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Dyed-in-the-Wool or Disruptive: A Look into Law Firms & In-House

In the first week of spring, IE Law students from the LLM International Business Law and the LLM Derecho Transnacional de los Negocios programs descended on London’s legal scene for IE Law School’s annual London Legal Study Trip.

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Over the course of four days, students met with lawyers from international law firms like Baker McKenzie and Clifford Chance, in-house counsel from companies like the Deutsche Bank, industry leaders from the rapidly growing sector of alternative legal services, and even had the opportunity to stroll around London’s historic neighborhoods.

While the underlying theme of the week was, of course, Brexit’s impact on the U.K.’s position as arguably the center of financial world (with a sprinkling of reminders to bring an umbrella), students were afforded the opportunity to explore London’s enormous legal market and discuss the future landscape of the global legal market with innovative and with seasoned practitioners.

As many of IE Law Students hail from civil law jurisdictions around the world, this was a great opportunity for students to learn about practicing law in the world’s oldest common-law jurisdiction.

Keep on reading to learn more about the immersive legal experience students underwent in London, as told by International Business Law students, Daniel Nicolas and Antonios Papadopoulos.

 

Day 1

Our first day in London included meetings at Addleshaw Goddard and Eversheds Sutherland and was capped off by a walking tour of London’s key legal landmarks.

Our first stop was the offices of Addleshaw Goddard LLP, where Aster Crawshaw, a Partner in the Firm’s Professional Practices Group, presented students with an overview of London’s legal market and the current trends affecting global, niche and regional law firms. This was the perfect way to begin the trip as Mr. Crawshaw’s presentation perfectly set the backdrop and tone for the week’s events.

Our next meeting was just a few blocks away at Eversheds Sutherland, where we met with young solicitors nearing the end of their two-year training contracts. They spoke about life in an international law firm and delivered helpful insights regarding the two-year training contracts, typically offered by UK firms.

After hearing from the trainees, we heard from James Batham, the firms Director of Innovation and Real Estate Litigation partner. After a brief moment in the company of Mr. Batham—and his engaging and positive attitude—it’s easy to understand why Evershed’s tapped him to lead the Firm’s efforts in innovation.

Mr. Batham focused on the innovative ways global law firms are responding to client’s pressures to reduce costs through the development of internal services tailored to provide cost-efficient and streamlined legal services to clients (which are going the way of the Dodo).

After such an inspiring talk, we ended the day with a legal walking tour. Unless you are one of those rare individuals who doesn’t enjoy spending weekends in Madrid dancing the night away with your classmates, then you probably didn’t have time before the trip to brush up on London’s incredible legal history. That’s why it is always a good idea to hire a guide… and that’s exactly what we did. After a quick lunch, we were treated to a walking tour of London’s most famous (or infamous) legal haunts.

Led by solicitor-turned-tour guide, Colin Davey, the group was steered through London’s narrow streets and regaled by Mr. Davey’s historical, lyrical prose, legal wit and wisdom, on topics that ranged from the development of the City’s early commercial and criminal courts to the story behind the UK’s bi-furcation of legal services between solicitors and barristers.

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Day 2

We started the second day of the trip with a visit to The Law Society, where we learned about qualifying as a solicitor, which provided us the perfect opportunity to resolve questions and uncertainties facing foreign lawyers seeking placement at firms in London. Our meeting was followed by a tour.

 

We then visited the offices of Lawyers on Demand (LOD), the original alternative legal service provider, that resembles a successful startup more than a law firm. Co-founders Jonathan Brenner and Simon Harper started LOD in 2007 in response to their clients’ demands for a more cost-effective approach to resolving legal problems.

Not only did we feel at home in an innovative legal environment – that reminded us of IE’s own values-, but we also witnessed how the well-known firms we visited throughout the week had recognized the paradigm shift initiated by LOD.

The last stop of the day was with the Chambers accomplished barrister Nicholas Yells, who allowed us to dig deeper into the differences between solicitors and barristers.

Owing to a beautiful afternoon, Mr. Yells graciously offered us a tour around three of the four Inns of Court (the professional associations for barristers in which all barristers in London traditionally maintained their offices, dined and often lived). Reading about barristers and their work is one thing, but actually seeing the Inns of Court, which are still occupied by some of the most notable barristers, really helped us—especially the U.S. litigator in the group—comprehend the English tradition of separating trial advocacy from corporate or transactional services provided by solicitors.

 

Day 3

Our third day in London boasted the busiest schedule of the trip, with meetings at Perez Llorca, Baker McKenzie, the Financial Times and Deutsche Bank.

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We got an early start at the London offices of Perez-Llorca. There we had a chance to discuss the Spanish firm’s recent strategic decision to expand outside of Spain to meet the needs of its international clients. Having opened its London offices in 2014—and launching its New York office in 2015—managing partner Francisco Quicios presented us the opportunities and the challenges of foreign law firms operating abroad, as well as that of EU lawyers moving to work in different jurisdictions.

Following that meeting, we skipped the underground, opted for a pleasant stroll and were treated to a tour of the Financial Times’ newsroom and an engaging discussion with the FT’s legal counsel about their role advising one of the world’s premier business newspapers. With so many of our meetings focused on the financial side of London, hearing from lawyers whose practice straddles the worlds of law and media was a pleasant change of pace.

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For our final meeting of the day, David Gossen, Senior Counsel for Deutsche Bank, led our group through an interactive simulation of a BTA which offered a realistic glimpse inside the work of counsel for one of the world’s largest banks. Many students, especially those hoping to launch a career as legal officers in the banking sector, were highly interested in this meeting.

We concluded the day at Heddon’s Street Kitchen, part of Goldon Ramsey’s restaurants in London, where we enjoyed the culinary tradition of London while exchanging opinions on the information and seminars we attended during the day.

 

Day 4

The saying goes “save the best for last” and this is exactly what happened in the case of the London Experience Week. During this visit, we were greeted by a senior partner of the firm and engaged in a discussion on challenges facing law firms in the 21st century, particularly in matters related to technology-law and cyber-security. The visit to Clifford Chance´s impressive, brand new headquarters in Canary Wharf, offered us the opportunity to meet trainee lawyers currently working in the law firm, to exchange useful career advice from the Human Resources department and to network in a cocktail event.

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Despite having passed most of the day at the law firm, most students defied the cold London weather and concluded the night- and trip- with the world-renown burgers of Shake Shack while admiring the Canary-Wharfian skyline at night.

 

Written by: Daniel Nicolas and Antonios Papadopoulos, International Business Law (LLM) students graduated in July 2017