The Lawyer

A few months ago, one of the public relations staff at Linklaters invited me to have lunch with him in the firm’s canteen. Now, I know that if I was a client, or even a journalist of greater rank, my PR acquaintance would have probably deemed me worthy of a trip to a restaurant on the expenses account. But, hey, times are tough, so I didn’t hold it against him. And in any case, I was curious to see what a Biglaw canteen looked like.

To my surprise, it looked a lot like a school canteen. A super-deluxe school canteen, you understand, with all sorts of fancy food options, and tasteful decor, and wholesome-looking — if oddly mature — students. Having finished my generous portion of chicken curry, side salad and smoothie, I relaxed back in my chair and, looking around me, wondered how those Linklaters people stayed so slim. Then I remembered the on-site gym I’d read about somewhere, which, I assume, nestles alongside the on-site doctor, dentist, physiotherapist and dry-cleaners, deep within Linklaters’ lovely womb-like central London offices.

In that moment, I wanted to never leave. It all just felt so… safe. But was it?

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(Layoffs at Linklaters, at the partner level.)

The Occupy movement has reached the legal profession, with an unemployed law graduate launching a campaign to occupy the Inns of Court (London’s legal quarter).

“Through no fault of our own, a generation of [law school] graduates find ourselves with no jobs — or no jobs as lawyers anyway,” wrote the graduate under the alias “OccupyTheInns” on Legal Cheek, a blog I edit. “The lucky ones are paralegals. The unlucky ones work in bars (not the Bar)… It is for these reasons that I propose peaceful direct action. It is time to occupy the Inns of Court.”

Responses to the plan have mostly been negative, but the broad sentiment of discontent has struck a chord. Catrin Griffiths, editor of The Lawyer magazine, summed up the mood: “I don’t buy much of [OccupyTheInns'] argument, which smacks too much of entitlement, but it signifies something bigger, related to the growing crisis of a million young people unemployed in the U.K.”

However, even with our spiralling unemployment rates, and love of protesting, I’d be surprised if an occupation of legal London took off. While many U.K. law school graduates are jobless and indebted, most still have a decent shot of making it into the profession. As such, they have too much to lose by winding up the establishment.

Maybe OccupyTheInns should instead re-direct their energies to recruiting the potentially far more vulnerable, high-earning, senior lawyers who look set to lose their jobs over the next few months?

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Ed. Note: This is a guest post from the good people at RollOnFriday. In addition to covering all of the salacious news and gossip happening across the pond, RollOnFriday occasionally endeavors to explain England to us Yankees when we beg them. Check them out.

Awards ceremonies feature large in the British legal landscape.

For our lawyers, it’s not merely enough to trouser wheelbarrows full of cash every month; they’d like some recognition too, please. A cheap statuette to keep in the lobby or to line the window sills of their corner offices. Something to wave at clients as proof that they really are the most awesome at negotiating sales purchase agreements.

And where there are awards, there are awards ceremonies. What essentially started as a ruse by impecunious publications to raise a bit of hard cash seems to have become an industry in its own right. Lawyers are charged thousands of pounds for a table, a dry husk of meat, and a lackluster comedian — all for the so-called prestige of winning an award that almost invariably seems to have been allocated on an entirely random basis.

RollOnFriday was privileged to have been invited to one such ceremony last week, The Lawyer Awards 2011, run by one of country’s most long-running legal publications….

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