King & Wood Mallesons (KWM) has appointed a new Australia managing partner just days after the announcement that its former country head, Tony O'Malley, is to step down. Landing the top job is Sydney-based partner Sue Kench, who is head of the firm's construction and property practice and who has been employed with Mallesons Stephen Jaques for 20 years.
Irwin Mitchell is planning to buy up books of personal injury (PI) work from other law firms in response to the Government's overhaul of the low-value claims system and its impact on PI profit margins. The firm hopes to acquire business from firms that may find themselves squeezed out of the market by the reform, which includes plans to cut fixed fees for claims processed via the new Claims Portal – previously known as the Road Traffic Accident Portal – from £1,200 to £500. The overhaul comes as the Jackson litigation reforms introduced in April are also likely to reduce work flows.
Irwin Mitchell plans to buy personal injury work from firms squeezed by Government reforms
Partnership used to be for life as a general rule – barring exceptional circumstances. This meant that any moves between law firms in a partner's career were the exception, rather than the rule. And then the world changed. The impact on major and mid-tier law firms, and by implication the outlook of their top talent, has been significant and has continued to shift in response to a range of macro and micro situational indicators. Over the past 25 years, there have been many contributory macro-economic, corporate and political factors to contend with: a technological revolution; the huge expansion of law firms into global businesses; the advent of the US firms' threat to City firms from the late 1990s onwards; and most recently, the global credit crunch.
Lock down – the rocky economic environment has forced firms to review their hiring strategies
From the top of the world's most expensive casino building in Marina Bay, Singapore's central business district is an impressive sight. Overlooking the water, an array of glittering silver skyscrapers bear the names of banks, insurance companies and luxury hotel brands, while a mix of local landmarks, shopping malls and restaurants keep tourists happy. The scene, in all its grandeur, reflects not only the sunlight, but the commercial achievements of a city that has now become a hub for southeast Asia, with Singapore now ranked as one of the four leading financial centres in the world. Alongside Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea, it is also one of the Four Asian Tigers.
Singapore's legal market is gradually liberalising and, with it, the competition keeps flying in. Elizabeth Broomhall finds out what's in store for southeast Asia's latest glittering legal hub
The Middle East legal community came out in force in Dubai last week to celebrate the achievements of lawyers, law firms and in-house legal teams at the Corporate Counsel Middle East (CCME) Awards. On 16 May, 300 lawyers attended the event at the Westin Mina Seyahi hotel, collectively reinforcing the impression that the legal sector is growing in self-confidence in line with the region's steady recovery from the financial crisis of 2009.
The Davis Polk & Wardwell City partner on hard work, skinny jeans and Slaughters' pencil and biscuit offering
A comprehensive look back at the top deals in Singapore from 2010 to 2013, featuring mandates for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and White & Case
The legal profession in Hong Kong has long resisted it. Common law prohibits it. And professional sensibility makes many cringe at its very mention. But the local case of barrister Louie Mui has reignited the debate about conditional and contingency fees in Hong Kong. For this lawyer at least, it's time to start listening to what clients want. Many of us have spent large portions of our careers advising clients on what they need rather than what they tell us they want, so I say this guardedly. However, demand for conditional or contingency fees is intensifying, partly as a function of pressure generally from clients for lawyers to provide viable alternative fee arrangements, and partly because clients are actively exercising their right to enter a debate previously off limits to all but a select few.
Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), King & Spalding, Olswang, DLA Piper and K&L Gates are among a group of international law firms eyeing tie-ups with local firms in Singapore after missing out on licences to launch their own local practices earlier this year. The firms have confirmed they would be open to a partnership with a Singaporean outfit, with some looking at a Joint Law Venture (JLV) and others considering a Formal Law Alliance (FLA). All were among 19 unsuccessful applicants for Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licences.
Charles Russell has unveiled solid financial results for 2012-13 as the firm pulls together a new management line-up in the wake of senior partner Patrick Russell's retirement. The UK top 50 firm saw fee income rise 1% during the year to almost £69m, with profits per equity partner up 7% to around £300,000. Meanwhile, private client partner Christopher Page – who has been with the firm since 1997 – has been appointed to succeed Russell as senior partner, with corporate and commercial partner Keir Gordon named deputy senior partner. Both men's terms will run for three years from 1 May.
Nearly half of the UK's 50 largest law firms by revenue have announced job cuts over the past year, with the number of roles placed under threat of redundancy since May 2012 fast approaching the 1,500 mark. More than 1,300 jobs have been put at risk across 20 top 50 UK firms since the start of the 2012-13 financial year, with around 750 positions cut to date. This month alone has seen five firms confirm plans for layoffs, with more than 300 roles potentially to be lost as a consequence. Last week, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP) announced one of the most wide-ranging redundancy programmes of recent months, affecting 58 legal positions and 44 secretarial roles, with further support cuts also likely.
Kent County Council's legal team is to launch its own trainee programme, with the move coming as the local authority eyes a series of white label and cross-selling initiatives. Geoff Wild, Kent's director of governance and law, said the council's legal services department plans to take on four trainees a year from the autumn. Trainees will complete seats across the department's main practice areas of property, planning & highways, contracts & commercial, litigation & employment and social welfare, as well as potentially carrying out secondments with other local authorities and partner organisations around the UK.
Taylor Wessing, Olswang and Eversheds have taken roles on a deal which will see the 2012 London Olympics press and broadcast centres developed into a new digital quarter in the capital. The project will see iCITY – a joint venture between data centre operator Infinity and real estate investment company Delancey – develop a hub for the digital and creative industries in east London's Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. According to iCITY, the deal takes total investment in the press and broadcast centres to more than £1bn, including London 2012 construction costs, secured tenants, Infinity clients and iCITY development costs.
The noisy building site outside my hotel window last week gave me direct experience of Dubai's steady revival from the economic crash of 2009. The record attendance at Legal Week's Corporate Counsel Forum Middle East and a very lively awards ceremony the following day (see page 32) added to a picture of a legal market that may not be booming, but is certainly finding its feet again after the devastating collapse in confidence following Dubai World's debt restructuring. At the awards, I was struck by the enthusiastic participation of the in-house legal teams who were keen to celebrate a busy year of achievements. The story Emirates Group's legal department told in their entry of a motivated team working hard to provide good advice and value for money for an expanding business was compelling.
Specialist litigation firm Boies Schiller & Flexner is set to open an office in London this summer, in a move that will gift the elite US firm its first base outside of its home country. Boies already has lawyers working on projects in the City and has been planning a London launch for several months, approaching multiple UK-qualified litigators. The launch is now slated for July or August. The firm declined to comment on how many partners it intends to staff the office with or on relocations from the US. According to The American Lawyer rankings, Boies Schiller is among the most profitable firms in the US, with average profits per partner standing at $2.7m (£1.8m) in 2012.
Given that Geoff Wild won the general counsel of the year award at the 2012 British Legal Awards, it is perhaps ironic that his role more accurately reflects that of a managing partner at a small law firm than any in-house position. As head of Kent County Council's legal function, he has taken the job of local government lawyer in a whole new direction, pioneering a structure that makes his 125-lawyer strong legal team as distinct from the council as possible, while still sitting within the local authority's Maidstone headquarters.
Call of the Wild – Kent County Council's Geoff Wild on transforming the local authority's legal team
Herbert Smith Freehills partners are expecting to receive proposals on the planned move to a single modified lockstep after the summer, as the firm gears up to introduce a combined partner remuneration structure from the start of the next financial year. Management are currently working out proposals to take to partners, with some legacy Herbert Smith partners saying they expect a vote to take place in October this year. The overhaul is expected to see the legacy UK arm move away from its rigid eight-year lockstep, shifting closer to Australian merger partner Freehills. The pair entered into a full financial union in October 2012, but are currently paying partners according to two different pay structures, with legacy Freehills' heavily linked to individual performance.
Murder case’s 2nd guilty verdict overturned after court discovers juror read case’s prior appeals
Day before Yesterday
What in the Bitter Lawyer is going on here?
Put your lawyerly wisdom to the test and post a comment below or on Facebook with a witty, hilarious, or brilliant caption to this comic, courtesy of Shutterstock.com. And keep it clean(ish) and, y’know, respectful.
The editor’s pick will be announced next week, and then we’ll post the comic with the winning caption on Facebook.
Cameron Guglielmelli submitted the winning caption for last week’s Caption This! on Facebook:
“We’re looking for a new manager for our offshore accounts”
Also see the comic with Cameron’s caption on Facebook.
Thanks for all the submissions and keep them coming, here or on Facebook.
Illustrations courtesy of Shutterstock.com
Parties in slip-and-fall case ordered to hire neutral expert to probe plaintiff’s Facebook page
Do courts serve the ‘customer’ well? The public deserves better than it’s getting, judge writes
Judge reveals dispute about whether prosecutors withheld critical evidence in Chandra Levy case
It may be a couple of years old, but Leighton Davis’s speech at her Law School Graduation is still relevant. Her humorous reflection on her law school experience will resonate with law graduates of the past, present, and future.
She is able to articulate themes that have pervaded discussions of law school and law students in a clear, well spoken, dryly funny manner. At the start of law school, we all heard that we will “learn to think like lawyers.” But in reality, it is more than that. Law school can develop people into professionals, but it also changes your perspective on life. It changes the way you interact with the world around you. But it doesn’t change who you are.
The transition from college student to attorney is a three to four year process. The process holds an unflattering mirror in front of the students. The stress of the experience can magnify even the slightest flaw. Ms. Davis describes the person she became during law school. She recounts stories of her inability to relate to non-law students on a social level. It is a familiar story. And it is not necessarily a bad one. We have law school to learn how to think like lawyers. Studying law is the life we live for those three years. The true test of our character is whether we can go back to being well adjusted human beings once we hang up that awesome purple hat. Or, maybe after the bar exam.
(photo: 3D Illustration of a Graduate Giving a Graduation Speech from Shutterstock)
YouTube can be used as ‘hammer of justice’ even if client has lost in court, lawyer says
Linklaters finance partner Chris Howard is set to leave the magic circle firm to join the London arm of Sullivan & Cromwell. The move, confirmed by the Wall Street firm today (22 May), comes little more than two years after Howard joined Linklaters from magic circle rival Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer.
Shell has concluded a comprehensive review of its global external legal advisers, with a host of UK and US firms winning appointments to advise the world's largest company by revenue. Though a full breakdown of all appointments was not immediately available, Shell confirmed 11 firms - Allen & Overy (A&O), Baker McKenzie, Clifford Chance (CC), CMS Cameron McKenna, Debevoise & Plimpton, Holman Fenwick & Willan, King & Spalding, Linklaters, Norton Rose Fulbright, Simmons & Simmons and Dentons - are set to advise the oil major in three jurisdictions or more.
With the rise of social media, lawyers have of course gotten into the fray, starting Facebook fan pages for their law firms, professional profiles on LinkedIn and personal social media accounts. Attorneys have to be extra careful to use social media in a way that won’t expose them to ethics complaints.
In addition to analyzing social media for its advertising value, figuring out how things go “viral” on social media, and discussing how to use it well, an emerging area of discussion is the appropriate level of online social media interaction with clients from a business perspective. Even more importantly, though, is the neglected topic of the ethical considerations of being Facebook friends with clients. An attorney disbarred for unethical conduct no longer has a need for business development through social media, so best to avoid the problems Facebook friending can cause.
In short, being Facebook friends with clients and potential clients is a bad idea. Here is why:
- Facebook friends will think you are having too much fun. Personal use of social media tends to make people look like they are all out having fun, living perfect lives where they eat the finest food, workout every day and rarely have a ruffled feather. If your clients think this is how you are living, any minor irritation they may feel at your delay in returning a phone call, last minute completion of a filing or other product of your busy practice will be seen as a sign that you were out living the high life rather than tending to their needs. That perception can lead a client to find fault with anything you do, have a short fuse with you or even instigate an ethics complaint.
- Facebook friends will think you are making too much money. Social media also tends to make people look wealthier than they are, which can be bad for your reputation with clients. Maybe you got a steal on a hotel for a weekend away or a gift card for a fancy restaurant as a gift, but when your outings are posted online and clients see them, they will see you spending their money. When your monthly bill arrives, your client will not be so eager to bankroll your fun in the sun. What at first looked like a reasonable hourly rate now looks like extortion.
- Clients know the context of your work-life remarks. If you are speaking only to non-work friends and share a rough day in court with a bullying opposing counsel, they might give you a pat on the back, buy you a beer and that will be the end of it. If your client hears or reads this remark, they could have different insight into your work than you intended to convey and may feel that you are oversharing about their case. A client may wonder what more might you be sharing about them. Their faith in your attorney-client confidentiality may be shaken. This can cause ethics problems for sure.
Attorneys are people too, and to say that none of us should participate in social media would be a naïve proposition. In addition to fueling our personal lives, social media can help build contacts that eventually lead to business.
So what can attorneys do online to take advantage of social media’s power while still navigating the ethical waters?
- Use LinkedIn for interaction with clients and colleagues. On LinkedIn you will not be tempted to post the sort of personal snippets common on Facebook. LinkedIn is a great way to stay connected to professional contacts and clients and generate business without the risks listed above.
- Use privacy settings. Even if you do not connect with clients on Facebook, they may still be able to see all that you post if your settings are not set up to guard against prying eyes. But be warned—privacy settings are not failsafe.
- Keep your private life private for safety. Social media is full of pitfalls from a privacy perspective. Volumes are being written and countless hours of classes are being taught on staying safe online. Just as your clients do not need to know which school your child attends and that you will be there on a particular date for a performance, neither does anyone else. Use extra caution.
Social media is clearly not a fad going away anytime soon, and it is a powerful force that can be used for good when used right. Steer clear of the dangers and integrate social media into your professional and personal lives without souring attorney-client relationships.
Bevan Brittan has placed three fee-earners and six support staff at risk of redundancy as law firms across the UK continue to streamline their businesses amid tough market conditions. The trio of associates are all based in Bevan Brittan's commercial and infrastructure department, while the six support roles are in the firm's human resources and finance teams.
‘King of latex’ judge follows ex-mistress and wife on stand in judicial misconduct trial
Trowers & Hamlins has become the latest law firm to announce job cuts, with seven employees made redundant between March and this week. In total, three secretarial staff and four fee earners have been laid off, with the firm attributing the move to "continuing pressures on the UK legal market".
A host of firms including Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom and White & Case have taken roles on the approval of a bankruptcy plan for Central European Distribution Corporation (CEDC), one of the world's largest vodka producers. The plan, which was approved by a US court earlier this month and comes into effect on 31 May, will see Russian billionaire Roustam Tariko receive all of CEDC's stock in return for a $277m (£183m) settlement with the Polish company's creditors.
This post is for those studying for the bar exam as well as current practitioners. If you’re studying right now you won’t appreciate this example. But to the lawyers out there, tell me if this scene sounds familiar:
Opposing Counsel: Sir, did you ever have any conversations with Mr. Jones about the car accident? Witness: Yes. Opposing Counsel: What did Mr. Jones tell you? You: Objection Your Honor. Hearsay. Opposing Counsel: Your Honor, Mr. Jones is here to testify. Judge: Overruled.
Assuming Mr. Jones’ statement is being admitted to prove the truth of the matter asserted, it is hearsay. It is an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. When I was in law school, that’s the definition we were taught. Any out of court statement, other than that made by the declarant while testifying, offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted. Under the fancy new Federal Rules, it’s even clearer:
(c) Hearsay. “Hearsay” means a statement that:
(1) the declarant does not make while testifying at the current trial or hearing; and
(2) a party offers in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted in the statement.
Nonetheless, I regularly hear responses like the one above. Or my personal favorite, “Your Honor, he’s the one who said it.” And an alarming percentage of the time, those answers carry the day. Which makes me wonder: do attorneys really not know the law? Are judges that confused by Rule 801? Or do attorneys just make these arguments because they know judges will buy them? And do judges allow these arguments to stand because they think the evidence should come in, regardless of the law?
These are questions I cannot answer. But I can offer help.
This is the first part of the hearsay test. Are you dealing with a statement? If so, which part of the testimony is the statement? Let’s use an example (a hypothetical, you might call it). An eye witness is testifying about an explosion at a nuclear plant. The witness was standing around with other employees and some managers. The witness overheard a manager, Ms. Smith, say “I knew we should have locked the blast doors better. Now the whole plant will go up.” The witness looked down at his geiger counter and sure enough, it was making that really loud beep that means something bad will happen.
At trial, the eye witness is called to testify. Let’s look at some possible testimony:
Attorney: Were you standing outside the plant? Witness: Yes. Attorney: Was Ms. Smith there? Witness: Yes. Attorney: Did she say anything before the plant exploded? Witness: Yes. She said "I knew we should have locked the blast doors better. Now the whole plant will go up.
The statement is what Ms. Smith said at the plant. That’s it. But that’s not the end of our inquiry. To determine if this line of questioning can proceed, we have to figure out if it is an out of court statement.
Out of Court Statement
It sounds obvious. Of course the statement was not made in court. But what about the witness’ testimony? Isn’t that being made in court? Yes, it is. But that’s why we approached the issue in this order. The first question is always: what is the statement. In this example, the statement is what Ms. Smith said at the scene. That statement was made outside of court. And therefore it is hearsay.
The Issue with Confrontation
Some attorneys, as my opening illustrates, believe that if the witness will testify to her own statement, then another witness should be allowed to as well. This does not address the rule against hearsay at all. Instead, it confuses hearsay with the Confrontation Clause. The two doctrines are intertwined, but the tests are different.
Whether a witness will testify or not does not change the fact that a statement is hearsay (although it will dictate which exceptions may apply).
The Truth of the Matter Asserted
Now that we know what the statement is, and we know it is out of court, we have to find out why the statement is being offered into evidence. If it is for the truth of the matter asserted, then the statement is hearsay (absent some exemptions which we won’t discuss here).
Of course this is the trickiest question. What the heck is the truth of the matter asserted? My favorite example involves an allegedly crazy person. This person shouts from the roof top “I am the Lord! Obey me!” At a competency hearing, numerous eye witnesses are called to testify to this statement. If the attorney called those witnesses to prove that this person was in fact Morgan Freeman, then the statement is offered to prove the truth of the statement. Namely, that this person is god. But if, in a more likely scenario, the statement is offered to prove that the person is crazy, then it will be admissible. It is not trying to prove the truth of the statement itself, but is being offered to draw a conclusion.
This short walkthrough doesn’t usually end the inquiry. There are myriad exceptions and exemptions to watch out for. My college mock trial coach started the lesson on hearsay by explaining it’s one of the hardest evidence rules to master. But knowing the basics can take you pretty far.
As for becoming a master, I’ll leave that to smarter people. I spend my time just trying to wrap my head around character evidence. Rule 404 is just crazy.