Thursday, September 27, 2012

International Conference of Legal Regulators

Here is my presentation, with some explanatory notes, for the conference today.

Flood International Legal Regulators Conference Presentation: Legal Market Developments

This is the link to the above document at Scribd.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tesco Law Forces Decline in Law Firm Partner Numbers

No, this is not an invitation to a cozy hotel to have a drink with one's colleagues while discussing "strategy going forward..."No, this is a warning to lawyers that Tesco Law (or should that be Co-op Law now) is having an effect on the market for lawyers.

According to reports of a survey by the Financial Times,
the number of partner roles lost in the year to June 30 outweighed the positions gained, pulling back the total number of law firm partners by 153 to 33,662.
“It’s understandable that firms are reluctant to promote lawyers who don’t already have a track record of bringing in income . . . if the associates don’t look like they will be able to add to the profit pool, the partners are essentially being asked to dilute their own income.”
The uncertainty raised by the Legal Services Act and Tesco Law has meant that law firms are retrenching by not promoting younger partners. One of the results of this move is that a bottleneck in potential partners is created. Not that it will necessarily be unplugged at a later date.

One consequence is a rise in moves to in house counsel positions. Or maybe into Alternative Business Structures. After all the Co-op is hiring in law.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Law Firms Investigating Banks

According to the Financial Times the Financial Services Authority is compiling a new panel of experts to undertake investigations of banks. The invitation to professional service firms is sparking a war between accountants and lawyers.

Both want these jobs. Section 166 reports allow the FSA to appoint "skilled persons" to inquire, produce findings, and make recommendations. As the FT says:
The reports are used in the wake of rogue-trading scandals, client-money problems or data breaches, and are both diagnostic and forensic.
The numbers of reports rose from 18 in 2007 to 140 in 2011. The costs of the report are borne by the firm investigated. Fees for s.166 work range from £4,000 to £4.4m for large institutions.

Up to now accountants have scooped the pot. Over half of the reports were done by the Big Four accounting firms because of a cosy relationship between them and the FSA which was darkly shrouded. Lawyers were frustrated at being excluded. The big law firms managed to get at best 1 per cent of the investigations. Now the process is to be transparent.

I suppose someone has to do these investigations but both accountants and law firms--especially the big ones--depend on banks for much of their work, that one has to wonder how objective they would be. Just think how law firms refuse to act for clients who want to take on banks.

In the case of the Canary Wharf auction several years ago every law firm in London refused to sue RBS. At that time RBS had 116 law firms on its panel--something of a farce. The claimants used direct access to the Bar.

I wonder how the FSA, or the Financial Conduct Authority to be, will ensure objectivity and impartiality in this process. If the major City financial institutions are in bed with each other, I can't see that placing a bolster between them will make much difference. It would be like expecting teen pregnancy rates to decline on the back of a "just say no" campaign.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thinking About Barristers' Clerks....

I usually start my posts with an image and since my topic is barristers' clerks, why not one of a clerk? The tricky bit is what to choose. Above we have serious, thoughtful, you can trust me.... The steepled fingers in black and white is the killer trope here.

But when I started looking for images, I found that although this is popular stereotype of the clerk things have moved on. We have happy, bibulous clerks:

Clerking as you can see has it's rewards and fun times. And why not? But there is also a mystery element to clerks, a touch of the 007s or Harry Palmer's (look it up). That's when I saw this one.

Without doubt it is my favourite. This is notabarrister who blogs anonymously (you'll find him on twitter too). So here we see the evolution of the barrister's clerk from clerkus gravis to clerkus groucho, the ultimate in clerks.

Barristers' clerks came to mind because I'm writing about the "Cab Rank Rule". The rule applies to a small number of barristers but not to clerks. The success or otherwise--and I won't say exactly what that means--depends on the way the clerks run the chambers' diaries and business systems. I'll leave the rest of this to my report.

As I was looking around I found there is now an increasing number of blogs by barristers' clerks. And in case the Bar gets a fit of the vapours like the Ministry of Justice and senior judges over judicial blogs,  I want to bring them to the attention of readers so they can gaze on this most exotic of creatures.

Early on there were articles occasionally in the press about clerks like this one on "The Clerk Enigma". But even with the quotes from clerks, it lacks a certain joie de vivre. Later we get canute the clerk, but he didn't last more than two posts. I suppose he got washed away in a tide of Embankment 6X.

However, for those interested there are two good blogs that tackle the topic seriously. The longest running is Jeremy Hopkins' "Clerkingwell", which is enjoying a slight hiatus since Jeremy has become director of operations at Riverview Law. I'm hoping he resumes before long.

So, for our up to date reflections on clerking we must turn to "notabarrister", the Groucho Marx clone above. His anonymity allows him to delve into some of the more Freudian byways of clerking, especially their relationship to the barristers. I will be following notabarrister assiduously from now on.

I hope we get more. These guys are a unique tribe among the legal profession. I always rue the day I never actually became one instead of writing about them. I could have been profound, bibulous, and grouchy all in one.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Another Little Aspect of the Cab Rank Rule...

(thanks to New Yorker)


Wednesday, September 05, 2012

I Swear This Problem is Universal....

(thanks New Yorker)