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30/09/22-The stories behind the legal sector news

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Something fishy afoot at shipping specialist Ince?

Following the sacking of The Ince Group’s CEO, Adrian Biles, over an alleged conflict of interest a fortnight ago, the firm has now revealed that he will receive a payment of £15,000 for loss of office, as will the company’s former head of finance, John Biles. In the same press statement, Ince announced that a settlement has been reached in which all parties waive claims against each other. This apparently includes the sum of approximately £670,000 owed to Ince by Adrian and John Biles and their associate companies, and around £690,000 in potential liabilities of the company to the two sacked men for loss of office.

Is it just us or does the whole thing seem a tad fishy? How was the oddly low sum of £15,000 arrived at? And why have these, or indeed any, details of the settlement been disclosed? To try to draw a line under the matter and reassure shareholders?

They will certainly want reassuring, as the company’s share price has plummeted in the past six months, from a high of £0.2823 in late March to £0.0442 at the time of writing. We can’t help but feel that there’s more to this affair than meets the eye.

Chapeau to Shoosmiths

We congratulate Shoosmiths on winning Law Firm of the Year at the Legal Business Awards 2022. The awards ceremony took place on Tuesday evening at the Grosvenor House hotel in London, and were hosted by BBC presenter Louise Minchin.

Other winners on the night included Travers Smith, who picked up two gongs for the second year running, this time winning in the Commercial Litigation and Private Equity categories; Ashurst, who won Corporate Team of the Year for its overseeing the bidding process that resulted in CD&R taking over Morrisons; and Kirkland & Ellis, who walked away with the Restructuring Team of the Year award for the second year in a row.

For the full list of winners, please visit

An end to the impasse in the criminal courts?

On Thursday morning, the new Justice secretary Brandon Lewis (the man famously willing for the UK government to “break international law in a very specific and limited way”) announced via an official MoJ press release that he had reached an agreement with the Criminal Bar Association to “get criminal barristers back to work”. According to the statement, he was offering a package of reforms that represent a further £54m investment in the Criminal Bar and solicitors.

However, the press release – which the CBA called “premature” on its official Twitter account – goes on to clarify that criminal barristers have merely agreed to vote on ending strike action. And it neglects to mention that the Government’s new proposals fail to bring parity between criminal barristers and solicitors, something which has been criticised as “short-sighted” by the Law Society.

The Society’s president, I. Stephanie Boyce, warned that the criminal justice system would collapse unless the government funds all parts of the system equally: “Solicitors are the backbone of the criminal justice system […]. They are not taking short-term disruptive action. They are simply leaving the profession permanently, in ever greater numbers because the work is not financially viable.”

Yet all is not lost, apparently, as the MoJ press release emphasises that £19m of the additional £54m in funding is earmarked for solicitors and that “further uplifts for solicitors will be announced in the weeks ahead”. What this will mean in practice and whether it will prove acceptable to the striking members of the CBA, only time will tell.

The Legal 500 published

The Legal 500 UK Solicitors 2023 rankings have been announced. Hence your timeline being filled with humblebrags this week.

But you know what? So be it. Having worked for lawyers for over 20 years, I think it’s great to see people able to celebrate their achievements.

And, if purse strings allow, maybe consider contributing to Sean Jones KC’s Billable Hour fundraiser. It’s a lovely way of fundraising whereby those posting about their directories successes make a donation of one billable hour to charity:

Last year, the Billable Hour initiative raised £70,590, and it raised £58,862 in 2020. The funds raised go to Save The Children.

Here’s our own humblebrag (we’ll pay into Sean’s fundraiser accordingly)…

Congrats to all our clients who got listed (and mainly promoted too) in this year’s directories. The work for the 2024 rankings is already beginning and we’re starting to collate client referees and the most important matters. Just let us know if you need help, and we’ll be happy to lend a hand.

Tensions rise in the latest push for office returns

Back to the office? It’s not always that simple, as a story published on this week makes clear. In it, journalist Andrew Maloney discusses the rising tensions between senior management and younger lawyers over the latest drive to cut back on remote and flexible working.

The article cites the survey results published on Wednesday by the American Bar Association, according to which around 44% of US lawyers with 10 years or less of practice said they would leave their current job for greater remote-working opportunities.

Meanwhile, a survey of law firm support staff by legal tech company BigHand revealed that 55% of North American respondents and 48% of U.K. respondents would look for a new job if required to work more than three days in the office.

The ABA’s findings are published at a time when US law firms could be considered to have more leverage over staff following a dip in demand, enabling them to enforce office returns. But they do so at their peril, not least because the cohort of junior lawyers apparently willing to walk away from roles demanding more in-office time is where much of the diversity lies.

I’ve long been convinced that UK firms have healthier cultures than their US counterparts, breeding higher levels of loyalty. During the pandemic, UK firms let people work from home sooner, treated lawyers/attorneys and business professionals equally, and oversaw an orderly, phased return without too much fuss. The norm currently sits at working in the office “more often than not” – so 3 days out of 5, or 6 every fortnight.

I commented at the time about how US firms probably should be a little nicer to their business professionals (and their non-partner attorneys too), as people have long memories.

Because history repeats itself.

Back in 2012, when Dewey & LeBoeuf was in the midst of going bust and the authorities were investigating wrongdoing at the firm, the “staff” finally found their voices.

Many at them had previously had to listen to Dewey & LeBoef’s COO Steve DiCarmine’s now infamous and heavyhanded “get off the bus” speech, where he urged those who disagreed with the Davis-DiCarmine regime to hit the high road.

So, when the firm was closed, jobs and livelihoods lost and criminal and civil investigations into Dicarmine (and three other execs) launched, the appearance of some graffiti outside the 5th Avenue offices was used in papers around the world: “Get on the bus, Steve!”

In other words: what goes around, comes around. While US labor laws allows firms to treat their people differently to the UK (and elsewhere) perhaps it might be an idea to be slightly nicer to your people if you’re asking them to return to the office when they have demonstrated to you and your clients that they can work perfectly well from home for the past 2.5 years?

The week ahead

·     Now – At the time of going to press, The Lawyer’s UK 200 list was due to be released

·     30 September – Social mobility charity Speakers for Schools is releasing a plea to the Government to make work experience mandatory for state-educated students in England in a bid to help them earn higher salaries – are law firms doing enough for work experience? See our recent newsletter for an overview of the benefits to offering ‘proper’ work-experience placements

·     2-5 October – The Conservative Party’s autumn conference in Birmingham. After all the economic upheaval following the mini-budget, it’s bound to be a lively one, to say the least!

Si Marshall

Legal marketing expert – I love lawyers, their stories and how they help clients | Marketing | PR | Digital Marketing | Business Development | LinkedIn training | Directories | Awards | Research | #SimonSays

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