From the reverberations of MeToo to flesh-eating spiders to NQs on £100k, law provided a rich diet of stories in 2019. It was a year of low lows as harassment continued to grab headlines, but also of real achievement as the best of the profession power-lifted to glory or snuck their firm into a hit film.

Don your orange-tinted spectacles for a recap of of the last 12 months, liberally sprinkled with awards for the most/least deserving.

Don't forget, you can apply what you learn to the Christmas Quiz.

January

For some readers, "disgusting piece of shit" serves as an apt eulogy for 2019, but when the year was young and still pristine, it was just a solicitor's heartfelt description of his client.

Most Galaxy-Brained Lawyer: The paralegal who decided to stop applying for training contracts and wait for firms to come to him.

February

The dull days of winter were brightened by an Eversheds Sutherland solicitor who was praised by Downing Street for his amazing charity work, and by the CRS partner who rowed the Atlantic with his children. The short film produced by a Keystone lawyer during his downtime was also impressive. Not only was it snapped up by Amazon, it was also genuinely amusing.


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Dreaming of Keystone.


RollOnFriday's 2019 news archive is splattered with #MeToo stories, but there was also work being done to tackle the issue. One barrister produced a guide to handling sexist lawyers (August showed what she's up against).

Never mind hanging the DJ, a Freshfields partner was accused of slapping one when the German music man had the temerity to deviate from his prescribed playlist.

Of course the biggest news of the legal year was the result of the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2019 survey, which saw Mills & Reeve crowned, and Ince drowned as the Golden Turd.

March

Clifford Chance provided good news when it introduced two months unpaid leave for its lawyers, albeit as a pilot. A PA at Allen & Overy dished up the sadness when she had the misfortune to witness a man voiding his bowels in a train aisle.

DWF equity partners celebrated their flotation windfall, while a creepy lawyer pretended to be a young woman to chat up ladies half his age. RollOnFriday just checked his real identity while compiling this review, and don't worry, you probably don't work with him. Probably.

Creepiest Lawyer of the Year: That guy.

April

Easter brought the resurrection of a Milbank partner's evangelical email warning of hellfire and damnation. It also brought soldiers, who a firm drafted in to toughen up its lily-livered lawyers. 

Jones Day exploded at the women who accused it of frat house antics, while females were short-changed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. By prioritising gender (whether you feel like a man or a woman) rather than sex in its survey of diversity in the profession, the SRA obfuscated statistics which intended to show up sex-based discrimination. 

Straightforward Misogyny Prize: The solicitor arrested for telling a woman he punished her with sex because she was fat.

May

Freshfields became the first Magic Circle firm to pay newly-qualified solicitors £100,000, kicking off NQ pay rises across the City. Clifford Chance made a dent in its devotion to hours on the clock by excluding billable time as a metric for determining lawyers' performance bonuses.

Abroad, a law firm boss in Singapore proved less adept at management. He was captured in extraordinary footage viciously beating a female employee in front of stunned staff.

Others could really have benefited from some good supervision, like the paralegal who redrafted a parking ticket with Tipp-Ex. Although corrective fluid is precisely what you'll want to apply to your memory after watching Kennedys' knock-off Apprentice show.

Wrongs were committed against lawyers, too. An SPB partner was falsely accused of cheating in the London Marathon, and a lawyer in the US was smeared as being terrible at sex until RollOnFriday exposed how his identity had been hijacked.

Best Use of Nunchuks: In a pretty uncrowded field, the award goes to this prize ninja.


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Best Reason to be Redundant: The law grad who complained that her good looks had made her unemployable.

June

The most-read story of the year featured another handsome lawyer, who cultivated a massive Instagram following with her eye-popping poses.

An RPC business services employee also pulled an eye-popping pose, but she did it setting a world power-lifting record. Kudos.


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June brought less impressive achievements, too. A Glaswegian trainee spat at a bouncer, and top firms boasted about winning a 'gold standard for women' which, on closer inspection, looked bronze at best.

And a Ropes & Gray trainee drew criticism, but also sympathy, when she was banned from law because she panicked and forged a share certificate.

July

City firms posted record financials and Linklaters NQs joined the £100k club, but it wasn't all good news amongst the elite. Allen & Overy's US merger target, O'Melveny & Myers, was caught scrubbing evidence of its support for Trump from Wikipedia. Later in the year the merger talks collapsed (though probably not because of OMM's editing spree). 

MeToo took a turn for the weird when a renowned archaeologist accused a Steptoe partner of harassing her to make porn. Weird stayed weird when an airline accused a lawyer of lying about a flesh-eating spider attack at 30,000 feet.


     

In court, in-house lawyers at Southampton Uni were branded 'inept' for missing a £35 million hearing. And a trial judge had to recuse himself because he was passed a link to a RollOnFriday story. Sorry, M'lud.

TikTok Award for Best Video with Youth Appeal: ULaw's hyperactive parkour advert.


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August

RollOnFriday stole one of the most popular stories of the year from the Discussion Board, where Roffers recounted the dumbest things they, or others, had done as trainees. That story's comments section now contains many more cautionary tales, which will probably be shamelessly lifted and turned into a second story next year.

Elsewhere in the UK, speeding fibber Fiona Onasanya was finally struck off after losing her parliamentary seat and being convicted of perjury. 

In Hong Kong, firms rushed to amend their websites after RollOnFriday discovered they were in danger of angering the all-powerful and quite touchy Chinese authorities.

Meanwhile, BDB Pitmans suspended its COO, while a Clifford Chance partner was revealed to have received a huge secret pay-off after he alleged that enemies in the firm doctored his appraisal.

The progress of the SRA's incoming Solicitors Qualification Exam resulted in stories throughout the year, chiefly because everyone expressed doubts whenever a new element of the SQE was announced. In August, a review of the draft exam found it was not fit for purpose.

Provocateur Award: The Allen & Overy partner and his pals who dressed up in a rainbow of burqas.


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Worst Rebrand: The firm whose website was kidnapped by a disgruntled ex-employee. He gifted it with the new tagline "Falling apart at the seams and desperate for clients". 

September

As the leaves turned orange, so did the flashing eyes of the Bengal Tiger. He filmed himself tearing a strip off airport security in Luton.

Big Cat Award: The Bengal Tiger. Rrrroaarr! 

Gwyneth Paltrow Goop Award: The White & Case partner who promoted the health benefits of Dirty Lemon. For those not in the know, that's a very expensive drink you don't need unless you have more money than sense and enjoy the taste of charcoal.

Gwyneth Paltrow Tearful Oscar Acceptance Speech Award: The Debevoise & Plimpton lawyer who wrote a poem to his team.


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Coldplay Award: The Charles Russell Speechlys IT boss who asked his Muslim staff if they were terrorists.

The changing of the seasons also brought the changing of traditions. Tightwads at Trowers & Hamlins banned its lawyers in the Middle East from pocketing their fees for swearing oaths and statutory declarations. And a barrister had to rework his commute after he was banned from the tube for upskirting.

In a victory for common sense, the harsh prison sentence meted out to a paralegal for a minor error with paperwork was overturned in the Court of Appeal.

Of course there was MeToo, too. It transpired that even the SRA was not immune. In an explosive story, a former employee blew the whistle to RollOnFriday about the regulator's torrid history of harassment claims, featuring covert surveillance, fat secret settlements and staff billing it for dirty weekends in hotels. 

October

The big news was the blockbuster Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing for Ryan Beckwith, who resigned from Freshfields just before being found guilty. The firm was quick to announce that it had brought in a new punishment scale for misbehaving partners.

Priceless knowhow was fired into readers' eyeballs when RollOnFriday published the results of its annual in-house lawyer survey. Priceless knowhow was also fired into eyeballs by one of WFW's IT providers. He unwittingly uploaded a video containing all sorts of top secret data onto YouTube. The firm was not happy about it.

It wasn't the only case of loose lips sinking ships. A train passenger overheard Stephenson Harwood trainees mocking job candidates' CVs. And then there was:

Tweet Rage of the Year: The Slater and Gordon director who wished cancer on his enemies.
 
November

A flurry of badsex stories scuttled from the shadows after Halloween. There were quiet partner departures from three firms, an ill-advised snog at Kirkland, a groping spree that got Ince's Managing Partner in Singapore fired, and a WFW partner who smacked bums and rubbed against PAs.


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But for those of a salacious bent, the juiciest story may have been the barmy battle between former pals from Latham & Watkins and Skadden. 

The SQE rumbled on, this time picking up criticism from junior lawyers. And the trans culture war opened up on new fronts. A lesbian barrister was investigated by her chambers for setting up an LGB organisation without the T, and Dentons produced a report advocating controversial tactics to help children change their legal gender.

Tax lawyers rushed off to check their files and put together a go bag when Freshfields head of tax in Germany was arrested for a problematic scheme. He was refused bail as a flight risk


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A partner from offshore firm Maples & Calder was also arrested, in a Miami Beach hotel, on his birthday, for beating his wife. But charges were dropped because she refused to co-operate.

Wildean Wit Award: Without a doubt, this goes to the director of a firm which the SRA said was a scam. He told RollOnFriday he would "wipe my ass" with our story. He also reported us to the police, so it may be ROF which is jailed next.

December 

'Tis the season to be jolly, and it certainly was for the QC who told RollOnFriday about auctioning his multi-million pound wine collection for world record prices.

Less so for Black Pete, the controversial blacked-up character who turned up for an egg buffet at Eversheds Sutherland and was banned when London management found out.

The year ended in the only way it really could, with a MeToo reckoning. Two years after RollOnFriday first broke the story of Gary Senior's conduct and the subsequent cover-up at Baker McKenzie, the prosecution commenced of the firm, its former London Managing partner, its former HR head and an ex-litigation partner.

Fittingly, RollOnFriday was able to publish a fantastic scoop about the scandal. Even more fittingly, we had to cover it up after the SDT threw a fit, so if you didn't read it that morning, you'll have to wait. It is not the sole reason to look forward to 2020. There's Brexit, too. Happy New Year.

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Comments

James Taylor's teacher 22 December 19 21:49

I bought two new guitars and started learning Portuguese.  And I realised I'd never work in law again.

Good times.

(Using Duolingo.com, a Lakewood M32CP with a cedar top and a Martin D15M if anyone's interested)

Anonymous 26 December 19 10:25

It'll be interesting to see what a lot of these allegations are and how many of them turn out to be true.