Comment

Law firms, you really need some new buzzwords

By on
25

If you want to differentiate yourself don’t use the same, contrived superlatives, one future trainee argues

As Hogan Lovells’ website states: “It can be hard to tell one top law firm from another. All claim to work with prestigious clients on major international deals. All declare that they offer great training, prospects and support.”

This statement accurately summarises a key problem — all the law firms are saying the same thing. Applicants are asked not to repeat website catchphrases and buzzwords on application forms, but why are firms’ graduate recruitment sections on their websites littered with the same, contrived superlatives?

I’ve picked out a few of the main culprits below:

Innovative

Apparently, it’s all about building the ‘law firm of the future’ now. This buzzword is highly overused and I think the plethora of awards available in this category makes it seem like every firm is innovative in some way or other now.

Firms are proud to proclaim their “innovative nature” and tell applicants that they have “innovative work processes”.

The problem is, once something has been done by a few firms, it loses its innovative magic. If a firm is going to use the dreaded innovative buzzword, they should have solid evidence to back that up. Right now, every firm is just banding it about like they’re in Silicon Valley.

Collaborative/collegiate

I guess this comes down to the working environment in the firm’s office and across offices. Is there a competitive, backstabbing Lehman Brothers culture at the firm? Or are everyone best friends and always lend a helping hand? Firms’ websites go to lengths to propagate the latter.

“Collaborative” is littered across multiple firms’ websites (see examples here, here and here). Variations include “collaborative environment” and “collegiate working style”. Some firms are especially keen to point out that they “work collaboratively across all [their] offices”. I’d be surprised if a firm’s German office refused to speak to and hated the firm’s London branch.

If the firm can back this buzzword up with initiatives like mentoring schemes or how their office is structured, then that indicates a lack of hierarchy. But this buzzword mostly just says ‘we’re nice to each other and all get along’ — not particularly helpful.

Global reach

One of my biggest bugbears from law fairs was when I would ask a trainee why they chose to work at their firm specifically and they would say something about the international reach of the firm. That could be said of about 30 other firms. Whilst some firms have more foreign offices or international capability than others in particular jurisdictions, it’s the same phrases that appear again and again: “truly global law firm”; “pre-eminent global law firm”; “leading global firm”.

Firms are very keen to emphasise their “global strength”, their “global view” their “global reach” and their “far-reaching international presence”. International reach is a big selling point for prospective applicants, and firms are right to emphasise it, but a simple map of their offices would be better than using this buzzword and its variations.

Client-focused

Firms that claim that they are “client-focused” (examples here and here) probably think they really are. The problem is, a solicitor’s primary duty is to their client. So, all solicitors and all firms could be described as client-focused.

If a firm is using the client-focused buzzword, it might be trying to imply that there is a culture of client devotion, or something like a sector focus, that makes it stand out. Maybe it relentlessly adds value to every deal it advises on. It may indeed have initiatives that allow it to give a better service to its clients. But it remains a hard fact that all firms exist to serve clients. This buzzword does nothing to help law students distinguish one firm from another.

Fraser Collingham is a University of Nottingham law graduate and future trainee.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub

25 Comments

Anonymous

And let’s not forget Legal Cheek’s favourite buzzword/religious mantra:

Diversity!

Anonymous

Diversity is a good thing.

Look at Championship Manager. Each player has their “current score” out of 100, and their “potential score” out of 100.

Player A has a current score of 72. Player B has a current score of 74. Player B is marginally better at present. Yet Player A has a potential score of 92 in 5 years’ time, whereas Player B only has a potential score of 84. To me, Player A is the better purchase.

On average, somebody who is not white will have a potential score X higher than their current score compared with somebody who is white. On average, somebody who was not privately educated will have a potential score X higher than their current score compared with somebody who is white. The same can be said for all candidates who come from some sort of background that, to date, will have disadvantaged them in education and in the CV-building process.

You should factor that in, to a small extent.

Cherno Samba

Please don’t mention this game.

Tonton Zola Moukoko

Why not?

To Madeira

You know why, bro.

Anonymous

PA goes up to 200

Anonymous

WITM8

Anonymous

This sort of meaningless jargon is also often referred to as CMM, which stands for Corporate Mental Masturbation.

Frustrated Writer

The annual Legal Cheek law blogging conference was a big day in the Legal Cheek diary. Alex had spent months preparing, and had even bought himself a new suit. Hosting this event was his Oscars, and no one would take the limelight from him. He had been up late, as usual, the night before, regaling anyone who would listen with stories of his triumph that would soon come. HE’d wished he’d gotten some sleep. It wasn’t healthy to walk straight from a club into an event like this.

Today more than ever though, despite his throbbing head and nausea, Alex was re-energised. He had been excited about finally breaking out of the drudgery and struggle of running a low level legal version of Buzz Feed, but in his heart of hearts yearned to make it a success, to shove it in the face of his erstwhile colleagues. The doubters, those who had laughed at him for cosying up to any law firm with a shiny penny would see he had made the right choice to break out on his own. He had therefore seized upon the chance to continue to run his publication and in truth needed little persuasion from Katie to take her idea.

Alex had gotten ahead of himself, and had toyed with the idea of booking a prestigious conference centre, but had quickly downsized. He had no idea that hiring the Excel Centre would cost so much, and had dropped the phone in horror when the polite lady with their booking team had told him. He had also had palpitations on hearing the cost of taking the ballroom at the Dorchester, as it would cost more than he had paid Katie and Tom since they had started working for him. So had to settle for the pokey conference room at the Premier Inn in Wembley, where he found himself locked in a side room at nervously thumbing his cue cards, flicking through his PowerPoint slides and muttering his talk under his breath. He had to admit his content was gold. All the other legal blog would be lapping up how to use the same four sentences in different ways in each article.

A loud knock interrupted Alex’s train of thought. He had been expecting this. Both Roll on Friday and Legal Week would be in attendance. He had invited them on the pretext of signing the deal for the transfer of Legal Cheek, but he had other ideas. He had hired the side room in preparation. It was small, but would fit the purposes he had in mind.

Opening the door, Alex’s eye first fell on the short, stout figure of Lisa Willis, the Legal Week editor. Behind her were Matthew Rhodes and Jamie Hamilton of Roll on Friday. Lisa looked relaxed and genial, ditching her usual power suit in favour of a fitted red dress and heals. She was carrying a smart brown leather briefcase. Matthew and Jamie were again very on message, each wearing an orange button down shirt and dark chinos. “Alex, how are you?” Lisa asked, offering her hand.

As Alex shook Lisa’s hand, Matthew nudged Jamie, whispering something in his ear that caused Jamie to let out a peel of laughter. “You’d better come in” Alex said, giving Matthew a look that would turn milk to cheese, and offering the Roll on Friday duo no greeting.

Alex ushered his visitors towards a small wooden folding table he had set out in the middle of the room. He had arranged four chairs around it, and laid out branded Premier Inn pens and paper. Whilst the other journalists sat down, Alex remained standing, facing away from them and peering pensively out of the window. This was the moment that he had been waiting for. He had to execute his plan just right for the full effect. If all went as he hoped, they would never forget this as the beginning of the end for them.

Turning back to the room, Alex put on a genial look. “Can I offer you a drink?”

Lisa was the first to respond, glancing over at an array of tea and coffees and stacked cups on a table in the corner of the room. “I’ll have a coffee if there’s one on offer”.

Alex shook his head. “Come, come, you can’t celebrate with coffee, Lisa. How about something a little stronger?” he reached down into a mini fridge on the refreshment table, producing a litre bottle of Famous Grouse he had bought from the off licence that morning.

Lisa was taken aback. “Not for me, Alex, 8:30am is a little early, even if we are celebrating”. She turned to Matthew and Jamie. “You gents go ahead though”.

Matthew was doodling on a pad, and looked up, disinterested. “Can’t sorry. Training for a triathlon. My PT, Anton, would have a head fit if I touched that, he does my bloods every week now. Just green smoothies for me”.

Jamie glanced over at Alex. “Me neither” he responded, without further explanation.

Alex tutted disdainfully. “Well, I’m the only fun one then. You lot are so boring. Glad I don’t have to work with you!” Alex chuckled. He unscrewed the bottle, gulping the brown liquid like as if he were drinking at an oasis after crawling through the desert. When he had finished, Lisa noted that the bottle had lost half its content. In many contexts that would be impressive, she reflected. In this one, it was nothing but worrying. She concluded that the stories she had heard over the years, but chose not to believe, must be true.

Alex allowed a burp to escape. “Pardon me”. He wiped his mouth with his sleeve, setting the bottle on the side table. “That’s there if you snowflakes change your minds. Let’s get down to business”.

Lisa ignored the comment, and produced three copies of a contract and a Mont Blanc fountain pen from her briefcase. The documents were smartly bound and printed on thick engrossment paper. The final page of each was carefully marked with a small yellow sticker bearing the instruction to “Sign Here”.

Lisa opened the copy on the top to the back page. “Alex, would you like to do the honours?” she asked, genially, holding out her pen.

This was the moment of truth. Alex approached the table, taking the pen from Lisa. His mind flickered briefly. Should he do it? Or should he just sign the document? This was his sliding doors moment. On one hand the path to his VW Camper, a life in the sun bleached vineyards of Tuscany, hopefully with a buxom Italian woman. On the other, a dreary Hackney business estate and sleeping on the cold floor of his mum’s garage. He instinctively knew, despite his better judgement, that he had to take the latter option. He was, notwithstanding his circumstances, a proud man.

Turning away dramatically, Alex released his belt buckle. His trousers dropped, revealing a pair of white y-fronts. Those soon joined the trousers on the floor. Alex bent over, inserting the pen in a place the sun would never shine. “Here you go Lisa, pass me the contract, I’ll sign it in this special way!” he taunted.

Lisa looked on, her face white with shock. She was paralysed. She could never have imagined the sight that would greet her. Matthew and Jamie smirked. They were disgusted too, but inwardly Matthew grudgingly admired his rival’s stunt.

“This is what I think of your deal, losers!” Alex said, turning his torso so he could face the group.

Lisa stood, shakily. She began putting the contracts in her briefcase, struggling to slide them is as her hands shook in horror. “Alex, this is so unprofessional. You know this is a one-time offer”.

Alex rose, popping the pen into his hand and replacing his underwear and trousers. “Whatever. I’ll see you in Court. And I’ll look forward to your apology” he said cheerfully.

Lisa looked back, still in disbelief. “You’re ill Alex. You need help”. She began heading towards the door.

Alex called after her. “Don’t you want your pen, Lisa?”

That pen had been her late father’s, the only thing she had kept from his estate. Her brother had taken the rest, with his new wife. But she could never use it now. She kept walking, and slammed the door after her.

The two Roll on Friday reporters moved to leave. Matthew looked Alex up and down. “We misjudged you Alex. That was some stunt. But it doesn’t mean I won’t enjoy taking you and your plagiarising website down”. He colleague left, leaving Alex alone. Alex was chuffed. Part one was over. Now to take them down publically.

Anonymous

Hi Jamie

Anonymous

Hi Charlotte

Anonymous

Brilliant Frustrated Writer!

A miserable cunt

This is your Magnum Opus, thank you.

Anonymous

Brilliant

Anonymous

Thank you! You can say that again! Its become such a cliche and I feel sick referring to these words in my application!

Anonymous

A good application will avoid them anyway.

Anonymous

A bit of the pot calling the kettle black here, from a website that uses the word “top”, “bagged”, “wannabe”, “Rookie” etc in every article…

Anonymous

Ha, exactly. Also in LC’s cringey buzzword bingo would be “City outfit”, and “Lady Hale is the Beyonce of law”.

Anonymous

Don’t blame the lawyers for this, it’s all HR’s doing.

Anonymous

As a student who is drudging his way through vacation scheme applications, I approve this article.

Getting to the interviews is knowing how to play the applications game. And if the requirement is to know a firm inside-out, then that’s pretty pathetic.

With the exception of practice areas, all corporate law firms are the same inside. Being required to differentiate on any other ground is a tad pedantic.

Thank the lord that some firms (e.g. Clifford Chance and HSF) has scrapped their tediously long applications in favour of a straight up statement about you, your skills and academics – which provide more genuine grounds as to why you would want to recruit someone.

Angela

If another law firm says that it’s recent hire adds “strength and depth” to its practice, I may lose my mind.

Bulbs

Irwin Mitchell has a few buzzwords: ‘we need some work’

Addleshaws has some buzzwords: ‘why don’t people realise we’re the best law firm like ever’

DWF has some buzzwords: ‘why does Addleshaws think it’s the best law firm ever when we are, everyone has heard of us and that’s not including people calling us asking when our next sofa sale is on’

Bulbs

Top bantz!!!

Irwin Mitchell have the best custard creams. DWF can be quiet.

Addleshaws – Magic circle of the north. Everyone knows that. US firms and Scottish firms won’t merge with them because Addleshaws are SO elite no other firm would be able to deal with them.

Anonymous

Addleshaws has merged with a Scottish firm

Tripunga

Well done AnG! Good old AnG for finding herself a Scottish fella.

Join the conversation

Related Stories