The power of working in concert

Catrin Griffiths

Our new industry leaders’ viewpoint page (p10 in this issue) is going down a storm among readers, not least because our participants refuse to sit on the fence. First, we had Sir Nigel Knowles saying he thought fracking was a good idea, but that the Foreign Office’s idea to introduce new contract sanctions was dangerous. Last week Tony Williams of Jomati advised law firms that the big hairy gorilla, the dysfunctional, sociopathic big-biller – every organisation has one – needed humane execution, metaphorically speaking. This week Macfarlanes senior partner Charles Martin has written a thoughtful and honest piece about the future of partnership.

Thinking of partnership in terms of collective endeavour brings me to Legal Harmony. Last week I was privileged to be one of the judges in the first-ever choral competition for the legal profession, which took place at Southwark Cathedral and pitted Devonshires, Kingsley Napley, Norton Rose Fulbright, Travers Smith, Sidley Austin, Wragge Lawrence Graham and 23 Essex Street against one another. I love Law Rocks, the legal battle of the bands The Lawyer has partnered with for five years, but it demands a certain level of proficiency and an awful lot of extension leads. For a choir, you just need to be able to hold a tune. It’s an entirely collegiate and inclusive venture, requiring blend, precision, diligence, flair and performance under pressure.

What was striking was how much the choirs have become laboratories of cultural cohesion. Norton Rose Fulbright’s choir started when the firm moved out of its scattered City buildings into its new office by London Bridge, and it’s formed a highly visible part of its internal brand. Wragge Lawrence Graham – the deserved winner on the night – was made up of two choirs who had to rehearse separately until the week before. It was clear from their joy that they saw this as a part of merger integration. It’ll certainly become a powerful symbol internally.

Runners-up 23 Essex Street formed their group to raise funds for Papyrus, a charity that seeks to prevent suicide among the young and supports those who have lost a loved one. This was in support of a member of chambers whose son died this year, and the resolve and emotion in their rendition of Londonderry Air was palpable.

So here’s a coda to Tony Williams’ advice. If you can’t shoot your gorilla, make him join a choir. And don’t give him the solo.