If you made a New Year’s resolution this year that you are finding it hard to stick to, rest assured you are not alone.
An Anglo-Australian study last year found about two thirds of people break their resolutions before the end of January. Part of the reason is that these goals are often too vague. The best way to stick to something new, the psychologists say, is setting specific goals involving times, places and people. Having the necessary infrastructure in place helps too.
If that is what is required to achieve lasting change, then the legal industry has begun 2022 with plenty of intent. From the actions of jurisdictions, to firms, to groups of lawyers across the world, the goal appears to be the same: making the necessary amendments to prepare for a new era.
New Year plans don’t get much bigger than those of the Big Four, which continue their aggressive expansion into the legal sector in almost every region. In the U.K., PwC’s board has signed off plans to double the size of its legal operation in the next three to four years. That would see it add 400 more people. Not to be outdone, EY Law is aiming to more than treble in size in the U.K. and Ireland over the next three years, its leader has said, with a hiring spree that could see it recruit an extra 800 lawyers.
But the Big Four is not the only thing that wants to grow. Even jurisdictions are looking for ways to develop and increase in influence.
Singapore has passed a law to allow, for the first time in its history, lawyers and their clients to enter into conditional fee arrangements. The city-state is modernising its disputes framework as arbitration hubs around the world compete for business. It has already allowed third party funding and now ties with London as the place most favored by global businesses to arbitrate, according to a study published in 2021 by White & Case in partnership with Queen Mary University of London. Hong Kong follows closely in third place.
A court decision in a U.S. state suggests a similar case of regions in competition. The Arizona Supreme Court has allowed alternative legal services provider Elevate and law firm ElevateNext to merge, which means the state of Arizona is for the first time in the U.S. permitting ownership of a law firm by people other than qualified lawyers. The move could well make Arizona an attractive place for certain kinds of alternative legal service provider entities. Other states such as Florida and California are mulling similar moves.
Law firms are also taking plenty of steps to prepare for the future. U.K. firm Shoosmiths has become the latest firm to open in Brussels as the legal industry gets to grips with the post-Brexit world. It joins the likes of Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, Kirkland & Ellis, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, Weil Gotshal & Manges and Spain’s Perez-Llorca in recently opening or looking to open in the Belgian capital.
In what also could relate to Brexit, Am Law 200 firm Clark Hill has merged with a four-lawyer operation in Ireland.
Linklaters, meanwhile, has launched a Dutch Supreme Court litigation practice, based in the firm’s Amsterdam office, as firms prepare for a wave of work this year.
And U.K.-listed law firm Gateley has acquired an intellectual property services firm as it continues its drive to broaden beyond purely legal.
Finally, 24 lawyers have come together in Paris to found a private equity-focused law firm in a bid to take advantage of the booming buyouts market.
So the industry is clearly preparing for plenty of activity. Like all New Year’s resolutions, the various moves might not all prove successful, but no one can doubt the legal industry’s ambition for 2022.
Mistakes and Embarrassments
If there are two things that strike fear into the heart of any lawyer they are the prospect of making a mistake, and being embarrassed in front of a judge. Here are some extreme examples of both.
Australian law firm Hall & Wilcox secured a high profile victory to allow tennis star Novak Djokovic to remain in the country and avoid having his visa cancelled amid the threat of deportation despite the firm misspelling Djokovic’s name in his Migration Act application. The world number one male tennis player’s name was in one instance spelled ‘Novak Djokavic’.
The team stayed up all night preparing and filing hundreds of pages of pages of materials in record time so a rogue spelling can be forgiven. What will be more galling for the lawyers involved is that the Australian government later revoked Djokovic’s visa for a second time.
Spare a thought too for Toronto litigator Angela Chaisson who was somewhat embarrassed in a Zoom court hearing by her pet dog. Our Canada correspondent Gail J. Cohen reported that Chaisson was making her closing arguments in a sexual assault case when the Superior Court judge noticed her dog humping in the background.
She was only mid-way through her argument but the judge still recessed the proceedings. “Cue to me having to chase the little perv down to lock her in her crate while the Court had to take a break for Court staff to compose themselves,” Chaisson wrote on Twitter.
Chaisson did end up winning her case however, despite Big Puppa’s shenanigans.
All nighters and typos may be nothing new but video gaffs are surely part of the industry’s future. And, despite the initial awkwardness, such humour is almost certainly a good thing.
Remember the “I am not a cat” incident last February? The Texas lawyer Ron Ponton’s two minutes of fame struck a chord with so many because so many of us have got stories about things going wrong on video calls.
The judge who presided over that case has seen all kinds of things go wrong, but keeping up a level of professionalism while also appreciating the humour of a situation is what keeps people’s faith in the legal system. It is actually a testament to the profession that minor mistakes and embarrassments are so rare they generate so much attention.