Comment: The golden age of law firm leadership has passed… what now?

Comment: The golden age of law firm leadership has passed… what now?

I used to say three things when asked for a view on the quality of leadership in the profession. Firstly, that it was pretty good (certainly better than commonly supposed). Secondly, the standard has generally improved (since the early 2000s). And, thirdly, the notion that law lags far behind most industries in management is nonsense (poor leadership being rife).

It was only when recently asked this by a new reporter – an experienced business correspondent but new to the profession – I realised that I could only now stand by the latter contention. After all, there is still much to be said for the disciplines of the owner-manager structure, even amid New Law disruption (and perhaps more than ever in an age that has revived the fashion for the cash-burn phase). But as someone who has met hundreds of managing and senior partners, my view is that this is a long way from the golden age of law firm leadership. Standards of operational polish have continued to improve – there is a reason that major law firms so rarely fail in the UK. That matters, but it is only part of the equation in an industry facing structural issues. Continue reading “Comment: The golden age of law firm leadership has passed… what now?”

Comment: Why law firm ‘values’ ring hollow (a call for honesty)

Comment: Why law firm ‘values’ ring hollow (a call for honesty)

Attending a conference recently for general counsel was a reminder that for all the chasm that remains between clients and law firms, they have both imbibed many of the same corporate fashions. A few years back it was all adding value and performance, now it is ‘values’, ‘authenticity’ and other forms of Diet Coke morality.

Talk to law firms, as with plcs, and without irony, you will hear much about ‘tone from the top’, ‘walking the talk’ and interchangeably using ‘piece’ when you mean ‘issue’. Which would all be fine if there was any indication this was leading to a more ethical or caring profession. It would also help if such talk resonated remotely beyond the upper echelons of the corporate and professional services worlds, and did not provoke huge cynicism in staff and clients. Continue reading “Comment: Why law firm ‘values’ ring hollow (a call for honesty)”

The golden age of law firm leadership has passed… what now?

The golden age of law firm leadership has passed… what now?

I used to say three things when asked for a view on the quality of leadership in the profession. Firstly, that it was pretty good (certainly better than commonly supposed). Secondly, the standard has generally improved (since the early 2000s). And, thirdly, the notion that law lags far behind most industries in management is nonsense (poor leadership being rife).

It was only when recently asked this by a new reporter – an experienced business correspondent but new to the profession – I realised that I could only now stand by the latter contention. After all, there is still much to be said for the disciplines of the owner-manager structure, even amid New Law disruption (and perhaps more than ever in an age that has revived the fashion for the cash-burn phase). But as someone who has met hundreds of managing and senior partners, my view is that this is a long way from the golden age of law firm leadership. Standards of operational polish have continued to improve – there is a reason that major law firms so rarely fail in the UK. That matters, but it is only part of the equation in an industry facing structural issues. Continue reading “The golden age of law firm leadership has passed… what now?”

No-one cares about those corporate values

No-one cares about those corporate values

Attending a conference recently for general counsel was a reminder that for all the chasm that remains between clients and law firms, they have both imbibed many of the same corporate fashions. A few years back it was all adding value and performance, now it is ‘values’, ‘authenticity’ and other forms of Diet Coke morality.

Talk to law firms, as with plcs, and without irony, you will hear much about ‘tone from the top’, ‘walking the talk’ and interchangeably using ‘piece’ when you mean ‘issue’. Which would all be fine if there was any indication this was leading to a more ethical or caring profession. It would also help if such talk resonated remotely beyond the upper echelons of the corporate and professional services worlds, and did not provoke huge cynicism in staff and clients. Continue reading “No-one cares about those corporate values”

‘Our values are imperatives’: Pinsents chief on diversity, success and being bolder

‘Our values are imperatives’: Pinsents chief on diversity, success and being bolder

Legal Business (LB): How do you create a clearer picture of what Pinsents is doing on diversity?

Richard Foley (RF): You’ve got to be consistent in highlighting it as a priority. We’re clear about the programmes we have and we’re vocal about successes. We’ve just been ranked second of all UK corporates in this year’s Stonewall index for the second year running. Continue reading “‘Our values are imperatives’: Pinsents chief on diversity, success and being bolder”

Precision instruments – the curiously orderly disruption of legal ops teams

Precision instruments – the curiously orderly disruption of legal ops teams

With increasing scrutiny of outside spend, general counsel (GCs) are under mounting pressure to deliver a smooth-running and more efficient machine, as well as effective legal advice. GCs must therefore fine-tune their teams with a discerning eye for quality and economy.

It is a far cry from even ten years ago, when legal heads in the main functioned as a general superintendent of sorts, deploying outside counsel to do much of the work. By 2018, it is becoming increasingly common to see GCs at major plcs running in-house teams similar in scope to top-tier law firms. Continue reading “Precision instruments – the curiously orderly disruption of legal ops teams”

LLP accounts: Clifford Chance leadership team pockets £16m following strong year

LLP accounts: Clifford Chance leadership team pockets £16m following strong year

The 13-strong executive leadership team at Clifford Chance (CC) took home £16m for the 2016/17 financial year, according to its latest LLP accounts filed with Companies House.

While the combined remuneration package is up 7% on the previous year, it represents only a slight per head increase on last year’s figure, where the 12-person executive received £15m. The firm’s 2014/15 accounts showed that leadership took home £14m, meaning the figure has increased in £1m increments for the past two years. Continue reading “LLP accounts: Clifford Chance leadership team pockets £16m following strong year”

Tough times, new entrants and mobile talent – A Legal Business year in review

Tough times, new entrants and mobile talent – A Legal Business year in review

It’s been another eventful year on the front lines of the City and global legal profession marked by mergers, expensive transfers of big-name partners and sharply-dividing fortunes of individual law firms. Underpinning this are ominous structural shifts in the industry thanks to changing buying behaviour and technology. A consultant friend of mine asked last week if I thought the profession was being complacent because dramatic change has yet to happen. My view is that the problem is not that change has yet to be felt, it is that it is clearly happening already but many prestigious law firms remain in denial.

Anyway, to chart a turbulent 2017, we took a quick look back through our coverage this year to pick out a few pieces that highlighted the key issues impacting the profession. We have divided the list below into a section on some of our set-piece features for subscribers and a second set of recommendations of shorter comment pieces that we have also made available in open access form online. Continue reading “Tough times, new entrants and mobile talent – A Legal Business year in review”

Comment: Forget the Silicon Valley guff – can your firm shift course in 2018?

Comment: Forget the Silicon Valley guff – can your firm shift course in 2018?

Well, 2017 promised to be a challenging year and it did not disappoint with its disappointment. With the Brexit vote upsetting an already-delicate balance in key markets, an inconclusive general election in the summer managed to ramp up the uncertainty further. Continue reading “Comment: Forget the Silicon Valley guff – can your firm shift course in 2018?”

DLA Piper chief Picón joins Latham in shock move as Ropes names first female chair

DLA Piper chief Picón joins Latham in shock move as Ropes names first female chair

In a move that set tongues wagging on both sides of the pond, DLA Piper senior partner and global co-chair Juan Picón is to depart for Latham & Watkins, while Ropes & Gray has selected its first-ever female chair to replace the long-serving Bradford Malt.

Picón’s move to the highest-grossing firm in the world from the one that used to hold that position was fuelled by his desire to spend more time in his native Spain. As such, Picón will take over the role of Latham’s managing partner in the country following the retirement of predecessor José Luis Blanco. He joins at the end of the year from DLA’s Madrid office, bringing corporate partners Ignacio Gómez-Sancha and José Antonio Sánchez-Dafos with him. Continue reading “DLA Piper chief Picón joins Latham in shock move as Ropes names first female chair”