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Laurence Simons Newsletter March 2016

Posted by: Laurence Simons 01/03/16

Lawyer under fire: The naked truth
The underutilization of IT is making lawyers workloads unmanageable
 ‘I could do that’ - majority of Britons think they’d make a great judge
Bankrupt lawyer demands refund on sexual harassment payment
Legal recruitment – the push and pull
Behind the façade - work related anxiety in the legal profession
Insider trading row exposes growing concerns over governance in emerging markets

Lawyer under fire: The naked truth 

If there is one thing that you don’t expect a prominent judge to be photographed doing its raking a bowls pitch naked!

A well-known New Zealand judge recently raised some eyebrows when photos of him posing in the garden of a nudist club were posted as promotional material on the venue’s website. The pictures, which were reportedly used without the judge’s knowledge, include one of the renowned professional posing naked while raking a petanque court.

Chief District Court Judge Jan-Marie Doogue, said that although the photos had attracted widespread public scrutiny they did not breach the judicial code of conduct as the recommendations made within it are guidelines, as opposed to ‘rules’.

Pineglades Naturist Club insisted that although the judge was not aware that the pictures been published on the website, he had given his permission for the club to use any photos taken on the property when signing his membership agreement. The photos which feature full frontal nudity, have now been removed from the website, and the incident ‘covered up’!

We think there is an important lesson to be learnt here about always reading the fine print.


The underutilization of IT is making lawyers workloads unmanageable 

Lawyers will soon find themselves overwhelmed by an unmanageable workload if they fail to adapt and utilize new legal technology as the legal landscape continues to evolve in complexity.

Research from Mitratech, a provider of Enterprise Legal Management (ELM) solutions, claimed that annual spend on legal technology is only $3bn a year, even though the potential of the market is estimated at around $15bn annually.

Legal technology is expected to expand considerably throughout 2016 and over the next few years as the legal environment continues to be challenged by increased litigation and regulation. This shifting landscape will undoubtedly call for greater investment into legal technologies which will assist with workload. Though all technology sectors are expanding, governance and compliance and contracts management are predicted to be two of the fastest growing systems in terms of demand.

Developments in AI have also been gaining significant traction in in the global press. One of the most significant applications of AI in the legal sector are Smart Apps. These programmes collate vast amounts of complex information and expert analysis and use algorithms to provide answers to frequent legal challenges such as ‘what level of risk does this transaction have associated with it?’.

Although there has been a lot of concern over streamlining and automation, legal professionals stand to benefit for the increased integration of legal technologies, and definitely shouldn’t be concerned about AI making their role redundant.


‘I could do that’ - majority of Britons think they’d make a great judge

According to a recent survey from the research firm YouGov 68% of Britons think they’d make a great judge. 

If criminal court judges thought that their specialist skill was held in high esteem by the British public then unfortunately they were mistaken. According to a daily YouGov poll well over half (63%) of UK residents think they’d be a great candidate to preside over a criminal court (if they were given the proper training.)

An amazing 25% of those polled thought they’d do a pretty good job even though they’d never consider a career in the profession, as they don’t think they would find it enjoyable. 

However it would seem that the general public does empathise with the strenuous nature of the role, to which long hours and complex subject matter are inherent. 50% of people said that they thought that the decisions of judges are generally affected by how tired they are and 57% thought that their own decisions would be affected if they were in the same situation. Only 3% thought that they would be better than existing judges at fighting the fatigue and delivering more fair and consistent verdicts. 

Why don’t we let them have a whirl?


Bankrupt lawyer demands refund on sexual harassment payment


 A prominent lawyer in Oregon, USA has agreed to pay a $140,000 sexual-harassment settlement to an ex-colleague but claims that she breached a non-disclosure clause in the terms on the agreement. And they say romance is dead.

Ross Day demanded that Andrea Meyer refund him the first $2500 instalment which has already been paid. Mr Day had quietly agreed to the settlement in 2014 after the former colleague at his firm, filed a lawsuit on the grounds of sexual harassment. She alleged that he had harassed her in the workplace by attempting to engage her in inappropriate conversations about the bestselling novel ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, and sent her explicit emails under fake names.

The now bankrupt lawyer has recently filed a lawsuit against Ms Day saying that she twice violated the terms of their agreement by bringing a creditor to his bankruptcy hearing and by having spoken about the settlement before the meeting. Ms Day has responded with a subsequent law suit claiming that her debt to her is not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

How edifying to see US lawyers interacting in such a dignified and professional way.


Legal recruitment – the push and pull 

The latest CommBank Legal Market Pulse report revealed which factors make top legal professionals want to stay with, or leave, their current firms. The survey of leaders across mid and top tier law firms in Australia highlighted a number of push and pull factors for legal talent that are likely to hold true of similar legal markets across the globe.

The survey results indicated that the opportunity to work with challenging cases and clients was the chief reason they would stay with their current firm. The potential for mentoring and strong possibilities for career development were also factors that professionals considered important for retention. 

However the lawyers also highlighted a significant number of factors that would lead them to consider taking another position. The top three cited push factors closely mirrored the top three pull factors. Other reasons for legal talent heading for the door include micromanagement and a disconnection with senior staff, as well as managerial arrogance and a lack of strategic direction.

Many of the push factors appear to relate to poor relationships with management, which essentially comes down to culture and engagement. With the general consensus being that both of the aforementioned are dictated by the firm’s leadership, professionals need to ensure they create an environment in which individuals can thrive in order to retain top talent.

What push and pull factors do you consider most important?



Behind the façade - work related anxiety in the legal profession 

Lawyers are renowned for their tough exterior, but is there something specific about the nature of the profession that fosters anxiety and a sense of solitude?

Will Meyerhofer, former lawyer turned psychotherapist argues that legal professionals often work under even more pressing conditions than those in the banking sector, which is notorious for its punishing working environment. He comments that; “There is something unique about the law partnership structure, the billable hours system and the brutal competition of a law firm”.

Mr Lavin, also raises the issue of competition in the profession. On the topic of remuneration he says; “Most would feel better if they were earning half a million dollars and everyone around them earned the same or less, than if they had $1m and everyone else was on $1.6m.”

Many like Meyerhofer are adopting the argument that more needs to be done to support legal professionals and alleviate the stress of their working environment. So although intense workloads are undoubtedly a cause of stress in the legal profession, it would seem that working culture and competition in the workplace are significant contributors as well.


Insider trading row exposes growing concerns over governance in emerging markets 

Escalating tensions between fund managers and executives at one of the most high-profile conglomerates in Thailand have affirmed mounting worries over the larger issue of corporate governance in emerging Asian markets. Fund managers have vowed to freeze all investments into CP All, part of the agriculture, food and retail giant, Charoen Pokphand Group, until it takes more forthright action against three executives charged with insider trading.

The unusually public row has highlighted growing concerns over the regulatory environment in some emerging Asian markets. Critics claim that the soft financial penalties are likely to deter further investment in markets already hurt by political or economic instability.

Corporate governance is another wider issue that has been raised following the level of concern expressed by leading fund managers, with many companies in the wider Asian region still being run by their founding families.
The CP All case reports revealed that in two instances the executives were fined as little as Bt333,333 ($9,340).

The case files also failed to give any indication of how much profit was actually made as a result of the illegal trades. Critics claim that such light penalties make the risk worth taking and do nothing to deter wrong doing.

The row is testament to a growing call for stricter regulation across all Asian markets, which many argue is needed to attract the investment required for these economies to develop, and will undoubtedly increase demand for compliance professionals across the region significantly.