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Status of City lawyers is declining as desperate firms bend to satisfy clients’ outrageous demands

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The balance of power has shifted, says top academic

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The stereotype of the corporate lawyer as the intellectual and highly paid hotshot who is respected by all is under threat, as new research by a top legal academic shows City law firms’ clients are routinely asking the impossible — and getting away with it.

An oversaturated legal market, which has already seen a host of mergers, has left desperate law firms willing to do almost anything to satisfy increasingly outrageous demands, reckons Birmingham University’s Steven Vaughan.

Three-quarters of the 53 lawyers interviewed for Vaughan’s study said they were forced to accept more challenging terms with little room for discussion, with many noting that the “balance of power had shifted” from firms to clients.

Big corporations and financial institutions were identified as the bosses in the new emerging order, which has formed largely since the 2008 financial crisis. It is defined by terms of engagement outside the control of ever more submissive law firms.

Sometimes, the study suggests, big banks are even weighing in to decide which law firms advise other parties on their deals.

The research highlights specific areas where things have changed. They include restrictions on who law firms act for — with some leading clients now barring firms from representing other companies.

Faced with the threat of losing the big client, increasingly meek partners are obediently following orders — meaning they are losing work and as a result probably have to push their junior associates even harder.

Another area is freebies. Rather than pay for tax advice, corporate clients are making firms responsible for providing this extra on a “non-negotiable” basis. Giving the advice often involves all sorts of checks on anti-corruption rules that the law firms really should be charging for. Again, this translates as longer hours for the worker bees.

Birmingham University’s study comes amid a wave of recent City law firm pay rises, as top practices battle to keep hold of associates who have become disillusioned at the long hours and stress of their jobs.

The problem seems to be getting worse, with research conducted over the summer finding that millennial lawyers are getting sick of their jobs even faster than previous generations.

10 Comments

Anonymous

Somewhat hyperbolically expressed.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Sample study of 53 of a profession > 100,000.

(12)(0)

Hooby

We’re all just killing time until Lord Harley’s trial aren’t we?

(12)(2)

Lord Harley of Bollocks

I’d love for it to be on TV. Can you imagine that oaf making his supreme court level submission of bullshit points to the SDT?

His televised parking fine advocacy was hilarious.

(6)(1)

Guru nana

Given the ‘Game of Thrones’ picture above the following just has to be said:

‘You know nothing Steve Vaughan.’

(1)(2)

Incamera

If Harley gets his way, the trial won’t be in public, never mind televised. He is applying for it to be heard in private.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

They could charge admission to the gallery. Heck, host it in the O2, that will sort legal aid for a few years!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Jog on back to Lawbytes you utter imbeciles. The finest name in law will show his bona fides and Rolls Royce off in style.

(8)(0)

Lord Lyle of the Isles

What televised parking advocacy? The last I heard it was a criminal offence to audio video record in a court in England and Wales without specific permission

(0)(1)

Anonymous

The esteemed Lord Harley made a guest appearance on Parking wars a month or so ago

(1)(0)

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