Thursday, October 28, 2010

Difference Between Men and Women

(thanks to susonna)
Following our workshop on diversity recently, I've been introduced to interesting research on women and medicine which has tremendous utility for law.

Paul Coombes and Helena Cronin were members of the oversight steering group for the Royal College of Physicians on its project on the future of women in medicine. The project analyzed data from NHS workforce statistics as well as various forms of entry statistics. The full report is available here.

In a short summary article Paul Coombes drew out some the significant findings. Rather like law, the numbers of women entering now form the majority of entrants and by 2017 women will constitute the majority of the medical profession. Yet there are dramatic differences in the selection of specialties by men and women which can be explained by work characteristics and patterns.

Coombes notes
Two areas of systematic difference stand out from the latest research:
1. Women doctors’ comparative preference, on average, for working in specialties that offer a relatively greater amount of patient interaction and/or more ‘plan-able’ working hours.
2. The far greater preference of women doctors, compared with men, for part-time or other forms of flexible working.
For example, as the internal characteristics of the specialties change so does their attractiveness to women. Hence, as anaesthetics has become more shift-based and less open-ended with more predictable working patterns, there has been a rise in women trainees.

The differences are also found across other health systems and is not merely a function of the NHS funding model.

It is now possible to predict how women's working practices are formed and will change. It will be interesting to see how analogous predictions play out in the legal profession.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Bankruptcy Pays!

(Thanks to Business Insider)

The American Lawyer reported today that billings for professional services in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy broke the $1 billion mark. You can see the filings here. And to think that bankruptcy practice was once considered a legal backwater by most mainstream law firms.

I've been following this because some years ago I interviewed Harvey Miller (the lead lawyer on Lehman) for a research project and he always impressed me. Rather like some other lawyers of his generation I know, his career shows no sign of stopping. And he is ready to take on new challenges at any stage. I also secretly enjoy the war stories told about Harvey and I know I wouldn't like to be on his wrong side.

I am currently reading Andrew Ross Sorkin's Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System---and Themselves. He cleverly details how the interlocking systems of banking and regulation could not but intensify the problems inherent in the financial world. In many ways Lehman was a symptom not a cause but the ramifications are still being felt.

We know this  in the UK as we've just had our government's Comprehensive Spending Review that will cut government spending by anywhere between 25% to 40%. Mind you the banking sector seems to be doing well now.

So You Want to Go to Law School

(h/t to Legal Blog Watch)

It's American but it applies elsewhere....

I especially like the statement by the lawyer to the woman (at 3.38), 
"I do not like my Blackberry. I would like to torture it until it begs me to kill it. Do you know I am required to check my Blackberry every 6 hours 24 hours a day...."


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Solicitors Regulation Authority Balks at Separate City Regulator

Top-hatted city gents in discussion outside the Westminster Bank in the City of London, 1931 
(FoxPhotos/Getty Images)

The Smedley Report last year recommended to the Solicitors Regulation Authority that it needed a specialist division to regulate large corporate law firms. The SRA gave every appearance of agreeing. Then the Hunt Review stepped in and endorsed the idea.

Unfortunately the SRA has balked at this and instead appointed an ex-Linklaters lawyer as Solicitors Regulation Authority's Chief Adviser on City law firms. The SRA news release describes the role
It is planned for Eastwell to act as a "bridgehead" between the SRA and City law firms, something that takes on added importance with the approach of multidisciplinary practices (MDPs) and alternative business structures (ABSs).
Quite why the SRA has wimped out this way is unclear. Maybe it couldn't stomach the idea that it wasn't fully competent to regulate large law firms. I doubt this half-way house will satisfy the City firms.

It does leave it open now for the large law firms to think about forming their own regulator. There is nothing to prevent them from doing so. Three years ago the City of London Solicitors Law Society hived itself off from the livery company. And the CLLS now engages in much regulatory activity. This could be the moment.

Time will tell.

The City Today


Friday, October 15, 2010

Will There Be Diversity in the Legal Profession?

The Westminster-Legal Services Board workshop on diversity was a great success. Around 100 people attended the presentation of the new research commissioned by the Legal Services Board. The workshop was organized by the Law School's Centre for the Legal Profession and Legal Services. You can download the full report and summary from here.

Researchers Liz Duff and Lisa Webley from Westminster, Daniel Muzio and Jennifer Tomlinson from Leeds, Hilary Sommerlad from Leicester, and Anna Zimdars from Manchester presented in-depth, qualitative research that illustrated people's feelings about discrimination and diversity in the legal profession. It wasn't too depressing as Chris Kenny, CEO of the LSB, showed that trends were improving--it's just that we need to know more why the profession hasn't fully come to terms with the problems.

The presentation was followed by a discussion panel composed of David Pittaway QC of the Bar Council, Stephen Ward of the Law Society, Crispin Passmore of the LSB, and Andy Boon of the Law School.

Neil Rose reported on the research and conference at Legal Futures. He noted:
Launching the London conference, LSB chief executive Chris Kenny said diversity was a key LSB objective. “We believe passionately that unless you’ve got a diverse profession, a profession that looks like the society which it serves, actually you probably won’t have a fully effective profession either.”
Crispin Passmore, strategy director for the LSB, also wrote in the Guardian:
The LSB is working to increase transparency about the makeup of the legal workforce. We're considering requiring law firms and chambers to publish and report the findings of regular surveys of their workforces in order to shine a light on the diversity of the profession. Some law businesses will already reflect their local community. Others will rightly take credit for improving diversity.
 It's clear more work needs to be done in this area.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

So What Does It All Mean? Living in an Age of Complexity...

(Thanks to Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, Jeff Brenman who have created this series of videos. To see other iterations of their research go to the shifthappens wiki.)

I'm working on a paper for a conference where I'm talking about risk management and technology in law firms and practice. The shifthappens videos are an excellent distillation of the issues. Plus in keeping with my push to clearer and better presentations of data, they are high on the list.

(NB. Can't be as high as Napoleon's invasion of Moscow--so far nothing beats that.)

(PS. The music in the video is Fatboy Slim's Right Here, Right Now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Diversity Workshop at Westminster on October 13

(Thanks to New Yorker)

I am sure we won't have this problem on Wednesday at the Diversity Workshop. Find the details here. You are all welcome.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Diversity Workshop at Westminster 13 October--You Are Invited

A while back I wrote about my colleagues' research project on diversity in the legal profession for the Legal Services Board (LSB). At last that research is completed. A multi-faceted team from the Universities of Westminster, Leeds, and Leicester have submitted their report to the LSB.

We, at Westminster, are holding a seminar/workshop for the launch of the report. Here's a brief clip of what to expect:
The seminar is being held to launch a new research report commissioned by the Legal Services Board on diversity in the legal profession. There have been dramatic changes in the legal profession in the last 20 years. In 2008-09 women made up 46% of practising solicitors and 60% of entrants to the profession. For the Bar the figures were 34% (women barristers) and 50% (women entrants). In the case of black and minority ethnic lawyers there has been a 244% increase in their numbers in the ten years between 1996 and 2006. Despite these increases the legal profession is still dominated by white males. There is a greater division with white lawyers being over-represented in City law firms and at the Bar, while BME lawyers are found in greater numbers in smaller High Street law firms.

The research examines the causes for these differences, their persistence and what strategies are available to change cultures and expectations. Despite the implementation of procedures meant to neutralize discrimination, they are easily bypassed. Interviewers raise inappropriate questions about ethnicity, gender, and background. For those in the profession work was allocated unfairly and to question this was deprecated.

The biggest obstacle was the culture of informality that made it difficult for people to raise problems or question established ways of working. Moreover, racial stereotyping was pervasive.

Even though many law firms are trying hard to counter these inequities, the majority still abide by them.
(thanks to

On October 13 the University of Westminster and the Legal Services Board are hosting a workshop/seminar to launch the report and discuss it.

The research team--Liz Duff (Westminster), Daniel Muzio (Leeds), Hilary Sommerlad (Leicester), Jenny Tomlinson (Leeds), Lisa Webley (Westminster), along with Anna Zimdars (Manchester)--will present their findings.

This will be followed by a panel discussion and questions with David Pittaway QC (Bar Council), Pat Corcoran and Stephen Ward (Law Society), Crispin Passmore (Legal Services Board) and Andy Boon (Westminster). I will be moderating.

It should be a lively and intriguing time. You are all invited.

DATE: October 13
TIME: 1500--1800
PLACE: Fyvie Hall, University of Westminster, 309 Regent St, London W1B 2UW (Streetmap link)

(thanks to chrisjfry)


The Future of Rights?

My friend, Conor Gearty at the LSE, has started an intriguing and fascinating new project called The Rights' Future. Here's Conor's opening gambit:

THE RIGHTs’ FUTURE explores the history, development and current success of the human rights ideal, with all the dangers and compromises that such success has brought.  It argues for a particular human rights story, one that rescues the radical activists and the egalitarians from the footnotes to which they are often relegated in the standard accounts.
Conor has his own take on human rights and intends to tell the story over a period of 20 weeks. Each Monday he will put up an essay on He is inviting anyone (and he means anyone) to comment, add, substract, or even disagree. At the end of this period, he will have told not only his story but those of others whose narratives will become interwoven with his.

You can hear more about this venture in Conor's own words here:


Monday, October 04, 2010

Messing around on a Sunday....

Looks like Van Gogh missed a trick here....

(thanks to
This is Arles: View from the Wheat Fields (1888) and it's what happens when you apply tilt-shift techniques to Van Gogh. His landscapes are good for this. This is the original:

Let's have some more fun with Van Gogh...

The Starry Night
Pont de Langlois
Starry Night Over the Rhone

It could have been worse....
(thanks to