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Upwardly mobile at Browne Jacobson, Dirty money, Disputes crown, Transparency and more…

Onwards, upwards

Congratulations to Browne Jacobson for ranking second in the 2023 Social Mobility Employer Index, a report by the Social Mobility Foundation released this week.

PwC came top of the rankings, whilst other law firms to make the top ten included Linklaters and Allen & Overy.

The index evaluates employers based on their commitment to social mobility across various sectors. Browne Jacobson’s ranking reflects its launch of the Fairer Access to Real Experience program, which provides work experience opportunities to candidates from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Caroline Green, senior partner at Browne Jacobson, has long campaigned for greater inclusion and sets out her thinking in an interview on her firm’s website:

“When I became Senior Partner, I put diversity, equity and inclusion at the forefront of my manifesto. My message was simple – that I wanted everyone at Browne Jacobson to be able to thrive and succeed. I am incredibly proud of the enormous changes we have made since then and how we have done things that have made a difference.”

From our desk, it’s great to see the cumulative effects that individuals such as Caroline, Dana Denis-Smith ith (First 100 Years and Next 100 Years) and Sophie Pender (The 93% Club) have been advocating for for years are now paying off at a firm-wide level, and, increasingly we hope, at an industry level.

Tough on fraud, tough on the causes of fraud…

This week, the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act gained royal assent and is set to revoluntionise how the UK tackles fraud. Whilst the Act has its critics (including for not covering smaller companies), it does introduce a criminal offence of failure to prevent fraud.

This latter move will inevitably increase the burden on compliance and finance teams, but is also surely part and parcel of retaining the City’s hallowed status, and the UK’s legal status alongside it.

As Dame Margaret Hodge, Labour MP and a former chairwoman of the public accounts committee said this week, the problem that the Act is trying to solve is not a small one; annually, the UK loses £350bn annually to fraud and money laundering and is facing a “dirty money crisis”.

Implementing the Act is set to give rise to huge amounts of work – think GDPR levels – both for lawyers advising their clients and for compliance teams at law firms who need to fully understand their new obligations on the crime of failure to prevent fraud. Take a look at this report from Foot Anstey on fraud risk and business preparedness for more on this topical issue.

London remains top global centre of excellence for disputes

Despite the brouhaha about the City’s dirty money and our many recent stories about the UK’s crumbling courts infrastructure, London remains the most attractive global centre for commercial litigation and international arbitration, according to a report by the Law Society.

The report name checks the London Commercial Court as the leading centre for international commercial litigation and the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) as the leading centre for international arbitration. The former delivered 172 written judgments in 2021-2022 (surpassing New York and Singapore) and the LCIA made 423 arbitrator appointments in 2022.

In related news, seven lawyers from King & Wood Malleson’s London arbitration team are set to make the leap across to Eversheds Sutherland, according to The Lawyer.

Now if that investment in people could be matched by Government investment in courts and the system, then we’d be sure to retain this top tier status for years to come.

In other news

Transparency needed to clean up Axiom mess

The SRA clearly isn’t very popular amongst lawyers this week, as many are sceptical as to the real extent of the regulator’s knowledge about the Axiom Ince fiasco. Perhaps they’ll back compliance specialist Frank Maher of law firm Legal Risk who states that an inquiry by a retired High Court judge and a solicitor with recent experience with the SRA could put minds at ease. He told the Law Gazettethat there was a need for a “clarion call for some oversight” into the SRA’s response to questions raised about “how much they knew and when” and the toll (and cost) this will ultimately take on the legal profession.

Allen & Overy sells legal tech unit to private equity groups

Allen & Overy has sold a large tranche of its legal tech business to private equity investors Inflexion and Endicott Capital. The deal values aosphere at more than £200m. Read more on this deal in The Lawyer.

Financial fizzles

Corporate insolvencies in England and Wales have surged to their highest level since the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 in the six months ending in September. According to the ONS, more than one in ten UK businesses reported a moderate-to-severe risk of insolvency in August 2022, and company insolvencies in the second quarter of 2022 amounted to 5,629.

Stroock off

Did one team move precipitate a whole firm shuttering? Top 200 AmLaw firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan is closing its doors due to a significant number of partner departures and failed merger negotiations. The firm’s partners have already voted to dissolve the firm, with roughly 30 partners fleeing the scene straight into the open arms of competitor firm Hogan Lovells. Take a read of this piece in the American Lawyer.

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