A couple of months ago I suggested that there was a host of new (and not so new) legal dramas making the world of law seem like a sexy world of cut and thrust, intrigue, mystery and satisfaction. Now it seems that the profession is taking tips from primetime television programmes in an attempt to reignite public interest and attract fresh talent to its ranks.
First I read the headline: “‘Good Wife’ legal cases are on the rise in UK as reforms prompt rise in group actions“. Not catchy enough for a tabloid newspaper, perhaps, but certainly one to attract general interest (not least given the accompanying large photograph of Julianna Margulies in her role as the title character, Alicia Florrick). As I read on, I was informed that ‘lawyers’ fear an invasion of ‘trigger-happy litigation’ from our American cousins. These big ticket class actions are soon to be made available in Britain, the article went on to say, enabling claimants to club together to bring a claim against a company or individual.
Now, correct me if I am wrong, but I suspect that the last people to complain about such actions will be us lawyers. With the continuing decline in the types of claim which attract legal aid funding (and the reducing budget), the introduction of employment tribunal fees and the general economic malaise, anything which might jump start court proceedings and provide a previously untapped stream of income will be welcomed, no? Then again, this could just be because the new series of the show has just started to air in the UK.
At the other end of the legal spectrum, we have also learned recently that Clifford Chance has introduced blind auditions for its interviewees. The press release will have us believe that this is in an attempt to neutralise any bias towards Oxbridge or the country’s leading independent schools, but this is a clear rip-off of The Voice.
In the BBC talent show, the panel, made up of Tom Jones, will.i.am, Kylie Minogue and fellow Yorkshireman Ricky Wilson (you know, the one from Kaiser Chiefs who predicted a riot long before Tottenham in 2011), get to hear a wannabe singer and decide, on voice alone, whether they have what it takes to be the next Leanne Mitchell (no, me neither). If they like what they hear, they press a button and their chair spins around so they can face their new best friend.
But the Magic Circle firm hasn’t quite grasped the whole concept. Those firms who were thinking of following Clifford Chance’s much publicised example were told that at the final assessment stage, recruiters would not be provided with information about the educational background of the candidates. In fact, “All they will have is the candidate’s name for the final assessment,” according to graduate recruitment and development manager, Laura Yeates. How many of those who made the grade were from state schools is unconfirmed, but in the first year of operation 41 different education institutions were represented across the trainee intake of 100.
Genuinely diverse workforce
I am sure that all law firm recruiters will know that it takes more than a novelty name-only interview to succeed in achieving a genuinely diverse and talent-led workforce, but this is a step in the right direction and one to be, cautiously, applauded.
So what is next? I foresee a survival of the fittest contest for struggling high street firms involving a giant ski slope and chance of winning a year’s indemnity insurance. Or what about an intervention from Mary Portas, with lessons on how to turn your vacant office space into a window dressed coffee shop, complete with ‘non-practising’ baristas? Who knows where this spin off could end up, but surely a Big Brother house packed with lawyers will be too much, even for a Channel 5 audience.
This post first appeared in the Solicitors Journal on 5 February 2014 and is reproduced with kind permission