Letter from London, Magic Circle, United Kingdom / Great Britain

Letter from London: Why Do You Hate Us?

Letter from London Queen.JPGEd. note: The legal world is much bigger than New York, or Washington, or even the United States. Welcome to Letter from London, a weekly dispatch from the other side of the pond. Our U.K. correspondent, Isaac Smith, will expose ATL readers to the latest goings-on in the London legal world. You can reach Isaac by email, at isaacsmithlondon@googlemail.com.

On his recent trip to the US, Prime Minister Brown presented President Obama with an ornamental pen holder, carved from the timbers of the Victorian anti-slave ship HMS Gannet.

In return, Obama gave Brown some DVDs — which, it was revealed on Wednesday, don’t work in UK DVD players.

Why humiliate us like this?

Maybe Obama was angry at the UK because London-based firm Clifford Chance laid off 35 business support staff from its New York and DC offices at the end of last year. But news of that only emerged last week — after Obama purchased the DVDs.

Perhaps Obama has a thing against the British. We do, after all, “sound gay and smell like Indian food” — as one poster on last Monday’s column observed. But your new president doesn’t seem the sort of chap to be burdened by petty prejudices — aside from, of course, his hatred of the disabled.

Or could it be that Obama is pissed off that he had to meet Brown instead of Tony Blair? Yeah, that makes sense. Americans f**king love Tony Blair.

Something you might not know about Tony Blair, after the jump.

You need to know something: Tony Blair is a fake. That “man of the people” act he pulls is as authentic as a flute playing prince riding around London on a horse. It’s for the tourists.

Blair used to be a courtroom lawyer — or, as we say, a barrister. You know, the ones that wear wigs. Apparently, he wasn’t all that great at it. People say that his wife, Cherie Booth, who is also a barrister, is much better. Last week, she was hired by two pension funds to sue the Royal Bank of Scotland for the “massive losses” incurred when it was bailed out and its share price collapsed. The case could prove embarrassing for the government, which has been strongly criticised for its lax regulation of banks — that’s the government which was headed up by Tony B for most of the past decade.

In other news

Mayer Brown has launched its second redundancy consultation — which could lead to the loss of 55 jobs (up to 23 associates and 32 support staff) in London.

“Bloody consultations,” sighed my friend who works at the London office of a similarly afflicted US firm as he reflected on the news while carving an ornamental pen holder for his American boss. “All this criteria that you’re ranked on, it takes weeks. And the atmosphere is horrible — I wish they’d just get it over with like they do in the States.”

It doesn’t help that the criteria often includes things like number of days taken off sick, which just seems to piss people off. Still, at least most of the big firms are paying a respectable amount to those who lose their jobs — with senior associates at Allen & Overy said to be getting up to £85,000 under recently announced terms.

A couple more things

A massive explosion at a UK oil refinery in 2005 — believed to be the largest explosion in peacetime Europe — boiled down to a fight between several law firms, which was decided on Friday. Herbert Smith won.

Meanwhile, fired A&O associate turned sex columnist Deidre Dare wrote a ‘Post card from… Moscow‘ for The Lawyer magazine: “[Russia is] so exciting that it is almost indescribable,” she explained, giving renewed weight to the old saying that an ex-Big Law lawyer with a talent for self-promotion doth not necessarily a good writer make.

Elsewhere on our green and pleasant island…

Milton Keynes is a “new city” near London built in the 1960s that manages to combine the worst elements of the US and the UK. Think faceless malls peopled by yellow-teethed cynics with a lingering imperialistic sense of superiority.

Which isn’t to make light of the fact that last Tuesday law firm Denton Wilde Sapte confirmed it would be laying off 76 people (including around 37 associates) from its London and — here’s the link — Milton Keynes offices.

What have we learned?

When it comes to losing your job, sometimes it’s better just to be given the bullet straight away (not literally, you understand — which isn’t to say I don’t solemnly respect that being allowed to shoot people rests at the heart of your national identity).

Quote of the week

Cherie Booth on the Royal Bank of Scotland case: “Most of the problems that have brought the bank to its knees have originated and have been concealed in its US operations.”

OK, so we made a few mistakes, but it was you bastards who really got us into this recession shit.

Kind regards,


Earlier: Prior installments of Letter from London (scroll down)


Isaac Smith is ATL’s London columnist. You can reach him by email at isaacsmithlondon@googlemail.com.

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