Legal sector news
Is private practice pay now high enough to lure back GCs?
A London associate pay war is being waged this summer, with Jones Day raising its NQ rate to £140,000 days after Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) announced an NQ salary raise to £105,000. Jones Day has thereby surpassed even the highest-paying UK firms – Magic Circle duo Clifford Chance and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer – which both offer £125,000. This continues a trend begun in April when Slaughter and May increased associate pay by up to 20 per cent and Weil Gotshal & Manges increased its pay by £5,000 to £150,000.
So how do GCs view these eye-watering salaries? Aside from paying their bills, does it make them question their own decision to go in-house? The temptations seem obvious – as one London-based in-house legal recruiter put it, “If a 24-year-old kid is earning more than you, why wouldn’t you move back to private practice?” And given the fact that partner pay has also significantly increased across many major firms in recent years, GCs can be forgiven for being tempted to jump back across.
And some have already done so, including Geoff Bailhache, Blackstone’s former Europe, Middle East and Africa general counsel, who moved to Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in 2021, and Telefónica UK’s former general counsel, Ed Smith, who joined Shoosmiths. Other notable departures include HSBC’s M&A head, who joined Norton Rose Fulbright as a consultant, and Gayathri Kamalanathan, former head of group litigation and enforcement at Danske Bank, who is now with Slaughter and May.
What holds some GCs back from returning to private practice is the perception that working conditions are gruelling, with long hours and relentless pressure apparently making any kind of work-life balance a distant dream. However, recent updates to law firms’ remote-working policies in recognition of the importance of family life, and the relative difficulty in getting an uplift in pay when working in-house, mean that the temptation of private practice remains. And it’s not as if GCs working in-house have it easy, especially in the wake of the pandemic. As one asset management GC put it, “If your function has been in crisis mode, you’ve been working long hours anyway. So what’s the difference? Some GCs are probably thinking they may as well double their pay and go back to private practice.”
One word of caution from our end: you’ll need to re-deploy those internal networking skills you’ve developed into business-winning skills. If you do make the decision to go back in, then please get your firm to pay for you to get some BD training and support as part of your package.
Bexley Beaumont appointed as a parliamentary agent
Congrats to Bexley Beaumont, which is the youngest law firm to be added to the exclusive list of approved parliamentary agents. Launched a mere two years ago, it is now one of just seven firms within the UK permitted to promote or oppose private legislation in the House of Commons or the House of Lords.
The promotion of private bills in the two chambers is highly specialised work that plays a crucial role in Great Britain’s democracy, enabling communities, local authorities and other interest groups to be involved in shaping the laws which govern the country.
Does The Lawyer have it in for CMS?
I’m a huge advocate for a strong working relationship with the legal press because they are the only journalists paid to write about your firm every day.
Years ago, when I was working at CMS, all the partners used to think that the legal magazines had it in for them. To be fair, most partners feel this at most firms. More often than not, it’s not true, it just feels personal when the spotlight is on your firm.
But we’ve taken a look back at CMS’s coverage in The Lawyer over the past couple of years and, despite being the only UK firm to pull off a tripartite merger this past decade, it does seem to get less generous headlines – even when those headlines could be more positive. Here’s a selection of examples:
The problem is, if there’s enough consistent snark in these headlines it could make potential clients wonder whether CMS is the right firm to handle their interests.
So what can CMS (and any law firm) do about this negative trend in coverage? Build better and stronger relationships with the legal press, for a start. In my experience, it’s the basis of more positive coverage, award wins and brand awareness elsewhere.
PwC lowers its barriers to entry for new recruits
The accounting behemoth has dropped its requirement for a minimum 2:1 university degree for new hires, stating that aptitude and potential are “determined by more than academic grades”. The move could open up the potential talent pool to 70,000 additional graduate applicants, as around 17 per cent of university students complete their studies without achieving a 2:1 or First.
PwC are framing the decision as a move to increase diversity at the firm with the inclusion of candidates “from lower-income households”. As Ian Elliott, PwC’s chief people officer, puts it, “Removing the 2:1 criteria will allow us to make real progress in driving social mobility of PwC recruits.” The move puts the firm ahead of rivals Deloitte and KPMG, which still require applicants to have achieved at least a 2:1 (though both offer slight flexibility here). However, rival accountancy firm EY already scrapped the requirement back in 2015. Perhaps PwC saw the successes that EY had had in diversifying its talent pool?
Cynics might feel that, in the wake of the UK’s recent hiring boom, companies are simply being forced to widen their search and lower the bar, hoping to outbid their rivals with flexible working options and attractive salaries, as highlighted in the recent survey published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
So, is this a progressive move to boost social mobility and inclusivity, or was PwC’s hand forced by the realities of the recruitment landscape? And will it evolve in light of changing economic conditions?
Post of the week – identifying burnout during the summer holidays
In her recent LinkedIn post, resilience coach Leah Steele identified three summer-holiday red flags for burnout:
– Compartmentalising so well that work represents an escape from the realities of a life that is hectic, difficult or overwhelming
– Doing more unpaid overtime ahead of a holiday than the number of hours of paid annual leave taken during the holiday
– Yearning for a holiday as a chance to recover from anxiety/exhaustion/lack of sleep
An additional sure-fire sign of burnout is developing a cold/flu/stomach bug/migraine or other unidentified lurgy early in the holiday.
Get in touch with Leah for advice on and help with combating stress and burnout: email@example.com.
Event – social media photography for law firms
Do you struggle to take unique images for social posts? Do you resort to stock photos that fail to convey your firm’s values?
TBD Marketing has teamed up with Marcus Ahmad – Commercial Photographer, an expert in branding photography with over 20 years of industry experience under his belt. Together, we will be delivering a half-day training course that will help you capture great photos with just your smartphone.
For more details and to book your course, please click here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this edition. Let me know if you have a story you’d like us to consider.