Welcome to the latest issue of Si’s Matters.
This week’s issue is coming from BrightonSEO (hence the picture above) where some of the team have been spending a few days with the great and the good of the search engine optimisation world.
Is it a skyscraper? Is it a mountain? No! It’s ……….… Rebekah Vardy’s legal bill
After losing yet another stage in the “Wagatha Christie” libel trial, Rebekah Vardy could be left owing Coleen Rooney up to £1.5m in legal fees following a high court ruling last Tuesday. This represents 90% of Rooney’s own court costs and is a larger proportion than in many similar cases, imposed as a punitive measure by the judge to penalise Vardy for deliberately destroying Whatsapp messages and other evidence.
The ruling means that Vardy will immediately have to pay Rooney the eye-watering sum of £800k, followed by further payments of up to a maximum of £1.5m. Then there is the small matter of her own legal costs, which could bring the grand total of what she owes in fees up to well over £3m. Eek!
Weightman’s future a Schorah thing
John Schorah, the CEO of Weightmans, has reversed his decision to stand down after nearly nine years at the helm, The Lawyer announced last week. Having initially implied that his third term as managing partner since taking up the mantle in 2013 would be his last and that he would pass on the baton to another candidate in April 2023, Schorah has now decided to stay on for another term after all.
The decision is believed to come after Weightmans opened the election process for Schorah’s successor to internal and external candidates, during the course of which Schorah received the highest number of votes from the firm’s equity partnership, prompting him to consider continuing for a fourth term. This time, his term of office will last two rather than three years.
The election process was thrown open to a wider pool of candidates, as Weightmans was eager to source talent outside the business. Ultimately, however, the partners at the nearly 200-year-old firm reappointed someone they clearly consider to be a safe pair of hands.
Schorah himself has spent time working outside the legal profession, having previously served as the chief executive of Rage Software, a listed computer-games company. His plans for the future of Weightmans include turning the firm into a £200m+ business within the next three to four years. The firm has almost returned to its pre-Covid form in the last financial year after driving up revenue by 5% from £97.9m to £103.2m in 2021/22. Weightmans remains in the UK Top 50, according to The Lawyer’s recent UK200 report (also see below).
Post of the week
When she was still studying law at the University of Exeter, Lucy Cole – now a trainee solicitor at Clifford Chance – somehow managed to find the time to build a personal brand as an aspiring lawyer through her astute use of social media, and thereby land her dream trainee placement.
And now things have come full-circle for her in a very pleasing way: as she mentions in a recent LinkedIn post, she has now been tasked with delivering sessions to Clifford Chance’s Connect Ambassadors (student brand ambassadors) on how to use social media to reach young people interested in becoming lawyers.
It is lovely to see Clifford Chance showing so much respect for those in the infancy of their careers. We congratulate Lucy on her successes to date and wish her the very best for her doubtless-stellar future career.
Post of the week #2
In an excoriating LinkedIn post, Akima Paul Lambert – a litigation partner at Hogan Lovells – this week lambasted recruiters for failing to promote black talent, despite much hand-wringing in the industry about a lack of diversity.
Akima begins her post by stating that in her 18 months as a partner at her firm, only a single recruiter-submitted CV from a black candidate had crossed her desk, and that the only black person the firm had hired in that time came from Akima’s own professional network.
She goes on to contrast the many focus groups, town halls, discussion fora, panels and working committees she has attended where the low numbers of employees with African and Caribbean backgrounds were lamented, with the lack of appetite she has seen in practice for actively recruiting applicants from Africa and the Caribbean.
To Akima, the solution is simple: “If you want more black talent, you hire more black talent. And if your reaction to this suggestion was whataboutery: ‘what about merit’, challenge yourself as to why you instinctively equated hiring black talent with a lack of merit.”
So what has gone wrong in HR departments to explain the lack of black candidates being taken on by top law firms? Though there is no single answer to this question, at least some of the blame can be laid at the door of the recruitment process itself – using recruiters to do the heavy lifting when firms should instead take an active role in finding and promoting black talent.
Hogan Lovells is beginning to address its own problem in this regard with a dedicated Africa LLM Vacation scheme, which affords African LLM students the opportunity to gain experience within the firm, thereby helping Hogan Lovells grow its talent pool and international network.
Law firms must be encouraged to cast their net wider and proactively recruit outside of the typical networks. It cannot be beyond the realms of human ingenuity (or at least the abilities of a decent HR department) to set up an outreach programme that genuinely changes the makeup of the candidate pipeline.
So, as Black History Month continues, we join Akima in her plea for #ActionNotWords.
Data published this past week
The Lawyer published its UK200 report this past week. Paywalled behind the website’s Signal subscription tier, the report contains a ranking of the UK’s top 200 law firms alongside interactive, firm-specific profiles of the top 50 firms and a market ‘thermometer’ showing the shape of the market.
Deadlines for legal directories
Here are some rough dates to get in the diary for your submissions to the leading legal directories:
Chambers HNW – mid-December 2022
Chambers UK – February 2023
Legal 500 Regional – mid-February 2023
Legal 500 London – end of March 2023
Chambers UK (second deadline) – April 2023
Further to the SRA’s guidance on this (blog coming in due course), you’ll need to get going earlier than ever to make sure you’ve got consent from your clients to be referees and include their matter.
If you need any help prepping your submissions, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
The week ahead
- 7 October (today) – The ONS is to publish its analysis of rising business insolvencies amid high energy prices
- 7 October (today) – The Bank of England will publish Deputy Governor Dave Ramsden’s speech at the Securities Industry Conference, titled ‘Development of Fintech’
- 10-16 October – IMF/World Bank Annual Meeting – The Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group (WBG) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) bring together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, parliamentarians, private sector executives, representatives from civil society organisations and academics to discuss issues of global concern, including the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development, and aid effectiveness
- 11 October – The ONS will release the latest unemployment figures
- 11 October – This is the provisional date for the Supreme Court hearing of arguments in the indyref2 case, which could allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate for another independence referendum.