Byfield Bytes: Your Monthly Digest of the biggest stories from the Business of Law – April 24

Byfield Bytes: Your Monthly Digest of the biggest stories from the Business of Law – April 24

Byfield Bytes: Your Monthly Digest of the biggest stories from the Business of Law – April 24 1200 801 Sean Cullen

Welcome to April’s edition of Byfield Bites: bringing you the biggest stories and issues impacting the business of law.

Partner promotion season is in full swing, bringing the question of gender diversity back into focus – hot off the heels of Women’s History Month. There is evidence that some firms are making serious strides here, for example, 60% of Eversheds Sutherland class of 2024 were women. As Sarah Chilton, Senior Partner at CM Murray observed last month – whilst there is “certainly no lack of women entering the profession”, it “drops significantly when entering partnership”. There is clearly a long way to go in this respect.

This month the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) came into the spotlight once again, and for none of the right reasons. It has been facing pretty much continual criticism since its introduction 2021, with low pass rates (particularly amongst less privileged demographics), and no small amount of anxiety for candidates as many firms do not permit resits. As a result, lots of people have had their training contract offers rescinded upon failure. To top it all off: Kaplan, the exam provider, incorrectly told 200 prospective lawyers that they had failed the SQE1. This, understandably, has caused a lot of emotional stress and a situation to manage for the firms that had cut training contracts on the basis of false results. Given the whole point of the SQE is to widen access to the profession, not to hinder it, the SRA will be under increasing pressure to review the system.

In other news, Justice Secretary Alex Chalk’s decision to reverse the PACCAR judgment is now facing a challenge from legal experts. This is because there is concern that the proposed bill would remove the right of claimants in past deals to challenge the amount that the funders have taken from their damages in fees. This month also saw the opening of a Ministry of Justice consultation to investigate options for a law change to make it easier for organisations to apologise in court without admitting guilt. This is because, despite the introduction of the Compensation Act (2006), organisations still fear saying sorry in court in case it ruins their case. This would have considerable implications for litigants, and their legal and communication clients, who may find that Sorry is no longer the hardest word after all.

Look ahead to May, all eyes will be on the launch of A&O Shearman on Wednesday 1st. Merger integrations can be a long, and sometimes painful, process – and the truth is, no matter how much preparation and planning, the proof will always be in the pudding. That would be the case for any law firm merger, never mind one on such a monumental scale. Expect this to dominate headlines for the foreseeable, with the opening shots seen this month as reports emerged of discontent amongst associate ranks as pay alignment kicks in (much to the dismay of the juniors on the Shearman side of the aisle).


Michael Evans

Managing Director, Byfield

Big Questions for May:

  • What sort of narrative will start to emerge about the relative performance of UK firms across different parts of the market – who are the winners and losers of 2023?
  • What will be the impact of A&O Shearman’s merger on client relations and firm culture as they navigate the integration process? How will they manage the challenges that arise and ensure a seamless transition for both clients and staff?
  • Optimism is cautiously creeping back into the transactional landscape – with inflation rates on a downward, albeit slowly, trend. Will we finally start to see signs of an upturn?
  • On the deal downside, the news of yet another departure from the FTSE with the take-private of Darktrace is more bad news for the London equities market. Is there any way back or are London’s capital markets lawyers going to have to accept that we are at the end of the road for London as one of the biggest listing venues for the foreseeable?

Post of the Month

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Lawyer quote of the month:

Travers Smith Partner, Will Normand spoke to The Lawyer about how he deals with workplace stress. On importance of prioritising employee wellbeing:

In the 20 years I have been doing this, it seems to me that the industry obsession with rising profits has resulted in an increasing homogenization of law firm models where success is solely measured by the PEP league table each year. Of course being a profitable law firm is important, I am personally incredibly ambitious and I want to do the most interesting work for leading clients. That said, I’m happy to sacrifice some profits as compared to the absolute maximum that could achieved if it means our teams are appropriately resourced, we have the opportunity to train people properly and we treat everyone with respect and in a way that is sustainable over a long period of time


Byfield Spotlight

  • In our latest blog Dina Hudson, Senior Consultant (Disputes & Investigations), dives into why aligning your litigation and communications strategies is crucial for controlling narratives, protecting reputations, and creating opportunities to reach your legal and commercial objectives.👉 Discover defensive and offensive strategies that work, and why having a communications approach prepared is essential during any dispute or investigation.Read more here:


  • In recognition of Account Director Ammaarah completing the London Marathon on Sunday, whilst serving as a pacer for Jay and Honey from EastEnders, we’ve initiated the donations on our London Legal Walk page. The funds raised are dedicated to supporting the provision of free legal advice services for those who need it most.If you’d like to donate to this year’s London Legal Walk, visit:


  • Earlier in the month we announced that Byfield would be sponsoring the 5th IFSEA International Conference on Executive & Founder Issues, in London on June 25th.Our Founder Gus Sellitto will be speaking at this year’s conference, which promises to be another exciting event packed with dynamic sessions designed to tackle the forefront challenges facing visionary business leaders, trailblazing founders, and their trusted professional advisors.For further details and to register for the event, click here 👉
  • Last week Meg and Senior Consultant Dina Hudson were joined by Mary Inman, Partner at Whistleblower Partners LLP.They discussed Whistleblower Partners LLP and the work they’re doing worldwide, as well as the legal, reputational and psychosocial risks faced by whistleblowers. They also spoke about what regulators and employers can do to ensure whistleblowers are taken seriously and remain safe when raising concerns, the SFO’s decision to compensate whistleblowers for coming forward and details of the DOJ’s new proposed whistleblower program. Listen to the episode here:
  • We announced our support of the Pro Bono Recognition List of England & Wales. The initiative is supported by The Law SocietyThe Bar Council of England and Wales and all the major pro bono organisations under the aegis of the Attorney General’s Pro Bono Committee, and is designed to shine light on the individual lawyers at firms and organisations of all sizes who are at the heart of providing pro bono across the jurisdiction. To find out more information and to register for the Pro Bono Recognition list, visit:

Things you might have missed…


  • Byfield, the leading PR agency for the legal sector, is now recruiting for Graduate Account Executives to start in September 2024. If you’re an ambitious graduate with an interest in both PR and the legal sector, send your CV and a covering letter to

  • At the start of the month, Gus Sellitto appeared on GMT: The Podcast For Globally Minded Law Firm Leaders, with hosts Robert Bata & Murray Coffey. Their discussion delved into defining reputation management for professional services firms and the complexity of reputation management in today’s global landscape. Additionally, they explored the growth of class actions in Europe in relation to the US class action system.Listen to the full episode here: