From riches to Wragges

A joyous time was had by all at The Lawyer’s in-house summit in Barcelona last weekend. Well, almost all. Wragge & Co was rated by our moles at the conference as most unpopular law firm there.

In their wisdom, Wragges decided it would be fun and strategically beneficial to take a bunch of delegates off piste on the Thursday night. The tactic sadly confused several of the group of in-housers, who were heard complaining later that they’d been forced to miss legendary Today programme presenter John Humphrys, who was speaking at the welcome dinner. It’s always fun when a plan backfires, especially since Wragges’ antics were condemned by one leading in-houser as “churlish”.

Meanwhile, back at the youth hostel, the grown-ups were doing their best to enjoy and to stretch themselves. The one-on-one sessions gave private practice lawyers important face time with the in-housers, although not all had quite mastered the format. One private practice star began his session by telling his in-house counterpart: “We’ve done our due diligence and you don’t exist.” Perhaps not the best way to tout for business.

Proof that the best seminars are amusing but instructive came on Saturday morning, with the Barlow Lyde & Gilbert/Brick Court Chambers double act of Clare Canning and Neil Calver. Speaking on how to better manage commercial disputes, the pair illustrated their talk with a cute little cartoon drawn by a “leading QC in a recent case”. The picture showed a poor little barrister flapping helplessly in the face of an enormous pile of documents. Canning, naturally, used the cartoon as an example of why solicitors were key to dispute management. Tulkinghorn would like to submit that it’s more an example of why barristers are barristers rather than artists.

Considering the number of legal brains in Spain during the Barcelona weekend, lawyers accounted for about a third of the passengers on Iberia flight 7072 to Gatwick on Saturday at 16.40. But while all lawyers are equal, some lawyers are more equal than others. In the departure lounge, partners from DLA Piper, Kingsley Napley, Lawrence Graham and Simmons & Simmons (among others) mingled gaily if wearily with a host of in-housers. The gossip flowed happily in the queue and tales of the trip were swapped.

But all pretence of equality ended when the legal throng reached the top of the steps. Waving a happy goodbye, DLA’s partners turned left into business class while the impecunious in-housers (and the chaps from the less global dominating firms) turned right for economy.