The legal recruiter's analysis of the SRA's guidelines
A legal recruitment director has hit out at the SRA's new workplace guidance, saying that it creates "red-tape" and doesn't reflect the "realities" of high-pressured law firms.
The SRA's recent guidance on staff wellbeing, sets out standards for firms to adhere to, to counter "unsupportive, bullying or toxic" working environments.
The guidance sets out requirements for firms to have supervision, systems and controls in place, in order that "staff can confidently raise concerns and be supported if they are experiencing problems." The regulator also said it would "hold individuals to account for serious failures" to meet the standards.
However, Nathan Peart, a Managing Director at legal recruiters Major, Lindsey & Africa, has slammed the SRA's guidance, saying it does not reflect "the realities of high-octane law firm culture"
"Guidance to support lawyers’ wellbeing and improve work-life balance will only create more red tape and, on its own, is unlikely to have a positive impact,” said Peart.
"In practice, clients pay high fees with the expectation of exceptional delivery of service which in turn creates a high-pressured workplace," said the recruitment director in an article in City AM.
"There is still an expectation in law that if you cannot stand the heat then you should get out of the kitchen. After all, there will always be candidates waiting in line who are prepared to put up with the intensity of law firm culture to get ahead," Peart said, apparently viewing law firms as a cross between a Full Metal Jacket boot camp and Squid Game.
When RollOnFriday asked Peart about his comments on the SRA guidance, the recruiter appeared to take a softer tone. “If law firms proactively seek to adapt their approach to workplace culture to align with the SRA guidance, then it can serve as a useful blueprint moving forward," Peart told RollOnFriday.
"If this is achieved," he added, "then junior lawyers entering into the profession for the first time can enjoy a degree of relief from the high-intensity culture, and without concerns that they will be ousted by a peer who is willing to withstand the intensity.”
The SRA declined to comment.
This is absolute rubbish.
The guidance relates to having policies in place to combat bullying and victimisation. That should be a bare minimum for any law firm, not least because it’s hard to see how a firm can confidently comply with its employment law obligations without having policies in place for when issues arise.
”If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen” means that if having to pull the occasional all-nighter is unacceptable to you, then you probably shouldn’t specialise in certain practice areas (private equity, leveraged finance etc).
It doesn’t mean you should have to accept bullying and mistreatment. That is unacceptable, whatever type of practice you work for.
By way of context, I am a transactional partner at a US law firm.
"high-octane law firm culture"
It's an office. Full of paperclips, filing cabinets and deeds (or whatever it is they have in City firms). With people in suits. It is not Vietnam.
Well, naturally. Early burn-out and careers cut short with settlement agreements are tickety-boo for a recruiter, aren't they? The last thing he wants is long-serving, happy employees who stay at the same firm for 40 years.
"It's an office. Full of paperclips, filing cabinets and deeds (or whatever it is they have in City firms). With people in suits. It is not Vietnam."
I think that you will find that they do have suits in Vietnam these days, and paper clips. It's a very imperialist attitude to imagine that they are all still living in some antiquated past there in which they have to journey for miles to use the filing cabinet in the nearest market town*.
Obviously deeds are stupid though, they skipped straight past those.
*Or, to say it in Vietnamese by way of phonetics, the "Bah-ni Ka-nah-ma", which loosely translates as "Filing Cabinet Town".
Anyone else cringe at the use of the phrase "high octane law firm"? A clear demonstration of the absurd mindset of many within the profession; all style and no substance. It is little wonder that so many top law grads now pursue alternate career paths.
One of many reasons I turned own an interview from MLA.
Hi, Anonymous at 12.06
I think the reference to 'Vietnam' was the to war, not to the current state of the country. Still, well done on managing to crowbar in a reference to 'imperialist attitude'. You sure showed 'em!
@Colonel Kurtz - that is a typically neo-colonial position to take, you empire apologists are always so desperate to talk about The War, but never to have a conversation about your imperialism that came immediately after.
Before the arrival of the British, Vietnam was one of the world's economic powerhouses, by the time they left - after looting it of its natural resources - it was an impoverished husk where people had to travel for days by water buffalo just to access a filing cabinet.
But you never want to talk about that, do you?
@Anonymous 18 February 22 13:53
Did you just attempt to claim Vietnam was a British colony? Or is this irony gone off the rails?
Things get pretty high octane when I start offloading aggressive comments on LinkedIn. FEAR ME!
@3-ducks 18 February 22 10:38 Offices in Vietnam have paperclips too. And people in suits.
I think you mean the French, Anon @ 1353, not the British. And the historical enemy of Vietnam has always been the Chinese, not the Americans or French btw. Ask any Vietnamese person and they will tell you.
And why are you Colonialism fanboys always Brexiteers? It's not enough for you to erase and whitewash your history, you also have to try and blame Europeans for it all.
nonesense. He is telling the truth, it is a cut throat environment and law firms themselves make huge profits on "leverage" otherwise known as people. Life is tough, some professions have expected high standards and work hours, which people are aware of when they sign up.
Just offer trainees peerages.
Anonymous @ 18:50 I think you would benefit from a crash course in French colonial history. The British colonised many places but Vietnam was not one. I also think you should steer clear of a career in clairvoyance, just because someone corrects your faulty knowledge of history does not make them a brexiteer or pro colonisation. Think you could have done with a better education though.
@Anonymous 21 Feb 22
If the pressure of work causes you to lash out, bellow, bully and abuse your colleagues, it's you that can't cope, not them.
"I think you would benefit from a crash course in French colonial history."