The increasing hybridity of legal roles – and in particular that of the often-overlooked professional support lawyers (PSLs), – was underlined this week when The Lawyer revealed that one of their number – Weil Gotshal’s Kate Stephenson – is heading to Kirkland & Ellis to be a partner there. It quickly became our most-read story so far this month.
No doubt this was partly down to PSLs across the land checking in to see how they too can grab a slice of the Kirkland millions, but there will have been interested parties in law firm management too. Stephenson will focus on providing support to Kirkland’s restructuring team, as well as business development, and her move is a demonstration of how knowledge and BD is becoming more integrated with ‘traditional’ fee-earning within law firms. PSLs are often women with caring responsibilities who have stepped out of frontline fee-earning for more predictable hours; if you map this development on the major investment in career retention and returner progammes (another was launched this week by the Reignite Academy, with six City firms including Macfarlanes and White & Case on board) you have the beginnings of a movement.
Back to Kirkland’s millions for a moment, this week saw the release of our feature on the Sweet Sixteen – the group of firms who we first identified a decade ago as the emerging global elite. It seems hard to remember now, but back in 2008 that was not a well-defined group.
The standout finding from our research is clear: Kirkland has gone from also-ran to mega-success story. It is a prime example of the benefits of being bold – and shows how much scope there is for dramatic movement, even among the ranks of the billion-dollar firms.
As for the UK firms in the Sweet Sixteen, litigation is the key if they want to crack the US, Catrin Griffiths observes in her leader this week. “The engine of the stratospheric domestic profits for US firms, is, ironically, the calling card for UK firms to forge high-level relationships with corporate America in a world of globalised regulation and enforcement,” she says.
We can’t leave the topic of litigation without a mention of Hogan Lovells’ landmark victory in the Court of Appeal this week.
In a highly anticipated judgment over legal privilege, the CoA ruled against the Serious Fraud Office and determined that documents shared between the Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation (ENRC) and former adviser Dechert should be protected. Fountain Court’s Bankim Thanki QC and Hogan Lovells partner Michael Roberts – both member of The Lawyer’s Hot 100 this year – was on the case for ENRC in this highly significant decision. ENRC is now gunning for Dechert: this case is far from over.