If you’re new to London, like Japan’s Anderson Mori, allow me to fill you in on a few things.
By Monday lunchtime the U.K. should know who its next leader will be. With Liz Truss comfortably leading the polls, we’re expecting a lukewarm reception from London’s legal sphere, given the overwhelming preference for her challenger, Rishi Sunak—who himself is hardly beyond reproach, as per a Law.com poll from last month.
For years now, the politician-lawyer dynamic has been disharmonious, especially since some MPs accused lawyers of impeding Brexit progress, and Truss recently suggesting that lawyers were to blame for slowing Russia sanctions. And this is to say nothing of the criminal barristers strikes going on right now, with lawyers out in numbers battling the government over pay, the Criminal Bar Association calling the industry “recklessly underfunded”, and Conservative ministers hitting back saying striking is an “irresponsible decision”.
But in spite of these tensions, as the consequences of Brexit form the backdrop to the cost of living crisis, impending recession, and any number of other convolutions giving dealmakers pause, London it seems is still a draw for people who want to do business.
In 2018, one of Japan’s Big 4 law firms, Nishimura & Asahi, snubbed London by launching its first European presence in Germany, with insiders later indicating that Brexit was indeed a factor. But now, fellow Japanese Big 4 player Anderson Mori is complicating the narrative by today launching an office in London.
And why wouldn’t they? Just look at how thronging the London market is—with recruitment specialists Edwards Gibson reporting that there were 60 partner moves in July and August alone, the most partner hires by law firms in the capital since 2017. Jack Womack has the story.
But the consultancy did call it “passing strange” that partner recruitment remains at “near record levels”, despite an uncertain economic and political backdrop.
Beside the more obvious market and economic challenges of establishing oneself in London, as they settle in, Anderson Mori’s lawyers might do well to familiarise themselves with the people they might soon find sitting across the deal table. Maybe this piece from Jack on lawyers discussing their favourite summer reads could shed some light.
To give you a flavour, Travers Smith’s senior partner Kathleen Russ has been reading Love Marriage by Monica Ali, while Quinn Emanuel’s London senior partner Richard East is getting stuck into the ‘Nordic Noir’ detective novels of Mari Jungstedt and Arnaldur Indrioason.
But, people of Anderson Mori, be warned. The regulatory atmosphere in London is changing, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has acquired some teeth, and solicitors are being watched closely as self-reporting requirements become more stringent.
Hannah Walker had the story on a former Reed Smith partner being referred to London’s Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for allegedly altering client billing documents ahead of being questioned about personal expenses.
The SRA decided to refer George Panagopoulos—formerly Reed Smith’s Athens office managing partner—after he instructed his secretary to bill three of Reed Smith’s clients for personal expenses incurred by him relating to a trip to London with his daughter in October 2019, according to the prosecution document.
Meanwhile, any overseas people coming to Britain also need to know that there is no clear cut cultural approach on the topic of hybrid working. Most law firms are requiring their people to go into the office about 50% of the time, but there are rising fears that lawyers on the more junior end of the scale are not getting the necessary exposure needed to prepare them for their careers ahead.
One senior partner at a U.S. firm in London, told Habiba Cullen-Jafar: “As senior lawyers, we have a responsibility to ensure that the next generation of lawyers is fully equipped, and I personally do not think that by continuing to allow people to work remotely, you will get that.”
And yet, as legal recruiter Siobhan Lewington explains: “I don’t think anyone wants to put in strict [office requirement] policies because they know currently that will deter people from wanting to work at their firm.”
Welcome to London.