Welcome to the October edition of Byfield Bytes, your monthly update on the biggest stories and issues impacting the business of law.
We have to start with the biggest legal story of the year – after months of suspense, partners at A&O and Shearman voted overwhelmingly in favour of the merger, with over 99% of votes in support of the union. With a combined annual revenue of around $3.5 billion and nearly 4,000 lawyers, the new firm will be a transatlantic legal powerhouse. The merger is scheduled to be officially completed by May next year.
Speaking of global giants, KPMG announced that its legal arm hit £100 million in revenue, showing that there is a growing demand for its services and that KMPG is a real source of competition for law firms, particularly for outsourcing and tech instructions. In other Big Four news, a survey from PwC revealed that the combination of inflation and increased overhead expenses, exacerbated by a decrease in billable hours, is a major source of concern for law firms. Despite these challenges, there are reasons to be optimistic, as a number of big firms have been actively hiring big transactional lawyers, particularly in London.
This month, Legal Cheek reported that legal sector professionals are increasingly calling mental health hotlines. Law firm leaders are worried and are looking for strategies to address what has become a major issue. In this context, a piece in The Lawyer sheds light on Lewis Silkin’s kindness code and how it has made a real difference for people in the firm. Will other firms follow Lewis Silkin’s example and attempt to improve work life balance in 2024?
The Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) released the latest edition of its Social Mobility Employer Index this week – ranking employers by the efforts to improve socio-economic diversity. Over half of the top firms represented were law firms, as reported here in City AM. Browne Jacobson was the top-ranked law firm, for the third consecutive year – with good showings for the Magic and Silver Circle, and BCLP entering the Top Ten. Clifford Chance also announced that it is partnering with Urban Lawyers on a legal education project. The initiative aims to equip young musicians, particularly rappers, with the legal knowledge they need to navigate music contracts. This is part of a growing trend among firms to launch social mobility and D&I schemes as they try to meet ESG targets and attract young talent.
Finally, the Bar Standards Board has said it will issue new social media guidance for barristers, after receiving 102 reports in the last year involving the online behaviour of 41 barristers. The BSB says the guidelines will be based on the manner in which barristers express themselves, rather than on the substance of their ideas. Regardless, this announcement has been met with mixed opinions, with some welcoming the BSB’s intervention and others questioning the regulator’s right to decide what is acceptable on social media platforms.
Big Questions for November:
- How can firms best manage their stakeholders and communications amid major geopolitical crises?
- The UK just held an AI Summit, what ethical, regulatory and moral considerations should firms looking to adopt the technology think about?
- Pro Bono Week starts from 6th November, how can firms better showcase their pro bono work or get more involved?
- Billing season is upon us for US firms, how can communications/PR teams encourage partners to take part in brand-building activities whilst they are stressed and busy?
- Ahead of Christmas parties, how should firms plan their communications in case things go wrong?
Social Media Post of the month:
MIROVIA on LinkedIn – full post here.
Lawyer quote of the month:
Cyrus Benson, co-chair of Gibson Dunn’s International Arbitration Practice Group, on the news that the Commercial Court set aside an $11 billion arbitration award in favour of P&ID, a company that had sued Nigeria for breaching a gas processing contract:
“Mr Justice Knowles described the Tribunal in the Nigeria case as having taken a ‘traditional’ approach, which perhaps may be contrasted by a more ‘interventionist’ one designed to flesh out and address issues the party in question is not itself addressing. What approach to take may depend at least in part on the legal seat of the arbitration, the rules pursuant to which the arbitration is brought and related matters beyond an individual arbitrator’s disposition. But it is a situation that can arise in cases that are less colourful than the Nigeria case in that there are often innocent explanations for party conduct that nonetheless create unfairness.”
- Byfield continued to grow this month with Dina Hudson returning to the team from Portland. Dina joins as a Senior Consultant in Litigation Communications and will focus on expanding Byfield’s disputes and investigations practice amid a buoyant market and numerous new instructions for our agency.
- Members of the Byfield team attended the International Bar Association Conference in Paris this week. The IBA is the leading conference for the world’s legal professionals to meet, share knowledge, build contacts, develop their business, and maybe even blow off some steam. Gus Sellitto, Michael Evans, Dina Hudson, Méganne Tillay, Hattie Luntand Natalia Mesa Koch were all in Paris for the event. Get in touch with them, or reach us on email@example.com for more info!
- Members of the Byfield team had the privilege of attending this year’s Law Firm Marketing Summit where they were able to network and discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the legal industry, as well as attend some insightful talks and workshops. Joint Managing Director, Michael Evans hosted a crisis management workshop on the day. Michael was accompanied by Jonathan Ames, Daniela Conte from Gibson Dunn and Vanessa Montero from Hogan Lovells who, alongside the audience, were able to take part in some interesting discussions including current and emerging reputational risks such as ESG/greenwashing, major conduct issues and cyber incidents/data breaches.
- Founder Gus Sellitto provided his thoughts on law firms offering PR services after Schillings announced it will set up its own public relations firm in Law360’s latest edition to the Expert Analysis series. The article can be found on the Byfield site here.
Here’s a few bits you might have missed…
- Associate Director Bethaney Durkin and Joint Managing Director Michael Evans joined forces in a blog post earlier this month where they discussed why it’s critical to get your M&A communications strategy right. Read the piece here.
- In our first October Episode of Counsel Culture, Meg was joined by Joint Managing Director Michael Evans where they discussed the news that Maria Rooney’s menopause case would be returning to the Employment Tribunal, Axiom Ince’s closure and more.
- I featured in a couple of episodes this month where Meg and I discussed a wide range of topics including the latest from party conference season and expected impacts on the legal industry, Clifford Chance’s project advising UK rappers on their legal contracts alongside Urban Lawyers, the A&O Shearman merger and KPMG’s legal arm reaching £100 million in revenues.