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13/01/23-The stories behind the legal sector news

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To B Corp or not to B Corp?

This week, in an edition of Horizon, the subscriber-only newsletter from The Lawyer – in an article headed “Hug a Tree for 2023”, journalist Jessica Boak writes about the efforts that law firms are making to highlight their sustainability credentials in order to stay in lockstep with the zeitgeist. These endeavours include attempting to obtain that most coveted of ESG credentials: B Corp certification.

Boak reports that thus far, only seven UK law firms – Brabners, Burges Salmon*, HSF, Pinsent Masons, Bates Wells, Anthony Collins and Stephens Scown – have managed to clear the many hurdles to certification and gain “one of the most stringent sustainability stamps of approval”.  She also states that “Mishcon de Reya withdrew from the process after seven months”.

Wait, what? Withdrew from the certification process? That’s not quite how I – or the legal press – remember it: according to this Legal Futures article from August 2021, Mishcon not only didn’t withdraw from the process, but was actually successful in gaining certification, at the time, it was the third UK law firm to do so. However, the firm then apparently voluntarily relinquished its certification in March last year. At the time, a Mishcon spokesperson claimed that the B Corp standard had made it difficult for the firm to balance its “sustainability commitments with our professional obligations”.

Something seems off here.

But I don’t believe the line that this is to do with Mishcon’s postponed/aborted listing as there are 30 other B Corp entities which are listed.

Equally, I don’t think I’ve ever heard any other firm, organisation or person claim that sustainability and professional obligations are somehow diametrically opposed or mutually exclusive AFTER they have gone through the certification process.

And secondly, I wonder if either the facts were misreported or is this a case of a little Mishcon retcon?

Does it matter? I think it does. Holding firms to account through great reporting means we end up with better firms. After all, it’s only the future viability of life on our planet at stake.

Enough of the short-termism already

I think that law firm leaders need to be careful not to buy into the rhetoric around profits. Firms have, for years now, ridden the upswing and enjoyed high levels of profitability. If leaders and partnerships can take a medium term view of those profitability levels (sustaining profitability or even taking an intentional hit) then in my experience, they will be able to retain great talent and be better placed to take advantage of any upswing in activity as soon as it comes.

In its editorial posted on Tuesday, issued a warning that law firms may be facing difficult decisions in the face of a dip in profits. Citing the 2023 Report on the State of the Legal Market, the piece argues that unless ‘Big Law’ manages to offset last year’s 0.1% drop in profits by hiking up rates, then smaller partner payouts or layoffs may be in the offing.

Difficult decisions are being made right now, but please can we not repeat the boom and bust of the past – especially in terms of laying off good people – when taking a relatively small dip in profits will mean greater profits tomorrow?

Baby barristers get a pay rise

In an article published last week, The Lawyer reported that the war for junior barristers is far from over – in fact, it’s intensifying, with a leading commercial chambers upping its pupillage award to £80,000, the first magic circle set member to do so.

One Essex Court will award this princely sum to those starting their training in October 2024 or 2025. This is in addition to any money pupils earn for their advocacy or fee-earning work in the second half of their year-long traineeship. According to One Essex Court’s own marketing brochure, this can amount to over £10,000.

The onus is now on other magic circle members – Blackstone, Brick Court, Essex Court and Fountain Court – to up the ante and increase their own pupillage awards, which currently sit at £75,000. This in addition to the pressure already being piled on to these elite institutions by commercial rivals: XXIV Old Buildings, 2TG and 4 Pump Court already upped their own awards to £80,000 or above late last year.

Cut the crap

The Press Association reported such a brilliant little story last week that we just couldn’t resist sharing it with you.

At a private family court hearing in London last year, Recorder John McKendrick decided on where two young brothers should live, following their parents’ divorce six years previously. Recorder McKendrick wrote two rulings in the case –  one for the lawyers and parents, and one for the brothers themselves. In the latter, he reassured the boys that they could stay together, and that he took on board their wishes that their parents should argue less; their behaviour was what one of the boys called “crap”.

In his ruling addressed directly to the two young brothers, Recorder McKendrick stated that although “crap” is a “naughty word”, it was the “right” word to describe their parents’ arguments.

He added: “I have told your parents to stop ‘the crap’” and” to behave a bit better”.

Words for us all to live by.

New year, new working practices?

Ed Simpson, CEO at The Legal Director, has written a thought-provoking piece on changing working practices within the legal sector in 2023. Ed takes a look at the trends we might see this year as the pandemic recedes and law firms continue to try and wean employees off their newly-found flexibility. To find out more about his predictions for the year ahead, read Ed’s article here.

Time to update your copyright message on your website

It’s such a small detail, but one that really matters: updating the copyright message on your website to 2023. In an industry where the Devil has built his des res in the detail, failing to keep on top of this little bit of housekeeping can send the wrong message to clients.

This is why we have created a dedicated, slider-based post about this on LinkedIn for y’all to enjoy. Go check it out.

Dates for your diary

Jobs of the week

  • Yulia Barnes, founder of Barnes Law and friend of TBD, is currently recruiting for a commercial law consultant to join the team at her boutique, Mayfair-based firm – you can find the full job spec here.
  • Ethiqs Legal, a boutique law firm working predominantly in the tech sector, is on the look-out for talented lawyers with a technology background/interest or strong legal drafting background. Click here to see the full job ad.

Thanks for reading! As always, we hope you enjoyed this edition.

Si Marshall

Legal marketing expert – I love lawyers, their stories and how they help clients | Marketing | PR | Digital Marketing | Business

*Burges Salmon have since contacted us to state that they are not B Corp certified and have no current plans to become so having considered the pros and cons.

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