Lawyers love to talk about the culture of the firm – how it sets them apart from the competition and makes them special and different from others. But unless they recite talking points, few have ever been able to define what their culture really is. And now it gets even more difficult.
Faced with guidelines to work from home for some longer time, with the likelihood that hybrid work models will become the norm even after the passage of omicron and subsequent COVID-19 variants, and with an industry where loyalty is firm fade quickly, management will have to be more creative, will have to move away from its traditional working patterns to define – or redefine – the distinctive culture of a company.
Hannah Walker explains this in more detail in his story on the impact on the culture of work at home. Law firms, she writes, often use culture as a selling point, but the backbone of remote working not only makes it harder to define their culture, but it also disrupts their retention and hiring capabilities. Bonds are eroding and partners fear departures will only increase, as lawyers at all levels make decisions about where to work based simply on salary.
And the culture of a company is not easy. Patrick Smith wrote that omicron has exacerbated cultural divisions within law firms. Law firms, lawyers, and the professionals who make up them have been ubiquitous when it comes to the future of work. And the latest wave of COVID-19 is amplifying divisions, not only between businesses, but also within businesses. “Within the same company, some people question the need for hand sanitizers and masks while others are strongly opposed to even entering the office,” the group’s legal consultant told Smith. Zeughauser, Kent Zimmermann.
In 2022, businesses will be grappling with many of the same issues they’ve faced for years, but those issues are now highlighted by the pandemic: the ever-growing war for talent, new hybrid forms of working, a quality of life review, a focus on mental health and improving law firms’ track record on diversity and inclusion. You can read how the law firms of Europe at Australia at Canada intend to address some of these challenges in the coming year.
But the lack of diversity is a problem that most companies have failed to address – a point made in the Varsha Patel story about a Black lawyer who quit her cushy job in London to move with her family to Trinidad and Tobago, where she now practices. It was motivated by the lack of progress on diversity in the UK legal sector, she said, noting that the profession “doesn’t know how to deal with diversity”, choosing instead to “symbolize it and promote it. ignore”. “The way the law is structured in London is designed for white males,” she said in a scathing rebuke from the legal industry, which may well apply to legal markets elsewhere in the world.
Part of the culture of most firms is to hire experienced lawyers who can take on the job they expect and a lot has happened in the past week in Europe. Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson opened an office in Brussels, its second in the EU, allowing the company to better manage the expected increase in international competition and antitrust activity. Ashurst has recruited a team of three lawyers from Linklaters to strengthen its practice of world markets in Paris. Norton Rose Fulbright strengthens its French and EU regulatory team in Paris with a financial services partner, as part of a growing trend among international companies to strengthen their strength on the continent after Brexit. Of them Dentons senior partners separate to form their own arbitration firm in Paris, joining a recent trend in the establishment of dispute resolution shops by veterans of the great law. In Brussels, Covington & Burling has hired former EU trade chief for its public policy branch. And Osborne Clarke has recruited four partners in its European offices—A data protection and privacy specialist in the Netherlands, a tax specialist in Italy, a real estate partner in Germany and a financial services, fintech and crypto-assets specialist in Paris.
Somewhere else, Hogan Lovells and Baker Botts both launched 2022 by poaching project funding partners with extensive experience in Latin America as the region faces urgent infrastructure needs. Meanwhile, a Canadian law firm McCarthy Tétrault Hires Ontario Securities Commission Vice-Chair As Partner In Its Litigation Group and the newly created position of Head of Securities Litigation.
It should be noted that litigation can be on the rise around the world and law firms with the expertise to advise their clients to avoid disputes, or at least prevail if they arise, will benefit. According to a report by Baker McKenzie, the legal and risk managers of large global companies are not convinced they are ready for litigation this year, as regulatory pressures continue to intensify globally. We have already seen companies strengthen their litigation and regulatory practices. There will probably be more.
All this competition for talent can prove to be a driving force for change in an industry that has long resisted change or embraced it so gradually that it has been barely discernible. In a thoughtful and insightful analysis that addresses one of the main components of law firm culture, Gina Passarella Cipriani, editor-in-chief of The American Lawyer and all of ALM’s global legal brands, writes that never before has talent had such an influence on law firm operations, pushing them to change their business models and strategic decisions more than ever on behalf of their clients. The question is, will companies finally find meaningful ways to change their models to better support talent, or will they just spend more money on the problem? I invite you to read his article here.
So is 2020 the year in which law firms will define themselves? The word “culture” comes from Latin culture, sense “growth and culture. The verb “to cultivate” comes from the same root—culture-“tender.” The word has its origins in agriculture, which makes it an apt metaphor. Perhaps this year the legal industry will finally “take care” of its backyard and “grow” in a meaningful way that goes beyond the bottom line.
Return to business in Asia-Pacific and cybersecurity in 2022
The Asia-Pacific region is largely concerned about the containment of COVID-19, with countries strictly limiting entry (leading tennis star Novak Djokovic is currently confined to a temporary detention center in Australia) and China and Hong Kong remain committed to a zero COVID policy. . China quarantined the city of Xi’an in a bid to control a COVID outbreak, just weeks before more than 3,600 athletes converged on Beijing for the Winter Olympics. The omicron outbreak and calls to boycott China’s human rights record clouded the atmosphere around the event.
But business continues and Hong Kong is looking to revive its initial public offering business with a number of reforms, including moves to attract special purpose acquisition companies and more “back to basics” – listings in Hong Kong by Chinese companies previously listed in New York. Jessica Seah writes that Asian avocados gearing up for a busy 2022, fueled by capital markets, private equity, global liquidity, booming technology and biotechnology. The Southeast Asian and Indian markets are expected to be particularly active this year, she writes.
On the hiring front, this became evident last week as Cooley hired an excellent lawyer from Goldman Sachs in Singapore, the law firm’s leading partner in capital markets in the city-state, and Withers added a partner in Hong Kong as part of the launch of a global asset finance practice.
Lawyers expect China to continue tightening corporate data controls in the name of national security, discouraging companies from listing on foreign stock exchanges and restricting certain data practices to protect life consumer privacy, measures that will affect global law firms in the region.
And cybersecurity will also become a growing concern. China’s surveillance has extended to collecting information on foreign targets from social media sites, including Twitter and Facebook, according to The Washington Post. And The New York Times Chinese police report that they use advanced software, databases and public records to track criticism overseas.
But China is not alone. The legal community in Canada received a brutal reminder last week that cybersecurity is a very real concern. Correspondent Gail Cohen was listening to what was supposed to be a celebratory virtual press conference hosted by successful attorneys in a case against Iran that resulted in an Ontario court awarding l The equivalent of US $ 85 million to the families of six people who died when Ukraine Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down on January 8, 2020. But hackers hijacked Zoom’s press conference by releasing a vulgar video full of profanity and pornography . Zoom later said there were 14 intruders on the call.
Welcome to 2022.