It’s alive!

It’s alive!
10 October 2008
A classic Mary Shelley moment today as the Law Society has discovered that the monster it created is alive and kicking.

A classic Mary Shelley moment today as the Law Society has discovered that the monster it created is alive and kicking.

Having set up the Solicitors Regulation Authority only three years ago, the spawn has now snapped back at its parent, accusing Law Soc of “confusing representative and regulatory functions” – which was precisely what Parliament sought to prevent when it passed the Legal Services Act 2007 (see story). Ouch.

The source of the row is the Law Soc’s plans for a dramatic regulatory review, which could ultimately result in a two tiered profession where solicitors working for Big Swinging Richard LLP operate under a seperate regulatory regime from their contemporaries at Highstreet & Paupers Solicitors.

Potentially the review could even recommend that the SRA be split in two – SRA Main Street and SRA Wall Street, to adapt a topical phrase.

No wonder the SRA feels hard done by, especially since it was only told that its powers would be reviewed a day before the general public was informed.

Here’s to hoping that the Legal Services Board sets itself up soon to keep the squabbling bodies apart.

From bad to verse
09 October 2008

It’s probably fair to say that with the end of capitalism upon us, the fact that today is national poetry day might just have slipped your memory.

But not so the lawyers at charity specialist Bates Wells & Braithwaite, who have experienced two close encounters of the poetry kind this fortnight alone.

For one, the firm hosted a breakfast yesterday with poet Sally Crabtree to test out the old adage that there’s not much poetry in money and not much money in poetry (ho ho).

Crabtree read poems plucked from her ‘Poetree’ and offered employees ‘edible words’, AKA cakes with sugar-poetry on them while lawyers and bankers were also invited to engage in “poetic activities that resulted in poems to hang on the Poetree and inspire them throughout the day.” (See story.)

Indeed. Less inspiring perhaps was partner Phillip Trott’s own experience with a guest poet, rapper client Busta Rhymes, which involved in a 15-cop gunpoint showdown at Heathrow airport (see story).

Online readers have already been commenting hard on the Busta Rhymes story, as you’re welcome to yourself. And to make our own contribution to poetry, The Lawyer commissioned Sally Crabtree to produce two bespoke poems of, er, a truly Hallmark standard. Here’s a little taster:

It’s National Poetry Day and this year,
The theme is ‘Work ‘ so that’s why we’re here,
At a meeting at breakfast with all the law staff,
Hoping that poetry will make them laugh,
Having ‘ The Lawyer ‘ as the special guest,
Will make sure this Poetry Day is the best!

Rupert Bear eat your heart out. To read Sally’s full contribution – or better still, to contribute your own – click here.

Take that to the bank – or not
08 October 2008

Nervous about getting your money out of a bank?

And if that’s not enough, how about safeguarding monies in the client account? It’s enough to bring out law firm partners in hives. After all, GBP3bn is held in client accounts across England and Wales. That’s a lot of money to lose.

As we report today, firms across the City have asked the Law Society for guidance on the matter, and several are preparing changes to their terms of business to take account of the banking crisis (see story).

We’re already hearing of firms diversifying away from using one bank for their client accounts. But which banks are the safe ones? And could law firms be liable if clients lost their money?

Right now there’s no firm answer to that question. But you can join the debate here.

More bad news
07 October 2008

Wedlake Bell has become the latest firm to announce redundancies, 17 in all, as the legal industry becomes increasingly affected by the economic downturn (see story).

The firm has axed six lawyers and 11 support staff, who together account for almost 10 per cent of its workers – the biggest proportion so far since Cobbetts.

The move takes the number of legal staff within the UK’s top 200 law firms involved in redundancy consultations up to a total of 679, as our Legal Job Watch blog reveals.

It also means that law firm HR departments have suddenly had to retool. As Legal Job Watch notes today, Wragges’ HR team has had to change its function from recruitment to outplacement. Read more on the redundancy aftermath at Wragges.

But look! Here’s some good news! Covington & Burling and Kirkland & Ellis – have both announced new partners in London. At least that’s a vote of confidence in the future.

All beefed up
06 October 2008

So what’s the beef? Now that the deals have dried up, associates and partners alike seem to be spending a lot of their time dreaming up hilarious merger rumours. (You’ve got to have a hobby.)

Last week it was Allen & Overy and Shearman & Sterling, which was subsequently denied by both sides, now Ashurst and Dewey & Leboeuf are said to be in talks.

At least that’s the rumour doing the associate rounds at Dewey & The Beef’s London office, but maybe the junior lawyers are more clued up than the partners.

One senior lawyer at the office says that he hasn’t heard the rumour but “it’s made me want to talk to people and find out”.

Meanwhile Ashurst’s managing partner Simon Bromwich says diplomatically: “I don’t think we’ll be merging with Dewey’s. I can tell you that it’s not on the cards.”

Maybe he should tell that to the associates in Dewey’s London office. They’re getting a bit over-excited.

What does Ashurst’s Charlie Geffen think about his firm’s US strategy? Listen to our podcast and find out.

And what does Dewey’s M&A chief Mort Pierce have to say about his firm, one year after it’s merger? See our interview today. And see our UK200 London mid-market feature for some fantasy mergers.