Sunday, December 15, 2013

Are We About to See the Arrival of Multidisciplinary Practices?

(Earnest Studio: Furniture Families)

The "chair" above comes from a Netherlands designer, Rachel Griffin, who is a multidisciplinary designer. Her work encompasses buildings, furniture, public installations, and experimental books. I love the fact that someone can be so expressive and creative across so many forms. But imagine if each of those sectors was subject to separate regulation. Rachel wouldn't be who she is now.

In law we live in comparative prehistoric times. Regulation is our protection, our safeguard, to prevent savages from invading our sacred spaces. Even with the Legal Services Act 2007, the pace of reform of legal services has been slow--almost in geological time. Dave Edmonds, chair of the LSB, has criticised both the Law Society and the Bar Council for trying to stifle reform and limit competition. And the new chairman of the Bar Council couldn't stop himself from taking a swipe at the Legal Services Board in his inaugural speech.

We thought that Alternative Business Structures would lead the way to innovation and creativity, but most of the licences granted so far have been awarded to organizations that look just like law firms. From what we know the few multidisciplinary practices that have applied for ABS licences have found their application processes prolonged. Whether this is an unwillingness on the part of the Solicitors Regulation Authority to licence MDPs or is a manifestation of cautionary zeal, we can't be certain.

The potential for change is closer now than it's been. The LSB wants to approve the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales as a regulator for probate work and a licensing authority for ABS. (You can see the ICAEW application here.) This brings the number of accountant regulators of legal services up to three. So far they have restricted themselves to probate. So far...

Implicit in the LSA 2007 is the idea of competition between regulators. Some see this as a form of regulatory arbitrage leading to a race to the bottom, but that is what the LSB prevents. The Law Society doesn't like competition from accountants. It helped stop accountants from claiming legal privilege and it tried to stop the ICAEW from becoming a regulator.

By 2016 (assuming the government doesn't change the entire regulatory structure--who knows?) we should have four ABS licensing authorities: the SRA, the Council of Licenced Conveyancers, the Bar Standards Board, and the ICAEW.

Looking at that list I can see only one that has true experience of MDPs. Most of the bigger accounting firms are now fully-fledged professional service firms that offer many services: audit, consulting, financial, legal, crisis management and so on. Law firms don't have the scale or capacity yet.

It makes sense therefore for the accountants to test the water with probate and see if it works, which I'm sure it will. They will then be in a strong position to extend their regulatory capacity beyond probate and truly challenge the mainstream legal regulators. It will be interesting to see which institutions and organizations then choose their regulator according to "family" type or through regulatory ability and experience.

I'm glad the accountants are disrupting the present cozy arrangements.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Law Office of the Future Infographic

Lydia Bailey has produced an interesting infographic which I like, especially as its well-referenced. (It does have ads for online paralegal education but they don't intrude.)

The Future of Law


Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Rise of Technology in Law or Why Susskind Didn't Look Far Enough into the Future...

Today I was at the City University of Hong Kong. It is celebrating its 50th anniversary and the Deans are holding a series of Deans' Summits.

The Law School Dean, Christopher Gane, held his summit on the Global Challenges of Legal Education, which also happened to be the topic of my paper. We had a wide group of contributors from China, Taiwan, the US, Europe, Canada, Australia, the UK (are we part of Europe?), Singapore, and more.

One of the recurring themes was the role of technology in law and legal education, which I said would play a larger role but not necessarily take over. I think I was wrong. See below for why.....

(with thanks to the New Yorker)


Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Book....

Now immediately in Kindle format available at and Hardback and paperback due out very soon.

A legal scholar and sociologist, John Flood spent years observing a large law firm from the inside—much like an embedded journalist, but with the perspective of a researcher on the theory and practice of legal organizations. What he found and analyzed resulted in a study that has been cited by many scholars over the years as the ultimate account of the inner workings of a corporate law firm, including its relations with clients, employees, and the broader profession. Further, using four detailed case studies, he showed how the construction of legal information and problems depended heavily on the role and specialization of the lawyer and the power of the client. 

Now in its Second Edition, with updated references and account of the radical shifts in legal practice over the past few years in the U.S. and U.K., Flood's pathbreaking book continues to be a fascinating resource for scholars of the legal profession, as well as interested readers who want to see exposed the inner sanctum of private, big-money law practice. 

This edition also adds a new, reflective introduction by Lynn Mather, the SUNY Distinguished Service Professor at the University at Buffalo. She writes that, compared to litigators, prosecutors, and public interest attorneys, "far less is known about exactly what business lawyers do." However, "Flood’s brilliant ethnography of a corporate law firm helps to fill this gap, providing an in-depth analysis of corporate lawyers at work and addressing significant issues of professional work. Originally done in the late 1980s, this classic study has now been updated and still stands as a singular contribution to the field for its insights into the work of corporate lawyers. ... The themes it raises—differences between office lawyers and litigators, ethical decision making in the context of legal work, change in corporate practice in relation to the economy and professional regulation, and the role of law in what lawyers do—remain crucial for understanding the role of lawyers in society." 

A classic resource from Quid Pro Books is now readily available worldwide, in print and ebook formats, for scholars, researchers, lawyers, and other interested readers. The new digital edition features proper ebook formatting, active Contents, linked footnotes, all original tables, and active cross-links for references to tables.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

One Size Doesn't Fit All in Legal Education

(Image: thanks to Morgan Linton)

After digesting the Legal Education and Training Review report (LETR) for three months, England’s largest legal regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), has delivered its response. This is important because the big legal regulators—SRA, Bar Standards Board, Ilex Professional Services—shape the structure of the qualifying law degree, and they commissioned LETR.

Without revisiting the LETR report in detail,[1] it recommended no radical change. Instead the SRA, according to its chief executive, Anthony Townsend, is to propose a radical programme of reform.
It has three elements:

1. No one size fits all to becoming a lawyer. There should be many routes into practice where the SRA sets only the “day one skill requirements.” These could be provided by the academy, through apprenticeships, or in job cumulative progression. Adopting their “principles-based, outcomes-focused” approach to regulation, the SRA intends not to prescribe but allow a thousand educational flowers to bloom within the legal market.

This will give the universities and colleges plenty of scope to innovate, should they choose to do so. Unfortunately, the British academy is slow in this area, not always recognising that change has occurred. I wouldn’t be surprised if the private legal education providers don’t surge ahead here as against the universities.

2. Continuing professional development (or continuing legal education) must stop being a tick box exercise and in its place there must be an emphasis on substantive competence. CPD has always been a joke among practitioners who, as the year ends, scrabble to find ways to complete their quota of CPD points via self-assessment articles in legal magazines.
One line in Townsend’s speech I specifically like is, “the onus will be on firms to ensure that their whole workforce is competent.” This means nonlawyers as well as lawyers should demonstrate competence where they are providing legal services to the public. This recognises that the legal services market is a varied and pluralistic one.

3. There must be a “bonfire of education and training regulations.” Without doubt legal education is over-regulated. In countries where law is primarily an undergraduate degree, as opposed to a professional degree, there is little justification for the tight scrutiny that regulators have held over legal education. As many as 50% of graduating law students these days don’t enter the legal profession, so there is little justification for subjecting them to unnecessary protocols. The SRA rightly sees that as the territory of the education regulators. Moreover, the SRA wants to stop prescribing the content of the training contract.

The SRA intends to lighten regulation by the end of 2014, which is light speed for the legal profession. It has only been 40 years since they last looked at legal education.

Soon after I wrote this, Nigel Savage, supremo of the global University of Law (too many titles to list them all), warned the SRA to ‘get clarity on standards to avoid dumbing down legal training.’ A couple of points occur to me here. One is he is frightened of other for profit legal educators undercutting his market which is built on premium product. The other is his use of "legal training" rather than education and training. Maybe he's right to be scared. It's not the academy that threatens him but the vocational apprenticeship trainers who will be starting up. They will offer routes into the legal services market at much less cost than the University of Legal Cosmology (see our new campus on Mars--free one-way tickets--end of lawyer surplus....).

[1] I let the reader peruse its 350 pages as ideal bedtime reading.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Malodorous Regulation and Why It Should Be Reformed....

(Thanks to Ben Whishaw in Perfume)

I was asked to provide a comment on Dave Edmonds call for a single regulator for legal services by the Solicitors Journal. This is what I said (only you get an extra video in this version):

During a recent TEDx talk in Sydney a UNSW law lecturer friend of mine, Justine Rogers, said that one should introduce concepts that reminded the audience of something elusive, like a perfume, such as “Complexity”.

If ever there was a pervasive odour around the regulation of legal services in Britain it is complexity. On the basis to get where we want to go, we wouldn’t start from here—the market for legal services is a mess.

The Ministry of Justice regulation review is needed. Why? Because the Legal Services Act 2007 is the bastard child arising out of the turf wars between the warring factions of the legal profession. And six years later these wars are still being fought, by profession and regulator.

We have introduced a system of such startling complexity that it is a lawyers’ delight. Even though it is outcomes focused and principles based, little agreement exists as to how it should be implemented. At a conference I argued that the UK system would lead the world. Another speaker expressed incredulity at the labyrinthine procedures that any would be-ABS had to go through to get a licence. In Australia, he said, incorporated legal practices were granted licences quickly. The key vetting was done afterwards to ensure it followed proper practices. To become an ABS in the UK is difficult, complex, expensive and could take as long as a trip to Mars. This is not what the “new” regulatory system was set up to do.

One of the drives of the Legal Services Board is to increase competition in the market and also to simplify the provision of services. Within the constraints of the LSA there is only so much the LSB can do. But trying to herd a bevy of regulators towards a new pasture is hard.

Time then to simplify and remove complexity. Yes, we should move to a single regulator for legal services. And furthermore we should move towards a single legal services supplier. Let’s scrap solicitors, barristers and the other categories and go for a single supplier with accreditation and specialisation. Perhaps consumers will begin to understand the market.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Memories of when I started training at London Fields Fitness with Katy...

Katy MacKay (@Katytrainer) was my trainer for 18 months at London Fields Fitness. Sadly, our crazy immigration laws have meant she's had to return to Australia. I, and a large number of others, really miss her. 

She introduced me, with complete shock and awe, to Kettle Bells, which one swings maniacally while madly grimacing. Whether the Kettle Bell swings me or I it, I leave to sundry Zen masters. It is, however, a magical instrument. So much so, I now own seven of them!

Katy made this little video out of clips she would film to show us what we were doing...or not.

Long may you swing your Kettle Bell, Katy. 


Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Missing Middle in Legal Education

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Law School has just started a new blog called "lawschoolvibe". For those that have sat through a course of mine on the legal profession will immediately recognize that as the key moment in modern jurisprudence when Dennis Denuto, in The Castle, is called on by the judge to specify which part of the Australian constitution he is referring to:

They asked me to write a piece for them, which I've done about one of the failings of legal education generally and the Legal Education and Training Review/Report in particular.

June 2013 marked the publication of the Legal Education and Training Review report(LETR) in the UK. Two years of research commissioned by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the Bar Standards Board, and ILEX Professional Standards. Three hundred and fifty pages later, we are not much further forward.
There is a delicate balance in reviewing legal education between the local and the global; between the theoretical and the practical; and between the future and the present. LETR gamely steers its way around these obstacles without recommending too much change to the present system or favouring one over the other. It’s missed some opportunities.
I will focus on one here—the balance between the future and the present. Richard Susskind was a consultant to LETR and wrote an interesting paper about the technological changes reverberating through the legal services market. (Please note the language: legal services market and providers, lawyers are only one segment of a fragmented market these days.) Occasionally Susskind refers to legal education. Not much of what he said has infused the LETR report, which is a shame.
The rest of the post is here at lawschoolvibe...


Thursday, September 05, 2013

Different Types of Revolutionary Legal Organizations....

(thanks to Chicago Socialists)

In the wake of the Legal Services Act 2007 we have been focused on the new Alternative Business Structures almost to the exclusion of other new legal organizations. This came to mind when reading The Lawyer's feature on the legal landscape in 2018.

At the end of its article there are a couple of paragraphs on litigation boutiques and their growing success. The one which struck me in particular is Hage Aaronson, litigation specialists. (Their website must be the most understated ever--it has only one page.

The reason I find it interesting is that the company, which it is, was formed by two barristers who are quitting their chambers to do this. Another QC is also joining the firm. Other members of the firm/company are lawyers from Dorsey & Witney (their entire tax team), Baker Botts, and Debevoise & Plimpton. Tax litigation is one of its main areas of expertise, along with regulatory work, arbitration and multi-jurisdictional commercial claims.

The firm's self-professed claim is to be an "international litigation management" firm. By blending solicitors and barristers it situates itself as a conduit between the Magic Circle law firms and the commercial Bar. This is of course a form of de facto fusion between solicitors and barristers. Or perhaps it shows us the futility of artificial distinctions between occupational groups that do very much the same thing with different specialisms.

What I haven't seen discussed in regard to Hage Aaronson is how it will be charging its clients. Given their nature it might not be a problem. However, part of the success of other litigation boutiques like Quinn Emmanuel has been their entrepreneurial approach to the charging and funding of litigation. There must be some price competition among litigation boutiques. They all claim to have the best lawyers.

In a recent article, Ray Campbell, discusses the impact of disruptive innovation on legal services. He shows how regulatory barriers hinder innovation. Consumer needs are ranked below the needs of the suppliers as happens with the US legal profession. (Despite that, litigation boutiques thrive in the US.) These hindrances are now being dismantled in the UK and we will see more innovations as consumers/clients become more persuasive.


Monday, September 02, 2013

2018: New roles to revolutionize training...

(Thanks to museum 2.0)

According to Nina Simon, who created the image above, revolution is not ever-increasing circles but a dramatic shift in the centre of the circle. So, in the spirit of revolution I have participated in The Lawyer's series on 2018: A Window into the Future

I was interviewed for the article, 2018: New Roles to Revolutionize Training. The article starts

Prediction: The number of training contracts will fall but new routes into the profession will multiply.
When it comes to legal education crystal ball-gazing should be easy, shouldn’t it? After all, the report intended to shape thinking about the junior end of the profession for years to come has just been published.
So has the Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) cleared the waters? Not really. Its recommendations are not radical and the reaction to it has been one of mild disappointment, the profession failing even to summon up enough energy to stick the boot in....
I'm arguing that entry pathways will become more pluralistic to reflect the fragmentation of the legal profession and the legal services market.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why Should Lobbyists Fear Transparency Especially If They Are Lawyers?

I read Leibovich's book last week while I was on holiday. It both fascinated and horrified me. Although it's about Washington DC, it is also about London politics as it is now. Notice I don't say British politics, because following Leibovich's thesis this is a purely metropolitan issue in which the provinces (sticks) neither count nor even exist.

Leibovich details how everyone who comes to Washington is assimilated into the organism that is politics-lobbying-consulting-business. The Obama set were opposed to lobbying and special interests and made a big fuss about it. Before long Obama associates were spinning through the revolving door to capture book deals, TV commentator slots, and lucrative positions as lobbyists. While the US was reeling from the recession, Washington DC--This Town--basked in champagne receptions and endless valet parking, courtesy of the lobbying industry.

In a series of deft pen portraits Leibovich describes how politicians believe it their right to earn some serious money as lobbyists after having put in so many years of service in Congress. Maybe venal is too light a term for these blood-sucking parasites that infest the body politic. But they're here and they won't go away.

Of course it isn't much different in the UK. We now have a full-time political class that steps from university into jobs with think tanks to then become SPADS (special advisers to politicians) with the promise of a parliamentary seat at the end of it. All of our current leaders, David Cameron, David Milliband and Nick Clegg followed this route. And all of them will cash in when they step down. Just watch The Thick of It to get the idea.

Look at Tony Blair, a man on a global peace mission who won't refuse to work for any dictator. Who can be fairer than that? As a lawyer, he's trained to separate out difficult associations and he is also imbued with the ideals of the cab rank rule.

This came to mind when I read that City lawyers object to being registered for their lobbying activities. The City of London Law Society (which represents the big firms) claimed the consequences of registration would be burdensome and force them to breach client confidentiality. Their own codes of conduct were sufficient to regulate their behaviour in this field. Indeed, they provide much help in the legislative process:
The CLLS committee said lawyers play a vital role in testing the practicality of legislation and would feel inhibited from engaging with policymakers if proposed laws are passed.
Somehow these arguments aren't that persuasive. City lawyers have been lobbying government since at least the nineteenth century, if not before. Who is good at it and has access to the right quarters is well-known among lobbyists' users. Lawyers lobby just as other groups lobby and should be subject to the same conditions as other lobbyists. That includes registration. And regarding confidentiality, clients will have to rethink how they want to use their lawyer-lobbyists. I doubt there will be much difference.

Leibovich writes how when threatened with registration, lobbyists reclassified themselves as consultants. Apart from titles nothing tangible seemed to change.

I don't think City lawyers have made a strong case here. They will have to sign up like everyone else.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

How to Escape the Rigours of Excessive Regulation in the US Legal Profession

(thanks to

My apologies for recent radio silence in the blogosphere. It's partly due to putting the finishing touches to a book, What Do Lawyers Do? An Ethnography of a Corporate Law Firm, due out from Quid Pro Books soon.

Jacoby & Meyers has announced that it's opening in the UK. This firm was a pioneer in providing standardized services to middle-class clients in a distributed network. Taking advantage of the relaxation on lawyer advertising in the 1970s, Jacoby opened lots of offices around the US. The firm developed a hub and spoke approach that had general lawyers in storefronts and specialists and computer resources at centralized locations. By 2010 Jacoby was spending over $10 million on TV advertising.

There is an excellent study of the firm and others in Jerry Van Hoy's Franchise Law Firms and the Transformation of Personal Legal Services (1997).

One of Jacoby & Meyers' aims has been to take in external investment. Unfortunately, it's an American law firm not English. US rules won't permit this. Gillian Hadfield has written expressively in "Legal Barriers to Innovation" why US rules stifle innovation and creativity in US law firms and the profession and will put US law firms at a competitive disadvantage with UK and Australian law firms.

Because of these barriers Jacoby launched a series of cases against state bars in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The New York case has made it through the first appeal after dismissal. Jacoby wants to overturn the ban on nonlawyer ownership, which will be a tough fight.

The UK with the Legal Services Act 2007 and alternative business structures (ABS) offers an exit route. Jacoby has linked up with MJ Hudson, a boutique finance law firm. Hudson has declared it wants to become an ABS and Jacoby wants external capital.

It's a slightly odd alliance since Jacoby is a personal client firm and MJ Hudson is a corporate client firm, but certainly Hudson must have access to many clients who are looking for investment opportunities. Both shy away from traditional billing preferring to use fixed fees and both believe in the corporate identity rather than the conventional partnership route.

If the tie up happens then Jacoby & Meyers will have further arguments with the New York State Bar (NYSBA) which recently opined against these kinds of linkages. The NYSBA realizes that access to justice is declining in light of budget cuts (see Expanding Access to Justice in New York State [2009]). Chief Judge Lippman is calling for retired lawyers to offer pro bono hours for unmet legal need. But all of this is short termist with no expectation of radically altering the situation.

It might be time for New York to rethink its opposition to externally owned legal services providers if they could open up services.


Thursday, June 06, 2013

Car a Taxi Cab...

(thanks to DYFL)

The cab rank rule seems like a long-drawn out car crash at times. The Law Society Gazette reported today that the Legal Services Board is to investigate whether the Bar Council interfered in the Bar Standards Board's application to vary the cab rank rule. The LSB's letter to the Bar Council is direct as you can see here.

This is to do with the Bar's new standard contract terms which effectively withdraw the "protection" of the cab rank rule if the solicitor doesn't agree to the terms. Morten Hviid and I discussed this exclusion in our report for the LSB earlier in the year and also in our response to the responses of the Bar Council and BSB to our report.

The antecedents for this investigation lie further back than our report. They are to do with the structure of regulation that David Clementi proposed and the government adopted in the Legal Services Act 2007.

Professions, including law, had become too cosy. They were inward looking and protective of their own interests at the expense of the consumer/client/patient. Their professional bodies weren't dealing with complaints and discipline effectively. The public, as well as the consumer, interest wasn't being served.

One solution was to separate the regulatory arm of the professional body from its representative function. Thus function and form should be distinct. Of course this brought much fighting from the bodies concerned.

The result? In the case of the legal professions' two largest bodies, the Law Society and the Bar Council, they were nominated as the frontline regulators with the regulatory arm to be held at arm's length. The next question is how long is the arm? (It's always struck me as odd that standard British shirt suppliers--think M&S--don't offer varying arm lengths whereas American suppliers--think Macy's--do.)

The regulatory structure emerging from the LSA 2007 has always been a fudge. It cries out for simplification. I tend to agree with the LSB chairman, Dave Edmonds, when he calls for a single regulator. Rather than getting competition among the regulators we seem to be stuck. Indeed, the situation is virtually thixatropic.

We have both the Bar Standards Board and the SRA chafing at the LSB's drive towards regulatory efficiency and arguing that the LSB's time has come. If anything has come out of the aftermath of the LSA 2007 it is the glacial slowness of the frontline regulators and their reluctance to come to terms with the new legal services market.

Perhaps it is timely that the Ministry of Justice has started a review of regulation. Helen Grant was reported as saying: "We want to reduce the burdens on the industry by simplifying the regulatory framework, while ensuring there is still appropriate oversight, and that is why we have started a review to see where and how improvements can be made." 

Various stakeholders have been contacted by the MoJ for their views and so I imagine there will be a lively debate, at least I hope so. Responses wanted by September 2, 2013.

I would also suggest that observers of this field keep an eye on developments in the Republic of Ireland where their Legal Services Regulation Bill is now on its final journey through the legislative process. It promises a single regulator.

For the tale of how Ireland arrived at this point, you can do no better than read Maeve Hosier's excellent paper, "The Legal Profession in Troikaland: Before and After the Irish Bailout". The abstract starts
Ireland is feeling a chill wind of austerity emanating from the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. These institutions have combined within Irish political, economic and popular consciousness as ‘The Troika’. However the primary subject of this paper concerns an altogether different Troika, an ‘Unholy Trinity’ consisting of bankers, property developers and lawyers. It is argued herein that the combined activities of this Unholy Trinity caused the property bubble, the banking crisis and the subsequent economic collapse of the Irish state. 
 The BSB and SRA will need to be careful how they approach this review. There's no guarantee it will go their way......


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Happens When You Quit the Maw of the Accounting Firms? It Depends on Tax Codes...

I was struck by an article in The Lawyer based on its annual European 100. (Don't rush, it costs nearly £600.)

The two top European law firms are Garrigues in Spain and FIDAL in France. Both law firms posted revenues of over €300m. Apart from that law firms in most of Europe face the same difficulties as elsewhere with declining partnerships, frozen hiring, etc.

What is of interest here is that both firms were hooked into accounting firms for a long time. FIDAL was part of KPMG and was essentially a tax practice. Tax is still a big part of its remit now. FIDAL left the KPMG network in 2002 and became independent. Some of KPMG's literature still shows a strong connection between the two.

It would be fair to say that prior to 2002 FIDAL was not awarded much distinction as a law firm, French or otherwise, but since then it appears to have thrived. It is a French firm with no international offices.

With Garrigues it was different. The firm always had a reputation as being a key Spanish law firm but in 1997 it merged with Arthur Andersen. This both shocked the legal world--why would a successful firm merge with a giant squid of a global accounting firm?--and then surprised them more when it went on to be successful in the merger. According to Garrigues' history its billing rose 130% and headcount doubled from 500 to 1,000. Clearly 2002 was a fateful year as Enron killed Arthur Andersen and Garrigues reverted to being a law firm alone again.

One enlightening item in the Garrigues history, tucked away, is that in 2005 it established a network of tax firms. It also internationalized in a big way--Latin America and Asia.

Certainly there is life--robust at that--after quitting the maw of the giant accounting firms. Both Garrigues and FIDAL prove that. But perhaps the crucial element is tax. Both are major players in tax advice across borders. They have invested huge resources in this area.

After attending the Tax and Reputation Conference at KCL yesterday, I've come to see just how important tax advice is for companies. Add to this the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations accusing Apple of avoiding billions of dollars in tax by offshoring itself to Ireland (Apple's response here), the UK Public Accounts Committee taking Google, Amazon and Starbucks to task over unethically limiting its UK tax exposure, and we see that tax planning is at the core of business transactions. As cross-border business multiplies, the demands for tax accountants and lawyers grows considerably. Both the UK and the US have made corporate tax so complex that it is hard for any but an expert to understand and interpret the codes. It's a goldmine for "creative compliance".

So both Garrigues and FIDAL benefit from our desire to make the world a complicated and complex place. "Zen and the Art of Tax Planning" won't be appearing on Amazon yet, but if it did I'm sure they would donate free copies to Margaret Hodge and her colleagues on the Public Accounts Committee.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

London in Colour in 1927!

Wonderful little film of London in 1927 filmed in colour. You can't help being struck by how black London was--the buildings are filthy but then how much smoke was being belched into the air. There were, as it says, 4,000 buses charging around.

The contrast between the well-dressed spaciousness of the West End compared to the congestion of the East End is stark. If the camera man had gone further east than Petticoat Lane, I'm sure it would have been worse.

A real little gem!


Monday, May 13, 2013

The Transformation of Irish Legal Services

The picture above is from an Irish crime TV show about a journalist chasing stories of corruption, paedophilia, societal neglect and more. Within the throes of the recession Ireland is going through deep changes. The press is full of corruption scandals, billionaires going bankrupt, and, not least, the Irish legal profession facing its biggest ever challenges.

Two years ago I went to Dublin to speak at a conference about the new Irish Legal Services Bill proposed by the Troika. For the Irish legal profession it was dire. Last week I was back in Dublin at UCD to talk again about the Irish Legal Services Bill. We're not quite there yet.

The Bill is expected to be passed into law later this year. In the ensuing two years there has been much discussion between the Justice minister and the profession with some give and take on both sides. Fundamentally there will be a single external regulator, the majority of which will be non-lawyer with the authority to deal with more or less everything to do with lawyers.

To say the Irish legal profession is still in denial would be true although there is more acceptance than there was two years ago. When I talked about the changes happening in the UK with increasing numbers of alternative business structures, more consolidation in the personal injury sector, take overs of law firms, Co-op growing by 3,000, and to cap it with a picture of Eddie Stobart's trucks (but no barristers with his logo) there was fear.

As one barrister put it "A country the size of Birmingham's population spread over the geographical area of Scotland has a tiny profession which can't afford to disappear." He was concerned about the Bar. A Law Society representative wondered about lawyers in rural areas who could go out of business leaving people without access to lawyers. Having Richard Susskind on hand to talk about technology helped there, I think...

When the act comes into law, it will be interesting to see who is appointed to the regulatory authority and what they do. One of their roles, like the Legal Services Board, is to do research on legal services. I applaud that because it's necessary.

More can be read about the conference here in the Irish Independent newspaper.

As I've said before, let a thousand flowers bloom for Ireland is about to go through a Maoist revolution.


Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Response to the Responses....The Cab Arrives at Its Destination...

(thanks to flickr)

Here's my response to the responses by the Bar Council and the Bar Standards Board to our report on the cab rank rule. Working my way through 120 pages of their reaction to our report has been beyond a labour of love.

See below for all relevant links to reports and responses.

I doubt we've heard the last of this. And the offer for a debate on the issue is still open.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Institutional Bridging: How Large Law Firms Engage in Globalization

(thanks to gizmag, proposed bridge over Pearl River)

I've just posted a new paper to SSRN titled "Institutional Bridging: How Large Law Firms Engage in Globalization". It's for a symposium put together by the Boston College Law Review and the Boston College International & Comparative Law Review on Filling Power Vacuums in the New Global Legal Order.

The abstract reads: This article introduces the "Born Global" concept into the discussion of law firms and lawyers. Born Global firms are companies that globalize at an accelerated rate. This article illustrates that English and American law firms are the precursors to Born Global companies and highlights how the common law has facilitated this process. It also demonstrates, through modern case studies, how lawyers and the common law continue to have a globalizing effect in the business world. Last, the article argues that the disparity between UK and US law firms created by the the UK Legal Services Act 2007 may create an opportunity for the UK law firms to truly break out ahead of their US counterparts.

(PS. my favourite bridge is the Ponte Vecchio....

(thanks to


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Longest Taxi Ride in History!

(London-Sydney by Black Cab, thanks to

I've finally written my response to the responses to the Flood-Hviid report on the Cab Rank Rule of the Bar Council by Sir Sydney Kentridge QC and the Bar Standards Board by Michael McLaren QC, Craig Ulyatt and Christopher Knowles. (Sorry for that long sentence but you should see their responses!) I had to fit this in between visits to Boston and Miami.

I hope to publish it soon. But I will point out a few things. Our report was 46 pages long, which included a fair chunk of theory, a comprehensive literature review, and the results of fieldwork. Kentridge came in at concise 30 pages in his response. Most of what he has to say is based on assertion and his beliefs. There was no new evidence, only a reiteration of the standard supporting case for the cab rank rule.

The McLaren, Ulyatt, Knowles response for the BSB astonished us when it landed in our mailboxes at nearly twice the length of our original report--87 pages! This is the longest peer review in history. Given our report cost around £21,000, I wonder what theirs must have cost? They gave their time free apparently, so they subsidized their regulator.

Their report--"A fresh view"--gives us some interesting information about the cab rank rule from around the world but, again, reiterates the same old views. So hardly fresh--over ripe perhaps? There's no evidence to support any of their claims, other than statements confirming their rectitude. It's all rather defensive on their part.

What is omitted from these responses is any analysis or critique about the Bar's methods for avoiding the cab rank rule in relation to direct access clients or why it doesn't apply in the case of publicly funded criminal and family cases ("undeemed").

What I would like to do is offer to debate these issues with the Bar whether its the authors of the responses or others. I can't be fairer than that.


This is a natural consequence of Law Without Walls......

(thanks to New Yorker)


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Life With Law

(This is the second event and for more information about the first look here) 

Life With Law: Second in reflective series of events encourages lawyers to change how they think about time 

Lawyers On Demand continues its series of reflective events aimed at ‘the thinking lawyer’ – bypassing the usual professional development themes to explore the real issues that underpin the reality of working in the law today.

Its second event providing inspiration and ideas on working life is being held on 17 April 2013. It focuses on turning lawyers’ usual (rather conflicted) relationship with time on its head and looks at how they can make time work for them.

Whilst the Life With Law events are the brainchild of alternative legal service providers Lawyers On Demand, these events are intended to be a general forum for lawyers to reflect on how they work best, however they choose to practice.

Simon Harper, Co-Founder of Lawyers On Demand, points out that: "From training, lawyers work in an environment where they are required to record their time every six minutes - resulting in a rather unusual take on time management. This free event is for any lawyer who wants to take back time and make it work better for their teams and for themselves."

Who: Guest speakers for this second event include Radio 4 presenter and author of Time Warped Claudia Hammond and BBC columnist, TED speaker, broadcaster and author Tom Chatfield.

What: Life With Law is a series of free talks offering inspiration and ideas for living a good, happy and satisfying life while practising law. The second event, How To Make Time Work For You, includes guest talks on 'Making time in the digital age' and 'How we perceive and control our time'.

When: 6.30pm, Wednesday 17th April 2013

Where: BLP, The Auditorium, Adelaide House, London Bridge, London, EC4R 9HA

Why: Feedback from the successful first event in the series proved that lawyers, though good at helping their clients, aren’t always so good at managing their own lives – or at helping their team to manage theirs. Life With Law provides a forum for lawyers to find inspiration, featuring some of the best speakers to help lawyers reflect and then make their ideas happen. The first event in the series, Finding Your Path & Making Things Happen, attracted over 100 lawyers to hear guest talks on ‘The surprising science of better decision making’ and ‘Discovering the life that you want’. 

In a world where work-life balance has become meaningless, Life With Law is about lawyers finding time to reflect and making mindful choices in their daily working lives. For more information go to or follow @lifewithlaw on Twitter.


Friday, April 05, 2013

Flagging down cabs or Booking a limo? The Australian View

(thanks to paulickreport: note that colours are of Australian horse 'Black Caviar')

For all the furore about the cab rank rule, including Sir Sydney Kentridge's passing reference on "Desert Island Discs", we forget that it isn't always just about obnoxious individuals but often about venal and obnoxious corporations. It's an aspect the Bar prefers to ignore.

The McCabe Centre for Law and Cancer held an event on the cab rank rule in February focussing on the role of lawyers and big tobacco. Jonathan Liberman, the director, has written a post on this which is worth reading. His post is here.

This is how it starts:

At every stage, lawyers played an absolutely central role in the creation and perpetuation of the Enterprise and the implementation of its fraudulent schemes. They devised and coordinated both national and international strategy; they directed scientists as to what research they should and should not undertake; they vetted scientific research papers and reports as well as public relations materials to ensure that the interests of the Enterprise would be protected; they identified “friendly” scientific witnesses, subsidized them with grants from the Center for Tobacco Research and the Center for Indoor Air Research, paid them enormous fees, and often hid the relationship between those witnesses and the industry; and they devised and carried out document destruction policies and took shelter behind baseless assertions of the attorney client privilege.
What a sad and disquieting chapter in the history of an honorable and often courageous profession
Over 1 million Australians have died prematurely as a result of tobacco use since 1950. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the annual death toll from tobacco is 6 million, and rising, increasingly concentrated in low- and middle-income countries. It estimates that a staggering 1 billion people could die as a result of tobacco use this century.
As Judge Kessler observed of US tobacco lawyers – observations that resonate globally – lawyers have not played just a bit part in this story. They have not simply provided their services to tobacco companies defending legal challenges relating to past conduct. Lawyers – both in-house and external – have played, and continue to play, a central role in the tobacco industry’s day-to-day production and marketing of its lethal and addictive products. And they have acted, and continue to act, for the tobacco industry in suing (in the tobacco industry’s inimitable litigation-as-warfare style) and threatening to sue governments over interventions that are designed to reduce the death, disease and social costs caused by the industry and its products. For these reasons, the McCabe Centre / Cancer Council Victoria choose not to engage with law firms that choose to act for the tobacco industry.
But the position appears somewhat more complicated with respect to barristers in Australia and other jurisdictions in which the so-called ‘cab rank rule’ operates. Under the cab rank rule, a barrister should not refuse a brief on the basis of the objectionableness of a potential client’s behaviour or character.


Monday, April 01, 2013

New York Begins to Relent on Opposition to UK Liberalization of Legal Market

(thanks to

I'm in the US right now and I have been keeping track of developments in New York on their supposed opposition to nonlawyer ownership of law firms. This is, as you know, to resist the incursion of UK law firms who have converted to Alternative Business Structures and taken external investment.

The New York City Bar Association (NYCBA), which represents the large New York firms, has lobbied hard and long for change. This culminated in the Younger report for the New York State Bar Association. Younger was thorough and took evidence from around the world, but he eventually came down on the opponents side. It appeared to be the end. (The press release is here and the full report here.) I did interview Steve Younger and he appeared to realize the situation couldn't remain the same for long, however much the backwoodsmen desired it.

Despite the gloom, the NYCBA has relentlessly moved on. A combination of Larry Newman of Baker & McKenzie and Anthony Davis of Hinshaw Culbertson have put forward persuasive arguments for advancing beyond the status quo. They have new allies who may be able to break the logjam, the Federal Trade Commission and the WTO. Pressure also has been put on the American Bar Association to support change, which it has been lukewarm about.

It seems that the NYCBA and the New York State Bar Association have worked out a rapprochement to enable the large law firms, but not the small, to take advantage overseas of some of the possibilities open to UK law firms. This carve-out to the rules will give the large law firms the opportunity to compete on equal terms with the biggest foreign law firms.

The devil is in the detail but watch this's coming.....


Monday, March 25, 2013

ReInvent Law London 2013

(thank you to gapingvoidart)

My friend Renee Knake has sent me the latest information on ReInvent Law London 2013. It has the makings of a most interesting event, as you'll see when you read the rules.....

ReInvent Law London 2013 will be an open, crowd-sourced conference! For the first time ever, talks will be selected by the public.  Anyone can pitch a topic, and everyone can vote.
Here are the rules:
1.  Submit your 300-word or 30-second-YouTube-video pitch at between now and midnight, April 5, 2013.
2.  Select your favorite pitch when the voting window opens in early April.  One person, one vote—but feel free to encourage colleagues, friends, family and more to vote for your pitch!
3.  Talks must relate to some aspect of law + technology + innovation + entrepreneurship.  This is about big ideas—no sales pitches or product pushing.
4.  Winners will have up to 10 minutes to speak, and will then respond to dynamic, real-time, audience-driven Q&A.
5.  You can also sign up here for a FREE ticket to witness ReInvent Law London, June 14, 2013.
ReInvent Law London is part of Michigan State University College of Law's 21st Century Law Practice Summer Program.  You can learn more about law + tech + design + delivery at