Matthew @ RoF's blog
The crapitude of Manchester Law Society
13 June 2017
I had lunch today with one of the leading lights in social justice in the UK. It's a perk of the job. I'm very lucky.
We put the world to rights on a number of matters and then turned to the effectiveness or otherwise of local law societies. It's a mixed bag. The City of London Law Society is first rate, as is Bristol. But Manchester? My host expressed his surprise at what he saw as a paucity of service in England's second city.
I don't have enough information to hand to comment on Manchester Law Society's fitness for purpose - for all I know it's a shining beacon to the rest of the country. And I have never met its CEO, Fran Eccles-Bech.
But I did write to her a little while ago and I got this response.
Would any of us survive in our jobs for more than a week if emails to us were greeted with "I am very important and busy, I don't have to abide by the same rules as anyone else in the business world, and if you don't have my direct line you can whistle for it
||Fran Eccles-Bech. Listens to her inner ninja.
If Manchester Law Society really is punching below its weight I can't say I'm surprised.
.... read more
Outstanding job ad of the week
08 June 2017
A tip of the hat to the reader who sent in this superb offering:
.... read more
Exclusive: Clifford Chance freezes pay
06 June 2017
An insider has just told RollOnFriday that Clifford Chance has frozen its salary bands for this year. And it's a very brave (or foolish) insider as apparently the firm has "told everyone that if they leak it to the press they will be subject to formal disciplinary processes
It seems a little odd. Not necessarily freezing salaries - other firms are moving away from ever increasing basic rates and towards heftier bonuses (read more in Friday's edition). But threatening loose-lipped staff with the possibility of dismissal? CC is one of the best-managed firms in the City, and it's extraordinary that it would strong-arm its employees like this.
||A Clifford Chance associate yesterday
But the code of omerta is sufficiently strict as to extend to the firm's PR team. A spokesman said that a decision had been taken not to discuss pay this year as it was a "private matter
". Hmmm. Presumably salaries were similarly private last year, when the firm was perfectly happy to discuss them. And the threat of disciplinary procedures? Apparently that too is a "private matter
.... read more
Where to eat in Venice
05 April 2017
I’ve just returned from a few days in Venice. Lucky old me. The sun shone, La Serenissima was as much of a film set as ever, every church contained a Titian.
Architecture aside I remember Venice as being a galactic rip off. A grotty airport from which you take a hideously overpriced water taxi to your hotel, fleets of gondoliers singing badly to Japanese tourists, greasy bowls of linguine a la vongole which would shame Carluccios. But all of this has changed. Most notably, it is now possible to eat quite spectacularly well.
You can’t throw a rock in Venice without hitting a City lawyer. All of them have their go-to favourite churches or palazzi for Tintoretto, I’m not going to jump in on that. But I was lucky enough to be given some tips by a number of people with close links to the island and I share some of the better ones here.
Marco Polo airport has been refurbished and is now very smart. Once you get your bags you can buy a ticket for a water taxi from a clearly signed kiosk. This costs €110, which is appreciably less pricey than the rates quoted on most hotels’ websites, and gets you a private launch for around half an hour. If you book your return taxi at the same time you get a 10% discount.
Where to stay
The Gritti. It is expensive because it is amazing, and even the most basic rooms are exquisite. Your water taxi deposits you at its own landing stage where you are whisked into what is, entirely literally, a palace:
The whole place is marble and Murano glass. This is the mirror in the loos:
This was the view from the roof terrace. It can hold about 80 people, has its own pool and must surely the best party venue in Venice. Robbie Williams had his after party there:
The staff make you feel as if you’re the only person there. I would like to think that I was somehow singled out for special treatment by the General Manager, Paulo Lorenzoni, but I imagine that he treats every guest like this.
If you can’t spring for a room, at least go for a drink. The barman makes fantastic (and lethally large) gibsons which you can enjoy on the terrace:
You will be surrounded by Italian aristocrats with fawn socks and toy dogs, which is delightful, and loud Americans in terrible leisure wear, which is rather less so.
How to get around
Walk. And avoid the crowded bridges by crossing via a traghetto – a two-man gondola that ferries passengers across the grand canal for the princely sum of €2:
Locals stand, tourists sit. I, of course, tried to stand and nearly ended up in the drink.
Where to eat
Unpromising name, outstanding restaurant. Book in advance and ask your concierge to request a table by the window. New wave, modern Venetian food that contains ingredients which won’t appeal to all (fish guts, brains), but some beautiful, delicious plates. This is “cuttlefish during spring”:
I had a pudding that was almost entirely composed of candied celery. Much better than it sounds.
The wine list is a bible, with most (if not all) biodynamic and organic. I did a valiant job of drinking my way through much of it.
Older style, more traditional, with a few tables outside in the small square:
Again, part of the slow food movement with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Soft shell crabs from the lagoon were on offer for four weeks only. It was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. The waiter pointed out that they are generally frozen, whereas these had been alive and running around the kitchen just ten minutes earlier.
Essentially a wine shop with food, rammed to the rafters and a great buzz. Call the restaurant and ask for directions. You will get lost. The concierge didn’t know where it was, the address given had nothing more than a nodding acquaintanceship with its physical location, and it is impossible to find on a mobile phone. After half an hour of walking in small circles around the Frari a kindly waiter was sent out to find us. “Ah, we’re not on Google yet, sorry”.
We fell into this one round the corner from the hotel. No slow food here, basic tourist grub, but perfectly serviceable pasta, tables outside by a pretty canal and very gently marked up Tignanello.
You’ll need to book this a couple of weeks ahead as it’s tiny:
It operates two sittings in the evening, at 7:30 and at 9:30, and had just a handful of tables and the most delicious shellfish imaginable. Another restaurant with biodynamic wines and seasonal ingredients. Spiny lobster with bitter chicory, artisanal pasta with exquisite little clams, cuttlefish in its own ink. Happy days.
Buon appetito. And thank you to everyone for their recommendations, with a special mention to Anne Groves, Peter and Justine Morris and Guy Beringer.
.... read more
Herbert Smith Freehills in outstanding mental health initiative
08 March 2017
Over the years the big law firms have come up with countless attempts to address the same problems – promoting wider diversity in or greater access to the profession; addressing the insufficient representation of women, or those from ethnic minorities, or those who are LGBT; tackling stress and ill health. All of these projects are, doubtless, launched with the most laudable of intentions. Many of them end up as largely ineffective and, at worst, little more than window dressing. So I tip my hat to Herbies for coming up with something that is genuinely effective.
I recently had lunch with Ian Cox, the firm’s London Managing Partner, and he discussed his firm’s mental health programme with the zeal of a convert. I went in to talk to the firm about it in greater detail and it is a model which should be adopted across the profession.
HSF launched the programme about two years ago, encouraging staff to become mental health mentors. 76 of them from across the firm – partners, those in business services, associates – have signed up and been trained. Their status is advertised internally, and anyone with mental health issues can approach any mentor entirely confidentially. Sometimes it’s just a question of a chat and a sympathetic ear. Sometimes the situation is more serious and may lead to a referral. The chief aims are to destigmatise mental health issues and proactively to spot individuals who are in distress and need help before their situation worsens.
It has been supported by a number of events. Ruby Wax launched the programme and recent speakers have included:
- Alastair Campbell, who spoke about how he functioned in a highly stressful environment with a mental illness, his trigger points and how he avoided them;
- Clarke Carlisle, who focussed on the difficulties in encouraging men to accept that they had mental health issues; and
- Jonny Benjamin, who stood on Waterloo Bridge at rush hour with the intention of jumping off it, and Neil Laybourn, the stranger who was walking past and stopped to talk him out of it.
The firm’s senior management is foursquare behind the programme. Two partners, Chris Parsons and Samantha Brown, have spoken at length both internally and externally about their personal battles with mental illness. Brown (below) was interviewed about her experiences on the BBC earlier this week.
HSF does lots of things that other firms do - it actively participates in the City-wide “This Is Me” campaign to reduce the stigma of mental health in the workplace. And lots of things that other firms don’t – it recently changed its healthcare provider specifically to offer its staff a better mental health offering.
The programme has so far been run in London and Belfast and there has been interest in expanding it across the firm’s global network. I hope that interest turns into action. I also hope that other firms are encouraged by the success of this programme and adopt something similar. David Shields, HSF’s Head of Diversity and Inclusion, told me that Brown and Parsons would be happy to address other partnerships on this issue. Please contact him on email@example.com
.... read more
Exclusive: William Boss in conspicuous mea culpa
03 March 2017
William Boss, the former European Managing Partner of KWM, is clearly trying to atone for his role in the collapse of the firm.
During Boss's tenure the London office pretty much disintegrated. On realising this he decided to do the decent thing, stay in the role and try and shore up the ship. Nah, not really. He resigned after only 10 months, handing over one of the biggest hospital passes in the history of the profession. He still remained in the partnership (a chap's got to eat, after all), until the firm's demise became inevitable and he jumped ship to Addleshaws.
He is now safely ensconced there on lots of dollar, although presumably
rather sweatily waiting to see if the SRA will get off its arse and have
a pop at him and his ilk. And in the manner of a mediaeval monarch
publicly making the pilgrimage to Santiago on his knees is showing
his contrition and purity of soul. An insider says that he "has
very recently (and conspicuously) signed himself up to a pro-bono legal
advice centre initiative at Addleshaw Goddard - their "Springfield
Advice Centre" run from Springfield Methodist Church in Stockwell on
Tuesdays. Presumably ex-KWM lawyers and support staff will be keen to
know that they can drop in for some free legal advice on their mortgage
arrears from one of the sods who caused their woes in the first place
.... read more
Exclusive: "Linklaters lawyer" in air-rage rant
10 February 2017
A passenger who was splashed all over the Daily Mail
after fighting over an arm rest on a flight has claimed to be a lawyer at Linklaters.
Another passenger on the Monarch Airlines flight from Gatwick to Malaga filmed the fracas, in which a man and a woman verbally knock seven bells out of each other whilst crew members try to calm them down. The man refuses to move, saying that "the woman is obnoxious and rude, I'm not going anywhere
". The woman retorts that "he just punched me with his elbow" and "I am a lawyer at Linklaters and I will sue you guys
It seems unlikely that someone woud make this up. Although maybe Linklaters' branding is such that it is the go-to fictional employer of any passing nut job who wants to impress.
Linklaters was unaware of the incident and is looking into it. If this lady really is at the firm she should be feeling pretty nervous.
This follows hot on the heels of a Linklaters' associate helping British Transport Police
with their enquiries after being filmed in an altercation with a passenger on a train. Is the firm doping its water coolers with steroids?
.... read more
Brexit - The Lord Chancellor starts growing a spine
24 January 2017
The Supreme Court held this morning that Parliament will have to be granted a vote before Article 50 is invoked. Here's a handy cut-out-and-keep crib sheet
from Will Richmond-Coggan of Pitmans on the impact of the ruling.
The Daily Mail went absolutely mental
when the judgment in the lower court was handed down, branding the judges "enemies of the people
" and banging on about them having gone to Oxbridge, or living in nice houses, or being gay. Liz Truss, the Lord Chancellor, shamefully failed to provide a meaningful response and stand up for the judiciary.
This morning there were signs that she was finally taking her job more seriously. Her office issued the following statement:
"Our independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the rule of law and is vital to our constitution and our freedoms. The reputation of our judiciary is unrivalled the world over, and our Supreme Court justices are people of integrity and impartiality.
While we may not always agree with judgments, it is a fundamental part of any thriving democracy that legal process is followed. The government has been clear that it will respect the decision of the court
The Daily Mail obviously doesn't agree. This is its spittle flecked copy straight after the judgment:
The dire consequences of the highest court in the land doing its job and ruling on a point of constitutional law were made clear in the comments under the article:
And apparently the entire rule of law has collapsed:
There will be no prizes for guessing the headline in
r The Mail tomorrow. But it will be very interesting to see if The Lord Chancellor decides to take the paper to task over it. Watch this space.
.... read more
EXCLUSIVE: Pay rises and extra holiday at Slaughter and May
14 December 2016
Associates at Slaughter and May will get pay rises and extra holidays following a lengthy consultation process at the firm.
RollOnFriday doesn't have all the details yet - they'll be formally announced later today. But an insider said that the key points are:
• No billable hours targets;
• Increases to associate salary scales from 1 January 2017
• A bonus paid on 31 December 2016
• The opportunity for all associates to apply to work one day a week from home
• A total of 30 days of annual paid holiday from 1 January 2017 (pro-rated for part-time employees)
• Out of those 30 days, 4 days can be taken as half-days (i.e. 8 half-days)
• A four-week paid sabbatical for associates when they reach 3 YPQE (to be introduced during 2017)
• An onsite doctor to be introduced during 2017
Read all about it on Friday.
.... read more
Trolleyed at Travers Smith
13 December 2016
The RoF team was invited to lunch at Travers Smith yesterday. It was great fun. Particularly the pre-lunch martinis:
And they'd clearly gone to the trouble of using their very best stemware:
.... read more