Sunday, 29 January 2012

Francesca Kaye



Francesca Kaye is a woman with a lot of very challenging things to say about reform of the UK's litigation system.  And being head of commercial litigation at 'Contemporary London' firm Russell-Cooke, not to mention Vice President of the London Solicitors Litigation Association (LSLA), she certainly knows how to put a strong argument across. Lord Justice Jackson has been listening carefully to what she has to say.

"The trouble with the present round of reforms" she says, "is that really they are focussed on only one half of the issue - ie the recoverability of litigation costs, whereas equally pressing is the need to reduce inefficiencies and excessive costs inherent in the court process itself.  IT infrastructure is particularly key here for example - and to be frank, Government rhetoric about the progress of computerisation in our courts is at best hollow.  The Jackson Review has been our one big chance to focus minds on litigation reform, reduce costs and really improve access to justice - a very real and pressing issue in my view - and the opportunity is in danger of being wasted."
  
So the right solution to the wrong problem?

"I do think the reforms hit smaller law firms and their clients unduly hard, and impact very little on the large firms and businesses that are much better positioned to afford them. If the cost-cutting is going to focus pretty much exclusively on lawyers' fees, rather than savings that could be made in the court system or process itself, this seems particularly unfair.

"The UK has a very privileged position in being the world's favourite centre for international litigation. Our system is more certain, transparent, our judges more consistent and their judgments more easily enforced than arguably anywhere in the world.  Yes of course we need to move with the times, to evolve, and as we do this we need to make the right judgements (with an 'e'!) to be sure of maintaining our lead position in the market for international litigation, without adversely affecting access to justice for all. It's critical to get these points right." 

Well, with Francesca and the LSLA focussing minds on the right issues, I'm confident we will.

***
An unusual degree of emotion was displayed this week by the normally very dispassionate BBC News 24 presenter Chris Eakin this Thursday, as he talked through the next day's broadsheet headlines with guest David Davies. He couldn't quite believe that hardly any of the papers were choosing to lead with the story about Royal Bank of Scotland Chief Exec Stephen Hester's controversial £963,000 bonus on their front pages, singling out The Mirror and The Times in  particular. Not usually one to express a personal opinion on the news, his transparent exasperation rather gave him away.

The debate quite rightly rages on, demanding why the Government allowed the bonus to be paid given British taxpayers own 84% of the bank's shares. But we don't expect our newsreaders to show quite such a degree of passion.  This controversial decision clearly stirs up a lot of emotion. I wonder why...?

***
Excited about V&A's new exhibition: Hollywood Costumefive years in the making and now scheduled to open later this year. The exhibit will display over 100 of the most iconic costumes in film, from Audrey Hepburn's little black dress from Breakfast at Tiffany's, to Judy Garland's gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz. Curator and Hollywood costumier Deborah Nadoolman Landis was interviewed on Radio 4 this week, talking about the exhibits and her own work.  She is probably most famous for the costumes she created in Raiders of the Lost Ark, in Michael Jackson's Thriller and also in The Blues Brothers.  On this last point, laughed out loud to hear her comment that she was "...proud to be the brains behind the most popular budget fancy dress costume in the entire world!"

The exhibition runs from 20 October 2012 until 27 January 2013. To book tickets now, click here.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Andrea Carta Mantiglia

Italian lawyers have such an elegant way of doing business - well, at least the Italian lawyers I know, at 'continental elite' firm Bonelli Erede Pappalardo.  I have blogged in these page before about conversations with the firm's senior partner, Renaissance Man Alberto Saravalle.  This week I caught up with his colleague and fellow Board member, Milan-based corporate partner Andrea Carta Mantiglia, to chat over the firm's strategy and plans for 2012.

Andrea talked to me in detail about the firm's newly announced three-pillar strategy: to promote its leading role on the international stage - BEP advised for example on Prada's Hong Kong listing last year, on the high-profile Bulgari / Louis Vuitton share swap, its private equity team has just this week been short-listed for the coveted IFLR Europe Award and Andrea talked me through some of the firm's high-profile work in China and India; the Second pillar in the strategy is to focus on digging deep into what clients really want from their lawyers, taking an increasingly innovative and entrepreneurial approach to delivering this, social media playing a key role here for example; and third - and this is the element I find so elegant - to underline the firm's 'institutional' role as part of the very fabric of Italian life, interacting with government, publishing academic or public interest papers and contributing to the arts and wider Italian society.

In conversation Andrea told me:
"We have a significant heritage as a firm, and we are rightly proud of that, but those leading the firm today are thinking about the legacy we will leave tomorrow."

Takes the UK's approach to Corporate Social Responsibility to a whole new level.  Something here for other European firms to think about...

***
Most entertaining moment of the week has to be Ian Hislop's fearless report to the Leveson Inquiry on media ethics.  We all know his view - that more statutory regulation of the media is not necessary, the point being that the activity that has most shocked everyone in this sorry saga - phone tapping, policemen taking money - is already well and truly illegal.  But the way he chose to illustrate his arguments was absolutely choice.

Classic quotes include: "A reasonable editor would not have thought 'I must hack into a murdered girl's phone', or 'I must run a story about someone about whom there appears to be no evidence and say he's a murderer'."

On Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond"The person who didn't understand what ethics was, was Mr Desmond. You shouldn't use that as a rule of thumb for anyone else."

On ex Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan: "Piers' memory is quite selective. He is capable of remembering things that didn't happen... perhaps his diaries weren't written contemporaneously: there are a number of glaring errors. He has tea with the wrong prime minister for instance."
Brilliant!  If you missed the interview on the day, you can view it here.

***
Entertainment of a very different type came in the form of Hollywood's Golden Globes Film & TV awards this week, with Britain turning in a stellar performance.  Awards abounded for Downton Abbey, British born Kate Winslet won a best actress award for her role in Mildred Pierce, as did Meryl Streep for her portrayal of a British icon in The Iron Lady, and the Hollywood event itself was hosted by our very own Ricky Gervais.  (You can check out the gowns here.)

David Cameron has been 'encouraging' the British film industry to focus on blockbusters, which apart from them being very hard to spot before box offices open, is in my view a sure way to kill off innovation and creativity in new forms of film-making and story-telling.  What the Brits do best is the quirky and the nuanced, as these awards attest.  Leave it to the creatives and keep the politicians out.  Please!



Sunday, 15 January 2012

Tony Williams



So the Golden Age of legal services is over?  I had lunch with Tony Williams this week, formerly managing partner of Clifford Chance and worldwide managing partner of Andersen legal, now principal of Jomati Consulting, the leading international management consultancy specialising in the legal profession.  Well, we all knew 2012 was going to be another challenging year, but it's sobering to hear Tony's thoughts on how the profession is unlikely ever to return to the levels enjoyed in the 'Golden Age', even come the recovery.

Tony talked to me about a report Jomati is due to publish later this month. After the Golden Age : The New Legal Era.  Here he defines the Golden Age as the period from the mid-1980s up to the crisis of 2008, when partner profits were typically rising by more than 10% year on year, lawyer fee rates were going up regularly without being questioned by clients and firms were rarely challenged about what they billed and how.  Of course this all changed with the crunch in 2008 and Tony's view is that there has since been a fundamental shift from "compliant client to active and questioning client" that has changed the marketplace forever.

"Anyone not convinced we really are entering a new era, who still assumes we will soon roll back to where we were in 2007, needs to look at the facts.  To my mind it's clear on the evidence there's no turning back."

He cites a number of factors: first, that in-house lawyers are more sophisticated buyers of legal services, far more aware of inefficient working in their law firm suppliers and ready to challenge; second, an increasing insistence on foxed fees - the death throes of the hourly rate has of course been widely reported elsewhere - and an attitude that law firms should share more of the risk; and in addition to this pressure on fees, associates and non-legal staff continuing to demand pay rises and bonuses which firms need to fund somehow if they want to avoid losing talent to rivals; then there's the threat of competition in the guise of new forms of production, ranging from the Legal Process Outsourcers to the online document producers, also undermining fee levels at the commoditised end of the market, with a knock-on effect on mid-level work.  The list goes on...

But it's not all bad news.  Tony believes that firms prepared to grasp how the game has changed and innovate will find new, perhaps even better, ways to prosper.  In particular he believes that for many, embracing globalisation will be key to growing revenues and profits.

"Those that adapt may then consider that moving out of the Golden age was not a negative step, just the beginning of something new."

To receive a copy of After the Golden Age: The New Legal Era, the Jomati report which publishes later this month, contact tony.williams@jomati.com.

***

We love the new-look Lawyer magazine!   And what a bold move!  the weekly print edition is now devoted entirely to analysis features and comment, with breaking news the preserve of the website, www.lawyer.com.  A confident stride forward from a publication renowned for its strength in breaking news, that is prepared to face up to the changing reality of how news is consumed in the modern day and adapt accordingly. 
We love their new sections The Notebook, (where news pages used to be), Judgment Call (a litigation round-up), and a double-page spread now devoted to Opinions.  Click here for a whistle-stop tour from editor Cat Griffiths herself.
And they've been cute about what stories work best in which medium: online makes total sense for breaking news, given consumers are now used to the speed of Twitter and other more immediate news sources; and as for more in-depth stories, as Cat says, "the big issues of the day are best serviced analytically and at length - it's what print does best".
Nice One!
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Kysen's first innovation of the year is the creation of our first app: a PR reporting tool for clients on the run, who are less available for formal catch-ups on their accounts.  Created quite a flurry of excitement in our office this week.

So far we have developed our first prototype for one particular firm.  Next we will be showing it to our clients and friends asking for feedback, to see whether/how it could add something useful to other firms' accounts.

An exciting start to 2012!