Last week it emerged that a British teenager had been jailed for two months for taking a photo on his cellphone from the public gallery of a courtroom. Now, I know in the U.S. you’d probably just have executed the kid, but to us effete Europeans it seems a little harsh to dish out prison time for such a minor offence.
The sentence — which drew criticism even from the right-leaning Times newspaper — follows the unusually tough terms given to those involved in the U.K.’s August riots. In one instance, a judge jailed two men for four years each for setting up Facebook pages inciting others to riot — despite the fact that neither page resulted in any rioting. In another case, a 23-year old electrical-engineering student with no previous convictions was given a six-month custodial sentence for stealing a £3.50 ($5.45) case of bottled water from a ransacked discount store in South London.
Brits are split on this new mood of authoritarianism….
Oh happy Indian man, you know this globalization trend works both ways, don't you?
Protectionism is a song as old as time. We do it, and other countries do it to us. Every country is trying to figure our how to maximize the benefits of globalization without making their own people join a frenzied “dey tuk er jerbbbs” mob.
And that’s fine. This economic competition is good for standards of living all across the world — unless, of course, it leads to nuclear war.
But sometimes the lack of global reciprocity can become maddening. Take the outsourcing of legal work. For years we’ve been talking about how entry level, “document monkey” jobs are going from junior Biglaw attorneys to cheaper workers in India and a few other countries. Ever since the American Bar Association changed its rules in 2008 and allowed American legal work to be done offshore, competition from India over low-end legal work has been a key factor for those who care about the future of Biglaw.
And yet India remains a closed legal market to U.S. and British firms. Western firms are not allowed to do legal work in India, even though Western firms and clients are free to send work to India at the cost of American jobs.
Does this mean whoever keeps an eye on the Indian legal economy is doing a far, far better job than our own American Bar Association? Sure. But it’s hardly breaking news that the ABA is ineffective.
What’s far more newsworthy is that this fundamental inequity between the two legal markets might be changing — not because the ABA is magically getting its act together, but because Indian authorities might be willing to stop being a$$holes….
It takes a while to get over squandering an empire. As our habit of placing the prefix “Great” before “Britain” suggests, we’re still not quite there yet. But deep down we know we blew it. The evidence is everywhere: from our dentists, who don’t really know what they’re doing anymore, to our universities, which are crumbling, just like our schools, hospitals, and public transport.
Somehow, though, the U.K’s legal system has avoided being dragged into this spiral of decline. Yes, we’re still good at law — so good, in fact, that London is the top destination in the world for international companies to settle disputes, and English law the most popular among international in-house counsel (40% use it, with just 14% opting for New York law). And, in spite of the relatively tiny size of the British domestic legal market, our law firms manage to give yours a run for their money, with the Magic Circle quartet of Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Freshfields and A&O outdoing most of their U.S. rivals in terms of turnover and profits.
Doubtless part of this success stems from the fact that Britain is the home of the Common Law, which, unless some joker on Wikipedia is deceiving me, was invented around the 1150s by King Henry II. And as we saw during the April nuptials between Prince William and his bride Kate, our “Ye Olde Ingland” nostalgia sells very nicely to foreigners….
At this point, the lengths companies go to in order to protect data, keep it secure, and prepare for e-discovery is old news. Data breaches — and the news coverage that usually follows — have frightened many companies into at least attempting to ratchet up data security policies. Likewise with retention practices. There have been enough e-discovery horror stories that most companies, and especially their lawyers, know they need to start prioritizing this stuff.
Strangely though, you don’t often hear much about data security within corporate boards. But it turns out that the boards of many multinational corporations with hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue are way, way behind the curve on data security.
Company boards are doing everything from printing out physical copies of thousands of pages of sensitive material, to sending unencrypted information to personal e-mail accounts, unsecured iPhones, and home computers. The Thomson Reuters report, released Wednesday, gives a harrowing account of disasters waiting to happen….
Maybe it was the hypnotic effect Pippa Middleton’s ass had on Prince Harry? Or perhaps it was simply that Chelsy Davy didn’t want to marry into the crazy old royal family? Either way, shortly after William and Kate tied the knot in April, Harry and Chelsy split up.
And what did the Zimbabwean blonde bombshell do next? She became a lawyer. Yes, last week the ex-girlfriend of Princess Diana’s youngest son started life as a trainee with top London law firm Allen & Overy.
“Let’s watch Chelsy,” the Sun newspaper crowed on Wednesday, after snapping suit-clad Davy making her way through London’s financial district to the Magic Circle giant’s office. The article, fascinatingly, went on to note that Davy “really was legally blonde.” And that was it. End of story. In fact, according to an A&O press officer I spoke with the other day, Davy starting work at the firm is “no story at all.”
Yesterday was the tenth anniversary of the day a little-known heroin addict called Russell Brand turned up for work dressed as Osama Bin Laden, and was promptly fired by his then-employer, MTV.
After some ensuing years knocking around the lower echelons of British light entertainment, Brand got himself together and landed a role presenting the VMAs — from which he launched himself into mega-stardom when he branded George W. Bush a “retarded cowboy fella.”
Now, you don’t get career paths like that in law. Having said that, I do know of a London Biglaw associate who was once asked to replace his brightly-coloured socks with a more sober pair in advance of an important client meeting, in which he performed impressively.
Please don’t interpret that as a snarky suggestion that all lawyers are boring. As legal market-watchers well know, many attorneys — especially the litigators — are often anything but. They’re just good at hiding the madness. Usually, anyway….
“Thank God” Britain didn’t join the Euro, said U.K. chancellor George Osborne last month, as the debt crisis in Greece began to spread to the much larger economies of Italy and Spain. But with the fortunes of the U.K. tightly bound to the rest of Europe (its biggest trading partner), the reality is that we’ll be hit almost as hard as our single currency-sharing neighbours if, as many expect, the crisis worsens.
Last week, as I did the rounds of the U.S. law firms in London in preparation for the commencement of these regular installments from across the pond, I asked various managing partners what European debt contagion would mean for large law firms in the U.K. And, predictably, they reeled off the standard recession line about law firms being “well placed to handle the anticipated wave of restructuring work.”
Doubtless there’s some truth to this. Indeed, Skadden and Linklaters are already riding the wave, with the pair currently advising on the merger between Greece’s second- and third-largest banks. Such are the demands of the deal that much of Skadden’s relatively small London office has apparently been required to temporarily decamp to Athens.
The worry is what happens after the restructuring is complete, with experts predicting that Eurozone sovereign debt defaults could precipitate a decade-long depression. This would be especially bad for the legal profession….
Last night we wrote about a high-profile lawsuit: 3M v. Lanny Davis. Yes, that’s right: the maker of Post-its and Scotch tape is going after Lanny J. Davis, the noted D.C. lawyer and lobbyist, along with his client, Porton Capital (a group of private investors).
It’s a strange lawsuit, but the allegations in it aren’t new. Similar suits were filed by 3M in June and July, in New York state court. (And one of them is still pending, despite the filing of an action in D.C. federal court.)
The primary parties, 3M and the Porton Group, have crossed swords before. In fact, they’re litigating against each other right now in merry olde England, before the High Court in London. In the U.K. litigation, 3M is being sued by Porton Capital and by the British government (in the form of Ploughshare Innovations, an entity owned by the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence).
According to the Wall Street Journal, Porton and Ploughshare allege that 3M failed to diligently develop the BacLite testing technology, “a product already proved and used in Europe as a cheap and quick way of detecting methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA, a hospital infection.” The reason this is so upsetting to Porton and Ploughshare is that they were contractually entitled to receive royalties from 3M’s sales of BacLite. The plaintiffs in the U.K. case claim that 3M abandoned BacLite less than a year after buying it — after botching the BacLite trials, and declaring the testing technology non-viable — “in order to protect a 3M-developed detection product known as Fastman from the less expensive rival posed by BacLite.”
Got that? Okay. Now, some updates to our prior coverage….
UPDATE (9/2/11, 9:30 AM): An update to our updates: a statement from William A. Brewer III, counsel to 3M, has been added below.
Physician, heal thyself? D.C. power broker Lanny Davis, a guru of crisis management, now has a crisis of his own to manage.
Davis has been hit with a federal lawsuit by, oddly enough, one of America’s largest corporations: 3M, the Fortune 100 company and Dow Jones Industrial Average component that’s famous for such products as Post-it Notes and Scotch tape. It’s surprising to see a mega-corporation like 3M going after a high-profile lawyer like Davis.
UPDATE (10:50 AM): Comments from Lanny Davis and his client, the Porton Group, have been added below. They point out that this is 3M’s third bite at the apple — the company previously filed two similar cases in New York state court. (The first suit was withdrawn, while the second still appears to be pending — rather strange, given the D.C. federal court filing.)
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.