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?”

The Last Word: The values are everything

The Last Word: The values are everything

Law firm leaders discuss the challenges of putting values on their corporate agenda and how to balance purpose with the profit motive

Heads out of the sand

‘Most firms realise the importance of values. I don’t think I’ve spoken to a single managing partner who isn’t doing these things. There are two basic drivers – what are your clients asking of you and what are your people asking of you. Anyone who thinks this isn’t important is burying their head in the sand.’
Continue reading “The Last Word: The values are everything”

‘Kirkland is a raw, Darwinian force’ – LB’s take on the pre-Brexit City law market

‘Kirkland is a raw, Darwinian force’ – LB’s take on the pre-Brexit City law market

On occasion, they let the head of Legal Business take a break from the glamorous job of proofing features to go meet and greet. One such occasion saw me last month pop along to a major UK firm’s partnership conference to provide the LB perspective on the funny old game we call law.

Below is an edited version of my notes, jotted down to help organise my thoughts in response to the outline questions ahead of the event. Obviously, I wasn’t reading my notes during a two-way discussion, so I often rambled on about other stuff – I vaguely recall a monologue about the ‘Napoleon phase’ of managing partners that go on too long before going crazy. But for LB readers, these notes represent a decent summary of our current view of the industry at a particularly turbulent moment. I’ve removed all identifying references to the firm generous enough to host me. Continue reading “‘Kirkland is a raw, Darwinian force’ – LB’s take on the pre-Brexit City law market”

Nice problems to have – Where now for Stephenson Harwood as veteran chief hands over?

Nice problems to have – Where now for Stephenson Harwood as veteran chief hands over?

With longstanding chief executive Sharon White bowing out, Stephenson Harwood can look back on a strong ten years. Thomas Alan assesses its record and prospects

‘My understanding is the Stephenson Harwood of 2002 needed a new strategy because it was doing very badly,’ reflects corporate head Andrew Edge, looking back on the City thoroughbred’s much-publicised problems. ‘It was losing people and the finances were extremely precarious.’ Continue reading “Nice problems to have – Where now for Stephenson Harwood as veteran chief hands over?”

Comment: As specialists thrive in law’s Darwinian age too many drift on

Comment: As specialists thrive in law’s Darwinian age too many drift on

There are times in my career as a legal pundit where I’ve gone against trend to argue the unpopular view. This is not going to be one of those columns. Instead, this is about speaking up for a truism that is unusual for being largely true and one that law firm leaders themselves frequently cite. I am here to sing the praises for law firms being more specialised in the practices and markets they cover.

Radical stuff, eh? And yet despite how easily the benefits of specialism fit the rhetoric of managing partners, is there much evidence to suggest that the commercial legal profession as a whole is moving in that direction? Far less than commonly believed. Continue reading “Comment: As specialists thrive in law’s Darwinian age too many drift on”

The Global 100: The devil you know – The two visions for Freshfields

The Global 100: The devil you know – The two visions for Freshfields

‘Some of the management are dinosaurs. They don’t understand how important this is.’ So speaks one loyalist Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner of a growing unease shared by some regarding the City giant’s direction.

When Legal Business’ last focus on the 276-year-old institution hit desks in late 2015, the question was how newly-elected senior partner Edward Braham and co-managing partner Chris Pugh would secure the firm’s place in the Global Elite as the challenge from profitable US rivals mounted. Continue reading “The Global 100: The devil you know – The two visions for Freshfields”

As specialists thrive in law’s Darwinian age too many drift on

As specialists thrive in law’s Darwinian age too many drift on

There are times in my career as a legal pundit where I’ve gone against trend to argue the unpopular view. This is not going to be one of those columns. Instead, this is about speaking up for a truism that is unusual for being largely true and one that law firm leaders themselves frequently cite. I am here to sing the praises for law firms being more specialised in the practices and markets they cover.

Radical stuff, eh? And yet despite how easily the benefits of specialism fit the rhetoric of managing partners, is there much evidence to suggest that the commercial legal profession as a whole is moving in that direction? Far less than commonly believed. Continue reading “As specialists thrive in law’s Darwinian age too many drift on”