worse. There is nowhere to hide, so don’t even try; this is showtime and you are centre stage. Put yourself out there so people know someone with calm assurance is in charge. Continue reading “‘Brutal clarity on priorities’ – A&O’s former chief looks back to the banking crisis for lessons to aid law firm leaders now”

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?”