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Laurence Simons January Newsletter 2016

Posted by: Laurence Simons 20/01/16

Why handsome lawyers might soon be out of work
Development on huge African legal reforms
China launches online platform for lawyers
Lawyer under fire: Punch and Jury
New York unifies disciplinary procedure
UK whistleblowing rules changing 




Why handsome lawyers might soon be out of work

There has long been a call for greater diversity within the legal sector, but it seems that a new section of society may be being overlooked: good-looking males. According to assistant professor Sun Young Lee of the UK’s University College London, handsome men are more likely to be rejected for competitive roles, but preferred for co-operative positions.

Published in the journal Organisational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes are the results of four experiments which proved that in competitive work environments, employers are biased towards less good looking males. Although handsome features are subconsciously seen as an indication of competence, those deciding the candidate’s fate are more likely to opt for someone they do not find threatening to their own – or others’ – future success.

Interestingly, Dr Lee and her co-authors from the University of Maryland, London Business School and INSEAD found that the same effect was not seen in pretty females as women’s attractiveness wasn’t associated with competence. This, Dr Lee believes, is because physical stereotypes interact with gender stereotypes in the business sphere.

So, how is this affecting the legal and compliance sectors? Dr Lee explains: “With more companies involving employees in recruitment processes, this important point needs attention. Awareness that hiring is affected by potential work relationships and stereotyping tendencies can help organizations improve their selection processes. For example, engaging external representatives may improve selection outcomes as outsiders are likely to provide fairer inputs. Also, if organizations make managers more accountable for their decisions, they’ll be less motivated to pursue self-interests at the expense of the company.”

So, what’s the solution? It is unlikely that every department of legal firms charged with overseeing recruitment is biased in this way but, at the most basic level, this research serves to affirm that an outside perspective can be mutually beneficial for both candidate and employer.

Why not give us a call today to find out more about our opportunities?


Development on huge African legal reforms

Arusha, Tanzania recently played host to two hundred African legal luminaries who met to discuss human rights issues as part of the second African Judicial Dialogue of the African Union. The theme for this meeting was “Connecting national and international justice”, and focused – amongst other issues – on the growing need for trans-boundary access to regional courts of law.

Not only did the conference call for judiciaries to review and relax access requirements for public interest and human rights cases, but it also recommended funding mechanisms be created for the salaries of judges and registry staff, severing them from government control.

It was also bought to the attention of the participants that allegations of at least one High Court Judge in Tanzania being appointed to the post prior to becoming a fully qualified lawyer (or even starting to read law!) were unacceptable. On top of this, other cases such as Matthew Olaleye, our June Lawyer under Fire, masquerading as a lawyer with no credentials have inspired the move towards background checks for candidates before they are able to join the judiciary.

This is all positive news for many countries across Africa and for their citizens who are gradually becoming trusting of increasingly transparent judicial systems.


China launches online platform for lawyers

China’s highest court, the Supreme People’s Court (SPC) has announced that a new online platform has been launched for lawyers. First proposed by the SPC back in March 2015 at a meeting of the National People’s Congress, the idea took off and is now a fully functioning resource for those in the legal sector.
So, what does it provide? As well as a collation of information about judicial justice and the rules of law and rights, the online portal will also serve as a hub for lawyers to file cases, submit materials, contact judges and track the progress of court proceedings. It will also store digital recordings of past cases which can be accessed by lawyers, as well as storing an index of relevant legal journals and publications.

But this is not the extent of the system’s abilities, because included within the extensive database are 21,000 law firms and more than 81,000 individual lawyers who are searchable by its users. Reactions have so far been largely positive, and the platform is predicted to serve as an invaluable tool for those within the sector, both as a learning resource and as an aid to ongoing cases.


Lawyer under fire: Punch and Jury

"I said sit down. If you want to fight, let's go out back, and I'll just beat your ass."

You have just read the infamous last words that cut short the career of John C Murphy, former judge, to a defence lawyer in his court.

Yes, seriously.

Murphy, deemed by Florida Supreme Court as unworthy to serve because of “appalling behaviour”, is now facing the prospect of a life away from – or perhaps at another kind of – bar. And all in the name of an altercation over speedy trial requests that speedily went sour.

Although some time has passed between this incident and now, a clumsy acceptance of the former terms of Murphy’s punishment – in which he totally blamed the other party – inspired the Florida Supreme Court to take the final step and boot him out of the court altogether.

The Judicial Qualifications Commission issued the following statement:

“Notwithstanding his prior judicial performance, Judge Murphy’s total lack of self-control became a national spectacle – an embarrassment not only to the judge himself but also to Florida’s judicial system.”

Presumably, Murphy’s reaction would have been that of frustration, especially as there were no defence lawyers present to take his anger out on.


New York unifies disciplinary procedure

Judge Jonathan Lippmann, New York’s former chief judge, has recently stepped down after seven years, but not before adding a new, unified disciplinary structure to his legacy. This system is a step towards eliminating regional differences in approach to attorney grievances, decreasing the possibility of disparity in what one can and cannot do. It is thought that it will make a contribution “to the fair administration of justice and the integrity of the legal profession throughout [New York].”

The old system, which included four geographically defined Appellate Division departments under its umbrella, advocated regionally different procedural rules to investigate complaints against lawyers and deal with them accordingly. However, now a common standard has been introduced, as well as other small improvements to the notification, monitoring and outcome processes.

Judge Jonathan Lippmann himself has already become a legend amongst those within the legal profession – and our Lawyer of the Month, which is one of the highest legal sector accolades. As Vincent Bonventre, a law professor at Albany Law School comments: “He really views the role as chief judge of New York’s highest court as pushing for justice and fairness and equal treatment, as opposed to just deciding cases between the parties.”


UK whistleblowing rules changing

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) have announced new rules to be added to existing legislation surrounding whistleblowers. These will aim to protect and encourage these individuals and invoke a cultural change whereby organisations are more open with their reporting of cases.

Other new additions include a “whistleblowers’ champion”, or a senior person appointed to take responsibility for overseeing the arrangements which surround each case. Additionally, there will be a requirement to present a report to the board on whistleblowing at least once a year, and the FCA must be informed if the firm loses a whistleblowing employment tribunal claim.

The importance of individuals within each sector who call out malpractice and bad behaviour is very high. In fact, the FCA’s annual report even revealed that in the financial year 2014-15 there were 1,340 cases processed containing information from whistleblowers – which is a 28% rise from the previous 12 months.

The new rules will apply to deposit-takers including banks, building societies and credit unions with assets of more than £250 million, PRA-designated investment firms, organisations within the scope of the Solvency II Directive and insurers. Despite this, voluntary compliance is being heralded as best practice.

At first glance, this may seem as though a more DIY approach to compliance is being heralded, but the demand for professionals is sure to grow as banks look for strong sector players to oversee these new processes.