The global expansion of numerous British law firms has been one of the phenomena of recent years – but has the empire-building been something that the lawyers can hang on to and be proud of?
The Spectator’s William Cash has written that many of the top lawyers suffer from “group think” –
.. it is not just the senior members of the judiciary who are broadly supportive of the European legislature status quo. Most of the top tier ranks of the UK legal profession now suffer from ‘group-think’, because London has witnessed the emergence of a new global club of ‘international and integrated’ super law firms. Such firms often have a matrix of vested global corporate interests that are often ‘aligned’ with the pro-immigration, free-market interests of their corporate clients.
But the growth in the British-based law firms was not just the ‘Big Bang’ in 1986, but also the development of the EU.
The UK legal profession has exploded as well thanks to the EU market. Many top tier UK law firms now have international aspirations: they want to be an ‘International LLP’ law firm with offices around the world, not least in Brussels and Frankfurt. You are unlikely to build up an ‘international’ reputation as a lawyer unless you are embedded within the EU legal culture.
The firms’ development has also seen a brash new and more aggressive approach to “law” practice, with the firms becoming much more like consultancies.
Take the example of law firm Schillings, Cash says –
The Night Manager-style legal promo trailer is narrated by a sexy, no-nonsense American woman who could have walked off the set of LA Law. The promo features yachts, metropolitan skylines and ‘global citizens at play’ on the red carpet; you’d never even know it was a British firm.
The truth is that such law firms are becoming less like old law firms and more like management consultancies – Schillings say that in the future perhaps only half the firm will even be lawyers. The super law global boutiques are becoming hybrids: lobby firms with policy heads, peopled by ex-military strategists and lobby networks as much as lawyers.
The question also raised is whether today’s modern lawyer from these super firms is actually any smarter than their counterparts in decades past, or has the new law look and super-growth simply dumbed down the profession?