Sunday, October 30, 2011

I Really Do Want to Be a Lawyer

(H/T to @lawcampus)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Becoming a Global Lawyer

Peter Lederer and I have put our first joint paper on SSRN. The title is "Becoming a Global Lawyer" and it is based on interviews I have conducted with Peter. The paper's abstract says
Using oral history we track the rise of legal globalization through the experience of an early partner in Baker & McKenzie, the world's largest and most global law firm. The paper considers two case studies in counseling and advising illustrating the role of the lawyer and clients in the construction of complex deals. In addition, we examine the role of education, career, and cosmopolitanism.
This will be the first of a series of papers. We welcome any comments and feedback.


Why this should be so, I don't know. But if you google "global lawyer", you get this....

It looks nothing like Peter, nor me.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Law Firms Forget Their Culture at Their Peril

(Thanks to Martin Rowson)

Jotwell has just published my review of Milton Regan's chapter on Taxes and Death: The Rise and Demise of an American Law Firm in Austin Sarat's edited collection, Law Firms, Legal Culture, and Legal Practice, 52  Stud. in Law, Politics, and Society 107 (special issue) (2010), available at SSRN.

Here is part of the review:
Jenkens & Gilchrist was a small but high-end law firm in Texas with desires to grow, especially into New York. But its profits per partner (PPP) were insufficient to attract the best lateral hires even though by Texas standards it was successful. (See Sida Liu’s review of profits.) Having been through a bad spell in the early 1980s the firm had rebuilt itself but it remained at heart a regional law firm. Then enter stage left Paul Daugerdas in 1998.
Daugerdas was a lawyer and an accountant who had worked for Arthur Andersen and Altheimer & Gray where he had developed a tax shelter practice. (Both of these firms have subsequently folded.) He claimed he could bring in a book of business worth $6 million a year and moreover he wanted to be compensated based on his revenues, not those of the firm. After much argument over Daugerdas himself and the legitimacy of his work he was taken on. In his first year at Jenkens he generated $28 million in revenue, the firm’s PPP rose and the firm went from 77th to 57th in the AmLaw 100.
It didn't take long for IRS to become involved and for both the firm and Daugerdas to die professional deatths. Daugerdas was convicted on all counts and the firm folded. Jenkens traded its traditional professionalism for a quick and assured buck. It didn't work and Regan has written its obituary. RIP Jenkens & Gilchrist.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

How's Your EQ? Are You Good at Relationships?

I've been talking at a symposium on globalization and the legal profession at Fordham Law School in New York. We talked a lot about how lawyers and law firms depend on relationships in order to succeed. Are they good at forming and maintaining relationships? On the whole, yes, but it can be fickle.

One presentation by Neta Ziv and Chris Whelan showed how clients are imposing all sorts of client-relationship conditions on their outside counsel. For example, Wal-Mart insists that they select relationship partners from a list including people of colour, women, and those working on flexi-time. Perhaps we had doubts about Wal-Mart's motivations.

So it was interesting to see three reports this week focusing on lawyers' relationships--I'm leaving aside their more than high divorce rates--and how they can be fostered. One was on training associates in business development from the perspective that it's too late to leave it to partner time. The idea is that associates will form lasting relationships with their co-equals in inhouse departments.

Lawyers have been slow to adopt the idea of relationship managers, almost preferring the rain maker model of togetherness. The problem with this is that the lawyer is the key element not the firm.

So Allen and Overy is to train its partners in relationship management with the help of McKinsey. Of course the main purpose is to persuade the clients to come up with more business, so it's demand creation. I wonder how clients will like being milked, sorry advised on other matters. This is a tricky one to accomplish without creating the wrong impression.

The intriguing client relationship management programme is that initiated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. It is imposing relationship managers on the big law firms because  following a pilot the "SRA reached the conclusion that larger and global outfits have "a greater range of issues that require greater engagement to understand." This means they are, perversely, high risk.

I suspect the real reason is to stop the large law firms from introducing their own regulator. So how long will it last?


Monday, October 17, 2011

Lawyers on Tap or Lawyers' Water Torture

It is a truth seldom told to students, but the legal profession is facing its most profound changes. As the recent UCL debate on legal education showed, legal academics are frightened by the future. So much so, they refuse to acknowledge it. Life will continue the same.

It won't.

Although October 6 was meant to be Legal Big Bang it turned out to be Unheard Whimper. This is frequently allied to the steady drip. All so subtle, it is virtually unnoticed.

If we add up various movements we see how the changes are slipping in with little awareness. The Lawyer carried a story on Eversheds' move into the temping lawyers market. Eversheds will second lawyers into clients' inhouse departments. This is similar to Berwin Leighton Paisner's Lawyers on Demand which will do contract work at the client's base or in the BLP office. These are cheap lawyers who will fill whatever gaps their clients perceive. These are not members of Eversheds or BLP in the way their "normal" lawyers are.

Contract lawyers are essentially lawyers who are either desperate to get a job or perhaps those who have deliberately stepped off the treadmill.

Perhaps the most sophisticated version of this is Axiom Law. But whereas BLP-Eversheds promises no more than cheaper contract lawyers, Axiom is offering a different style of legal career. If you want to opt out of the legal rat race, Axiom offers a way forward that is distinct from contract lawyering. It involves secondments or more multi-skills mixes of talents and expertise.

While these services concentrate on qualified lawyers who can be hired out when needed, Acculaw has shifted the delivery model to an earlier stage. Get them while they are training--farm them out to law firms that need to be seen to be fulfilling their service obligations by taking trainees--they'll feel good. What will happen to the trainees? Well there are no promises there....

Let us add DWF's new apprenticeship track for would-be lawyers as legal executives as an alternative to qualifying as a solicitor and altogether we can see how the deskilling of law is taking place. The rise of technology, legal process outsourcing with globalization has begun to create a global market for legal talent which is pitting expensive suppliers against lower-cost ones. Indian lawyers are still a lot cheaper than US and UK lawyers. Both of these regimes are trying to find ways of reducing their costs so they can maintain their lock on the global legal market. I'm not sure they can do it.

Both the UK and the US have problems with the costs of legal education (no links here just google this and you'll get more than you want, believe me). Students are angry while law school faculty are on the whole complacent. British universities are about to raise their tuitions next year, without any increase in the quality of their product. They are clearly forgetting they play in the global market--for example, the cost of law school tuition in Holland is 1600 euros a year (compared to 9000 pounds in the UK or 46000 dollars in the US) and they teach in English.

So who has their fingers in the dike? Anyone?


Sunday, October 09, 2011

Fighting Between Accountants and Lawyers Breaks Out on Damp Squib Day!

A real fight has broken out between accountants and lawyers (reported in Accountancy Age) and it's going to be bloody. That's the sort of thing that happens on damp squib day (October 6, 2011) when alternative business structures don't quite happen.

The chief executive of the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales, Michael Izza, has written a strong letter to Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society (a former sparring partner of mine).

Izza told Hudson that the Law Society must not restrict lawyers and accountants from working together now the Legal Services Act has blessed such unions.
Izza claimed that current Law Society guidance restricts lawyers and solicitors working together in MDPs, warning that its updated guidance in response to the Act must take a different stance.
"To ensure the orderly and desirable development of multi-disciplinary practices, I suggest the Law Society staff with responsibility for this work commence discussion with ICAEW staff before drafting becomes too advanced."
I was surprised to read this as I thought the MDP battle was long over. It appears not. Why the Law Society might be objecting to MDPs is a mystery. Have they forgotten Cnut? While the ICAEW isn't an approved regulator by the Legal Services Board, the Scottish Institute is as is the Certified Accountants association. Accountants are part of the regulatory and professional services scene and to attempt to exclude them is retrograde and, frankly, silly.

The Law Society is taking on the accountants on too many fronts and it's going to lose. This battle is long gone. The Law Society should be focusing on the privilege battle with accountants, but I suspect it will lose that one too. Surely the Law Society can behave in a more grown up way?


Friday, October 07, 2011

Damp Squib Day....

Damp squib day or bad firework day.... This was meant to be the Big Bang of legal services when the thrillingly named Alternative Business Structures took off into the stratosphere.

Not even a fizzle.

This is because the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Ministry of Justice can't get their act together. So while we shall have licensed conveyancer ABS, we won't have lawyer-type ones until next year. Stephen Mayson had some choice words to say about the SRA's dilatoriness recently.

A law firm no one has heard of says it's going to float on a stock market I'd never heard of either. The post-ABS world is buzzing and exploding in the firmament.

That's about it on this tremendous day.

And if you google damp squib, this is what you get. Don't ask.


John Flood's Random Academic Thoughts (RATs): Damp Squib Day....

Do read Julian Webb on hEaD Space The Glorious 6th?

John Flood's Random Academic Thoughts (RATs): Damp Squib Day....

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

I Might Try This on the Plane Tonight...

(thanks to New Yorker)