Entente uncordial

Entente uncordial
Further details have emerged about the row between Taylor Wessing and US firm Nixon Peabody that dominated Wednesday’s news (see story).

Further details have emerged about the row between Taylor Wessing and US firm Nixon Peabody that dominated Wednesday’s news (see story).

And as with so many international alliances, it transpires the temporary breakdown of Taylor Wessing France’s (TWF) entente cordiale with its European neighbours came down to no more than economics.

TWF’s non-equity partners, it seems, were discontented with what they saw as restricted access to the equity and – also fearing a sale of the firm when England’s Legal Services Act came through – were prepared to ditch the firm’s European union in favour of Nixon Peabody’s offer.

Yet after a promise of equity release, two new equity partners and some reassurance from London, Uncle Sam was sent packing and the Europeans were re-united.

But as one Taylor Wessing Germany partner put it “I do a lot of business in the US and I don’t even know who Nixon Peabody is.”

So was the whole row just a diplomatic coup by the French for a bigger slice of the shared cash?

Call us Eurosceptics, but this all sounds oddly familiar.

A hard act to follow

Sad news from Clifford Chance, which has announced impending changes to its hierarchy following the illness of Asia chief Jim Baird.

An old Asia hand who has been in Hong Kong since 1990 and been the firm’s Asia managing partner since 2001, Baird’s vast local knowledge is going to be missed. See story.

It goes without saying that getting Asia right – and particularly China – is crucial to CC, which has just celebrated getting its regional revenues over £100m for the first time – a tenth of the firm’s entire billings.

But who could replace Baird? The firm is going through the motions of a management election, but we reckon there’s only one solution.

Give restless corporate head Peter Charlton the job. He likes rolling his sleeves up.

And to replace Charlton as global corporate chief? There’s one obvious contender, and that’s private equity star Matthew Layton, who probably has a tad more time on his hands than this time last year.

There. No need for an election at all.

Wessing’s not messing

Two multimillion dollar lawsuits in New York, discontented French, secret transatlantic merger negotiations, Brits and Germans left in the dark and allegations of a “surreptitious” managing partner violating his “most basic fiduciary duties”.

Not bad for a single story.

Yes, while most Parisians are out of town enjoying les grandes vacances, Taylor Wessing’s local arm is in a row with US firm Nixon Peabody that threatens to break the European firm’s Paris office asunder (see story).

Like Queen Victoria, Taylor Wessing UK managing partner Michael Frawley was not amused by Nixon Peabody’s Napoleonic antics as the row moved a dark cloud over what he might reasonably have expected, credit crunch excepted, to be a carefree time of year.

Still, Nixon Peabody’s happy.

“Nixon Peabody looks forward to working with a team of partners from Taylor Wessing France as we expand our international presence to better serve our clients and seek new opportunities in Europe,” a statement from the firm read today.

“We desire a prompt resolution of this issue as we move forward with our plans for serving the European market.”

You and Frawley both, Nixon.

Pick a card…

When is a corporate credit card not a corporate credit card?

When it’s a Shearman & Sterling corporate credit card.

The firm this afternoon sought to clarify the exact ownership of the card used to pay for entry to a London strip club before the alleged sexual harassment of a vac schemer (see story).

Apparently, it was not a corporate credit card, only a credit card with a corporate logo on it.

A corporate logo that read ‘Shearman & Sterling’. And which was arranged by the firm. And which is the same type of card that partners use for client entertainment.

But not a corporate credit card. Oh no. It was a personal corporate credit card that staff pay off themselves. Unless they submit an expense form to accounts. Or the expense is signed off by a senior partner before the jolly.

Even if that is the only type of card the firm provides for its lawyers.

But if alleged sexual harassment has not yet been proven, is attending a licensed strip club without firm sign-off a sackable offence in its own right? Should the firm take some of the blame for the incident?

The debate rages on HERE.

Alleged harassment at Shearman

Today’s news story about the sexual harassment sacking at Shearman & Sterling’s City office is the kind of story The Lawyer expected not to feature after, say, the end of the 20th century.

Alleged olde worlde mistake one: a female graduate on a vacation scheme was taken to a strip club on a post-work jolly.

Alleged olde worlde mistake two: vac schemer says she wants to leave said club but is pressured to stay by associate, one of her supposed mentors.

Alleged olde worlde mistake three: associate makes series of lewd remarks.

Alleged olde worlde mistake four: associate touches vac schemer inappropriately.

Where this familiar story differs, refreshingly, from the sexual harassment tales of yore is that the firm took the allegations suitably seriously to sack the associate in question.

Also in its favour, potentially, is that the rest of the jolly went to a different venue and the strip club visit was not, it says, a firm-sanctioned outing.

Even if the associate is alleged to have paid for it with the office credit card.

So does the fact that any associate would consider taking a junior lawyer, let alone a vac schemer, to a strip club suggest bad things about the firm’s culture? Or was this alleged harasser a lone problem that the firm has taken care of? Have your say here.