I write to you from Chancery Lane in the heart of legal London. The Temple is but a stone’s throw away where barristers are anguishing (or not) about their future in a world of Tesco Law and men in sharp suits suggesting all manner of collaborations, partnerships and alternative business structures. Chancery Lane, is of course, home to The Law Society the professional body for the solicitors side of the profession; an imposing building with gold lions on the railings and inside, one used to be able to get a decent coffee and a bit of Prue Leith’s cake. You probably still can. I have, in fact, met solicitors in this very building – in the bar, naturally.
My postcard today is, unusually, largely about law and lawyers and embraces the concept of the IDEA as a theme.
Let’s kick off with a BAD idea. The Law Society Gazette reports this week
“Negligence claims soar – worse to come”
“Professional negligence claims against solicitors are soaring, with one City firm reporting a 158% surge in cases over the past 12 months. And experts are warning that worse may be to come in the downturn, as solicitors are moved to areas with which they are unfamiliar…..
Sarah Clover, head of the professional and financial disputes team at City firm Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, said lawyers were ‘dabbling’ in areas of law that were not their speciality. ‘Corporate lawyers are becoming corporate recovery lawyers, for example – a recipe for disaster if they get it wrong.”
One can applaud the sentiment and idea of trying to avoid redundancies but this idea seems, with hindsight, to have been rather a bad one.
So let’s look at a GOOD idea
“There has been an incredible response to the launch of RollOnFriday Community Action, which has attracted over 200 applicants in its first seven days.
The scheme enables lawyers who have been made redundant to continue practising, while at the same time helping their community – and giving them a head start when it comes to finding a new job. RollOnFriday has launched the initiative in partnership with Law Works, the Law Society and 25 leading international law firms.”
A few ideas for lawyers in practice
1. So… what about the DIPPING your fingers in the cookie jar idea?
The AMLaw Daily reports: “Joseph Collins, the 59-year-old corporate partner on leave from Mayer Brown, was found guilty by a Manhattan federal jury of five counts in his criminal trial. The charges included conspiracy, two counts of securities fraud, and two counts of wire fraud. A mistrial was declared on nine other counts. Collins had been accused of helping Refco’s top executives hide $2.4 billion in losses at the now-defunct trading company. Collins claimed that he had been duped by his longtime client, and didn’t know they were using him to facilitate their fraud.”
If you are going to do something, professionals say, do it properly. This lawyer then pulled the “I was duped” defence. Right. Must be worth a try but I don’t think you get to be a partner in a major law firm if you are going to be susceptible to being duped by the clients. The other way round, it seems, is just fine… unless you get caught.
2. Fancy fiddling your expenses?
Law.com reports: ” A former partner at Latham & Watkins pleaded guilty Friday to defrauding both clients and his own firm by charging them more than $300,000 in personal or false expenses. Samuel A. Fishman, a mergers and acquisition specialist in Latham’s New York office from 1993 to 2005, was designated billing partner for a number of firm clients.”
3. The do your job properly idea
Apologies for re-cycling my cartoons, but my life is draining away and needs must. It would appear that some advocates are ‘lacklustre’ and are not doing their jobs properly. The Law Society Gazette has the story.
A third of all prosecution advocates ‘lacklustre’ or poor, inspection says
Briefly: “The inspectors found advocates, both in-house and external counsel, were fully competent in two thirds of cases, but a quarter were lacklustre and 8% were less than competent or poor. Of the 376 advocacy assessments made, none came out as outstanding.”
4. Do you want to be RADICALLY PROACTIVE?
At the risk of injecting some sensible content into my weekend postcard – here IS a GOOD idea. I did a podcast with Nick Jarrett-Kerr, a leading law firm management expert and a former managing partner of what was then Bevan Ashford. Nick talked to me for 30 minutes about his five point plan. It is one of the most enjoyable podcasts I have done and Nick really does the business – with some good analysis of the current position and ideas for law firms coping in the recession. Interestingly my stats reveal that it is US lawyers primarily who are listening to this podcast (so far). I hope more British lawyers listen.
5. Plugging another idea: Colin Samuels and I have started a blog – Unsilent Partners – where each week we look at a legal issue from the perspective of the US and the UK We do not hold ourselves as experts but rather as narrators and hope to encourage a few bloggers and readers to get involved. The first ‘essay’ was on Madoff’s sentence. This week we look at assisted suicide, Lord Falconer’s amendment and the objections which led to the amendment being defeated in both the Commons and the Lords.
Next week, with our own Supreme Court about to open for business in October, we look at the Supreme Court of The United States and how it works and I shall give an overview on what we know about our new Supreme Court and how it will work.
Well… all this law has taken a heavy toll on my body tonight… so it is time for some SMOKEDO – one of my better ideas. I am getting fitter – although I do need to buy some new jackets…. and I can forget about wearing my suits because I ain’t going to fit into the jackets…. perhaps not such a great idea after all. But there agaimn… I’ve worn suits all my life… so time to stop? Yes… I think so….
I’ll be back… as they say.
Have a good weekend
Best, as always