It’s amazing what you can stumble across in the rush hour at one of London’s busiest railway stations
In a move reminiscent of Charlton Heston’s stranded astronaut character being banged up by malevolent simians in the original “Planet of the Apes”, a lawyer has spent the morning caged at London’s Liverpool Street Station.
Legal Cheek has learnt that the lawyer in question is ex-Berwin Leighton Paisner City solicitor William Robins, who is now chief operations officer of virtual law firm Keystone.
Keystone — which was launched in 2002 and granted alternative business structure-status 11 years later — is apparently looking to kick-off a recruitment drive.
And it clearly reckons that sending the message to lawyers that their current firms lock them in metaphorical cages of obsolete and shackled working practices is the way to win their hearts.
Robins — who qualified as a corporate lawyer in 2003 — spent a portion of the morning soaking up the bemused stares of harassed commuters, most of whom were doubtless curious as to why anyone would want to spend more time at Liverpool Station than absolutely necessary. Although, apparently one lost punter did stop to ask him for directions.
Our spies tell us that the lawyer scarpered after about an hour — presumably to get on with his high-powered day job — and was replaced by an actor.
Nonetheless, Robins (pictured below) wins pluck points for stepping into such a public promotion in the first place. What was the point?
Speaking to Legal Cheek through the bars of his traditional, leather-bound lawyer office cell, he perhaps ill-advisedly — considering last week’s election result — recalled the words of Labour leader Ed Miliband.
“There is a squeezed middle of high performing partners who are not happy at their current firm, but who are trapped by billing targets, long hours and the eat-at-your-desk-culture,” he said.
“We want to reach out to those lawyers, we want to set them free, and if the only few seconds they have to think about their career is on the walk from the station to the office, then that’s where we need to be.”
Robins maintained that while Keystone — which currently has some 160 lawyers on its books — has ambitious recruitment targets, the practice is not simply looking to bulk up its headcount.
“It’s not just about numbers,” Robins said, rattling his grub pan against the iron bars. “The real focus is quality. We want to be the first choice for all entrepreneurial partners who don’t want to jump out of the frying pan of their current firm and into the fire of another traditional firm and by doing so we can ensure every Keystone lawyer is a highly respected practitioner.”
The question for Keystone — which prefers to be described as a “dispersed” rather than virtual firm — is whether it can convince lawyers that working remotely is actually more attractive than slogging into an office.
The reality is that while City firms may cage their lawyers, they do so with gilded bars, offering all the mod cons imaginable in glass tower blocks, complete with technical and administrative support on tap.
And despite the office politics and corporate grind, some might prefer that to chatting to clients from their sitting rooms kitted out in nothing but a pair of pants and dressing gown all day.