‘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?”

Comment: The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership

Comment: The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership

Astute readers will note that our cover feature on 2020 forecasts spends as much time casting its eye back on the 2010s as looking ahead. Assessments based on observable trends support conclusions that better stand the test of time, but such introspection has lent a jaded tone to the resulting piece. How could it not? The 2010s was a decade that began with bold claims and expectations for the legal industry, yet from the perspective of the elite UK firms, it consistently disappointed. And it is one aspect that perhaps explains much of the wider malaise: the increasingly stark problems with leadership and governance at large London-born law firms.

Back when I first started covering the legal industry, the authority of senior management at top London firms was absolute, or at least appeared so from the outside. Occasionally an imperious managing partner overreached, but in the main London firms, which had until recently been much smaller firms built with close social bonds, allowed small groups of individuals to push through rapid shifts in strategy in the 1990s and 2000s. Continue reading “Comment: The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership”

The vision thing – Sizing up the big issues set to shape law through the 2020s

The vision thing – Sizing up the big issues set to shape law through the 2020s

The last decade emerged with the shockwaves of the banking crisis still making themselves felt on the profession. Having just made a series of job cuts in major markets the like of which had never been seen in the legal industry, the mood was infused by uncertainty, the brutal realities of austerity and the sudden emergence of more demanding clients.

There was little time for a serious debate about how the profession would evolve through the 2010s, a decade that went on to rob London’s legal elite of its reputation for causal dominance. It was also a period that attracted forecasts of dramatic change and modernisation in law that continually fell short of reality, despite the introduction of the Legal Services Act. Continue reading “The vision thing – Sizing up the big issues set to shape law through the 2020s”

The Addleshaws Interview – The rebound guy

The Addleshaws Interview – The rebound guy

Legal Business (LB): Looking at the finances of the firm over the past five years, you are one of the LB100’s top performers. What’s the secret?

John Joyce, managing partner, Addleshaw Goddard: We’ve always had a good business. It lost its way, undoubtedly, and all we’ve done is refocus our efforts. We reintroduced focus on what the firm needed to be doing: international growth, quality work, the clients we look after and deliver in a proper way for, a sector approach… it was just bringing them all together. Continue reading “The Addleshaws Interview – The rebound guy”

The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership

The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership

Astute readers will note that our cover feature on 2020 forecasts spends as much time casting its eye back on the 2010s as looking ahead. Assessments based on observable trends support conclusions that better stand the test of time, but such introspection has lent a jaded tone to the resulting piece. How could it not? The 2010s was a decade that began with bold claims and expectations for the legal industry, yet from the perspective of the elite UK firms, it consistently disappointed. And it is one aspect that perhaps explains much of the wider malaise: the increasingly stark problems with leadership and governance at large London-born law firms.

Back when I first started covering the legal industry, the authority of senior management at top London firms was absolute, or at least appeared so from the outside. Occasionally an imperious managing partner overreached, but in the main London firms, which had until recently been much smaller firms built with close social bonds, allowed small groups of individuals to push through rapid shifts in strategy in the 1990s and 2000s. Continue reading “The 2010s marked an unsung crisis in law firm leadership”

Full disclosure – How to resolve the profession’s #MeToo problem

Full disclosure – How to resolve the profession’s #MeToo problem

‘If you’re a partner and in control of someone’s career, that is an unequal relationship. Repeated drunken flings are not the work of a balanced, responsible partner. Could she have realistically said no? He was in control of her. He was her boss.’

So says one City employment veteran of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) prosecution and subsequent departure in October of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer restructuring partner Ryan Beckwith, following findings of sexual misconduct with a junior member of staff. It reveals uncomfortable truths about why, with its esoteric partnership structure and pressure-cooker working conditions, the legal industry is more susceptible than many to the fallout from #MeToo allegations and the behaviour that fuels them. Continue reading “Full disclosure – How to resolve the profession’s #MeToo problem”

Leadership pivots and partner exits highlight a period of flux for Clydes – what next for the insurance giant?

Leadership pivots and partner exits highlight a period of flux for Clydes – what next for the insurance giant?

Muna Abdi assesses a period of upheaval for one of the UK’s most upwardly-mobile law firms

Sudden moves in the legal industry are generally viewed with suspicion and the resignation of Simon Konsta as Clyde & Co’s senior partner in June, little more than halfway through his five-year term, was no exception. After all, it remains rare for leaders to step down part way into their term. Continue reading “Leadership pivots and partner exits highlight a period of flux for Clydes – what next for the insurance giant?”

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?”