The Rise of Homeworking.
An elite group really soiled themselves in 2022. Slater and Gordon was the incredible shrinking firm and Plexus's accounts were riddled with multi-million pound errors, but their difficulties paled in comparison with the shambles at Ince Gordon Dadds.
In early 2019 listed firm Gordon Dadds bought Ince, once an esteemed shipping insurance specialist, and has since set about tainting the brand with a missionary zeal.
This week, the firm announced that its annual accounts and six month interim results were being delayed “because of the complexity of historic and legacy accounting issues”. Its new auditors said they “require more time”, with the result that the company’s shares are being suspended from trading on 3 January. “Looks incompetent from any angle”, said a source.
It caps off a terrible year for Ince. A hack exposed staff's personal data. A member of the Biles family, which effectively ran the company, left in the wake of allegations a waitress was abused at a party he hosted. Another Biles departed his CEO role as Ince sought emergency funding. He was then removed as a director over a potential conflict of interest, before being paid off. As the Biles family circled private client firm Child & Child in an apparent bid to mount a comeback, their old vehicle continued to founder.
But in a race to the bottom, the Metamorph group come out on top (bottom), having ended 2022 in complete meltdown.
This week its auditor resigned from one of its liquidating companies, MLL Limited, stating that its relationship with Metamorph had "broken down" because "we have been unable to obtain sufficient audit evidence to resolve serious concerns we have identified".
Crowe UK LLP described how "despite repeated requests the Company [MLL Limited] has failed to provide information and explanations sufficient to address our concerns", and that, damningly, "we have concerns around management's behaviour in terms of their approach to compliance with law and regulations".
After a series of investigative stories in RollOnFriday exposed what was going on, the SRA intervened: first in the Metamorph firms which were subject to winding up petitions, and then in Knowles Benning, the business into which Metamorph bosses were trying to shift the group's assets. Here's hoping shafted Metamorph staff see a happier Christmas in 2023, and that those responsible are served up their lump of coal.
2022 was an exciting year for many law firms, which found themselves conducting large-scale social experiments on their staff.
Covid's WFH legacy had to be managed, and without the government enforcing lockdowns, suddenly it was down to employers to define the new normal. Staff needed to be sufficiently productive to satisfy the business, sufficiently visible to satisfy supervisors (and clients, who gave WFH a conditional thumbs-up), sufficiently exposed to the culture of the firm to inculcate loyalty, but sufficiently mollified when it came to their rejuvenated attachment to home life.
Strategies varied. Freshfields' 3in2out approach was typical, giving staff time to work uninterrupted for a proportion of the week, while also whipping them in to appreciate their colleagues in 3D. SPB's all-in Thursdays represented a laudable attempt to get everyone to make friends at once, although it was not universally well-received by staff.
Even Slaughter and May was moved to tackle work/life balance issues (though its prohibition against intrusions like evening video calls came larded with qualifications), while Mayer Brown ordered partners not to ruin their teams' holidays.
Courtesy of the RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2023 survey (take it, below, if you're in private practice), you'll know in mid-January which firms got the balance right. In last year's rankings, Burges Salmon boasted the most satisfied staff coming into 2022 - Knights, the least. Freshfields had the happiest lawyers in the Magic Circle.
Mergers happened. Au revoir Radcliffes, your exotic Lebrasseur will be missed; farewell BLM (and many of its partners), you were overtaken by a social justice movement; welcome, The Womble Pit, and perhaps Hogan Sterling. IPOs didn't - commiserations, Mishcon de Reya.
There was no shortage of firms giving everyone a chuckle in 2022. BCLP installed motion sensors under its lawyers' desks. WLG Gowling was told to cut out out the toilet abuse. Slaughter and May let the dogs in, while Gowling WLG killed a bunch of pigeons in an avian death trough, and Freshfields advertised vacancies for a Corsican pig farmer and an apprentice wizard (Shoosmiths also produced a cracker of a job ad).
Despite murdering flying rats, firms didn't get it right all the time. Mishcon was fined for money-laundering breaches, though it will defend itself against another claim, and Dechert was reprimanded for the extraordinary conduct of then-partner Neil Gerrard. Simmons & Simmons set clients against one another, HSF was stiffed on its work for Sam Bankman-Fried - and also for its work for a grocer, though Jones Day took a bigger hit (over £5m). And the SRA expressed an interest in Fieldfisher. The Post Office scandal may embarrass a few firms in 2023.
Other opinions were available: female lawyers in private practice said they craved realistic role models, clients opined on the firms they enjoyed instructing the most, and the least, and researchers claimed lawyers couldn't write. The cheek of it. Lots of people said funny and wise things about their firms, and, in a popular pair of stories, solicitors reached down into the dark place inside themselves and dredged up their biggest mistakes as trainees.
Check out the rest of the 2022 review:
Showbiz, show-offs and Bonkers Websites
So the Plexus accounts contain “errors”.? It’s apparent from the Parent Co accounts that 4 of their Partners repaid millions and millions of pounds to the law firm. Smells.
Plexus might have been referred to as the incredible shrinking firm. A lot of senior people have moved on and them there panels are a shrinking.
“But, but, we have no debt”
Look harder, look beyond the LLP and you shall find that you’re not sitting as pretty as you think.
It’s all in the numbers honey.
You cannot help but feel sorry for the Metamorph staff who have experienced what those at Tenon also experienced.
Looking back at all of those positive news stories put out there by the king of spin, Tony Stockdale, shows how easy it is to pull the wool.
I hope the SRA investigates this one.
A lot of people have been moved on. There is a difference.
I see the worker Ants are busy again
When the auditors resign you know it’s serious.
You really know it’s serious when the SRA awakes from behind the wheel following the 6 firm pile up and starts doing something.
Metamorph was surely the crappiest name in the law. I wonder what Tony will call his next one. “Impending shit show” might be a winner.
Yes they’ve moved on with their clients which is why there’s a lot less clients and work around.
If you don’t understand that when you run a people business then it really is going to hell in a handcart.
Shout out to my boss this year who always complained whenever I took annual leave. It appears there was never a right time to take time off.
(I am in the market to move firms...)
Surely the 💩 thing is pretty rare?
Anyone who has moved from [redacted] to Gowling must be prime suspect.
"A lot people moved on"..... the ones who need to move cant as they are simply unemployable elsewhere. Managing a mailbox isnt a client following.... its just having the advantage of the 1st dibs on the new stuff. That's why the Manchester cat team isnt working out.
Someone is clearly a bit hurty with old Plexus. Managing the mailbox eh? Seems like you need to do a bit of that as part of your effort to gain a life beyond obsession with your ex-employer.
I have no axe to grind with plexus but surely it's time for another Clyde & Co 'merger'?
“I have no axe to grind with Plexus” but calls themselves “I hate Plexus”. Ffs. And some people wonder why Plexus had a clear out! 😂😂
I genuinely feel sorry for you. Sad.
Yes. It’s true. 4 partners were fast and loose with Plexus and 3 have paid the price for having no integrity and for pi55ing off their entire Partnership by the sounds of it. Good riddance. 2 have retired but why wouldn’t you with £50m or so in the bank. Number 4 is a genius lawyer who seem to hold the purse strings to the firm (that’s what I hear) so he’s ok it seems. Number 3 is the one everyone feels sad for. It’s sympathy for the lost soul. A leader with no followers at the crunch. Fortunately Plexus moves on, as always, with over 900 loyal and motivated team players. A few moan but they’ll move on if it’s best for them and rightly so. The rest of us will keep going and succeeding.
Can Plexus survive the loss of clients and those holding the client relationships? I seriously doubt that it can.
Ever decreasing circles.