Does your firm have a kindness code?

London: Lewis Silkin‘s internal motto, as The Lawyer has noted previously, is ‘bravery and kindness’ – but how does that actually translate into busy working life? One of the firm’s pandemic initiatives has been helpful in embedding the ethos into the culture.

When Covid-19 hit Lewis Silkin established a wellbeing group. “We were very aware people were just sitting at their computers, whether they needed to be or not. Parts of firm were so busy, others less so. It was actually those anxious about not having enough work that were less likely to take time out for themselves,” says co-managing partner Jo Farmer.

And so the firm introduced a ‘Kindness’ code – an actual code that can be entered into the time recording system alongside client matters and business development.

The code was implemented specifically to allow people to go out and look after themselves, or to help other people – not pro bono or assisting colleagues on other work matters but having a coffee with them, or calling in on neighbours or family, or giving time to children.

“The amount of time recorded was less important than the permission it granted people,” says Farmer. “It broke the deadlock. Lots of people used (and continue to use) it but didn’t record – but the code allowed it to become part of how you look after yourself and others.”

“Post pandemic, it has become a core part of our culture. In a fast-paced environment, it grants our people permission to take time out, to take a moment for self-care and to take time to care for others. It is different to our responsible business hours – this sits outside our charitable pro bono time or our charity partnerships. This is about the small things like spending time with a colleague who has been having a hard time, checking in on a neighbour or doing some shopping for a friend.”

Lewis Silkin lawyers have now recorded over 4,000 hours since the introduction of the Kindness Code, with over 1,400 hours recorded in 2022/23. Of those 1,400 hours, 50 per cent were at associate level, 14 per cent were paralegals, 14 per cent were trainees, 10 per cent senior associate to legal director level and 9 per cent partners.

BDB Pitmans’ newest partner keeps tradition alive

Mustafa Latif-Aramesh

London: Recent years have seen an increase in demand for energy and infrastructure lawyers as clients look to meet net zero requirements. While private infrastructure is nowadays the most common way to get wind farms or even railway projects off the ground, echoes of traditional 18th century public law systems still ring through the offices of some law firms.

It is a sector of law that was once dominated by parliamentary agents – solicitors licensed by Parliament to draft, promote or oppose private bills. In times past, agents passed hundreds of bills through Parliament as Britain’s first modern railways, were constructed. But the passage of time and changing law have seen the number of agents dwindle to just 16.

BDB Pitmans houses the highest number of these specially qualified solicitors, with a total of five, followed by Winckworth Sherwood with four and Eversheds Sutherland and Sharpe Pritchard on two apiece.

According to infrastructure partner Mustafa Latif-Aramesh – the firm’s youngest and most recently enrolled parliamentary agent – BDB Pitmans’ dominance in this space is by design. The firm’s public law and government team, uniquely, sits in the same practice as the infrastructure planning team. A group that consists of 40 lawyers with a 4:1 associate to partner ratio, Latif-Aramesh explains that most of the team is encouraged to work broadly across an array to private and public legal work.

“The reason we do it this way is essentially because of history,” Latif-Aramesh says. “This whole department had its origins in a pre-90s parliamentary practice back when most major infrastructure was developed through Acts of Parliament. There was a natural cohesion between the two sectors.

“It’s not common for a planning or real estate lawyer to also have a hand in parliamentary work, whereas our structure really incentivises our people to aspire towards becoming a parliamentary agent.”

This structure was the main reason Latif-Aramesh chose to train at what was Bircham Dyson Bell, in 2014.

“I always wanted to do a kind of law that would making an impact on the country through the public sector. I initially found out about BDB after having told one of my university tutors I was interested in going into the Government Legal Service and they said, ‘Oh you know there are private firms that do that.’”

He continues: “When I was an NQ I was given the opportunity to say I wanted to work on a piece of parliamentary work, so I worked on a couple of bills including a draft for the Northern Irish Assembly. From then, I knew I wanted to become an agent so I could really embed myself in those processes.”

Latif-Aramesh became the newest agent in the mix in January 2022, already having had experience working on the Highgate Cemetery Act to maximise the usage of existing cemetery space. The bill got royal assent in March of the same year.

“When I do my work in the parliamentary sphere, I have to always think about what the right thing is to do for Parliament. Now, Parliament is not my client and it does not employ me but that is the duty imposed on me as an agent.”

BDB’s four other longstanding parliamentary agents include Ian McCulloch, Nick Brown, David Mundy, and Nicholas Evans.

Today, public law comprises roughly 40 per cent of Latif-Aramesh’s overall work with the rest of his time spent on some of the largest infrastructure projects in the country including the Lower Thames Crossing and the Luton Airport expansion. He has also developed a specialism in nuclear, sitting on the Strategic Advisory Board of the Nuclear Industry Association.

The consolidation game

East Midlands: Here is a merger that will have implications for the UK200 next year: Nottingham’s Rotheras Solicitors and Leicester’s Bray & Bray came together on 1 October, becoming Rothera Bray.

The new firm is 200-strong, with 27 partners and eight offices (four in Nottingham and one in Derby from Rotheras, plus Leicester, Market Harborough and Hinckley from Bray & Bray). Rotheras was stronger on the private client side, while Bray & Bray was more corporate-commercial.

The Lawyer understands that the combined firm will have a revenue in the region of £15m – about the size of Bedford Row firm Teacher Stern and more than enough to put it into the lower regions of The Lawyer UK200 in 2024.

Christina Yardley, CEO at Rothera Bray, said: “Rothera Bray is a merger of two thriving firms coming together as one, committed to our people-focused approach as the firm that everyone can grow with.”

Pass the bubbly: the latest moves in the mid-tier

Name Old firm New firm Practice Location Why care?
Kim Lehal Brethertons RWK Goodman Family London Hired to lead new niche ‘international children’ team
Steve Clinning & Laura Brown Howard Kennedy Memery Crystal Real estate finance London Double hire from Howard Kennedy including former team head
Andrew Edwards DWF Stevens & Bolton Real estate London to Guildford Sixth lateral hire in a year for Stevens & Bolton
Keith Davidson Mills & Reeve Irwin Mitchell Planning & environment Manchester Davidson was previously head of environment at Mills & Reeve and will kickstart Irwin Mitchell’s net zero practice offering

Bubble and squeak: tales from outside the Square Mile

Shetland: Which firm has the best view from the office window? Your mileage may vary as far as what counts as a ‘good’ view is concerned, but those who work at the top of City skyscrapers would certainly argue that London by night is quite the panorama.

It must be said, however, that apart from the occasional bee, nature-spotting in the City is in short supply. For that, head one of Britain’s most northerly law firm offices: Anderson Strathern‘s Shetland branch. With sweeping views of Lerwick harbour and the Isle of Bressay, solicitors can watch the ferries pull in and out, as well as looking out for seabirds, seals, otters and even the occasional whale. One snap is provided here: be honest, have you ever seen a gannet flapping past The Walkie-Talkie?

In case you missed it…

Odds and ends

Sussex: Knights has opened a new flagship office in Brighton, relocating the former staff of legacy firm Coffin Mew from Prince Albert Street in The Lanes to the new building on Edward Street.

Glasgow: Yorkshire-based PI firm Minster Law has announced plans to launch a sister company in Glasgow,  Minster Law Scotland.