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Evolution of the human race

Wash your hands, sanitise your screens, and scroll through the highs and (mostly) lows of everyone's least favourite year.

But 2020 wasn't all bad. It was the year that the majority of lawyers said they would prefer to WFH permanently; the year that many firms committed to flexible working beyond the pandemic; and the year that the CMS choir's dulcet tones touched us all. 

Once you've perused the stories, have a crack at the Christmas quiz for a chance to win £100. 


In those halcyon days when socialising involved alcohol rather than a hellish zoom quiz, Linklaters brought in the sobriety police to monitor staff for inappropriate behaviour, while Slaughter and May banned its ski trips.  


Before everyone was WFH, many lawyers spent more time with their office vending machines than their children, which inspired this computer game. Working in the office had other downsides, as one bugged Pinsent Masons lawyer discovered.

Pre-social distancing measures, one lawyer got close to his client by entering into a sex slave contract. Also taking a hard and firm approach were the prosecutors who charged a Freshfields former tax-chief with fraud, and a MoFo manager was accused of stealing from the firm to buy Air Jordans

And in possibly the biggest news story of the year, Mills & Reeve was crowned RollOnFriday's firm of the year, while Slater and Gordon was the Golden Turd.

The most innovative use of a kitchen table award: the sex cam barrister.


One corporate lawyer boasted about how he loved making deals. Another lawyer took his passion for horse racing too far, and fleeced his firm to fund a gambling lifestyle.

Things heated up at the Law Society when its HQ went up in flames.  

A Birmingham firm was berated for sacking a paralegal who suffered from "crippling pain" after surgery, a Dentons partner was accused of using a refugee to translate documents, and Mayer Brown struggled with the concept of diversity.

And Baker McKenzie had to shut its office after a suspected coronavirus case, the first of many Covid stories. 

The Patrick Swayze Road House award: CMS' no-nonsense door policy.



As UK staff continued to pile onto crowded trains and into packed offices, some firms took precautions against the virus, but others were lax. DAC Beachcroft staff saw an opportunity to nab an essential item

When the UK lockdown was imposed, a number of firms emerged as lockdown champions, while others gave a crap response.

In the brave new world, the legal community found novel ways to connect: Baker McKenzie unleashed a Covid video, the Bar sent barristers a "plague reading list", and a legal recruiter annoyed Clyde & Co by claiming the firm was coining it in.

As businesses went remote, Soothsayer firm White & Case already had a virtual office experience, while another firm was also an online hit.

The Michael Fish redundant news award: law firm offices - the good, the bad, and the mice-infested


Firms responded to the pandemic by cutting payfurloughing staffshafting trainees and offering huge holidays. Some attracted the ire of their employees - a Mayer Brown employee begged management to rethink its WFH policy.

It was the worst of times, it was the craziest of times: a lawyer was framed for an illegal lockdown party, while a 'handsy' partner pretended to WFH after being fired.


Other lawyers found their calling: a divorce lawyer offered mercenary advice, a lawyer vlogged as Mr Motivator and another dispensed dispensable invaluable advice. And a partner promoted a Zoom suit.

Virus victims didn't always garner sympathy: a wannabe barrister claimed that the infected received an easier ride in interviews. And a paralegal was fired after celebrating BoJo catching Covid.

Jones Day appeared to be pandemic-proof with its uber-corporate bonkers video.    

The unintentional Influencer award: Simmons & Simmons insta account hijacked.


As cabin fever set in, Harneys made a quarantine puzzle book, DLA Piper serenaded a partner, a Milbank lawyer created a fear-mongering mentoring scheme, and a law firm worker in the US made gun threats.  

There was more curtain-twitching as neighbours reported a top City law firm partner for breaching the rules. 

Students got angry as BPP was accused of withholding exam results from those in debt, and the Bar regulator was slammed for its remote exam rules. In the US, a student paraded naked on a law class video call.

With firms having to rethink their offices, many planned how to make them safe, while Slater and Gordon closed its London office for staff to work from home permanently.

The SRA fined a Shoosmiths partner for drink driving, and prosecuted a lawyer who lied about leaving a work briefcase on a train.

The Mercury Award: Squire Patton Boggs' tribute to Freddie


A RollOnFriday poll revealed that lawyers wanted to work at home for good, and would consider swapping firms if their firm didn't allow it. Although one South African firm took a hard line on staff returning to the office.

The virus continued to take its toll as Reed Smith made redundancies, Trowers cut NQ roles and A&O and HogLove cut pay. CMS sung.


All-day pyjamas were this year's must-have fashion item, but a barrister spotted another opportunity in the clothing market, and set up the first legal attire for women barristers.

As businesses posted support for Black Lives Matter, Freshfields and Addleshaw Goddard apologised for their 'tone deaf' messages. 

As the US Presidential race got underway, the biggest change of leadership in legal circles happened at DWF where chief executive Andrew Leaitherland was ousted in a coup.

And the high profile case of Gary Senior concluded with the SDT fining him £55,000 for attempting to kiss a junior lawyer.

Best lockdown hair award: this hirsute chap.


While NHS workers attracted claps, a number of lawyers did not merit such applause: a drunk partner groped a paralegal in front of colleagues, a Freeths partner was fined for a 'poofter' remark, and a judge was caught badmouthing a woman after forgetting to turn off Zoom. 

Elsewhere, a recruiter got caught out for telling porkies.

Norton Rose Fulbright quarantined staff after an infection, and an Australian firm which said WFH was for 'lemmings' suffered a Covid outbreak.

Slater and Gordon, BCLP and Watson Farley Williams made cuts. But others fared better - Ropes & Gray kept NQs wages at £130k, and Magic Circle partner pay hit £1.8m

As Law schools promised thermo-cameras for re-opening, not everyone was happy as BPP students demanded a refund for a 'deeply unsatisfactory' virus response.

The Miley Cyrus dance award: Irwin Mitchell's cancelled diversity class.



Blaming Covid, Irwin Mitchell culled over 100 staff.

In lighter news, a firm sent @rsemail, while a Managing Partner took reporters to the Human Rights commission for joking about his name. Nothing funny about the latter, obviously.  

And the Heart Foundation and other charities sued a dodgy solicitor for ripping them off.

Ant Middleton survival award: aspiring barristers forced to urinate in bottles


As staff headed back to offices, Squire Patton Boggs had to close its Manchester base due to infected lawyers, and a council had to intervene to shut a firm's premises.

Setting the bar for permanent changes, Linklaters told staff they could work remotely 50% of the time. And Pinsent Masons staff opted to carry on a 4 day week.

There were mixed fortunes in the City, with green shoots of recovery as Hogan Lovells reversed pay cuts for associates. But Addleshaw Goddard and DWF wielded the axe. 

The legal community grabbed popcorn to read the leaked report about the blame game at Baker McKenzie over the Gary Senior scandal. And grabbed a cardigan as autumn set in, unless they were at Vardags.

In Zimbabwe, a firm displayed decent dance moves

The Jim Davidson 'comedy' award: Aussie lawyer's lambo number plate.


An insider claimed that a Covid outbreak at Jones Day was hidden from employees, while Sullivan & Cromwell lawyers were pressured to return to the office. And the SRA sent an agent infected with Covid to close down a law firm. 

There were major job cuts at Shoosmiths and DMH Stallard. But White & Case was riding out the storm as it announced a pandemic-proof pay rise for its NQs to £130k.

A lawyer who refused to mask up battled with an airplane crew. Setting a better example, the Texas Law Hawk took on Covid in an epic battle

Bryan Wilson

It was a busy month for disciplinary tribunals as a solicitor was hauled before the tribunal for a Klu Klux Klan joke, a creepy partner was struck off for emails fantasising about a trainee, and a 'dishonest' junior who binned documents was spared due to her mental health. 

In other news, a legal awards company gave a prize to a lawyer who retired in 2005, a shirtless judge was collared by the cops, and a 41-year old solicitor failed in a court bid to stop parents reducing his allowance. And there was this dream job.

Questionable diversity award: Womble Bond Dickinson's odd ethnic diversity boast.


As the Pfizer scientists heralded as heroes, the legal profession's hero was a solicitor who gave CPR to a doomed bear.

In less heroic deeds, a property lawyer was struck off for changing dates with Tipp-Ex, a Slaughter and May partner was 'retired' from the firm and reported to the SRA, and a Proskauer Rose partner was alleged to have harassed an associate

It was mixed fortunes at firms, as jobs were put at risk at Squire Patton Boggs, CMS, Clyde & Co and The Law Society. A&O hiked its pay for lawyers but froze everyone else's salaries. 

The Four Seasons Landscaping Award: Jones Day was hit by a PR nightmare for supporting Trump. 



It's the most wonderful time of the year, but not at Pinsent Masons and Dentons where redundancy consultations commenced. Or at Child & Child where the COO and Managing Partner both resigned

BPP got a ticking off from Wikipedia, and a court ruled that Baker McKenzie had no right to look through staff emails.  

The Pandemic Lawyer of the Year shared his lockdown experience where he called the cops on a neighbour and got banned from the village shop. 

Rocky Balboa fight back award: Ryan Beckwith won his appeal against the SDT for its drunk sex incident verdict.

Setting the benchmark ridiculously low: here's to a brighter, better, less lockdown-ier 2021. Roll on vaccines.  

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