Why wise in-house lawyers should refocus on practicing law, fast

I’m currently working with a wide range of in-house lawyers as leaders. Some are from large and mature organisations. Others are from small rapidly growing x-techs with impressively talented young CEO/Founders. Several are from medium-sized organisations.

While I have worked with hundreds of in-house lawyers over the last 15 years I’ve never seen a more dangerous time for them, as individuals, than now. The profession is sleepwalking nakedly into the public spotlight, unprepared. They’re in for a public kicking the likes of which they’ve never experienced.

This time bomb has been ticking for some time and there are three clues that it’s about to explode:

First, The Solicitors Regulation Authority has recently launched a Thematic Risk Review into in-house lawyers. This is the regulatory equivalent of a siren with flashing red lights and a klaxon.

Why, after years of behaving as if in-house didn’t exist as a large and rapidly growing segment of the profession with unaddressed issues, has it now suddenly taken action?

What incentive does it have, suddenly, in abandoning its long-held steadfast position that a) it doesn’t interfere with the business employers of lawyers b) in-house lawyers can and should whistleblow and if they don’t then that’s not the SRA’s responsibility and c) theIr worst kept secret, that it believes that private practice is in-house’s back-stop and it is heavily regulated already? The answer lies in the two other reasons.

Second, the rule of law and the role of lawyers in upholding the rule of law is in the news and is staying stubbornly in the headlines. The furore over legal advice to oligarchs, for example, reached the floor of the House of Commons.

The high stakes legal opinion-shopping by the government on triggering Article 16 of The Northern Ireland Protocol is attracting public attention. The public know that governments have legal advisors. They are meant to be the good guys. If legal advice is publicly perceived to be shorn of its independence in matters which affect ordinary people then the public will sit up and take notice.

Third, the Post Office Scandal which involves serious questions about the behaviour of lawyers including in-house lawyers did cost lives and that story has captured the public’s attention. The Williams Inquiry into the Scandal reports at the end of this year. That report may well detonate the time bomb.

In my experience the degree to which each in-house lawyer can act with independence varies considerably depending on the context.

One said to me – unusually – that they were able to insist on an amendment to their employment contract to take account of their SRA obligations. Another, on the other hand, said that not standing up to the business in all cases had become the norm. The latter is ubiquitous.

One IHL expressed concerns about the impact on young lawyers of a culture of passivity in the profession. “If that’s what they learn as young lawyers in-house, it doesn’t augur well for the profession, does it?” they say.

The use of out-of-house opinion has also come up as a significant issue: some IHLs feel compelled to use outside counsel’s opinion when they are perfectly capable of providing advice without it. Why? The answer is that many IHLs have lost their independent voice within the business to such an extent that they feel the need for cover from outside. This is bad for them, bad for the business and bad for the future of the profession. I propose three ways in which in-house lawyers can manage these personal risks:

First, they might consider asking for an amendment to their employment contracts noting their SRA obligations.

Second they might consider asking for a reporting line to the Chair or SID not just as a protection for them but as a protection for the business.

Third they might start using the word practice more often in their work. They are regulated independent professional services firms on legs selling their services to the business for cash and soft benefits.

They practice law. They, particularly young and inexperienced in-house lawyers exposed to high reputational risks, might remind themselves and the business regularly that practicing law independently is their primary purpose.

A time will come when the people who encouraged them to be “business people first, lawyers second…business partners, not blockers and to do more for less” won’t be seen for dust.

Then, if you are an in-house lawyer, you will be on your own sunshine. And the people who will lash in the boot first will be your legal peers. Just wait and see who kicks first after The Williams Inquiry.

Better still, don’t wait.

Ciarán

I learned a hard lesson in acceptance last Saturday

I was excited last Friday. My bloods were up and nurses on the ward were talking about the possibility of my going home on Saturday or Sunday if my bloods continued to rise.

I spent Friday looking forward to packing and planning what I would do over the weekend. I looked out my window of Floor 10 Belfast City Hospital across the city to Cave Hill. The sun was shining. It looked great.

I had then been in hospital for over ten days, had 15 hours of chemotherapy and was desperate to get home. Being cooped up with no visitors was doing my head in.

When they said “possibility” I stupidly had converted that to “certainty”. So, on Saturday morning when my bloods collapsed – a not unusual occurrence after chemotherapy – I felt devastated. It was the lowest point since my diagnosis of treatable Mantle Cell Lymphoma in January. I went into a mental tailspin.

It was my daughter – who has a friend with Lymphoma – amongst others who helped me recover my mojo. They said that going home is merely a break from the year long treatment and if I accept, rather than fight, that reality then the roller coaster blood results will be easier to bear.

And they are right. I shouldn’t be allowed home until my bloods are safe. I don’t want to be at home unless I’m safe. So it follows that if I accept without resistance that I have cancer and a hard year long treatment programme but one which, fortunately for me, has usually a good prognosis then I can reduce my stress.

I have preached for years to my clients in my leadership consulting practice about The Power of Now by Eckhardt Tolle which is about a total acceptance of “the now”. It’s easier said than done. It’s time to eat my own dog food – as the marketeers say – and practice what I preach. Since Saturday I have done so and it works.

As it happens my bloods have improved and if they are still up today I can go home today. But if they’re not and I have to wait another day or two I will no doubt be hugely disappointed but not devastated. What will be will be. I’m grateful to all those helping me through this. Thank you.

Ciarán

Belfast in Election Week: a view from my hospital window

In an odd twist of fate I find myself in chemotherapy treatment in Belfast City Hospital during Election Week here in Northern Ireland. We moved here last year after 30 years in England. I’m therefore a migrant.

Conflict resolution on boards and within teams is core to my day job. I’ve practiced it for over 20 years and believe it’s about an endless pursuit for understanding of all sides, facilitating a shared purpose, a shared strategy to achieve that purpose and a shared plan to implement the strategy. To my mind there’s no other way.

As I look out of my hospital window across Belfast’s streets whose names are so familiar my hope is that we are moving closer to a shared purpose in this geography.

One purpose close to my heart is support for the HSC. I am on the receiving end of a service provided by extraordinary nurses, doctors and support staff. What is notable is the consistently high standard of service, their extraordinary work-rate and professionalism. I for one am grateful to them and I hope we find a way of increasing their funding and support. They need it.

When accepting his Nobel prize in literature three years before The Good Friday/Belfast Agreement was signed the Northern Irish poet Seamus Heaney lamented “the dolorous circumstances of my native place”. Things have moved on since then and I sense as a newcomer and an outsider a desire for sharing this extraordinary place in peace.

It is an extraordinary place. I have visited Northern Ireland for 32 years but now I live here. It’s a different experience. A friend told me NI will get under your skin. I didn’t understand at the time. Now I do. It’s the people, their inate poetry, their warmth. These people feel deeply and are not afraid to get in touch with those feelings. There is no greater quality in a community.

Ciarán Fenton

The day The First Years whistleblew on The Second Years, en masse

The second Big Event of my first year in The Mount was the day The First Years whistleblew on The Second Years, en masse. The context is important.

We were 12/13 year olds away from home for the first time at a time when boarding schools in Ireland had draconian views on contact time with home.

There was one visit from Family allowed per Term and the Terms were long: Sept-Halloween-Christmas-Easter-Summer. The Christmas-Easter Term was notorious: long, cold & miserable.

We were effectively prisoners and our captors were as much the older boys than the Brothers themselves. And many of the older boys, especially The Second Years, made our already miserable lives more miserable.

Not that everything was awful. It wasn’t. It was a time of new experiences, new school subjects and 70s pop music – the best decade for music ever.

Latin, French & Biology were new subjects to me. I was indifferent to the last two save that our French Teacher was a “woman from the town” and I think with hindsight I had a crush on her if I knew what a crush was. I craved her attention and never got it.

I didn’t have a crush on Brother X our Latin Teacher because he was a huge slightly scary man whose teaching technique was rooted in the rote system.

Amo. Amas. Amat. Amamus. Amatis. Amant. He would intone from Latin For Today Book 1. We would repeat and he would shout with not insignificant relish: again! It was for me an unforgivable torture to count the number of times he visited that repetition on us. The irony of the declension of the verb “to love” in Latin in that somewhat unloving context was lost on me. Yet I studied Latin for six years and I love the language to this day.

There were other repeated pleasurable routines: The Sunday Night Film; Letter Writing on Sunday Mornings and Burgers & Chips on Thursday Nights. We lived for them.

The Sunday Night Film was the greatest of these. An exciting oasis in the desert that was our week’s tedium. The films came in reels packed in strong brown boxes. As I would come to learn later in life they were part of the secondary distribution system: prisons, ships & schools.

A screen would be erected at the front of The Study Hall. We would push our desks together. The Tuck Shop would open early and we would buy an obscene amount of crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks.

Then Brother Y would set up the projector and set up Reel 1, the harsh strip lights would be turned off and we would lose ourselves for 90 minutes in the glorious world of The Guns of Navarone, The Good The Bad & The Ugly and The Devil Rides Out.

The spell would be broken at about ten o’clock. The harsh lights would be turned on. The last reel would be flipping loosely on the projector. We would file out usually in silence to the The Chapel for Night Prayers. Then we would ascend the cold stairs to the dormitory – bed/locker/bed/locker – and face our tormentors: The Second Years.

There were five big lads in second year who made our lives dreadful and one day in Religion Class, Brother Y – a nice man – somehow managed to get us talking about the behaviour of the Second Years towards us.

After hearing tales of woe he said: why don’t you all put their names in a hat and I’ll sort them out. That would be squealing we said. Yes he said but they wouldn’t know who. Balancing the pain of ongoing horrors with the fear of retribution we choose to whistleblow, en masse.

The impact was swift, electric and most satisfying. The following evening the Principal marched noisily to the front of The Study Hall and made a brief speech about zero tolerance for bullying. He then called out the names of The Five and asked them to stand up. He told them their parents would be called, that they may be expelled but in any event the bullying would stop. It did. Bliss.

Ciarán

Politicians: society needs you to enforce/support the independence of lawyers, urgently

The 2007 Legal Services Act is clear about the overriding duty of lawyers to act with independence in the interests of society.

Your regulators are neither enforcing nor supporting this duty. Furthermore, acting with independence is not absolutely central to the shared purpose of the legal profession as reflected in its practice and communications.

The purpose of the centrality of independence in the Act is to protect society from serious risks. This isn’t happening.

For example, some of the questions listed by Sir Wyn Williams on the website of his current Inquiry into The Post Office Scandal and the information already in the public domain about the scandal are evidence that the 555+ victims of the scandal did not enjoy the protection of some lawyers acting with independence in their regard.

Had your regulators created an environment over many years in which lawyers’ duty to act with independence was both enforced and supported then I believe the more egregious aspects of that scandal, and many other scandals, could have been avoided.

Other scandals include Carillion, RICS and Rolls Royce, to mention just three. The Global Financial Crash of 2008, one of the worst scandals of all time, occurred on the watch of thousands of lawyers within scores of financial institutions across the globe. Might there have been a different outcome if the regulations on independence had been rigorously enforced and supported at that time?

What can you do? No new legislation is required. It’s already in the Act. It’s not a cultural issue. It’s a regulatory issue. You must insist that The Solicitors Regulation Authority enforce and support the duty of lawyers to act with independence in the interests of society, in accordance with the 2007 Act without delay and if it fails to do so you must sanction it.

If not now, when?

Ciarán

I fought two fist fights in First Year. I’ll never forget the second one…

And so it came to pass, as explained earlier, how in September 1972 I stopped being a schoolboy and became a boy with a vocation who, potentially, wished to be a Patrician Brother “for life” in what was known as The Mount – a special boarding school or Juniorate designed to feed boys into the senior system for the religious life. I had turned 12.

I was ill prepared for that first year. I was a full year younger than my classmates which is another story. I had short hair, a straight fringe, glasses and wholly unburndened by survival skills. I was open, trusting and honest.

I was hopeless at sport. The last pick on every team and passed many a long winter’s afternoon in goal with nothing to do but look at the spire of the local church and the rooftops of the local town in distance and pine for home.

I was canny enough though to choose an English football team to follow or face total isolation. I choose Liverpool. No idea why. I think I liked the sound of the names of some of the players – Emlyn Hughes and John Toshack and the Manager, Bill Shankly.

We all sent out for Shoot! magazine and cellotaped pictures of our favourite player to the inside lid of the our last-century wooden school desks. When you opened your lid for books the other lads could see your picture. That was the point. I think. My picture was of Emlyn Hughes.

A pull-out card league table system came with Shoot! with slots for each team printed on tiny tabs. Every Sunday we would move the tabs around the card to update the table. I loved that card: the slots, the tabs – the whole system boggled my eyes with delight. I had zero interest in games in hand, who was top or bottom or in goal difference even if I knew what that was.

Because of the special nature of the school there were only 12 boys in that First Year and fewer in each succeeding year as they dropped away. Only one boy in my class went on to take Final Vows. A lovely lad. I met him recently at my Uncle’s funeral. He hadn’t changed much in 50 years. We reminisced, especially about that First Year in which three memorable incidents occurred. The first concerned the beginning and end of my boxing career.

A class of 12/13 year olds of that tiny size in a boarding school was a recipe for sustained warfare, shifting – if whimsical – loyalties and violence. In those days unresolved disputes were settled in the field behind the tennis courts. A perfect spot. High hedges blocked onlookers from road or school window.

My first fight was with a short lad with a temper. He used his fury to great strategic effect. In the middle of an hilarious conversation he would suddenly turn on one of the group and roar, red-faced: what the fuck are you laughing at four eyes? Total silence. Even bigger boys than he – that was most of us, to be fair – cowered and mollified him in these fits.

Perhaps this is what I would like to have happened or what actually happened but one day I had enough of his fuckery and called him out to the field above the tennis courts.

The words Scrap! Scrap! went through the whole school and the spirit of Lord of The Flies descended on that field as boys rushed towards it high as kites on schadenfreude.

I was big, tall and strong-ish with stone wall technique which I used to great effect in rugby – the only sport I was good at because it demanded, at that time, little skill.

I beat him easily and quickly. It was a Pyrrhic victory. The crowd weren’t pleased. It seemed an uneven match, which it was. I felt the first pangs of shame which were to dog my life. That said, he didn’t feck with me again.

The second fight was with a far superior opponent, physically. A farmer’s son used to daily manual work – lean, wiry, strong and above all, skillful. I can’t remember how it came about. I fear to think that flushed from my victory I felt I could deal with all my relationship management issues in the field above the courts.

He decked me swiftly but not before landing heavy blows to my face. The crowd were pleased and dispersed. I went to the dormitory and sat on my bed shaking. I never fought again. I had learned a fundamental lesson in dispute resolution.

The incidents were soon forgotten and we all made friends again – well, sort of – because we had to and loyalties waxed and waned as we grew a little older.

Ciarán

The word shimmy, as used softly by an NI ambulance crew member, has great power

“Are you happy to shimmy from the bed?” the ambulance crew member asked me, softly. I was being transferred recently at 4 a.m. to a nearby respiratory unit to recover from a lung tap procedure I had as part of my particular Lymphoma chemotherapy journey.

I laughed and said Yes and that I liked the word shimmy. I knew the word well, but hadn’t heard it used in this context since I had never been in this situation. Indeed it was my first time in an a ambulance.

He pronounced shimmy like a word in a poem: shim-ay? Wonderful. Heaney would have known the word.

In these circumstances he – let’s call him John – was giving me an option to get onto the stretcher trolley in my own way or be lifted by him and his colleague – say, Joe. But it was clear that I had no option but to get out of the bed and onto the trolley. My choices were around how.

It reminded me of a similar “tell don’t ask” leadership mode work I use with clients using the child’s bedtime analogy: since you’re going to bed, do you want your brown teddy or your blue teddy – (but you’re going to bed!).

But shimmy is more nuanced: you shimmy in your way using personal expression and as many teddies as you like. You do what you want to do in shifting your position.

It struck me that shimmy would be a great word to use in conflict resolution at work: how might we get the other side to shimmy to a new position on this?

So I shimmied onto the stretcher trolley, and John and Joe pushed me along miles of corridor with the ceiling lights zipping by like in the movies. I found it exhilarating after an exhausting night.

The banter started immediately. I said: any chance we could stop for a quick Guinness along the way. Now you’re talking roared John.

When they were putting my stuff in the back of the ambulance, I pointed out that if I lost the small beautiful cushion which my wife gave me for my head (more helpful than I would have thought) that our thirty-year marriage would be in danger. They laughed and promised to help me not lose it.

John and Joe agreed on a speed for the short trip – I was attached to a drain box. John drove. Joe with me in the back. They were professional, skilled and kind. We all knew behind the banter I was anxious.

Emerging at the other end into the cold crisp air, they decanted me and my stuff, and as we were about to move off, Joe said: we forgot the cushion! He retrieves it.

Outside the lift, to the unit, we passed a display sign setting out the unit’s purpose statement, including the words: kindness, compassion, and respect.

Now, I’ve seen as many statements like these as I’ve had client lunches over the years. They are rarely lived. This one is. I have experienced it again and again over recent weeks. From cleaners to consultants – the people in the health service are extraordinary.

The previous night two senior doctors canceled their evening out to do my lung tap. They arrived in mufti—one wearing a fantastic chunky jumper. I’m into jumpers.

No sooner did I hear myself say that’s a cracking jumper than I could hear my daughter’s voice scolding: you wouldn’t say that to a man-doctor, Dad! I would, actually. But it was still forward of me. I was nervous.

M&S, she said, clearly not offended, and they moved to the matter at hand as if it were a Saturday DIY task. They chatted amiably; putting me at my ease. The ultrasound wasn’t working. They switched it on and off, and it leaped to life. I sat on the the side of the bed, leaning on a pillow on the bedside table. Hands clasped. As if at Mass.

A third doctor who knows me shimmed into help. He’d been on all day. Kindly, he moved to my side so we could chat. I joked that my posture was very penitential. His eyes sparkled behind his mask.

The doctor leading the procedure asked for a biro. A feckin’ biro! She said this might scratch and put an X on my side. I kid you not. When the tap was done, stuff like Guinness slops (some indeed) gushed into the drain box. It was fascinating.

Sutures done, she stepped back and hands-on-hips she declared: that was pleasing. You and me both, I thought. What a relief.

They all left. To them, I was just one of hundreds that week. But I mattered. They won’t remember me. But I’ll never forget them. I had been terrified, and they took that away. I wanted to leap into their laps and hug them all. V professional!

There is as much conflict on boards and teams in the health service as anywhere else. I have worked with them. But it’s clear that whatever their disputes, they have a shared purpose: patient care. It shows.

I wonder how we could shimmy some commercial organisations into that position using the ESG movement?

Ciarán

CEOs: three reasons you should change your GC’s reporting line, urgently

Your role is to create an environment in which the people you lead can thrive, to grow your business or organisation and to satisfy the needs of your stakeholders including society which, forget not, gives your organisation a mandate to trade in the first place.

You achieve these objectives by creating a shared organisational purpose, a shared strategy to achieve that purpose and a shared behaviour plan to implement the strategy to achieve the purpose.

Soon one aspect of that role will come under scrutiny and that is your relationship with your legal function because it is key to your board’s decision-making processes. You carry the can for decisions. And if there are serious decision-making failures, especially with societal risk implications, society and possibly the courts will hold you to account. There are three reasons why this risk should move up your list of concerns:

First, public opinion’s spotlight is swinging harshly onto the role of lawyers in corporate scandals. For example questions were raised in the House of Commons recently regarding the role of lawyers and the oligarchs. But by far the most explosive example is The Post Office Scandal which is a huge CEO story involving the legal function. It would be a productive use of your time to read Professor Richard Moorhead’s submission to The Horizon Post Office Inquiry currently under way. I’m certain, even ahead of the publication of the report, you will find much of use in avoiding decision-making failures in your organisation.

Second, public opinion is starting to move away from its tolerance of the primacy of shareholder value as the bedrock of behaviour at work. If your organisation has taken advantage of taxpayer funded COVID finance you will be expected to take society much more into account in your decision-making than previously. Your reputation risk management burden as CEO will increase. The ESG movement, with all its faults, is here to stay and adds to your burden. You are key to ESG in your organisation. You will be judged on it more than you might expect because of the changes in society.

Third, the legal profession is broken in its leadership, structure and clarity of role in society. Aided by supine regulators it has colluded with business – you – to distance itself from its primary mandate that society gave it to practice: to protect society and the rule of law by acting with independence. “The profession has been in denial about the coming storm, but the storm is now breaking…” writes Professor Robert Barrington in the current edition of The Law Society Gazette.

You should take careful note – especially its timing – that recently the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority has launched a Thematic Risk Review into the role of in-house lawyers.

Noteworthy, from your perspective, also is the SRA’s first question in their survey of in-house counsel as part of their thematic risk review: “Do you think it’s more difficult for in-house solicitors to comply with SRA rules and guidance than those in private practice?.”

Are you aware of the rules and guidance? They’re there to protect your organisation as much your GC.

Is your legal function acting with independence or is it in your pocket? If the latter, and your organisation has a serious risk event you may, personally, regret having not addressed this issue when you had the chance.

Start by changing your GC’s reporting line to your Chair or Senior Independent Director. Then help your GC create a separate internal independent unit whose role is to enable better decision-making through excellent legal counsel and process.

Then you can help create an environment in which your GC can be the best CEO of Legal they can be. They are not trained to lead.

Ciarán

Chairs: three reasons you should address your board’s relationship with in-house legal, urgently

“The chairman is responsible for leadership of the board and ensuring its effectiveness on all aspects of its role.” That’s the FRC Code definition of your role. Soon one aspect of that effectiveness will come under scrutiny and that is your leadership of the board’s relationship with your legal function because it is key to your board’s decision-making processes which is at the heart of governance.

You carry the can for governance. And if there are serious governance failures, especially with societal risk implications, society and possibly the courts will hold you to account. The are three reasons why this risk should move up your list of concerns:

First, public opinion’s spotlight is swinging harshly onto the role of lawyers in corporate scandals. For example questions were raised in the House of Commons regarding the role of lawyers and the oligarchs.

But by far the most explosive example is The Post Office Scandal which is a huge governance story involving the legal function. It would be a productive use of your time to read Professor Richard Moorhead’s submission to The Horizon Post Office Inquiry currently under way. I’m certain, even ahead of the publication of the report, you will find much of use in avoiding governance failures in your organisation.

Second, public opinion is starting to move away from its tolerance of the primacy of shareholder value as the bedrock of behaviour at work. If your organisation has taken advantage of taxpayer funded COVID finance you will be expected to take society much more into account in your decision-making than previously. Your reputation risk management burden as Chair has increased whether you like it or not. The ESG movement, with all its faults, adds to your burden. You “own” the G is ESG in your organisation. No one else.

Third, the legal profession is broken in its leadership, structure and clarity of role in society. Aided by supine regulators it has colluded with business – you – to distance itself from the mandate that society gave it to practice: to protect society and the rule of law by acting with independence. “The profession has been in denial about the coming storm, but the storm is now breaking…” writes Professor Robert Barrington in the current edition of The Law Society Gazette.

Is your legal function acting with independence in your organisation or is it in your pocket? If the latter, and your board has a serious risk event you may, personally, regret having not addressed this issue when you had the chance.

Your question to your legal function should not be how can you do more for less money but how can we help you much more to act with independence?

Ciarán

The Decline & Fall of The Lawyers’ Empire

The legal profession is a global empire. It bestrides the world like a Colossus. Nothing of substance is executed without its sign off. It’s now in decline not least because its membership believes it can’t fail.

Time was that they were right. What could go wrong with a model that connects personal profit with personal identity for a cadre of bright, brilliant if frequently insecure work alcoholics?

Down the years people huffed and puffed at conferences about disruption and big bangs and transformational change but plus ça change. There were no incentives.

Nor were there any incentives to remain faithful to the basis upon which society granted lawyers a mandate to practice law in the first instance: to protect society by acting with independence.

Why stick with that boring old Principle when everyone was encouraging you to become more commercial, do more for less and not be a feckin’ deal blocker. Business person first, lawyer second they would boast from the conference platforms.

The problem with empires is that they sustain only so long as those affected by them allow them to sustain, until their power to enforce their will is frustrated and until their hubris peaks at a point when they don’t know what they don’t know, or care.

All three of these factors are now present for The Lawyers’ Empire: ordinary people are getting fed up with them; the Empire lacks the leadership to enforce its will and it remains largely disinterested in issues not billable by the hour. Especially soft issues.

For example in the UK, the behaviour of lawyers in relation to The Post Office Scandal and other corporate scandals and in relation to law firm behaviour towards journalists regarding the oligarchs issue is cutting through to public awareness, has been raised in Parliament and is not going away.

At a time when lawyers need strong leadership as a group they have no one of substance to follow largely because they don’t like to be led and of course leadership skills are not billable by the hour.

Meanwhile they possess no instinctive grammar to analyse the soft issues underpinning the significant shifts in societal behaviour: the impact of the pandemic on ROI capitalism, the growth of ESG thinking and the changing value systems of young people.

Moreover the leadership skills lacking within The Lawyers’ Empire are abundant amongst those grappling with emerging soft issues. Why? Because they understand soft.

So lawyers should prepare for a brutal end to their Empire. Brutal because they won’t be prepared for it and nothing freaks a lawyer more than a surprise.

Prepare to see household law firm brand names tumble; some GCs severely criticised and the current practice of commercial law challenged to its core.

It will happen soon. Non-lawyers, politicians and public activists will drive the revolution. Then they will find people to run the time honoured change process that really does work: celebrate and promote the small number of lawyers who have seen the light; ignore or prosecute in the courts the thugs of the legal profession and then they will attend to the hardest task of all: wooing those lawyers sitting on the fence off that fence. And these fence-sitters are numerous. As ever.

Then lawyers will go back to practicing law primarily to protect society, the rule of law and the administration of justice and they will do so whilst acting with complete independence.

Then we won’t care how much money they make.

Ciarán