Hello and welcome to the Fides Weekly Update. Take a look at this week’s key trends, moves and developments in legal and compliance.
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1. Helping Partners to show that people matter: event overview and survey findings
In the weeks following the backlash from the Presidents Club scandal, BBC gender pay arguments and #MeToo campaign, our most recent panel event Helping Partners to show that people matter, in collaboration with learning and training provider byrne.dean, could not have come at a more appropriate time.
Using insight from esteemed panellists Monica Burch, Ian Gray and Rodger Parker, the event brought together partners, D&I and HR professionals from some of the UK’s largest law firms to discuss inclusion and wellbeing in the legal sector.
The discussion kicked off with facilitators Victoria Lewis and Richard Martin sharing the findings of a survey produced by Fides in conjunction with the event.
More genuine support from managers and partners was articulated as the greatest change needed to make law firms more inclusive cultures. “How do you demonstrate that you care? It is about a change in behaviour” argued Victoria. “Policy is all well and good, but the policy will not be applied unless you have people demonstrating the right behaviours”.
The recognition by firms, colleagues and individuals that it is both normal and acceptable to struggle at work was another behaviour change advocated by Richard. “There is no shame in finding it hard sometimes. The only shame is not admitting it”. The importance of this was reflected in our survey findings, which revealed less of 50% of respondents thought their partners cared about their wellbeing, with senior associates identified as being the most high risk group.
The discussion then opened up to the panel who reflected on their experiences of inclusion and wellbeing when in senior positions within their firms.
Monica Burch, Chair of The Mentoring Foundation and former Senior Partner at Addleshaw Goddard recounted a time she realised the bias choices she had made within her own litigation team when taking the team out to Christmas dinner. “Looking around the table, I realised that every member of my 10-person team was a woman. My decision, my comfort was reflecting myself back in the way I work.”
Ian Gray, Executive Partner at Eversheds Sutherland reflected on the key lessons he learned when leading the firms’ gender diversity initiative between 2010 and 2016. “We failed to engage the ‘frozen middle’ and convince them of the business impact of retaining maternity leavers” he said when considering the re-launch of the firm’s maternity policy. “One overarching point is to talk about the business benefits, because rightly or wrongly it gets people engaged.”
Finally Rodger Parker, Senior Counsel and former EMEA Managing Partner at Reed Smith, highlighted the importance of role models and the need for any policy to be “led from the top, with a clearly defined objective and sufficient upward-downward communication”. He also noted the impact of just how far the legal services industry was in the investment in the mentoring, coaching, development, training and education of their people.
Questions from the floor then opened up the discussion to address how partners could create the behaviour changes needed to create more inclusive workplaces, and the best ways firms could measure this.
Linking inclusion and wellness to partner remuneration, as well as firms collecting (and delivering) sufficient feedback were considered the greatest components in ensuring future behaviour change. “It’s about establishing values, leading from the front and then measuring them” said Ian Gray. Linking with performance management shows commitment from senior management, and secures buy in from the partnership alongside the understanding as to what they could do to increase their people management. There also needs to be greater courage by leaders and role models to call out poor behaviour, noted Monica Burch, “The leaders of those groups have to be able to have conversations with individuals about behaviour”.
We thank our panellists Monica Burch, Ian Gray and Rodger Parker, co-contributors byrne.dean and members of the audience for taking the time to make the event such a success. For further information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
2. EU declines free trade deal with City of London
The City of London’s proposal to sustain free trade in financial services has been rejected by EU officials, increasing the likelihood of restricted access for Britain’s most profitable sector.
The proposal outlines a post-Brexit agreement between Britain and the EU that would allow cross border trade in financial services on the condition that each side preserve regulatory standards in line with the best international standards, as reported by Reuters.
EU officials responded with a clear stance on this subject, affirming that no special agreement will be made that allows the City access to European markets, so long as the UK remains adamant on leaving the single market.
Following this, it seems likely that the result will be an agreement of “equivalence”. That is to say, when passporting rights are not granted, the EU can provide restricted access to certain third-country financial institutions, where such access is limited and can be revoked at any time.
Without a trade deal with the EU, it is likely we could experience an exodus of financial institutions to competitor EU hubs, such as Frankfurt and Paris, which will have a significant impact on the UK’s economy. As Britain’s biggest source of exports and tax revenue, upholding the City’s prominence in financial services is critical to a successful Brexit.
Britain currently hosts the largest number of banks globally as well as the largest commercial insurance market. Approximately six trillion euros (£5.3 trillion), or 37 percent, of Europe’s financial assets are managed in the UK capital, almost twice the amount of its nearest rival, Paris.
Along with the UK’s vulnerability concerning an equivalence agreement, British finance minister Philip Hammond argued that restricting trade will adversely affect the EU as much, if not more so, that the UK. “The risk for Europe is that if it’s not London it will be New York or Singapore,” said Hammond.
He goes on to argue that although institutions are contemplating a change in headquarters, it will be very challenging to reconstruct London’s financial centre in a different jurisdiction: “The idea that you can recreate in Frankfurt, or Paris, or Madrid, or Amsterdam, or Dublin, London’s financial centre is a fantasy – it isn’t going to happen.”
Prime Minister Theresa May has recently returned from a trade visit to China as she continues in her aims of securing post-Brexit deals with the rest of the world.
Movers & Shakers of the week:
Allen & Overy (A&O) co-head of leveraged finance Scott Zemser has left the firm after nearly two years for Mayer Brown
U.S. firm Cooley has bolstered its London corporate team with the hire of M&A partner Michal Berkner from Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom
Partners Doug Mangel, John Hockenbury, Joe Bailey and Alex Karam join Clyde & Co from US firm Shipman & Goodwin alongside five other lawyers.
Office Openings & Closings